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OT56: Spur Of The Comment

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This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Comment of the week is Mammon talking about clandestine MDMA labs. But see also the people who reported Spiral-like experiences in the comments to the PiHKaL review, (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), with my special interest caught by Kaminiwa’s report that his brother’s night terrors were like this. I’ve always wanted to know more about night terrors, since classically nobody can remember the content. These kinds of spiral experiences – things that are kind of like dreams, only different, and potentially very dysphoric, and common in childhood but disappearing as you grow older – seems like potentially a good match.

2. Lots of people pointed out last time that “banning anonymous commenting” was meaningless, since people could just register names like “Anonymous1” and keep commenting as normal. So let me be more specific – what do you think of requiring email verification (without listing the emails publicly) to comment? I know that it’s pretty easy to get working fake emails, but it would at least be a trivial inconvenience to constantly getting banned and re-registering.

3. By popular request, Deiseach is now unbanned.

4. Please don’t send me emails offering me sponsorship deals, affiliations with your own site, this one weird trick to increase my visitor count, et cetera. Please also don’t send me emails requesting that a link you like be included in the link roundup, especially not a link to your company (advertising is available if you want it). These are getting kind of high-volume and annoying. If you have something that I absolutely need to know about, you can try posting about it in the open thread, on the subreddit (which I definitely mine for good links), or by some kind of social proof where you convince somebody I know really well and they bother me about it normal conversation. I will grudgingly tolerate exceptions for important community events and very good charitable causes.

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1,064 Responses to OT56: Spur Of The Comment

  1. My attempt to channel Scott’s style of writing; Meditation on the Nature of Walls

  2. Riothamus says:

    Is anyone in a position to offer some criticism (or endorsement) of the work produced at Gerwin Schalk’s lab? They describe themselves as doing neurotechnology work, which is to say engineering with neuroscience and clinical research applications in mind.

    http://www.schalklab.org/

    I attended a talk given by Dr. Schalk in April 2015, where he described a new method of imaging the brain, which appeared to be a better-resolution fMRI (the image in the talk was a more precise image of motor control of the arm, showing the path of neural activity over time). I was reminded of it because Dr. Schalk spent quite a bit of time emphasizing doing the probability correctly and optimizing the code, which seemed relevant when the recent criticism of fMRI software was published.

  3. http://mathyawp.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-lesson-of-grace-in-teaching.html

    A suggestion that being kind to people works better than judging them by their acomplishments.

    • Jiro says:

      So what’s the difference between grace and privilege?

      • Why do you think they’re similar?

        • Not Robin Hanson says:

          Maybe this?

          GRACE: good things you didn’t earn or deserve, but you’re getting them anyway.

        • The difference is that grace is supposed to be offered equally.

          To be fair, the essay is talking about a constrained environment where the teacher has a chance of not being overwhelmed by numbers of people to be kind to, nor by extremely difficult people.

          Also, “privilege” is a complex concept which I think is useful for understanding that some people have a harder life than others, and a poisonously useless concept when it’s used to attack people for not being as badly off as others, or to poison all the pleasures in life. At this point, I think it’s strategic that “privilege” fails to distinguish between difficulties that no one should have and good things that everyone should have.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Nancy
            i> “privilege” fails to distinguish between difficulties that no one should have and good things that everyone should have.
            +

            strategic
            ?

          • I think the failure to distinguish between what everyone should have and what no one should suffer causes resentment (look at the white privilege white people have because they’re (more frequently) treated decently by the police!) and lack of useful policy proposals.

            This isn’t strategic for making unprivileged people’s lives better, but it’s a handy tool for low-effort outrage rather than the hard work of changing things.

  4. onyomi says:

    A point in favor of “post partisanship is hyper partisanship”: I saw a post by my Trump supporter FB friend on how the polls and election are already totally rigged. Cited are huge numbers at Trump rallies and total lack of enthusiasm for HRC.

    Part of it may genuinely be that Trump is more entertaining, and so therefore does draw a bigger crowd, even if he is likely to get fewer votes.

    But what strikes me especially is: I don’t think the polls are rigged. I don’t think there will be massive election fraud, but I do think that the people writing and posting the piece really do. That is, I don’t think it’s disingenuous. I think they really, truly can’t comprehend how HRC could win, given the reality on their ground. They know lots of people enthusiastic about Trump and nobody excited about Clinton. Similarly, I think it’s common for many HRC supporters to not know a single avowed Trump supporter IRL. For them, it is equally unfathomable that anyone really supports Trump.

    This seems like a problem for democracy: when the sides are split up enough that they literally can’t comprehend or process the other side’s victory, it seems like respect for the outcome will also diminish. And the losers respecting the outcome is arguably the key point for democracy.

    • John Schilling says:

      Pauline Kael was, in fact, sufficiently cosmopolitan to know how much she didn’t know about other people’s politics. That’s probably true of the median Clinton supporter today. The median Trump supporter is I think not so enlightened, and believes that their bubble is truly representative of All Real Americans.

      • Chalid says:

        Do you think Trump supporters’ poll denialism of today is much different from Romney supporters’ poll denialism of 2012? It looks broadly similar to me but I don’t follow it very closely.

        Also, what do you think of the various stories that came out after the 2012 election saying that the Romney team had privately been very confident of a victory?

        Edit: also, was there Sanders poll denialism? Did it resemble the Trump variety?

        • onyomi says:

          I do believe there was Sanders poll denialism. I saw it all over my FB feed.

          I’d say the current Trump poll denialism is of a kind with the Romney poll denialism (it seemed obvious to those not inclined to vote for him that Obama had been a bad president and did not deserve reelection, as it seems obvious now to Trump supporters that HRC would be bad), but more intense, because maybe the cultural gap has widened, the gap between HRC and Trump as candidates, especially in terms of personal style, is wider, and because polls now show a bigger gap between Trump and HRC than between Obama and Romney at this time.

          This last point is especially unfathomable to Trump supporters, I think, because HRC seems a weaker candidate than Obama (though this fails to take into account incumbent power), and Trump a stronger candidate (from their perspective) than Romney (I think part of this is the magic Larry Kestenbaum describes whereby Romney, by virtue of having lost, becomes an obvious loser in everyone’s hindsight, and weaker as a candidate in our imagination than he probably really was).

          My best guess about the current situation is not so much that Trump has suddenly started making errors, though obviously he hasn’t “pivoted” to the general as a more experienced politician probably would have, but rather that about 30% of the country was really hungry for what he was serving, which is enough to win you a crowded primary, but not enough to win the presidency.

          • TheWorst says:

            I suspect one of the reasons it’s more intense is that the “moderate” types (who diluted the “unskewed polls” frenzy in the Romney camp) aren’t in the Trump camp. Romney’s camp had a lot of poll “truthers” in it, and Trump’s camp consists of basically nothing but those people. Presumably because Trump’s strategy is laser-focused on that individual personality type.

          • Romney (I think part of this is the magic Larry Kestenbaum describes whereby Romney, by virtue of having lost, becomes an obvious loser in everyone’s hindsight, and weaker as a candidate in our imagination than he probably really was)

            Yes, exactly.

        • onyomi says:

          To elaborate Sanders denialism: it looked very similar to to me, to Ron Paul denialism of 2012. For many libertarians, myself included, Romney was just not an acceptable substitute for Ron Paul. But people like me were in the clear minority of right-leaning voters, many of whom insisted that the election was “too important” to nominate a sure-to-lose radical like Paul, and many of whom just genuinely didn’t want what Paul was offering.

          (Note that, “*this* election is too important to take a chance,” along with “*this* particular opponent I’m running against right now is way too dangerous and crazy, unlike the opponent last go-round,” are two of the most classic strategies used to scare people into voting for mainstreamish candidates rather than the people they really want).

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Every single election cycle that I plugged into political discussion, there was always someone complaining about the polls being biased against their candidate, usually with a bunch of bullet points, and saying “the pollsters never think about this!”

          The pollsters are professionals who really do think about this. They aren’t just public servants just giving out numbers for the hell of it. They sell their detailed data to the campaigns and the market will correct those who suck at it.

          I’m not saying they’re never wrong, because obviously they are sometimes, but they are the ones who want to get it right.

        • onyomi says:

          A more general comment on “denialism” in elections in general:

          I wonder if the bigger issue isn’t that the minority of people who pay close attention to politics overestimate the degree to which others pay attention, and to which they are likely to change their voting habits? This may also bias us in favor of “interesting” candidates, since, as people who pay attention to politics, anything different is more interesting than more of the same. But such “difference” represents nothing but annoying uncertainty to those who don’t care much about politics.

          We’re like HOW can you vote for (HRC, Romney, any incumbent…) when OBVIOUSLY they just represent the broken status quo?? Meanwhile the majority of voters who don’t pay close attention are like “what, huh? I just pull the level for (D)/(R)…”

        • AxiomsOfDominion says:

          There was, and still is, quite a bit of Sanders poll denialism. Its different than Trump’s in some ways but similar in others. The reason Sanders lost wasn’t actually so much cheating as incredibly shady and self interested behavior among most political players. I campaigned for Bernie in multiple states, quitting my job to do so. I don’t believe Hillary or others who sided with her faked polls, significantly altered election results etc. I think Bernie wasn’t prepared to actually run a winning campaign and that many people including Warren and various unions failed to support him because they didn’t realize he could win until it was too late.

          A lot of the media, mostly in an uncoordinated way, as well as politicians, in a VERY coordinated way, set out to portray Sanders as negatively as possible. Bernie managed to fight off the sexism charges but not the the Dem race baiting.

          Sadly a lot of ignorant people think that Dems actually altered primary votes and polls and its just not very likely.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Bernie got handled with kid gloves during the primary. Seriously, if you think people were trying to portray him as negatively possible, you really don’t understand what that looks like.

            Bernie was incredibly popular with an important part of the Democratic coalition, but that part doesn’t add up to a majority of the coalition. Bernie did incredibly well with younger voters and left-leaning independents. Clinton needs and wants those voters in the general, especially the youth vote. She wasn’t going to go after Bernie anything close to full-bore if she could win without doing so.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think the polls are rigged. I mean, Reuters rather blatantly changed their methodology retroactively resulting in a 10-point drop for Trump. Whether this was at the behest of Hillary’s campaign or simply Reuters not believing their own numbers and wanting to “fix” them, I don’t know, though the lack of any attempt to hide it suggests the latter. I also think there’s a “shy Trumper” effect.

      However, I doubt they are as badly skewed as the Trumpers think they are. I would also assume both campaigns have their own private polls which they use, though these of course are also subject to bias of various sorts.

      I don’t know anyone enthusiastic about Hillary. However an “unenthusiastic” or “enthusiastically opposed to Trump” vote for Hillary counts just as much as an enthusiastic one.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        You mean this?

        That’s not skewing. That’s just representing the fact that actually voting for “neither” is quire rare. If Trump drops precipitously because of this, it just means that Trump is suffering because he is seen as clearly less acceptable than Clinton.

        But it’s also doubtful that the Reuters drop was due to its change, as all of the polls dropped in concert and they didn’t all implement a change. We should have expected Trump to a) bounce during and after the Republican convention, and b) drop during and after the Democratic convention. Both of these things happened, so I’m not sure why you are hanging your hat on some “the polls all got skewed at the same time”.

        Hell, even Breitbart, trying to show the polls were skewed, had their poll show Trump losing.

      • AxiomsOfDominion says:

        This isn’t believable. Breitbart had Gravis run a poll and Hillary was in the lead. Fox and Rasmeussan have Hillary winning. Rasmeussan is famous for giving Republicans favorable results and then reverting to the mean in order to try and maintain their pollster rating from poll watchers. If manipulating polls was so easy Breitbart would have done it.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        FWIW, I think Trump is probably undercounted in polls, but by only a few percentage points. When he’s showing a double digit deficit, it’s because he’s really trailing.

  5. Anonymous says:

    getstungbymillionsofwasps.com doesn’t work any more.

    That was my favourite rationalist forum ???

  6. Dr Dealgood says:

    Relating to this post on Scott’s Tumblr:

    I am very very suspicious that there’s a biological correlation between MS/cancer and depression

    Probably on the right track, at least as far as MS goes.

    I linked an article a few trillion OT’s ago about Oligodendrocytes, the glia which myelinate CNS axons, having an role in modulating dopamine reuptake in the prefrontal cortex. Knocking down that population of OLs caused symptoms similar to depression in rats (mice?) until the OPC stem cells from other brain regions swept in to replace them.

    [Can’t find the paper atm and my gf is cooking me chicken. Will find it later.]

    Well one of the big issues in MS, one that I was researching at my last lab, is why OPCs don’t sweep in to replace lost OLs in that disease. Whatever underlying problem is stopping the abundant stem cells from differentiating and maturing after demyelination in MS could concievably do the same thing in depression.

    100% hand waving btw.

    (By the way, I’m alive and unbanned. No excuse for not posting SSCience threads, or at least no good ones. And thrilled to see Deiseach came back in the meantime.)

  7. LPSP says:

    >Scott linked to a post of mine in the OP
    That’s a nice feeling. Thanks Scott.

  8. Orphan Wilde says:

    Randomness: Spite, or rather the threat thereof, is the basis of human civilization, and is probably our highest calling; defecting against defectors even at cost to ourselves, to ensure that defection isn’t rewarding. Justice is well-calibrated, socially-instituted spite. Rule of law is the limitation/elimination of arbitrary social spitefulness. Modern society has to some extent dialed spite down, thus increasing the reward for defection; geeky social groups are particularly vulnerable to defection because they tend to be low on spitefulness.

    • Randy M says:

      Seems you are putting any sort of retaliation in the “spite” category?

    • Anon. says:

      Have you read Boehm’s Hierarchy in the Forest?

    • stillnotking says:

      Your comment really shows the limits of thinking about everything in terms of “cooperation” and “defection”. If the state’s monopoly on violence makes it a defector, then there are no cooperators.

  9. Randy M says:

    I’m thinking about how to design a boardgame based on time-travel. No promises this would ever get to a prototype stage or beyond, mind.
    The premise is that the players represent time travelers from the not too distant future who have received warning of some cataclysmic event imminent. There’s no time to prevent it or mitigate it, but humanity or some faction of it has the resources to build a time machine and send them back to make changes in the past to enable mankind to prevent or survive this apocalypse.
    I’m envisioning missions in past eras that can be undertaken to set some long term effects in motion. Represent this by adding tokens to a pool, and the cataclysms will only trigger if certain token pools out number others. (This part is abstract, but hopefully the mission cards would be able to sell the theme better). The tokens would probably have a symbol on one side and a blank on the other, then be drawn or shaken or something to represent the unpredicatability of events and add a random element.

    Here’s where I think this community would be interested:
    1. The future disasters all come from having more of one trend (token pool) than another. I have four types in mind: Medicine, Engineering/technology, Ethics, and Harmony. (Yes, abstractions; open to better ideas or terms). In the disasters, I’m only going for plausibility, not endorsing any probability. Also, I want many different ones so games are variable, and to fill in all the blanks so no “resource” is always good. Maybe sometime you need to kill Da Vinci, etc. The disasters are:
    Medicine>engineering: overpopulation
    Medicine>Harmony: Mankind ruled by immortals (think Eloi/morlocks)
    Medicine>Ethics: Uplift wars (planet of the Apes)
    Engineering>Medicine: nano-plague
    Harmony>Medicine: Pandemic
    Ethics>Medicine: ?? Something goes wrong because we foreswore genetic engineering or something??
    Engineering>Harmony: Nuclear war
    Engineering>Ethics: Robot uprising
    Harmony>Engineering: ??? No idea
    Ethics>Engineering: Alien conquest (we should have kept some weapons around)
    Harmony>Ethics: Hive mind rules mankind
    Ethics>Harmony: New Crusades (whos doing the crusading is open to interpretation)

    Ideas on how to fill in the ???’s or more interesting/logical/exciting suggestions? I expect players would draw 3-4 of these in a game and try to set up the trends to avoid as many as possible.

    2. What time periods would be a must in a time travel game (printed in English; going to be somewhat eurocentric)? I’m thinking:
    1. Julius Ceasar
    2. Crusades/middle ages
    3. Renaissance
    4. US colonial times (~1770s)
    5. WWII
    ? Modern day

    • Yes, I'm judging you. says:

      There is already an excellent card game (Chrononauts), and an excellent field unit combat game (Achron), that model time travel.

      Also, it looks like there is Wikipedia page just for listing games that have time travel.

      • Randy M says:

        I have not played chrononauts or heard of Achron. I looked at Temporum and tragedy looper, which look fun but different from what I had in mind, basically Dead of Winter meets Chrono Trigger.

    • Not Robin Hanson says:

      Ethics > Medicine: Dysgenic dystopia? Deterioration of the Y chromosome? (Emphasis on “not endorsing any probability”.)

      Harmony > Engineering: Lysenkoist dystopia?

      • Randy M says:

        Those sound like difficult concepts to communicate with a short description and a picture or so. But some kind of “Children of Men” scenario may have the needed resonance.

        • gbdub says:

          Harmony > Engineering: Ice Age (we “get in tune with Gaia”, foreswear carbon energy and geoengineering – and then die under 3 miles of ice)

          • Randy M says:

            That would kind of feel like I was putting a finger in the eye of environmentalists with an opposed but slightly less plausible climate catastrophe.

        • gbdub says:

          Well, every one of your cases “sticks it in the eye” of someone, since its basically their good intentions gone overboard

          Also, I think the consensus is that another Ice Age will happen eventually barring human input, so it’s hardly implausible.

          EDIT – whoops, meant to reply to comment-398698

        • Not Robin Hanson says:

          Land of the Lotus-Eaters? Kind of a stretch.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Ethics>Medicine: We make reparations to the smallpox virus for the genocidal war our benighted ancestors waged against it.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      Related reading:

      Leiber’s The Big Time – Very similar premise, many branches suggested

      Walton’s My Real Children – Only one branch point suggested, the details left mysterious

      Both focus on 20th century or up to our time.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Harmony>Engineering: Stasism (to borrow Virginia Postrel’s term)– we avoid the socially disruptive effects of new technology by not allowing any.

    • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

      The whole pools thing sounds a bit unwieldly, especially with so many of them.

      My suggestion for a simpler system:
      0. Narrow the scope, a lot. In general time travel stories fail because they’re too ambitious.
      1. Use a Doomsday Clock to represent how close the world is to anihilation. This is an easy visual representation, plus works with the time travel theme. Each time you jump back you’re literally moving the clock back away from Midight by that many hours, and when you return you can see how far you pushed the end back by how well you did.
      2. Pick an apocalypse from deck(s) of cards, Clue style, to preserve the mystery of just why the world is ending and which factions are involved. Using the process of elimination as you investigate the past will help your trips back be more successful in averting disaster.
      3. You should have some way to keep track of where players are at each point in time, so that when they inevitably run into their past selves crazy stuff can happen.

      • Randy M says:

        re: “Trend Pools”, well, the name itself is already unwieldy. 😉 But it is the main mechanism as I’m envisioning it. Basically, changes have a 50% chance of adding to one or more of the four pools. To check, you’d have to go forward in time, at which point they’d be shuffled.

        It would be considerably simpler to use a deterministic method and just increment a few dials, but at the moment I like the randomness of it. I think it is better to start grandiose and be willing to prune.
        1. But I don’t like the idea of one doomsday clock, because there is no tension of accidentally creating a different mess just as bad–a time travel staple.

        2. A mystery angle is interesting. I was thinking that there is a looming event presented, with a couple more drawn at some point as other disasters to avoid, with the conditions for avoiding them spelled out. I’m not sure how to design the player actions for solving the mystery, although that could certainly be compelling.

        3. That’s a kettle of worms, for sure. 🙂

        • Aegeus says:

          I don’t think the disaster itself should be a mystery – of course you know what the disaster is, how else would you know you need to go back and stop it? – but what triggers it should probably be a surprise.

          Maybe there’s some sort of “investigate” action you take at different time periods. So you arrive in WWII and you get an option, “Kill Hitler,” and you know that it gets you, say, +5 Ethics and -2 Tech. Then you investigate further (draw more cards from the deck), and discover that you could kill Stalin instead for -2 Ethics and +3 Harmony. So you have a choice of picking one of the tipping points you’ve discovered, or spending time and resources to try and find another option.

          (Maybe the benefits from your action should be obscured, too. So you kill Hitler, and you know that it’ll get you some boost to Ethics, but you don’t know if it’ll push it too far and cause a new problem.)

    • Nornagest says:

      Harmony>Engineering: ??? No idea

      Luddite revolution is the obvious one. Or stagnation and resource depletion: the future where we sit at home burning money until the lights go out.

      Ethics>Medicine: ?? Something goes wrong because we foreswore genetic engineering or something??

      Idiocracy? I hate the meme, but it fits here better than anywhere else.

    • Aegeus says:

      Harmony > Engineering: Luddites! Or eco-terrorists, or neo-Victorians, or some other retroculture idea. People decide to burn society down and start over. “Primitivist Collapse” would be a good name, but I like how absurd “Neo-Victorian Revolution” sounds.

      Ethics > Medicine: Choking bureaucratic nightmare. We could have cured the disease, but the medication was still bogged down in Stage 47 of the Neo-FDA trials. Which I guess is basically the same as the “Pandemic” ending again, but oh well.

      “Harmony” and “Ethics” seem to be sort of vague – sometimes Harmony means “Be excellent to each other,” sometimes it means “Hippy restraint on technology,” sometimes it means “Immanetizing the eschaton through technology.” And likewise, Ethics sometimes means “Zealous crusading stuff,” and sometimes means “Restraint on technology.” It’s hard to tell what flavor you’re shooting for with both.

      The way I’m reading it, Engineering gets the classic sci-fi apocalypses (robots, nanobots, aliens), Medicine gets the classic near-future apocalypses (population, genetics), Harmony gets the “false utopia” endings (whether primitivist collapse or crazy cult), and Ethics get the “repressive dystopia” endings (whether obsessively peaceful or obsessively brutal).

      • Randy M says:

        That’s pretty much what I’m going for. In general I don’t think any of those things are bad, but for the gameplay I want I’m willing to rope them in with associated concepts so that sometimes you will want to increase them and others decrease them. Ethics is basically rules for behavior and harmony is ability to get along, which when exaggerated become enforcing impractical norms or enforced conformity.

        This way the trigger for alternate futures is a cumulative effect of various actions and some randomness, rather than performing a single event like winning a particular battle.

        Not sure if I would stick with them if I can’t find plausible historical scenarios that would create lasting changes in these trends via discrete actions.

  10. Untrue Neutral says:

    By scent, obviously?

  11. anon says:

    Does anyone else here find themselves using RationalWiki as a useful resource? Specifically, when I decide to learn more about the thought of a transgressive thinker, I’ve been making a habit of first reading his (usually it is “his”) RationalWiki entry to get a (caricatured) sense of how his ideas might be viewed by “normies”. This has been useful to me as an intellectual defense mechanism against both the authors and subjects of the wiki entries in question. So useful, in fact, that I wonder whether I’ve been missing the point all along and this is ultimately why RationalWiki exists. But that would be a little too conspiratorial to believe… unless…?

    • Anonymous says:

      I read ED in a similar way. Well, maybe not with respect to the “normies” part; it’s rather as a cautionary tale of how not to behave, how not to spend your Weirdness Points, and to pre-emptively disillusion myself about someone by learning about the stupidest things they did in their life.

      I don’t know about RationalWiki, but ED seems to me like it was actually meant for that.

    • Untrue Neutral says:

      What dyou mean by “intellectual defense mechanism”? I’m not really clear on how you’re using RWiki, can you give an example?

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        What dyou mean by “intellectual defense mechanism”? I’m not really clear on how you’re using RWiki, can you give an example?

        Open minded people are suceptible to eloquent rethoric, by reading acerbic accounts from people who consider anyone outside mainstream-left (or academic-left, depending on the article you read) thought quacks/crackpots/cranks, you can avoid not falling for cool/appealing bullshit. I’m not sure what they mean with immunization from the authors.

    • Anon. says:

      Do RW editors really qualify as normies? It seems more like the left-wing version of Conservapedia to me. Wikipedia is where the normies are.

      • Anonymous says:

        Really? The stereotypical Wikipedia editor is very much a socially inept weirdo with OCD who edits the site because he is such a pathetic failure in pretty much every other area of life and this is the only way he can feel he matters somewhere. By my account, this isn’t all that far from the truth. And I should know.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          I feel like, due to the proximity of the spheres, a comparable account of the stereotypical RW editor might count as personal attacks here.

        • Alliteration says:

          My understanding of Wikipedia editors is there are two roughly kinds of Wikipedia editors.

          one. Topic experts who tend to only be active in a few specialized fields, don’t make that many edits, but write most of the word on the site. I suspect this sort of editor is more likely to be a normal person.

          two. Wikipedia enthusiasts who make many little edits across many subjects, participates in AfD and other centralized discussion pages. This sort of editor makes up the majority of edits, but doesn’t write most of the text. I suspect this sort of editor matches the above description better.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        Left-wing Conservapedia? That would be the as far as I know nonexistent wiki that thinks the existence of nuclear weapons causes climate change, and that all crimes non-whites commit are fabricated by the fundamentalist Christians who control the UN. RationalWiki at worst exaggerates in a somewhat snarky way.

        • Anon. says:

          Conservapedia is less absurd than you think. You brought up nuclear weapons. Their page on nuclear weapons is perfectly sane. As is RW’s.

          You need to go to each group’s pet peeves to find the stupid, like the evolution page on Conservapedia. RW will happily inform you, for example, that “none of the many attempts to find a predictive genetic correlation to intelligence have found any, except those genes known to cause learning disabilities”. That’s less “exaggerates in a somewhat snarky way”, more “blatantly lies about the state of scientific research when it doesn’t fit their ideology”.

        • Viliam says:

          RationalWiki at worst exaggerates in a somewhat snarky way.

          The “snarky way” is merely a way to lie with plausible deniability. Here is how it works:

          Imagine that you have an argument X, which you know is false, but it is really politically convenient, and you want your readers to believe it. What you do is post a “snarky” argument X2, which is more or less an exaggerated version of X. Then, whenever someone complains, you can say: “Look at this fool, he doesn’t understand that X2 is exaggerated in a snarky way!”

          Of course it would be a fool to take X2 literally; so most likely, the person was trying to object against X. But hey, you actually didn’t write X, so no one can quote you saying that. People can only quote you saying X2, and then you have the “X2 is snarky, fools” response ready.

          I have first seen this kind of strategy explicitly described here. (Trigger warning: PUA language.)

          I always hear other men complain about having to watch out for alpha males in social situations, but I think in our feminized society this is an outdated concern. You have more to worry about from a beta male sneakily chipping away at you in a social situation with subtle, cutting remarks calculated to make you look bad while looking somewhat innocent in nature. These people have spent a lifetime honing these bitch skills, and to compete with them on it when you are not used to being in that mindset is suicide, similar to being a weekend warrior who picks up a basketball once a month at the playground going up against an NBA player. People like this, the Mo Roccas and Stephen Colberts of the world, usually spend just about every waking moment looking for an opportunity to be sarcastic or snarky, and have also gotten the balance between passive and aggressive just right to the point they can always deny having done anything wrong.

          There was a guy I knew that was filled with these subliminal cheap shots, backhanded compliments and stealth insults, and it drove me crazy for several reasons. First, that type of behavior is catty and not unlike a teenage girl. It’s true beta male behavior. Second, if you return in kind and start responding with your own sarcastic comments, backhanded compliments and stealth insults, you just end up with two people looking like bitches rather than one. Both of you lose, and neither of you impress anyone, or at least anyone worth impressing. It’s a race to the bottom. Third, if you let it slide, you get a gnawing feeling of being punked and having let a person get over on you. Fourth, if you call them on the carpet, you look like an overreacting brute in a society that penalizes a man for doing real man shit.

          The more intellectual a person deems himself to be, and the more arrogant he is about his own perceived intellect (doesn’t matter if the person is actually smart, just that he believes himself to be exceptionally so), the more likely he is to engage in this beta behavior.

          In other words, “Rational”Wiki is what you do if you want to attack your opponents just as freely as Trump does, but without other people pattern-matching you to Trump. You use “I am just being snarky” as a disclamer. Then you start insulting your opponents, in a somewhat snarky way. What can they do? If they respond the same way, they make themselves look Twitter-level stupid. If they ignore it, your attacks keep lowering their status. If they respond in a different way, you accuse them of lacking the sense of humor. (“It was just a prank, bro!”)

          • Alex says:

            As a part of my never ending quest to apply Outgroups dichotomy to everything:

            So alpha is another word for red and beta is another word for blue?

          • The Nybbler says:

            No, of course not. The Red Tribe tends to explicitly glorify certain obviously “alpha” things (such as physical competition) that the Blue Tribe mostly derides. But I don’t think there’s actually any shortage of alphas among Blue Tribe. (That’s assuming you accept the PUA taxonomy)

          • Alex says:

            Lets divde this into two questions:

            a) Do members of blue tribe exist who have so called alpha personality? (yes, unquestionably, if alpha personality is itself a thing that exists at all)

            b) Given the consensus that red tribe values “alpha” traits. Can we find an example of a beta trait valued by red tribe (as opposed to being present) or an alpha trait valued by blue tribe?

          • onyomi says:

            Generally speaking, I’d say Red Tribe values sexual dimorphism more highly than Blue Tribe, which values androgyny in self presentation and behavior. I think the attempt to divide men and women into alpha and beta versions of masculinity and femininity is a symptom or result of greater emphasis on sexual dimorphism (it may, in a sense, be a way of making sense of those members of each gender which don’t fit the stereotype–a calculation which is unnecessary if the stereotypes themselves are not viewed as legitimate).

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Can we find an example of a beta trait valued by red tribe (as opposed to being present) or an alpha trait valued by blue tribe?

            I guess at this point continuing to remind people of this is just me being a crotchety old man, but in my day alpha and beta actually meant something.

            Alphas are supposed to be sexually attractive to women but antisocial. Prominant dark triad (narcissism, psychopathy, machavelianism) traits, shiftlessness and criminality were halmarks. Cads in the Dad / Cad dichotomy.

            Betas are supposed to be sexually unattractive but prosocial. The “nice guy” who mom and dad love but their daughter mocks to her friends. A Dad in the Dad / Cad dichotomy.

            The good thing about being alpha, the sole good thing, is that it gets girls wet. Other than that every trait valued by civilization is a “beta” trait: even the discipline of a solider is beta, relative to the alpha gangbanger.

            Nobody in their right minds should want to be more alpha, only to appear more alpha to women.

          • The Nybbler says:

            One obviously “beta” trait that Red Tribe values is monogamy (in men). (The Red Tribe may not be any _better_ at it, but it is certainly a Red Tribe value).

            Edit: Dr. Dealgood’s answer could be considered an expansion on this, though I think he’s overemphasizing the negative “alpha” traits; in particular I don’t think “lack of discipline” is necessarily an alpha trait, though it’s certainly a feature of one alpha archetype.

            Also I note that “to appear more alpha to women” is pretty much what PUAs claim to be doing.

          • onyomi says:

            Upon further consideration, I think it might be more that Blue Tribe puts less emphasis on outward trappings, including gender performance, and more emphasis on behavior, in determining who’s “alpha.”

            HRC, for example, is obviously not a big, tough man. In Red Tribe world she is a granny. But in terms of personality and behavior she is dominant, seemingly unemotional. Not possessed of “feminine” stereotypes. This makes her “alpha” in Blue Tribe world.

            Contrast Megyn Kelly and Rachel Maddow. They are both probably pretty “alpha” in terms of behavior and personality and both smart and competent. But in order to be accepted by Red Tribe, Kelly needed more of the outward trappings of femininity.

          • Alex says:

            onyomi:

            I think your model predicts a very high alpha/beta ratio in red tribe. A beta would not feel welcome and rather leave red tribe. I’m willing to make assumptions about the red/blue and alpha/beta ratio in the entire population that lead to the conclusion that a high alpha/beta ratio in red tribe has to be offset by a low ratio in blue tribe.

          • TheWorst says:

            It’s trivially easy to spot “alpha” traits that the Blue tribe likes, because the stated preference for betas is pure signalling.

            Power. Confidence. Social skills and dominance. Control. Rule-breaking. Invulnerability.

            Note how brutally the Blues punish guys who make the mistake of actually believing what they’re told about how they should act; that’s the “Nice Guy.”

            Edit: Onyomi nails it, basically. @Alex: I think you’re partly right, but it sounds like you’re overestimating how well we treat betas over here in Blueville. Look at what happens to anyone who asks us to show them mercy.

          • onyomi says:

            Somewhat related is this Douthat article about Trump’s version of masculinity (Mad Men, Hugh Hefner) vs. Hillary’s version of femininity (Gloria Steinem).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            But what about men who are powerful, dominant over other men, and successful with women, but not noticeably antisocial? Making it cads-vs-dads leaves them out, just as the PUA-derived alpha-beta definition that currently exists leaves out men who are powerful and dominant but do not care for women/do not care for sex/like women, sex, or both but spend their effort elsewhere/get married to their high school sweetheart and never think of another woman/whatever.

          • onyomi says:

            @Alex,

            I do think there is a tendency for men who don’t fit the Red Tribe stereotypes of masculinity to gravitate toward the Blue Tribe. You see this in my field of academic humanities all the time. Very few stereotypically masculine men live here, as do very few Red Tribe members.

          • TheWorst says:

            @dndnrsn:

            I think the word noticeably is doing a lot of work in your first sentence. But does it matter? I think “antisocial” is by no means an essential component of what people are talking about when they describe “alpha” traits, and that the antisociality is something that shows up when someone tries to be an alpha-male and fails, or has to sacrifice too many other values to get there.

            Not to mention the fact that men with a high degree of success in gender-role-performance have much weaker incentives to avoid acting antisocial, while (all) people lower on the food chain have to keep that kind of thing in check.

            It’s not necessarily that the people at the top are assholes, it’s that the lower-end assholes are being forced to play nice.

          • Alex says:

            I guess at this point continuing to remind people of this is just me being a crotchety old man, but in my day alpha and beta actually meant something.

            Yes, I’m using a very watered down version of alpha/beta. As does every philosophy that makes the promise that “you can be an alpha too”. It might be useful to differentiate these two meanings of alpha.

            The good thing about being alpha, the sole good thing, is that it gets girls wet.

            Does anything else ever matter?

            Nobody in their right minds should want to be more alpha, only to appear more alpha to women.

            I’m not sure that this is a relevant distinction. Alpha to some extent is a social role? If you appear alpha you are alpha?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @The Nybbler,

            Yes, that was the goal originally. Not sure where they are now tbh: I stopped following the community once I could take the training wheels off of my game.

            @dndnrsn,

            I think adding saints and war heroes into the system is why Vox Day made his ridiculous extra-Greek-letters system that nobody uses.

            Anyway, the point of the (original) system was to highlight two different mating strategies.
            α: Be a predator, make trouble and win fights to show your value.
            β: Be a provider, make money and win friends to show your value.

            Today, it is very hard to succeed with a beta strategy but not impossible. Your prototypical corporate Mad Man has the sheer wealth to make providing legitimately attractive. It’s just that that strategy is out of reach of a plumber’s or even an engineer’s salary.

            On the other hand, the alpha strategy is doing well in an unprecendented way. Scott laid out the stats pretty convincingly in Radicalizing the Romanceless, and Mike Judge painted an emotive picture in Idiocracy.

            Edit:
            @Alex,

            Alpha to some extent is a social role? If you appear alpha you are alpha?

            Not really. You can adapt your behavior, but your behavior has also been adapted by past generations. Everything about personality, including mating strategy, is genetically determined for the most part.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There are any number of men in both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe who dated just a few girls (serially, or at least mostly so) in their youth, married the last one, and settled down to produce 2.1 kids. These men are “beta” by some PUA taxonomies, but they are not held in low esteem at all by Red Tribe (or Blue).

            @onyomi: That article mentions the New York Post publishing Melania Trump’s risque modeling photos, apparently in an attempt to embarrass Trump. I have to wonder just what they were thinking; Trump’s fans would just take the pictures as confirmation that yes, Trump has managed to land an attractive wife, whereas his detractors would wonder what they had anything to do with it. If they want to make Trump look bad in the eyes of his supporters using sexual politics, they’ll have to catch Melania having an affair.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TheWorst:

            I think the word noticeably is doing a lot of work in your first sentence. But does it matter? I think “antisocial” is by no means an essential component of what people are talking about when they describe “alpha” traits, and that the antisociality is something that shows up when someone tries to be an alpha-male and fails, or has to sacrifice too many other values to get there.

            I use the word “noticeably” because of the existence of men who, on the one hand, do things that require discipline, coordination, all that Appolonian stuff, but on the other hand, do things with it that ultimately cause trouble. Think a stereotypical Wall Street shark.

            @Dr Dealgood:

            I think adding saints and war heroes into the system is why Vox Day made his ridiculous extra-Greek-letters system that nobody uses.

            Anyway, the point of the (original) system was to highlight two different mating strategies.
            α: Be a predator, make trouble and win fights to show your value.
            β: Be a provider, make money and win friends to show your value.

            Today, it is very hard to succeed with a beta strategy but not impossible. Your prototypical corporate Mad Man has the sheer wealth to make providing legitimately attractive. It’s just that that strategy is out of reach of a plumber’s or even an engineer’s salary.

            On the other hand, the alpha strategy is doing well in an unprecendented way. Scott laid out the stats pretty convincingly in Radicalizing the Romanceless, and Mike Judge painted an emotive picture in Idiocracy.

            Vox Day’s system still links sexual partners to status, though. His list still gives expected number of sexual partners. If I make up some imaginary comical badass – big man on campus, NCAA #1 wrestler, becomes UFC champ, goes to Wall Street and becomes wealthy, then runs for political office and becomes president, while releasing a platinum album along the way – is he not alpha if he dies having had an average # of sexual partners, just because he wasn’t interested in all the groupies and so forth over the years?

            In human societies, “be a predator, cause trouble, win fights” gets beaten by “organize a bunch of men to be a group that can win fights” which neither necessitates nor precludes predatory and troublesome behaviour.

            If it’s hard to succeed with a beta strategy, and a majority of men are betas (which they are in the classic a/b system, as opposed to VD’s) are the majority of men failures? Measured how? Additionally, most men “playing the alpha strategy”, from gangbangers to jocks to nerds who have found that One Weird Trick are still not very aggressive or violent by a historical standard. And measuring men by the standard of how many women they sleep with is measuring them based on their ability to impress women: not on the basis of their ability to hunt bears or kill other warriors in single combat, both significantly more manly than impressing women.

            How does “sexy but antisocial” vs “prosocial but unsexy” take into account Alexander the Great? He had prodigious ability to inspire men, tens of thousands of men followed him, and he was adept at all of the organizational stuff required in mounting a large campaign (boring, productive beta stuff!), etc – can such a man be called antisocial?. On the other hand, he was capable of great personal violence, and his conquests broke one fairly stable empire to build another that crumbled quickly, and caused a great amount of suffering – hardly prosocial. Beyond this, sex appears to have been a far lesser drive for him than victory and glory, and he is supposed to have dealt with his commanders and soldiers in a way that, to me (admittedly, not an ancient Macedonian), comes off as very passive-aggressive and manipulative, prima donna behaviour – not especially masculine. Where does someone like that fit in?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Well, one theory about Alexander the Great is that he was gay. (“Lambda” if you insist on Vox Day’s taxonomy) But even if not, most classification systems aren’t perfect, and someone like Alexander is exactly the sort you’d expect to break one; he was exceptional in many ways.

            Just alpha/beta is probably useful enough for PUA purposes. There’s obviously also nulls and “lambdas” and such, but they don’t matter for those purposes, because they’re not competitors and don’t suggest useful strategies.

          • TheWorst says:

            @dndnrsn:

            I use the word “noticeably” because …
            Think a stereotypical Wall Street shark.

            Ah. Remember, though, that in context they don’t seem antisocial–they’re not qualitatively more harmful than their less-successful peers without the benefit of hindsight or an external viewpoint.

            But that’s beside the point, I suspect; it looks like “antisocial” shouldn’t be included in the list of traits, because it’s a common side effect, not a necessary ingredient.

            Vox Day’s system still links sexual partners to status, though.

            That they’re linked seems indisputable, but that seems backward. Status is (by far) the most important factor influencing the number of potential partners, at least for men. To the extent that I’d feel mostly comfortable calling it the only thing that really matters.

            …not on the basis of their ability to hunt bears or kill other warriors in single combat, both significantly more manly than impressing women.

            Is it your position that these things don’t impress women?

            What The Nybbler says:

            Just alpha/beta is probably useful enough for PUA purposes.

            Remember that when PUAs (or at least, the high-quality ones?) talk about these things, it’s for a purpose. These are strategies.
            It’s like the conscious rejection of feminist/SJW jargon to help with “pedestal” problems. “Aim higher, kid” doesn’t mean that height is universally better, it’s what you say when you’re advising someone who aimed too low.

            PUA stuff seems to be universally targeted at guys who tried the beta strategy too hard, and seems to consist mostly of tips on how to get out of that one specific error of mindset. It’s a mistake to try to interpret it as a grand unified field theory of humanity.

            (Even when the marketing tries to pitch it that way.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            The New York Post is a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, they are mostly interested in being able to post sensational things. When they do have a political slant it’s conservative. I doubt that they were trying to move Trump’s supporters away from him, and suspect that they mostly wanted an excuse to post black-barred soft-core porn.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler: But regardless of his sexuality, the picture we have of Alexander from the sources is of someone for whom priorities were occupied with fighting, conquering, keeping his army going, etc. Forget that he was gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, whatever: to make light of current lingo, he identified as a world-conqueror.

            The whole system of classification schemes suffers from the problem that it attempts to apply to society as a whole a taxonomy based primarily around interactions with women, which runs into the problem that you have men who are “alpha” with other men but complete schmucks with women: for some reason I’m thinking of a pre-WWI statesman, an important guy, who fell in love with a widow and wrote her the most pathetically needy love letters, and eventually won her over after several years: we can imagine what the Redpill guys would say about this. I highly doubt the guy behaved the same with his colleagues and competitors.

            Then, of course, you get stuff like this blogger or that blogger saying that a successful Hollywood star or businessman or politician or musician is a beta or a delta or a gamma or whatever based on some aspect of their behaviour or their relationships with women or whatever.

          • TheWorst says:

            The whole system of classification schemes suffers from the problem that it attempts to apply to society as a whole a taxonomy based primarily around interactions with women…

            Does it? It seems like you’re trying to apply to society as a whole a taxonomy based entirely around interactions with women that only exists as therapy for men who interact with women poorly.

            It’s a common mistake, it looks like, but still a mistake. It’s a tool that exists for one purpose. A wrench is good for tightening bolts, but bad for storing data. That’s not because it’s a bad flash drive; it isn’t one at all.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TheWorst:

            Doing something that is valuable in and of itself but also impresses women is an evolutionary twofer: you get to eat a mammoth/protect your tribe from the enemy and get the girl, potentially making more tribespeople? Sweet. But when the warriors all get around at your funeral and quaff meat and talk about what a great warrior Og of the Ug tribe was, they are probably going to talk more about the many enemies you slew than the women you bedded after. In some societies, the ritual of “becoming a man” involves an initiation process that is painful, dangerous, or both. In modern Western society, it involves getting laid.

            And when PUA/Redpill’s marketing presents it as a way to understand the world, not just get girls, the individuals selling it could be lying, or they could actually believe it explains everything. Doesn’t change that they make the claim sometimes – increasingly, it would seem, as some blogs devoted to “game” have become, essentially, white nationalist blogs.

            I am not trying to apply the PUA taxonomies to everything in general – I don’t like their taxonomies because I don’t think they do what they say they do. They don’t recognize that someone can be absolutely fucking world-smashing at one thing and garbage at another. Ultimately I don’t think a world existed, exists, or will ever exist where a computer programmer who’s figured out some psychological tricks and explained them (rightly or wrongly) with evopsych is manlier than Conan’s celibate, but equally blood-soaked, cousin.

            I’m not the one who claimed the PUA taxonomy explains society, instead of just being a “lies to children” for awkward men. It’s the PUAs who made that claim. I’m merely pointing out that claim is incorrect.

          • TheWorst says:

            @dndnrsn

            Doing something that is valuable in and of itself but also impresses women is an evolutionary twofer…

            Absolutely! This is one of the key reasons why I don’t believe anyone who says it’s entirely about one or the other: I don’t have any way to see which one’s more important, but I can see that neither do they.

            And when PUA/Redpill’s marketing presents it as a way to understand the world, not just get girls, the individuals selling it could be lying, or they could actually believe it explains everything. Doesn’t change that they make the claim sometimes – increasingly, it would seem, as some blogs devoted to “game” have become, essentially, white nationalist blogs.

            So what? Other people being wrong, or lying, or being members of the Hated Enemy Tribe and targets of outgroup homogeneity, changes exactly zero facts that are true.

            Other people trying to store data on a wrench doesn’t transform a wrench into the World’s Worst Flashdrive. It just means they’re fuckups. The existence of fuckups isn’t relevant to anything else.

            Edit:

            I’m not the one who claimed the PUA taxonomy explains society, instead of just being a “lies to children” for awkward men. It’s the PUAs who made that claim. I’m merely pointing out that claim is incorrect.

            Oh. It sounded like you were criticizing the wrench for not storing data well, rather than criticizing the wrench-salesman for claiming that it did.

            I don’t care what the World’s Dumbest Wrench-Salesman says, and it doesn’t matter what he calls a wrench. A wrench isn’t a flash drive, and “This isn’t a very good flash drive!” isn’t a valid criticism of a wrench. At best, it’s a valid criticism of the idiot who’s selling flash drives that are wrenches with “Flash Drive” written on them in crayon.

            Don’t be the guy who buys it and then complains that this flash drive doesn’t work very well.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @dndnrsn,

            I guess I explained it poorly, since you quoted the part where I addressed your objections before raising them.

            Alphas, currently, are in general much more sexually successful than betas. That does not mean any of the following:
            Anyone who is sexually successful is an alpha, and anyone who is sexually unsuccessful is a beta. Actually, you can find occasional cases where wealth or physical appearence trumps behavior entirely.
            Thoughout time, the alpha strategy has always paid off more than the beta strategy. In the modern first world, there is just not any incentive to pick a stable guy to marry rather than be one of a half-dozen single moms sharing one or two babydaddies. But this has not always been the case, and will likely reverse at some point after we’re too old for it to matter to us anymore.
            All masculine traits are alpha, and betas are definitionally effeminate. This view cedes defining manliness entirely to women: traditional masculinity is defined by the Männerbund, aka a man’s fellows.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TheWorst:

            But, on the other hand, when the guy who invented a particular type of wrench that only works with a particular type of bolt, even if it does that well, it’s on his head when he says “this wrench works with all bolts! And it stores 128gb of data!”

            If the point they were trying to make was “some men are deferential to women in a pedestalizing way that hurts their chances with women by coming off as pathetic/creepy” they could just say that, instead of making it part of their Theory of Everything.

          • John Schilling says:

            Can we find an example of a beta trait valued by red tribe (as opposed to being present)?

            Red tribe seems to value men who become secure financial and material providers for a woman and whatever children she might bear, and women who faithfully stand by such men. Is this not the essence of the classical Beta?

            Even Reds who are clearly Alphas, are expected to fake being Betas.

          • TheWorst says:

            @Dr. Dealgood:

            Actually, you can find occasional cases where wealth or physical appearence trumps behavior entirely.

            I think the underlying principles are: Status trumps everything. Status and perceived status are the same thing. There are different ways to signal status. Some contexts prioritize one kind of signal over the other, but that’s about the context, not about the type of signal.

            @dndnrsn:

            But, on the other hand, when the guy who invented a particular type of wrench that only works with a particular type of bolt, even if it does that well, it’s on his head when he says “this wrench works with all bolts! And it stores 128gb of data!”

            Correct. It’s on his head. It’s not on the wrench’s, and it’s not relevant when talking about whether the wrench works with a particular type of bolt, or in any context other than assigning blame for stuff.

            If the point they were trying to make was “some men are deferential to women in a pedestalizing way that hurts their chances with women by coming off as pathetic/creepy” they could just say that, instead of making it part of their Theory of Everything.

            Am I correct in guessing that your knowledge of PUA stuff comes almost exclusively from internet hatefic about them? You seem to keep inserting “I tribally-hate the people who say X” into a discussion about whether X is correct.

            This is like criticizing Catholics for not feeling guilty about stuff, or criticizing internet rationalists for never mentioning Bayes.

            @John Schilling

            Even Reds who are clearly Alphas, are expected to fake being Betas.

            If you search-and-replace “Alpha” with “Correct short-term mating strategy” and “Beta” with “Correct long-term mating strategy,” the accuracy value goes up dramatically, and it becomes much easier to spot errors in thinking.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            I think at issue here is that I am simultaneously trying to engage with the Heartiste or Vox Day “here is a taxonomy of types of men; the way they relate to women is a microcosm of how they relate to the world” and with your far more reasonable discussion of “cads vs dads” and so forth.

            With regard to the crossed out stuff – is that supposed to represent your rendering of what my position is, or your rendering of what you think I am understanding your position as?

          • Chalid says:

            Melania Trump’s risque modeling photos, apparently in an attempt to embarrass Trump. I have to wonder just what they were thinking

            HBC’s point is well taken that the NYP doesn’t need a political motive to print nudity, but some people did use it as an attack on Trump. I think that here you have to remember that it was in the Cruz vs Trump part of the primary, and one imagines that such pictures would not play well with evangelicals or with Mormons.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @dndnrsn,

            With regard to the crossed out stuff – is that supposed to represent your rendering of what my position is, or your rendering of what you think I am understanding your position as?

            The latter.

            And yeah, Roissy got kind of weird when he changed his handle. Vox Day on the other hand never had any idea what was going on: he’s the lesser of two evils in SFF right now but that doesn’t make him someone to look up to.

          • TheWorst says:

            @ Dr. Dealgood

            And yeah, Roissy got kind of weird when he changed his handle.

            My understanding (from a thirdhand source, but one who put some time into studying Roissy/Heartiste) is that the guy who first wrote under the Roissy handle retired from blogging some time ago, possibly before the change of handle.

            @dndnrsn

            I think at issue here is that I am simultaneously trying to engage with the Heartiste or Vox Day “here is a taxonomy of types of men; the way they relate to women is a microcosm of how they relate to the world” and with your far more reasonable discussion of “cads vs dads” and so forth.

            For what it’s worth, there’s a reason why weak-man arguments aren’t a useful analytical tool. The nastier half of Donald Trump’s twitter feed doesn’t actually tell you everything worth knowing about white people as a whole, even if Trump’s Twitter feed says it does.

            Ozy wrote something a while ago, about the importance of overcoming our animal natures and refraining from signal-boosting lurid anecdotes of how eminently hate-worthy the Hated Outgroup is. Vox Day’s profession is to be that anecdote, and Heartiste seems to be the same.

            Familiarity with those anecdotes isn’t the same thing as knowing anything about the hated outgroup(s).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            Ah, OK, that is not exactly what I understood your position as (especially the third point). I think we’ve just gotten mutually confused based on the simultaneous discussion of what we think as well as what some other, not present, people thing. Who’s on first, etc.

            Roissy/Heartiste/whatever – my pet theory is that “we have been lied to about sex relations and differences!” led to “we have been lied to about race relations and differences!”. “This one heresy has truth to it” became “all heresies must be true”.

            Vox Day – is a guy whose response to the question “immigration by Irish, Italians, and Germans was no big deal, so what’s the problem with Mexicans and Muslims?” is, if I recall correctly, to condemn immigration by Irish, Italians, and Germans. So.

          • TheWorst says:

            “This one heresy has truth to it” became “all heresies must be true”.

            I’d add “And it turns out shouting heresies gets me clicks! And attention! And I love both of those things!”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TheWorst:

            Granted, there are more sensible, less inflammatory (both in the sense of behaving in a less outrageous fashion, and holding less/fewer outrageous views) authors in the bubble(s) Heartiste and Vox Day occupy.

            However, they are fairly big names within that bubble/those bubbles. Is bringing them up really weakmanning?

            I don’t bring them up because they’re all I know about that scene – but when I think of “people who taxonomize men using Greek letters” Heartiste and Vox Day are the first to come to mind.

          • TheWorst says:

            Donald Trump is an extremely prominent white person. Donald Trump might be the first white person that springs to mind when you think of white people.

            “I read half of Donald Trump’s twitter feed, therefore I know about white people” is still not a true statement.

            Meditating on reasons to keep hating the Hated Outgroup is not research.

            (But it’s tremendously more fun than research, which gives the brain a strong reason to prefer it to research.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TheWorst:

            OK, so, if we are to be discussing alpha vs beta as taxonomy vs as behaviour, whatever, which Redpill/PUA/Manosphere/whatever authors are more representative? Who’re the strongmen to Heartiste and Vox Day’s supposed weakmen?

            Leaving aside that I disagree with the comparison (Heartiste back before he became a white nationalist is more characteristic of PUA authors than Trump is of white people, I would argue) I find it a bit odd you think I’m fishing for reasons to hate the Hated Outgroup.

            1. People who hate PUAs, Redpillers, the Manosphere, whatever and are looking for reasons to hate them are probably going to settle on “they’re misogynists and often racists” over “their methods of taxonomizing men are not good enough”.

            2. There’s no way of proving this, but I read a wide range of materials. I try to read extremely different opinions on things. I find it makes it easier to spot everyone’s biases and easier to grasp at what might be true. I am sure that to some people the level of knowledge I have of this stuff proves that I’m One Of Those Evil Sexists – that they’re my ingroup, rather than my outgroup. I am not a Redpiller, but I reckon I could do a pretty good ideological Turing Test for them.

          • Dr. Dealgood:

            “In the modern first world, there is just not any incentive to pick a stable guy to marry rather than be one of a half-dozen single moms sharing one or two babydaddies. But this has not always been the case, and will likely reverse at some point after we’re too old for it to matter to us anymore.”

            I know women who actually want the company of their husbands. Don’t you?

          • TheWorst says:

            People who hate PUAs, Redpillers, the Manosphere, whatever and are looking for reasons to hate them are probably going to settle on “they’re misogynists and often racists” over “their methods of taxonomizing men are not good enough”.

            Into each of your posts on the subject, you’ve been inserting an irrelevant paragraph about “They’re racists! Shaaaaame!” or “They’re not Blue Tribe! How dare they not be blue tribe!”

            The thing you say you’d do if you hated them seems to perfectly describe the thing you’ve been doing? What other purpose do the “They’re not blue tribe! Not blue tribe! Haaaaate!” paragraphs serve?

            There’s no way of proving this, but I read a wide range of materials. I try to read extremely different opinions on things. I find it makes it easier to spot everyone’s biases and easier to grasp at what might be true. I am sure that to some people the level of knowledge I have of this stuff proves that I’m One Of Those Evil Sexists – that they’re my ingroup, rather than my outgroup. I am not a Redpiller, but I reckon I could do a pretty good ideological Turing Test for them.

            Look, I bear you no ill will, but if this was even remotely true we wouldn’t be having this part of the conversation; the only reason I brought it up was because I just watched you spend a fair amount of time failing the Turing test to the same degree as if you’d said “You’re a white person, I follow Trump on Twitter, so I know everything about you.”
            …to someone who isn’t white.

            Seriously, take a moment and scroll through the “who, other than Roissy/Vox Day is important, I can’t think of anyone” post and ask yourself “why does this guy seem to have never heard of Mystery?”

            That’s like claiming to know about all the nuclear powers, and to have studied the history of the development of the atomic bomb, and then demonstrating that you’d never heard of a place called America.

            I mean, I’m not claiming to be an expert, and it’s still looking extremely clear to me that you’re bizarrely unaware of anyone other than the most widely hated-in-blue-tribe examples of PUA-adjacent writers.

            Like… holy crap, how can you have read anything and not know who Mystery is? That’s like claiming to be an expert on American history despite evidently never having heard the word “Washington.”

            Sorry, I’m losing the thread here, because that’s spectacularly baffling.

            Who’re the strongmen to Heartiste and Vox Day’s supposed weakmen?

            Mystery, dude. Mystery. “Who, other than the literal worst fantasy writer, is a definitive example of a fantasy writer? No, I’ve never heard of anyone named Tolkien, what’s that? By the way I’ve read lots and lots of fantasy novels, not just blog posts about the worst ones.”

            Mystery, then, now, and whatever different metamorphoses he went through in between. Mark Manson. David Shade. HughRistik. Athol Kay. Hell, Clarisse Thorn’s book. Literally anyone who isn’t of no value other than as an icon of hate.

            “Liberalism? What’s that? I’ve only heard of RequiresHate and Hugo Schwyzer, but I nonetheless have very strong opinions about liberalism, and feel very confident in these opinions. There aren’t any other significant liberals, are there? By the way I studied liberals in depth and spend lots of time looking at different opinions.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            Of course I know who Mystery is. Everybody who read a NYT review of “The Game” way back when knows who he is. Kind of ancient history, but he’s well known. Likewise, I know who Mark Manson is – I own a copy of his book, since Ozy or someone recommended it as dating advice that doesn’t contain unpleasant stuff. I’ve heard of Athol Kay (isn’t he more of a Christian-audience keeping-your-wife-invested-in-the-marriage guy?) and Clarisse Thorn. (And isn’t Hugh Ristik more of an MRA guy?)

            If we were talking about PUAs in general, that would be one thing, but we’re talking specifically about the whole alpha-beta-epsilon-theta-mu thing. Within the category of “PUAs” Heartiste and Vox Day are not the first examples I would give. Within the category of “PUA/Redpill/Manosphere writers who are really into taxonomizing men” I think they are legitimately big names (in, admittedly, a small pond). I didn’t even bring up Vox Day first!

            Likewise, Trump is not a central example of white people. Nor is Hillary Clinton. But if we were discussing “white politicians in the United States” they both come to mind very easily.

            I’m also not sure where exactly I have been shaming them by calling them racists, or by pointing out that they are not Blue Tribe enough (even though, culturally, they often are – and the Red/Blue division was supposed to be a cultural, not political, one, but nobody holds to that anymore anyway).

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m also not sure where exactly I have been shaming them by calling them racists, or by pointing out that they are not Blue Tribe enough

            Doesn’t change that they make the claim sometimes – increasingly, it would seem, as some blogs devoted to “game” have become, essentially, white nationalist blogs.

            What was the purpose of this sentence, other than to attempt to load the Hated Outgroup with negative affect?

            What was the purpose of asking whether there were other significant people than the two most easily-hated? I don’t get it. If you own Mark Manson’s book, what was the purpose in asking me if anyone like Mark Manson exists? That sounds suspiciously like you were hoping I didn’t know about Manson.

            If you knew who Mystery was, what was the point of asking? If I did know who Lincoln and Washington were, what would be the point of saying “I know about Trump, and he’s the only prominent presidential candidate in history, right?”

            If we’re talking about wrenches, why be the guy who mostly talks about how terrible the two most terrible wrench-salesmen are, and how you heard one of them once strangled a puppy?

            It’s entirely possible I’m misreading you, but it seems like you keep using “prominent” to mean “prominent, in circles where they’re the Hated Outgroup, and are never discussed outside the context of signal-boosting truthy-feeling anecdotes about how terrible the Hated Outgroup is.”

            “Oh, you’re an American! I know all about Americans! Let’s see, there’s Ted Bundy, there’s Ed Gein, there’s… um, those are the most representative ones, right?”

            Edit: It’s entirely possible I’m overreacting, but it seems like you started pattern matching to the guy pretending to take a Bold Heroic Stance by arguing for reducing the status of a target that already has zero status and zero power in your current milieu. And feigning heroism by making performative attacks on whoever’s on the bottom of the totem pole is nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you’re misreading me, but I’ve also been misread by Dr Dealgood, and I’ve been kind of fuzzyheaded all day, which leads me to think I’ve probably expressed myself poorly, and so am at least partially responsible for being misread. I blame running out of coffee beans – tea just ain’t doing the trick.

            When I say, for instance, that some “game” blogs have become WN blogs, I don’t mean for people to go “ooh! white nationalists! bad spooky! all game blogs white nationalists!” – I just mean it as a factual statement: some guys who used to write primarily about getting laid have adopted white nationalism or elements of white nationalism. My purpose in bringing it up was that you have some authors who have applied the taxonomic way of talking about men relative to sex to politics in general, and some authors have applied it especially to racial/demographic issues.

            As for the examples I chose, I brought up some examples that alpha/beta doesn’t fit very well, Dr Dealgood mentioned Vox Day and his system of seven Greek letters (pet peeve: why does he have deltas as higher on the totem pole than gammas, when gamma precedes delta in the alphabet?) and I mentioned Heartiste.

            If we were talking about PUAs in general – just, about guys who write about how to get women to give you all the sex – it would be unfair and dishonest to bring up Heartiste and Vox Day as exemplars. They’re not – if you were to ask me “who is the leading PUA author” I would probably say Neil Strauss, just on the basis that “The Game” probably moved more copies than any other PUA book, he went on to write a straightforward advice book on the subject (as opposed to the sort of New Journalism type thing that “The Game” was), ran/runs a PUA bootcamp type thing, etc.

          • TheWorst says:

            My purpose in bringing it up was that you have some authors who have applied the taxonomic way of talking about men relative to sex to politics in general, and some authors have applied it especially to racial/demographic issues.

            Yeah. That’s kind of the point. What’s the value of informing me that some Chinese people are robbers? Presumably there’s a purpose to telling me that this one particular type of wrench was once used to club a baby seal, but aside from trying to load one brand of wrenches with negative and unwarranted emotional affect, I can’t see what that purpose might be.

            Dr Dealgood mentioned Vox Day and his system of seven Greek letters (pet peeve: why does he have deltas as higher on the totem pole than gammas, when gamma precedes delta in the alphabet?)

            …I’m gonna call this further support for my “some wrench-salesmen are idiots” contention. Vox Day and Roissy’s successors are idiots, and while they do indeed use the alpha/beta taxonomy, they’re far from the only ones to do so, and as far as I can tell are utterly unremarkable aside from having randomly gone viral in the Blue Tribe as bogeymen.

            Put another way, as far as I know basically every PUA writer uses the alpha/beta system to describe short term/long term mating strategies (or “successful performance of male gender role/the reverse,” or signalling sexy vs. signalling security; call it whatever, it’s the most basic observation of how this works), but some of them don’t have anything else.

            But yeah. I tend to have a hair trigger for things that smell too much like “And now, we will ritually denigrate the weakest and most unpopular target we can think of, and then congratulate ourselves on how brave and wise we are for doing so.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            My purpose was, I suppose, to show one result of applying the alpha/beta idea – or, one permutation of it – to stuff beyond what it was originally applied to.

            Alpha/beta talk is very common in the circles being discussed. Some authors talk about behaviours, some talk about types of people (being alpha: wave and particle?). Taxonomizing different kinds of men in relation not just to dating or sex or whatever, but in relation to life in general, especially politics, is a bit less common, as I understand it. Contrast “Al just got that woman interested in him by being aloof, total alpha behaviour” with “Bill always texts his girlfriend back within a minute, and she doesn’t reciprocate, he’s a total beta” with “Bill supported Jeb? BETA”.

            I don’t know how viral on the left Heartiste or Vox Day are: if I was going to pick “which PUA writer is known and hated on the left”, I would go with Roosh. My bubble is mostly a left-wing, university-educated, affluent one – kind of the group “Blue Tribe” was coined to describe – and I saw a ton of anti-Roosh stuff back around when there was that whole meetup fiasco (they also think he’s an MRA, which, uh, he isn’t, but I learned that it’s not worth it to try and point out that there’s more than one kind of thing). I’ve never seen Heartiste mentioned, nor Vox Day (even with regard to the Rabid Puppies and all that).

            I agree that it is shitty rhetorically to try and make something look bad by putting it next to something bad. I wasn’t trying to do that.

          • Nornagest says:

            Probably depends on the circles you run in. Vox Day is best known on the Left for his role in l’affaire du Puppies, which the other two weren’t involved in; and not every culture war commentator cares much about or is necessarily even aware of the Hugos debacle.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, my bubble doesn’t really include people who care about sci fi book industry awards – nobody at that level of “into it” regarding sci fi.

            I’d still say Roosh is the most infamous of the three. The meetups business got press in actual print newspapers.

          • Viliam says:

            Well, I hoped there would be some comments areeing or disagreeing with my accusation that being passively aggressive (a.k.a. “snarky”) is a strategy that allows one to lie or insult with plausible deniability (“just a prank, bro!”), and that “Rational”Wiki uses it selectively against its political opponents (for example, you will find close to zero snarks on pages like Atheism+). But since the debate has evolved in a different direction, I might as well join it…

            …except that I am not sure how. I mean, we are comparing two maps here, and I am not really sure about either of them. I have an approximate idea about what the “red tribe” and “blue tribe” could be, but the other map is completely chaotic (for example, different people use “beta” to mean any of the following: “a civilized version of the uncivilized alpha”, “alpha’s right hand”, “an average guy who is neither an alpha nor an omega”, “a civilized man with zero alpha traits”, or “a complete loser”). And yet I feel there is something important out there in the territory. So, a few sidenotes:

            There is a difference between a man’s attractivity and his reproductive success. Even the most attractive guy could be infertile, or gay, or celibate for religious reasons. On the other hand, an ugly retarded man can sire dozen children just because neither he nor his unattractive wife know how to use contraception. Which one of them is closer to our intuition of an “alpha male”? Intuitively, the former, because the “alpha/beta/whatever” discussion typically focuses on how men behave, and how consequently other people react to them. Reproduction is related to this, but focusing too much on how many children who has, that’s a red herring. (This is not even specific to humans; an alpha wolf in a pack could also happen to be infertile; doesn’t make him less of an alpha.)

            A dominant man can be either pro-social, or anti-social; a leader, or a thug. (Or a lone wolf.) Does the “alpha male” refer only to the thug, or to a dominant man of any kind? Again, my intuition says it’s about the dominance, but many bloggers (both PUA and anti-PUA) seem to conflate these two things for various reasons. Analogically, a non-dominant man can also be pro-social, or anti-social; and may have other redeeming qualities, or be a total loser.

            Trying to apply this to women may make things even more confusing. Yes, women also have their intra-gender hierarchies; but those (a) may differ in some important details from the male intra-gender hierachies, and (b) may have different relationship with sexual attractivity. (Where “may” = I am pretty sure it is that way, I just don’t want debate that topic now.)

            Given all these disclaimers…

            The “red tribe” acknowledges and celebrates the existence of the pro-social dominant man (whether we decide to call him “alpha male” or not), and encourages all men to become as close to the position as possible. Obviously not everyone can be a leader, but every man is morally required to take the position of the leader if necessity arises, i.e. when the previous leader is unavailable (or becomes a thug), and it is necessary to coordinate the group. In other words, not every man can be an “alpha” in every situation, but every man should be a backup alpha. — This is the steelman version; and in reality sometimes the thugs are mistakenly celebrated, too.

            In the “blue tribe”, the misandric parts will insist that there is no such thing as a “pro-social dominant man”, because all dominant men are thugs, almost by definition (technically, this is supposed to happen as a consequence of social pressures, but those pressures are supposed to be omnipresent and inescapable). The remaining parts will still feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of a pro-social dominant man, because it seems to threaten gender equality. — Again, this is theory; in real life, dominant men are okay, as long as they are perfectly blue-tribe.

            Like @onyomi said, “red tribe” values sexual dimorphism explicitly and implicitly. In “blue tribe”, stereotypically sexually attractive men and women are also valued, but it’s taboo to discuss this explicitly or to encourage people to go that way. That provides freedom to people who choose another way. So in “blue tribe”, men are not required to become dominant (which doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t face any social consequences for not being dominant; it’s just that the consequences will be blamed on something else).

            I personally feel closest to the Athol Kay school of thought, where dominance and pro-sociality are seen as two independent traits, and any combination of them is possible. Makes me closer to (steelman version of) the “red tribe” in this aspect, I guess.

          • Adam says:

            If we’re going to use the actual definition and not politics, I’m pretty sure I’m blue – post-grad education, multiracial, from a coastal big city, yada yada. I’m reasonably certain nobody I know has ever heard of Heartiste or Vox Day. Actually, I’d never heard of Heartiste until right now and the only reason I’ve heard of Vox Day is also because of this blog and I still only know the name and nothing about him. This includes a fair number of sci-fi lovers who nonetheless don’t follow and don’t care about the Hugos.

            Probably a few of them would know Roosh because of the meetup thing, but that happened very recently and he will fade from memory pretty quickly if he doesn’t get himself back into the headlines soon. I’d never heard of him before that happened.

            Actually, I don’t even feel like this is any sort of tribal thing. These are obscure people who are not widely known to any large swath of American society. The single most enduring example of pick-up artistry I can think of still remains the Spur Posse, but that was fairly regional and it’s possible people outside of LA County never heard of them.

          • brad says:

            Isn’t Obama a pro-social dominant man? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone express discomfort with that aspect of his personality.

            The closest thing I can think of is some people claiming that Hillary Clinton will be an _even better_ President because she’s such a great listener.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Adam:

            We’re in an increasingly splintered society with regard to “what people know” – for instance, take a look at the effect of the proliferation of TV channels on ratings patterns: in the 1964-65 season, none of the top 20 programs had a Neilsen rating below 22. In the 2014-15 season, only Sunday Night Football broke 12. It’s unsurprising that now we have lots of minor controversial figures who most people haven’t heard of, given people’s increasing ability to create bubbles.

            Would the Spur Posse really count? Guys trying to have sex with lots of women is as old as the existence of sexual reproduction, but PUA describes a specific thing that seems to have coalesced in the mid to late 90s. It certainly became a thing known in the wider culture in the late 90s/early 2000s: “Magnolia” was 1999, and “The Game” was 2005 (with an NYT article in 2004).

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Freshman orientation there was already pretty crazy in the mid 00s. Can’t even imagine what they must go through now.

      One correction though. At least a few years ago, “ECON 121—Economics of Gender and Family” was a ploy by the econ department to offer us a not-insane way to satisfy the “Dynamics of Power and Privilege” graduation requirement.

      In hindsight, that requirement should have been somewhat of a red flag…

      • You had a Dynamics of Power and Privilege graduation requirement? Seriously?

      • Adam says:

        Lol, seriously? It’s funny to me that I actually knew a lot of people who went to the Claremont Colleges, since my high school was like ten minutes away, but I don’t think I kept in touch with any of them. I very strongly considered Harvey Mudd, which being an engineering school, hopefully did not have any ridiculous requirements like that.

  12. Jill says:

    Relevant to my concerns about polarization, and Americans having no consensus on even the objective facts of what is occurring in the nation”

    “Like the old adage about quarterbacks – if you think you have two good ones, you probably have none – this basically means we have no credible news media left. Apart from a few brave islands of resistance, virtually all the major news organizations are now fully in the tank for one side or the other (Dems or GOP).”

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/matt-taibbi-on-the-summer-of-the-media-shill-w434484

    • Mr. Breakfast says:

      I have to agree in so far as it is harder all of a sudden to distinguish supposedly responsible mainstream sources and tabloid/clickbait sources by headline language and subject matter.

    • Adam says:

      I last consumed any news media at least 20 years ago. I haven’t seen the point in a very long time. I get most of my information from FRED, the BLS, and the US Census Bureau and try to interpret it myself if it has to be interpreted, ideally minimally. I don’t even mean the reports, just the raw data. Definitely not the press releases.

      Unfortunately, social media makes this ever harder. My feed is constantly full of Vox, Vice, etc. links and it’s hard to never click any of them, though generally if they reference an actual study or data source, I’ll try to find that directly and ignore what the writer says about it.

      I feel this somewhat helps. I honestly don’t know what more to do.

      • anon says:

        Adam, if you really get all your info from US statistical agencies, how do you like being roughly 3 months behind all the time? And how do you learn about events that are not measured by statistical agencies? Do you consider “realtime” models like the Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now? Do you bother to follow separate websites for other important economies’ statistical agencies?

        Trust me, I’m about as disillusioned with the MSM as one can be while remaining (somewhat) sane. But the media does serve an actual aggregation and filtering role, as well as providing timely coverage of important developments. So your approach — if you were being serious — seems rather extreme.

        I think it’s admirable to go to raw data to get a big picture view, but you’re also being a bit unfair to the press releases; agencies like BLS write pretty objective reports/press releases. If anything, (generally government-funded but) non-government-employed scientists (or more likely their host universities’ PR departments) are much worse about writing scientifically sound press releases.

        • Adam says:

          True, I usually do actually read the press releases. The point was more that I don’t just read the press releases. As far as being behind, when major things happen, someone will let you know. It comes up in common conversation. You see talking heads blabbing about it in the waiting room to a hospital, walking by a bar, in the breakroom TV at work. It’s rare that anything super important happens and I don’t know about it. It does sometimes happen, though, and when it does, I suppose my attitude is just so what? I don’t need to know everything that is happening in the world as it happens. I probably need to know less, frankly, and focus more on my own work.

    • Untrue Neutral says:

      The desire for propaganda preceded the existence of these massive propaganda machines. You can see this at work when a person realizes Fox News/CNN/MSNBC are horrible, and their solution is to…replace them with Breitbart, Vox, The Atlantic, Rush Limbaugh, Alternet, Townhall, The Young Turks, all of which are even more horrifically mindkilled.

      Usually “the big news stations suck” = “I hate one side because they’re the enemy, and I hate my own side because its insufficiently strong propaganda and I’ve moved on to harder stuff”

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        While that may be the usual in the mainstream, I’m confident that the prevailing opinion on this site is that “I hate one side because they make bad arguments and misrepresent the data, and I hate the other side because the misrepresent the data and make bad arguments.”

        It seems that there’s a local demand for less biased sources. Unfortunately, I don’t know where to find them, so I settle for the least biased sources I can find in a mix of things that support or challenge my viewpoints.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Jill – “Apart from a few brave islands of resistance, virtually all the major news organizations are now fully in the tank for one side or the other (Dems or GOP).”

      This. This this this this this this this.

      Major news organizations are highly useful for learning what powerful interests currently want you to believe.

      • cassander says:

        Only in the sense, and because, news organizations themselves represent a powerful interest. There is no dark cabal dictating the news.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          …Something something DNC emails? Something Something Facebook Trending?

          I would agree that there is no one Dark Cabal dictating all the news. I am pretty confidant that all major news organs are Dark Cabal dictated.

          • cassander says:

            I work for a media organization, the independence of journalists is rather remarkable. The editors are too hard pressed for content to be able to screen for ideology, even if they had an interest in doing so which, by and large, they don’t. To the extent management exercises authority, it’s largely though who they hire. Maybe it’s different at Fox or MSNBC, but even there, I doubt there’s much of an ideological line coming down from above.

          • gbdub says:

            What about JournoList? That was a group of left-learning media types, mostly not editors, that chatted about, among other things, how to tailor their stories. I think that fits in with both a “Dark Cabal” AND Cassander’s comment. It wasn’t a “top down” dictation, rather a voluntary collusion between independent journalists.

            Amusingly for this discussion, Journolist, after being shut down, spawned a spinoff literally called “Cabalist”.

          • BBA says:

            Didn’t most of the Journolisters end up at Vox anyway?

          • cassander says:

            Journolist was a classic example of the cathedral in action, it doesn’t tell people what to do, it just establishes what all right thinking people believe. But it only worked if reporters had wide latitude in what they wrote.

            And there were several hundred people on the list, they can’t all be working at vox.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Cassander – what should I make of claims that this or that story has been or is being suppressed, then? I’ve heard a lot of those over the years; someone mentioned Jimmy Saville regarding the BBC, for instance.

          • cassander says:

            I can’t speak to non-US journalistic practice.

            Certainly publishers CAN refuse to run stories, it’s just that they very rarely do. Everyone is under too much deadline pressure to refuse to run perfectly good stories, or to police what’s written for ideological conformity. I’d say that, on a practical basis, sources exercise considerably more control over what does or doesn’t run than anyone else in the process. Reporters have a symbiotic relationship with them, and if they throw them under a bus, it won’t be long before they stop getting scoops.

      • John Schilling says:

        Major news organizations are highly useful for learning what powerful interests currently want you to believe.

        I use the BBC as my primary news source on the grounds that that neither the British Crown nor the British Permanent Bureaucracy much care what I think, and there’s less risk of missing something important if I’m filtering out propaganda aimed at someone else.

        • Nornagest says:

          They care what you think insofar as you resemble the Brits they’re trying to influence. Though I agree that the BBC is one of the better sources out there; thanks to their structure, they at least have to be fairly subtle in that influence. As long as you can get past the occasional irritating outbreaks of what-are-those-damned-colonials-doing.

        • Yes, I'm judging you. says:

          Things like Jimmy Savile’s “quirks”, and the very similar quirks of a surprising number of the Great And Good of the UK’s government, civil service, and entertainment were dragged into the light only because the BBC finally got competition, and so the BBC could no longer succeed in actively suppressing the testimonies of victims and witnesses.

          I consider the BBC an active co-conspirator, both in the aggregate institutional sense, and also every one of it’s directors and executive producers, individually.

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t know how trustworthy this blog is (probably no more so than other blogs) but unless they’re actually lying about the BBC, this doesn’t look very good: https://hequal.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/bbc-has-never-reported-a-single-suicide-caused-by-false-rape-allegations/

          • Nornagest says:

            Unless the BBC has also made a habit of reporting on suicides linked to the other side of the culture war, I don’t find this very damning. And I don’t see a single apples-to-apples comparison on there… though I’ll admit I was skimming.

          • Jiro says:

            Unless the BBC has also made a habit of reporting on suicides linked to the other side of the culture war

            Read the post. They heavily reported a suicide by a false rape accuser. So yes.

          • John Schilling says:

            BBC doesn’t publish all that many rape allegations of any sort to begin with, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the subset that are A: false and B: lead to suicide, is legitimately zero. The worst that can be said about them is that they don’t think that suicide raises a story they wouldn’t otherwise have covered to a newsworthy level.

            Wait, is that the worst that can be said about them? Maybe I meant “best”. All told, I’d rather my news sources not succumb to the all-too-common biases of, 1: “A rape happened, therefore Our Readers Want To Know”, and 2: “Someone killed themselves, so we should pay extra special attention to them.”

          • Jiro says:

            BBC doesn’t publish all that many rape allegations of any sort to begin with, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the subset that are A: false and B: lead to suicide, is legitimately zero.

            The blog points out that
            — Other major news outlets considered the false accusations that led to suicide newsworthy
            — The BBC gave prominent coverage to the suicide of a false accuser (which they also reported in a biased manner, to the point of having to issue a retraction)

          • John Schilling says:

            Other major news outlets considered the false accusations that led to suicide newsworthy

            In case I wasn’t clear enough about that before: The other major news outlets, however many of them there may be, are wrong. The BBC is right.

            Or if you aren’t comfortable with that as a simple opinion of fact: In my opinion, approximately every major news outlet on the planet vastly overestimates the effect to which I care about the existence and outcome of individual rape allegations and/or the opinions and motives of individual suicides. Furthermore, I believe that pandering to the people who do want to hear such things is damaging to rational public discourse and ought to be eschewed by any journalistic outlet with any pretense of being more than someone’s profit center. You correctly note that BBC is doing rather less of this destructive thing that I don’t like than are other journalistic outlets, and while you may intend this as criticism I take it as the opposite. Yay BBC.

          • Jiro says:

            In case I wasn’t clear enough about that before: The other major news outlets, however many of them there may be, are wrong.

            Even if reporting on such things is just pandering, failure to pander is still bad if it is selective. Pandering to everyone isn’t good, but it’s better than, and less biased than, only pandering to one side.

          • J Quenff says:

            It seems to me like the BBC response quoted there clears everything up? Someone with a history of mental illness commits suicide; it wasn’t definitive that the false allegation, which didn’t result in any charges, was the ultimate cause. A private tragedy, not a national news story.

            The story about the false accuser who then killed themselves became a story because there was an angle on whether the prosecutor behaved appropriately or not.

        • Anonymous says:

          I use the BBC as my primary news source on the grounds that that neither the British Crown nor the British Permanent Bureaucracy much care what I think, and there’s less risk of missing something important if I’m filtering out propaganda aimed at someone else.

          That’s actually an excellent policy. I’mma steal it!

    • “Relevant to my concerns about polarization”

      Thinking about this issue and my own less negative impression got me wondering about what time frame you, and others who agree with you, are thinking in terms of. I’ve been arguing about politics (and other things) for well over fifty years, so my impression of the situation may be largely based on experiences from before the problem you describe arose.

      Does polarization that makes serious argument impossible date only from Obama’s election? His predecessor’s election? Earlier than that?

  13. Ruprect says:

    Is there any reason why people shouldn’t be able to nominate themselves for voluntary bans?

    • Acedia says:

      The group of people who are addicted enough to the site to need a ban to help them quit, yet detached enough from it to be put off by the trivial inconvenience of having to create a new username, seems like it’d be fairly small.

    • Ruprect says:

      I wish to humbly request that I be banned from this website. Stricken from the records. Name written in the Book of Grudges.

      I think I contribute – perhaps not in a ‘factual’ way (where facts are determined as imposed sense data) – but more in a ‘this is bullshit’ kind of way.
      That has it’s place, I think.

      But, I’m more in love with the idea of commenting on ssc open threads, than with the reality. I’m a deontological commenter. I’m not really paying very much attention to the effects that my comments might have on others, or myself, because I’m more interested in getting a succinct and correct comment out there.

      And so, I think, from a utilitarian perspective, the safest course is to ban me.

      Ban me rotten.

      (As long as everyone has finished with responding to the convo on the previous open thread. I’d hate to leave that one hanging.)

      • Adam says:

        Scott has allowed people to request self-bans before. Provided he sees this, I can see no reason he won’t grant it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I suggest, if you’re serious about this, you report this post.

        (I’m not reporting it for you, just so as to let you choose the time.)

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Banned.

      • Yes, i am judging you says:

        You would rather be correct than be liked. Sucks, doesn’t it? Ever try being the other way?

        I tried the other way, thinking that it would be nice to be more likable and maybe make some more friends, but … it was a disaster.

        Every time I smiled and nodded along with some socially blessed falsehood, every time I agreed when someone loudly asserted something that was both internally inconsistent and incongruent with math, physics, history, and human nature, I hated them all more, and started hating myself. Finally, I had to stop, before something really bad happened. (As someone else said here recently, working out hard and lifting heavy is a workable way to avoid going on multi-state killing sprees.)

        As I got older, I finally gained the ability to avoid pointing it out every time someone said something stupid, but I never will be able to happily and comfortably smile and signal agreement.

        Probably it’s a flaw in my own nature, some lethal mutation, as it certainly doesn’t seem to at all enable survival in some wandering small tribe of clans of mutant african plains apes. So be it.

        (singing to myself) I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          You would rather be correct than be liked. Sucks, doesn’t it? Ever try being the other way?

          How come no one told me
          All throughout history
          The loneliest people
          Were the ones who always spoke the truth

          That being said… how do you know you’re right?

          • “The Prophet used to say that Umar always spoke the truth, however harsh, and that for that reason he had no friends.”

            Comment made to the first caliph about the man he ended up choosing to be the second caliph.

          • Yes, I'm judging you says:

            That being said… how do you know you’re right?

            I don’t know when I’m right. I know enough not to trust the feeling “of course I’m right, because I don’t believe wrong things”, because, well, I see people, many of them rather smarter than me, who are obviously easily provable factually wrong about something themselves asserting that.

            Proving something right and correct is difficult.

            On the other hand, figuring out that something is wrong is much much easier.

            So, the standard I try to hold myself to is “I try not to be wrong”. It’s not as comfortable and self-happy-making as “I know I’m right”, but, well, it’s less likely to be wrong most of the time.

  14. leoboiko says:

    Noob question: How in heck do y’all keep up with conversations here, lacking email notification of replies?

    • Ruprect says:

      Refresh button is your friend.

      • leoboiko says:

        Well, in my opinion that feels a little bit… addictive/attention-draining/Pavlovian. Has Scott considered an email notification plugin?

        • Ruprect says:

          I think he likes it.

          All of us sitting here, pushing our refresh buttons, again and again and again.

          Waiting for the next comment hit.

    • bluto says:

      The most useful tools I’ve found are the recent comments list (though I wish the link put the new post at the bottom of the page to better show context) and occasional searches by username for conversations I want to follow.

    • Mr Mind says:

      I would love to have push alerts… lacking these, I usually reload the last two / three threads and search for my username.
      Very sub-optimal, but at least it forces me to comment on everything that I find interesting.

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      I ctrl-f ‘username says’, and click through.

  15. Brad (The Other One) says:

    Is there a TL;DR version of the sequences anywhere? Or TL;DR explanations of Bayesian reasoning?

    • Nornagest says:

      Can’t do the Sequences. This is about as well as I can do for Bayes.

      • Brad (The Other One) says:

        Is it wise, or even possible, to try to apply Bayes in contexts where you lack quantifiable data (i.e. interpretations of historical events, evidence/absence of God, etc.)?

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s possible. Bayes’ rule has a long history of use in Christian apologetics, for example.

          “Wise” is another question. It’s very difficult to come up with a rigorous set of priors outside lab-like settings (some promising-looking approaches have been proven intractable), so any approach you end up taking will generally involve pulling numbers out of your ass. On the other hand, in many situations it actually does work better to pull numbers out of your ass and use them to generate an answer to the question you’re actually interested in, than to skip the numerical step and just pull an answer out of your ass.

          • Randy M says:

            Scott has a post way back defending updating based on your posterior in cases where there is no prior.

    • Nicholas says:

      They put out a book. It’s comparatively TLDR. The sequences don’t have the kind of solid thruline to build a real TLDR.

  16. Sweeneyrod says:

    I frequently see the claim that there isn’t a single successful majority Muslim country, to which the common rebuttals are Turkey and Indonesia. But those are weak counter-arguments — while not as bad absolutely speaking as e.g. Somalia, or as much worse than they “should” be as Saudi Arabia, it seems likely they would be better off if Islam was less influential there. So why do I never see the Muslim-majority -stans (excluding Paki- and Afgani-)? They seem to be doing about as well as ex-Soviet Central Asian countries could be expected to.

    • Sandy says:

      They are fairly inconsequential countries and few people in either the Western or (mainstream) Islamic world know much about them. The exception might be Kazakhstan, which supplies a huge fraction of the world’s uranium. And beyond that, Kazakhstan is not very relevant. As for doing well, they’re not doing as badly as Iraq or Somalia, but they’re not exactly thriving either, and they have major problems with young -stanis emigrating in search of job opportunities (usually to Russia).

      I have also seen some commentators say the grip of religious identity is not as strong in these states as it is in the Arab world, and residents of these countries are more likely to identify with ethnic identities.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        Regarding your last paragraph, I think there is definitely tension in central Asia between traditional identities and Arabisation.

        • Sandy says:

          Coincidentally, I read this article today where the President of Kyrgyzstan described the increasing prevalence of Kyrgyz women wearing niqabs and burkas as part of the Arabization of the area.

          But if the area is being Arabized, that suggests that’s not how Kyrgyz Muslims traditionally practice Islam.

    • leoboiko says:

      With N as low as 193 and countless confounding factors, too many of them historical/geographical/areal, I wouldn’t draw any causations from correlations between the success of countries and their national characteristics.

    • Civilis says:

      Having been to one (Kyrgyzstan), there were a couple of reasons why they might not be brought up:

      One, the country was very heavily culturally modified by the Russians. Russians are still a prominent ethnic group. I can’t imagine what would happen if, say, they tried to ban alcohol. Russia still keeps a close eye on what goes on in the region. Kyrgyzstan doesn’t border Russia, and the Russians still raised a stink about the temporary US base there (which meant the base was only a transit and R&R center), which was likely a major factor in the base not being renewed.

      Two, the part that isn’t culturally Russian is heavily driven by links to Turkish culture as the Kyrgyzstani are culturally related to the Turks (as much as I understand what the locals told me). A lot of the foreign influences that weren’t Russian/Soviet were Turkish.

      While nice and welcoming to outsiders, especially an American that didn’t speak Russian and had little international experience, the country is not doing especially well economically. It seemed to have most of the problems that plague modern Russia and Turkey, like a somewhat corrupt government and general economic malaise.

      • “I can’t imagine what would happen if, say, they tried to ban alcohol. ”

        At a slight tangent, Sunni law against alcohol only applies to Muslims. In a traditional Islamic society, Christians and Jews were free to make, sell, and consume wine.

        • Anonymous says:

          What happens when a Muslim wants to, illicitly, purchase alcohol from a non-Muslim? In how hot a water is the non-Muslim?

          • I don’t know, and I’m on the road so can’t easily check an actual legal text. My guess is that it would very from “so what” to “serious offense” depending on when, where, and under which school of law it happened.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Seems kind of unfair. Dubai is “successful” in terms of one of the most dynamic economies in the world. Pakistan is “successful” in terms of having nuclear weapons and being geopolitically powerful. Iran is “successful” in being a peaceful country with great culture and high standard of living.

      If you mean “not 100% First World”, I don’t think anywhere is 100% First World except Western Europe, Western European colonies, and Japan. That’s a pretty select group to blame someone for not being in.

      • Sweeneyrod says:

        Eh, based on no evidence I get the impression that e.g. Brazil and Vietnam are nicer places to live than e.g. Pakistan. The Gulf countries have so much oil that I think they can be ignored — they would have to have a really bad ideology not to have decent standards of living. I slightly forgot about Iran, which was foolish as my sample size of one family suggests it is more successful than the UK.

        • John Schilling says:

          Eh, based on no evidence I get the impression that e.g. Brazil and Vietnam are nicer places to live than e.g. Pakistan.

          Pakistan, as Scott notes, has rather deliberately sacrificed “this is a nice place to live” on the altar of “We are mighty, and the enemies that surround us dare not attack us”. Whether this was wise, depends on the nature and intention of those enemies. But it is the choice they have made, and in following that chosen path they have been fairly successful.

  17. pseudon says:

    A somewhat delicate question, but of interest to me:

    Any insights / data / anecdotes about the origin of fetishes, especially a spanking fetish? How correlated are such fetishes with childhood experiences? Specifically, are there examples where such a fetish comes into existence only later in life, and / or without obvious triggering experiences? Also, rates in the general population and over time?

    • Anon. says:

      Spanking seems obvious. I want to know where vore comes from.

      • pseudon says:

        But is it? Note that if you’re hinting at child abuse / physical punishment, the incidence of this fetish should have decreased in the last 100 years. I’m not sure that’s the case.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Anon – “I want to know where vore comes from.”

        Eros is in many senses about a loss of control.

      • Agronomous says:

        I want to know where vore comes from.

        See, ten years ago I would have looked that word up on the Interwebs. I’m wiser than that now.

      • DanPeverley says:

        Maybe Toxoplasmosis.

      • Tibor says:

        For what it’s worth I might “come out” (well, I don’t usually talk about that openly with people who I don’t know well and my identity here is only semi-anonymous I think, but I guess I don’t mind that much) and say I actually find a lot of BDSM-related stuff arousing. At the same time, my parents never hit me or spanked me, or at least definitely not on a regular basis so that I would remember it. I think this is actually a wrong stereotype and possibly harmful. Essentially you’re saying that only “damaged” people could enjoy this.

        It also does not explain some other things. It is hard to estimate these things, but I think that among people who enjoy BDSM, men tend to be more often dominant and women submissive. There are also people (like me) who like both. I don’t think that women get spanked more and therefore develop a submissive fetish more often or something. Also, I think that while obviously not everyone is aroused by everything included in the broad BDSM category, the number of people who enjoy quite gentle domination/submission and light bondage is relatively high. Again, hard to estimate, but I would not be surprised if it was a majority or a very large minority of the population.

        But the original question is interesting and unfortunately, I do not have a good answer. I think the Freudian explanations are wrong (although I do not think much of Freud in general), they are ad hoc just so stories which give you an explanation based on what “sounds like it could be true” but so is the theory that the Pharaoh causes the sun to rise and storms happen when the gods get angry.

        I am not sure whether the fetishes appear later in life or not. As for me, when I first learned about BDSM I found it somehow “wrong” as most people do but I was attracted to it. Then I realized that it is not wrong as long as it is consensual (and in fact stuff like having a safeword make it in a sense more obviously consensual than “normal” sex) but that did not make me somehow more interested.

        I should perhaps add that this is something I can live without as well, I suppose things would be different for people who have a fetish which for them is the only way to get aroused, I think that is probably a different category psychologically.

    • leoboiko says:

      I’ve never had any BDSMy fetishes (nor was interested in sadomasochistic erotica, etc.) until meeting my current girlfriend, who’s a hardcore submissive masochist. Encouraged by her, I started experimenting and found myself enjoying, and then positively desiring, bondage, spanking, humiliating etc. (usually on the dominating side, but every so often switching for kicks).

      I’m 100% convinced that you can acquire fetishes, the same way you can acquire tastes; no traumatic experiences needed. Neither I nor my girlfriend have any history of parental abuse or physical violence. Specifically, we weren’t spanked as children; I met her in my late twenties; and today I find spanking hot af, to the point where a picture of a red-tinted butt turns me on.

      • leoboiko says:

        While I’m on this topic: It bother me a lot how so many people treat “taste” as something set in stone from the moment they’re born, despite all evidence to the contrary. “I don’t like broccoli” – how could you know, if you haven’t even tried to like broccoli yet? That’s like saying “it’s impossible for me to swim” before taking swimming classes. The foods/drinks that give me the most hedons are, almost uniformly, things that I didn’t like at all on a first try (or on the first, say, five tries). Most of my favourite music tracks, and even some favourite music genres, are stuff that I felt to be boring and pointless upon first hearing.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “I don’t like broccoli” – no, you haven’t tried to like broccoli.

          Yes, I have. But I don’t.

        • Untrue Neutral says:

          I’m similar, I can learn to like most things. With music my favorite genres are all ones I started off disliking. The list of foods I genuinely dislike no matter how hard I try is countable on one hand.

          I think other people might be genuine about how hard it is for them to change, though. The aptitude for appreciating things you initially dislike/are indifferent to might not be uniformly distributed. If thats true you should be grateful for how good you are at it!

          • Tibor says:

            I guess I wouldn’t have liked black metal when I was 10 and I don’t like it any more now, but my 16 year old version liked it quite a lot. I think music is actually a very good example. The reason my 10 year old me would not like it is probably because he would not be able to recognize much in the noise. I currently do not like it because I find it repetitive monotonous and hence boring.

            I think this is an important distinction. As you get older and especially as you get involved in something you get to know it better. You recognize certain patterns that were not obvious to you at first (and therefore more interesting) but are painfully predictable now. This is why for my mother a Frank Zappa’s song might sound like gibberish and to me it is interesting – she is not a musician nor is she particularly interested in music.

            With food there are definitely some acquired tastes. If you’re not Dutch you won’t like the salted black licorice. Partly it is also a metabolic thing. As you get older you crave sweets less.

            I have no idea how it works with sexual fetishes. I feel like those are somewhat closer to music tastes than to food cravings but I don’t know for sure.

        • Nicholas says:

          I suspect “I do not have to try in order to enjoy this” is most people’s definition of “like”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          What you’re saying might be sort of right, but I embargo this whole way of thinking as a matter of principle because it inevitably leads to “You are a bad person for not liking what I like, since it would be so easy for you to modify your preferences for my convenience if only you tried”.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            So must all preferences be treated as immutable, or only those which are likely to be targets for oppressive pressure?

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            Why believe a person’s preferences in food/music/whatever has anything to do with a persons moral character? It seems like thats the issue, not whether tastes are mutable.

            Treating taste as immutable doesn’t even fix the problem, people who think you’re a bad person for listening to Justin Bieber are going to keep thinking that whether you grant that tastes can change through effort or not.

          • TheWorst says:

            Out of curiosity, which ones do you think are not likely to be targets for oppressive pressure, and would you be interested in expressing your answer in the form of a wager?

            “You know what no one hates each other about yet?”

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Out of curiosity, which ones do you think are not likely to be targets for oppressive pressure, and would you be interested in expressing your answer in the form of a wager?

            I suspect that Scott’s desire is to head off a new rationale (preference modification techniques) being deployed in existing battles about human behavior (culture war stuff). If this is so, then the relevant “targets” would be those preferences for which an active constituency is already advocating control/limitation.

            I don’t care about modifying any type of behavior in particular, but I am interested in Stoic / Confucian style self-improvement-through-virtue-ethics type thought and practice. I would personally think it regrettable if questions like “How can one reprogram their own preferences to match some set of preferences they deem to be desirable?” were taboo in the general case.

          • Tibor says:

            I’m not sure it does lead there necessarily. I think tastes are sort of semi-fluid. You can acquire tastes but there are also some hardwired barriers you cannot get over. I try to expose myself to things I think I don’t like to find out whether that really is the case. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. In any case, I don’t see how having different tastes than someone else makes me a bad person even if it were convenient for her if I changed my tastes. In the same way I always found the “is being gay a choice or not” debate confusing (even though the evidence that it is a choice is very weak). Even if it were a choice, I don’t see how that would make it ok to force people to change their choice. Essentially that line of thinking suggests that you are not free to choose the things that are not set in stone/hardwired in your brain, which sounds pretty totalitarian to me.

        • Deiseach says:

          So what if someone does try something and responds “I was right, I don’t like this”? For instance, I don’t like shellfish. I’m not allergic, I can and have eaten them, but for choice I avoid them (I’ve refused a prawn curry because it was a prawn curry). I wanted to like bulgar, tried it, didn’t like it, tried it again, still didn’t like it.

          Am I not trying hard enough? Should I try harder? Or is it simply that people may not like things, that there may be no better reason than “I just don’t like that” and we should just accept it? People may not need to try something, they can imagine trying it, and decide that no, they wouldn’t like it or that there aren’t situations they can imagine in which they’d like it.

          If you’re stuck in a desert and the only thing to eat is scorpions, you probably will develop a taste for scorpions – but who wants to develop a taste for scorpions if they don’t have to? (Okay, granted, some people would go “I’d love to try scorpions, just to see what it’s like!”)

          People may have various reasons for their tastes, including “Yes, I know if I tried it/tried harder, I probably could make myself like it. And you say if I learn to like it, I will get enjoyment from it. But I don’t want to get to like it, for reasons that are more important to me: when I weigh up enjoyment versus those, enjoyment isn’t enough of a reason”.

          I suppose the trouble is when moral judgement gets involved, or is perceived to be involved. Someone saying they don’t like what you like can sound like “you are a bad person”. Somebody trying to persuade you, against your stated opposition, to try something because “how can you know you won’t like it unless you try it?” can sound like “you are stuck-up/a prude/need to get with the times”.

          • Tibor says:

            It works both ways. “Oh you don’t like gay parades? Are you homophobic or what?!” Or “Oh, how do you know you’re gay if you haven’t had sex with the opposite sex?”.

            I think that it is completely irrelevant whether your preference is somehow hardwired in your genes or if it is a choice that you could change (with some effort). It is nobody’s business to tell you what you should like. The failure to understand the difference between tolerance and love/interest are exactly the people who would say of someone who does not like gay parades that he’s gay. The failure to understand the fact that you and I might like different things and that that fact is not wrong, are the people who would say stuff like “you just haven’t met the right woman/man”.

            Of course a whole different thing is when you have a preference which causes you inconvenience or problems (pedophilia for example) and want to either change if it is possible or at least deal with it in a better way. But if you like liking the things you like, then it’s like… it is your own business only and nobody has the right to tell you to change it (unless in the process of enjoying it you do something to them which they don’t like).

        • The comments on BDSM as an acquired taste make me wonder about the history. Is the potential for that particular fetish something hardwired into many, perhaps most, people, to be activated given the opportunity? Is it something coming out of particular cultures?

          Male masochism, specifically flogging, was known as the English vice in the 19th century, which suggests that at least the form was culture specific. What other evidence do we have? Lots of pretty explicit sex in Casanova but I don’t remember anything that looks like BDSM. I don’t remember any in Aretino, but I don’t know his work nearly as well. Other examples, aside from de Sade himself?

          Of course, there would have been real life versions of dominance, most obviously in contexts such as slave concubines in the Islamic world, but I don’t remember any suggestion that the fact of domination made sex with them better.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, there’s also Leopold Masoch afther whom masochism is named. By the way de Sade’s book is horrible. I cannot imagine anybody actually reading it from cover to cover. I tried opening it in random places and I could not finish it. It is like an encyclopedia of various fetishes, usually combined in obscure ways. I feel that if I read it in full, I could not get those images out of my head and it would ruin my sex life forever :-))

            I don’t know if there is any literature dealing with this kind of topic prior to de Sade though.

            I suspect that the cultural aspect may be related to acceptance. Suppose that somehow one 19th century country adopted early 21th century (western) morals. Then even if the number of gays in other countries were the same, being gay would be called [country-name’s] vice or something. That does not necessarily mean that that country’s citizens are more likely to be gay (let’s suppose that the country is isolationist and keeps its borders shut) or that being gay is an effect of that culture. I also don’t think that ancient Greeks were more likely to be sort-of almost gay pedophiles than modern Greeks but this is a taboo in modern Greek culture and not in ancient Greek culture so it was more prevalent then.

            On the other hand, IIRC, during the Persian wars, the united Greek army was supposed to hold a beauty contest among the soldiers, choosing the most handsome one. I cannot imagine that in the Greek army today, not because the men would be afraid to do it as it would be sort of a half-taboo but because they would genuinely not be interested in doing that. That suggests that culture does have at least some effect.

      • ChillyWilly says:

        That was essentially my experience — no real interest in BDSM and kinks until I dated a girl who was (first relationship, and therefore probably more influential on such things than later ones). Now that I’ve developed these fetishes, however, I’m not sexually satisfied in a relationship without them. I am currently dating a very vanilla person, and our sex life is very dissatisfying to me (she seems happy with things as they are). She is unwilling to try anything kinky, so I’m left either being dissatisfied, leaving the relationship, or somehow consciously changing my taste back to vanilla. The third option doesn’t seem possible to me. I imagine that had I dated a different girl back then, I wouldn’t have these fetishes now, but knowing that doesn’t make vanilla sex more appealing to me. The best I can seem to do is tell myself that living with the worse sex life is worth other benefits (like my girlfriend being an amazing person).

        You can acquire fetishes, but can you lose them? Anybody ever consciously change their tastes or desires? I can imagine getting used to something like broccoli or enjoying it more than I used to, learning all its subtleties, etc. but I can’t imagine making myself truly enjoy broccoli more than, say, chocolate. Especially if I’m expected to eat nothing except broccoli.

        • leoboiko says:

          Still a single data point, but I feel about the same way. Some fetishes don’t seem to stick very much, in the sense that I can do fine without them. But I have no idea how I’d lose the taste for BDSM as a whole (luckly, I don’t have to!) We’re poly, and I’ve had a vanilla fling now and then, but the highest praise I can give the sex is “well it was ok I guess”. I would not want to live without dominance-play now, and I wouldn’t want to date a vanilla person exclusively.

        • Ruprect says:

          Why don’t you imagine that your girlfriend is a slave mistress denying you access to the bdsm play that you crave?

          • ChillyWilly says:

            Haha, I suppose reinterpreting one’s fetishes in light of one’s current circumstances must be one of the secrets to happiness.

          • Winfried says:

            I know it’s been a few years, but there was a 30 Rock episode along these lines where a character and her partner can’t deal with being boring so they call it “normalling” and frame it as super kinky.

    • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

      Echoing other people, you can pick up a mild fetish (mild, as in, not a paraphilia) easily enough from an enthusiastic partner.

      Sometimes this can be annoying actually. Enjoying spanking girls and DDlg seem like the kind that can backfire later on after one has kids of his own. Although in general getting into the role of a dom pays off since women seem to be much kinkier than men.

      • Nornagest says:

        women seem to be much kinkier than men

        The reverse is generally claimed in the literature, but they usually focus on full-blown paraphilias.

        • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

          Well I’ll bow to the research, my sample size isn’t terribly large and certainly not independent.

          My impression is annecdotal. The #2 complaint I hear from women about guys in bed is that they’re too scared to do X or won’t take control. Whereas my friends are shockingly vanilla by comparison: I’ve only ever met one other guy to admit to rape fantasies, as compared to ~100% of the women I’ve been with or asked.

          • Nornagest says:

            You might still be right. Studies designed to look at stuff like fetishes for feet or rubber or feathers might not be equipped to capture the kind of kink you’re talking about; it seems plausible that preferring a submissive or a dominant role in a relationship might have a different psychological basis than that sort of thing, and once you’ve gotten there different gender correlations aren’t too far off.

      • leoboiko says:

        I’ve picked up spanking and even some DD/lg, and I have an actual daughter. I’m happy to report that the two things don’t mix at all. I don’t spank my daughter, nor am I aroused by the fact that she’s an actual LG, or, fortunately, by actual LGs in general (just like I’m sexually attracted to women’s legs, but I’m not attracted to my daughter’s legs, or how breasts get me aroused, but not my mother’s breasts). Or, to make an even more nuanced distinction: I’m really aroused by the smell of male bodies in a gay club (I’m bi), but the same smell doesn’t get me off in boxing class. A lot of it comes from being in an erotic context with potential sexual partners. I’ve described my relationship to my girlfriend’s endless fetishes as a meta-fetish: it turns me on to see her aroused, so the more she’s into it, the more I’m into it. Conversely, in a non-sexual context, the same action will do nothing; say, I don’t get aroused at seeing someone being slapped as a torture scene in a spy movie, even though I would if the very same slap was fetishized in a porn movie.

        The more realistic danger with picking up fetishes seem to me to be what ChillyWilly described above: you may lose interest in non-fetish sex (anecdotally, everyone I’ve met in the BDSM community seems to feel like that), and this might be a problem if you want to date non-fetishists later. Similarly, if you learn to like 80%-cocoa chocolate, you’ll stop being satisfied with average high-sugar low-cocoa chocolate; if you learn to like high-quality tea, then Coke just won’t do, if you get used to very spicy food, you’ll risk finding non-spicy food too bland, etc.

        • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

          Well that’s good to know. Although I was less worrying about incest-y thoughs than just general awkwardness.

          (I have a very awkward mind sometimes. The first time I sucked a woman’s nipples sexually I actually said “this is kind of Freudian…” to myself.)

          Any particular reason you don’t spank your kids if you don’t mind the weird segue? No kids yet but I was thinking about doing it. My parents never used corporal punishmemt on me or my siblings and it seemed to go poorly, in terms of developing discipline later in life.

          • leoboiko says:

            Oh, even between the couple itself, awkwardness is a staple of BDSM. I mean, the whole thing is kind of ridiculous; and trying a new fetish is particularly funny. The first rule we established was “we’re allowed to laugh about it” – because if we weren’t, I don’t know how I’d start it.

            The funny thing is, even if you think it’s ridiculous and awkward, it works.

            As for spanking kids: It would take very powerful statistical evidence (= not NHST) to convince me that it leads to self-discipline in later life. I figure you probably feel like you have problems with procrastination, the Internet, your thesis etc., but that’s the normal condition in modern life, spanking or not. I think humankind was just too successful at creating additive distractions; and spanking is a red herring. Good education in cognitive science and environmental engineering (=less distractions) seem to be more promising solutions.

            Having never found any hard proof of the usefulness of corporal punishment, I figure if I spank them it wouldn’t help them grow into more rational agents. I want them to avoid the bad action because they realize it has bad consequences, not because the angry all-knowing Father-God will beat them into submission if they do it.

            Of course, they aren’t quite responsible, rational agents yet, and they were even less so in the early years; I think they certainly need negative incentive at first (or, at least, I failed to be noble enough to implement a truly non-authoritarian parenting style). But what I do is to talk with them about the consequences of what they did (often angrily – not that I think anger is a good thing), then I leave them sitting in silence for some minutes, then I talk again, this time more calmly. I’ve found that it’s pointless to ask them “why did you do this”, even if you want them to reflect (try to recall when you did stupid things as a kid, like, say, defacing public property – why did you do it? the only honest answer is “I don’t know”). They don’t need reflecting, but forward-thinking argumentation; I try to convince them what what they did is wrong because X and Y, so stop doing that. It seems to work; they think I’m a strict father, but they still like me, and everyone says they’re kind, well-behaved kids, and I often feel like this about other people’s little demons.

            All of this sounds very noble, but there’s a dirtier reason too: I get angry a lot easier than I thought I would, and having power over people is very easy to abuse. I’ve disproportionately punished them a few times too much. If I get angry at my kid unfairly because he spilled his drink on the carpet and I’m stressed, I’d rather leave him sitting 5min in the corner unfairly, than beat him unfairly. (Of course I don’t want to be unfair, and I sure as hell am doing my best, but there’s a difference between my ideals and how I’ve actually behaved; and this difference mans I’d rather err on the side of caution.)

        • Ruprect says:

          “Similarly, if you learn to like 80%-cocoa chocolate, you’ll stop being satisfied with average high-sugar low-cocoa chocolate”

          I hate to be the one… but… this just isn’t true.

          At least not for me, and I can’t really see how it could be true of sex, either (for me).

          Perhaps you aren’t as big a fan of sex (or chocolate) as me?

          Or perhaps I’m just terribly vulgar. Probably that.

          • leoboiko says:

            No, I’m probably generalizing too much from my own point of view. Let me level down all the statements to “if you learn to like $advanced_experience, you may find yourself unsatisfied by $easy_experience”. Both the chocolate example and the sex example reflect my own personal experience. The high-sugar, low-chocolate variety of chocolate isn’t satisfying anymore, and vanilla sex alone can’t fulfill my yearnings either.

            I don’t know a lot of chocolate aficionados, so I don’t have even anecdotal evidence to compare. But, when I go to the supermarket, crappy chocolate is like R$5, while a same-sized bar of high-cocoa chocolate starts at some R$20. So it seems that at least some shoppers find bitter high-cocoa to be 4×+ worth those bars of vaguely chocolate-flavored vegetable-oil-and-sugar. I am one of those shoppers; there must be enough of us to keep the premium-grade aisle going.

            A related anecdote: I have two kids, 8- and 10-year-old now, and I’ve trained their palate from birth by the simple expedient of having them consume the same stuff as me. I usually drink unsweetened fruit juice, tea, and latte, and they habitually drink those with me, naturally, because (from their point of view) it’s just how it’s done; I never had to threaten or force them to do it. Last year they were on vacations with my mother, and she gave them Coke; she later told me that they couldn’t finish their drinks, because they found it “too sweet”. Now, leaving food unfinished is one of the biggest sins in my house; so they didn’t do this to please me – they thought I’d get angry, and hid the fact. They just honestly don’t like soft drinks. Acquired tastes can be like that. (Before someone starts talking about “genes”, I’ll highlight the fact that mom gives Coke to kids, including me; I’ve only trained my own palate after college, by gradually reducing the amount of sugar in my coffee until pure black started tasting good (n.b. you need actually good coffee for this to work)).

            My anecdotal evidence in the BDSM community is that the overwhelming majority of aficionados (by which I mean “everyone I’ve asked”) profess to have lost interest in non-fetish sex, and wouldn’t want to subsist on pure vanilla. If that’s not your case, good! Being flexible is a big advantage, after all. But honesty bids me warn the curious that, based on what I’ve seen, you may find yourself enjoying this kind of play too much to stop playing. (Luckly, it’s fairly easy to find play-partners – much easier, methinks, than finding vanilla sex through the general population’s standard flirting rituals. I’d go as far as saying that, if you feel unhappy due to not being able to procure sex, you might try acquiring a taste for some fetish, then posting personal ads in Fetlife or a similar local forum.)

    • Skivverus says:

      Personal anecdote, related but not “especially” related.
      My own interest in bondage predates puberty by close to a decade and is gender-specific; I can distinctly recall feeling disappointed when, in television shows, the boys got tied up instead of the girls.

      • leoboiko says:

        As another data point, I’ve met one adult fetishist who said she’s been interested in being tied since before hitting puberty or feeling sexual desire.

        • pseudon says:

          I’ve had fetish-like (well… something of the sort anyway) fantasies since at least age 5.

          On another note, I have some personal evidence that there might be a genetic component too. It’s rather weak evidence though, as obvious confounders are obvious.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Quite a few of the subs I knew said that when they were toddlers they liked tying themselves up for no particular reason. It was only in adulthood (well, puberty) that it turned into something sexual.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Oooh! Did you know that exposure to pregnancy and lactation during early childhood (by having a younger sibling who was born and breastfed in the appropriate critical period) is associated with pregnancy/lactation fetishes?

      • Nadja says:

        This is interesting given that, as far as I understand, for the majority of human history, infants and young children in that age group were exposed to nursing primarily because they were still getting mother’s milk themselves. So would that mean that in a hunter gatherer society we’d have more lactation fetishists? Or is the lactation fetish acquired because these days the kids who are exposed to nursing at what in the past was a nursing age most likely not getting mother’s milk themselves any more? (I guess it would kind of make sense to be attracted to lactating women In a hunter gatherer society, given that back then women were probably lactating [or pregnant, or both] for the majority of their sexually active years.)

    • Mr Mind says:

      There are definitely data that connects particular fetishes with Nature: how some genetic predisposition or bodily trauma can affect fetishes or paraphilias (as per Kluiver-Bucy induced paedophilia).
      There’s also enough anecdotes that points to Nurture: specific fetishes are acquired during the formative phases of sexual maturity.
      I’m also quite positive that non-genetic fetishes can be much more fluid: I have personal anecdotes about fetishes coming and waning.

  18. leooboiko says:

    I’ve thrice had some late-night incident that looked a lot like Wikipedia’s description of night terrors (always happen during the first few hours of sleep; bolting upright wide awake; screaming uncontrollably; absolute inconsolability (I’d walk back and forth to the window trying to do something about it, anything, futilely). But those night-terrors (if that’s what they were) weren’t contentless. They had a definite object: I felt it very acutely as existential dread, as being powerfully terrified of the inevitability of my death and everyone else’s.

    More context: I don’t have panic attacks, I don’t otherwise scream etc. I do feel existential dread every so often, but at normal levels (I think). I used to have sleep paralysis episodes frequently, but they seem to have stopped in my 30s. I have nightmares often, but they aren’t about death (they’re always about a) social exclusion, b) body horror/parasites/bugs or c) both).

  19. dndnrsn says:

    It is well-established [citation needed] that weightlifting is right-wing and cardio is left-wing. Previous exercise-related threads have explored this connection. Logically, then, as most sports have both an anaerobic and an aerobic component, participation in sports must be centrist.

    A lot of people here seem to express a feeling of disconnection, a hard time finding people offline, a difficulty making new friends without a framework (like university) – I would argue that some sort of group athletic participation fits the bill.

    I’ve been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a few years, started off doing judo before that, and as a fitness/recreational/social activity I recommend it highly. The socialization aspect especially: as it turns out, rolling around on the floor and getting drenched in sweat is a major icebreaker (and the opposite of normal society, where icebreakers are the prerequisite to close and often horizontal physical contact).

    Who here participates in sports for fitness, recreation, socialization, etc? What benefits have you seen?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t do it any more, but I got into inline skating for recreation and socialization and ended up marrying another skater. This particular group had more relationships than a soap opera, so not at all an anomaly.

    • Adam says:

      I used to. It was fun and gave me something to do that seemed more worthwhile than watching television or commenting on Internet blogs. But I haven’t been physically able to compete in sports for years and didn’t stay friends with any of the people I met afterward (I’ve also moved since). If my surgeries work as well as I hope, I’ll probably try to get back into indoor climbing at the local gyms maybe in another year or so. I actually think it’d be healthier for my wife than for me. She won’t do it without me, but badly needs the social interaction. I can kind of take or leave people and having friends for activities other than sex doesn’t make much difference to me anyway.

    • jeorgun says:

      I’d love to play in team sports (especially soccer), but I haven’t found an obvious way to do so, especially since I’m not actually any good at them and so would probably be a detriment to whatever team I’m on.

      • Nornagest says:

        Sounds like a job for meetup.com or equivalent.

      • ReluctantEngineer says:

        Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a casual sports league, something like NYC Social (but, like, for whatever city you live in instead of NYC). Try searching “causal sports $your_city” or “social sports $your_city”.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      I lift so that I don’t go on cross country killing sprees.

      People trying to socialize with me at the gym are mildly annoying; they are a lot more vexing when it’s multiple people socializing over benches that I want to use and I have to wait for them to finish their socializing (because they’re lifting bullshit weights) in order to continue my workout.

      • Untrue Neutral says:

        Name checks out

        Will second that the gym is an escape from socialization for me. For lifters who want to both lift and meet likeminded folks tho, train for a powerlifting meet or even join a powerlifting team, you’ll meet all kinds of friendly freaks. You could also join a Crossfit class…but don’t do that.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I don’t like it when people start conversations when actual weights are being lifted, and weightlifting (of all kinds) is one of the most solitary exercise/sport activities. Even the most crazy stuff (negative only deadlifts, let’s say) involves max 2 spotters.

      • Nicholas says:

        Isn’t this what the sauna is for? That’s what we’ve been using the sauna for. Are we using the sauna wrong?

    • Ray System Pathee says:

      I spent the summer of 2011 lifting weights but didn’t do any specific cardio. Then in the fall of 2011 I joined an ultimate frisbee pickup league. In the first game I played in, the first time I broke out into an all-out sprint to catch a pass, after a few strides my legs were like “Wait, how is this supposed to work again?” and they just kinda crumpled under me. From a bystander’s perspective it probably looked like either I tripped on something or got shot in the knee with a tranquilizer dart. It was hilarious and mortifying.

      Anyway, I actually did make a friend out of that league; we met up a few times for coffee/etc. But it wasn’t a real deep or lasting friendship.

      Now, years later with a wife, two kids, and a full-time job, I’m just trying to find a way to dedicate time to staying in shape. My plan is to join the local rec center and go swimming two or three times a week. I probably won’t make any friends, but that’s not a priority.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      I play Muggle Quidditch. It’s a fun reason to stay in decent shape, and it’s good for meeting girls in my age cohort with similar interests. (Too bad they all have boyfriends already, but the co-ed aspect is a nice cultural difference from my 6-guys-some-beer-and-a-videogame social activities.)

    • Psmith says:

      This has also been my experience. Especially with combat sports.

      I sympathize with Mr. Overlord Killidia’s post as well–that sort of thing is part of a well-rounded athletic diet, for me–but I get rewards from fighting that I don’t get elsewhere.

    • Schmendrick says:

      I’m not sure if this qualifies as a “sport,” but I joined a historical european martial arts salle a few years back. I haven’t gotten any romantic connections or even any real social connections outside the salle from it, but there’s a mid-size group of people that all generally show up at the same times I do, and we’re quite friendly and rather close (talking about personal lives, schoolwork, careers, and such), at least, in between bouts of bouncing bits of steel off each other’s helmets.

  20. Jill says:

    Someone had asked on another thread about qualities lost after childhood– like openness, flexibility, creativity, playfulness. I replied and mentioned the book Wired to Create, about creativity. Thinking about this now again, very often the qualities lost, are lost due to the pressures involved in taking on rather rigid gender roles.

    For anyone interested in this particular area, there are some DVD’s re: this. Here are 2 that are popular. Neither film is perfect, but they will point out qualities that are sometimes lost, by people of each gender, while growing up into adulthood.

    They’re popular, DVDs, and may be found at many public libraries, in addition to at Amazon.

    About boys/men:
    The Mask You Live In

    About girls/women:
    Miss Representation

    Both are listed on this page
    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_13?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+mask+you+live+in&sprefix=The+Mask+You+%2Caps%2C209

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I agree this is a thing, but there are some interesting nuances. Let me explain.

      External social norms suck–you feel forced to act ways you don’t want to. But internalized social norms feel like part of who you are. So if you get to the point where you’re trying to force people out of their gender roles, to me that has the same problems as trying to force them out of their culture.

      So I’m on board with combating highly and/or outwardly harmful specific behaviors associated with gender, ambivalent about slightly and/or inwardly harmful behaviors, and I consider it evil to oppose ethically neutral gender-role behaviors.

      I haven’t seen those films, but I think they (and you) are saying both major gender roles have lots of objectively-bad features in how they influence personality development. That may well be true, but I’d urge caution in making such a judgment, similar to what you would exercise before judging a nation’s culture.

      • Jill says:

        The films are saying that when major gender roles are too extreme, they have lots of objectively bad features in how they influence personality development. I agree with them.

        Of course, not every kid is pressured with extreme or harsh gender role expectations by parents, teachers, peers etc. But when people are, or have been, watching such films can help them to find their way out, and to be more free to be more themselves– especially when they don’t fit into the mold they were pressured to fit into. And if the pressure is high and the role expectations extreme, then no one really fits into that.

        I think it’s perfectly reasonable to criticize the culture in areas where a lot of things are going wrong and hurting a lot of people.

    • Garrett says:

      My experience of this is that childhood creativity is imagination without understanding constraints. The kind of thing that leads a kid to ask their parents for a pony. Despite being poor and living on an 8th-floor apartment in a metro area.

      • Jill says:

        It does. And some of those kids then dealt with the fact that they couldn’t have a pony yet, and ended up finding a way through hard work and a suitable career for themselves– to own a whole horse ranch eventually.

        Some constraints are, of course, necessary. But some kids’ (often well meaning) parents, teachers etc. put so many constraints on them, that their potential is squelched.

        The films are not talking about having no constraints whatsoever. They’re basically about helping people who need to unwind from constraints that were too numerous or harsh during their childhoods, and that thus still are squelching them now.

      • Yes, this bothers me whenever adults mention “brain-storming.”

        Random crap you spout out your pie-hole is not useful. Creativity demands some damn constraints.

  21. Quick before he bans anonymous! says:

    Two questions (I’m guessing they’re both about neuroscience):

    1. I’m 5 years away from high school, but occasionally coming into contact with people who were in the same range as me. It was only a few times but I’ve always been recognized by by ex-schoolmates. Which is somewhat strange, as I was usually with my low-profile non-outstanding group of friends. I’m not really sure how it works (if anyone got a recommendation for some read:ing material..) that people will remember someone they saw usually once a day after a certain amount of time passed.:

    I consider the possibility that people are lying, but who knows. Just a passing thought.

    2. From my point of view, it seems reasonable that people will react similarly to a letter with the same message with the same text. How does this thought align with the world?

  22. R Flaum says:

    If automatic transmissions had never been invented and you were creating one today, the obvious approach would be to use a computer to monitor the RPM, rather than a mechanical approach. Why do cars not actually do this? What’s the advantage of the mechanical automatic transmission?

    • Gbdub says:

      Doesn’t anything with a “sport mode” or manumatc already do this? That is, it’s a traditional fluid coupling automatic drivetrain but uses computer control to either allow manual selections or favor shifting at different RPMs depending on a mode selection.

      “Semi-automatic” gear trains which are literally a clutched manual transmission linked with an electronic control that can be operated by driver input or automatically also already exist (e.g. F1 paddle shifters). They are an option on mostly higher end cars (Mercedes and BMW notably) and they are still significantly more expensive than fluid coupling automatics.

      • R Flaum says:

        That’s really counter-intuitive — I would have guessed they’d be less expensive.

      • Nornagest says:

        The double-clutch dry automatic has gone significantly downmarket in recent years — Volkswagen and Ford like to use them, for example. Usually you only find the paddle shifters on higher trim levels or luxury marques, but it’s internally the same thing.

    • cassander says:

      They [do make such clutches](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-automatic_transmission). I know that they can be a bit squirrely in very hilly areas. My father, who lives near San Francisco, burned out a couple before figuring out what was doing it. Maybe algorithms have gotten better, but that the problem existed indicated that it was non-trivial.

    • Ray System Pathee says:

      Tangentially, I’m curious about whether, all else being equal, drivers have more control and therefore drive more safely using manual vs. automatic transmissions. I’ve always felt like I drove better (meaning everything from obeying speed limits to avoiding obstacles to being more conscientious) in a manual.

      I have tons of research questions about driving and traffic and car design…I could start a whole thread full of them.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Not me.

        Manual transmissions give me much greater control and an ability to optimize my acceleration. Automatics, for the same HP output, are much more boring.

      • Psmith says:

        I have tons of research questions about driving and traffic and car design…I could start a whole thread full of them.

        Do it fam. I have nothing to contribute that you couldn’t get from a Haynes manual, but I will follow with interest.

      • brad says:

        I bet the national highway safety whatever department has some data available for you to play with.

      • gbdub says:

        “All else being equal”, a manual transmission allows for additional control over shifting, which can be useful. In certain scenarios an automatic might do something the driver does not want / intend. To some degree this will always be true (for a human driven car) – the driver knows what they are planning to do, an electronic control needs to make an educated guess.

        However the scenarios in which a high level of precision in shifting is necessary to maintain control are really rare in everyday driving. You also have to take into account that “real world” drivers might be too distracted or too unskilled to properly/ideally operate a manual, and in those cases an automatic would be better.

        Driving a manual forces you to pay extra attention to the process of driving compared to an automatic. The forced concentration might lead to better driving? At this point in the US, you don’t drive a manual unless you want to – that might make manual drivers better (because they are enthusiasts who care about improving their skill for its own sake) or worse (because they are driving sporty cars aggressively). Either way it’s an interesting question.

    • Deiseach says:

      This is a North American (and that includes Canada) thing; most cars over here are still what you’d call manual transmission (though apparently 2013 was the Year of The Death of Manual, at least in high-end sports cars).

      Practically everyone learning to drive will learn with the clutch pedal and gear stick. I don’t even know what make of car offers automatic transmission as standard on this side of the Atlantic.

    • S_J says:

      As a comment: I kind of suspect most automatic transmission are a mix of mechanical-and-electronic control these days.

      Heck, I think that’s been the case in North America since the mid-90s.

      The shift-decision isn’t only driven by engine-RPM, though.
      The inputs include current-engine-RPM, current-wheel-speed, and current-throttle-position, and probably brake-pedal-position.

  23. Alex Zavoluk says:

    What about Xerxes? IMO, Deiseach was a lot worse in that thread, in particular being the first to resort to swearing and personal attacks.

    • Deiseach says:

      If I’m unbanned, in justice Xerxes should be, too.

    • Nicholas says:

      Well this unbanment seems to have less to do with the Platonic Justice of how long Deiseach deserved to be banned, and more to do with not having Deiseach on the comments decreasing thread quality more than having her blow up on people: She’s too big to fail, if you see what I mean.
      Did Xerxes really contribute anything that we miss?

      • Deiseach says:

        She’s too big to fail

        As a Person of Size, I feel like the Chestertonian anecdote here, where during the First World War a lady, indignant at his not being in the armed forces as a proper patriotic Englishman should be, enquired of him “Why are you not out at the Front?” to which he replied “Madam, if you go round to the side, you will see that I am” 🙂

      • Glen Raphael says:

        Did Xerxes really contribute anything that we miss?

        I miss Xerxes, if only because they sometimes made points I would have wanted to make, thereby saving me the time and trouble of getting involved. 🙂

  24. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Any of you live in Portland, OR? I’m 27-year-old a left coaster with five years experience investing in real estate, and Portland looks like a good market. The core of the gentrified stereotypical Portlandia appears to run from 23rd Avenue on the west side of the Willamette to 39th on the east. Once you get east of 52nd or so, the hipster businesses disappear and it starts to look like a normal city with Republicans, black people, and so on. Could I expect real estate east of the gentrification wave to appreciate rapidly in the next 2-5 years, or would factors like the rapidly increasing minimum wage ($11.25 next July, $15 in 2022) make the hipster bubble burst?

    • meyerkev248 says:

      The core driver of the housing bubble is:

      a) the massive wage spread.
      b) The arbitrary regulations against building more housing in the places where you magically make an extra 40-60% of income by moving there.

      If anything the minimum wage might improve A. So the only real question is at what point B either goes away or makes everything so terrifyingly terrible that the network effects no longer cover the rent spread, and everyone runs away from Portland to Atlanta and Dallas.

    • Zoop says:

      Go to Detroit. All my hipster friends are planning on it being the next Portland. The real estate is dirt cheap, and in a few years the gentrifiers will be rolling in and the real estate will skyrocket. That’s how Portland got to be what it is now, right — the city was garbage in the 90s and prices sunk? Of course, maybe Detroit won’t blossom into artisanal boutiques and community gardens, but that’s speculation.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        Where in Detroit is this?

        Because right now, Detroit is:
        * Expensive, fun downtown that’s already more or less semi-gentrified and is running out of housing.
        * Cheap suburbs of awesomeness
        * That bit in the middle where they dropped the freeways into a ditch so the bullets would go over.

        The first is already expensive (but could get more expensive), the 2nd is cheap and staying that way, and the 3rd… I mean, you MIGHT be able to make money over a couple decades, but I’m not sure I’d want to.

        /I’m being sarcastic, but they did actually drop the freeways into a ditch.
        //And I’ve been in a car that was on fire because my father isn’t getting off the freeway in the bad parts of Detroit even when his car is literally on fire. (Blown head seal, car was junked a week later)

  25. Ruprect says:

    I need some help from the ssc hive-mind.

    I can’t get a job.
    Like, I can’t even apply for one. There have been a few occasions where I’ve forced myself to apply for a job, but as I went to the interview all I could think was “I don’t want to do this” and either I didn’t attend, or I didn’t really try at the interview stage.
    (I’ve worked in various hated jobs since the age of 16, I am now 35, been unemployed for 18 months.)

    I enjoy my non-job life, except that it makes people think you’re a bit weird. I drink wine, watch youtube videos, go and sit on the beach, read books. It’s good – but I don’t think my girlfriend/family like it.

    So my possible plans:
    1) Pretend I have a job. Go off somewhere every day and just pretend I’m working.
    Drawbacks: I don’t like lying.

    2) Take out contract on my own life (or create some other terrible consequences) that will be triggered if I don’t find a job within 3 months.

    3) Leave society, friends, and family behind and go and live in a tent in the forest somewhere.

    What should I do?

    • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

      So who is currently financing your NEET lifestyle?

      If they stop, and you no longer have other people’s money to spend on wine and new books, that should help with your motivation problems.

      Might consider that one.

      • Ruprect says:

        It doesn’t really cost very much – I’ve got an income of about £1200 a month coming in from various sources, and I’m living rent-free at my dad’s place. I think you might be right, in that if I moved out I’d have more of an incentive to work, but my girlfriend doesn’t want to move out until I’ve got a job, which makes sense, except that my motivations don’t seem to be the same as normal people’s.

        (This is me looking for a job.)

        • Rosemary7391 says:

          Does your girlfriend realise that you’ve got a decent income coming in already? £1200 a month is slightly more than I have coming in (after tax), so assuming that income is reliable you’re already reasonably financially stable, which I think is the main “normal” motivation? You seem to have the luxury of being able to look for something that you want to do rather than need to do. Could you go back to studying to find something you’d enjoy doing?

    • The Nybbler says:

      1) Explain to me how you manage to survive and even enjoy luxuries while not having a job. I would very much like to not work, but the not getting paid part interferes.

      2) Become a freelancer of some sort. This sort of counts as a job, but doesn’t require much work (as long as you don’t mind not being successful)

      • Ruprect says:

        See above – I’ve got far more money coming in than I spend because I don’t pay any rent. And government benefits (and I basically saved a large proportion of my (average) income for the last 15 odd years, so I’ve got quite a bit of savings).

        I was doing freelance work for a while, but in the end it just turned into “pretending to work” (no.1) and I thought it might be better to find someway to actually get a job rather than lying all the time.
        When I said I “work from home” I got a feeling that most people thought I wasn’t really doing anything anyway.

        • Adam says:

          Do you guys have any of the ridiculous multi-level marketing schemes that plague the US? Ever heard of Scentsy, Younique, It Works!? If they have anything like that where you’re at, they allow you to throw parties and not actually make any money, but still claim to be working.

          • Ruprect says:

            I don’t like parties – so that would be bad for me. Ideally I’m looking for something where I don’t have to talk to anyone about things unless it’s either (1) factual or (2) purely social. Minimum of bullshit.

            So, being a gardener or something. (But I have no experience of gardening/ probably wouldn’t apply for a job doing it.)

          • Adam says:

            You mentioned gardening elsewhere. Do neighborhood kids mow lawns for their neighbors where you live? You could try purchasing landscaping equipment, and then renting it out to teenagers looking to make a buck who want to work but don’t have the gear. There you go. You’re Founder and CEO of Ruprect Equipment Leasing, Inc.

          • Ruprect says:

            Not really – I live in the middle of the city.

            Only thing like that around here is the paper round. (not even sure if that is still a thing)

          • Xeno of Citium says:

            Pretty much all of those things are, in effect, pyramid schemes – almost no one, as in less than one percent, of participants, makes money. Of those that make money, most make below minimum wage after expenses.

          • Adam says:

            His goal isn’t to make money. He just wants to look busy.

    • bluto says:

      I think first you need to look at what part of the job don’t you like? Is it the structure, having a boss tell you what to do, the work itself, etc.

      Most jobs have tradeoffs that vary (some jobs pay more, some jobs are more flexible, some jobs are very self driven, etc). Is there a job that you can find that trades things you don’t mind not having to avoid the things you dislike?

      Or is there something you can do on your own that would give you the credibility you desire from your girlfriend/family with as few of the job drawbacks you dislike?

      For example if you’re making ends meet without working, and you just need a title, I’d look at fields that have some prestige but can be pursued exceedingly minimally allowing you the lifestyle you prefer and producing something only often enough to keep societal suspicions down.

      • Ruprect says:

        That’s exactly it. I need a title, but a really chill job, where I’m not actually doing much. But not just sitting around in a bullshit job.
        Maybe I could pay someone to let me come into their office and sit there, and I’ll do some work, but it’s kind of my own choice.

        Is it possible to pay people to take you on?

        • bluto says:

          You could write an e-book of wine reviews or beach guide and list them on amazon and call yourself an author (if you can get your books into tiny categories and buy a few copies timed with your friends’ supporting purchases you might even be able to pull off “best selling author”) and your favorite activities have become book research.

          • Ruprect says:

            Ideally, I want something that’s not going to make normal people think “bullshit merchant” when I tell them what I do.

            I mean, that might be worth a try, but I’d rather do that on the side, and if I get any success from it, then I can use it. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s going to fool the nearest and dearest. And, knowing me, I’m not actually going to write a book. I’d have to force myself to do it somehow, first – back to the original problem.

            Maybe I could pay someone to take me on as a trainee bookkeeper, or web developer, or something.

          • bluto says:

            Perhaps a notary public (in the US it’s usually open to literate, adult non-felons)?

          • Ruprect says:

            You have to be a qualified lawyer in the UK.

            As a side point, I feel as if there has been qualification creep over the last few years. When I was young, if you wanted to get a bullshit job, you just turned up and got it. Now you have to have a level six bullshit diploma in bullshit to be allowed through the door.

            And the worst thing is that you have to pretend to like it. It’s (vaguely) totalitarian – they aren’t satisfied with making you do it.
            You have to pretend you like it.

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            You want the benefits of being jobless/doing makework/bullshit merchantry, but you also want to avoid being accurately perceived as jobless/doing makework/a bullshit merchant by the people in your life who are currently (I’m guessing) unimpressed

            Go with option 3

          • Ruprect says:

            No – I want to do real work. Just, I don’t want to be tied down like a slave.

            A free man doing real work. That’s what I’m after – haven’t found it yet. So maybe I should pay someone to have the “free man” part, and they provide me with the work.

          • Anonymous says:

            “No – I want to do real work. Just, I don’t want to be tied down like a slave.

            A free man doing real work.”

            Whatever this is supposed to mean is entirely unclear. “Tied down like a slave”, what does that mean? You can quit jobs anytime you like in the UK and the rest of the western world. No one is going to send a slave catcher after you and drag you back.

          • Ruprect says:

            I’m not sure.
            In order to get a job, you have to fill out forms, lie – once you get the job you have to do pointless things and pretend to enjoy it.
            If the company is sufficiently large you aren’t dealing with people on a one-on-one basis, you’re dealing with a company policy, which might make sense on some level, but isn’t operating on a human scale.

            I’d like a job where I’m free to just say *this* bit of the job is bullshit and I don’t want to do it. Sorry. Or, maybe I’ll do it if you ask me nicely.
            Sorry, I don’t want to do that today, I’ll do it tomorrow.

            That kind of thing.

            Quite rare, I think. So, I’d be prepared to pay to have that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe a job as a scrivener for a Wall Street law firm?

          • Ruprect says:

            I totally see where that guy was coming from.

            Look how he ended up though…

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            If what you want is real work, only one of your three options is going to put you on that path. The other two options are the actions of a man trying desperately to avoid “real work”, unless you have some very different definition of that term. Time to call up a hitman?

            I wish I had decent advice for you on how to find real work, in the event that you’re sincere. Programmers seem to make out pretty well, if youre willing to learn the trade

          • Ruprect says:

            OK, so perhaps move somewhere and start paying rent (to give me a motivation to find work before my savings are depleted) and train to become a programmer.

            I already know some basic programming. Can I get an internship or something, just hanging around in a programming office?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Current software engineer here. In programming, “internships” are actual couple-month-long programming jobs for people who have at least one or two introductory courses under their belt. Good firms will pose programming problems in interviews to make sure the interns know their stuff.

            If you want to become a developer without going back to college, and you don’t have the motivation to teach yourself, I’d recommend trying coding boot camps. According to other commenters here, they can be pretty good.

          • Jiro says:

            No – I want to do real work. Just, I don’t want to be tied down like a slave.

            The market works such that if a job is unpleasant, you have to pay people more to induce them to take the job. Something that is so much fun that anyone would gladly do it for free… will end up being done for free.

            In other words, if you want to get paid, expect to be tied down like a slave. That’s how the market works. You’re not going to get a good job with a perfectly free schedule, for the same reason that you’re not going to get a job which pays you for sitting in front of the TV drinking beer.

        • The job you are looking for is called “entrepreneur.” “Found” a “startup” which doesn’t actually cost anything to pretend to work at a few hours a week and lets you sound cool at parties. Easy, fun, no stress.

          (Nothing in common with actually running a business but that’s hardly the point.)

          • Ruprect says:

            I can found a company giving people (fake) jobs to impress their families and friends!

            I’ll be my own first customer.

        • Deiseach says:

          Voluntary work/work in the charitable sector? I get a newsletter with current vacancies in that sector courtesy of my boss’ boss who started out as a social worker. It’s of no interest to me because I dislike people and do not want to work with them in any way, shape or form.

          But there’s an English equivalent and you could find some kind of part-time job that might be interesting, or at least you could say you work for [whomever] – right now, for instance, the Royal Geographical Society is looking for a data administrator to work three days a week. I have no idea if that’s within your field of interest/experience, but it’s an example of the kind of thing that’s out there.

          At least part-time voluntary sector work (depending on where it is; a lot of these jobs – I speak from experience – have paperwork and red tape up to your eyebrows because they draw down government funding, EU funding, all kinds of funding that has to be rigorously accounted for) would sound respectable and wouldn’t tie you down too much? While you consider what you’d like to do and maybe decide to train for another field of work (the world and his wife are re-training as counsellors/therapists from what I can see).

          • Ruprect says:

            Yeah – maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough, but I really wanted to do some volunteer work (not working in a shop or shaking a tin) and couldn’t really find anything. But it’s definitely worth a try, I’ll have another look for anything in my area.
            My (limited) experience is that *jobs* in the charity sector are as, if not more, bullshit than anything else, and probably harder to get.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If you’re able to support yourself without a salary, though, I’m sure a number of charities would have a lot of work for you to do without drawing a salary. It might not have the same cachet as having a job, but it’s a lot better than nothing. And, FWIW, there’s tons less red tape in charities in the US than in Deiseach’s description of Ireland.

            (And if it wasn’t for minimum wage, I’d suggest you negotiate a “salary” of $1/week if you want to say you’re formally employed… Maybe you could try that as an independent contractor?)

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          I’d like a job where I’m free to just say *this* bit of the job is bullshit and I don’t want to do it. Sorry. Or, maybe I’ll do it if you ask me nicely. Sorry, I don’t want to do that today, I’ll do it tomorrow.

          I’ve seen just that description by a volunteer worker at a medium sort of level. She added, “You’ll have to ask a paid worker for that.”

    • Ray System Pathee says:

      I have the best ideas:

      1. Give me the money you’re currently getting from not doing anything. That way you’ll be motivated to get a job. That’s mostly not a joke.

      2. Marry your girlfriend and have kids together. You’ll quickly realize you need more money. Don’t worry about not being happy: kids take everything from you but give you back infinitely more. All you’ll need is a job so you can support them, and now you’ll also have purpose!

      3. What is it you like doing that isn’t work? Figure out how to make that into something that pays well. For example, I like blogging/commenting on blogs when I’m not working. If I didn’t like my job, I’d try to figure out a way to get paid for writing the kinds of things I’d normally put in my blog or in comments sections like these.

      • Ruprect says:

        What field are you in?

        Can I pay you to give me a job?

        • Ray System Pathee says:

          I do some work in craft coffee online retail. You can pay me and I’ll say you are a copywriting consultant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            He needs to pay you to give him copywriting consultant work, not just say he is one.

          • Ruprect says:

            Yeah, I think it’s going to actually have to be a job of some kind, otherwise I might as well just lie.

          • Ray System Pathee says:

            It would be an actual job. After paying me, I’d send you little creative writing prompts (for example, “We just shot a promo for a new product. We want a 1-sentence description for the picture we’re putting on instagram, conveying that something big and exciting is forthcoming having to do with coffee”). You send back your ideas. I use or don’t use them.

          • Ruprect says:

            Ok – I’m interested – maybe we can start a bidding process?

            Anyone else have any work that I can pay them for me to do?

          • Ray System Pathee says:

            OK…since it’d be a part-time job, how about $50 (about 39 pounds) a week?

          • bluto says:

            My urge to double dip on Mechanical Turk tasks with a different name has never been higher.

    • leooboiko says:

      If you can’t stand serving the Crown, there’s one time-honored solution: be a pirate (and do what you want ’cause a pirate is free)! Be a dirty mercenary! Free your lance!

      Every once in a while, when you feel like it, do the odd job over the Internet. You can choose between coding, translation, writing ad blurbs, drawing logos on Inkscape, anything. If you have no Internet-marketable skills, you can learn some through the Internet itself, for free (try Coursera, EDx, Youtube). Pick something you find interesting, and you can consider learning it to be a pet project.

      Once you manage to learn a skill well enough to sell it occasionally, you’ll be in a socially acceptable position. Whenever people ask about your job, you can legitimately say: “I’m a freelancer X! It’s the employment of the future, I enjoy the freedom of setting my own pace and working at home” etc.

      • Ruprect says:

        I was doing translation at home, but it was far, far easier to just pretend to do it.

        And, I wasn’t very good at it, so low pay.

        I’m kind of looking for a better cover story – like actually going somewhere, and actually doing something – but, yeah, I suppose that’s always something I can fall back on, if I must.

        Honestly don’t think anyone is particularly impressed, though.

        • leooboiko says:

          You could perhaps do the following:

          1. Come up with an impressive company name, like “$HISTORICAL_FIGURE Translations, Inc.” or “Mangledr_word Translation Services”.

          2. Register $your_fancy_company.com.

          3. Rent a suit and pay a decent photographer to take professional portraits.

          4. Make a simple but elegant webpage, with good typography, contact information, a quick profile of the founder, and a “portfolio” in PDF (PDF sucks but it’s impressive).

          5. Print business cards (again, aim for elegance, and mind the typography/layout). List your website, and your email of the form ceo@yourdomain.com (or owner@, founder@, or (bonus style points) a simple nickname like tim@yourdomain.com, which bespeaks confidence; think bill@microsoft.com.

          6. Whenever someone asks you what do you do, say you own a translation company, and hand them a business card.

          All of this costs a lot cheaper than one would think.

          If some smartass fuck press on and asks how many employees do you have, say you’re an expanding startup, and ask them if they know of someone (but warn them that you’re looking for very qualified translators who can handle a large volume of work under pressure etc.). You can even end up “hiring” like-minded people (= listing their names on your webpage).

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Sounds like self-employment might be what you need. Everyone’s saying “freelance programming” or “startup” because that’s what people here know, but how about owning a convenience store or a gas station or something? I also know nothing about doing anything of the sort, but you might want to look into it.

      I’ve also heard ride-share driving had a pretty nice degree of autonomy relative to normal jobs.

      Other things you could own, maybe: long-haul truck, auto garage, farm/ranch.

      Or maybe plumbing and electrical work, or locksmithing? You have to deal with customers, but I think most people will accept it if you’re surly in those jobs.

      Think outside the bubble!

      ETA: my list might be a better fit for the US, but the general idea stands.

      • Ruprect says:

        Yeah, I like it.

        If I risk loads of money in some venture, I’ll be highly motivated to work hard to avoid total ruin.

        This might be it.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      If you have a new(ish) car, why not become a Lyft or Uber driver?

      • Ruprect says:

        I can’t drive – and it seems pointless to learn now, what with all your googles coming through.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s good – but I don’t think my girlfriend/family like it.

      followed by,

      I’ve got an income of about £1200 a month coming in from various sources, and I’m living rent-free at my dad’s place

      There might be a correlation there. Agreeing to pay your father a fair rent for your room (and board?) would probably go some way towards making your family accept the present situation while it lasts, and motivate you towards getting a job you can tolerate.

      • Ruprect says:

        I think it’s a good idea, but if I’m doing that I’d rather move out.

        Yes, I think I’ll move out and use rent as my job motivation.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      One of the things that strike is that you actually don’t want real work. “Real work” means taking responsibility for things. People depend on you to do your job in a timely and competent manner and if you don’t do that it has bad effects for them. You seem to have no interest in the responsibility part of a job at this time.

      There are places and jobs where you can try to be a slacker and even succeed at it, but usually those come with bosses whose job it is to prevent you from getting away with it and usually those are the most soul crushing jobs imaginable.

      Even if you paid me to let you have a job, if I couldn’t trust you to actually do the job. If you can’t commit to doing what needs to be done, I can’t employ you.

      If you can do something artistic (paint, write, sculpt, indy game, etc.) that, at least for a while, can be on your own terms. But at some point those all come with responsibilities as well.

      Another possibility is freelance work by the job or project. That limits your commitment to only a specific thing you agreed to. The freelance economy is growing, but, again, to get jobs you have to be prepared to sell to people that they can trust you to get them done.

      Only if you have supremely irreplaceable skills can you get by with an attitude of “maybe I’ll get it done if I feel like it.”

      • Ruprect says:

        A real truth-bomb.

        Thanks (genuine).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You are welcome.

          Hopefully that didn’t come across as disparaging, just honest.

          On a side note, the best jobs are the ones that you want, even feel compelled, to take responsibility for.

          For me, doing programming/development work is that job because I get a huge rush whenever my software gets used by someone in a way that makes them think that it’s “magic”. I want, even need, for the stuff I write to work well.

    • Ruprect says:

      OK – thanks for the comments.

      Here is the plan –
      0) – Do a bit of work for ‘charidee’
      1) Move out of my dad’s place in order to get a bit of motivation to earn the rent (may be hard to convince the gf of this, but fuck it. Must be done.)
      2 (a) Train to become a programmer and get some job doing that
      (b) If I can’t do that, spend large amount of money on some business and become self employed.
      (c) If that fails, create a fake company and pretend to be employed in that capacity.
      3 Profit.

      I did a coding bootcamp earlier this year – any tips for getting a job off the back of that? How much do you have to know to get a poorly paid foot in the door?

  26. Ruprect says:

    Not night terrors, but when I was a child I used to be able to wake myself from scary dreams by blinking my eyes rapidly (in the dream). As I got older I lost the ability to do it.

    A number of people I’ve met used to do the same thing. I Wonder what that’s all about.

  27. Ninmesara says:

    I remember reading a comment some time ago that said Scott didn’t stand by his anti-libertarian FAQ anymore. Where does Scott say something like that? Am I misremembering?

  28. Kenziegirl says:

    Just wanted to give a shoutout to the victims of Baton Rouge’s widespread catastrophic flooding. Link for resources of how you can help (by way of CNN). Also this first-person report on the ground is an interesting read (by way of The American Conservative). Rod Dreher is a (usually) thoughtful, conservative blogger who happens to be a regular reader of SSC – I found one through the other.

  29. Peter says:

    I have a rant about the image (the “free will” one); it’s muddling up determinism and fatalism. OK, it’s a rant that overanalyses a cheap joke, OTOH if you can’t overanalyse cheap jokes on SSC then you can’t overanalyse them anywhere (except maybe on Unsongbook).

    Going to page 72 whatever happens is fatalism in action. You have the freedom to agree or disagree – the book presents you with two options – but your freedom is causally inert; it’s a “helpless prisoner”. Fatalism is sort-of like the sort of epiphenomenalism that posits a causally-inert non-material “inner observer” that p-zombies don’t have, one that has no observable effect on the world yet some people feel qualified to say lots about what it does; another “helpless prisoner”.

    The man’s speech is a speech about determinism: “our actions and decisions are merely the machinations of a predetermined universe.” So our deciding whether or not to agree should be determined by the universe. So maybe we shouldn’t get a choice, the book should just say “You agree, turn to page 72”. Or maybe the book is saying that in-book it’s not so mechanistic but the book is part of a larger reality and that reality is mechanistic; the book must therefore try to reach beyond the book to work out what’s going on in the smallest-relevant-entirely-mechanistic-thing, viz by offering the readers a choice of whether they agree or disagree, and then giving them genuinely different pages to go to, with diverging consequences.

    I like to quip that there are two big worries about free will and the possible absence thereof; one is a worry that our decisions have causes, one is a worry that they don’t have effects. The man’s speech is about the former, the “turn to page 72” bit is about the latter.

  30. DES3264 says:

    I would actually be in favor of banning all names like anonymous, Anonymous1, etc. It is hard to remember and distinguish them! Make people choose something distinctive, even if it has no relation to any real world identity.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I agree, and this would be an easy experiment to do.

    • Peter says:

      One possible extension: explicitly, and ideally programmatically, ban everything that’s easy to formalise. Ideally, with a message, “You appear to be attempting to circumvent the ban on anonymous posting, please read the policy on anonymous posting”.

      Then, declare attempts – or at any rate, successful attempts – to circumvent the ban as “exceeding the bounds of moderation” and IP-ban the offenders.

      Stage 1 prevents people from accidentally violating the ban, and makes it difficult for them to claim that successful violations of the ban were not deliberate.

  31. Universal Set says:

    The following is a public service announcement for a (small) segment of the community here.

    If you are, like me, an American who is socially conservative but supports center-left/liberal policies in other areas such as universal health care, the environment, labor issues, and foreign policy, you might be frustrated that neither major party, nor either of the more popular third parties, is anything remotely like a Christian Democratic party.

    I have recently learned that there is now such a party in the US, the American Solidarity Party. It’s tiny, but you have to start somewhere. As an added bonus for those who like sane voting systems, their platform also calls for using “either approval voting or range voting” in elections.

    I encourage you to take a look at their party platform.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Eliminating divorce and starting a UBI. That’s a bold set of policies.

    • Alphaceph says:

      Right to life = no voluntary euthanasia. Perhaps you should rename it “duty to be tortured” – I feel the term “right to life” is Orwellian here.

      Banning abortion seems cruel to women, treating them like cattle for the benefit of a ball of cells. I can see the argument for placing a strict time limit on abortion though.

      How would such a party feel about voluntary cryothanasia?

      • Alethenous says:

        I suspect very negatively: not only are you killing yourself (at least in the sense of “body stops working”), you’re also trying to spit in God’s eye by escaping death, which seems the sort of thing a pro-Judaeo-Christian religion party would be uncomfortable with.

        This does raise interesting questions: given that cryonics does work and that Christianity is true, what happens? Does your soul stay put until your body wakes up? If so, how does it know you’re going to wake up and what does that mean for free will? Does it go to the afterlife and then re-enter your body once it wakes up? Are there two instances of you, one in Heaven and one on Earth?

        • Two McMillion says:

          It depends on if the person frozen is dead or not. If they’re dead, they’re not coming back when unfrozen; they’re in Heaven or hell. If they’re still alive, they’ll wake up when unfrozen.

          • Alethenous says:

            What exactly do you mean by “dead”, and by “coming back”?

            If by “dead” you mean “heart isn’t beating”, well, there are lots of people who’ve survived that with modern medicine, so (granted that Christianity is true) either souls are clairvoyant, souls can return from the afterlife, or we have some people walking around without souls (they seem fine). Unless there’s some kind of thoughtful delay on soul-departure.

            If you mean “brain activity stopped”, then yes, cryonics patients are dead. So when you say they “won’t come back”, what does that mean? Are you predicting that it’s entirely physically impossible to reawaken a frozen person? Will they be soulless?

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’m a Christian, so from what I’ve thought about the issue…

          We know (given Christianity being true) that once someone dies, their soul goes straight to Heaven or Hell, do not pass “go,” do not collect 200 good deeds. (These may or may not be the same “Heaven” and “Hell” as we’ll spend eternity in, and some denominations say Heaven has a waiting room named Purgatory, but those don’t matter right now.)

          So the question is whether someone’s dead within that meaning. If so, then without a resurrection (which is a miracle), the soul isn’t coming back. And while God can theoretically raise up children for Abraham from the stones of the ground, He’s never been known to spontaneously create a new soul to animate a dead body. If not, then it’s just like being asleep or in a coma: the soul stays with the body until the body wakes up. In the Bible, trips to Heaven are extraordinary affairs; they don’t happen every night.

          • Mr Mind says:

            As far as I know Christian theology, the Ascension of Christ supposedly saved those who were born before him (so couldn’t have possibly been saved by the Good News).
            So either there exists a waiting room in Heaven or the judgement of the soul is atemporal.
            Either case I think solves the problem of temporarily dying, or been in a suspended animation for x centuries.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Myself, I would take a third possibility – the judgment of the individual soul isn’t atemporal, but Christ’s atonement is. So, believers who died beforehand go straight to Heaven, just as if they’d died afterwards.

            But even if we posit a waiting-room for Heaven (“Limbo Patris”), that’s a long ways away from saying people in comas go there. Possible? Sure, I guess, but it seems to me that’d lead to a whole lot more near-death experiences from people waking up from anesthesia.

          • “As far as I know Christian theology, the Ascension of Christ supposedly saved those who were born before him”

            The Harrowing of Hell in Dante, as I understand it, involved saving a handful of virtuous pagans, with the odds of making it to heaven very much lower for those born too early. Which does seem a bit unfair.

            (According to my daughter, who knows Italian literature much better than I do and is commenting from the back seat as we drive back from Pennsic, the harrowing of Hell was only for virtuous Jews, not virtuous pagans–the latter got Limbo.)

            How that works out in other Christian works I don’t know. I rather like C.S. Lewis’ version in which, as best I can tell, everyone goes to either heaven or purgatory, and people in purgatory can choose to go to Heaven when and if they really want to.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @David Friedman – “I rather like C.S. Lewis’ version in which, as best I can tell, everyone goes to either heaven or purgatory, and people in purgatory can choose to go to Heaven when and if they really want to.”

            The Great Divorce had only heaven and hell, no purgatory. The choice to go to heaven was not an unlimited one; the viewpoint character fails to make it, for instance.

          • Jiro says:

            One of the big problems with “people choose heaven” is that “choose” never means that you get to say “I want to go to heaven” and you then go to heaven. Instead, “choose” is used as an excuse to absolve God from blame–it’s not God’s fault you went to Hell, you chose to go to Hell.

            It’s the religious equivalent of “your mouth says no but your body says yes”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Jiro

            You realize that Calvinists, never mind Calvinists who’ll actually argue Calvin, are a rather small subset of Christians don’t you?

          • Jiro says:

            “People choose to go to Hell” as an excuse is not limited to Calvinists. People who don’t believe in predestination still say things like “you’ve demonstrated by your actions that you really chosen to go to Hell” or “Hell is the absence of God, so by rejecting God, you’ve voluntarily chosen to go to Hell”, or something similar where a person can say “I choose X” but be deemed to have “really chosen” not-X. They’re not rejecting the concept of choice in general by saying this.

            If Hell was an actual choice, in the normal sense of “choice”, a vanishingly small number of people would choose it. Claiming that people choose to go to Hell pretty much requires an odd idea of what constitutes a choice.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – “If Hell was an actual choice, in the normal sense of “choice”, a vanishingly small number of people would choose it. Claiming that people choose to go to Hell pretty much requires an odd idea of what constitutes a choice.”

            If heart disease was an actual choice, in the normal sense of “choice”, a vanishingly small number of people would choose it. And yet a great many people take actions that obviously and predictably result in heart disease.

          • Viliam says:

            @FacelessCraven
            If heart disease was an actual choice, in the normal sense of “choice”, a vanishingly small number of people would choose it. And yet a great many people take actions that obviously and predictably result in heart disease.

            Assuming that humans were designed by an omnipotent and omniscient designer, I would ask what was the intention behind some design decisions — such as humans being susceptible to superstimuli — which contribute to that outcome.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Villiam – “Assuming that humans were designed by an omnipotent and omniscient designer, I would ask what was the intention behind some design decisions — such as humans being susceptible to superstimuli — which contribute to that outcome.”

            Is there a better way of arranging things that doesn’t impinge on free will?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            Consider two ancient scenarios. (a) is a time of plenty that last for generations. (b) is a time of plenty followed by an extreme famine.

            The people who get fat in scenario (a) do less well than those who don’t, eventually succumbing to predation or heart disease. In scenario (b) those who got fat during the time of plenty do successfully make it through the famine live long enough to go to pass on their genes, but, as the famine does not last, still eventually die of heart disease.

            Now, this is a just-so story. It sounds truthy, but I don’t know if it’s true. Especially given that the cholesterol composition may play such a big role in heart disease. But it should challenge your assumption that free-will is a great answer for why people develop heart-disease, even though the incidence of the disease may be correlated with choices.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Jiro: The “You failed to obey an arbitrary set of rules which I, the Authority, have come up with, and therefore the equally arbitrary punishment I visit upon you as a result is your choice” argument is a familiar one coming from temporal authorities; why should one not expect it from celestial authority?

          • Jiro says:

            If heart disease was an actual choice, in the normal sense of “choice”, a vanishingly small number of people would choose it. And yet a great many people take actions that obviously and predictably result in heart disease.

            That really isn’t the normal sense of “choice”. We are more reluctant to say that someone “chose” X the longer the causal sequence between their choice and X. For instance, we don’t say “Japan chose to be occupied by the US in 1945”, even though different decisions by Japan would have lead to no occupation.

            Furthermore, in this case, the causal chain from doing unhealthy things and getting heart disease involves only physical laws. The last entity in the process who can make choices is the human who does the unhealthy things. We don’t say that a rape victim “chose to be raped” by walking in a bad neighborhood, because there’s an intervening choice by the rapist. Saying that someone “chooses” Hell when he chooses X, and God then decides to punish X by eternal torment is no better.

          • Viliam says:

            @FacelessCraven
            Is there a better way [than being susceptible to superstimuli] of arranging things that doesn’t impinge on free will?

            Somewhat difficult to answer, because I don’t believe that the concept of “free will” is meaningful (and I also don’t claim to be omniscient, so just because I couldn’t find a better way doesn’t mean there isn’t one), but one possible improvement could be to give humans direct control over their sensory inputs and the brain parts connected to them.

            For example, I could consciously decide that sugar is bad for me, but certain vegetables are good, so I could adjust my senses/brain in a way that would make me dislike the taste of sugar and enjoy the taste of vegetables. Instead of having to fight with a subagent in my brain every time I want to eat something.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Perhaps heart disease was a poor example. I picked it while feeling guilty for not going to the gym yesterday.

            I want all the results of going to the gym. I want to be healthier, in better shape, less fat. Yet clearly, day after day, I choose not to go to the gym. I want a thing, the thing unavoidably requires intermediate steps, I choose not to take those steps, therefore I have chosen not to have the thing I want. The parallel seems clear to me.

            “Saying that someone “chooses” Hell when he chooses X, and God then decides to punish X by eternal torment is no better.”

            Under the framework being discussed, the assumption is that going to hell is something very like a physical law. Saying God decides whether to send people to hell is roughly the same error as saying God decides whether to make rocks he can’t lift. If people choose to reject God in the same way that I choose to reject fitness and health via the gym, and if free will is the whole point of the exercise, there doesn’t seem to be any way to alter the outcomes without breaking the system.

            “For example, I could consciously decide that sugar is bad for me, but certain vegetables are good, so I could adjust my senses/brain in a way that would make me dislike the taste of sugar and enjoy the taste of vegetables. Instead of having to fight with a subagent in my brain every time I want to eat something.”

            …You haven’t eliminated the superstimuli, you’ve just given individuals arbitrary control over what triggers them. it seems likely to me that this would either result in unhealthy behavior due to assigning stimuli inappropriately, or in eating losing its meaning and becoming more like breathing, something that just happens with no real differentiation or experiential value. Neither seems like an improvement.

          • Jiro says:

            If people choose to reject God in the same way that I choose to reject fitness and health via the gym, and if free will is the whole point of the exercise, there doesn’t seem to be any way to alter the outcomes without breaking the system.

            Free will means you have to be able to do certain actions. It does not mean that the actions have to have particular consequences. God could arrange it so that I could walk to Hell, but he hasn’t, and the fact that I can’t walk to Hell doesn’t violate my free will. Why should it suddenly violate free will if I can’t sin my way to Hell either? And even if it is a law of the universe that sin sends me to Hell, why can’t God just pull me out after that, in the same way that he could transform an unfit person into a healthy person? Surely he’s capable of a simple teleportation feat.

            Anyway, I think you’re missing the point. Yes, you could construct a complicated philosophical framework where someone chooses to go to Hell. If the framework is true, then I have nothing to complain about. But I could just as well construct a philosophical framework that says that you can kill apostates, or forcibly convert the Jews. If that framework is true, then I have nothing to complain about either. But if you look at it from the standpoint of a non-Christian thinking of how religion shapes people’s attitudes, it becomes obvious that the function of this particular idea is to paper over any cognitive dissonance between “torture is really bad” and “God tortures people”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – “Why should it suddenly violate free will if I can’t sin my way to Hell either?”

            Because under the “Hell is the absence of God” model, hell isn’t a place, it’s a state. As I understand it, hell IS sin, specifically the non-temporal state of sin. God can’t make sin not-sin, for the same reason he can’t make rocks he can’t lift; He doesn’t do fundamental contradictions. He could make it so you never sin by removing your free will, and thus your capacity to choose and love, but that would defeat the whole purpose of existence.

            “And even if it is a law of the universe that sin sends me to Hell, why can’t God just pull me out after that, in the same way that he could transform an unfit person into a healthy person? Surely he’s capable of a simple teleportation feat.”

            Again, under the model you started with, Hell is a state rather than a location. Removing you from hell would involve overwriting your mind, which again would defeat the whole point of existence. From a faux-utilitarian viewpoint, this would imply that human existence and human choice are net-positive compared to non-existence, even if they end in Hell, which in turn gives support to certain interpretations of what Hell is.

            “Anyway, I think you’re missing the point. Yes, you could construct a complicated philosophical framework where someone chooses to go to Hell. If the framework is true, then I have nothing to complain about.”

            Indeed. I responded in the first place because you seemed to be claiming that the framework was internally inconsistent. “Hell is the absence of God” is not the “religious equivalent of “your mouth says no but your body says yes”.”

            “But I could just as well construct a philosophical framework that says that you can kill apostates, or forcibly convert the Jews. If that framework is true, then I have nothing to complain about either.”

            Or a complicated framework whereby one should work all their life to buy mosquito nets for people they’ll never meet, or a complicated framework where values are a useful fiction that must be maintained and perpetuated. Alternatively, a less-complicated framework of eat-screw-kill. Based on my own experience and my observation of others, I think beliefs are fundamentally chosen by the individual, not imposed by reality. We each choose as we like.

            “But if you look at it from the standpoint of a non-Christian thinking of how religion shapes people’s attitudes, it becomes obvious that the function of this particular idea is to paper over any cognitive dissonance between “torture is really bad” and “God tortures people”.”

            “Paper over” is needlessly pejorative, but essentially yes. It is an attempt to reconcile the concepts “God is good”, “god created a system that includes Hell”, and “Hell is really awful” without doing damage to the overall theological system. Annihilationism and a view of God and thus Heaven and Hell as being outside of time also helps. Together they might not be perfect answers, but I find them good enough for me.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “People choose Hell” seems comforting at first, because everybody imagines that after they die they’ll just go “yes, I’ll take one Heaven, please” and be all set. Unfortunately, it turns out that God is an acquired taste. Learning to want God takes work, and you’d be surprised how many people would rather cling to their familiar misery.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because under the “Hell is the absence of God” model, hell isn’t a place, it’s a state. As I understand it, hell IS sin, specifically the non-temporal state of sin. God can’t make sin not-sin, for the same reason he can’t make rocks he can’t lift

            But certainly He can extinguish the flames, transmute the brimstone, do some landscaping and redecorating. Generally speaking, He ought to be able to arrange for the physical environment in which the sinful live, be a bit less Hieronymus Bosch and a bit more Garden of Eden.

            And maybe the real horror of Hell is that, absent God, it doesn’t matter because you won’t be able to take pleasure in anything no matter how delightful the material substrate. I get that.

            But I’m also getting a whiff of Motte-and-Bailey here. If one questions the justice of Hell, then Hell is the absence of God and this is the logically necessary nature of existence that no Power can change and we must each make our choice. But if you contemplate breaking the rules, then you are going to burn forever in a lake of boiling blood and it’s your own damned fault God had to set up that lake for you. Yes, it’s often different groups of Christians emphasizing the different facets of Hell, but I’m not seeing them at all uneasy about divvying up the argument for don’t-break-the-rules-or-the-perfectly-just-God-will-damn-you-forever that way.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “But I’m also getting a whiff of Motte-and-Bailey here. If one questions the justice of Hell, then Hell is the absence of God and this is the logically necessary nature of existence that no Power can change and we must each make our choice. But if you contemplate breaking the rules, then you are going to burn forever in a lake of boiling blood and it’s your own damned fault God had to set up that lake for you.”

            The general question of how Hell can exist without compromising God’s goodness has been a theological controversy about as long as Christianity has existed. Some Christians have embraced the fire and brimstone interpretation enthusiastically, some have gone looking for any other interpretation possible. I would put forward that most do not play both sides of the field, as the two worldviews are highly divergent. Those who do are almost certianly arguing in bad faith.

            Speaking personally, Existential horror over Hell led to me becoming an atheist, and my return to Christianity didn’t happen until I found a credible alternative explanation.

            On the other hand, I am not super-confident in the alternative explanation is correct. Nor am I super-confident about a lot of other parts of my understanding of how Christianity works. There are arguments that I’m personally and irrevocably damned, for instance, and I can’t prove them conclusively wrong any more than I can prove how hell works or whether it even exists.

            “Yes, it’s often different groups of Christians emphasizing the different facets of Hell, but I’m not seeing them at all uneasy about divvying up the argument for don’t-break-the-rules-or-the-perfectly-just-God-will-damn-you-forever that way.”

            I’m not sure what you mean here. Christians definately think you need to “obey the rules” or you will end up in Hell, regardless of what they think hell is, and regardless of whether ending up there is immutable or divine whim. Care to elaborate?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure what you mean here. Christians definately think you need to “obey the rules” or you will end up in Hell, regardless of what they think hell is, and regardless of whether ending up there is immutable or divine whim. Care to elaborate?

            Taboo “Hell”.

            “Obey the rules or God won’t hang out when you any more”, and “Obey the rules or God will torture you forever”, are two very different things. If someone is thinking about breaking God’s rules, the infinite-torture threat will be a more effective deterrent. It will also result in people accusing God of being a tyrant. If the defense against this accusation is “God isn’t threatening to torture anyone, he’s just saying he won’t hang out with some people”, that’s a straight Motte-and-Bailey inconsistency that can’t be glossed over by using ‘Hell’ to describe both states.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Anecdote in support of your interpretation being a relatively central example of Christianity; the defense you’ve presented is the one I’ve seen put forward by multiple educated Catholics.

            @John Schilling

            I’m no longer Catholic, but I’ll try to emulate my former position.

            ‘Hell’ is the state of absence from God after death. It’s a highly unpleasant non-physical, although stories of brimstone and pitchforks are highly exaggerated. God permits people to remain in a state away from Him in order to provide humans with true choice. The reason why this state is so unpleasant is not something I have an orthodox answer for; with that disclaimer, I believed it’s because of a combination of existential despair in the absence of God’s grace and domination by demons. Demons are fallen angels who also possess free (although limited) will; one of the driving motivations of (most?) demons was to accrue more power via determining the flaws in a person’s personal habits (i.e., sin) that will let them be controlled and exploiting them. Thus, agents in the absence of God are in a constant state of nature, attempting to exploit each other in order to aggrandize themselves for the sake of pride. Note that in this understanding, it’s the dependency produced by sin (i.e., needing appreciation to assuage your pride, bodies to slake your lust, or food to fulfill your gluttony) that provides the foreign foothold for control to be established. In contrast, virtuous living according to God’s precepts is viewed as the way to be a complete, self-actualized human, with infinite variety in one’s interests and activities within the morally permitted actions. Everything that isn’t forbidden (sin) is not just permitted, but good.

            In summary:
            – Non-moral actions cause distance from God, since God is inherently all-good
            – God permits humans to sin since that’s logically necessary for a true choice, and having agents that can choose is good, and God does good
            – God could revoke the choices of humans and demons that sin, but God doesn’t do backsies on his gifts
            – The choices of the individual agents in the absence of God leads to a state of nature that makes their lives collectively, well, hell

            Final disclaimers: I don’t buy into the framework, and I’m not sure my characterization of Hell is in fact orthodox. In defense of its popularity in mainstream Christianity: C.S. Lewis described the above in (I think) “The Screwtape Letters”. Regardless of my belief in it, I think that it’s an interesting framework, and an internally consistent one.

          • Jiro says:

            If you phrase it as “obey the rules or God won’t hang out with you any more”, that doesn’t fit well with most conceptions of Hell, even conceptions by people who describe Hell that way. For one thing, it seems odd that not obeying the rules means that God rejects you for all eternity–you’d expect him to come back once you start obeying the rules. For another, if God is the one refusing to hang out with you, that contradicts the idea that the *human* “chooses” Hell–it becomes a motte/bailey where the less defensible claim is that sinning *necessarily* separates you from God.

            And “non-moral actions cause distance from God” seems like a completely arbitrary thing to say. It makes sense to say that immorality figuratively distances you from God–if you’re immoral, you are very unlike God, and being unlike God is metaphorically being distant from God. But to say that immorality literally causes distance from God is not an idea I can make any sense out of.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Rebel’s former position seems to imply that humans who protect other humans from the depredations of those who use their free will to do evil to others, are doing wrong just as God would be doing wrong if he protected unbelievers from demons. (Perhaps that’s part of the reason it’s a former position?)

          • John Schilling says:

            For one thing, it seems odd that not obeying the rules means that God rejects you for all eternity–you’d expect him to come back once you start obeying the rules.

            Well, yes, but if you put it that way then it’s hard to use Hell as a threatened punishment for rule-enforcement purposes at all, and that’s definitely something Christianity in general certainly does. Really, it takes the Rules out of the scenario and makes the obvious winning move, “I covet my neighbor’s stuff and his wife, steal his stuff, kill him to clear a path to the wife, and chose to not separate myself from God, hah!”

            Which clearly is not what any brand of Christian is selling.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – “For one thing, it seems odd that not obeying the rules means that God rejects you for all eternity–you’d expect him to come back once you start obeying the rules.”

            “Obeying the rules” is a poor description of Christianity, and not even wrong about the Christian afterlife. The interaction with God is fundamentally a relationship, not a job or the enforcement of a legal code. You make the choice whether or not to accept that relationship with God during your life, when you are still inside time, and once your outside of time that decision is final, possibly because without time “choice” stops being a meaningful concept.

            “For another, if God is the one refusing to hang out with you, that contradicts the idea that the *human* “chooses” Hell–it becomes a motte/bailey where the less defensible claim is that sinning *necessarily* separates you from God.”

            God is not “refusing to hang out” with the damned. The damned have “refused to hang out” with him. He respects their decision because the whole point of creation was to offer them perfect love, and love of necessity has to be voluntary. Some choose perfect selfishness instead, and perfect selfishness is Hell, complete rejection and separation from God and as a consequence everyone else, the perfect antithesis of what it is to be human. With apologies to Sartre, Heaven is other people; Hell is each sinner getting to be their own solitary one-dimensional Singleton. Annihilation may or may not follow.

            “And “non-moral actions cause distance from God” seems like a completely arbitrary thing to say. ”

            God is love. Sin is selfishness. The two don’t mix. Defect-bots don’t get to join the cuddle pile, because biting and kicking isn’t cuddling. That isn’t the cuddlers’ fault, and asking them to ignore it won’t work.

            @John Schilling – “If the defense against this accusation is “God isn’t threatening to torture anyone, he’s just saying he won’t hang out with some people”, that’s a straight Motte-and-Bailey inconsistency that can’t be glossed over by using ‘Hell’ to describe both states.”

            If I irrationally decide I hate you so much that I gouge my eyes out, amputate my limbs and sand my skin off rather than interact in any way with a world that contains you, I am probably not going to enjoy my new, smaller world, and it is probably not your fault. This is roughly what Christians think sin is and does under the model, with Hell being the end state.

            @Rebel with an Uncaused Cause – much appreciate the post. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            @Jiro

            As FacelessCraven said, it’s a rejection of God by the sinner. Sin is viewed as a habit or rut that someone gets stuck in, except that they usually like being there. One analogy might be drugs; the sinner is addicted, and unless they’re willing to put in the work to go clean, they won’t be able to have a good relationship with God.

            When I refer to distance from God, I’m never referring to literal distance. Under the Christian view, God is omnipresent, so literal distance makes no sense. Likewise, Hell is not a physical place.

            @Cerebral Paul Z.
            Good point! My feeling in regards to that objection is that it’s different for humans to take action against sin than for God to. This would be because if a human jails another human to stop them from murdering people, they’re not denying their will, only their ability to achieve it, whereas if God did it categorically to evildoers, it would be functionally identical to removing their will. I feel like that’s kind of a weak response, though, but I don’t have a better one offhand. It’s not why I stopped being a Christian, which I’d attribute mostly to education, marrying an atheist, and an introduction to Solomonoff Induction.

            @Faceless Craven
            Thanks for the thanks, lol. Metaphysics is pretty much my favorite thing to discuss. Good point about the selfishness/selflessness distinction, btw.

          • Jiro says:

            The damned have “refused to hang out” with him.

            I don;t find this to be a coherent concept. It’s like saying that if you ever get a driver’s license, that is necessarily a choice to never grow tomatoes. In theory, laws of the universe can connect any two things–it’s not logically impossible for there to be such a law. But nobody would think that such a law is anything other than ridiculous and arbitrary.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – Let’s see here:

            1. Heaven isn’t a place, it’s a state of loving and being loved perfectly by God and others. Hell isn’t a place, it’s a state of perfect selfishness and isolation. There are no harps, there is no brimstone. Heaven is great because love and sharing is great. Hell is awful because selfishness and loneliness are awful.

            2. Choosing to love both god and others brings me into communion with God and others, and thus I are able to enjoy heaven. Loving only myself by definition means refusing to love god and others, and leaves me with only myself.

            3. Everyone gets to choose which state they prefer. No one gets their choice overruled. No one gets to impose their choice on others.

            …where in the above do you see the arbitrary disconnect?

          • Jiro says:

            …where in the above do you see the arbitrary disconnect?

            — The list of things which sends you to Hell doesn’t seem to fit it. If I have faith in the wrong religion, I love only myself? If I find certain philosophical claims by religion to be incoherent to the point where I can’t believe in them (for instance, I find myself unable to accept that it makes sense for communion wafers to have the “essence” of flesh), and I don’t take these claims on faith anyway, I love only myself? If I lie to a Nazi about the Jews in the attic, and the right religion happens to be a branch of Christianity which prohibits this sort of lie, I love only myself? A practicing homosexual only loves himself? (Is there any religion which has “Hell is your own fault” but does not have some similar examples?)

            — Related to that, some of those are not choices anyway. I can’t choose to believe that communion wafers are flesh, any more than I can choose to believe that 2+2=5.

            — It seems to be an all or nothing thing. You either meet the threshhold of loving or you don’t. No possibility of loving God to a degree that is 1% below the threshhold and having some doubts, or making some mistakes. No possibility of, say, loving humans but not loving God (because of lack of belief in him), or not loving fertilized eggs (because of a mistaken belief that they are not human).

            — It doesn’t allow for people who can’t meaningfully choose. An unbaptized newborn baby loves only himself in such a self-aware way that this means that he has voluntarily kept himself apart from God for all eternity?

            — It also doesn’t go well with the idea of original sin, because original sin means you don’t have to do anything to be sinful. We’re expected to believe that Adam’s sin means that we have “chosen” anything?

            — Even if there’s no brimstone, it’s supposed to be as bad as brimstone. Making God the equivalent of a heroin fix seems pretty arbitrary to me.

            — You didn’t mention “Heaven and Hell are beyond time, so you can’t change your choice once you’re there”, but the idea requires that. I find the idea of Heaven and Hell being beyond time to be another thing I can’t make sense out of except as an arbitrary law of the universe which says “here’s a list of things which you can’t do, we’ll call that list ‘beyond time'”. It seems like it’s put there just to fix the objection.

            — Even humans have a concept of “informed consent”. This seems like a blatant contrivance to count non-informed consent as consent. You “choose” to go to Hell, without knowing or having any reason to believe that you are choosing that at all. Imagine saying that a rape victim “chose” to have sex with a rapist. “Sorry, wearing short skirts inherently is a choice, by your actions, to say yes. What do you mean you didn’t know about that?”.

            — Saying that you choose to not love others sounds it inherently requires that you know that some action is not loving others. There are some sins which you can tell are not loving others (murder for instance), but there are other sins which you cannot. I don’t find “I unknowingly choose not to love others” to be a coherent concept.

            — It doesn’t go well with the idea of “you have to have faith”. God could choose to appear in front of everyone in a way which leaves no doubt that he exists. This would not violate free will since you could still choose to not love him, but people who don’t love him because they don’t believe he exists would then have a chance to love him and be spared an eternity of withdrawal symptoms. Instead, he only appears before people once it’s too late to make the choice.

            — It doesn’t go well with the idea of “Jesus can save sinful people”. Does Jesus magically change a non-loving act into a loving act once you accept him? (Note that you can’t defend this by saying “accepting Jesus also implies changing your actions enough to count”, because the same change in actions isn’t enough to count when done by non-Christians.)

          • Jiro says:

            if a human jails another human to stop them from murdering people, they’re not denying their will, only their ability to achieve it, whereas if God did it categorically to evildoers, it would be functionally identical to removing their will.

            But God makes it impossible for me to do a lot of things without violating free will. Nobody says that God violates free will by making it impossible for me to murder using psychic powers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m an atheist, so what do I know, but to me the “mystery of faith” as it is described in the Catholic Church, is supposed to be just that. Humility is a tradition that is also emphasized.

            The answer “we don’t know, but we have faith we are doing it right” seems fairly unobjectionable to me.

            Now, the power structures that be tend to behave in all sorts of ways that don’t embrace this. It’s one thing to say “I believe this is sinful” and another to say “I know this is sinful”.

            And churches of all stripe tend to lean heavily on “know” rather than “believe”.

          • Jiro, I’m in general agreement, but I have one small nitpick. I don’t think “never lie, even if the consequences of telling the truth would be catastrophic” is part of any sort of Christianity. It’s Kantian.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nancy:

            It seems to be fairly common, on google search, for Christians to be uncomfortable embracing the position you seem to be ascribing to them.

            For example:
            So, is it ever right to lie? I am willing to say only that it is possible, instead of answering the question simply with “yes,” because in neither of these cases (nor anywhere else in Scripture, that I am aware of) does the Bible explicitly approve of lying itself.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – Thanks for the replies. I responded in the new OT.

            @HeelBearCub – and replies to you in the OT as well.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            Edit: Moved to Faceless’ new thread

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        As someone who once held an anti-euthanasia position, I can assure you that the intent of policy is not to torture anyone, but stems from the belief that choosing death is irrational and against one’s best interests in all cases. I viewed it as morally indistinguishable from moving a trampoline under a suicide jumper. While I no longer hold this position, that’s how I viewed it at the time and how pro-lifers of the anti-euthanasia sort would likely feel about it.

        As someone who currently is pro-life*, the intent behind the policy is not to force women to carry children to term; the requirement that they do so is a result of trying to save the life of the child. In my view, the fetus is in some sense a ‘ball of cells’, but so are all humans. The point at which I draw a distinction is the point at which the fetus has a fully human DNA (i.e., all 46 chromosomes), and where the thing preventing it from growing into something uncontroversially human is outside interference. Thus, I take a hard line position at conception, the point at which the zygote is a living and human thing.

        I’m fine with cryothanasia, but I’m probably not the intended audience for that question since I’m fine with euthanasia, too.

        * I make exceptions where the mother would suffer significant physical injury or death, and in the case of rape.

        • Alethenous says:

          All of your live cells are unequivocally living things with a full complement of human DNA. They’re currently dying by the billions every day. Is this a screaming tragedy to which every war there ever was pales in comparison? Would you oppose literally any action that kills off human cells (pretty much anything – cells are small and fragile) in a desperate attempt to save billions of human-equivalents?

          If not, what’s so special about zygotes? Maybe the fact that, though they have no moral weight per se, they have the potential to be humans. But that proves too much – by that reasoning, anyone who isn’t trying to impregnate/be impregnated as much as biologically possible is pretty much committing abortion, because sperm and ova have the potential to be human.

          You claim that a zygote will become a human “without outside intervention”, but that isn’t true – it requires delicate nurture by another human’s body. Left to its own devices, it would die.

          Finally, in society, we respect people’s right to control their own bodies: you can’t requisition a kidney from someone, even if you’ll die without it. We can quibble about whether this is actually moral on the consequentialist scales, but bearing that precedent in mind, why can you refuse to donate a kidney to someone, but not refuse to donate a uterus to a zygote?

          • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

            I hate to break it to you, but this debate has been stale for at least the last three decades. All of the questions you’ve asked have answers, albiet not ones which will satisfy you. I know because I spent a good chunk of my teens asking them in an attempt to “convert” pro-lifers.

            Anyway,
            1. Souls and all that. A 50kg teratoma is not morally equivalent to a living person by simple virtue of cell count.
            2. “Go forth and multiply” and Onan, so yes that is more-or-less the official position.
            3. You don’t generally find zygotes rolling around on the forest floor: without further intervention means ‘leting nature take it’s course,’ not dumping them into a metaphysical void.
            4. The organ donation analogy, from the pro-life perspective, is more akin to organ repo than not donating. You already had sex, and now you want to “take back” that choice at the cost of another person’s life. Also neatly fits with his stated rape exception (rape victims by definition not having chosen to risk pregnancy).

          • sards says:

            Finally, in society, we respect people’s right to control their own bodies:

            This seems to be false. For example, if I wanted to inject heroin into my body, society would not respect that right.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            @On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re A God does a good job defending my position, but I want to address some points from an atheist perspective.

            1. We consider cells to be different from the set of contiguous cells of unique DNA, especially when those cells are ordered in the relevant patterns for life, growth, and future intelligence. I’m not too fussed if I grab a lot of friends and shake off a human baby’s mass in dandruff. I am fussed if my friends drop a baby.

            2. I’m concerned about overpopulation, so my ideal solution would involve contraception. I distinguish between a human life with moral worth and a non-human life at the point where the zygote is formed, because neither the sperm nor the egg have either the full set of chromosomes or the growth/intelligence potential on their own.

            3. On the Internet nailed it.

            4. On the Internet nailed it. I will absolutely defend someone’s right not to donate their uterus, right up until the point at which they do, and someone’s life depends on it. Likewise, if someone donates a kidney, and that’s all that’s keeping another person alive, I’d object to the donor demanding that the kidney be returned. Again, this does not apply if the organ was donated under duress, as in the case of rape.

          • Jiro says:

            If you actually think the embryo has a soul, why in the world would you make an exception for rape?

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            @Jiro

            I accepted that people should not be forced to save someone else’s life at the expense of their own life or grievous injury. In physical terms, that meant that a mother should not be forced to risk her own life or health in a pregnancy. In terms of emotional health, the raped mother has an ironclad claim to a grievous violation of mental health. Therefore, while I would have preferred to avoid the destruction of a human being, I viewed it as a situation where there is no moral compulsion on the mother. It’s a trolley-cart problem where you’re the fat man.

          • Jiro says:

            Ah, so you would still prohibit abortion on the case of rape if the woman was expecting twins, and so two people needed to be killed instead of one to preserve the mother’s emotional health?

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            Yeah, or octuplets. I mean, I’d view it as a great tragedy, but the woman had no choice in the matter and shouldn’t be forced to throw her own mental and physical wellbeing away for it. I view abortion in the case of rape as morally acceptable behavior. The kids happened to be conceived on a trolley track.

        • Randy M says:

          political necessity, of course. Or muddled thinking. Or some other utilitarian calculus.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            I’m not sure I understand you. Would you expand on your comment?

            Edit: Was it meant in reply to Jiro’s comment?

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, sorry, I sometimes do that after clicking the up arrow and then the nearest reply link. Missed the correction this time.

    • caethan says:

      Sounds interesting. Thanks for the reference.

  32. anonymous says:

    Regarding night terrors.

    In my teenage years, I had this experience twice. I don’t know if it classifies as a true “night terror”, o a kind of sleep paralysis, or whatever.

    The first time I had this dream, it started with me being in the woods, and pleasant sunlight filtered through a wall of leaves to warm me. I felt attracted to the sun beyond the foliage.

    I will always remember the shocking trasformation; the sunlight looked appealing and nice, and then, the moment I walked through the foliage to bask in it, like a moth drawn to a flame, that thing changed into the mother of all horrors.

    I was there and the SUN was one step in front of me and it was inconceivably gigantic and hellish and it BURNED YOU TO DEATH.
    It was the most terrifying thing ever.

    I felt an immense urge to escape from that terrible sun, and that incomparable sense of urgency catapulted me awake, even if my body wasn’t ready.
    So I opened my eyes and I was in my room completely paralized.
    They say that when you experience sleep paralysis you are supposed to hallucinate scary stuff around you. I didn’t know of sleep paralysis back then and I don’t remember hallucinations. If I experienced any, they must have seemed comfortable compared to what I was fleeing from.
    All I remember is the titanic, life-or-death struggle to escape the giant sun of death. I felt that if I had not pushed forward, if I had not awoken in spite of the resistance of my body, the sun would have killed me.
    So I exerted what felt like a titanic effort to make my body move and I remember my body eventually coming alive piecemeal starting with the tip of my tongue and the tip of my fingers trembling. That felt very reassuring coming after the encounter with the sun of death. I was still alive after all.

    The one other time I experienced this there were columns and crumbling walls instead of vegetation. There was still the giant sun of death, and I woke up paralysed the same way.

    Throughout my adult life I also have had “ordinary” sleep paralysis episodes, but without the terror part. These episodes consist of becoming aware that I’m in my bed and hallucinating voices in my room, and being unable to say something like “who’s there?” because I’m paralysed. These episodes aren’t particularly scary (not even remotely as scary as the giant sun of death) and anyhow I’ve grown used to them.

    • Ray System Pathee says:

      My wife used to have night terrors before she was diagnosed with sleep apnea and got a CPAP machine. At the time, I was working on a horror screenplay and decided to do a bit of research on night terrors because they seemed pretty scary. It was a pretty consuming research project there for a few months.

      Then finally I had one. It came at the end of a transition out of a dream. The dream went like this:

      I was walking near my college, which in real life was near an Air Force base. As often happens, a giant airplane flew low overhead, but in the dream it opened a cargo bay door and dropped a nuclear bomb on a building a few hundred yards from me. I ran into the woods, as did a few women who were around, but of course it was in vain. A white light overtook everything and just before the first shockwave hit, the dream ended.

      Then it transitioned into the night terror:

      I opened my eyes. I was awake, I knew I was awake, and there was sunlight pouring into the room. Lying on my back, I could look down at the foot of the bed, and two of the women from my dream were there, creeping forward. (Two radioactive zombies, I must have realized on some level.) There was just darkness where their faces should be. They got closer and closer. I was screaming, but with the sleep paralysis it came out more like a whimper. With one little finger I was able to tap my wife who was lying next to me. This woke her up, saw my eyes as wide as saucers and the fearful expression on my face, and then rocked me back and forth a little so that I fully woke up.

      When I put on my glasses I saw that the two shapes I thought were women were actually my wife’s clothes rack (seen end-on) and some other object, I forget what. I wonder if I’d have had the night terror if I could see well without glasses.

      That was the only night terror I ever had, and it was about 10 years ago. It was scary as hell but also pretty interesting.

      In high school I had one other similar incident but it wasn’t a night terror: I had a dream where I was on the phone with someone, then I woke up but could still feel the phone in my left hand as I lay on my left side (so my left arm was tucked under me, with my left hand “holding” the phone to my ear; I usually wake up on my left side). I whispered “Hello?” into the hallucination-phone and waited. After a long pause, a voice answered back. I don’t remember what it said, and I don’t think I was able to say anything more…whispering “Hello” must have woken me up.

    • Vivificient says:

      I believe that I suffer from Night Terrors. My doctor has not been very helpful (I need to find a better doctor), but they seem to closely match the symptoms as described in Wikipedia. I do not know how many I have had… probably 30 or more. I estimate I have them approximately once a month, but in practice they are usually more clumped; I might have three in a week and then none for several months. I had a rather bad one last night, in fact. I will try to describe what they are like for the benefit of anyone interested.

      The exact experience is always hard to remember, but bits sometimes remain. From what I can remember, I believe that I am fully conscious when they occur, and the problem is that the memories are not sticking around well, much like memories of dreams. The experience is somewhat dreamlike in that the things I think at the time do not quite make logical sense; but it is otherwise not similar to dreaming.

      Night Terrors are horrible and unpleasant. The defining feature (for me, at least) is that you know with absolute certainty and conviction that THIS IS IT AND YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE. Also, you scream so hard your throat is sore for the next day.

      There have been a few times when I was having some other dream, and then the night terror burst through. The night terror was not connected to the dream; it happened without warning and instantly overwhelmed the dream. It feels like if you were sleeping and then suddenly someone jumped on your chest and grabbed you by the throat — not physically, but you burst out of sleep in sudden horror in the same way. I cannot remember any of the dreams themselves, just the vague sense of being somewhere doing something in a dream and then suddenly being wrenched out of it.

      Sometimes the night terror is associated with some specific threat, which (in the moment) seems familiar, logical, and deadly. For example, once I had a night terror and woke up believing that SATAN HAD COME FOR ME AND I WAS ABOUT TO DIE AND GO TO HELL. (I am an atheist.) Another time, I thought that malevolent living tree roots had filled by room and had now surrounded me and were about to pierce me and crush me. Another time, I thought my brother was about to kill me with a knife. Most of the time I have no memory of what it was that I had been so afraid of.

      When the night terror starts, I feel like I am waking up. I definitely sit up, scream, and open my eyes. I do not experience paralysis, and I do not have any visual hallucinations. My first instinct is to defend myself. Usually I throw my covers off me, in an attempt to get rid of my unseen attacker. A couple times I have hurt myself in my attempt to fight back. Once I mistook my own hand for somebody else’s and started scratching it, drawing blood. Once I grabbed my bedside lamp and tried to use it as a club.

      My next instinct is to turn on the lights, usually as soon as I realize I am able to move and am not pinned down or in the grips of tree roots or anything. Once the light comes on, I can see that there is no threat in sight, and my terror will quickly subside. (Similar to Ray System’s comment about his glasses.)

      After the immediate terror passes, I am often still left with a feeling that there is great danger at hand. In this state, I can recognize that I have had a night terror, but it is often still very hard for me to grasp that this means there is no real danger and I can safely go back to sleep. Sometimes I will wander around the house, turning on all the lights. Sometimes I am afraid to close my eyes, or even go back into my bedroom, and will sit somewhere else in the house, deeply aware of my own mortality and trying to figure out what has just happened. I have the sense that if I go back to sleep, I will probably die.

      This lingering fear very gradually subsides. Soon I think it would be OK to lie down, as long as I keep the lights on; then after fifteen minutes maybe I just need a lamp; then eventually I think it is safe to go back to sleep.

      Other times it is not so bad, and I am able to go back to sleep relatively soon. Often in the morning, I do not remember the event until someone reminds me of it, or I notice my hoarse throat or scratches on my hand. Then I am able to recall the event, though not always very clearly.

      When it is happening, it can be helpful if someone (my girlfriend) tells me something like, “It’s OK. You were having a night terror. There is no danger.” This can help me regain a little more perspective.

      My vague, layman hypothesis is that a night terror involves the mind being sort of reset with only the terror module activated and everything else pushed out; the sooner you can see other things and be reminded of other concepts, the sooner you can get other mental systems working and figure out that the fear has no basis in reality.

      In a related problem, I sometimes also wake up in a more mild confused state. This is more like Night Anxiety than Night Terrors. I will start to worry that the sound of jets outside are nuclear missiles, or that my girlfriend is a vampire and will die when the sun comes up, or something like that. But these fears have a dreamlike quality, not like the vivid certainty of a night terror; and they do not usually spur me to actually take any physical action, just to lie half-awake and worrying. Eventually, my rational mind starts up and I remember that vampires don’t exist, and then I can go back to sleep.

      I’m not sure if any of this provides any insight into how night terrors are related to other psychological phenomena, but hopefully it is of some interest to someone.

      • anonymous says:

        The sense that if you go back to sleep you will die.

        I remember that feeling from my encounters with the giant sun of death.

      • Jugemu Chousuke says:

        >Night Terrors are horrible and unpleasant. The defining feature (for me, at least) is that you know with absolute certainty and conviction that THIS IS IT AND YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE

        I’ve had this exact thing. For me it’s sometimes associated with either the idea that a nuclear bomb just went off, or that the universe suddenly came to a halt for some reason. For me it’s associated with indigestion I think, and doesn’t happen as often since changing my diet. I’ve also gotten a bit more used to it over time, and recover pretty quickly and rarely actually scream anymore. The first time I had one I thought I was having a heart attack, jumped out of bed, almost decided to call an ambulance (not that I could have been coherent in that state), and couldn’t go back to sleep for hours. Now I can realize what’s happening almost immediately and calm down.

        Like, it used to be “HOLY SHIT THE UNIVERSE JUST ENDED AHHHHH” and now that’s quickly followed up with “wait, why are things still happening?” :P.

  33. Deiseach says:

    Thank you all very kindly for your intercession and I bow before the only true caliph who has been pleased to be gracious, but I have to think about returning here in anything other than a lurking capacity.

    I don’t think, upon reflection, I contributed much and I got much too easily het-up. It may be better for everyone if I stick to reading the comments, following the discussions, and yelling at my computer screen instead of firing up a comment wishing ye all to the floor of hell.

    • TheWorst says:

      I don’t think, upon reflection, I contributed much…

      For what it’s worth, there’s very good evidence that a large number of (very smart) people disagree, and would miss you if you didn’t stick around.

      • Ruprect says:

        I wonder if it’s a cultural thing (I’m English), but I really hate the word “smart”.

        To me “smart” = “smart alec”, “smarty pants”, “street smarts” – a superficial, glib cleverness. New York values.

        • E.P. says:

          In place of it, I guess English folks say ‘brilliant’ for praise of mental ability?
          To Americans, that sounds like extremely high praise, e.g. “Albert Einstein was brilliant.”

          • Ruprect says:

            I think ‘brilliant’ to describe someone’s mind or accomplishments is similarly high praise in British English.

            I would normally say “intelligent”.

          • Diadem says:

            Speaking as a non-native speaker:

            Maybe it’s just me, but to me ‘brilliant’ is almost meaningless. It’s just too overused. It’s like calling something ‘epic’. I don’t personally dislike the word ‘smart’ but I see where Ruprect is coming from. I think my preferred word would be ‘intelligent’.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Reverse euphemism treadmill?

        • TheWorst says:

          I’ll second (third?) the others, that “smart” in the US is more like “brilliant” in the UK. In my experience, it means the same thing as “possessed of that quality leading one to be more often correct.”

          But don’t get me started on “New York values.” I was born there; our values are fine, thank you very much.

        • “Smart” applied to people doesn’t bother me. But “smart cars” or “smart urban planning” does. It feels like a way of claiming that what you are in favor of is obviously better without having to actually offer any arguments for it.

          • Adam says:

            Smart Car is a brand name. Being able to claim your product is obviously better without having to offer an argument is the entire point of branding.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I believe “Smart Car” is also a play on another meaning of “smart”, that is, “fashionable” or “stylish”. Yeah, that’s just marketing.

            The “smart” as in “smart growth” is the same thing only marketing policy instead of products, and I agree it’s annoying. But no one is going to call their policy “foolish growth” or “sardine packing”.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Largely replaced now, in political contexts, by the adjectival “common-sense”– implying that what you are in favor is so obviously better that everyone (except the benighted diehard you’re arguing with at the moment) already agrees with you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Common sense” beating “smart” as an adjective attached to policy is a nice example of a trend of anti-intellectualism that has been winning in politics for quite a while.

        • Sweeneyrod says:

          I’m English too, and I view “smart” as more or less a synonym of “clever” (but a bit more American).

          • Ruprect says:

            Ah, one of those English, eh?

            I think “smart” is far worse, but I also view “clever” as being somewhat negative (“clever clogs”, “too clever for his own good”) – again, a degree of superficiality.

            What do you think?

            (I think my thing with “smart” might just be that whenever I read “he’s a smart guy” I have to read it in a New York accent, and, for whatever reason, that irritates me slightly. )

          • Bassicallyboss says:

            I’m American, not English, but I’ve seen “clever” in some English things where I’d expect to see “smart” if it were American.

            To me, “clever” connotes a certain ingenuity or mental agility which isn’t exactly synonymous with “intelligent.” “Smart,” on the other hand, has a sense that is pretty much exactly synonymous with “intelligent,” but more casual. As a clarifying example: Inventors are clever, physicists are smart, but the best of either are both.

            There is relatively little leakage from other uses of “smart” (like “smart dresser” for fashion) in my mind or, I think, in the mind of most Americans. On the other hand, “smart” as “intelligent” leaks into things like “smart-alec” (someone who makes intelligent but mouthy comments to embarrass others) or “smarty-pants” (someone who shows off their own intelligence, like a “know-it-all”). The end result is a connotation that smart-alecs and smarty-pantses usually are intelligent, if unpleasant, and are not just feigning intelligence for the crowd.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’ll be the firstsecond to say that, on the occasions that you aren’t wishing damnation upon anyone, your contributions have been valued.

      And your occasional calls for damnation have at least been more entertaining than most, but yes, maybe best to keep those private from now on.

    • Peter says:

      SSC can be an infuriating place, and at the end of the day, if avoiding commenting is the best way to keep your blood pressure within safe limits, then that’s probably for the best (says the person who keeps telling himself, “you don’t have to comment on SSC, it’ll just get you pointlessly wound up”, yet here I am). OTOH, let me third all the people who are saying that you’re one of the good ones.

      I mean, here’s me, one of the ban-happy ones, one that doesn’t think that the reign of terror goes far enough, one who’s still urging for the ban of Anonymous, one who looks though the list of bans and says “ooh good, so-and-so had been asking for it for so long, I’m glad they’re gone”, and we’ve sparred a fair bit in the past, but I’m glad your ban has been lifted.

    • PhoenixRite says:

      Like many of the intercessors, I have virtually always found your posts to spark interest, make me think, and often make me smile. Your contributions were greater than you think.

      That said, do what you wish for yourself, not for our sake, and the Lord be with your Spirit.

    • Alphaceph says:

      I’m curious as to why people here get banned. I’m not enough of a regular to know the story though. Can you give me a <200 word tl;dr of what the disagreement/issue was?

      • Randy M says:

        Have you read the links in the header?

      • Nornagest says:

        People usually get banned for a history of being rude or obnoxious. Deiseach’s was an unusual case, though.

      • PhoenixRite says:

        There was a discussion about poverty. Deiseach said something along the lines of the poor deserve a better existence than eating gruel and packing twelve people into an apartment to save every last penny. Two commenters held the idea that the poor “deserve” anything beyond what they earn themselves was both factually incorrect (there allegedly being no universal arbiter of deserving) and was just envy of the more successful.

        Deiseach then proceeded to start off with “F you and the high horse you rode in on” and then expounded on a series of citations to early Christian teachings on poverty/wealth/socialism, and at one point said that Lazarus would laugh at a commenter’s burning in hell (a reference to Lazarus and Dives).

        Scott sometimes bans for just a single egregious post, and usually the standard is that every post must be at least two of true, necessary, and kind. A less-egregious but consistent series of posts lacking in necessity and kindness may also earn a ban.

        • Hey Nonny Mouse says:

          And Xerxes, who was the target of Deiseach’s “F off with your logic and reason and enjoy hell” was banned for daring to disagree with Scott’s pet commenter.

          • Ruprect says:

            Hmmm… not too sure about that.

            Seemed more like ->
            “What you are saying is bad”
            “Boo Boo, being bad is imaginary, Brrrrrrb!”

            If you’re in general agreement with the Christians, does that make you left, or right?

          • Ruprect says:

            Fictitious books do contain evidence – evidence of what it is to be human.

        • Alphaceph says:

          Thanks.

          Thinking about bans, it’s odd that I’ve become somewhat attached to my little yellow symbol.

        • Agronomous says:

          The Slate Star Codex Commentariat:
          Leaving Well Enough Alone for 6 0 straight days

      • Nicholas says:

        In the comments on a post about poverty, a commenter whose name I forget left a post that could be summarized as “The other poster is a bad person”. Deiseach told the commenter that they were a bad person, on the basis of their comment, in a tone that was considered unnecessarily strident and insulting. Scott declared that Deiseach’s judgement was not objectively true enough to justify her level of invective, and thus the ban.

    • Up to you, but I found you one of the more interesting posters.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve banned about 25 people now and you’re the only one who I’ve gotten asked again and again and again when I’m going to unban them because the blog isn’t the same with you. Take that for what you will.

      • Aapje says:

        25 seems like an amazingly low number. Or doesn’t that include temp bans?

      • TheWorst says:

        For whatever it’s worth, a sincere-if-contradictory-seeming thanks both for unbanning Deiseach and for having qualms about it.

      • Deiseach says:

        The size of my swollen head from all the flattery is now visible from Jupiter.

        I am very appreciative of you unbanning me, Scott, and for whatever it is worth, I agree with the justice of banning me, and your right to do so. I did cross the line because I was raging angry and more or less dared anyone here to tread on the tail of my coat.

        I think that Xerxes and I both were arguing out of positions where personal experience and emotional reactions to same were very intense, and we were arguing past each other (to the point where it degenerated into a quarrel, not an argument). Xerxes considered that position A was unquestionably the case and was passionately explicating that, I considered position B was clearly intended and was raving about that, and we splintered our lances on each other’s shields.

        I’m very struck that most people seem to have been genuinely upset about what I said re: hell (even though I’d expect most people on here to be some variety of atheist, agnostic, or not hold a belief in a soul, afterlife or any such notion). I’m not trying to do some rationalisation after the fact or excuse myself by “But that’s not what I really said” here, but I would like to maybe expand on what I plainly didn’t make clear.

        I wasn’t saying Xerxes was going to hell or deserved to go to hell. Okay, that sounds like I’m trying to wiggle out of “But you told them when they were burning in hell…” Xerxes (or Image-Of-Xerxes, the participant in the colloquy that I constructed in my mind and was quarrelling with) had declared they didn’t believe in such things as rights by virtue of being human, didn’t believe they or anybody else had any rights, and that if misfortune befell them then life was tough and that was it and nobody was obligated to help them if they couldn’t help themselves.

        So I went for the worst-case scenario there, which in my paradigm is hell*. Had I instead used a secular example, e.g. “So when you’re lying by the side of the road raped and robbed and bleeding from grave injuries, you’ll be perfectly fine with passers-by refusing to phone the cops or an ambulance for you because your phone has been stolen, especially if their grounds for refusal is you can’t pay them because your wallet with all your money has been stolen?” I hope no-one would think from that that I was saying Xerxes deserved to be, or was inviting, or that I hoped they would be, raped and robbed and grievously injured.

        *People go to hell for their beliefs and behaviours, and one of those in my religion is saying “Fuck the poor, what did the poor ever do for me, I owe them nothing, am I my brother’s keeper?” which is the attitude I was attributing to Image-Of-Xerxes. So I took it to the ultimate conclusion with the parable of Lazarus and Dives. Come the Parousia, we won’t be judged on our impeccable theology but what did we do? It’s entirely possible that people on here will hear “Well, you totally denied my existence every minute of your life. On the other hand, you paid for a shedload of mosquito nets. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” while I get shunted off with the other goats who never lifted a finger to help anyone.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I lurk a lot, Deiseach, but I think this place would be much poorer for it if you were to follow suit. You’re one of the most witty, entertaining, and educational (seriously, I’ve learned so much about Catholic intellectuals) posters here. Don’t stop. D:

    • Protagoras says:

      As another data point, I have been generally in favor of the reign of terror and have in the past, pretty much whenever Scott banned someone, thought good riddance. You’re the only exception; while I wasn’t one of those who went so far as to pester Scott with a request to restore you, I can tell you that you are about the only case where I haven’t been happy about a banned person being gone. Welcome back!

      • Jiro says:

        We have a word for letting someone bypass the rules because they’re well liked.

        Corruption.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Favoritism”, I think, is more precise. But why would you expect a “reign of terror” to be other than arbitrary and capricious?

          • Jiro says:

            “Reign of terror” here doesn’t mean “is completely arbitrary”, it means “is arbitrary to some degree”. It may be informative to point out that the degree of arbitrariness is higher than expected, and that this is a bad idea.

        • Jiro, I hope you become a moderator somewhere so that you can see whether you can do banning on a basis of clear rules and make it work.

          I’m assuming that you haven’t been a moderator because you haven’t written about your set of rules.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have been a moderator. Clear rules don’t work.

            Well, that’s not quite true — clear rules work very well to stop basically well-intentioned people from doing specific things you don’t want them doing, and there are plenty of situations where you want to carve out a space like that. They just can’t stop abuse. If someone really wants to harass an individual or troll the community, hard rules are more of an asset to them than a hindrance, and the harder the better.

            To stop those people, I have never seen any set of rules work that doesn’t include “don’t be an asshole”, or something equivalently subjective, somewhere in the fine print.

          • Jiro says:

            The comment that got Deseach banned was a violation of clear rules, and would have been under pretty much any reasonable set of clear rules Scott could have come up with. Clear rules would work in this case, even if they don’t always work.

            That’s because in this case, the question isn’t “what constitutes abuse”. The question is “what is the punishment for abuse”, which is different. “Well-liked people get temporary bans and everyone else gets permanent bans” is not good.

        • Deiseach says:

          I wish to sincerely thank Jiro, and this is not being ironic or faux-naif or anything of that nature: someone who likes and stands up for clear rules and no exceptions or favoritism. You judge I am getting unwarranted leniency, and what can I do but agree? I am glad for your expressing your dislike of what I did which was indeed wrong.

    • Adam says:

      So I guess I was off getting surgery while you were getting banned. I’ve only been back a few days, but didn’t actually realize you were gone until it was brought up. It makes me wonder if everyone else would care if you had simply vanished without anything being said rather than publicly banned, which naturally produces an initial response that sort of commits itself in people and all future is colored by that.

      Anyway, you baffled me sometimes, like being asexual but apparently very opposed to non-breeding marriages. You seem like an extremely miserable person and that’s unfortunate. Commenting here does not seem to improve your life. Reading what other people write often seems to make you very angry, but I picture you yelling at kids on your lawn and am not sure leaving here would be of any benefit, as the outside world is just as stupid, probably stupider.

      Of course, you’re not a kid and are well aware of that. Oh well. I agree with the consensus that your contributions are net positive, and from reading what you got banned for, that seems ridiculous to me. It is obvious the people you were wishing hell upon do not believe in hell and were very likely not distressed on the deep emotional level that Scott projects onto Internet peoples thanks to his history of deep crippling self-doubt due to feminists suggesting that sometimes men harm and frighten women. I wish comments like yours, where you very thoroughly and level-headedly address the content of what you’re responding to, and then tack on an insult at the end, were distinguished from pure insults and better tolerated. Didn’t seem that bad to me.

    • Deiseach, notwithstanding our many disagreements, you are my favorite commenter here, and I grieved at your banning. Your posts are entertaining, beautifully written, deeply-informed, and grounded in interesting experience. I hope you will favor us with more of them.

    • J says:

      I get why Scott’s hand was basically forced, but I have to say that I enjoy a good righteous rant now and again, and yours made me feel like maybe I understood just for a moment what a reprimand in a good old fashioned Irish Catholic school might feel like. Welcome back 🙂

    • Snodgrass says:

      I found your contributions excellent and your perspective fascinating, I was sad when you were banned and would be sad were you to depart voluntarily.

  34. Carinthium says:

    Hi guys. Just want to know from somebody who understands better- what are the odds on a Trump victory right now? I know they’re pretty poor, but I figure others here can give a better analysis than that. Also, what is it that made things turn so badly against Trump?

    • TPC says:

      The “odds” on a Trump victory are probably close to 50/50 realistically speaking. Constant negative press bias has been effective in driving his polling numbers down, but it’s not driving Hillary’s up. This means the race is close, favoring her, but not “pretty poor”.

      High undecideds, low numbers for the presumed favorite in 3 and 4 way polling, independents usually favor Trump even when he is -4 or whatever in polling– these things suggest a low-turnout, fairly close race.

      Note that I’m not arguing “omg the polls are SKEWEEDD”, I’m just noting that they are pretty weak. 40/30 is Hillary +10, but it is realllllly unlikely third parties will get 30% on election day. And that is not even far from some of the results we’ve actually got from polls. It’s even worse with a lot of state-level polling, 35/30 is still showing up as a possible state polling outcome.

      Gary Johnson reached 8% in 2012 and got barely 1%. Trump currently tends to win independents by anywhere from 52/48 to 60/40 and gets 75-85% of R’s. His black voter numbers are impossible to predict, because the blowback is so brutal for not following group cohesion norms on the D thing. Could be 1%, could be 10%, could even be 20%. Depends entirely on whether black men turn out (they vote R at way higher rates than black women, though still quite low overall) He polls ok with Hispanics, but that’s also volatile, 20-40%.

      Anecdotally, I’m an out and proud black Trump supporter and have found that there is support for Trump among many of the groups he’s getting bad poll numbers with. *puts little foil hat on*
      I do think there is a shy Trumper effect, and that it’s probably good for 3-4 points in the aggregates. This doesn’t mean Trump’s ahead, but it does mean if he closes to that point, I think he is likely to turn out his base because he has energy and a GOTV that contains some of Obama’s analytics people.
      *takes little foil hat off*

      • ShemTealeaf says:

        I think Trump will probably do better than his polling indicates, but it’s going to be pretty tough for him to win unless something significant changes. He pretty much needs to win Pennsylvania or Virginia (in addition to doing significantly better than expected in several other states), and his numbers don’t look good there. Even if you grant him 3-4 points from the ‘shy Trumper’ effect and assume that all the Johnson voters break 2:1 for him over Clinton, that only gets him to a couple points down in both states. I think those are fairly generous assumptions, and that still leaves him a bit short.

        Also, if you’re interested, I’d offer a small bet on the ‘shy Trumper’ effect. I’ll bet $20 to the charity of your choice that the national margin will be less than three points off the 538 prediction at the time of the election. If it’s three points or more off the prediction, you win. Interested?

        • TPC says:

          I prefer Sam Wang’s approach and I dislike his unfortunate turn towards partisanism this cycle. Nate Silver is too partisan and bizarrely petty (he doxxed a site owner of a very minor polling analysis site with an alternate model it claimed was predictive for the past three Presidential elections).

          This election cycle is hard to predict, Trump’s at 15% with black people in the LAtimes tracking poll, which is the same people until late Oct or early Nov. That’s a real shift, even if it goes away tomorrow, it lasted for three days and probably reflects the overall volatility and weirdness of the potential voter pool.

          So sure, for Sam Wang’s model, but not for Nate Silver’s.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      This site calculates the odds based on betting markets: https://electionbettingodds.com/

      Trump’s currently at ~19%.

    • John Schilling says:

      I doubt anyone here can give a better analysis than the folks at 538 Politics, which is currently putting Trump at 21.1% . There might be people here who theoretically could do better than Silver et al, but only if we put in the hours that they do, and we don’t.

      Trump’s decline has been particularly noticeable post-convention, which I take to imply:

      A – The pre-convention expectation that Trump was a serious contender was based on the assumption of a “pivot” that would logically be unveiled at or about the convention once he had the nomination sewn up. This didn’t happen.

      B – The Democratic convention was perceived as competently run and generally successful, with Sanders (unlike Cruz et al) endorsing Clinton, and came at about the same time that we learned that Hillary isn’t going to jail after all.

      C – Trump’s various gaffes since the convention, particularly the dispute with the Khan family, are getting more play because there’s not as much else to talk about. Or at least not much else the media wants to talk about.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I have to say, I’m a little confused that the Khan dispute did as much damage as it did. It didn’t seem like anything really different than what we’ve come to expect from him. After all, he’s already insulted a military member before(but that was a politician so maybe that’s different). I’m wondering if all the people who stopped supporting him had become increasingly uncomfortable with his antics and decided this was the final straw or if they were fine with him until then.

        • Diadem says:

          Well, I think going after grieving parents is worse than going after a veteran who’s also a political opponent. He didn’t just go after them either. His answer to ‘what have you scarified’ was that he’s very rich. Personally I found that worse than his attack on the Khans, because it betrays a complete lack of introspection.

          And are you sure the drop in the polls is just the Khan thing? Weren’t his remarks about Russia and NATO in the same week?

          And yeah, there’s probably also a bit of an ‘final straw’ thing going on. A lot of moderate Republicans were hoping that Trump would pivot at around the convention, and he dashed those hopes.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It seemed that when he took on Khan, he dropped in the polls from “tied” to “definitely trailing” and hasn’t been back since.

          Looking at 538, Trump was ahead on July 30, in a dead heat on July 31, and then dropped 15 points on August 1st, and then continued to dribble out over the next few days.

          I don’t know what the lead-in time is for polls, but July 31st is when the worst of the Khan debacle happened.

        • Adam says:

          He’s not playing to the same audience any more. A large enough number of people who are not Republican primary voters or political horserace addicts were not paying attention to him when he slandered McCain. Now they are.

        • John Schilling says:

          After all, he’s already insulted a military member before(but that was a politician so maybe that’s different).

          That’s part of it, yes – living politicians are expected to take being slandered by other politicians, dead war heroes aren’t.

          Also, a year or even a few months ago people could rationalize that Trump was just putting on an act to sell his cosmopolitan New York self to those hicks in the GOP, and once he’d won the nomination we’d see that he’s really not such a bad guy, he just plays one on TV. So much for that theory.

          Also also, back then we could only have a few brief stories about Trump trashing McCain before we had to hear about some damn fool thing that Ben Carson said, and then something Sanders v. Clinton, and then Bush v. Clinton. If Trump said something stupid and then shuts up, the silence was filled with stuff to make us forget the stupid thing he said. Now if Trump says something stupid and shuts up, there’s nothing to talk about but that last stupid thing Trump said. Until the next stupid thing he says.

      • Vaniver says:

        I doubt anyone here can give a better analysis than the folks at 538 Politics, which is currently putting Trump at 21.1% . There might be people here who theoretically could do better than Silver et al, but only if we put in the hours that they do, and we don’t.

        Well, given that I called the Republican primary for Trump back in August of last year, and Nate Silver had to write a mea culpa about how he blew that prediction…

        I don’t think Silver has a good grasp of why people like Trump, or models the dynamics of the election well enough. There’s been a lot of “no one has done X before!” that makes sense from a retrospective forecaster but not if you’re actually trying to model the dynamics.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, given that I called the Republican primary for Trump back in August of last year

          Out how many total predictions, since 2008?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, more than that — out of how many total predictors? If there are 500 different predictors each who predicted 5 two-way races, one would expect several perfect results even if no single prediction is better than chance.

        • Adam says:

          538’s polls model called for Trump last August anyway. Nate Silver just ignored them and went with his gut when making his own prediction. The record of his actual models is still about as close to perfect as you can hope for a predictive model of an uncertain process to be.

  35. sohois says:

    Got a simple medical related question, which I’m sure would have been covered in some past thread somewhere, but I’ve never seen any discussion so hopefully people won’t mind answering:

    Multivitamin supplements, yea or nay?

    • billymorph says:

      Nay to meh IMO. Generally if you’re eating a reasonable diet and have no health problems you don’t need vitamin supplements. There are fringe cases and some genuine medical deficiencies that might require them, but for you average person’s needs they are expensive have have limited or negligible benefits.

    • Lumifer says:

      Generally useless unless your diet is very unhealthy. You can take them as cheap insurance that you are not developing some deficiency, but don’t expect them to actually improve your health.

  36. Froolow says:

    I was interested by the below link, so I assume some other Astrocodexians might be:

    http://moralmachine.mit.edu/

    Its a (very short) discrete choice experiment to examine your intuitions about trolley-problem type scenarios as they relate to self-driving cars. I would have liked to include some questions where the driver / pedestrians *might* survive to test how much certainty of a bad outcome influences people’s intuitions, but there’s a good spread of variables tested.

    At the end of the test you can see where you compare to average, although clearly this is just for fun since you can’t really make that sort of judgement on a discrete choice test.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      Off-topic – is anyone worried state intelligence apparatuses might use deliberate, engineered “accidental” crashes of self-driving cars to eliminate certain undesirables? I mean, conspiracy theorists like myself think they already do this sorta of thing with human-driven cars (running people off the road, etc.) and off the top of my head it seems like self-driven cars would be tightly government controlled, so this just seems like the logical next step in cutting edge assassination techniques.

      (The most useful part to a state that wishes to start doing this kind of thing is because you can generate casualties beyond the intended target (i.e. i.e. having a two self driving cars cross lanes and have head-on collisions; perhaps multi-car pileups), you can therefore mask that the incident was intended to eliminate a specific target by virtue of them getting lost in the collateral damage and simply claim it was a critical system failure/mechanical failure/mass computer crash, etc.)

      • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

        Yup. One of many reasons that, when I have to leave the city and get a car again, I plan to buy a classic model. No onboard computers or GPS.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Flaw: If the state wishes to have someone rubbed out, the state can already just send some goons with guns around to kick in their door, no need for a technothriller-style hack. If the state can find and employ murderous hackers, it can certainly find and employ goons with guns.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s still embarrassing to the government if the only entity with a motive is the government. ‘No crime’ means no question of blame.

          • Jiro says:

            Also, bear in mind that not all government departments work together. The spy branch may want to kill someone while the army doesn’t.

          • John Schilling says:

            The spy branch may want to kill someone while the army doesn’t.

            Is there any branch of government that doesn’t have goons with guns at this point? The Department of Education has SWAT teams at this point, and uses them.

          • TheWorst says:

            That doesn’t preclude the possibility of wanting someone dead without being seen to use your goon squad.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That’s in no sense foolproof — should a prominent critic of the government die in an “accident,” the allies of that critic are still going to blame the government, and the accident will be thoroughly investigated. (Unless we’re assuming that the government’s already so powerful and evil that it can and will step on the investigation of the accident, in which case there’s no reason it can’t step on the investigation of goons-with-guns.)

          • TheWorst says:

            The issue here isn’t the allies of the critic, or the allies of the government, it’s the (vastly) larger number of uninvolved parties. Uninvolved parties are interested in goon-squad murders, but not in accidents, which means one type of investigation is a lot more likely to go viral.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            >That’s in no sense foolproof — should a prominent critic of the government die in an “accident,” the allies of that critic are still going to blame the government, and the accident will be thoroughly investigated.

            A prominent critic can be bought out, or discredited, or (most likely) ignored. I’m talking more about situations where someone is privy to knowledge that could harm someone with influence in an intelligence agency.

            More to the point, if I’m calling the shots in an intelligence agency, I’m way more concerned with things that could lead to my own demotion, dismissal, investigation, or arrest – and people who are privy to that information – than some impotent Amy-Goodman-type bemoaning ain’t-it-awful stories on twitter.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @ThirteenthLetter – “Flaw: If the state wishes to have someone rubbed out, the state can already just send some goons with guns around to kick in their door, no need for a technothriller-style hack.”

          The CIA appears to disagree with you.

          • John Schilling says:

            That was IIRC about developing assassination techniques for use in other countries, where a competent police force the US Government doesn’t control would investigate any suspicious death and maybe imprison valuable CIA agents and/or embarrass the CIA. Same goes for the KGB and its ricin-pellet umbrellas, etc.

            I believe the discussion here is meant to be about “the state” using such techniques within its own territory against its own people, in which case it does strike me as needlessly complex and prone to backfire. Either you can stifle an independent investigation or you can’t, and if you can, you can just shoot the guy and say “OBTW he was a child molester and he had it coming”.

          • TheWorst says:

            I think it’s too simplistic to say “you can or you can’t.” Why should we assume it’s impossible for “the state” to be able to do it in some instances and not others?

            The opposite seems to self-evident.

            Similarly, “the state” isn’t a thing. When it comes to just shooting someone and dropping a no-sale on an investigation, some people in some parts of some states can do it to some people. Other people, or the same people using different parts of the state, or targeting higher-status targets, need different methods.

    • numbers says:

      This kind of makes me angry, in that it takes an event which we expect to be super super rare and sensationalizes the heck out of it.

      It’s like if I put up a series of articles about MIT research scientists who have been infected with brain parasites causing murderous rage. If an MIT research scientist has been infected with brain parasites and is on a murder spree, but they have just enough sanity left to choose their next victim, should they preferentially murder babies or grandmothers? And what sort of government regulation should we have for this circumstance?

      (The answer doesn’t matter, of course. The only important thing we’ve accomplished by asking the question is linking the concepts “MIT research scientist” and “murder babies and grandmothers” in your mind.)

      • numbers says:

        In practice, self-driving cars will save lives compared to human-driven cars. Brake failures happen very rarely, especially the sort of simultaneous total failure of all brakes which would lead to a runaway car. Runaway cars will almost never be pointed at walls of pedestrians. And if a self-driving car does encounter a brake failure, I predict that it will continue obeying traffic laws to the best of its ability; it will absolutely never swerve off the road into a wall or a pedestrian, because many juries decide lawsuits based on virtue ethics, and “I was trying to avert a worse catastrophe” is not a good defense against manslaughter charges.

        (Also: if you think you’re in a super-unlikely worst-case scenario, you should consider the possibility that your sensors have failed or been hacked. Try to take an action that won’t have disastrous consequences if it turns out your sensors are wrong.)

      • Froolow says:

        I think I disagree.

        Although I agree that exact situations generated by this experiment are so vanishingly rare as to be not worth considering (I got a question about dogs driving a car having to choose between hitting some lawbreaking cats or a single fat man, who was presumably taking the cats for a walk), cars will need to be explicitly programmed with risk tolerance, and this includes the rate at which the car should trade off risk to pedestrians with risks to the driver.

        There is no such thing as a ‘zero risk’ drive (for the passengers or pedestrians), and there are various actions you can take that either reduce risk for both passengers and pedestrians, or trade one type of risk for another. It seems possible – though I don’t know this for sure – that we can reach a point where no more win-win tradeoffs are reached, and we must start trading passenger safety against pedestrian safety. To give an example, how much space should you give a truck when driving past it? Too little space and a drive error by the truck driver (or a sharp gust of wind) will crush your car. Too much space and you must drive closer to the pavement, giving you less time to react if a pedestrian steps into the road.

        What’s interesting about this isn’t that self-driving cars will have to make this tradeoff (‘dumb’ cars do this now in all kinds of ways, for example requiring seatbelts which lower the risk to passengers in a crash but appear to cause more of an appetite for risk in drivers which harms pedestrians), but that we will have to explicitly formalise this tradeoff. Even if the net lives saved is higher (which I expect it will be), society has an interest in making sure that the tradeoff is equitable.

        In your example about brain parasites, the question isn’t ‘who should the scientist kill next?’ but ‘what level of risk is acceptable in the study of brain parasites?’, which I think is an entirely appropriate question to ask before deploying a new technology. In the same way, “What level of risk should pedestrians bare when I drive my new self-drive car?” is a perfectly reasonable question.

        • numbers says:

          Good point.

          For your example (how close should we drive to a truck when passing), I guess I imagined the tolerances would be checked separately. In other words there would be one number for how close the car can get to a pedestrian on the sidewalk, and how fast it can be going when it does. And there would be a separate number for how close the car can get to a truck when passing. If the clearance is less than the sum of those numbers, the car doesn’t pass.

          (I’m also a little bit confused that our self-driving car is passing trucks using the lane that’s adjacent to the sidewalk! But, okay, it’s just an example.)

          So maybe the core question here is: how close can a self-driving car drive to a pedestrian, and how fast can it be going when it does so? Does it need to be “you cannot possibly throw yourself in my way fast enough to get hit” speed, or is it sufficient to go at “you don’t look like you’re going to run out into the road” speed?

          So: I think you’re right about that, and I wish the website were covering those questions.

  37. meyerkev248 says:

    OK, silly question.

    Why do Olympic Sprinters have giant arm muscles?

    I look at pretty much every other sport and I can go “Ok, you need to use these muscles for this, which is why every single person has the exact same build”, but it doesn’t seem like being super-swole in the upper body would be helpful for sprinting and DOES seem like it would be adding non-zero pounds of extra body weight to carry.

    • Adam says:

      I’m reasonably certain they mostly just look bigger than they are. Usain Bolt is 6’5″, 205, exactly the same size as Ray Allen, who was one of the skinniest dudes in the NBA for the last two decades. Sprinters are just so absurdly lean that every part of their body looks swole even if it isn’t big. Justin Gatlin is 6’1″, 183, which is the same height and ten pounds heavier than me, but I swear he looks about 40 pounds heavier.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Sprinting training usually includes weights, and sprinting rewards people whose genetics favour fast-twitch muscularity.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t know the answer to this question.

      But I do know that bio-mechanically moving your arms when running is helpful. When we are talking about sprinting especially, and time differentials of a 100th of a second, arm pumping might need to be especially vigorous.

  38. 75th says:

    What do people here (and at Unsong) do to get alerted to responses to their own comments? If you subscribe to a post with the checkbox on the comment form, you get emails for every comment on the entire blog post, not just the ones in the thread you replied to.

    If checking that box is the best option we have, then consider this a request to investigate, test, and install one of the various search-enhancement (or post-subscription-enhancement) WordPress plugins that might help with this that I found in my Googling on this subject.

    • herbert herbertson says:

      Seconded.

      Also, if e-mail registration would facilitate a useful reply notification system, that’s an extra reason to do it.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      I just check in once in a while to any threads I still care about responses to and ctrl+F my username, then look for green outlines.

      • 75th says:

        Yeah. The problem here is that you may not remember if that comment you posted was on Open Thread X or Open Thread X.25. The problem at Unsong is that the story is in massively anachronic order [warning: TV Tropes] and deriving a chapter’s content from its title takes some hard thought.

  39. Where should I live?

    Multiple SSC commenters on previous threads have recommended o leave Seattle, something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. It’s now more personally feasible than ever (long story.)

    I’d like to live somewhere where I can arrange car free logistics (day to day living – groceries, bars, social venues within walking/biking of pleasant living locations (I have a dog and would prefer to live in a house with a yard.) I prefer cold weather to hot but can manage.

    I desperately need a large population of friendly strangers and would hugely prefer favorable demographics. Good cultural options (music, theater, food) would be nice.

    I’m not sensitive to the job market at all; I’m moderately price insensitive and have a decently high budget but not infinite money.

    Not sure if any city exists with this combination, sadly.

    • TPC says:

      It does if you don’t have to live in America and have an internationally transferable skillset.

      • I’m open to international destinations where a skilled American can easily get a permanent visa but that’s like, what, Canada and Australia?

        I kinda like the idea of Israel too but I speak zero anything that’s not English and don’t know if I can learn at my age.

        • anon says:

          Hong Kong. Probably Singapore too, but I think it’s easier to live in HK without speaking Chinese, and I don’t really know the Singapore work authorization system.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            English is the dominant language in Singapore, and it has far more English speakers than Hong Kong (in Singapore 37% speak English primarily and over 80% speak it as at least their second language, compared to 3.5% in Hong Kong speaking English primarily and 46% speaking English at all).

        • Agronomous says:

          If you speak English, you’ll be fine in Israel.

        • pku says:

          Israel actually does sound pretty good for your requirements. Rent can be a problem, especially if you want a yard, but it’s still probably cheaper than Seattle. And you can definitely get by on English.

    • Adam says:

      Providence, RI? Mind you I’ve never been there, but I have friends who live there and it sounds like it fits your description. Only thing is it’s an extremely weird place full of weird people and I have no idea if that would bother you. Say, if you’re fleeing Seattle because it’s unfriendly to your politics, this would definitely not help.

      • I would like a decent supply of whatever-the-polite-term-for-“normies”-is, but I’ll keep in mind Providence–what’s nice about it?

        I would not say I’m fleeing Seattle because of my politics, but the rather vicious progressives (and hinting towards more SF-style tech antifa/mob justice/Gawker-incited hatred of me) are, shall we say, worrying.

        • Adam says:

          If that’s the reason, you probably wouldn’t like it. Nobody I know there is remotely vicious, but if your sole experience of them is their twitter rants, you’re not going to know that. I’d say here in Dallas is a pretty decent place, except I think it would be very hard to get by without a car. Maximal density is hard to find in the middle of the country with all the wide-open spaces.

          • Yeah, I think I’d like Dallas people but not the layout.

            I’ve wondered about Austin–people call it “liberal for Texas” which sounds conservative enough for me to not loathe it, and I hear nice things about the food and the people.

            I have yet to get a straight answer about the traffic/city layout. I also don’t love the idea of the heat, but will probably have to compromise there (afaict women don’t like _anywhere_ that’s cold most of the year.)

          • Adam says:

            The traffic is horrible there. It’s the only metro area in the United States with a population over 1 million that has only a single interstate highway. The state built a high-speed tollway going to San Antonio that specifically diverts around the city of Austin because of how bad it is.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          Then you should look at the NH seacoast (Portsmouth, Dover, etc.): the mildly Right side of the greater Boston area.

    • meyerkev248 says:

      I mean, if you have a million bucks, or the ability to arrange to make $6,000+/month after taxes, SF, the city of, works. 2/3rds of the city is single-family housing too, so you’d have a (small) yard.

      That defeats the infinite money, and of course, if you’re fleeing Seattle, it’s basically everything that makes Seattle cranked up to 12.

      Alternatively, if you’re willing to use “not-car” to mean “Uber everywhere outside the immediate neighborhood”, Royal Oak, MI and Ferndale, MI is full of hipsters these days. A surprisingly decent bubble of culture (Royal Oak Theatre is where all the concerts go), and all my 20-something Facebook friends from HS live there.

      /Your fundamental problem is that the density requirement defeats the transit requirement.

      • I fled San Francisco for Seattle four years ago. SF is the epitome of everything I hate (other than the density of nice cocktails): expensive, traffic ridden, full of mean, awful people, mobs calling for my death, dirty, no space, zero women.

        Seattle was (and is) nicer than SF but is getting steadily worse in absolute terms.

        I have infinite money anywhere but SF/NYC/Seattle/etc prices, and enough to live a norma techl person life in those cities, to give a rough idea of budgets. (It feels gauche to openly state my net worth here.) A normal person life in SF is hell.

        Maybe that would help calibrate what I’m looking for?

        • Adam says:

          Do you need to continue working? If not, live in a bunch of different places until you find one. I knew a lead attorney on a successful class action lawsuit that pretty much just tropical island hopped for about a decade after that and he seemed pretty happy.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          I know this is really going to sound wierd, but uh… Find a reason to get to Detroit. Just for like a long weekend. Northern Oakland County suburbs especially. See how you like it.

          I’m not kidding here.

          Cheap housing, surprisingly good hipster neighborhoods in both downtown Detroit and Royal Oak/Ferndale, lots of natural beauty (Oakland County lakes and Metroparks in close, the Great Lakes and the UP over a long weekend, and my friends back home go skiing at Boyne a heck of a lot more than I drive the 6 hours to Tahoe).

          Mind you, it’s definitely a driving metro, but there’s no reason you can’t throw a quarter million at the problem of “being within walking distance of downtown Royal Oak or equivalent suburb downtown while also having a big yard for my dog” that can fill your restaurant/grocery needs and then drive everywhere else. I could definitely replicate my current Burlingame,CA lifestyle (My car exists to drive to Daly City BART, Yosemite, LA, and on one cherished occasion, Moab) in that area pretty easily.

          Extra Bonus: It’s usually a stop on most of the bands I follow, and I’m up to about 30 concerts this year. With the only exceptions this year being every band that spoke Japanese, and if I wanted to see them I wouldn’t be leaving the West Coast.

          And with the caveat that you’re driving through Ohio*, you’re about 8 hours from the entire Appalachians, so I’ve been on driving vacations to Mammoth Cave, the Smokies, and Niagara.

          And if you ever need to really get away, it’s a Delta hub, so there’s direct flights to pretty much anywhere/everywhere.

          * Michigan looks like Ireland and I’d know because I’ve driven across both. Ohio looks like corn. I’m not a fan of multi-hour drives unless I’m within 4 hours of the state of Utah because Utah is gorgeous, but Michigan >>>>>> Ohio.

          • “and my friends back home go skiing at Boyne”

            For any skiers reading that, Boyne mountain had a vertical drop of six hundred feet when I was skiing it some fifty years ago, and I doubt it’s grown much since. That’s rather less than Tahoe.

        • sam k says:

          Chicago? That’s where I’m looking to end up: plenty of good food, young folks, a relatively healthy gender ratio and a local economy that isn’t tech-dominated, lots of creative industries flourishing downtown. Public transportation, quite a lot of good investment lately into livability in the downtown area, big enough that there’s stuff going on.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree, Chicago seems about as good a fit as he is going to get in the US. SF, and Seattle are out because he’s already tried them. Portland is probably too similar culturally to be any better. LA is too car-centric and hot. Manhattan and the Manhattan parts of Brooklyn are probably too expensive to get what he wants in a dwelling even with a high budget. Boston and Philadelphia have small neighborhoods that would qualify and might be good secondary options, but Boston especially is probably too liberal and Philadelphia is a crime ridden shithole out that small nice area. D.C. and points south are both really hot and drenched with traffic — though Richmond, Charlotte, RDU, Charleston, etc might be worth considering if the heat thing is flexible. That leaves roughly Texas, the Southwest, and the Midwest. Texas and the Southwest are hot and sprawling. The Midwest seems like decent fit. People there are very marriage oriented, the type of cultural liberalism he seems to hate isn’t too prevalent, all of it is relatively affordable, and it’s cold rather than hot. Of the cities in the Midwest, Chicago has the largest walkable areas; it has the best transit system; it has the most cultural attractions. And unlike say Atlanta, Chicago is a part of the Midwest, not an alien invader.

            On the other hand, based solely on what I’ve read itt I’m not sure Seattle is the problem.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Philadelphia’s decent area is quite large, though small enough to bike.

            No one would ever mistake it for a friendly place, however.

        • Vaniver says:

          At one point, I described my top three cities to live in as SF, Seattle, and Austin, in descending order; but when you take cost into account, the list flips. (The is, SF has a lot more plus factors than Austin but when you take into account the minus factors, I think Austin comes out ahead.)

          Consider giving it a shot? It may be the sort of place where, five years from now, you flee it for basically the same reasons as leaving SF and Seattle, but it also has a lot of what makes those cities worthwhile.

        • Urstoff says:

          Just go to any city in the South. Denver is also nice.

    • Why do you want to leave Seattle? Just curious. I live here and it seems alright.

      • A) As of the last year or so, the city is a permanent traffic jam. This might get better in twenty years; I’m not going to wait (and I doubt it anyway.) (It would also be better if I lived in Cap Hill and never went anywhere off the transit line, but that covers none of the parts of the city I *like* or have need to visit.)

        B) Everyone here is an insular, passive-aggressive asshole. Call it the “freeze” if you will, but that’s not an excuse, and I’ve found it nearly impossible to actually make friends. If I’m very lucky, a given stranger will be exceedingly polite and say nice things about how much we should hang out again and then never, ever see me again. Since I don’t already have a working social circle from college, I will never be able to construct one in Seattle.

        C) It’s not as bad as SF, but there are rounds-to-zero available women and the literal only reason I live in a city and not the middle of the woods is that I’m trying to find someone to date.

        D) The city is rapidly approaching SF levels of hatred and disrespect for “tech”. Yes, I work for Google (currently; that may change.) No, that doesn’t give anyone the right to sneer at me as an evil gentrifying techbro who is also laughably unthinkable as a romantic partner or social equal. Gawker et al (the Stranger up here for local color!) are trying to convince everyone in the city that I’m simultaneously an evil invader and a pathetic loser. I would rather not live around people who want me dead. (That’s why I left SF.)

        E) Probably a few other I’m forgetting, it’s late.

        Take your pick.

        • TPC says:

          Have you tried xferring to the Kirkland office? The ‘burbs will not have the shrillness, the freeze is about 50% less awful and it’s where the women are who want LTRs and marriage.

          There’s also low/nocar-friendly areas in Texas (parts of Houston and parts of Austin, and parts of San Antonio). Florida has some walkable areas too, but it’s a volatile place to live.

          There are also some college towns in the midwest where low-car is doable too.

          • Everyone I know who works in Kirkland has to live most of an hour’s drive away in traffic (fuck that). I’m not clear there are any more women there, either–or more accurately, there are plenty, but they’re already married and living with their husbands (I know multiple couples who married and near-concurrently moved to Bellevue.)

          • TPC says:

            That is weird. But the PNW is always weird, so that’s not surprising.

            I have an interesting option for you: Park City, Utah. Tons of unattached young women working for the families that live there. It is a ski type area. I don’t know how car-unfriendly it is. Utahns love to drive as entertainment, but Park City is where the ones who hire staff live, so they may do things differently.

            I sympathize really with your complicated plight. I can’t find guys for the single girls I know because they are all working in childcare or at bookstores or they wrangle livestock.

            Oh, Arizona! You can hire a driver very easily, that’s how everyone rolls if they don’t want to drive everywhere, and I think we can all agree there’s no shortage of women to date there. Plus a lot of culture stuff and plenty of outdoorsy activities.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            Utahns should love to drive as entertainment. The entire state is God’s toybox. Every corner is some new beauty.

            Or as I was constantly shouting to myself on my last big road trip “OH MY GOD! THIS IS THE ROAD!! IT’S NOT EVEN A PARK! WHAT IS THE NATIONAL PARK LIKE!”

          • Adam says:

            Utah truly is absurdly beautiful, the absolute best place in the United States to go for road trips if you enjoy those.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I currently live in the central valley of California and would offer it as an option if the dating scene were a bit more favorable. I’ve covered a lot of ground but southern Utah is one of my favorite places on the planet. Zion, St George, Cedar City. “Absurdly beautiful” is putting it mildly.

          • Loquat says:

            I’ll join in the praise for Utah’s scenery; my husband and I have been there 3 times so far and really enjoy it. My sister also seems to be doing ok living in Salt Lake City with no car – her apartment and job are both within reasonable walking distance of mass transit, and there seemed to be plenty of interesting restaurants, etc. I don’t know how the social scene is, though, as she’s only there temporarily and therefore isn’t seriously dating.

        • numbers says:

          Here is how to make friends in Seattle: go to meetup.com and sign up for a bunch of meetup groups. That will keep you with an active social life. When you meet someone cool, get their contact info. When you know enough cool people, start inviting them to your own events in your apartment.

          Almost nobody has invited me back to their place, so in that respect I suppose the Seattle Freeze is a real thing. But people seem pretty happy to visit and hang out at my place.

          • Uh…can you point to these meetup groups with actual interesting events?

            I’ve tried literally that. The only meetup groups that aren’t for some special interest I don’t have (polyamory, , marketing, etc) are the “singles” groups, which are 90% spam for shitty speed dating events for 40-year-olds and 10% invitations to rather dull events (no, I don’t want to drive to Everett to play softball).

          • meyerkev248 says:

            Don’t forget the “Meetup group for X, where we’ve been hardcore into X for the last 20 years, and are way better in shape/have better equipment than you”.

            Which can be fun, except that this tends to be the physical fitness groups, and “No, I physically can’t go on a 50-mile bike ride with you next weekend, I just got back on the bike for the first time in 3 months, and did 8 before falling off the bike”.

          • numbers says:

            I’m into board games and role-playing games; it sounds like you’re not into those, so my meetup links probably wouldn’t help you.

            There’s some good hiking, though.
            http://www.meetup.com/Seattle-Transit-Hikers/
            http://www.meetup.com/adventurers-96/

        • Anonymous says:

          Is it dating you want or must it be dating at trendy urban venues with trendy urban girls? Because if it be the former, then by trying to date at urban clubs, bars, and music venues you’re dating in hard mode, especially for a tech worker.

          We boring suburbanites just go where the women actually are: chain coffee shops, churches, yoga classes, community college classes, shopping malls, and so on. Given what appear to be your politics, the women you find in such places are more likely to be compatible with you anyway.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Except perhaps for churches, the women in all those places typically aren’t looking to date or interact with men they don’t know at all. (and “that creep who goes to the yoga class to hit on women” is a bit cliche, though perhaps he’s successful with the women who don’t complain about him). That would seem to make it harder.

    • hlynkacg says:

      It would help if we had a bit more of an idea of what you’re looking for.

      What’s your budget, what sort of work are you seeking, what activities do you enjoy, etc…

      • Budget – I’m not sure what to say here without revealing more of my finances than is considered polite (or prudent for that matter.) Suffice to say: I own a (mortgaged, but still) home in the middle of Seattle, pay my mortgage without coming close to stretching my income to do so, and have 5-10 years of expenses in savings. I would put it as: I can live on a normal person’s budget anywhere in the US without worrying much about it. If I need to have more than the typical resident’s money to have a decent lifestyle (i.e. not bother commuting to the only place to work an hour away), I can do that many places but certainly not SF or the like.

        Work: my lowest baseline is remote/consulting work, or (if I’m somewhere cheap enough, I couldn’t do it everywhere) semi-retiring in the Mr. Money Mustache way. If there are good high tech jobs, that’d be nice, but not essential. Put together with the budget entry, my point (such as it is) is that I’m not picking a location based on available jobs (other than possibly for international destinations where I’d need a visa sponsor.)

        Activities I enjoy: uh…brazillian jiu-jitsu? Cocktail bars? Good food (both cooking and eating?) Skiing? Hiking? Dogs? A local theater scene would be nice but that’s a bit of a stretch to expect, and I am happy to compromise there.

        It’s not an “activity”, per se, but my #1 thing is “can have a reasonable dating and social life.” I need a large population of people who will want to be friendly with me, and for enough of those people to be women that I don’t have to beat out 50 other guys for every possible single girl.

        Hope that helps.

        • Adam says:

          Sounds like maybe Denver would be good? Try visiting a few places. It seems like the most limiting thing is the transit requirements. I’d personally never even try to visit a place without renting a car other than New York.

          • To be clear, I *own* a car and don’t object to having one be important. I just want to be able to get through my day to day without having to commute through traffic to get anywhere I want to go–i.e. live within reasonable distance of the *common* things (food, drinks, some sort of social engagement.) If I need the car to get to the occasional concert or event, that’s totally reasonable.

            I suppose what I hate more than anything isn’t cars, it’s *traffic* (and the need to be in it.) Seattle wasn’t so bad when I could get anywhere in 20 minutes. Now, it takes nearly an hour because I have to cross the Mercer Mess (a “commuting” traffic jam that shuts down a line bisecting the city from 8 am to 7 pm.)

          • Adam says:

            Well, I live downtown and can easily get to just about anything I might want to on a regular basis without having to drive or certainly without having to drive far. Work is the only place I drive to on a regular basis and it’s only about 20 minutes to get just outside the city, but I’m a morning person and I like to work about a 5:30 – 3:30 most days, so I intentionally avoid rush hours. Anything here or Deep Ellum I just walk to, if it’s out of neighborhood Uber has me in there in 10 minutes. Dallas actually is surprisingly small in the city proper. It’s just the suburbs that are frickin’ huge.

            Edit: Note that I’m posting on a Monday morning at 2 AM Central Time because I’m recovering from back surgery and not working, in case you’re wondering how on earth I’m going to manage to go to work in three hours.

        • Xeno of Citium says:

          Boston is worth thinking about, or one of the “suburbs” in the metro area that are actually more urban than 95% of the US. It has a lot of things you like:

          1) Loads of tech jobs. I speak from experience that the market for engineers is nuts here and very much on the side of the employee. If you’re a good engineer, or even an okay engineer, there will be a job for you. It’s not only programmers, companies here need tech people from every stripe. Tech people are respected, or at least as respected as everyone else in Boston.
          2) The politics are super liberal, but politics aren’t a big part of public life. No one has ever brought up politics to me that I haven’t know for a while, and people are mostly fine disagreeing over politics. YMMV, I know of a few workplaces where politics are banned to keep the peace. Also, the liberalism up here is a lot more hard-edged and practical than what I hear coming out of the West Coast. There’s a lot less real-life Twitter mobs and a lot more socialized medicine.
          3) Food’s fantastic, especially for a city of it’s size (maybe 1.5m in the metro area). Seafood is fantastic and cheap, the beer is amazing and there’s loads of breweries in the area and in the adjoining states, and there are so many bars. The drinking scene is more about beer than cocktails, but if you want a trendy cocktail bar you can certainly find it.
          4) Loads of theaters, and a big theater scene. I’m not too in to this, but there’s everything from community theater to an off-Broadway-but-not-by-much group of professional theaters.
          5) Hiking is good in the area if you’re willing to drive about an hour to get there, maybe 90 minutes if you want a larger range. No hiking in the city proper, obviously, unless you counting walking around the city parks.
          6) Good gender balance. New college grads from all over the region end up in Boston, which means a constant influx of young, well educated women (and men). .
          7) People are reasonably sociable. It’s a big city, people don’t come up to you and talk to you on the street, but you can have a conversation waiting at the bus or at a restaurant or bar with a stranger and not be weird. I’d say Boston people are a little reserved outwardly, but generally good once you get to know there. There’s also structured activities for pretty much everything, in every range of skill – if you’re into anything sporty, you can find a team/group/cabal to run or bike or play sports even if you’re hadcore or not good at it. If you like art, music, etc., there’s tons of that and a lot of it is free (put on by universities) or cheap.
          8) There’s a lot of dogs, since you mentioned you liked that. For some reason, bike paths seem to be ground zero for people walking their dogs, I guess because they tend have a lot of trees and they’re free of cars.
          9) As much as Boston people complain about the MBTA, the public transit is great. You can get almost anywhere you want using the subway, commuter rail, and buses. It’s not top notch like London or New York, but from what I’ve heard public transit in much of the West Coast is dire so it should be an improvement.

          Downsides:
          1) Weather sucks. It’s too cold in winter and too hot in summer. When it’s nice, it’s *really* nice, but no one lives there for the weather. People mostly tough it out.
          2) Rent is expensive. The cost of living in general is fine – food and utilities are pretty cheap – but rent can be brutal. It doesn’t sound like a problem for you, but you should be warned.
          3) It’s not very big. Might not be a downside, but Boston isn’t LA or New York. It doesn’t even have a million people in Boston proper.
          4) Getting around by car is misery wrapped in agony and served with a sadness sauce. Don’t drive if you can help it.

    • numbers says:

      Here is a data point. I left Mountain View California for Seattle four years ago. I did not like Mountain View at all — nothing to do there, it’s a giant suburb. I like Seattle much better except for the gender ratio.

      I’m trying to move to New York City. I’m expecting it will be even better in terms of having good public transit and lots of things to do. I guess the weather and the rent will be worse.

      • numbers says:

        I noticed this post in my social stream a few weeks ago, arguing that Minneapolis is pretty good: high-density, low-rent, good public transit. It’s been sitting in the back of my mind for a while now.

        • Huh! I have some sort of idea in the back of my head that Minny would be awful, but I don’t know why. That does make it sound attractive. Good thought, thanks!

          (I have no idea about the demographics, of course.)

          • Loquat says:

            My husband really enjoyed Minneapolis when his job sent him there for 4 months a couple years back – his only objections were the flat terrain and terrible winter weather.

            You might also find this link helpful, though they claim Minneapolis has a slightly high single-male-to-female ratio. 1.02 to 1 shouldn’t be too bad, though, especially if you’ll be on the high side of the male income distribution.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        From http://www.newgeography.com/content/005255-new-yorks-incredible-subway:

        Today, the satellite neighborhoods populated by the new people are dispersed all over the outer boroughs. Subway transit between most of them is not feasible. The lines don’t run that way, and riding from one satellite to the center and then out to another satellite can take well over an hour. Cab service is also less feasible trips from one satellite to another.

        So the new urbanites who move to the satellite neighborhoods find that their accessible options are limited to their own neighborhoods, unaffordable Manhattan, and other neighborhoods on the same subway line. The mega-city is not available to them. Much of the the neat stuff they’ve heard about, and many of their friends, are located in some other satellite neighborhood that takes an hour and a half (or more) to get to by subway, and another hour and a half (or more) to get home from. Consider that the round-trip work commute from the newer, remoter, satellites can easily add up to two hours. On work days, then, there isn’t much time left to enjoy the mega-city. (And, as always, forget about travelling to do something outside the city.)

        And I think this is the main complaint right now with say… SF, or LA, or Boston, or…

        Yes, [CITY] is a cool place. Unfortunately, if the cultural work norms are that everyone works until 6:30, and I then have an hour commute to get to “The fun place where the concerts and restaurants are”, and then another hour-plus commute after the concert’s done, then I don’t actually make it to the concerts and restaurants and stuff.

        Or I throw every penny I have at living and working downtown. Which means I now have no money to afford the admission fee for the Met.

        Mind you, NYC at least puts the jobs and the “cool stuff” in the same place, which solves the Silicon Valley-specific problem of how to work at Google in Mountain View AND be up at the Filmore at 7:00 for the Blind Guardian concert without pissing off your boss, but it then doesn’t solve the problem of “Ok, the concert gets out at 11:30, I’m an hour from home, I need to be at work at 8:30 which means getting up at 7:00, so I can’t get a good night’s sleep tonight”.

        /Having lived for 3 years in Mountain View, I can confirm the “Oh my god, there’s nothing” complaint. And it’s far enough from SF that it took me years to start doing day trips up.
        //And then I moved to B-name, a “mere” hour and a half in actual practice from the venues in SF (Rush hour sucks), and made it up to SF more in the first 2 months than I made it in my first 2 years.

        • Chalid says:

          I think from what he’s said about his income, he could live much closer than an hour from midtown.

        • Manhattan Über Alles says:

          The thing about subway service between the outer boroughs would be an issue if anyone wanted to spend time in the outer boroughs. Luckily that isn’t the case and 90% of the interesting stuff going on in the city is in Manhattan anyway.

          The more relevant issue with New York is that it has a similar reputation to Seattle in terms of “everyone being rude assholes,” with the added benefit that everyone is perpetually very busy.

          That said, you can absolutely get a girlfriend. At the moment I have two here (not poly, they’re just from different boroughs) and still meeting interesting girls.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            “(not poly, they’re just from different boroughs)”

            That’s not exactly helping your point here.

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you considered one of the two other countries?

      • I don’t know what you mean, sorry. (I am open to international destinations, sure? I don’t know where would be good, though, and I don’t speak any useful foreign languages, which is a bit of a problem.)

        • Anonymous says:

          China or Russia is what I meant.

          • Aapje says:

            That is a weird advice, why not Europe instead? English works a lot better in Western Europe and the human rights are a lot better.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            Europe is possibly worth considering… Northern England or Scotland seem to tick most boxes I’ve managed to understand and retain (affordable housing not in the sticks, friendly people, stuff happening in the major cities) but I have no idea about dating, really not my best subject. Whether you wish to go to the UK given our current political situation is another matter, but my feeling is that it’ll be more of an economic problem for technical folk than a social one. Might be worth visiting a few places to get a feel for them. If you want to ask questions, I’m in Glasgow and familiar with Oxford if your budget will stretch to that (London too, but that’s way expensive – no chance of a house, nevermind a garden!).

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            People recommending Russia are being evil, important to say this explicitly.

    • Jake says:

      Well, what about NYC? It’s very transit-friendly, is the cultural capital of the world, skews heavily female, and while it’s certainly liberal the Hated Demons are finance guys, not tech guys.

      The main count against it would be your desire for a house with a yard, but that’s doable in Queens or Jersey (albeit at the cost of being a less appealing mate, though for serious dating rather than hooking up it’s less of a problem). There also are a surprising number of Manhattan buildings with small yards, though they’re not private.

      • Chalid says:

        Agreed with this. If “multifamily house/apartment building with private shared yard” works for OP then there are lots of options in the city or very nearby.

      • Zvi Mowshowitz says:

        I live in NYC and would love to steal a SF-refugee for once, but I do think NYC works for you and would echo Jake. The female skew here is large. I’d also point out that, if you’ve been working for Google for several years, a place with a yard won’t be a problem even in NYC.

        It’s certainly the “premium” option, but you’d still be within your means given your job, and you *do* get what you pay for.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      How about Sydney, Australia? Google has an office there – maybe it’s possible to get a transfer. It fits your criteria pretty well except that it’s very expensive to get a house in a sufficiently inner location that you don’t need a car.

    • Universal Set says:

      Consider Madison, Wisconsin. Cultural options are not as high quality as a large city, but they exist, and it seems to fit other requirements (I lived without a car for several years there). There are places within 2 walkable miles of downtown where there are decent houses with yards, as well as nice bedroom communities maybe 5 miles out. The city has good public transit for its size and is bike-friendly. Like much of the midwest, the people are reasonably friendly. Cost of living is not super-low, but also not expensive by any means.

      Other medium-sized cities in the midwest may also fit most of your requirements (e.g. Fort Wayne, IN, which is near where I live now). Most are not quite as walkable/bike friendly as Madison, but still doable, I think. You’ll have to check to see if they meet your culture desires, though.

    • Lumifer says:

      New England? Greater Boston sounds like it would suit you fine.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think something’s gotta give, and it’s probably the house with the yard. Car-free logistics and a population of likely romantic partners both point to dense urban areas; if you have decent money you can get a townhouse anywhere except NYC/SF/Toronto, but a yard is much harder.

      • Untrue Neutral says:

        However, finding “friendly” people, little traffic and favorable demographics points AWAY from dense urban centers.

        Friendliness in particular is hard to quantify. Im not sure how related it is to a “strong sense of community”, which would point to smaller cities/suburbs and away from big urban centres.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Based on previous SSC comments, I take “friendly” to mean “willing to accept that he will indeed be looking for women to date”. Which, come to think of it, means I’ve slandered Philadelphia below; people are grumpy and rude, but not intolerant of people looking to date.

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            I would venture that Philadelphia is not in the “favorable demographics” zone, I could be wrong about what that means as well though

    • nona says:

      Let me second Minneapolis! Uptown or Northeast neighborhoods. Walkable. Bikeable (at least in summer). Lots of breweries, restaurants, bars, theaters, nice parks. Fairly cheap for a biggish city. A house with a yard in Uptown will cost <$500k.

      Cons: flat (so relatively poor skiing), not the best for single men, can be hard to make friends.

      • Psmith says:

        That’s a hell of an interesting map. I wonder why San Francisco and Seattle have such bad reputations despite apparently favorable, though not great, ratios of employed men to women. (All those unemployed musicians?)

        • Teal says:

          This is one of those things where the big picture data is really deceptive. To really see what’s going on you need to drill down into specific age ranges and then adjust for wealth and ethnicity.

          There is census track level data, so it can be done, but it takes a bunch of work and knowledge of the relevant city and it’s demographics.

        • Ruprect says:

          That’s an awful map.

          I’m wondering if we couldn’t form a feminist/disgruntled male/right on lefty/open borders alliance here, and just say open borders for women?

    • Ray System Pathee says:

      If you ever want a wife and kids, stay near extended family.

    • Nicholas says:

      Andrew, I’m aware that the internet makes it hard to read tone out of text, so please grant the charity that this is a sincere question:
      Have you ever lived in a geographic area that people did not Freeze you, and was your conduct at that time noticeably different than it is now, or the demographic of people you want to be friends with noticeably different? Because before you invest resources in relocating, it would be good to make certain that you are inadvertently encouraging this behavior. Otherwise the Freeze might follow you.

    • Steinn Sigurdsson says:

      Boulder, CO

    • beoShaffer says:

      Melbourne (Australia not the Florida one) fits most of these and routinely does well in livability rankings. There is a bit of a trade off between yard space and the ability to go car free, but that is true anywhere (yards have a causal impact on density) and Melbourne has enough parks even in dense areas to make yards less important.

  40. JRM says:

    Baltimore Police Report makes me angry in multiple ways.

    It’s incompetent.

    (Potential bias alerts: I am a prosecutor elsewhere. I dislike the race-baiting that runs against LE. I’m irritated at the coverage of what appears to be a necessary shooting in LA. The NAACP has a branch in our county, and the guy who runs it is a very good guy who cares about what is true and is an advocate for minority interests. Unsurprisingly, I respect him very much.)

    Back to this: It’s incompetent.

    Overall: Lots of anecdotes, which are needed to sell. But it’s unclear how much of this is one-off anecdotes and how much is legit.

    P.34-35: The report alleges that there were “thousands of arrests that reviewing officials declined to charge,” and proceeds to say that such arrests were wrongful. Well, nonsense. First of all, we don’t get the denominator. They give the number of uncharged arrests, but not the number of sustained arrests.

    Secondly, the standard is different. Cops can arrest on probable cause. DA’s want a case provable beyond a reasonable doubt. And sometimes there’s conflict there, or with what the DA wants. It’s ridiculous to critique without the denominator – that’s just grossly incompetent.

    Further, they note that 1,963 arrests were found by prosecutors to lack probable cause. OK, we still need the denominator. (A later part of the note puts it at safely over 300,000 arrests). Plus – while no doubt some of those arrests were ill-advised or even wrongful – we ought to take a look at the circumstances. There are “bad” arrests I’ve seen where I understand what happened. There are also just flat fumbles, when the cops don’t understand a legal nuance.

    P.27: “Over 20% of disorderly conduct charges were dismissed.” They’re talking about arrests that don’t lead to charges, technically. (I am not an expert on Maryland law, but I suspect some of the nomenclature used is incorrect in Maryland, too.) They say this is a sign that disorderly conduct charges brought are wrongful. In my jurisdiction, the percentage is higher. If you’re drunk and running in front of cars, you get arrested and prosecuted. If you’re really drunk and have no place to go, you get arrested. Maybe you don’t get prosecuted for this all the time. Some situations can be solved by arrest; discretionary prosecution of lawful and reasonable arrests is a thing.

    P.48: Blacks constitute 63% of Baltimore and 84% of enforcement stops, so, racism! You are bad at this, DOJ.

    P60-62: Blacks in Baltimore have more drug possession arrests than they do in other big cities, therefore BPD is bad. SERIOUSLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU DOJ. Is it not possible that drugs are more used in Baltimore? Are you not aware that blacks in different areas have different lives? Isn’t it possible that Baltimore sucks and that blacks in, say, San Diego, don’t have as high a drug use because San Diego blacks are better situated or better or whatever? And one of the low marks for drug possession arrests is Detroit. Are you saying BPD should lead Baltimore down Detroit’s path? How’s that worked out?

    P.63-64: There are racial disparities in police stops, so, racism. (But see below.)

    P.92: Officers nearly always give chase to civilians who flee from them without considering whether they are fleeing from a minor charge. News flash, guys: Sometimes the guy that flees from a drug hand-to-hand has a warrant for attempted murder. Maybe you want to chase the people who run. Plus, if you don’t chase people who run, it encourages running.

    P.122-123: The report has a back-and-forth between a prosecutor and a cop who disbelieve an alleged victim. Apparently, they aren’t supposed to disbelieve anyone, or something. They might have been more polite about it (I myself would never write “conniving little whore,”) but some alleged victims are lying scum. We want cops to reject the accounts of such people.

    Then there are the things that are conflicting:

    P. 29: During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a sergeant told an officer to “make something up” as a reason for a stop. In the same paragraph, they say a Facebook post about “clearing corners” shows police abuse. Clearing corners can be legal or illegal depending on how its done. Making things up for stops can’t be. Dear DOJ: There is a difference between the truth and a lie.

    P.41-42: The report criticizes BPD’s implementation of broken-windows policing – attacking every crime with zeal. This involved over-aggressive stop-and-frisk. I know the DOJ currently doesn’t like zero-tolerance policing, but to pack up bad stops with aggressive-but-legal policing seems mistaken to me.

    P.57: Trespassing and resisting charges are dismissed pre-prosecution charges at a 50%+ higher rate against blacks than others. There are some potential race-neutral explanations for this, but it does seem alarming.

    P.66: Statistics/arrest numbers drive the bus. More arrests is better! This sounds right – when you start ranking people on numbers that can be gamed, they will be gamed. OTOH, number-free analysis is usually terrible. So, I’m conflicted here.

    P. 66-67: There has been one complaint about officer use of racial slurs in six years. DOJ concludes that this is a problem with the complaint system, and I would agree, except they then list a bunch of formal complaints involving racial slurs. I mean, they’re not even trying here. The formal complaints are bad, but, cardiologists. They then go on to say that such complaints are misclassified, but that’s not the same as the impression they try to leave that such complaints are discouraged or unheard.

    P.102: The language seems spotty, but appears to say that internal reviews found one instance of excessive force in six years. If true (and it may that other triggers caused many more findings of excessive force, but the language seems deliberately difficult to parse), that’s awful. They say that people aren’t routinely interviewed in use of force issues, but it’s unclear even in the anecdotes what actually happened to necessitate an investigation. (Sometimes cops use Tasers, and it doesn’t need a lengthy investigation.) (P. 146 says there were 31 total sustained use of force investigations. This language is deliberately misleading by DOJ.)

    P.112: I explicitly choose not to address BPD’s transport policies, because given the unsuccessful prosecutions of a bunch of cops, I have both more to say (about technical issues) and less to say (than the media about those cases) about that.

    P.118-120: Denominator problem, but talks about issues with arrests of people chirping at the cops. Cop is arresting someone else and some dude is chirping at the scene may well be arrestable. Generally “Cops suck,” or the obscene equivalent is not arrestable.

    P.150: The department is resistant to fixing due to longstanding problems in enforcement against misconduct. On the one hand, this document by DOJ does not engender a hell of a lot of trust given its error rate. On the other, I believe this. NYC has 1/7 the murder rate it had at its peak; the reasons for that are myriad, but cleaning up the police department was a huge deal.

    Then there are the things that are horrifying:

    P.32: Public strip-searches. Given the rest of the report, I’m uncertain what the scope of the problem is. But public strip-searches are, uh, bad? I mean, this should be you’re-fired-go-home stuff. The report alleges it happens routinely. It does appear there’s good evidence it happened X (which is more than zero) times, which is (X-0) too many.

    P. 47: Bad, untrustworthy cops weren’t investigated, and it appears the list of bad cops started with the prosecutors rather than (as is usually the case) the cops. This is not good.

    P.53: Hit rate on finding contraband on blacks is over twice that of whites on vehicle stops. There’s potentially a Bayesian explanation for this, but we’re really trying to avoid that as a society.

    P.75: DOJ wanted to examine all gun use cases, and BPD said they couldn’t find documentation for 20 gun use cases by cops. Including one fatality. Dog ate my police reports. Oy.

    P.104: Report says that much use of force indicates officers described suspect as “resisting” with no further detail. That’s bad policework, at best. “Uncooperative,” is a term I’ve personally gotten removed from almost all reports in my jurisdiction (“assisted to the ground,” another terrible piece of coptalk, has also disappeared, due in large part to my input in police training; no one is trying to get to the ground and can’t make it. If you tackled the guy, you tackled the guy.)

    P.105-106: It’s an anecdote (boo!) but it’s a bad anecdote: Sergeant asks questions when two cops on scene have differing accounts of use of pepper spray; higher-ups nix it. This may sound like a relatively minor issue in the scheme of things (racism! racism! badness!) but it’s very bad when these things happen because it deters good behavior from police middle management.

    P.107-108: No investigation of police shootings by BPD until the State’s Attorney files a letter that there won’t be charges. There are usually delays given cops in these investigations (for unsupportable reasons) but here those delays are sometimes months. You need to interview the cops close in time to any discharge of their firearm. In California, they get a two-day (I think) waiting period and then they can do the administrative investigation. The cop can invoke her Miranda rights but still has to answer the questions for the administrative inquiry or get fired.

    P.124: They do rape kits, and then don’t analyze them. If you’re not going to analyze them, don’t do sexual assault exams, which are invasive.

    P.151: One officer got 125 complaints, some (number not revealed, because DOJ hates full disclosure) from internal BPD people, and got one of them sustained and is still on the job. Look, folks, cops get ridiculous complaints levied against them; it’s the nature of the business. I once prosecuted a DUI with an evil and somewhat mentally ill woman who alleged she had been raped by the cop. Her attorney told me he would zealously defend her against the DUI because that was his job, but he knew that the hell the cop went through in that investigation was entirely unwarranted because he hadn’t done anything wrong.

    P.153: Sergeant complains about bad policework. Someone puts signs on his desk to mind his own business and stop making trouble. Turns out to be a lieutenant, to whom exactly nothing happens. Oy. Oy. Oy.

    In short (and this wasn’t short), the BPD report is a hatchet job on the generally guilty.

    • Diadem says:

      I’m only at 1/3rd of your post, so I won’t comment on everything yet. You do seem to raise some interesting points, however:

      If you don’t want to come across as horribly racist, don’t refer to black people as ‘Blacks’.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The terms “blacks” and “whites” (whether capitalized or not) aren’t horribly racist. That’s just part of the treadmill of pejoration designed to make it difficult to talk about these things.

        • Diadem says:

          I don’t give a fuck about euphemism treadmills or what is or isn’t considered pejorative. I follow a much simpler principle. The principle of “don’t be an asshole”.

          If someone asks you not to call them a certain way, and you call them that anyway, you’re an asshole. That has nothing to do with racism or pejoratives or euphemisms of whatever. It’s just common courtesy.

          There are obviously limits of reasonableness on what people can ask to be called. If they insist on a term with 49 syllables then yeah, I’d ignore that too. And some people are pushing that boundary. Personally I think inclusive language is important, and typing ‘LGBT’ instead of ‘gay’ makes sense, but if people start insisting on ‘LGBTQIA*’ I get a bit annoyed as well.

          But typing “black people” instead of “blacks” is not a lot of extra effort. And the overwhelming majority of black people seem to strongly prefer it. So why not extend that courtesy? What possible reason could there be against it?

          • TheWorst says:

            I don’t give a fuck about euphemism treadmills or what is or isn’t considered pejorative.

            This is a strange thing to say while enforcing the euphemism treadmill.

            I don’t have a position here, but if you’re going to enforce the euphemism treadmill, own it. Creating euphemisms about the euphemism treadmill (euphemisms like renaming the euphemism treadmill “common courtesy”) seems like too many epicycles.

          • On The Internet, Nobody Knows You're A God says:

            And the overwhelming majority of black people seem to strongly prefer it.

            Cite?

            I know “my black friends” isn’t a well-regarded turn of phrase, but none of my friends nor my gf have ever expressed any sentiment like this. Blacks doesn’t really seem to raise eyebrows except among whites IME.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you don’t want to come across as horribly racist, don’t refer to black people as ‘Blacks’.

            followed promptly by,

            If someone asks you not to call them a certain way, and you call them that anyway, you’re an asshole.

            There are some choice words of my own I’m tempted to add here, but I think I’ll just let yours speak for themselves.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            If someone asks you not to call them a certain way, and you call them that anyway, you’re an asshole.

            If by this you mean things like gender term proliferation, I agree in practice but not in principle. I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to express to an actual person “your perceived identity is bullshit”, so I go along like most decent people.

            But I wish that not arguing new terms didn’t lead their proponents from using this “polite” acceptance as acceptance of the underlying rationale.

            Like when people generally stop using “the blacks” and start saying “black people” out of niceness, they tacitly endorse some cultural theory which very specifically describes “the blacks” as uniquely racist or demeaning. Then ten years down the road, someone says the wrong thing, and the now common habit of speech gets treated as “proof” that everyone has agreed this person is a terrible racist.

            To make matters worse, just by not pushing back on one conclusion of a social theory, you can be taken to be endorsing otherwise unrelated conclusions of the same theory.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If someone asks you not to call them a certain way, and you call them that anyway, you’re an asshole. That has nothing to do with racism or pejoratives or euphemisms of whatever. It’s just common courtesy.

            That’s not what your original message says. It implies that using the term “blacks” makes one come off, not just as an asshole, but “horribly racist”.

          • Diadem says:

            @ John Schelling: I have no idea what you are trying to say. You obviously meant your post as a rebuke, but I have no idea how.

            @ TheWorst

            This is a strange thing to say while enforcing the euphemism treadmill.

            Me not caring about the euphemism treadmill extends to me not caring about whether the thing I’m enforcing is a euphemism treadmill or not.

            I just think it’s common courtesy to call people what they want to be called, and not call them what they explicitly don’t want to be called. Why they want that is not important. Nor is my personal opinion on the matter.

            There are obvious caveats. I have a limited amount of mental capacity, if terms become too complicated, too detailed or changes too often I can’t keep track. The term you are requesting for yourself also shouldn’t be offensive to other groups. I also refuse to feel bad over occasional mistakes or slip-ups. And if I don’t respect a group (say, neo-nazis) I’m not going to care about what they want to be called either.

            But as a general principle it seems pretty sound to me.

          • Diadem says:

            @ The Nybbler

            That’s not what your original message says. It implies that using the term “blacks” makes one come off, not just as an asshole, but “horribly racist”.

            Is there such a large distance between those two?

            What other reason can there be for wanting to be an asshole against an entire race, except racism? I mean if we assume the usage is deliberate, I don’t see many other explanations.

            To be clear, I don’t think the usage was deliberate. It seems to me to be an entirely innocent mistake. That’s why I didn’t say “you are racist because you say X” but rather “you shouldn’t say X, because it makes you look racist”. The unspoken assumption being that JRM is not racist, and does not want to appear racist either.

          • Ray System Pathee says:

            Maybe cussing at a person and calling him racist for using a word you don’t think he should use is the most effective way to get him to see your point and take your ideas seriously.

            Or is there another way?

          • TheWorst says:

            Me not caring about the euphemism treadmill extends to me not caring about whether the thing I’m enforcing is a euphemism treadmill or not.

            My point was that:
            1. People who actually don’t care about the euphemism treadmill do not put effort into enforcing the euphemism treadmill.
            2. You are putting effort into enforcing the euphemism treadmill.
            3. From this, we can conclude that either you’re lying about not caring about the euphemism treadmill, or just really enjoy yelling “racism” at strangers on the internet who aren’t being racist.

            In either case, it seemed worth pointing out. Apologies for apparently being too subtle about it.

            On the (very slim) chance that you’re in earnest: Being an asshole is never, ever going to reduce the amount of assholery in your environment.

            If you think there are too many assholes around, the solution is never to add one more.

          • Diadem says:

            My point was that:
            1. People who actually don’t care about the euphemism treadmill do not put effort into enforcing the euphemism treadmill.
            2. You are putting effort into enforcing the euphemism treadmill.
            3. From this, we can conclude that either you’re lying about not caring about the euphemism treadmill, or just really enjoy yelling “racism” at strangers on the internet who aren’t being racist.

            This is bad logic.

            I put effort into exhaling carbon dioxide. That doesn’t mean I care about the amount of carbon dioxide I exhale. I care about the amount of oxygen I inhale. Carbon dioxide exhalation is just a side effect.

            Similarly, I care about naming groups how they want to be named. If a side effect of that care is a euphemism treadmill, so be it. I don’t care about that, it’s just a side effect.

            On the (very slim) chance that you’re in earnest: Being an asshole is never, ever going to reduce the amount of assholery in your environment.

            You’ve lost me here. As far as I can tell, that statement is false, but worse, I seems irrelevant. What’s that got to do with anything?

            Are you implying I’m an asshole for telling JRM “Hey, be careful, that phrasing may come across wrong”? Because that’s a strange accusation.

          • TheWorst says:

            This is bad logic.

            For the sake of niceness, let’s pretend I believe you. This is the last time I’ll be able to do this, but anyway: If your second post was not false, what was the motivation for your first post?

            People who do not care about enforcing the euphemism treadmill do not screech “How DARE you not keep up with the euphemism treadmill!!!!” at other people. To so screech and then to deny having the only plausible motive for so screeching is insulting to the reader.

            You’ve lost me here.

            I highly doubt that.

            As far as I can tell, that statement is false…

            I don’t believe you. Given that you can read, it seems extremely unlikely that you don’t understand that increasing a number does not decrease it.

            Are you implying I’m an asshole for telling JRM… [mischaracterization omitted]

            I didn’t intend to imply that you’re an asshole for being an asshole to JRM. I thought I was stating it. My mistake.

          • Randy M says:

            I think Diadem means “I don’t care about the euphemism treadmill” to be something like “I don’t care about making people change terms as an otherwise pointless show of power,” and TheWorst hears it as “I don’t care about chastising people to use the current most sensitive term for particular groups of people,” which he sees as contradicting the chastisement for not using the current most sensitive term.

          • TheWorst says:

            @RandyM:

            Not quite. Diadem just went out of his/her way to enforce the euphemism treadmill, and did so especially viciously (and transparently because Diadem thought there was blood in the water and it was a good time to engage in social predation using the euphemism treadmill as a pretext).

            Then Diadem claimed not to care about the euphemism treadmill. Like a cop who shoots a black person and claims it was a punishment for breaking the law, and then claims not to care about the law.

            If you choose to enforce a rule–with the maximum available brutality, no less–it’s too late to claim you don’t care about the rule. That ship sailed.

          • Publius Varinius says:

            I follow a much simpler principle. The principle of “don’t be an asshole”.

            Really? It’s not working out.

            Let me repeat what has been said, in more detail. The phrase “blacks” is not an insult and there is no push for using the phrase “black people” instead. In fact, (black and non-black) authors in the media use the former phrasing all the time.

            Here’s what happened: you tried to associate someone with racism by making up some problem, and when @The Nybbler pointed out the facts, you sneakily called him an asshole. That’s some seriously questionable behavior on your part.

          • Randy M says:

            If you choose to enforce a rule–with the maximum available brutality, no less–it’s too late to claim you don’t care about the rule.

            I hate to wrongly put words in people’s mouths, but I’ll risk it just once more–Diadem may well agree with this, and then say that the rule he is enforcing has nothing to do with “euphemism treadmills”, merely with simple decency.

            In other words, he objects to the term, or certain connotations it contains, and you think his behavior is exactly what the term was invented to highlight.

            Echoes of prior discussions about definitions of political labels, I think.

          • Ray System Pathee says:

            Is there a catalog somewhere of the various PC terms for black people going back through the past century? (Retracing the path of the euphemism treadmill, I suppose.)

            Before black it was African American. (At some point there was a kerfuffle about whether it should be hyphenated, as I recall.) Before that it was Afro-American, and before that Negro, and before that…?

            I personally like Negro. It’s linguistically sound, it’s soft on the ear, it even has a pleasant touch of exoticism. I recall a funny conversation with my (black) wife about it once. We agreed that Negro would be nice to bring back, but she didn’t want to be referred to as a negress. I said intelligent grownups ought to be able to amicably disagree on that, though: I like having negress, Jewess, etc. We never settled that point.

          • brad says:

            Of those — black, African American, African-American, Afro-American, and Negro — only the last is offensive IME and per Merriam Webster (actually re: Negro they say “sometimes offensive”). I don’t think this is a good example of the euphemism treadmill.

            As for “Blacks” it sounds mildly off / awkward to my ear, sort of like “males”, but I certainly wouldn’t say it makes him sound horribly racist.

          • TheWorst says:

            I hate to wrongly put words in people’s mouths, but I’ll risk it just once more–Diadem may well agree with this, and then say that the rule he is enforcing has nothing to do with “euphemism treadmills”, merely with simple decency.

            I’m aware that he–like many people who practice pointless viciousness in order to support the euphemism treadmill–probably uses a euphemism like that to describe the euphemism treadmill itself. But so what?

            I think it is self-evident that Diadem has nothing to do with “simple decency,” however, since adherents of decency (simple or otherwise) do not attempt to make low-effort, high-damage attacks on innocent people whenever they think they smell weakness.*

            It seems like you’re going in a different direction with this, but I confess that the question of whether a given literally-card-carrying member of a given group considers himself a member is uninteresting to me.

            *Yes, I’m aware that Diadem is attempting to walk it back, after doubling down on it. This is of a piece with attempting to enforce the euphemism treadmill and then falsely claiming not to care about it.

            Edit to add: It’s possible that I’m biased, as I very strongly dislike when someone makes an exceptionally high-effort and high-substance comment–the kind that makes this place a pleasure to read–and some asshole decides to shit all over it with a zero-effort, zero-substance, extremely offensive drive-by.

            Especially when the asshole in question admits “I only read your post until I could find some way to make a zero-substance attack on you.”

            Disgusting.

          • Randy M says:

            But so what?

            So nothing. I was just pointing out the obvious because it seemed like a discussion going ’round in circles.

          • Diadem says:

            @ Publius Varinius

            Really? It’s not working out.

            Here’s what happened: you tried to associate someone with racism by making up some problem, and when @The Nybbler pointed out the facts, you sneakily called him an asshole. That’s some seriously questionable behavior on your part.

            After reading back my first post I see where you get that interpretation from. It certainly wasn’t my intention, but I admit my post was badly phrased, and if I offended anyone I apologize. I’ve posted a clarification.

            Your reading of my second post seems rather far-fetched though. My point about “don’t be an asshole” was clearly a general principle, not aimed specifically at The Nybbler (or anyone else). I mean he wasn’t even involved in the argument earlier, so how could it be?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My grammar fails me, but it seems to me that “blacks” is offensive when it’s used in a manner that “whites” wouldn’t be. The reason it’s then offensive is that becomes a means of “othering”.

            That’s not so much a euphemism treadmill as recognizing a way in which language is not being used equally.

          • TheWorst says:

            @HBC: Are you asserting that the terms “blacks” and “whites” were used differently?

          • Diadem says:

            @TheWorst: You clearly seem to be arguing in bad faith, but I guess I’ll give it one more shot before I start ignoring you. Mostly for the benefit of everybody else, but who knows, maybe I’m misinterpreting you. One can hope.

            People who do not care about enforcing the euphemism treadmill do not screech “How DARE you not keep up with the euphemism treadmill!!!!” at other people. To so screech and then to deny having the only plausible motive for so screeching is insulting to the reader.

            I thought my example about oxygen and carbon dioxide was quite clear, but I’ll try again.

            You seem to think that I want there to be an euphemism threadmill. That’s not true. I don’t care about whether there exists an euphemism treadmill or not. I care about calling groups by the names they want to be called by. That is the guiding principle. If that leads to an euphemism treadmill, that’s fine with me. If that does not lead to a euphemism treadmill, that’s also fine by me. I’m fine with either possibility.

            You seem to be confusing the goal with the side effect. The goal is to be respectful to other people by respecting their wishes about how to call them. If a side effect of that is having to occasionally change terminology, that’s fine with me. I don’t care.

            I don’t know how to phrase this more clearly.

            Not quite. Diadem just went out of his/her way to enforce the euphemism treadmill, and did so especially viciously

            If you choose to enforce a rule–with the maximum available brutality, no less–it’s too late to claim you don’t care about the rule. That ship sailed.

            Dude, cut out the hyperbole. It’s extremely annoying.

            There was absolutely nothing vicious or brutal in what I said. It was meant as friendly advice. I admit the phrasing was too blunt, and I see how it can come across as more hostile then I intended, but your hyperbole is ridiculous.

            Edit to add: It’s possible that I’m biased, as I very strongly dislike when someone makes an exceptionally high-effort and high-substance comment–the kind that makes this place a pleasure to read–and some asshole decides to shit all over it with a zero-effort, zero-substance, extremely offensive drive-by.

            Hate to say it, but you’re biased to an absurd degree. You really need to calm down and do a reality check.

            JRM’s post was interesting. I said as much in my post, and announced that I’d be responding in more detail later, which I did. Separating remarks about content and tone is just good practice, as it makes the flow of the conversation easier to follow.

            And despite all your sounds and fury, and your endless stream of insults at me, you still haven’t raised a single objection to the content of my original post. Why do you think it is ok to refer to groups by terms that are widely considered offensive by members of that group? Please address that point.

            And let’s be very clear here. You’re not objecting to the specific case of calling black people ‘blacks’ but to the general principle of changing your terminology for groups based on the wishes of that group. None of your posts have been about this specific term, all of them have been railing about the very concept of calling people what they want to be called.

          • Nornagest says:

            the n-word […] is the original term for black people, and all other terms are clearly instances of the euphemism treadmill at work.

            No, it’s not. The original term for black people in American English is “black”, or its Spanish equivalent “negro”. The best-known slur was coined from the latter by the same process that produced e.g. “Polish”->”Polack”.

          • Diadem says:

            Thanks for the correction Nornagest.

            Sadly though that just further distracts from the point trying to make. I’ll edit my post to remove the passage.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nornagest

            “Polack” is simply from the Polish word for “Polish”; it’s not a corruption of it.

          • For what it’s worth, I habitually use “black people” and “white people” because I want to underline that there’s more to people than their race.

            I think of this as an idiosyncracy (probably a result of an early imprint on General Semantics). I haven’t seen “blacks” taken as an indication of racism.

          • “The goal is to be respectful to other people by respecting their wishes about how to call them.”

            How do you find out what a large number of strangers wish to be called? In this particular case, what is your reason to believe that most African Americans strongly prefer “black people” to “blacks”?

            As it happens, shortly before I read your comment I put up a blog post in which I referred both to a “black man” and a group of “blacks,” in both cases in a positive context. It hadn’t occurred to me that one version was good and one bad, and I have no reason, other than your claim, to believe it is true, although it might be.

          • TheWorst says:

            @Diadem: This is the last time I’ll address you directly, as it’s pretty clear it’s not a good use of time. Unlike calling other people’s attention to what you’re doing, which is unfortunately necessary.

            And let’s be very clear here. You’re not objecting to the specific case of calling black people ‘blacks’ but to the general principle of changing your terminology for groups based on the wishes of that group.

            Let’s be very clear here: You are lying. Earlier in this same post, you said:

            …you still haven’t raised a single objection to the content of my original post.

            Five seconds after saying this, you’re accusing me of objecting to the “content” of your post. If you’re wondering why I think you’re a liar, it’s because you are transparently lying.

            Let’s be more clear: I am objecting to your openly-acknowledged policy of only reading for the purpose of finding opportunities to make zero-effort attacks on more worthwhile posters. You are making a zero-effort attack on me, now, after I objected to your making zero-effort attacks on someone else.

            You should stop doing that. Since you won’t (by your own admission, making zero-effort, zero-content attacks on more-valuable posters is your only purpose here) you should be banned. Failing that, it needs to be made clear that you’re not fooling anyone.

          • I find that “Jewess” makes my skin crawl, though I’m not sure why. I think that I was introduced to the word in Ivanhoe, and Walter Scott seems to like Rebecca.

            “Negress” also makes my skin crawl, though to a lesser extent.

          • Fahundo says:

            Why do you think it is ok to refer to groups by terms that are widely considered offensive by members of that group? Please address that point.

            I might be reading the room wrong here, but I think the reason people are upset is because they don’t believe this is a case of a term being widely considered offensive by a particular group. This looks an awful lot like you unilaterally deciding that a term is offensive, on behalf of a group of people, and then attempting to police language accordingly.

            And let’s be very clear here. You’re not objecting to the specific case of calling black people ‘blacks’ but to the general principle of changing your terminology for groups based on the wishes of that group.

            If I believe that in this particular case the term isn’t offensive to the group at large, and is really only seen as offensive by you, then (probably unfairly) I’m going to assume that this is the case in the general principle that you’re referring to as well.

          • Lysenko says:

            Since my admittedly unscientific straw poll with a sample size of 2 (black co-workers I happened to be on shift with while reading this thread on my break) came back with results that basically boiled down to “Um, I guess maybe, it depends on context” as the answer to whether “blacks” was offensive relative to “black people”, and then “Ehhh, no, not in -that- context” when I showed them the original comment, I have to ask for a citation on “overwhelming majority of black people seem to strongly prefer it”.

            A sample of “two nearest black ladies I work with and could ask right then” isn’t great, but it’s got double the depth of ” one person on the internet”.

      • Diadem says:

        It’s been brought to my attention that some people interpreted this comment as an attack on JRM. Reading back I am forced to agree that the phrasing is suboptimal.

        So to clarify: This was not in any way meant as an attack or accusation. It was meant as friendly advice: Be careful with that term because many people consider it offensive / racist, which does not seem to be your intention.

        • Ray System Pathee says:

          If you’re able to read it, understand how it was intended, and not be offended, why do you think other people wouldn’t? Are those people stupider or less rational than you? If so, does walking on eggshells around them improve things?

          I’m not trying to be combative here, I’m just trying to get at the crux of why we’re even having this discussion about the use of the term “blacks”.

        • TheWorst says:

          After clarifying that yes, you did very much intend it as a pointlessly vicious attack on someone who you thought had momentarily displayed a vulnerability to same, it is too late to claim that you didn’t mean it that way.

          • “a pointlessly vicious attack on someone who you thought had momentarily displayed a vulnerability to same”

            Not how I read it.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if Diadem’s factual claim is false, reflecting an imaginary problem used by some people to attack others, and I thought that, true or false, the comment reflected an unreasonable concern with trivial issues. But it did not come across as a “vicious attack.”

          • TheWorst says:

            Did you see his first two comments? In the first, he admitted that he only read the previous high-content comment until he found something that looked like an opportunity for a zero-effort attack, and attacked.

            In his second comment, he clarified that yes, it was an attack–“you’re an asshole” sounds a lot like an attack, doesn’t it?–and disclaimed all possible motives other than pure malice.

            He admitted he didn’t even read the whole post. That seems like the end of any possible assumption of good faith. Perhaps it’s a personal failing, but I’m only able to extend the benefit of the doubt when there is room for doubt.

      • Jill says:

        I am amazed at how long this discussion is. I guess when someone here appears to someone else to be asking them to be more politically correct in their terminology– that must hit a big painful nerve. Because I can’t imagine that there is really that much to say about this issue.

        I know that a lot of people on this board are interested in trying to be rational. But we humans are quite emotional. And it appears to me that sometimes you can measure the emotional distress involved in a topic by counting the number of posts that say very similar things.

        • TheWorst says:

          I’ll own it. I too feel very emotional about profoundly vicious people skimming high-content posts just to try to find a way to inflict harm with zero-effort posts.

          Those people need to be shamed out of public spaces, because that’s the only way to have tolerable public spaces. When you have a walled garden, it’s not a good idea to let in the people whose only interest is in finding things they can set on fire.

          • Ruprect says:

            I dunno – are there still people who take accusations (or warnings) of racism (like that) seriously?

            It’s hard to set things on fire when your matches… etc etc… continue analogy.

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            I appreciate what you did even if I’m unsure Diadem’s comment warranted quite this level of inquisition. Long and detailed posts deserve serious responses. At best Diadem is nitpicking, at worst your characterization is accurate

          • TheWorst says:

            I dunno – are there still people who take accusations (or warnings) of racism (like that) seriously?

            Yes, despite people like Diadem seeing it purely as a means of hurting whoever seems vulnerable. The fact that it only hurts people who are unusually committed to anti-racism is part of why fewer people take it seriously; people like Diadem are a very strong argument that accusations of racism shouldn’t be.

            That they very obviously harm the cause they’re pretending to support seems like strong evidence that they don’t actually give a shit, and are just using it as an excuse to try to hurt people.

            Use of weapons that can only hurt people on your own team is a big red flag for people who need to be kicked off the team immediately. No good person sees someone like Diadem as an ally, so I’d rather Diadem-types didn’t pretend they were on my side.

          • Ruprect says:

            So… it’s not as much that he has set fire to the garden, as he has used up all the water in the fire extinguishers?

          • TheWorst says:

            By trying to use the spray to uproot the plants, exploit cracks in the walls, and ruin everyone’s food.

            It’s like someone who calls 911 five times an hour… to accuse random unarmed black men of making threats with a gun.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Shaming people out of public spaces isn’t a tactic I’m comfortable with. But calling them on their BS, that I’m fondly in favor of. Statements like that, unchallenged, have a way of becoming norms, and ones window of discourse is narrowed.

          • TheWorst says:

            While I’d normally agree, I think statements like that become norms whether or not they’re challenged, provided that the person doing it stays around. Being targeted by that kind of attack tends, if they’ve successfully targeted someone vulnerable, to be a strong deterrent to posting…

            The people who punish high-content posts need to go away. High-content posts are a thing we want.

            When someone comes into your garden with no goals other than to look for opportunities to burn it down, they’re forcing you to choose between keeping them and keeping the garden. Choose the garden.

          • I asked about “black” vs. “black people” on Steve Barnes’ facebook page.

            He’s black, and so are a good many of his regular commenters. He doesn’t see a problem with “blacks”. The only person who has seen a problem is Thorn Coyle, who is white.

        • John Schilling says:

          I guess when someone here appears to someone else to be asking them to be more politically correct in their terminology– that must hit a big painful nerve.

          Asking someone to be more politically correct in their terminology, and calling them “horribly racist”, gets one polite response. Calling them an asshole for their politely disagreeing with being called a racist, yes, that hits a nerve.

          This is the sort of behavior that brought the very concept of “political correctness” into such disrepute that most people on the left like to pretend it was never their idea in the first place.

        • Virbie says:

          > I know that a lot of people on this board are interested in trying to be rational. But we humans are quite emotional. And it appears to me that sometimes you can measure the emotional distress involved in a topic by counting the number of posts that say very similar things.

          I don’t consider myself that intimately familiar with rationalism and its “diaspora” (SSC is basically my first and only exposure to it), but knowing the definitions of pretty basic English words makes me wonder why you think being rational precludes being emotional. Do you somehow think that feeling emotion is the same thing as being irrational due to emotion?

          As somebody mentioned in another part of the thread, they don’t like to see high-effort/quality posts sniped by low-effort/quality posts, as it brings down the quality of the board overall. That seems like a fairly reasonable (dare I say rational) reason to be annoyed.

          If you stop pretending you’ve discovered a community full of inscrutable aliens with strange customs and start treating other commenters like people who happen to disagree with you, you might stop being so befuddled all the time.

          • “makes me wonder why you think being rational precludes being emotional.”

            It seems to be a pretty common attitude.

            When my daughter was in the early stages of being born, I got into a conversation with the nurse on the history of contraception, in particular a passage in Casanova’s memoirs, a work I’m pretty familiar with. When the baby made her appearance, I responded in the natural fashion, cuddling her and telling her what a beautiful baby she was. The nurse apparently (from later conversation with my wife) thought there was something inconsistent in my behavior.

        • eh says:

          Apart from anything else, if experts got called racist arseholes in the first reply every time they commented here, we would soon run out of experts. This holds true even if they are actually saying something racist, but especially if they are not.

    • TheWorst says:

      Thanks for posting this.

      The paragraph about p.151 seems like it might be missing a sentence at the end. What’s the significance of having such a (presumably large?) number of complaints, and/or from a given percentage from internal people?

      • JRM says:

        I have never heard or seen of a cop with 125 complaints against them. That’s an impossible number, even in an urban setting. I’d like to know how many were internal, but normally (and properly) internal complaints are taken damned seriously.

        The two worst misconduct issues I’ve seen were revealed by internal complaints, and would never have survived citizen complaints (in one case, because the citizen had no memory of the events because he was very wasted.)

        [I am not getting involved in the race wars. Thanks for the information-seeking question.]

        • TheWorst says:

          Ah, thanks. If you don’t mind educating an ignoramus (I was a court reporter for a couple of years, but never saw anything from that side), how much difference is there, usually, in how an internal complaint vs. a citizen complaint?

          • JRM says:

            So, it depends on the context and the agency.

            First of all, an advertisement: Dear all police agencies everywhere: Body cameras for everyone. This deters both frivolous complaints and bad police conduct.

            Backpedalling slightly and clarifying: I took the DOJ report to mean that the internal complaints were about policework, but I have reconsidered (though I think that was a reasonable impression to have, if not by me, at least by the public at large.)

            Most internal complaints are just that-guy-is-a-jerk semi-normal workplace stuff. Maybe this was what this one was. If it was one guy-is-a-jerk complaint, that’s a nothingburger (but 124 citizen complaints is still some kind of record). If it’s five his-fieldwork-is-alarming reports in what appears to be a discouraging environment for such reports, that’s very bad.

            If 125 complaints isn’t a record in Baltimore, then the assertion that citizen complaints are deterred appears false.

            But let’s say we have two separate cases.

            Case A: Joey the Dirtbag is in jail. He tells the police he was pepper-sprayed in the face after he was down, cuffed, and compliant. It’s clearly established that Joey is a recidivist felon who tossed a gun and ran from the cops and was pretty high at the time. Officer Barbrady says it didn’t happen that way.

            Case B: Officer Friday says he and another cop were chasing Joey the Dirtbag. He sees Joey chuck a gun, slows briefly, and gets behind the chase. Two minutes later, he comes on Joey, who is on his stomach, handcuffed, and in legal parlance, “very chirpy,” describing the police officers’ mothers in graphic detail. He sees Officer Barbrady then pepperspray Joey and laugh about it.

            Which of these is going to get more attention from the higher-ups? Which should? (I’ll help: The answer is case 2. You should investigate case 1, yes. But the starting assumptions are different in case 2.)

          • TheWorst says:

            That makes sense, and it’s interesting (and pleasant, I think) to see that someone with relevant experience agrees with what seems like the overall drift of the public on bodycams.

            In Case B, how likely is it that Officer Friday is going to put in a complaint? Would you say it’s normal that he would, or normal that he wouldn’t?

            (I assume there’s a huge number of complicating factors.)

    • Gbdub says:

      Thanks for the long summary from a unique perspective.

      I hate hatchet jobs against the guilty. On the one hand you want the guilty punished. On the other you don’t want to reward hatchet jobs.

      • TheWorst says:

        I hate hatchet jobs against the guilty. On the one hand you want the guilty punished. On the other you don’t want to reward hatchet jobs.

        So much of this. It’s a useful heuristic: when the truth is on your side, always (and only) use the truth. If you find yourself having to lie, consider switching sides or doing research.

        I tentatively think discouraging hatchet jobs is more important than punishing the guilty. Mostly because letting one additional guilty person go unpunished is going to trigger less future wrongdoing than rewarding one hatchet job will.

      • cassander says:

        I’m not sure what the problem is here. If the offending party is guilty, don’t they deserve a good hatcheting? The trouble with witch trials wasn’t that they burned people, it was that they burned people that weren’t witches. If they’re actually a witch…..

        • TheWorst says:

          If the offending party is guilty, then a hatchet job (when discovered) only makes their guilt look questionable, and makes the hatcheting authority look untrustworthy. Both are counterproductive.

          • cassander says:

            I might be operating under a somewhat different definition of hatchet job than you are.

          • TheWorst says:

            I get the same impression. In my experience, “hatchet job” is used to mean something basically the same as a “frame-up,” i.e. an unfounded, (and, usually, nasty) public accusation.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            It’s like someone proposing a terrible argument in favor of evolution.

            We don’t need specious arguments for evolution. The correct arguments are good enough; the bad arguments only give further ammunition to the creationists and should not be tolerated.

          • JRM says:

            Amen, brother.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          The problem with witch trials was that “witch” was a scapegoat category to which people assigned all of their hate, fear, and uncertainty. There’s nothing wrong maybe with firing or suing someone who does a sexist (or racist, etc.) thing, but when that person is judged by a mob that wants him to suffer for all sex-based (or racial or whatever) iniquities now and throughout history, there is no reason to expect that the verdict or punishment will be at all fair.

        • Nornagest says:

          A lot of the victims of the Inquisition were, in fact, heretics.

          • cassander says:

            One should not conflate witch burning and the inquisition. Witchburning was largely a protestant vice. The inquisition might execute you for heresy, but they didn’t go in much for witch burning.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, that’s why I said “heretics” and not “witches”. I wasn’t trying to conflate the two, I was trying to point out that you don’t need to be hunting something totally imaginary for history to take a dim view of the pursuit.

            Although the Inquisition (particularly the Spanish one) probably gets worse press than it really deserves. But it did have a good amount of blood on its hands, and it’s about as common a metaphor for this sort of situation as witch hunting is.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I was trying to point out that you don’t need to be hunting something totally imaginary for history to take a dim view of the pursuit

            In that case, I don’t think heresy is a good example, at least if we understand it in the sense of ‘espousing incorrect beliefs that will lead to divine retribution, and which will cause other people to suffer divine retribution if you spread those beliefs to them, thus making it ethically justifiable to punish you for expressing them’.

            It’s not as if we have significantly better evidence for the existence of gods than we do for the existence of witchcraft, after all.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m not sure what the problem is here. If the offending party is guilty, don’t they deserve a good hatcheting?

          “There’s money missing from the community treasury! And look here, Abraham is the only Jew in the community. Let’s run him out of town, and bust up his shop and all of his stuff. Maybe with actual hatchets!”

          You’re OK with this, supposing it turns out that Abraham actually stole the money from the community treasury?

          • cassander says:

            There’s a good deal of value in things like due process and procedure, and those things should be preserved, but from a purely moral point of view, if whoever a fail trial found guilty was going to get the same treatment, I’m kind of ok with it.

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m kind of ok with it.

            This turns out to have many negative consequences, is the problem.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            It’s very important not to be ok with this, and think about why being ok with this leads to a bad decision theory (basically it’s bad to decide the right thing for the wrong reason, see also EDT and Newcomb).

            Basically it’s important to be right in the entire class of cases, and inevitably “being right for the wrong reason” just nails a small subset in a general class you are interested in.

            It’s not that we hate hatchet jobs because they are hatchet jobs, it’s that the process that leads people to send out the hatcheters on “reasonably good evidence of poor behavior” is not the right process for less egregious cases than Baltimore.

          • Schmendrick says:

            Assuming that the lawful penalty for “stealing money from the community treasury” is “running the offender out of town and busting up all their possessions,” the only problem with your scenario is the order of operations. Proof first, then punishment. But then, that’s not what’s happening here. It’s not that someone is being punished properly but before the proof has come in…it’s that proof has come in, but is insufficient to warrant the level of punishment/opprobrium desired by the community, so more must be invented.

        • Aegeus says:

          The problem is precedent. Sure, the first time you held a witch hunt, you were lucky and you burned an actual witch. But that was luck. More often than not, a witch-hunt is going to burn an innocent instead of a witch. So even if the witch-hunt found a witch, we should criticize them, because next time they might not get lucky.

          It’s kind of like showing your work in your math homework. You might have the right answer, but the teacher will still mark you down unless you followed the right steps to get it. They don’t know if you know the math or if you just got lucky.