"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 67.25

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

594 Responses to Open Thread 67.25

  1. dndnrsn says:

    (Had started this in last OT. @Randy M only commenter so far).

    In the CDC’s NISVS (relevant bit):

    (note that I’m messing with the formatting and such to make it take up less space

    The lifetime prevalence of rape by any perpetrator was:

    For women:
    – Lesbian – 13.1% / – Bisexual – 46.1% / – Heterosexual – 17.4%

    For men:
    – Gay – numbers too small to estimate / – Bisexual – numbers too small to estimate / – Heterosexual – 0.7%

    The lifetime prevalence of sexual violence other than rape (including being made to penetrate, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences) by any perpetrator was:

    For women:
    – Lesbian – 46.4% / – Bisexual – 74.9% / – Heterosexual – 43.3%

    For men:
    – Gay – 40.2%/ – Bisexual – 47.4% / – Heterosexual – 20.8%

    Most bisexual and heterosexual women (98.3% and 99.1%, respectively) who experienced
    rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators. Estimates for sex of perpetrator
    of rape for other groups (lesbian women, gay and bisexual men) were based upon numbers too small to calculate a reliable estimate and, therefore, are not reportable.

    The majority of lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women (85.2%, 87.5%, and 94.7%,
    respectively) who experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators.
    • 78.6% of gay men and 65.8% of bisexual men who experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators.
    • 28.6% of heterosexual men who experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators, while 54.8% reported only female perpetrators, and 16.6% reported both male and female perpetrators.

    • 1 in 3 bisexual women (36.6%) and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (15.5%) have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime.
    • Estimates of stalking for other groups (lesbian women, gay and bisexual men) were based upon numbers too small to calculate a reliable estimate and, therefore,
    are not reported.
    • Estimates of sex of perpetrator of stalking for lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men were based upon numbers too small to calculate a reliable estimate and, therefore, are not reported.
    • The lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner was:

    For women:
    – Lesbian – 43.8% / – Bisexual – 61.1% / – Heterosexual – 35.0%

    For men:
    – Gay – 26.0% / – Bisexual – 37.3% / – Heterosexual – 29.0%

    • The lifetime prevalence of severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with fist or something hard, slammed against something, or beaten) was:
    For women:

    – Lesbian – 29.4% / – Bisexual – 49.3% / – Heterosexual – 23.6%

    For men:
    – Gay – 16.4% / – Bisexual – numbers too small to report / – Heterosexual – 13.9%

    Most bisexual and heterosexual women (89.5% and 98.7%, respectively) reported having
    only male perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Two-thirds of lesbian women (67.4%) reported having only female perpetrators of intimate partner violence.
    • The majority of bisexual men (78.5%) and most heterosexual men (99.5%) reported having only female perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Most gay men (90.7%) reported having only male perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

    More than half of bisexual women (57.4%), a third of lesbian women (33.5%), and more than a fourth of heterosexual women (28.2%) who experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime reported at least one negative impact (e.g., missed at least one day of school or work, were fearful, were concerned for their safety, experienced at least one post-traumatic stress disorder symptom).

    Looking at all this, the question I find myself asking is, “why do bisexual women suffer such high rates of sexual violence and abuse?” My gut reaction is “they are stereotyped as hypersexual and more likely to cheat, and this affects how others treat them” but that doesn’t explain the less dramatic gap between bisexual men and other men, and if anything the stereotypes of bisexual men are more negative than those of bisexual women. Also, why do bisexual women experience IPV mostly at the hands of male partners, but bisexual men mostly at the hands of female partners?

    • shakeddown says:

      OKTrends had an observation that most people who identify as bisexual exclusively approach the opposite sex, which could explain the last question.

      About bisexual women, maybe there’s a correlation with being more sexually adventurous, and thus getting into more dangerous situation?

      • dndnrsn says:

        That’s not what the OKTrends article I just googled said. 41% of bisexuals sent messages only to men, 36% only to women, and 23% to both. They break it down further by sex and age, observing that younger bisexual men mostly message only men, and older bisexual men mostly message only women – and they conclude that it’s mostly guys who don’t feel comfortable calling themselves gay (younger) being replaced by guys trying to look more adventurous (older); with a relatively small amount messaging both. Among women roughly similar amounts send messages exclusively to one sex or the other, with only 1/4 sending to both.

        An obvious confounder they miss is the relative ease or lack thereof for either sex at picking up either sex, though. They don’t really address this – a bisexual guy, for instance, might be receiving tons of messages from gay guys, but sending out messages to women. A woman might get tons of messages from men, but anecdotally, finding people to date who don’t already know everybody you know/have dated everybody you’ve dated is a problem for lesbians. They also consider the possibility of people marking themselves as bisexual but only messaging one sex are people with a partner of one sex looking for threesomes, or to cheat with someone of the other sex. They also don’t give the # of messages – and men send out faaaaar more messages than women do, at least across sexes.

        It also doesn’t make much sense that a woman who is actually a lesbian would call herself bisexual on online dating, given that, at least anecdotally, a lot of lesbians avoid bisexual women. This pattern, again anecdotally, does not replicate the other way – a lot more lesbians seem to have issues with bisexual women than gay men have issues with bisexual men – although anecdotally a fair number of straight women avoid bisexual men.

    • JayT says:

      My guess would be that bisexual women, on average, have more partners than heterosexual women, and therefore have more opportunity for abuse.

      • Matt M says:

        Why would this be the case though? Especially among women (after all, the cliche is that most women can easily obtain a male sexual partner with little effort whenever they want one). Just because the potential pool is twice the size doesn’t mean you want twice as much sex. If you built a new grocery store right next to the one I go to right now, I wouldn’t suddenly buy double the amount of groceries.

        • JayT says:

          One reason off the top of my head is that there are fewer bisexual prudes than heterosexual ones. If you are open to being bisexual, then you are most likely more open to sex in general.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The offences (rape, other sexual assault, abuse both physical and not) against bisexual women are mostly by men, though. Is there a reason to think that bisexual women have more male sexual partners than heterosexual women?

        Also, are they selecting from a less-abusive set of women than lesbians are (not sure how the math crunches, but considering the rate at which lesbians experience abuse by other women, if bisexual women were dating 50/50 I would imagine the rate at which they were abused by women to be higher)? Or do bisexual women, as a group, date a higher ratio of men to women?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Is there a reason to think that bisexual women have more male sexual partners than heterosexual women?

          Yes.

          Anecdotally, it’s a virtual certainty that a woman who identifies as bisexual will have had more male partners than the average woman. Oddly this hasn’t held for pansexual women IME: they seem about average.

          I think the reason is that saying you’re bisexual serves as a strong signal of sexual availability. Rightly or wrongly, most straight guys hear that as “I’m down for a threesome” and so react accordingly. It definitely gets a lot of attention, and therefore attracts attention-seekers.

    • John Schilling says:

      Looking at all this, the question I find myself asking is, “why do bisexual women suffer such high rates of sexual violence and abuse?”

      [copied over from last OT, if we’re talking about it here now]

      Keep in mind, these numbers are the lifetime prevalences, so the bisexual woman who suffers a single incident over thirty sexually active years “counts” the same as the married woman whose husband beats her every night.

      So it seems likely to me that promiscuity is the correlated variable. Every time one enters a new relationship anywhere in the vaguely “romantic” sphere of social interaction, one is rolling the dice anew for, yep, this guy is one of the abusive ones and you now enter the statistical category of “lifetime prevalence of sexual abuse” from which there can be neither escape nor escalation. To a first order, and barring the relatively rare case of rape by a complete stranger, lifetime prevalence will be roughly linear with number of romantic-ish relationships. Bisexuals, almost by definition, have twice as many opportunities to form romantic relationships, and also almost by definition will not reject such opportunities just because they are socially frowned upon. Furthermore, per Bujold/Vorkosigan, the monogamous cannot be actively bisexual, and probably most people are not so pedantic as to answer such survey questions with “…I’ve been faithful to my husband for ten years now, but there was that fling with that girl in college, and I still appreciate a beautiful woman, so put me down as bisexual”. So the long-term monogamous will be underrepresented among self-reported bisexuals, and the promiscuous thus overrepresented.

      This seems consistent with the lifetime prevalence numbers presented earlier. Would also like to see e.g. annual rate numbers including multiple incidents for the same victim; that might help distinguish between competing theories here.

      • dndnrsn says:

        p12 in the link talks a bit about the number of perpetrators.

        • John Schilling says:

          Good catch. It looks like the bisexuals get a more uniform distribution, while the heterosexuals have a much bigger share of one-perp-per-lifetime. That also is consistent with the hypothesis that the bisexuals are self-selecting out of the monogamous or mostly-monogamous category that only “rolls the dice” once (but gets assaulted many times by one man if they roll badly).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Although I’d note that they only give an actual chart for “sexual violence other than rape”.

            To be honest, I am surprised that anyone has experienced only one or two perpetrators’ worth of sexual violence other than rape. That’s a category that includes a lot of stuff, including groping – which is extremely common. I suppose that a lot of people (male or female – chart is only for women) surveyed simply discount some degree of ass-grabbing, etc when answering the questions.

      • Matt M says:

        My controversial opinion supported by no particular facts would be that people who identify as bisexual probably subscribe to certain cultural values that cause them to have a lower threshold for what counts as “violence and abuse” and therefore to self-report more incidents of such.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The NISVS breaks it down a bit better than just “have you been abused”, though. If you look at table 6 in the above link, bisexual women report higher levels, sometimes significantly higher levels, of every individual kind of physical violence, as an example.

          • Matt M says:

            Okay, but every one of these is still kind of up for interpretation.

            Maybe they are more likely to consider that time their partner slapped them during sex without permission to be “sexual violence” and answer yes, while someone else might consider it “an innocent misunderstanding” and answer no. Maybe they have a lower threshold for “hurt” by pulling hair.

            Like, as a reducto ad absurdum, we can imagine two people at opposite ends of the spectrum: a battered spouse with stockholm syndrome who legitimately believes her husband only beats her because he loves her so much and she always messes up and it’s entirely her own fault and totally isn’t a victim of abuse in any way – and a hyper-sensitive person who freaks out and screams rape anytime someone so much as raises an eyebrow in her direction. No matter how specifically you try and phrase the questions, those people are going to respond very differently on this type of survey.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Wouldn’t a handful of people with really low standards and a handful of people with really high standards just “come out in the wash”, though?

            And, some of that stuff in the table is really hard to misunderstand. Like, threatened with a knife or gun…

          • Matt M says:

            What is a “threat”? Do you have to feel threatened for it to count? If your girlfriend is annoying you and you say “try that again and I’ll cut you” did you just “threaten her with a knife?” Maybe, maybe not. Up to interpretation.

            My point is that standards probably correspond with general cultural values and my personal opinion is that “identifies as bisexual” is largely a self-selected group that is more likely to share certain cultural values than homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals who do not identify as such.

    • Spookykou says:

      More than half of bisexual women (57.4%), a third of lesbian women (33.5%), and more than a fourth of heterosexual women (28.2%) who experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime reported at least one negative impact (e.g., missed at least one day of school or work, were fearful, were concerned for their safety, experienced at least one post-traumatic stress disorder symptom).

      Does this seem really low/weird to anyone else?

      Maybe it is that one of there starting conditions is not like the others, but it is really hard for me to imagine 72.8% of heterosexual women not being “fearful, were concerned for their safety” after they “experienced rape, physical violence” at the hands of an intimate partner.

      • Randy M says:

        Like you say, that includes stalking. Perhaps the ‘stalking’ definition included being asked out repeatedly by guys they dump in an irritating but not actually threatening manner? Not how I’d use the term, but I agree the numbers come out odd.
        Could be partially due to some couples not seeing physical violence as either something to be feared or likely in their case to escalate. People who get into wake-the-neighbors physical fights complete with throwing the china, then go back to normal the next day.
        Or that “were fearful” is a shorthand for a more exacting definition given on the surveys.
        Or a very expansive definition of rape was used to the extent that the women generally didn’t regret it in retrospect.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Definition given as:

          How NISVS Measured Stalking
          Stalking victimization involves a pattern of harassing or threatening tactics used by a perpetrator that is both unwanted and causes fear or safety concerns in the victim. For the purposes of this report, a person was considered a stalking victim if they experienced multiple stalking tactics or a single stalking tactic multiple times by the same perpetrator and felt very fearful, or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed as a result of the perpetrator’s behavior.
          Stalking tactics measured:
          • Unwanted phone calls, voice or text messages, hang-ups
          • Unwanted emails, instant messages, messages through social media
          • Unwanted cards, letters, flowers, or presents
          • Watching or following from a distance, spying with a listening device, camera, or global positioning system (GPS)
          • Approaching or showing up in places, such as the victim’s home, workplace, or school, when it was unwanted
          • Leaving strange or potentially threatening items for the victim to find
          • Sneaking into victims’ home or car and doing things to scare the victim or let the victim know the perpetrator had been there

          If the definition was really loose, more people would report it, I imagine.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe people just don’t read or listen to the fine print? How does some say they were stalking, stalking requires causing fear, and they haven’t felt fear as a result of their stalking?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The survey question for stalking (NISVS p106) is

            How many people have ever…
            • watched or followed you from a distance, or spied on you with a listening device, camera, or GPS
            [global positioning system]?
            • approached you or showed up in places, such as your home, workplace, or school when you didn’t
            want them to be there?
            • left strange or potentially threatening items for you to find?
            • sneaked into your home or car and did things to scare you by letting you know they had been
            there?
            • left you unwanted messages? This includes text or voice messages.
            • made unwanted phone calls to you? This includes hang-up calls.
            • sent you unwanted emails, instant messages, or sent messages through websites like MySpace
            or Facebook?
            • left you cards, letters, flowers, or presents when they knew you didn’t want them to?

          • Thegnskald says:

            There seems to be some “Murder, arson, and jaywalking” going on there.

            I doubt anybody exists who hasn’t received multiple unwanted messages from a single person.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s different from what you said above; someone could easily have been left presents without being fearful; did they include the “and felt very afraid” rider in the question or assume it later? I’m just spitballing to reconcile the inconsistency spookykou noted.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It would appear that the survey question is different from the definition they give in the presentation of results.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            That survey question, if there aren’t controls on it, is likely to bring in all sorts of errors. Isn’t believing (without evidence) that you’re being spied on by technological means a symptom of mental illness?

            Leaving unwanted messages would seem to cover the case where the only indication that the messages were unwanted were they were not responded to. (“Oh god, that loser keeps calling me.. you’d think he’d get the hint when I don’t pick up the phone”)

            Showing up at the workplace or school… “OMIGOD, stop following me” “Uhh, I’m not following you, I also have Physics 220 right after Math 250, and you sit closer to the door than I do.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Nybbler

            Pretty much everyone who is using the Internet is being spied on, in some form.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            Yeah, but only us tinfoil hat types (who have heard of things like ECHELON and Room 641A) believe it. A few more people believed it when they heard about XKEYSCORE and friends, but I think they’re back to their sane and willful denial by now.

      • registrationisdumb says:

        I haven’t looked at the article, but there’s a small chance that they might be using one of those really broad definitions of rape.

        Under some definitions, having sex while near blackout drunk is getting raped. Under that definition I’ve been raped, and I didn’t have any negative consequences whatsoever.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The definition of rape in the NISVS is:

          Rape is defined as any completed or attempted unwanted vaginal (for women), oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm and includes times when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent. Rape is separated into three types, completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and completed alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.
          – -Among women, rape includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes vaginal or anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.
          – -Among men, rape includes oral or anal penetration by a male using his penis. It also includes anal penetration by a male or female using their fingers or an object.

          In discussing rape and “made to penetrate” where substance use is involved, the question that people taking the survey were asked was:

          When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever…
          • had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that {if female: a man or boy put his penis in your vagina} {if male: a woman or girl made you put your penis in her vagina}?
          • {if male} made you perform anal sex, meaning that they made you put your penis into their anus?
          • made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?
          • made you perform oral sex, meaning that they put their penis in your mouth or made you penetrate their vagina or anus with your mouth?
          • made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your {if male: penis} {if female: vagina} or anus?

          It’s unclear to me whether the question is asking whether someone was “a) drunk, b) high, c) drunk, or d) passed out and unable to consent” or whether the “unable to consent” applies to all four conditions. Considering that, it probably wasn’t fully clear to people taking the survey. The legal standard for “too drunk or high to consent” (obviously, someone passed out cannot consent, and “drugged” implies someone else doing the drugging) is generally higher than “too drunk or high”.

          I don’t know about the US, but Canada (which, obviously, is not covered in the NISVS, but is similar enough to the US that I imagine the general patterns are the same) has precedent establishing a high bar – there has to be a level of intoxication so profound that the person doesn’t really know the nature of what is going on. There’s also precedent establishing that simply being intoxicated enough for it to affect one’s decision-making doesn’t reach that bar.

          This is a situation where the legal standard is higher than the “cultural standard” (someone who has sex with someone whose judgment is significantly impaired and who would not have sex with them if their judgement was intact and who is acting on that is a shitty person) or sublegal situations (eg a university tribunal).

          • Protagoras says:

            Not saying nobody could have been confused by it, but “passed out and unable to consent” is redundant, so it seems to me that the only sensible way to interpret the question is to take the “and” to be linking “unable to consent” to all of the conditions, not just the last one. So, “drunk and unable to consent,” “high and unable to consent,” “drugged and unable to consent,” or “passed out and unable to consent.” And so implying drunk enough to be unable to consent, or high enough to be unable to consent, or drugged enough to be unable to consent, and not just drunk or high or dugged.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Protagoras

            Another way to read it is that “passed out and unable to consent” is _defining_ “passed out” as implying “unable to consent” (that is, “therefore” is implied), and the question as a whole is defining the other three things as implying “unable to consent” as well. I think that interpretation is as reasonable as the one where the question is asking that you were BOTH (a,b,c,d) and lacking in consent, so the question is truly ambiguous.

          • Protagoras says:

            I admitted that it wouldn’t be impossible to be confused by it, and assuming an implied “therefore” would, I suppose, be one way for that to happen, but it seems like a strained reading to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think “drugged” implies “unable to consent” because it is only used to refer to cases where someone has been slipped something with the intent purpose of rendering them incapable of resistance.

            If “drunk” and “high” are also linked to “unable to consent”, it doesn’t give a threshold for how intoxicated, as far as I can tell. Still, I think most people with experience of being intoxicated probably know how drunk or high they would need to be.

            The ambiguity would be resolved by an Oxford comma.

    • mobile says:

      Maybe rape and other sexual violence causes bisexuality.

      • JayT says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if this were true. I think most women that are lesbians are born lesbians, but I also think that there are lesbians that became lesbians because they had bad experiences with men. That subgroup might be more likely to self identify as bisexual.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’d guess the cause is more subtle. IIRC, bisexuality tends to be significantly more common in people with antisocial personality disorder (sociopaths), and sociopaths are more likely to engage in mutually abusive relationships.

        There are other paths to the same result – bisexuality would be more common historically in people who put less value on social mores (as a bisexual person who strongly adhered to social norms would just be heterosexual), and thus might be more vulnerable to falling into abusive relationships, since they’d be less alert to early warning signs in terms of violations of social rules. They might also be more likely to take a questionnaire literally, rather than answering the implicit questions. And they’d also be more likely to have more sexual partners, for social more reasons again, meaning they’d be rolling the dice more frequently.

        Additionally, some subset of bisexual people will identify as such because it is “cool”, and might be doing the same thing with victimhood, given the current trends in society.

        I’d say there’s probably no single causal factor, but a mess of them.

  2. nbashaw says:

    Question for Scott: have you appeared as a guest on any interview podcasts? I searched but couldn’t find any results. Thanks!

  3. Jordan D. says:

    RPG discussion time!

    I have three RPG-related points:

    1) I’m playing in an upcoming Deadlands Classic game as a district judge in Dodge City, Kansas (possibly transitioning to an impromptu circuit judge), and I’ve been studying both the federal judiciary and the (mostly unrealized) plans for the Confederate judiciary to prep for the role. Can anyone recommend any resources?

    2) I recently finished a game meant as a mix of Scott’s Unsong, Wildbow’s Worm and Jenna Moran’s Hitherby Dragons, done in Mutants and Masterminds 3rd. While I screwed up in a couple of big places, the M&M system really is extremely good as a generic system for high-power settings and I recommend it heartily.

    3) I’m playing in a Pathfinder game, where the GM is running Paizo’s present Strange Aeons Adventure Path. It’s actually pretty good- the authors are clearly aware that you can’t do straight Lovecraft in a system where everyone’s destined to become archmages and legendary heroes, and they do a pretty great job keeping the spirit and aesthetic of Lovecraft in a very different genre. The present problem, though, is that the GM would really like to do some side-quests, both to slow down the progression a bit and to tie up some character arcs. Unfortunately, the AP revolves around a very high-stakes chase to find and stop the Big Bad, and in-character there’s not a lot of time for mucking about. Does anyone have any suggestion for ways he could do sidequests when the story pushes for laser-focus on the endgame?

    • dndnrsn says:

      3. Could they just be done before the endgame starts? Is the endgame “triggered” by the PCs, or does the campaign as a whole have its own schedule?

      • Jordan D. says:

        From what I know, it’s a timer until the bad guy gets to the ruined city of Neruzavin- which is game-able from the outside, of course, in terms of when that happens, but all of the characters know, IC, that they’ve got a deadline so it’s hard to justify drifting too far off the trail.

    • Randy M says:

      1-Cool, I just picked up the Deadlands Doomtown Reloaded card game.

      3-Hard to say without knowing more of the plot. It could be the case that they capture an underling, find some useful clue, and hand it over to an npc to be examined. He needs to spend a week consulting with sages at the local guild/collegium/royal council to figure out the next step. Meanwhile….
      Or there’s always the “I’ll help you, but first…” angle. The players need to get into the sealed ruins/forbidden temple/quarantined village to find where the trail leads next, but the local authority has forbidden it for reasons of tradition/piety/safety. A local vizier could probably get them an exception, but first he needs help saving his daughter/clearing his name/offing a rival, even if their implausible story sounds very urgent and all.

      • DrBeat says:

        I wrote for that card game. We were going to do some cool things before we found out we were being cancelled.

        also even with as little as we got to do with them the Eagle Wardens were still better than almost every depiction that setting has of Native Americans, because they had personality and methods not exclusively defined by their ethnicity, and also one of them was Satori Komeiji

        • Randy M says:

          Pardon my ignorance, who is Satori Komeiji?

          • beleester says:

            Touhou character who’s able to read minds. She has an annoying habit of answering your questions before you’ve asked them. Conversations with her are pretty one-sided.

            (Also, she fights by “reading the danmaku in your memories” – i.e., copying bullet patterns from previous games – but I don’t think that would translate to a tabletop game.)

          • DrBeat says:

            she wasn’t a one-to-one conversion, but Three-Eyed Hawk was a shaman beloved by animals but alienated from humans because of her ability to see things humans can’t normally see and her inability to separate that information from what people “should” be able to know. the card for her raven friend was “Sun-Touched Raven” (Utsuho Reiuji, the last boss of the game Satori is from, was satori’s pet raven who ate the corpse of a yatagarasu and gained the power of the sun). in The Ballad Of Mario Crane Part 3, she has a conversation that makes absolutely no sense to anyone around her because she is reacting to how things are going to look when this conversation replays in one of Crane’s nightmare visions.

            also I straight-up put a miko named Hakurei in as a character. the funny part is, I didn’t even put her in as “I want to do the Hakurei Miko”, it was important to convey that the Eagle Wardens were a faction that focused on shamanism but were not ethnically-bound and accepted anyone who could do something they needed, and Shinto is a shamanistic religion, so a Shinto priestess was a good idea. and while we’re doing that, why not make her a Hakurei?

        • Vermillion says:

          Oh man original Doomtown was a great game! My college nerd cohort was really into it, in large part because of the delightfully anachronistic and freaking weird setting, so well done there. Care to divulge any bits that didn’t get tied up to your liking and where you wanted them to go?

          Unfortunately for AEG we got into after it had already been cancelled, which was nice for picking up tons of cards really cheap.

          • Randy M says:

            That was the case for me and AEG’s other other card game, 7th Sea. Dirt cheap when I started picking it up a couple years after cancellation, but impossible to complete the collection shortly later when I got a touch fanatical about it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Vermillion

            You happen to know a guy named Pi?

          • Vermillion says:

            Doesn’t ring a bell sorry. I have a terrible memory though, so I might recognize an evocative description.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nah, you’d remember. Just wondered if you were a Vermillion I knew once.

          • DrBeat says:

            I didn’t write for the original, just the reboot, the non-collectible version called “Doomtown: Reloaded”.

            The Fourth Ring faction were going to move from being a circus to a secretive hunting lodge, as the servitors of Pestilence tried and failed and now War was up. But we were aware of the problem (L5R had it really, really bad with Shadowlands and Crab) where one faction is always the bad guys that everyone else teams up to fight and the faction that is tasked with keeping them in check always loses, so we were going to flip it around. The servitors of War, led by a guy we called the Apex Predator and ended up being that dude in Blood Moon Rising who looks like Senator Armstrong, were going to have designs on turning Gomorra into their hunting ground where they prey on people for fun. And they were going to get completely 100% shut down by the Eagle Wardens before they became a serious threat to the town, who would do it without getting their hands dirty at all. The arc villain was going to be Rowan Blackmoore and the faction everyone teams up against was going to be a Morgan Cattle Company – Sloane Gang alliance.

            We hinted that the possessed version of Mario Crane acted weird, his movements were exaggerated, his emotions almost uncontrollable. In a fiction I wrote that wasn’t released, Lillian Morgan was going to realize what that was, the manitou possessing him had too much power and it wasn’t in a useful form, it was like the voltage on all his nerves was set too high. She calls him in for a chat, and thinks she has two choices: she can tell him the truth, and give him a witchy potion that’s basically a numbing hex repurposed as a neuroleptic. Or, she can say he needs more power, give him a potion that increases his power — which would pass all inspection — and he’d fall into a permanent seizure and be totally neutralized, allowing the Law Dogs to take the town back. She knows she has a chance here to do the right thing, and decides, clearly, the right thing is to leave this guy in charge of the town because he’s dependent on her for the neuroleptic, and that ensures her unquestioned dominance of the company, allowing her to do lots of good work in the world.

            She was a fun character to write for.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      On 3:
      – Side quests actually have have a tie in to the search for the way to stop the BB.
      – Maybe harder to do, BB and minions, or the sage wizard leading the PCs or whomever, scarcify themselves frustrating the PCs and forcing them into taking care of the hum-drum daily business

    • Spookykou says:

      3. You incorporate necessary components of the end game into the side quests to make them, not side quests.

      This can be looking for clues, building an artifact weapon, getting the big bad ritual components, activating the great ley lines of the world, etc.

      Edit: HBC ninja’d me

      • Randy M says:

        But some groups might want some other storylines mixed in, for reasons of tempo, world-building, character-exploration, etc. It might get emotionally exhausting to focus on one quest long term, but plausible reasons why the characters are doing anything other than try to prevent the end of the world can be hard to come up with.

        • Spookykou says:

          I think I might not have explained what I meant well enough.

          So I think the Campaign Arc is to resolve the BB at the end, who in this case has something of a timer, so the issue is players being unable to suspend disbelief when asked to take the lazy train to Nohorse village to save some little girl from some slavers. Like sure, we might enjoy that story as players, but our characters know that they have something more important that they need to deal with right now.

          So my proposal is to, largely superficially if you have to, make saving the little girl a necessity to stopping the big bad, so there is no disconnect between what the players might think is a fun session, and what the characters motivations should be. (This disconnect is, I imagine, the main problem the OP is trying to address?)

          So, the little girl is actually the secreted away twin sister of the cult leaders daughter and his blood ritual to open a portal for the BB can be disrupted by doing your own ritual with an amount(safe) of this little girls blood, sadly the only way to get to Nohorse and the girl is the lazy train, but this is important, so here we go on this low tempo side quest of character development!

          • Jordan D. says:

            This is a good idea, I think. There’s an opportunity ahead for those kinds of ‘required resolution plot hooks’ to show up when the characters regain their memories.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, the little girl is actually the secreted away twin sister of the cult leaders daughter and his blood ritual to open a portal for the BB can be disrupted by doing your own ritual with an amount(safe) of this little girls blood

            You don’t even need this. It can be a blind alley.

            I am tasked with finding the ancient weapon of my fore-fathers, The Narwhal, long ago lost in the caverns of the Lich King.

            It is said that only “the horn of the narwhale” can slay the BB. The sage advisor seems to think they could be connected.

            When you find it, it is really just your great-great-grandfather’s (perhaps even non-magical) sword.

          • Spookykou says:

            Agreed, even just a pretext that what the characters are doing could be relevant is enough to wash away most of the disconnect I think.

          • dndnrsn says:

            People are giving good advice here. Fit sidequests, character quests, etc into the main quest.

            Sometimes, though, the coincidences can be a bit much in scenarios – “oh, how convenient, the ally who knows how to fight the alien that has ridden the meteorite to earth lives a mile away from where the meteorite lands”.

            Of course, the answer to “what about suspension of disbelief” is sometimes “we have 4 hours a week to play, so shut up”.

            But another option is having side quests, etc, not connected to the main quest, but along the way. Nohorse Village can be along the way to Doom Keep.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      1) Don’t know.

      2) I GMed M&M 3rd for a superpowers-in-WW2 thing that fell apart too quickly to master the system. What’s so great about it?

      3) Hoo boy, Pathfinder. I’ve currently run a 3.5 campaign to level 13, and the players are excited to take it to at LEAST level 20. I can’t tell if this is some sort of miracle or I’m an awesome GM, because the players control a Cleric with Paladin cohort, Bard and Wizard, and… Barbarian with a martial cohort.
      My understanding of Pathfinder is that it’s more 3.5, with SJW “iconics” (your grammar sucks, Paizo) and then a bunch of “Appendix N” stuff layered on once the OSR became a thing. Nice to see they found a way to “keep the spirit and aesthetic of Lovecraft” in their caster supremacy RPG, but still… meh, Pathfinder?

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        >with SJW “iconics”

        What?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “Iconics” are the characters representing each PC class, and Paizo gave them stories that include pandering like two of the women being gay-married in quasi-medieval “Golarion”. Oh, and Asmodeus (Gygax’s choice for king of the devils, as he was a Christian who didn’t want to deal with Satan in a silly game) is an MRA.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Ah, the Rulebook art guys? Like who even gives a damn about them?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, the rulebook art. And possibly no one cares about but the artist/writer, in which case it wouldn’t be pandering, just a progressive tic.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Look, Asmodeus really got a shitty deal in that divorce, OK? Hell got an unusually high number of sinner’s souls the two or three years before, so the judge assigned an unreasonably high spousal support amount. You’d be pissed too.

          • Randy M says:

            Infighting in the cult of Asmodeus between those who want to kidnap and sacrifice virgins, and those who are frankly just done with women, can’t we focus on ourselves for a chance?

          • Robert Liguori says:

            I’m genuinely curious where the Asmodeus as MRA is coming from. Is there something specific that’s being referenced here?

            Also, in a broader tangent, I’d like to talk about the general difficulty of addressing social issues in RPGs. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can either tell stories about a particular social ill, or you can steal the ill’s power away, but doing both leads to confused and muddled themes.

            For Pathfinder in particular, the treatment of trans iconics is (in my opinion, at least) undercut strongly by the fact that there exist quick, safe, and (relative to PC gear) cheap ways to magically transition. Just as you wouldn’t expect a coherent set of identity issues around disabled people in a world with Remove Blindness/Deafness available in every temple, in Golarion, at the PC strata of society, the story of Shardra Geltl (Born male, threw alchemy and magic at the problem, transitioned, now lives comfortably female) is basically the only story you can tell.

            And this is by no means a bad thing, especially in a world where you’re telling stories about heroes doing good and being rewarded for it. But you can’t tell stories about the actual difficulties of being trans when transition is quick, safe, and foolproof.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Fantasy RPGs where magic tends to be more common and higher-powered than, say, fantasy novels, are generally piss-poor at dealing with the consequences of all that magic floating around. This is as true of contemporary social issues as it is of anything else.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Robert Liguori – “For Pathfinder in particular, the treatment of trans iconics is (in my opinion, at least) undercut strongly by the fact that there exist quick, safe, and (relative to PC gear) cheap ways to magically transition.”

            …Surely this can be worked around somewhat by switching the precise problem a bit? It seems to me “being stuck in the wrong body” is an idea that should be entirely workable in a fantasy setting.

          • Nornagest says:

            Rules as written, just about any stuck-in-the-wrong-body situation in Pathfinder short of divine intervention or an artifact-level curse is only a couple of mid-level spells away from being solved; switching gender is slightly easier, for historical reasons, but it’s in the same ballpark. Of course, there’s nothing stopping a GM from inventing new ones that aren’t so easy to solve.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            FacelessCraven, there are definitely ways to make it work. Heck, I myself wrote up an entire bit on the treatment of the gender of warforged in Eberron (which doesn’t have specific transitioning items, but does have the old cursed Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity), because I was expecting a trans player (and, to be honest, I really like warforged), fleshed out the Reforged prestige class as a way for warforged to bring their bodies and souls into perfect alignment, and so forth.

            But I did this because I wanted to enable the telling of these kind of stories in my game. And, as I said, in stock Golarion, trans as an identity makes only slightly more sense than the deaf community; it’s a problem which can be solved with adventurer-level magic trivially, so wanting to tell the story of your character’s struggle with their gender identity is massively undercut when they can afford the Elixir of Sex Shifting by level 2, and are capable of cranking them out yourself by level 3.

            And again, it’s not that Golarion’s treatment is wrong. It’s just that you can either tell stories about a struggle with a problem, or say “This problem isn’t a problem in our fantasy world.”, but not both at once.

      • Spookykou says:

        Pathfinder is like 3.5 only they make casters even stronger at low levels, so martials are basically never relevant.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Wow, that sounds awful. As a DM, it never ceases to amaze him how broken 3rd variants are for running the kind of fantasy that D&D actually created. But hey, somehow it’s working for my players and it beats having to DM 4th or ad&d. 🙂

          • Randy M says:

            You find pathfinder easier to DM than 4th edition? I didn’t play 3.5 or PF, so I can’t compare, but I thought one of the selling points of 4th was easier DMing.

          • Spookykou says:

            4E is dramatically easier to DM than 3.x or even 5E in terms of expectation of character capability, which is what I think La Maistre Chat is mostly talking about in their second sentence, but plenty of people don’t like 4E for other reasons.

            And, yes IMO pathfinder is super awful, RAW, but I think most people who like/play ‘pathfinder’ actually just play a game that is vaguely based on the rules, like a game translated from a dead language.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sorry, that was pretty opaque, but WordPress wouldn’t let me edit that particular comment for some reason (even though autocorrect turned a typo for “me” into “him”. Misgendering!)

            I’ve DMed 4th edition to like… level 3 or so, and it was a breeze. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it fun, because it’s a tactical game that removed anything “unfun” like dying when you run out of hit points, getting petrified by a Medusa, or rust monsters (oxidation is temporary in any universe using 4e!), not a storytelling game set in a world that makes any sense.

        • Skivverus says:

          Am I the only one aware of the “ready stabbing (via arrow or shuriken if necessary) for casters trying funny business” tactic? Sure, your fighter will be a little put out at not getting a full attack, but forcing concentration checks from damage or grappling can absolutely shut down a caster in combat situations.
          And in non-combat situations, there’s plenty of utility spells, sure, but there are also skill ranks (which basically every non-caster class gets a hardcoded advantage on).

          • Spookykou says:

            Assuming that nobody in your campaign is a min-maxer, full progression casters in 3.x and pathfinder can not only seem balanced, they can feel under-powered.

            The problem with full progression casters is that an optimized caster is dramatically stronger than the best optimized martials.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m sure in any given group informal house rules would keep most of the abuses in check, but I’ve seen convincing cases that casters are better than martial classes at melee combat, if they bother to handicap themselves by taking summoning and buffing spells. Varies by supplement use, of course.
            TVTropes has examples

          • Robert Liguori says:

            On the micro tactical level, just readied actions don’t stop casters from eating an op to run behind cover and casting there. You need to control the terrain or lock down their movement as well, and given the two or three characters you need to manage that, it’s usually simplest to pour on the hurt and try to eat through their HP before they get a chance to be sneaky.

            And on the macro level, the problem is that you don’t fight casters. You fight the babaus and succubi the casters Lesser-Planar-Binding’d, who sneak in under cover of darkness or illusion and murder the party in your sleep. Or you fight the reputation hit caused by the caster showing up in a town friendly to you, illusion-ing allies to look like you, and sending them to commit crimes to frame you. Or you need to hack your way through the endless horde of Bloody Skeletons that the caster made by creating a Wondrous Item of Animate Dead, animating skeletons up to the items CL limit per character, then giving the item to each of his ghoul lieutenants and having them do the same thing.

            Or you just don’t fight them because at low levels, they can throw up fog clouds, give themselves the ability to run at horse speeds briefly, turn invisible, disguise themselves as random passers-by, and set really difficult-to-find-and-disarm magical alarm traps, at mid-levels they can fly away or teleport or throw up screens of summoned monsters, and by level 9, if you give them an action, they teleport away, spam-scry you over the next few days, and send as many of the above retribution teams as they’ve learned the spells for.

            Also, basically all of the above assumes you’re playing the squishiest of casters. If you’re playing a druid, say, then you don’t have quite the potential for world-shattering hax at high levels…but you also react to attempts to shut you down with ops by laughing madly before turning into a bear, sending your bear to improved-grab the readied action guy, then dropping another 1d3 bears into your enemy’s flank as an encore.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Robert

            In practice, it’s not that bad. This sort of thing can happen, but only happens if a clever devil plays the mage. If a clever devil plays the Fighter – or just about anything else – everyone else loses just as much as they would with him being a mage.

      • Jordan D. says:

        2. M&M creates a system for modeling essentially any kind of effect which, unlike stuff like FATE or GURPS, is intuitive once you’ve spent some time with it and actually feels like that effect. It’s really easy to break if you don’t set ground rules, but I’ve never had a game which felt quite so much like it captured the spirit of playing superheroes while offering so much flexibility.

        3. Pathfinder is kind of a weird bird. It’s like 3.5, but better in some ways and worse in others. Golarion is not a very good setting, as a setting, but it’s large and sandboxy enough that you can find a reasonable place to situate any sort of campaign or location you want.

        What I like about Pathfinder, quite frankly, is the sheer, terrifying volume of third-party content which exists for it. I’ve been in enough Pathfinder games that I’ve seen probably a hundred characters created, and each was memorably distinct in style and function from the rest.

        You’re right that it’s total caster supremacy, but my groups have pretty much embraced Dreamscarred Press’ martial initiation systems, so at least everyone is overpowered.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          2. Interesting. The biggest thing I saw looking into GURPS is that its flexibility comes from trying to make a detailed simulation of reality (hence the unplayable combination of long character gen and lethal combat) then slathering rules for every fantasy or cinematic trope atop all that.

          3. Ah, see, “terrifying volume of third-party content” is a turn-off for me. I already consider more than one volume of rules a necessary evil rather than a feature. 🙂

          • Jordan D. says:

            Yeah, M&M 3rd takes a very different approach. Where GURPS tries to model everything with subsystems and FATE tries to build a framework to use the narrative to corral the mechanics, Mutants and Masterminds starts by focusing on the effect you’re trying to build and modeling out restrictions and how much it should cost.

            They also rely heavily on this table, which is a beautiful thing.

        • Nornagest says:

          I really liked Golarion when it came out, or at least the ideas behind Golarion; but as the setting’s been fleshed out, it’s gradually forced itself out of the pulp/heroic fantasy niche it was designed for by way of building in too much cruft and inertia. It’s a lot like a latter-day Forgotten Realms in that way, except that Ed Greenwood is probably a worse writer than anyone at Paizo.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Yeah, Golarion thankfully does not yet have any Harpers or Chosen of Mystra, and its ageless super-wizards tend to be pretty well out of the way and forced into the background. So that’s nice.

            My basic problem with Golarion as a setting (and, ironically, the thing which makes it so useful as a backdrop for games) is that it feels less like a connected world and more like a whole bunch of broad setting tropes pasted into national borders with minimal overlap. HERE is Crusader Kingdom, HERE is Gothic German Pastiche, HERE is Eternal Revolutionary France (although I like Eternal Revolutionary France), HERE is Egypt, HERE is Sci-Fi Robot Apocalypse Wasteland.

          • DrBeat says:

            But Golarion DOES have a god who was a dude who got super plastered one night, did the mythical trial of divinity, woke up the next morning as a god and has no fucking idea how he did it.

            That’s always going to be worth points.

        • Anonymous says:

          Pathfinder is kind of a weird bird. It’s like 3.5, but better in some ways and worse in others.

          Basically this. If you know 3.5e, there’s very little reason to learn PF. If you know PF, there’s very little reason to learn 3.5e.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      So, here is how I handle having a Big Bad in a sandbox, where the PCs have done dozens of side quests since discovering the BB exists without it feeling forced.

      He’s Typhon. The setting is Greek mythology in the time of Cadmus and the PCs discovered he exists from the cult of Gaia that tried to kill their patron the queen of Athens (the Druid class, which conveniently kind of taboos this tier 1 class for PC use) when they were only 6. The cultists in Greece were found packing up to attend his wedding to Echidna. He’ll be minding his own business for awhile making babies with her, which lets the PCs know that they have some years to gather power and allies rather than having to storm a god’ s lair at level 6.

    • Nornagest says:

      Does anyone have any suggestion for ways he could do sidequests when the story pushes for laser-focus on the endgame?

      Take the choice out of the players’ hands. The party has vital tools or information stolen from them, is imprisoned on trumped-up charges (or kidnapped and sold into slavery, or gets wasted at the local tavern and wakes up shanghaied into a pirate crew, or has a friend kidnapped…), gets lost and has to find their way back to civilization, needs to resolve some local problem in order to continue on their journey, etc. Or contrive things so that players need the sidequests to gather necessary resources: maybe the Big Bad has an army that the players need allies to defeat or delay, or maybe they need lots of money to fund bribes or investigations or travel, money that they can’t make from the main quest alone. Or lose a MacGuffin and make the players run around gathering clues to find it again.

      Taking it out of the timeline (an adventure on another plane where time flows differently, an All Just A Dream adventure, etc.) could also work, but pacing that kind of thing is difficult and it’s not a trick you can use often.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      More RPG stuff: any advice from experienced GMs on how to keep your players happy?

      Right now I have just three players, who we’ll call Betty, Norman & Charles. Betty has some system mastery, but creates her characters entirely for acting purposes rather than power gaming. She likes having her characters socialize and fall in love. She gets excited when we meet characters from myths.
      Norman had never played a tabletop RPG before, but knew D&D from Baldur’s Gate and is a quick study. His main PC is like himself but devoted to the Olympian gods, and he’s a great tactician. He’s totally uncomfortable with romance subplots for his characters.
      Charles is experienced with multiple TRPG systems. He appears to be method acting a barbarian, as he has a tendency to tune out talky scenes but he’s done non-hacknslash gaming in other campaigns. One way I found to keep him engaged outside of combat was to give the barbarian a romance arc.

      Any advice on balancing game content to keep everyone engaged?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Make the story arc of the adventure interesting for all of the PCs. Make your NPCs interesting. Give them some personality. Make sure you have parts of the sessions that involve a dialogue between NPCs and the PCs where no dice are rolled and the outcome of the encounter is really down to how well everyone played it out. If you make your NPCs interesting, the players will likely all be interested in the role-playing.

        I give all of my NPCs different voices and character traits.

        Conversely, in combat don’t be afraid to let poor PC decision making (in character build, tactics or strategy) end up leading to some bad party outcome. (You can even let a character die that gets “Deus Ex Machina” resolved.) This means that people will have some real interest in a powerful build and get some satisfaction out of there perfect tactical approach, etc.

        • Spookykou says:

          Make your NPCs interesting.

          I just wanted to second this, I think it can be tempting, and it can sometimes work, to try and build engagement away from the table, with back stories and player motivations etc etc but hands down the best and fastest way I have ever seen for keeping a player engaged in what is going on at the table is giving them an NPC they want to know more about/interact with more.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’m lucky in that my players all have fairly similar tastes, or at least their tastes don’t clash. I have:

        -player who likes roleplaying, but exclusively as vaguely ridiculous characters. He likes doing silly voices. He really likes playing filthy rich characters who are loose with money and like living the high life. The only downside is this leads to extra “wasted time” as he demands to find ONLY THE FINEST RESTAURANT or whatever.
        -player who likes increasing the numbers on his sheet. XP, skills, # of enemies killed, etc. He’s not a powergamer first and foremost, but rather just likes everything to be quantified. Downside is that he tunes out when his character is not
        -player who likes roleplaying, but seems to adjust to whatever kind of character he’s handed. (I make the PCs myself, sometimes with player input). Downside is he usually does this by pursuing stuff that is more material than the first guy (instead of “ah, how many gold coins do you spend at the most luxurious tavern in town? You drink only the finest elven wines, and dine on succulent unicorn” he’ll want to actually do something), but takes more time. He will fabricate his own side quests, essentially.
        -player who is kind of along for the ride and will do small stuff in the background to amuse himself. Downside is he tunes out easily.

        But they all have a fairly similar taste in the balance of combat, investigation, and talking. I just make sure that I plan for the roleplayers’ tastes ahead of time (fob off the first guy by planning for 5 minutes a session spent on him browbeating waiters, set up some stuff for the other guy to do so I don’t have to improvise, because I find that jotting down a few notes ahead of time and giving him something is way more efficient than having him go looking for something I didn’t plan and having to deal with that), and make sure I’m paying attention to the other two and finding things for them to do so they don’t get bored.

        If two of your players like romance subplots, and one doesn’t, just give Norman a different kind of “personal interaction subplot”. While the other two are doing romance-y things, he’s off sacrificing to the gods and advancing himself in, I don’t know, the Fraternal Order of Zeus or whatever. Find a way to link it to his tactical prowess, maybe.

        Another way to engage people who usually only like one kind of gameplay (combat, for Charles) is to kiss their ass outside of that. Find some way to flatter his character’s ego during periods where there’s not combat. Involve him in some kind of running joke. That sort of thing.

      • Anonymous says:

        More RPG stuff: any advice from experienced GMs on how to keep your players happy?

        Any advice on balancing game content to keep everyone engaged?

        Players will generally be happy as long as something relevant to their characters happens once in a while. It doesn’t have to happen all the time; probably better that it doesn’t, otherwise it’ll get old quick. It’s usually very easy to spot what players pay attention to, what interests them and such. The rest of the time, as long as you keep things interesting overall, they’ll follow along anyway, fiending for relevance – I have a player who continues to sign up to campaigns, but does very little; he seems there mostly to see what the others do.

    • BBA says:

      I’ve never played a tabletop RPG but they were the theme of this year’s MIT Mystery Hunt which some of you may find enjoyable.

      In particular, a puzzle called “Swifties” is relevant to our host’s interests. Sort of.

  4. shakeddown says:

    Question for Bay Area rationality people:
    I’m moving to the Bay Area* (Probably Mountain View/Palo Alto) in August, and I’d like to try out living in a (rationalist) group house (or something similar). Does anyone know how to go around trying that?

    *are you supposed to capitalize Bay Area as a place reference?

    • TenMinute says:

      If this happens, could you please give liveblogging it a try? The concept is amazing.

      • Aapje says:

        Right now I’m imagining a house of people webcamming to earn money, where the requests aren’t sexual, but ‘critique my outgroup.’

        • shakeddown says:

          You could have a hardline conservative, an SJW, a practicing Muslim… wait, I think we just invented reality TV.

          • Aapje says:

            Come on, it would be 10 libertarians and 1 token socialist. You know…diversity.

          • Anonymous says:

            It would be 10 socialist liberals. Everyone of a different skin colour. You know… diversity!

          • dndnrsn says:

            Pick six people of wildly different political views, give ’em a beater van and juuuuuust slightly less than enough money, and then they go on a roadtrip across the continental US. Entertainment ensues.

          • ajakaja says:

            No, no, what you do is you take ten libertarians and tell each of them “everyone in this house except you is a socialist — your job is to blend in. If by the end of the season no one’s figured out that you’re actually a libertarian, you win!”.

            But they’re all libertarians. Pretending to be socialists. And each week they vote one person out that they think is actually the libertarian.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @ajakaja

            What an amazing idea! Except they obviously should vote out the person who is they believe to be least socialist, or possibly for extra points, identify the secret hidden Trotskyite!

            edit. or maybe just not vote out anyone, I don’t ever like that part.

  5. IrishDude says:

    Standardization through the market, no need for government edicts:

    “The Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, a consortium of companies producing plumbing products including Toto, Panasonic, and Toshiba, has agreed to unify the iconography used on the often baffling control panels for Japanese toilets. The decision was made in response to foreign tourists who say they’re often unable to understand the controls, which operate features often not found on Western toilets such as bidets and warm air drying.

    The toilet manufacturers plan to implement the eight new pictogram on models released from this year onward, with a view to the system becoming an international standard. The icons in the image above mean (from left to right) raise the lid, raise the seat, large flush, small flush, rear spray, bidet, dry, and stop.”

    http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/17/14306464/japanese-toilet-control-icons-meaning-standard

    I’m particularly amused by the butt spray icon.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Good. Now when are we as a species going to sort out the task of standardising our plates and bowls into a small number of sizes and shapes that stack efficiently and fit neatly alongside each other (and indeed, fit neatly into the racks) when you load them into a dishwasher?

      • CatCube says:

        You can do that in your own house, you don’t need the American Institute of Dish Manufacturing to ride to the rescue on that one.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Right up until you break a few plates and bowls…

          • Matt M says:

            I randomly bought two different sets of plates from Bed Bath and Beyond in my most recent move (pretty sure they were different brands entirely) and they stack just fine. It’s better to have a certain brand always on top, but not required.

      • Well... says:

        Some de facto standardization might be taking place due to people buying their tableware from big box stores, who all get their stock from the same few manufacturers.

        I shouldn’t like the idea of tableware companies coordinating with home appliance companies so that bowls, plates, and dishwashers are all designed together. But I do like it because I’m really friggin’ OCD about how my dishwasher is loaded.

      • JayT says:

        I feel like the real problem when it comes to loading a dishwasher is bowls, and I don’t think having a standard bowl shape and size would fix the issue. What you need is some kind of collapsible bowl that folds down into a flat surface. If you could do that, then I think pretty much all dishwasher problems would be solved.

        • Nornagest says:

          What you need is some kind of collapsible bowl that folds down into a flat surface.

          They make those, although they look kinda Fisher-Price and I’m not sure how well they wash when collapsed.

          • Well... says:

            Ugh. I don’t wanna eat out of those every night, and my wife DEFINITELY doesn’t.

          • Nornagest says:

            Doubles as a canine chew toy and an infant teething implement.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, I don’t think those are going to get clean in a dishwasher. We have a hard enough getting dishes clean without folding up the relevant surfaces.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Tentative, but is it possible that dishwasher design needs to be improved to accommodate bowls?

            Is it possiblly worth it to just give up and hand wash bowls?

          • The Nybbler says:

            You need to be able to place bowls such that there’s no place where water will pool, and so they don’t completely block the spray. This can be done for many bowls, but only in certain places on the racks of most dishwashers, plus it tends to take up a lot of space. So I think a standard bowl shape and size would help, because you could optimize part of the racks for that shape and size; they’d hold the bowls at a downtilt.

            A dishwasher where the water sprayed from all directions (including relatively flat trajectories from the sides of the dishwasher), plus an air-jet drying and/or pre-rinse cycle (to remove pooled water) might work, but it’s going to be expensive.

          • Well... says:

            I agree with the Nybbler. Plus, pooling shouldn’t be an issue because if you’re loading your bowls such that water can pool in them, you’re a fool and you deserve to have dirty/wet dishes in the morning.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            I’m deeply confused. You put bowls in a dishwasher by putting them in on an angle, so that they start on their side and then tilt slightly downwards, but are held up by the prongs, and you leave one row of prongs between bowls to ensure proper water flow.

            At least, this is how I’ve always done it, and I’ve never had problems, nor have I ever considered this particularly esoteric knowledge.

            Is this not how other people load bowls?

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s great if the prongs are spaced right for your bowls. If they’re not, they won’t tilt enough, or they’ll fall flat, or you’ll have to leave a LOT of space. With a standard bowl size it’d be fine. Cheap Corelle is fine. Stoneware that your my more aesthetically inclined SO likes is not so fine.

          • JayT says:

            Sure, I think that’s how everyone washes their bowls, but it takes up an inordinate amount of space in the dishwasher, which leads to extra runs. In the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing, but if I had a complaint with dishwashers it’s that bowls are a pain in the butt.

          • Well... says:

            The truth is, every dishwasher is designed to accommodate a mixture of plates and bowls of a range of shapes and sizes. Dishwasher designers aren’t stupid; they know this problem exists.

            If you look in your user manual (find it online if you don’t have a paper copy) it’s almost certain to have several ideal loading diagrams. They’re actually very helpful to study, even for just a minute or two.

    • Rusty says:

      I am a frequent visitor to Japan and am strongly of the view that, even without the icon standardisation, Japanese toilets are great. Their bathrooms are also great. I don’t know about the US but trying to get the Japanese style toilets in the UK is hard. Japanese style bathrooms, impossible.

      When I speak to Westerners who have visited Japan they normally agree with me. So it feels like market failure is firmly in place.

      • Spookykou says:

        I am not sure what you mean by ‘Japanese style bathrooms’ but isn’t a floor drain a bath tub mounted shower head and a stool all that is needed? The house I visited while on vacation in Germany(I know, very generalizable) some 10 years ago had all of these things, they just didn’t use them to replicate the Japanese bathing experience.

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, what does Japanese style bathrooms mean?

          I stayed in a hotel in Amsterdam once where the bathroom was an opaque plastic or glass room the size of a closet. Inside was a commode, a sink, and a shower head. There was a drain in the bottom of the room. Was that Japanese?

          • onyomi says:

            The Japanese bathroom is much more functional than the American bathroom, but this is in part due to them having a more evolved culture related to bathing than in the US.

            The Japanese bathroom is often itself like a giant shower–all surfaces can get wet and there is some kind of fan to keep the place dried out and non-mildewy between usage. Even if the bathroom is tiny, the tub is deep enough you can actually get everything but your head under the water. The hot water often is controlled with an actual digital readout, so you get exactly the temperature you want.

            Traditionally, everyone washes themself off before getting in the tub and then the whole family can theoretically use the same bath water. I find this latter point a little gross even assuming everyone gets into the tub already clean, but I agree with the notion that the tub is primarily for soaking, not for washing per se.

            Americans don’t “get” the value of soaking, and so don’t get baths. They think of the bathroom just as a place to get clean, not to relax. Our tubs, therefore, are often not suited to actually taking a bath in, and many people just shower.

            Americans also seem not to “get” the idea of uhhh… not having small amounts of poo clinging at all times to one’s anus, and so don’t understand the value of the washlet. But obviously washing your butt with water is much more civilized than scraping your anus with sandpapery stuff that never really gets it all. This I really don’t understand, but well, who knows. Americans have better hygiene than most people in the world, probably, but not the best either. Maybe soaking in tubs for relaxation and toilets that squirt water up your butt are too prissy for our rugged cowboy spirit.

            I think another obstacle is that Americans are, ironically, more likely to live in old houses and apartments than Japanese. Though less so in the country, most Japanese are living in very new houses and apartments by US or European standards. This means the bathrooms can be built with functionality in mind. American bathrooms feel like a holdover from a time when, like at Versailles, there was no real dedicated bath space. You just brought in a wash basin to a regular room. At best you sit a claw foot tub in the middle of some otherwise ordinary room and try not to spill.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @onyomi,

            I sort of get where you’re coming from, but this sounds like “this superior weapon can cut clean through steel because it is folded over a thousand times” applied to bathing.

            The issue with toilet paper is real, but wet wipes solve it just as well and much more cheaply than specialty appliances. I don’t see why someone should buy and deal with all the bells and whistles of a Japanese toilet when they can pick up a pack at the drug store for a few dollars instead.

            Similarly, I suspect part of the reason Americans don’t use our bathtubs is because baths suck. Maybe this is just my idiosyncratic preference but sitting in a tub up to my neck in warm water soaking just isn’t a pleasant sensation. Why take up more time and space when you can have a shower stall instead? If you have the urge to soak anyway, a jacuzzi should work fine while also having a social aspect.

          • Well... says:

            The Japanese bathroom is much more functional than the American bathroom

            I’ve never had any problem getting American bathrooms to function.

            One way to guarantee you’re not walking around all day with poop on your butt is to go right before you shower. Some people don’t naturally do this, but it’s possible to train your body to have a new poop time. Doing that is easier and less costly than installing new fixtures in your bathroom.

            It sounds like the Japanese bathroom relies on electricity. So in power outages none of them can take hot showers? And you have to learn to read numbers on a digital display before you can operate your hot water controls, and you need an understanding of temperature measurement before you can meaningfully interact with those controls? And if you’re blind you need a whole new system of controls? How functional.

            I promise, this isn’t my tribalism showing, it’s my training in user experience design.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Dr. Dealgood and Well…

            A lot of these arguments seem to be making a false assumption that you are losing something with the Japanese style bathroom, but I am not sure where that comes from. As far as I can tell if you want to just take a shower, for example, you can.

            There are also some weird cost analysis things going on here, making a one time purchase of a slightly more expensive toilet vs the cost of/hassle of maintaining a constant supply of wet wipes might work out in favor of the wet wipes, but it does not seem obvious. Related the thought of using my hand and a porous wet piece of paper to clean myself, vs a water spiget spraying me clean is far from settled in favor of the wet wipes.

            Same again with the cost of rescheduling your life such that you poo before showers instead of a upfront cost in dollars for a more expensive toilet.

            I don’t find the ‘you have to understand temperature’ thing very compelling if it is meant to refer to children, as I think you probably shouldn’t let kids who can’t count bathe alone in a deep tub. However if it, like the other user interface complaints are about disabilities, then I will agree that the simple form that Onyomi described could be bad, but keep in mind physical disabilities, I imagine the Japanese system would be better for incorporating voice commands. In general I would need a much more in depth understanding of the user interface before I could decided if it was obviously better or worse.

            I am not sure what you are getting at with the power outage argument, I also need energy to my house in order to have hot showers, maybe you could explain in more detail?

          • Maybe this is just my idiosyncratic preference but sitting in a tub up to my neck in warm water soaking just isn’t a pleasant sensation.

            And yet American hotels commonly provide both a swimming pool and a hot tub, the latter designed for sitting in soaking in hot water.

            Almost the only change we made when we bought our current house, twenty-one years ago, was to install a giant bathtub.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, but pools and hot tubs are used (by Americans) for recreational purposes, rather than for hygienic purposes – yes?

          • JayT says:

            “Americans don’t “get” the value of soaking, and so don’t get baths. They think of the bathroom just as a place to get clean, not to relax. Our tubs, therefore, are often not suited to actually taking a bath in, and many people just shower.”

            I think this is pretty obviously false, judging by the fact that pretty much every house in the country has a bathtub and that there are thousands of stores that primarily sell bathing accessories. Also, the bathroom is the most likely room in the house to be remodeled, and people spend almost as much on that as they do on kitchen remodels.

          • Well... says:

            My three year old pulls up a stool and runs her own water wherever she needs it. I don’t know how common that is.

            We have a gas water heater, so in a power outage we’d still have hot water. Even if it was an electric water heater, the water would stay warm for hours after the power went out.

            But if the controls were electric, would I even be able to get cold water?

          • Spookykou says:

            I googled some Japanese bathrooms to get a better feel for this.

            Most of them appear to be an electric control panel that hooks up to your water system and can control it remotely, but there are still normal faucet controls in the event that you wanted to use them, which fits with my ‘they are just adding features’ hypothesis.

          • Well... says:

            OK, gotcha.

            In that case I see two categories of differences:

            1. The actual design of the bathroom–the “whole room is the shower” concept. Not sure I see the benefits of such a design, but there might be some.

            2. The fancy extra electronic crap I don’t want/need.

          • Spookykou says:

            2. The fancy extra electronic crap I don’t want/need.

            These phrase sounded so ‘American’ to me (maybe just because I am from Texas?) that I have no doubt it almost totally by itself resolves the difference in bathroom accessories between nations.

          • Well... says:

            Oh man, I wish that was true.

            I look around in dismay at the mindless technology adoption of my fellow countrymen. In every pocket a smartphone, on every wrist a tracking device, under every Christmas tree a drone, a VR headset, the latest vijya game, curved 4K TV, etc. …But if my curmudgeonly “fancy electronic crap I don’t need” stance is how Americans look next to the Japanese then they’ve got even bigger problems than we do. God help them.

          • onyomi says:

            The digital readouts and whatnot are not a central feature of the Japanese bathroom–just a nice bell/whistle some have. I should also note that the place with the shower and tub is usually separate from the place with the toilet, which is often more like a closet used only for going to the bathroom and washing your hands–useful when someone else is soaking in the tub and you have to pee.

            I would consider attempting to time my poops to correspond with my showers a lot more trouble than buying a fancier toilet. If you use wet wipes every day, the cost and hassle adds up faster than you might think. Those things aint cheap.

            Obviously some Americans enjoy bathing, but Japanese culture accords it a kind of reverence few others do. Maybe the Finnish sauna is somewhat equivalent. My general impression is that, in America, women bathe more often than men and that it doubles as a time for them to shave their legs, wash their hair, etc. or else some kind of occasional indulgence with candles, scented oils, etc. Besides skewing female, my impression is the demographic skews somewhat elderly–people who want to sit in a walk-in tub rather than potentially slip and fall. Typical practice for young men seems to be a very utilitarian five-minute shower designed to get you clean and little else.

            Most Japanese of all ages and genders, however, see soaking in the tub after they’ve gotten clean as almost like a necessary daily health practice. And of course visiting a hot spring is a popular vacation activity. Hot water is accorded an almost religious reverence. Many of the claims they make about its health benefits are probably exaggerated or completely false, but they are certainly right that it can be very relaxing, and it also serves a social function: families bathe together and it’s also deemed you can get to know a person better when all the trappings of social propriety are literally stripped away and you’re sitting there naked in a sauna or tub with them.

          • Well... says:

            Moving your poop time really is not that hard. I’m not even sure it took me more than a day or two (though it was about 10 or 11 years ago now, so my memory of it is hazy). The “bottom” line is, I’m a curmudgeon who hates change and I was able to do it just fine.

            If the place with the shower is also the place with the sink, then that’s dumb. It means I can’t go in and brush my teeth after my wife takes a shower without getting my feet wet.

  6. Mark says:

    I like the kind of libertarianism that gives us the choice of many different societies – libertarianism as over-system, rather than a set of lower level rules.

    The only way to have that kind of libertarianism and also have freedom of movement is for rules to apply to an area, or some (non-human) thing, and for those rules not to change when different people come in. (Or to have an infinite amount of material and space that minorities can constantly flee to.)

    You can’t have democracy, libertarianism and freedom of movement.

    (Perhaps better to say you can’t have democracy and some specific relation to property – but I think there might be some extra conflict between liberty and freedom of movement in a democracy (where people don’t tend to change their minds quickly )- leaving aside differences in power – Mark Zuckerberg can build big walls around his house and doesn’t think democracy will affect this.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      You can’t have democracy and libertarianism, at least not for long. People are far too interested in controlling each other’s behavior. Even if you got a bunch of libertarian idealists to control an area, the next generation would mess it all up.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Not sure you can have democracy and not-libertarianism, either. The more the private space shrinks, the more important it becomes to control everything in the government, the more everybody escalates their power games.

        Maybe we just can’t have nice things.

        • Anonymous says:

          You gotta have barons.

          Actually, the Wersgor domain was like nothing at home. Most wealthy, important persons dwelt on their vast estates with a retinue of blueface hirelings. They communicated on the far-speaker and visited in swift aircraft of spaceships. Then there were other classes I have mentioned elsewhere, such as warriors, merchants, and politicians. But no one was born to his place in life. Under the law, all were equal, all free to strive as best they might for money or position. Indeed, they had even abandoned the idea of families. Each Wersgor lacked a surname, being identified by a number instead in a central registry. Male and female seldom lived together more than a few years. Children were sent at an early age to schools, where they dwelt until mature, for their parents oftener thought them an encumbrance than a blessing.
          Yet this realm, in theory a republic of freemen, was in practice a worse tyranny than than mankind has known, even in Nero’s infamous day.
          The Wersgorix had no special affection for their birthplace; they acknowledged no immediate ties of kinship or duty. As a result, each individual had no one to stand between him and the all-powerful central government. In England, when King John grew overweening, he clashed both with ancient law and with vested local interests; so the barons curbed him and thereby wrote another word or two of liberty for all Englishmen. The Wersgor were a lickspittle race, unable to protest any arbitrary decree of a superior. “Promotion according to merit” meant only “promotion according to one’s usefulness to the imperial ministers.”

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I’ve been nursing a theory for a while now that no governmental framework can persist in the long term, due to information asymmetries.

          Another way of phrasing my idea is that in the limit, we’re in a sort of “uber-ancap” – ancap principles drive everything at the bottom, including temporary periods where power is ceded to others voluntarily at first, possibly through deception, and then later held by a combination of deception and force.

    • NIP says:

      Isn’t “the kind of libertarianism that gives us the choice of many different societies” just known as “Westphalian sovereignty”?

      Ditto for

      rules [to] apply to an area, or some (non-human) thing, and for those rules not to change when different people come in

      Weird how globalization is changing people’s perceptions so quickly that we’re re-inventing the wheel to try to come up with a hypothetical state of affairs where different societies mind their own business.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I remember watching a video on YouTube where David Friedman was asked basically this, but about ancap instead of libertarianism. His answer at the time was that the difference is that nations have territorial sovereignty that ancap societies would not – where you live doesn’t have to be tightly bound to what rights enforcements agency (or agencies) you live under.

        It’s natural to infer that some rights, such as those governing water use, are more practical to enforce over a contiguous area than non-, but there are other rights, such as those on digital content, which can and are effectively enforced anywhere there is internet access, and it’s not clear that one rights framework would necessarily creep into dominance over the other.

        As to whether this also applies to stock libertarianism, probably depends on the precise subtype of libertarianism. A collective defense agreement would very likely end up region-oriented. A trade agreement might go another way.

        • beleester says:

          I think that rights enforcement is one of those things that’s easier when you apply it to an area rather than a group of people, because then you don’t have to check people’s IDs before you know what laws apply to them. They’re also easier to apply in a monopoly, where again, you don’t have to worry about stepping on another agency’s toes in pursuit of your own goals.

          So rights enforcement agencies might well settle on something that looks like Westphalian sovereignity.

  7. Mark says:

    Do the words “legal” and “law” have different etymologies?

    • Jordan D. says:

      My understanding is that “Law” has Germanic roots and meant “something fixed”, while “Legal” is from the Latin, “Legalis”.

      But I’m not an expert.

      • Mark says:

        I wonder if they can be linked back at some earlier stage, or if the similarity between them is coincidence (or imagined).

        • Kevin C. says:

          As Jordan D. noted above, “Legal”, like most English adjectives ending in –al, derives from a Latin adjective formed with the adjective suffix –ālis, specifically, lēgālis. (Interestingly, the word “loyal” is an etymological doublet, also being derived from lēgālis, but by way of Old and Middle French.) Lēgālis, in turn, is derived, via the aforementioned suffix, from the 3rd declension noun lex (genitive lēgis), “law”, which is believed to be either from Proto-Indo-European *leǵ-s (see Sihler’s New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin), or from PIE *legʰ-s (see Palmer’s 1906 The Latin Language), both the root nomina actionum of the roots *leǵ- ‎(“to gather”) and *legʰ- ‎(“to lie, to be in resting position”) respectively.

          Further extending and detailing on Jordan’s points, “law”, meanwhile, is Gemanic. It derives from Old English lagu (via the Old English post-vocalic fricative allophone [ɣ] of /g/ becoming /w/ in Middle English). This, in turn, was one of the borrowings from Old Norse via the Danelaw, and was an early plural of Old Norse lag, lǫg, meaning literally “something laid down or fixed”, and thus, by varying degrees of extention “layer, stratum, measure, law”, from Proto-Germanic *lagą, from the PIE root *legʰ- listed above, which is also the source of the Proto-Germanic verb *ligjaną and its causative *lagjaną, which are the sources of English verbs “lie” (in the meanings referring to position/resting, not those related to untruth) and “lay”, respectively.

          So, depending on the source of Latin lex, “law” and “legal” may be related back at the level of Proto-Indo-European.

          (Note, not a linguist, but etymology has long been an interest/hobby of mine.)

  8. shakeddown says:

    Random comment about Netflilx’s new Series of Unfotunate Events (which is fantastic, by the way):

    Vgf vebavp gung Ebova ercevfrq ure ebyr nf n jbzna erirnyrq gb or gur Aneengbe’f ybir vagrerfg va n ynfg-frpbaq cybg gjvfg gung punatrf gur pbagrkg bs gur jubyr fgbel.

    (ROT13’d for spoilers).

    • Earthly Knight says:

      It had some good stuff, particularly the art direction and Neil Patrick Harris’s performance, but I thought the plot got awfully repetitious after a while. Hopefully they’ll do something new and exciting next season rather than make another eight hours of roadrunner cartoons with Count Olaf in place of the coyote.

      • Aftagley says:

        Potential spoilers of a decade-old book series, but if they stick faithfully to the books (and they’ve got the original writer producing, so it makes sense that they might), that whole “show up at a place, it gets ruined by Count Olaf” only goes on for another 2.5 books or so. We’d see it phase out somewhere around halfway through the next season.

        That being said, they diverted from some of the books even in this season to try and address that fundamental problem. In the books, Poe drops them off at the lumber mill as another guardian, here they sneak out and go there of their own volition. The side plot with mother and father was also added to, in my opinion, try and break up some of the repetition.

        • shakeddown says:

          Yeah. I only just finished episode 7, and I did not see that coming.

          I worry that this will lead to more repetition in later seasons, though. In the books, we gradually advanced from episodic, to vague hints of the existence of a conspiracy, to abandoned bases, and only actually met volunteers in the last three or four books. The show’s already had explicit meetings with volunteers and mentioned Snicket to the Baudelaires. I’m not sure how far they have left to escalate.

          (OTOH, a noir All the Wrong Questions miniseries would be a pretty cool follow-up, and has the advantage that you could fit it all in one season).

    • 75th says:

      Does it get better after the first episode? I thought most of the humor fell flat and that NPH sucked. The “WRONG! [Same thing you just said!] is out of character, NPH’s delivery is boring, etc., etc.

      Note that I have read the books, for whatever that’s worth. I was not offended by the side story teaser at the end of the first episode, nor by the frequent screen presence of Lemony Snicket, my problems are basically all centered on Count Olaf being massively disappointing

  9. Tekhno says:

    Music theory.

    Are there any rules for percussion like for notation? Specifically, if you have a bass instrument and a lead instrument, is there a “correct” mathy relationship between these and the percussion in terms of placement, use of kickdrums vs snares vs hats etc?

    • rlms says:

      I’m not quite sure what you mean. By “notation” do you mean harmony? By “placement” do you mean rhythm?

      • Tekhno says:

        By “notation” do you mean harmony?

        I just meant by analogy to the way that use of scales and chord progressions, help the correct notes be used to make something sound “right” (musical to human ears).

        By “placement” do you mean rhythm?

        I’m being kind of all encompassing here, so rhythm but also choice in type of percussion. For example, some rules I already gather are that rolling snares or even toms are used in transitions in electronic music.

        Like, what is the utility of a high hat versus the bass drum or a snare, generally speaking? What are there purposes generally, and what are they supposed to add to the bass and melody?

        There clearly must be underlying rules besides being on-beat, because you can arrange percussion in ways that don’t compliment the other elements of a piece of music even if they are on the blocks of some music program.

        • rlms says:

          “I just meant by analogy to the way that use of scales and chord progressions, help the correct notes be used to make something sound “right” (musical to human ears).”
          OK, although I’d argue that scales exist as objects in their own right (like mathematical objects) and notation is only one way of looking at them (and not usually the main way people actually use to create music).

          “There clearly must be underlying rules besides being on-beat, because you can arrange percussion in ways that don’t compliment the other elements of a piece of music even if they are on the blocks of some music program.”
          I would say that being the idea of a beat is like the idea of having 12 distinct notes with certain ratios between their frequencies, and that the idea of having bars with a regular number (often 4) beats in is like viewing certain intervals between notes as having certain qualities (major, minor, perfect etc.). But while you can build on those fundamental Western harmonic ideas to build different harmonic systems in different genres that have internal logic to them, I don’t think the same thing applies as much to percussion. For instance, the idea of percussion being used to keep a beat doesn’t apply to a lot of classical music, and even in genres where there are specific common drumbeats, they tend to be kind of arbitrary in a sense.

          But I think there are some common rules and patterns on various levels. Firstly, the fundamental idea of on/off, strong/weak beats, and the related idea of syncopation — playing/emphasising on offbeats. Syncopation commonly occurs on two levels, playing on offbeat quavers (8th notes) and on offbeat crotchets.

          The “rules” of specific genres are kind of just things that exist, rather than logical systems like harmony — I think that the composition of the modern drumkit is largely based on what bits of percussion where going cheap after the American Civil War. That said, here are a random selection of some of them:

          Most modern music uses the bass drum to outline and define the beat, often meaning it plays on beats 1 and 3 (and often at other times as well). Notable exceptions are in jazz, where beats 1 and 3 not stressed at all, and reggae, where beat 3 is stressed but beat 1 isn’t. The snare serves three purposes (at least). It is frequently played on the offbeats 2 and 4, and less frequently on a variety of other beats, as part of the main beat. It is played along with other instruments to emphasise what they are playing. And it is used a lot in fills (bars where the drums play complicated things, often to mark the end of a section). The high-hat fills out the main beat, often playing on all quavers, all crotchets, quaver offbeats, or some combination. The toms are mainly used in fills. Other cymbals are used to mark the start of sections. But these are all very general rules that are very frequently broken. In terms of why specific bits of percussion are used in specific ways, I think less obtrusive bits (e.g. high-hats) tend to be played more frequently, the bass drum is used as a base because its low frequency makes it easy to sense, and the snare is used frequently because it has a distinctive sound.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          To add an example: in swing music you play off beats a little late, but people conceptualize how far behind the beat you are as a one-dimensional continuous thing. So it’s not discrete the way people think of harmony, but there’s more or less only one continuous parameter (which can change over time, but usually not too much)

    • Art Vandelay says:

      I’m not sure I fully understand your question but I would say there is (almost?) never any rules governing the relation between these things but there are tendencies. For example a bass guitar often hits many of the same beats as the bass drum in a groove. Also, in jazz the lead instruments might mimic a rhythm that the drummer has just played on the snare drum or vice versa.

      • Tekhno says:

        For example a bass guitar often hits many of the same beats as the bass drum in a groove.

        I was told this makes it sound muddy due to frequency overlaps, and that the bass drum or kick drum or whatever should be inbetween bass notes instead.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I guess they can do if they’re not mixed right, but get a good separation between them (in particular, making sure that the bassy component of the kick drum has a short duration) and I can see no reason not to. If you’re going to be really careful about it, I guess you could sum your signal to mono and then try phase-inverting the kick on any notes where they don’t sound right (I’m not a professional mixologist; maybe that is standard practice these days), but in any case most rock and pop music is structured so that the bass guitar notes are going to want to coincide with the kick drum beats a lot of the time, so at worst it’s something we can live with.

          • Well... says:

            I’m not an audio engineer either (a mixologist is a bartender, right?) but I believe what a lot of people do is actually take the low end off the bass and leave that for the kick drum.

        • Tekhno says:

          but in any case most rock and pop music is structured so that the bass guitar notes are going to want to coincide with the kick drum beats a lot of the time

          That seems to make sense, because then the drum emphasizes the bass. What about the rest of the time? Is that just free-form?

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Well, you typically get a lot more bass guitar notes per unit time than kick drum beats (unless you’re playing in the various styles of heavy metal where a double kick drum pedal is de rigueur), since your kick drum is mostly for emphasising the strong beats, whereas you might want your bass guitar to be playing a more melodic riff – though even then, it will probably be playing a lot of notes including the strong beats, rather than just the off-beats and smaller subdivisions.

            That is to say, you’ll hear bass guitar notes without kick drum much more often than kick drum without bass guitar.

    • Well... says:

      It’s right when it sounds good.

      That said, there are patterns you can follow that will make your music sound one way or another. So first you have to know how you want it to sound. Once you’ve done that, I recommend ripping off other people who’ve made music that sounds like that. In doing so, you’ll become familiar with the patterns they use. The final step is to tweak those patterns until they’re exactly the way you want them, and so that the original sources you stole from are no longer obvious.

    • Urstoff says:

      The snare always goes on the three

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      In Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Micky Hart writes about wanting a book about drums and finding that there weren’t any. (probably 1990s) There were books about pianos and violins, but only books for children and detailed ethnographic studies about drums.

      I think it’s that drums were low status. (Three musicians and a drummer.)

      Anyway, the book has history of drums, making drums, a theory of why rhythm matters to people (entrainment) and probably more that I don’t remember.

      There might be percussion theory from India and/or Africa.

      Comprehensive percussion theory, even just for western music, would be a huge topic.

      • Well... says:

        Yes it would. For rhythm theory from the East you’d need a whole different book. In fact you’d probably need several, since for example tabla music and gamelan are both extremely complicated rhythmically and also couldn’t be more different from each other.

        And then, African rhythms are friggin complicated too, and there are basically as many distinct categories as there are tribes.

        (The video in the link really gets going around 0:55)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Now I’m wondering whether music theory about harmony is possible because western music has that constrained twelve-note scale. There might be theory for the Indian scales with more notes. I bet there isn’t theory for bent notes, though I’m willing to be surprised.

          • Well... says:

            Western music theory is pretty robust, and what with all the Eastern influences on Western music over the years, it’s able to handle basically anything I think. It’s just that it gets very complicated, and for example to capture microtones you need special notation. But people have figured out how to keep it as simple as possible anyway. I’ve seen klezmer music, for instance, that’s notated in a very simple way, with just a few concise amendments to indicate the little inflections and the “lopsided” rhythm.

            Bent notes—i.e. notes that start on one pitch and slide continuously up or down to end on another pitch, and sometimes back to the original pitch—can be treated just like glissandos, or with their own specialized notation as is already common in guitar tablature.

            [Edited to add] Thinking about gamelan specifically, I’m not so sure about some of what I said above. Gamelan sometimes uses scales that have fewer, not more, notes than Western scales, but unlike Western pentatonic scales, scales in many forms of gamelan are composed of, say, five notes spread equally across an octave. It produces what the Western ear would consider microtones, but technically isn’t since they aren’t notes that are between two other notes.

            If I was playing a gamelan instrument, I don’t know whether Western notation could be usable. It might. If I remember right, someone invented an original notational style just for gamelan.

    • S_J says:

      You know, when I was in band in high-school, I was in the brass section.

      But I remembering seeing the music used by other instruments. Mostly the same.

      Even the percussion section, which used notes to give timing, duration. I mean, the percussion section had special accents, and special notation for things like a drum-roll. Even notation for the drummer at the snare to turn the snare on or off.

      But there is a well-developed set of musical notation for the percussion instruments.

      Unless you are asking about something else…

  10. Jaskologist says:

    Last year I learned about the Niihau incident. This year is starting off with me learning about FALN, the branch of the Episcopalian Church who shot up Congress, bombed multiple US cities, and even managed a jailbreak.

    • Well... says:

      Just read about the Nuhau incident–it’s incredible! I would love to see Paul Greengrass make a movie out of it.

    • rmtodd says:

      Things I learned from reading the linked article:

      1) Boy, were the 70s a lot weirder than I knew.

      2) God, but twitter’s UI makes reading a really long article (split up into 140-char-max chunks) insanely annoying. I encourage that dude to find some web site out there that can accept his writings in chunks larger than 1 sentence at a time, because it looks like he’s an interesting writer.

      • Deiseach says:

        Boy, were the 70s a lot weirder than I knew.

        Yep. Why do you think we old-timers who were around then (even as kids) are so blasé about the various End Of The World Scenarios?

        Seen it all before and lived through it, chilluns 🙂

        • rmtodd says:

          I was around during the 70s, as a kid, and hadn’t noticed that stuff. I suspect a combination of a) being more interested in reading, e.g., Blish’s or Foster’s adaptations of Trek episodes than national news sources and b) Oklahoma probably not being as much of a hotbed of Radical Left Activism.

        • Matt M says:

          I watched some German movie a year ago about a left-wing terrorist group that was up to all sorts of violent nonsense in West Germany in the 1970s. The title escapes me. At the time my thought was “Man, Europe was crazy” but maybe I should adjust this to, “Man, the 70s were crazy”

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Baader-Mienhoff. That’s probably the terror group, anyway; no clue on the movie title.

          • Vermillion says:

            That was the movie too. Pretty good as I recall and also the name for a pretty fun phenomena.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Trivia: the Rot Armee Fraktion/Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Gang was so fond of BMW cars that the nickname “Baader-Meinhof Wagen” arose.

          • Protagoras says:

            As I understand it, the Red Army Faction was encouraged and supported by the DDR, and died out without successors when that source of support was lost. Presumably that’s the general explanation for why there used to be a decent amount of extreme left terrorism, but it has almost disappeared in recent decades; the liberalization and then collapse of the Soviet Union’s empire eliminated the major organizing force behind such terrorism. Home grown leftists in the developed world apparently don’t usually get up to that sort of thing unless they’re being manipulated by foreigners.

    • NIP says:

      Did you get this via Nick Land? I saw this on his blog, but was unable to read the whole thing despite fiddling with my noscript settings; not that that would make it much more readable, as rmtodd pointed out. Twitter is an absolutely terrible format for writing essays, and yet so many intellectuals seem to want to try it anyway. Baffling.

    • Urstoff says:

      The incredible number of bombings and other violent actions committed by (mostly) left-wing groups in the 60’s and 70’s seems to have been swept under the historical rug.

    • James Miller says:

      One of the reasons it matters that the left controls public schools is that they can teach about the evils of Japanese internment without ever mentioning the Niihau incident. I bet that mentioning the Niihau incident in a U.S. history textbook would kill sales in most states.

  11. Does anyone have good recommendations for Chinese literature? I have realized recently that I don’t know much about their culture *outside* of cultural-economic interactions of a Communist and post-Communist China. And it seems silly to try and understand them without knowing this stuff.

    I just started to read ‘Dream of the Red Chamber.’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Great_Classical_Novels).

    • NIP says:

      It’s not Chinese literature, but if you’re dipping your toes into understanding Chinese culture, try The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. It’s a classic. I personally enjoyed it very much, though I can’t say how accurately it portrays Chinese culture, as it is a dramatization and was written by a westerner. It follows the life of a peasant farmer from the age of marriage until his death and details his hardships and outlook on things.

      Unfortunately that’s all I’ve got under my belt as far as Chinese(-related) literature goes, other than the Art of War.

      • Skivverus says:

        The Good Earth may not be the most depressing book I’ve ever read, but I had a hard time finishing it. I suppose it does count though.
        As for culture, though, it’s not literature, but The Chinese Have A Word For It (don’t remember the author(s), sorry) is an interesting way of getting some insight on that. It’s sort of a dictionary-plus-context for a substantial number (read: doorstop-length) of Chinese terms.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I’m reminded of a short discussion I had with a Chinese expat stemming from a couple movies I liked. …I’m very likely to be mistaken, but ISTR she said the protagonists of Iron Monkey and Legend of Drunken Master were closely related in Chinese folklore. And that at least one of them was seen as their Robin Hood figure – a merry rogue who champions the lower class.

      It made me wonder where I might get a suitable overview of Chinese folktales, as well as Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. But I haven’t gotten around to this yet.

    • Deiseach says:

      Journey to the West. Arthur Waley is the translation (in a kid’s edition) that got me started, and even though it’s probably dated and is severely edited (a lot of the later chapters are really filler of the “kidnapped by demons AGAIN rescued by Monkey AGAIN” kind), it should help get you started.

      Seems to be a perennial favourite, given that there are tons of TV and movie adaptations of it still being made: this is a dubbed-into-Hindi from Cantonese version of the second Monkey King movie, which is a sequel to the 2014 Monkey King movie with Donnie Yen. Given that I understand neither Cantonese nor Hindi – except for a very few words of the latter I’ve picked up watching TV serials online – it must be a good story, right? 🙂 Interesting to compare the Chinese version of Buddhism with the Indian original and see where cultural changes crept in.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The Three-Body Problem gives you an insight in to Chinese culture and is fairly interesting as science fiction.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Tacking on more recommendation requests:

      1) Does anyone know of a good sympathetic modern-ish account of Confucianism or Legalism by one of their adherents? The Analects didn’t do it for me, but I know there were centuries of development of that system, so maybe there is something better?

      2) Does anyone know if the answers to the essay questions on the civil service exams are still around, and whether anyone has translated some? It sounds like a great source for conventional wisdom through the ages.

      • Are you asking about the Imperial exams? If so, I assume you mean “answers some entrants gave.” I don’t know if there is a collection of those anywhere in English.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          That is what I meant. I know there’s one example in Sources of Chinese Tradition, but I think it was famous in it’s own time.

      • Incurian says:

        Possibly Diamond Age kinda sorta.

        • Nornagest says:

          I have no idea if it’s true or not — I’ve read the Analects and a couple of short commentaries and not much else, which doesn’t give me a very good look at the actual culture — but I’ve heard that the Confucianism in that book isn’t entirely accurate.

    • psmith says:

      I just read Outlaws of the Marsh, the Sidney Shapiro translation of Water Margin.

      Pros:
      Lots of smash-bang action and picaresque humor
      Translation is easy to read, if a little stilted
      Undoubtedly very influential in Chinese culture

      Cons:
      Very long and repetitive
      Difficult to tell the outlaws apart by the end

      Overall, I would say it’s worth a try. I used it as my spin-bike reading for a couple of months, and I think it did decently well in that role.

  12. thepenforests says:

    Anyone here read Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene? I just finished it and I’m surprised I haven’t seen it mentioned before in rationalist circles (although maybe it has been, and I’ve just missed it). It’s a book that I think most LW/rationalist-type people would find highly agreeable, and as a work of pop philosophy, it ended up consistently surprising me. As I was reading it I would often think things like “and here’s where a reference to Givewell would be useful, but I’m sure that won’t show up in this kind of book” – and then I would turn the page to find, lo and behold, a reference to Givewell! The whole book ended up being full of names familiar to rationalists/SSC people – mentions of Singer, Haidt, Pinker, Kahneman, etc, turned up in all the places you’d want them to turn up, which was cool. Overall I thought it was an excellent book – a lot of the material covered was kind of old hat to me (and probably would be to many commenters here), but it’s always nice to see a position nicely summarized and defended in one coherent piece of work. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s the perfect “Morality 101” book to suggest to people who might be sympathetic to LW-type ideas, but who would be turned off by EY’s style in the sequences. In that sense I think it’s very similar to Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture, which I view as the current go-to “Naturalism 101” source. I don’t think that either work gives anything close to the final word on their subject matter, of course, and I disagree with both of them in a few places. But they both act as excellent starting points – I think that if you want to start having interesting discussions about philosophy, you have to be at at least the level that these books are at.

    Anyway, I’d be interested to hear what other people here thought of it.

    • Wrong Species says:

      A while back someone recommended this book as a sequel to The Righteous Mind, which I think is a fair description. The Righteous Mind is a book primarily for liberals which asks “what if we’re not automatically right?”. When you see how lawyerly your ethics can be, it makes you lose faith in the rightness of your own beliefs. This book takes up the mantle more fully on how we can learn to get along when our intuitions clash. In this way, he uses utilitarianism as more of a metamorality than an object level one. Unfortunately, I don’t think he succeeds. Utilitarianism clashes with our intuitions far too much to be able to be compatible with differing ethics. Or at least classical utilitarianism does. People don’t really care about maximizing total happiness, not if they think about.

      Preference utilitarianism could work though. It cuts the crap about trying to find an “objective standard”, whatever that means, and asks a simple question: what do we want? In theory, we could come to some understanding although that’s different in practice. Maybe this is a waste of time and we end up either with ethical domination or the libertarian solution. In the mean time, we should find a way to coexist, if only to fix government disfunction.

  13. NIP says:

    Question for regular posters here (being a longtime regular lurker until recently):

    How does one format text in the comments here? Is it html, or is there some sort of notation native to wordpress? I’d appreciate anybody that would be willing to link me to some sort of table or other resource I could use, ’cause I’m getting tired of using meme arrows and quotation marks to quote people and passages. Being able to make hyperlinks instead of posting them raw would also be nice. Now that I’ve decided to be a respectable blog commenter, I’d like to fit in visually as much as temperamentally.

    • suntzuanime says:

      When you click reply there should be some buttons below the text field for various formatting things.

      • NIP says:

        Holy crap, I’ve been using noscript here so long without (apparent) issue that I didn’t even notice I was blocking those features! I thought you all were privy to some sort of secret nerd knowledge and that I’d look dumb for asking; except, I guess I am! Just not in the way that I thought.

        Thanks fam!

  14. Thegnskald says:

    Let’s try this again.

    For people who are actually friendly to the goals of SJ: How do we fix it? How do we reclaim the elements worth salvaging from what has become a nightmare of upper middle class social signaling and political infighting?

    We cannot afford to ignore the problem, because the objectives, rather than the abuses, are being treated as the problem. “Treat people like human beings” should never have become an excuse to treat people poorly, self-evidently, and it sure as shit shouldn’t die as an idea because leftists have been too cowardly to address the snakes and sociopaths in their ranks.

    The problem fundamentally comes down to the fact that we made victimhood noble, made it an asset; we turned victimhood into a weapon for abusers to abuse their victims with, because take a wild guess at who will be better at socially situating themselves as the victim – the sociopath or the people they carefully choose based on their social vulnerability.

    So – how do we fix it? How do we fix an enforcement mechanism which by its nature and by the nature of what it intends to rectify is easily exploited to reinforce the problem rather than correct it? How do we build a better Social Justice?

    • Jaskologist says:

      How would you define the goals of SJ?

      • Anonymous says:

        I would suggest:

        Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.

        😉

        • JayT says:

          So would this mean that someone that ascribes to this description of social justice is ok with a mean bum that has no skills dying in a gutter? What is your due if you have no value to society?

          • Anonymous says:

            Those cases are for charity to take care of, which is separate from this.

          • JayT says:

            Ok, then would you say people in the social justice movement are ok with blacks being underrepresented in fields that require a high IQ since blacks on average score lower than other races?

            I feel like your description is closer to a description of libertarianism than social justice.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s a mostly a joke. I just repasted canon 1928 of the Catholic Catechism.

          • JayT says:

            Oh, sorry. I didn’t recognize the passage, I thought you were being serious.

          • Anonymous says:

            The font makes it hard to tell that the smiley is a winky-face.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But Catholicism has a long history of activism for social justice.

            Catholicism is large and has it’s own liberal and conservative fights (and alll sorts of other fights, too.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, but their definition is quite divergent from the SJ we know and despise.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Anonymous has a decent, albeit ambiguous, definition.

        The largest goal by far is to get people to stop being jerks to one another, particularly over things that cannot be helped. The second goal is to ensure that all people can equally participate in society, which is a bit of a mess because of competing access needs. The tertiary goal is to ensure everybody has access to a reasonable standard of living – although this is a bit of a moving target, it is necessary to ensure the other two things (The Internet might seem like a luxury, but is increasingly necessary to participate in society). Access to meaningful work is variably included; personally I think many people cannot be happy without meaningful work, so I think it is reasonable to include.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I think it will be key to nail down “being jerks” if your project is to have any hope of succeeding.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Attempts to nail it down just results in rule-lawyering, I fear. People are endlessly inventive in new ways to be jerks to one another.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Speaking as one not friendly to SJs goals:

            Not nailing down what “being jerks” is, is one of the things which made SJ what it is. To quote myself from the subreddit

            Those who wish to enforce this orthodoxy have simply been using the inherent ambiguity in “act like a jerk” to justify their actions. If successfully pressed to explain what the rules are for not being a jerk, they will sometimes even admit that open disagreement with them is ipso facto “acting like a jerk”, but they still don’t see this as wrong. The rest of the time they pretend “acting like a jerk” or “acting like an asshole” is about delivery rather than content, but it isn’t.

            If you don’t nail it down, “openly disagreeing with my goals, methods, facts, or interpretations” can be defined as “being a jerk”, and you’re right where we are today.

          • gbdub says:

            The failure mode seems to be assuming “acting like a jerk” is defined by the choice of target, rather than the choice of weapon.

            So no one who is “punching up” can ever be a jerk, and no one “punching down” can ever not be a jerk. The trick then being that “up” gets contorted to mean “whichever direction I feel like punching in”.

            The pro-affirmative action organization at UofM is (was?) literally named “By Any Means Necessary”, the obvious implication being that no action taken in support of their cause could be considered unjustified.

        • Matt M says:

          “personally I think many people cannot be happy without meaningful work”

          Is it really a goal of SJ to ensure that everyone is provided with everything they need to be happy?

          If so, when can I expect them to help me find a wife?

          • Anonymous says:

            Sometime after the government starts handing out prostitute vouchers. (Tramp stamps? Hah, I kill myself.)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Obviously we cannot make sadistic murderers happy, so there is a limit in terms of the rights of others.

            But more broadly, there is a difference between a right to a thing, and a right to access to that thing. You can’t be prohibited from having a wife, and unreasonable limitations making it practically impossible for you to marry are also unacceptable, but this doesn’t translate to a right to a wife.

          • Matt M says:

            Is there anyone in America who is prohibited from having access to meaningful work?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yes.

            Employer liability laws with regard to employees have effectively made felons unemployable.

            Occupational licensing is another way access to meaningful work is increasingly constricted.

          • Randy M says:

            Is the SJ left against occupational licensing? I don’t recall this coming up from them before.

          • Anonymous says:

            Where does SJ draw the line between “we need to provide this” and “we merely need to permit this”? For something so essential as procreative contracts, it seems weird to put it under the latter category.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Matt –

            Occupational licensing got some interest from the SJ left after Obama commented on it, but those sorts of topics don’t tend to come up in adversarial debates about the evils of SJ.

            Anonymous –

            There is no consistent position in SJ as a whole, but I’d say the reasonable position is that access is more self-consistent. Critics of SJ have rightfully pointed out that, for example, fat and trans activism often veers into right-to-a-relationship, as opposed to right-to-access-to-a-relationship, but those are both fairly ambiguous in a society wherein access may be non-existent due to non-repricocity of interest. Certainly both groups of activists get uncomfortable close to the rhetoric of the “involuntary celibacy” activists, and at a certain point I find all of it laughable, since there are three groups of people all complaining, fundamentally, about lack of access to sexual or romantic partners; if they formed a mutual support group the issue would be resolved. (Except, of course, that it probably wouldn’t…)

          • Anonymous says:

            @Thegnskald

            The issue is largely irresolvable with a free market sexual marketplace.

          • Matt M says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’m trying to avoid conflict here, but maybe I should be a little more direct.

            I am suspicious of the notion that the goals of SJ are truly aimed at helping everyone. I think there are certain groups of people (namely: heterosexual white males who earn a decent income) that they are entirely uninterested in helping achieve happiness. I would go as far as to suggest that some of them even treat happiness as a zero-sum game in which case they literally want me to be unhappy, because it means more happiness is now available for the less privileged.

          • Thegnskald says:

            MattM –

            Some of them, to be certain.

            I’d say a reasonable rule of thumb is that any SJ person who regards Men’s Rights Activism as evil is probably not somebody who has your best interests at heart, although ignorance is a common enough reason as well.

            The fundamental problem is that Social Justice is currently “cool”, which attracts people who want to be cool. And the “cool” people (both the already-acknowledged victims, and those who have obtained status otherwise) are rather hostile to the people who SJ is actually supposed to be helping, because they get “coolness” by being victims, and push the non-victims down the social hierarchy. The actual purpose of SJ is being redirected to maintaining the status quo, instead of changing it, because changes to the status quo overtly harm the status of those with the most social power.

            Add in corporations making money by selling advertising to articles which cater to the lowest common social justice denominator (namely, telling people they’re good and their enemies are evil), and you have a thorny social problem.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think there are certain groups of people (namely: heterosexual white males who earn a decent income) that they are entirely uninterested in helping achieve happiness.

            I think you could delete the words “who earn a decent income” and your statement would still be correct. SJWs might occasionally gesture towards the evils of classism, but I certainly don’t get the impression that SJW is particularly concerned with helping the white working class.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, I would define working class as decent income.

            I think there’s a decent amount of SJ stuff that is concerned with helping the truly poor, although that might not be specific to SJ itself, it may just be an artifact of the majority of SJ people coming from the left and favoring economic redistribution as its own end.

            “Incapable of earning a decent income” is also a general catch all for the handicapped, drug addicts, people with psychological disorders, etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            So far as fat activism is concerned, the current situation is that there’s a tremendous amount of anti-fat propaganda, and specifically attacks on fat people having sex lives.

            Wanting the propaganda to go away can look like fat people being entitled to partners, I guess. However, I think the propaganda is a real problem.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Nancy –

            Some people go beyond that, as people are prone to do, and argue their lack of sexual partners is a social problem that needs to be resolved, on the grounds that sexual intimacy is necessary for mental health.

            There is a subtle distinction between arguing against promoting prejudice in sexual preference and arguing that people’s sexual preferences are evil. And the latter kinds of activism severely undermine the former.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Some people go beyond that, as people are prone to do, and argue their lack of sexual partners is a social problem that needs to be resolved, on the grounds that sexual intimacy is necessary for mental health.

            I think it becomes very hard to distinguish between an argument that fat-shaming is doing harm to people through preventing access to basic human needs, and an argument that asserts that this is a right that must be filled by society.

            But some of the confusion between the two arguments rests on an implicit assumption that people who are fat are actually intrinsically undesirable. Clearly weight as determining of desirability is socially mediated (one only needs to look at how attractive women have been portrayed at various times). So if one is simply working to change the social perception one is actually just attempting to remove a barrier, rather than demanding that one be given access to sex.

          • Randy M says:

            Clearly weight as determining of desirability is socially mediated

            Within a range. Mobility is a desirable trait in a paramour.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thegnskald

            I’ve read a good bit of fat acceptance material, and I don’t remember ever having seen anything that extreme. Do you have a source?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M,

            Mobility is a desirable trait in a paramour, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, and people shouldn’t be shamed for having sex while crippled, which also happens.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Randy M

            Is the SJ left against occupational licensing? I don’t recall this coming up from them before.

            I can think of at least case where they were (IMO possibly correctly). It involved hair braiding and probably regulatory capture by beauty salons.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Nancy,

            Mobility is a desirable trait in a paramour, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, and people shouldn’t be shamed for having sex while crippled, which also happens.

            Who are you to decide what other people’s deal-breakers should be?

            There’s a severe dissonance between the idea of “n consenting adults should be able to do their thing without judgement” and “your preferences are problematic.” I think that might be what posters upthread were talking about.

            The same putative right that a gay man exercises when he follows his preferences and doesn’t enter into relationships with women necessarily also applies to straight men who aren’t interested in relationships with fat women. Otherwise, why should the majority allow anyone else preferences at all? If it’s really a winner-take-all battle for the control of other people’s sexuality, then the set of preferences most people actually hold are the ones which would naturally triumph.

          • Anonymous says:

            Mobility is a desirable trait in a paramour, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, and people shouldn’t be shamed for having sex while crippled, which also happens.

            This reminds me of that thread with quadriplegic spouses a while back.

            Why shouldn’t it be a dealbreaker, though? That depends on what you want out of a relationship. If you’re looking for physical/economical support, among other things, they’re fundamentally incapable of providing it. I can see some wealthy person interested primarily in lineage crafting taking a crippled spouse from an accomplished and genetically superior family, but for most people such a choice would be rather ridiculous.

          • Iain says:

            It is apparently a common problem for fat women that men they date will have sex with them but be reluctant to be seen in public with them. (First example I found: point 5 here.) The goal of fat activism is not to convince men to have sex with fat women — there are already lots of men who are eager and willing to do that. The goal of fat activism is to lower the social stigma about dating a fat woman, so that more men feel comfortable doing so.

            I can see some wealthy person interested primarily in lineage crafting taking a crippled spouse from an accomplished and genetically superior family, but for most people such a choice would be rather ridiculous.

            Sometimes people get married because they like each other, rather than to maximize their reproductive and financial success. Appalling, I know.

          • Anonymous says:

            [Redacted]

            Sometimes people get married because they like each other, rather than to maximize their reproductive and financial success. Appalling, I know.

            And where did I note that this couldn’t be the case?

          • Iain says:

            Oops. Link got cut off and redirected to the wrong place. Fixed.

            And where did I note that this couldn’t be the case?

            I helpfully quoted it for you. Here, let me do it again:

            …for most people such a choice would be rather ridiculous.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hah. I was wondering why it felt like a non-sequitur.

            Right – that’s more reasonable. It’s largely irremediable in current circumstances, though, unless you think you can substantially alter people’s perceptions. This is like an euphemism treadmill; you’re not getting anywhere by trying to change the attitude without changing the object matter itself. Being fat is low status in our society, because it takes no effort, and suggests you’re poor, weak-willed and/or have fat genes – take your pick. A guy who publically shows himself with a fat girlfriend, while not being fat himself, is basically saying “this is the best I can do”, and lowering his own status. It’s understandable that he might not want to.

            I helpfully quoted it for you. Here, let me do it again:

            …for most people such a choice would be rather ridiculous.

            I see. We seem to differ on the question of the importance of romantic love in the matter, then.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hang on. Does it really surprise anybody that there are people with terrible ideas in a particular movement? Is this movement immune from the issues afflicting all other movements?

            I’m fat, my wife is fat, I really don’t care that some people want to make far more socially acceptable (I think the real issue is fitness, not fat – I have an obese friend who runs 5ks and outruns most other people, so they’re not necessarily directly correlated), and I didn’t comment on that as a dig against the fat acceptance movement – I was using it as an object example of a specific problematic approach to rights.

            I sense tribalism here. The terrible ideas of some people in a movement I agree with don’t reflect on me, it is trivial to find such people in any non-trivial movement, so we need to stop treating isolated terrible beliefs as indictments on movements.

            Yes, these people exist. No, it isn’t hard for fat people to find people willing to have sex with them – it isn’t even hard to find people willing to be in relationships. In some respects it is easier, because do you want to be in a relationship with somebody who will dump you if you gain weight? But maybe there’s a more fundamental connection between the involuntary celibates and these specific people, namely, that nobody wants to be in a relationship with somebody who feels like society owes them one. If you can’t blame oppressed status, you are an involuntary celibate; if you can blame oppressed status, suddenly your concerns are worth taking seriously, because Prejudice and Systemic Oppression.

            Isn’t one of the threads of conversation here about how criticism of bad ideas in SJ is treated as equivalent to criticism of SJ itself?

          • Randy M says:

            Sorry, I thought the context made it clear that mobility in the context of fat acceptance was a euphemism for a kind of debilitating obesity that, while likely not entirely due to willpower or virtue, nevertheless I doubt was sexually appealing to a majority of men at any time period in western culture. Or if they were, the teleos of sexual attraction was disordered.

          • Iain says:

            I see. We seem to differ on the question of the importance of romantic love in the matter, then.

            Sure. But the vast majority of people in modern society fall on the side of romantic love, which means that it isn’t actually unreasonable to expect that disabled people will be able to find people willing to marry them.

            It’s not like fat people or disabled people can’t find sexual partners. As Thegnskald points out, too many of them are already married for that to be a plausible claim. But there are additional obstacles standing in their way, and the goal of the fat acceptance movement is to reduce or eliminate those obstacles.

            I never said it was an easy goal. But it’s also not some sort of special demand for access to sex — just a request for a level playing field.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            When has dating, etc, ever been a level playing field? Some people are more attractive (whatever that means – generally, being fat is relatively more of a liability for a woman, while being short is relatively more of a liability for a man), some people are less attractive, some people are more witty (whatever that means – and being witty helps men more than it helps women), some people are less witty, etc. How would one level the playing field?

            The incels (who are almost exclusively men), the fat activists (who are mostly women), the gay guys who write articles complaining that guys with abs don’t want them because they don’t have abs … these are all people saying “the people who I am attracted to are not attracted to me, and that is not fair.” They all want more than they can get on the dating market, and they interpret that they can’t get what they want/feel they are entitled to as a slight, an oppression, etc. They just use different language and blame different enemies.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If we want to follow through on our ideals of justice, we have to make sure they are actually possible. Regardless of what you think is just, a world where a 300 pound person is considered just as sexually attractive as someone weighing less is simply impossible, unless you want to change human nature through some weird science fiction technology.

            What is possible is a world where that person is unattractive but we’re not supposed to say so. Is that what the fat acceptance movement wants?

          • Thegnskald says:

            WrongSpecies –

            Attractiveness is subjective, and your statement accomplishes nothing except insulting people; it doesn’t meaningfully contribute to the discussion in any way.

            It isn’t true – it is subjective – it isn’t kind – it insults people – and it isn’t necessary – you’re not contradicting anything anybody has said, the only possible response is going to be anger from those who are insulted, on behalf of themselves or someone else, or agreement from people who share your subjective aesthetic tastes and propensity for insulting people.

            Your statement amounts to a declaration of your sexual preferences, about which nobody cares.

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn: There are different kinds of level playing field. I will never, for example, run a fair race against Usain Bolt. But that’s a different kind of unfairness than an Olympic race where Bolt runs the 100M and other people run the 110M hurdles. Fat activism is about ameliorating the latter, not mandating the former out of existence.

            On average, people in today’s society tend to find fat people — especially fat women — less attractive. This is not universal — there are lots of people out there with varied sexual preferences. But right now, liking fat women is seen as low status, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the path of fat women and the men who find them attractive. The goal of the fat acceptance movement is to reduce that stigma. Now, maybe that’s a hard task, and maybe it won’t work — but it’s a laudable goal, and it is uncharitable to reduce it to “the people who I am attracted to are not attracted to me, and that is not fair.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            I wasn’t even trying to be insulting, I honestly thought this would be something you couldn’t possibly disagree with. It wasn’t meant as a personal attack. I’m not declaring war on the overweight and think needlessly insulting them is in bad taste.

            In my defense, this isn’t just a statement of my own idiosyncratic preferences. A high percentage of people believe the same. You honest to god believe we can remake society where people simply don’t care about weight as a sexual preference? Do you realize how controversial that is as a statement? I don’t even know to argue against that and I’m not sure what would change your mind.

          • Iain says:

            @Wrong Species: You are not reading what people are writing.

            The fat acceptance movement is not about forcing people to change their sexual preferences. It is about reducing the stigma that people experience when those preferences happen to include large ladies.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Thegnskald,

            [WrongSpecies] statement amounts to a declaration of [his] sexual preferences, about which nobody cares.

            Well evidently you don’t care about his sexual preferences much, that much is clear anyway.

            There is a strong argument to be made that sexual preference is innate. That is, after all, the entire foundation of the idea of sexual selection as an evolutionary mechanism: that mates are chosen for visible traits which demonstrate fitness. Not to mention that it’s also the rhetorical foundation for the LGBT rights movement.

            But even if sexual preference was completely malleable, could be changed at a word, it’s still not up to you to decide what other people are allowed to prefer. At least not if you claim to support any kind of sexual ethics based on consent and tolerance.

            When your argument is identical in structure and content to that of a religious fundamentalist, except with Beach Body as the force of corruption rather than the Teletubbies, that should cause you to pause and reconsider. Because your professed beliefs are in direct conflict with one another.

          • Matt M says:

            If you can’t blame oppressed status, you are an involuntary celibate; if you can blame oppressed status, suddenly your concerns are worth taking seriously, because Prejudice and Systemic Oppression.

            This is a very good way of stating it. SJ treats the fat woman who can’t find a boyfriend as a terribly oppressed victim of an awful society with bad values. Meanwhile, they treat the normal looking, but socially awkward man who can’t get a date as a horrible parasite and stain on society that must be mocked and belittled into giving up and not trying.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Whether or not fat is attractive is largely a matter of fashion, and is in turn dictated by the relative difficulty of the options available. The fashionable choice will generally be the more difficult choice; in times of scarcity, fat. In times of plenty, thin.

            But the thing is, most people don’t really think fat is a big deal, they think other people think fat is a big deal. Fashion.

            There is a major issue, though – overweight people do tend to be less attractive. This isn’t because they’re overweight, but because they’re the sort of people who would be overweight in our society; people who place a higher value on attractiveness work to stay thin, and also work to be attractive in other ways. Attractiveness is thus strongly correlated with weight, reinforcing fashion.

            An often-ignored component of the fat acceptance movement by its opponents is it’s emphasis in telling fat people they can be attractive. Not all fat people are fat by default, after all, but by strong predisposition (such as issues with the endocrine system, most commonly the thyroid or parathyroid, in balancing insulin, a hormone which, among other things, tells the body to store excess energy, resulting in weight gain and low blood sugar – critical systems are being starved even as they gain weight. This can be caused by a low-sodium diet, as salt is our major source of iodine in the US, which is a critical vitamin to thyroid function. Indeed, I suspect the obesity problem in the US is almost entirely a product of iodine deficiency and antibiotics wrecking our digestive ecosystems, but I digress…). These people may be led to give up on being attractive, rather than not regarding it as particularly important, by the constant messages telling them they are unattractive – that they can’t be attractive.

          • Matt M says:

            Regardless of what you think is just, a world where a 300 pound person is considered just as sexually attractive as someone weighing less is simply impossible, unless you want to change human nature through some weird science fiction technology.

            What is possible is a world where that person is unattractive but we’re not supposed to say so. Is that what the fat acceptance movement wants?

            I would suggest the the fat activist movement disagrees with your first paragraph. They think “attractiveness” is a social construct. Society was constructed to think thin = attractive, and it can therefore be re-constructed so that it no longer thinks that.

            They don’t want you to just stop saying fat is unattractive, they want you to believe it. And if you don’t truly believe it, they’d still prefer you claim you believe it. And if you won’t claim you believe it, they’d still prefer you just shut up and not talk about your actual preferences then.

            In terms of wanting you to believe it, it becomes a question of forcing you to make a choice. Their plan seems to be to re-shape society such that thinking fat = unattractive makes one a bad/shallow person. So people who care a lot about being thought of as a “good person” by the right people in society will modify their preferences as such. This won’t work on everyone, but I suspect it will influence a non-zero amount of people.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Dr Dealgood –

            Read more than my most recent comment, if you would, because you may notice I am overtly against people telling other people what they should prefer, something that originally arose in the context of criticizing a few members of the fat acceptance movement for exactly that behavior

            I’m just also against people spreading pseudoscience and pretending that modern sensibilities are remotely innate or natural. You don’t have to justify your sexual preferences – whether for or against fat, it really doesn’t matter,, you just have to stop pretending that other preferences are somehow deviations from the natural order.

            In general, stop pretending there is a morally correct or objective standard of beauty. It’s fashion. The people one hundred years ago will look back at our fashion choices and conclude we had terrible and primitive tastes, I’m sure.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @ian

            Thegnskald is telling us in quite explicit terms what you believe no one is defending. Sure he differentiates between “changing society in a way that fat people aren’t considered unattractive” and “changing preferences” but from the outside, it doesn’t look like much of a difference. In the fat acceptance movement I can’t say what percentage is people who only believe that others shouldn’t be stigmatized for seeking overweight partners and what percentage are those who believes that attractiveness is simply a social construct but I believe the latter makes up a non-minuscule percentage and it’s something the former should understand.

            @thegnaskald

            Do you have any evidence for your claims? I can believe that in the past, being overweight, to a certain extent, wasn’t as much of a sexual deal breaker but I am incredibly skeptical about obesity. Also, just to be clear, you don’t have to believe in “objective beauty” to believe there is a limit to what people will consider attractive.

          • Iain says:

            @Wrong Species: There is a significant gap between “attractiveness is socially constructed” and “therefore you must have sex with me”. It is possible to claim the former without proceeding to the latter. I do not think anything Thegnskald is saying is incompatible with my position, with the possible exception of his ridiculous claim that fashion will look terrible in a century. That’s dramatically overoptimistic — have you ever looked back at a music video from the 90s?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            There are different kinds of level playing field. I will never, for example, run a fair race against Usain Bolt. But that’s a different kind of unfairness than an Olympic race where Bolt runs the 100M and other people run the 110M hurdles. Fat activism is about ameliorating the latter, not mandating the former out of existence.

            First, what is “fat”? I can definitely get behind moving standards away from being set by people who are in the 100th or whatever percentile for “attractiveness” (obviously, this is subjective, and being in the 100th percentile isn’t always good – even men who are super-tall are considered weird looking, 100th percentile leanness is emaciated, 100th percentile muscularity is freaky looking even for men, 100th in both is just gross – compare bodybuilders in the 70s to today, etc).

            There are a lot of attractive women who feel inadequate because they are not among the category of “women who are so attractive they are paid to be attractive”, just as there are men who are not 6′ (82nd percentile in the US!) and don’t have abs who feel inadequate. There are lots of people who are more than adequate who feel inadequate because the models (literally) that they are presented with are very rare in reality, but if you read fashion magazines or fitness magazines or whatever they’re most of what you see.

            So, it’s shitty that there are people (mostly women) who feel “I am an ugly whale” because they have a bit of pudge. But “fat” encompasses everything from “near the top end of normal BMI” to “morbidly obese”. Fat activism, body positivity, etc seems – as far as I have seen – to not draw much of a line between “women who aren’t paid to stay thin are just fine” and “it is bad to find someone who has a 50 BMI unattractive.” There is also a strain of outright denial of health problems caused by obesity.

            I also question your analogy. There are certainly people who are undervalued, so to speak, on the market – forced to run the hurdles – but the groups where this is most dramatic are Asian men and black women, who are hurt by cultural standards that are often truly arbitrary. Leanness is apples to apples, and is far less arbitrary: it’s not a coincidence that zaftig women and husky men are considered more attractive in societies where food is relatively scarce (and thus weight suggests an ability to acquire resources) and less attractive in societies where food is easy to get (and leanness, up to a certain point, suggests willpower and to a lesser extent resources).

            On average, people in today’s society tend to find fat people — especially fat women — less attractive. This is not universal — there are lots of people out there with varied sexual preferences. But right now, liking fat women is seen as low status, which puts unnecessary obstacles in the path of fat women and the men who find them attractive. The goal of the fat acceptance movement is to reduce that stigma. Now, maybe that’s a hard task, and maybe it won’t work — but it’s a laudable goal, and it is uncharitable to reduce it to “the people who I am attracted to are not attracted to me, and that is not fair.”

            Again, what is “fat”? The steelmanned version – “someone with a short-of-ideal body shouldn’t feel bad” is great. But it is not hard to find body positivity stuff showing people who are seriously obese, with the message that everybody should be equally happy with their body and that it’s bigoted to say that some people are more attractive than others.

            Further, I might be being somewhat uncharitable in my tone, but how is that not what it is? The unattractive, unappealing guy complaining that he can’t get a date probably could get a date if he lowered his sights to someone with a similar value on the dating market. Mutatis mutandis for the other cases. 50% of people are below average in socially perceived attractiveness, but 50% of people would not answer “yes” to the question “would you date someone below average in attractiveness”.

            Now, it’s shitty that men have been told by Hollywood “the hero of the story gets the (hot) girl” – as everyone is the hero of their story, a lot of guys feel entitled to a hot girl. With the result that men who are not hot feel cheated if they don’t get a girl of sufficient hotness. This is a shitty cultural norm. I would change it if I could. But “be aware of your own value on the dating market and don’t expect more than you can get” is a different message!

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Personally I find it hilarious that the villain from the Fifth Element was such an accurate portrayal of future hair fashion.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m not accusing anyone of being entitled to sex. But I don’t see a difference between “an obese person, all other things, should be considered just as attractive as a non-obese person” and “changing preferences”. The difference is I view this stigma as natural(which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good) and you two may not. Let’s say I could conclusively prove that the stigma against obesity is not simply a social construct. Then where do you go from there?

          • gbdub says:

            This is hardly unique to fat acceptance, but there’s a lot of motte-and-bailey and a wide range of opinions within the movement.

            On the one hand you’ve got “we just want it to be okay to be happy in a non-‘ideal’ body and/or be attracted to non-‘ideal’ bodies”.

            But on the other there’s a fair amount of rhetoric that’s more “HOW DARE my doctor tell me that being 300lbs is unhealthy!” and/or shaming thinner women for “showing off” or accusing them of hurting larger women just by existing.

            The public health aspect of it is definitely the land-mammal-of-size in the room that hasn’t been brought up yet. To the extent that “fat acceptance” means not encouraging the morbidly obese to attempt to mitigate the associated health impacts, that’s a real cost, ultimately borne socially.

            Obesity is a tough one (and I say that as someone who has struggled with weight). No one would think of shaming someone for having cancer, while no one bats an eye at shaming smokers and expecting them to cover the costs of their addiction. Obesity is somewhere in between right now – but maybe that’s where it should be, more or less? Because it’s not “all about willpower”, but willpower and responsibility certainly play a role.

            I think people struggling with weight deserve more support and less shame, but I don’t think going full over to “there is absolutely nothing about your 300 lb body you should work to change” is a good message either.

          • Matt M says:

            “This is hardly unique to fat acceptance, but there’s a lot of motte-and-bailey and a wide range of opinions within the movement.”

            Indeed. While the stated goal of “we just want society to recognize that fat people can sometimes be beautiful too” is seemingly noble and uncontroversial, it seems the fat activist movement often comes a lot closer to saying “fat IS beautiful in and of itself and anyone who thinks otherwise is wicked and must be denounced.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            There seem to be arguments in this thread that amount to “Fat IS NOT beautiful and anyone who says otherwise is wicked and must be denounced”.

            A fat person says they are beautiful. What the fuck business is it of yours to offer up your opinion that they are not?

            There is also a big difference between “I don’t find Kate Upton attractive”, “Kate Upton is not attractive”, and “Kate Upton is disgusting.”

          • Iain says:

            @gbdub: You can make any movement look bad if you focus on its most extreme adherents.

            One of the most interesting arguments of the fat acceptance movement is the idea that concentrating on weight loss as a proxy for health can be actively harmful. Many standard dieting tricks do more harm than good. Furthermore, there are some diseases — heart disease, surprisingly, seems to be one of them — where being a little bit “overweight” actually turns out to be better for you. This article seems like a balanced evaluation of the claims.

            At the very least, the “public health” case against fat acceptance is not as settled as you seem to think it is.

          • I’m just also against people spreading pseudoscience and pretending that modern sensibilities are remotely innate or natural.

            The claim that they are remotely innate or natural is not pseudoscience, it’s supported by extensive research in evolutionary psychology. David Buss describes it in some of his books.

            But they are not entirely innate. Across a very wide range of societies, men’s preferences are in part a function of hip to waist ratio of women, but there are other physical characteristics with regard to which preferences vary widely.

          • gbdub says:

            Thank you for the link Iain, it was a good article.

            You mention that:

            Furthermore, there are some diseases — heart disease, surprisingly, seems to be one of them — where being a little bit “overweight” actually turns out to be better for you.

            My understanding is that those studies are somewhat complicated by the fact that being underweight with a disease is super unhealthy, and probably indicates that you’re going to die soon because you’re wasting. It’s sort of like the studies showing moderate drinking is good for you – they are confounded by the fact that most healthy people drink moderately, and those who abstain completely are therefore disproportionately likely to be unhealthy for other reasons.

            Your article also notes that apparent health despite obesity is somewhat confounded by the overall increase in longevity from other factors (i.e. an obese person might live longer today than an ideal weight person 30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s because they are obese).

            I think the key is “a little bit overweight”. A few extra pounds of belly fat doesn’t hurt much, even up to the low end of “obese”. Within that range other health indicators are going to mean more, and an overfocus on weight loss can be unhealthy. (I’m aware BMI isn’t a great measure alone, but more in the sense that other indicators mean more than +/- a few BMI points – that doesn’t mean a BMI of 40 is ever going to be particularly good for you).

            The other issue the article notes, and this is an important point, is that, as the average BMI goes up, we’re also seeing many more people at the definitely-unhealthy very high end of the range – and that really is a potentially costly public health issue.

            I don’t mean to focus on the extreme proponents, but “fat acceptance” is still obscure enough that a larger proportion people who actually have an opinion have relatively extreme views (compared to something everyone is aware of, like feminism).

            From the article:

            “So much of the public perception — even among scientists — depends on an a priori belief that higher weight is bad,” Dr. Deb Burgard, a California psychologist and longtime stalwart of the HAES movement, told Medical Daily. “But assigning a moral judgement to people’s bodies is itself bad for people’s health.”

            Speaking of a priori assumptions, Burgard seems to be jumping to the conclusion that any belief that excess weight is bad is “a moral judgement” on people’s bodies. It’s very tempting and easy to go from “weight isn’t everything” -> “my doctor is just judging me when he says I’m overweight” -> “there is nothing unhealthy about my weight”. And that goes too far based on the evidence we have.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            A fat person says they are beautiful. What the fuck business is it of yours to offer up your opinion that they are not?

            Every person is entitled to their own opinions, but that goes both ways. Person A has a right to believe that he or she is beautiful. Person B has the right to have a different opinion.

            Whether or not person B should tell person A their opinion depends on whether the upsides of doing that outweighs the downsides. This is usually not the case, but in some contexts, it may overall be less damaging to person A to be told that B considers him or her unattractive or even that most of society probably beliefs that, than not to tell. For example, if A is only willing to date fitgirls/boys, has zero dating success and seeks advice from B, it might be useful to explain that that they can probably improve their dating life by either losing weight or changing preferences to people who tend to be more willing to date fat people.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I posted “Mobility is a desirable trait in a paramour, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, and people shouldn’t be shamed for having sex while crippled, which also happens.”

            I should have been more thoughtful when I posted that.

            My excuses are that I was distracted by the implication that fat=lack of mobility, and that English doesn’t default to quantification. Instead, it makes over-generalization really easy. I don’t know whether there are any natural languages which are better about encouraging speakers to be specific about how much of something they mean.

            Part of this is that both fat and mobility are ill-defined. Even the people who are used to illustrate the obesity problem in American are generally capable of walking, and they’re fatter than most fat people.

            Some fat people do triathelons.

            There are definite cultural variations in what is considered attractive. There’s paleolithic art portraying fat women. So far as I know, there’s none portraying thin women– let me know if I’ve missed something.

            In Mauretania, young women are fattened up (a very cruel process) to make them marriagable.

            Some cultures apply a lot of pressure for women’s bodies to be supernormal stimuli. Some don’t. I haven’t heard of any general principles about which societies go that route and which don’t.

            The matter of sexual preference and status is complicated.

            Anonymous: “This reminds me of that thread with quadriplegic spouses a while back.

            Why shouldn’t it be a dealbreaker, though? That depends on what you want out of a relationship. If you’re looking for physical/economical support, among other things, they’re fundamentally incapable of providing it. I can see some wealthy person interested primarily in lineage crafting taking a crippled spouse from an accomplished and genetically superior family, but for most people such a choice would be rather ridiculous.”

            I missed that thread. There are quadripalegic people who make money. I grant that’s not the way to bet.

            Randy M: “Sorry, I thought the context made it clear that mobility in the context of fat acceptance was a euphemism for a kind of debilitating obesity that, while likely not entirely due to willpower or virtue, nevertheless I doubt was sexually appealing to a majority of men at any time period in western culture. Or if they were, the teleos of sexual attraction was disordered.”

            No, it wasn’t clear. I don’t know why you limited it to western culture– there’s that long tradition of foot-binding in China, where women crippled in a specific way were preferred.

            *****

            I’ve read accounts by fat women of being harassed for having conventionally attractive male partners.

            ****

            A couple of examples of people getting into trouble for fat-shaming

            ****

            My guess is that sexual preference involves imprinting within a larger category.

            Now I’m wondering about people who learn to not prefer partners who are bad for them. Does this include a change in physical preferences?

            ****

            One more angle on fat and health: I consider it plausible that being stigmatized is bad for people’s health– stigma leads to fewer opportunities of all sorts and increased likelihood of harassment.

            In the case of fatness, it leads specifically to less access to medical care. I’ve read a lot of accounts of fat people who have a hard time finding a doctor who will pay attention to their symptoms rather than just telling them to lose weight. Some of them are ill for years or decades before they get a competent diagnosis. Some of them give up on getting care.

            And, yes, there are fat people who stop going to doctors because they don’t want to be lectured about their weight.

            *****

            I’ve read accounts by people who regain lost weight plus 25 pounds after diets– I’ve wondered how much obesity is a side effect of dieting, since some people go through the cycle three times or more.

          • Spookykou says:

            At the very least, the “public health” case against fat acceptance is not as settled as you seem to think it is.

            As an obese person, from a family of obese people who are riddled with weight related problems, and tend to die when they are 60, this is not intuitive.

            I think this is a, all debates are bravery debates, type problem, maybe?

          • Iain says:

            @spookykou: The lesson to draw from the fat acceptance movement is not that all fat people are healthy. It’s that not all fat people are unhealthy, and that it is often possible to solve the health issues of fat people without them losing much weight.

            Nancy’s post has a bunch of good examples.

          • dndnrsn says:

            One more angle on fat and health: I consider it plausible that being stigmatized is bad for people’s health– stigma leads to fewer opportunities of all sorts and increased likelihood of harassment.

            In the case of fatness, it leads specifically to less access to medical care. I’ve read a lot of accounts of fat people who have a hard time finding a doctor who will pay attention to their symptoms rather than just telling them to lose weight. Some of them are ill for years or decades before they get a competent diagnosis. Some of them give up on getting care.

            And, yes, there are fat people who stop going to doctors because they don’t want to be lectured about their weight.

            This is true. I used to be obese, and having people make jokes at my expense, etc did nothing to stop that. Finding a form of exercise I enjoyed – and, notably, where people did not rag on me for being among the least fit – led to adjusting how I ate, etc.

            The people at the gym who are in excellent shape tend to be nicer to people who are fat, people who are weak, etc than random 50th-percentile people on the street or whatever.

          • Spookykou says:

            To be clear, I don’t think that fat shaming is an effective method for promoting a healthier life style, so I am certainly amenable to some of the goals of the fat-acceptance movement.

            I think it is important to keep in mind that the lesson to learn and the lesson that is learned are not always the same thing. This seems like a problem that social engineering of this form(the spreading of ideas) is particularly likely to run afoul of. What percentage of people who get the wrong idea are needed to offset the gains from the people who get the right idea? I don’t know but I worry that the question itself ‘can’t’ be asked.

            I just worry that the serious struggle that fat-acceptance has in trying to gain purchase in the hearts and minds of people, makes it naturally select against ‘critical self reflection’ and so, at the end of the day, it is hard for me to evaluate the pros and cons.

          • MNH says:

            @dndnrsn

            The people at the gym who are in excellent shape tend to be nicer to people who are fat, people who are weak, etc than random 50th-percentile people on the street or whatever.

            As a guy in excellent shape who is generally irrationally cold to fat people (formerly had a friend group where ceaselessly bashing the fat was just considered “good fun,” only recently realizing that that’s pretty fucked up and trying to change):
            Even at peak douchiness, I was always warm towards fat people at the gym, and it was specifically because they were at the gym. In my mind, that was the one acceptable top priority for a fat person to have, and the people there correctly had it, so good on them for trying to fix themselves. I’m sure there are plenty of fit people who are unlike me in this respect, but I just want to point out that the fact that this takes place at the gym confounds the whole thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @MNH: I should have phrased that more clearly; it is at the gym, although most of the people I know at the gym do not seem the type to be shitty in general.

        • Anonymous says:

          This definition’s only point that stands out among the universal* “want good things, don’t want bad things” items, is the egalitarianism. It really sounds like Egalitarianism+.

          * Pretty sure Communism, Capitalism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Juche, Roman Paganism, Democracy, Absolutism and National Socialism are all arguably for (among other things) the provisioning of points one and three.

    • dndnrsn says:

      These are all basic human tendencies. There’s no unique flaw in SJ ideology any more than there’s a unique flaw in any other ideology that leads to problems. The thing that is flawed is humans.

      How many organizations, of whatever kind, have addressed the snakes and sociopaths in their ranks? One finds snakes and sociopaths in the ranks of any organization, because a certain % of people are snakes, and a certain % of people are sociopaths. I cannot think of any organization that has managed to keep them out or deal with them to any great degree.

      The structure or the context of some institutions can make it harder for people to behave in this way, but that doesn’t have much to do with ideology. For example, the ideologies of university student governments have changed over the years, and vary from place to place – but almost always a low voter turnout, a heavy turnover of “the public”, and various other factors mean that it’s easy for a clique of whatever sort to get power, establish sinecures for themselves, and pick their successors. Currently most western student unions, at least in the Anglophone world, have adopted SJ ideology – but if right-wing populism became the default ideology on campuses, you’d get just the same behaviour, just by different people, or by the same people mouthing different slogans.

      People who are better at being manipulative will always find people to manipulate and will succeed in situations where being manipulative is key to success.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        There’s no unique flaw in SJ ideology any more than there’s a unique flaw in any other ideology that leads to problems. The thing that is flawed is humans.

        I think the emphasis on “lived experience” over more objective measures would count — it’s certainly characteristic of SJ ideology (if not strictly unique in the sense of no other ideologies having it), and its practical effect is generally that people (or, more accurately, people from recognised victim groups) can make all manner of tendentious claims about how society’s oppressing them, and nobody’s allowed to disagree or test the validity of their statements.

        • Aapje says:

          @The original Mr. X

          It seems to be a fairly small minority of SJ people that truly believes that though (although others talk the talk, without walking the walk). Most SJ people that I talk(ed) to really want to be objectively right, not just subjectively.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In terms of the movement as a whole, though, I’m not sure it makes all that difference whether a majority believe in subjectivity > objectivity, or whether they just pretend to because that’s what they’re meant to believe. The end result is still that people can make tendentious claims based on their personal feelings without being corrected.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        the issue is preventing those guys from becoming powerful within your movement, though.

        social justice empowers the most extreme rhetoric, or at least the more extreme ends of the rhetoric, especially if a minority is saying it. those people become the leaders. it’s very difficult to go too far in attacking the other side and get kicked out. I do think that’s probably the biggest issue and the difference between “any organization” and social justice in particular. In fact, it may be the difference between “moderate” and “radical”.

    • lvlln says:

      I’m at a complete loss as how to solve this problem. It seems to me that the movement known as SJ has hardened itself against criticism and introspection in a way that is indistinguishable from a religion. Which, to be fair, isn’t too dissimilar to any typical social or political movement, just more extreme. And looking at the performance of other religious movements from my naive layman’s perspective, I don’t like the prospects – either marginalized to almost nothing like the religious right in the US or becoming a separate militaristic society like ISIS.

      Maybe using entryism like SJ has might work? Get people into high status positions who then use their status to call out abuses in order to discourage them. Unfortunately, I don’t see this working, because calling out abusive actions by the in-group is a very specifically and unusually strongly status-lowering move within SJ. It’d need to be someone who had so much status that they truly were untouchable. When I see how people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets treated, I’m skeptical anyone can.

      Maybe the only way we could salvage accomplishing the goals of SJ might be for another movement to start up which also puts emphasis on compassion for other humans and scientific skepticism. I’m not sure that’s realistic either, because that to me seems like what SJ started out as, before the purity spiral made it what it is today.

      So yeah, I’m at a complete loss. I’ve tried my best to call out abuses from within that I can, but, like I said above, every time one calls out abuses, one lowers status within that group, and as far as I can see, it doesn’t actually accomplish anything in terms of reducing abusive acts. I think the best case scenario might be that many of SJ’s goals get incorporated into society as a whole – which seems to be happening slowly but surely – but the movement becomes so extreme and polarizing that it basically becomes ISIS.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I’ll kind of repeat the comment I made in the last thread on this — the name itself pretty much sucks. And I think the name itself is much of the problem, because it makes the issue of helping those on the lowest tiers of society a matter of justice and rights, instead of one of altruism and caring. Thus anyone who disagrees is automatically a jerk, because they are against justice and the rights of others.

        People have been in favor of social causes and helping the poor and dis-enfranchised for centuries. It is only when SJ decided it is a matter of rights that it became a pseudo religion and became worse than the problems it is trying to solve. So no, I don’t think a complete abandonment of SJ and starting over with a more friendly name would be any kind of a loss to helping those who need help. To the contrary.

        • Matt M says:

          “Thus anyone who disagrees is automatically a jerk, because they are against justice and the rights of others.”

          This is a feature, not a bug.

          They are adopting this language more, not less often. See: the debate on healthcare being framed as “finally Obama has made health care a right and Trump now wants to take away your rights!” Now we’re being told a “living wage” is a right and internet access is a right, blah blah blah…

    • cassander says:

      Do you mean practically or philosophically? Philosophically, I think the problem is easy, you have to reject the collectivist notions of grievance you’ve built up. That is, the movement has to be about lifting up downtrodden/disenfranchised/unrepresented individuals, not downtrodden/disenfranchised/unrepresented groups.

      Of course, doing that strikes me as completely impossible for several reasons. First, politics is, by definition, about organizing groups of people. Identity politics grows because it works. Second, SJWism is popular precisely among those who are inclined towards collectivisms, so getting them to drop that would require a fundamental adjustment of their political thinking, something that individuals almost never do, much less large groups. Third, doing so would require the largest losses in social status for the most privileged and powerful SJWs. People rarely sign on to political programs that result in large status losses to themselves, particularly when they’ve spent much of their lives climbing to the top of the pile.

      • Thegnskald says:

        You can do it within the framework of collectivism, provided you redefine the groups to be the downtrodden and oppressed, rather than the salient characteristics of the individuals who are downtrodden and oppressed.

        Unfortunately, that redefinition is difficult for many of the same reasons.

        • cassander says:

          If you do it by group, though, how do you avoid the problem of assigning status to non-downtrodden members of groups that generally are downtrodden?

          • Thegnskald says:

            By not defining groups in terms of things other than “downtrodden”, I think.

            Class is a more useful concept than the other boundaries.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thegnskald, thank you for raising the question.

      Steven Barnes is focusing on “how can we make things better” as more important than “how have we been hurt”, though the latter is still taken seriously. I think this is a move in the right direction, since the current focus on past damage and anger being forever is part of the problem.

      I don’t know whether there’s some way of grinding intersectionality so fine that eventually everyone– or at least every sort of person– is taken seriously. This might be a direction to pursue.

      I think people who approve of Social Justice ends (or at least the more benign ends) and are horrified by Social Justice means are going to have to go public about it. One of the problems with Social Justice is that its critics are silenced enough that it’s hard to coordinate.

      Give Social Justice credit for what it gets right and push for it to expand its virtues. In particular, bet that if all you know about some group is what people who hate that group say about it, you don’t know enough about that group. Not nearly. Social Justice has done a brilliant job of making the problem clear while simultaneously engaging in it against a new set of groups.

      In general, lived experience is great stuff, but we need to take a wider range of it seriously. Some people lie, but on other hand social science isn’t exactly reliable either.

      Social Justice has turned out to be right about gender complexity. This surprised the hell out of me– both that gender was so much map rather than territory and that SJ could do something with such good effects for a lot of people.

      Possibly we should be doing some work on the effects of high punishment/high shame environments.

      Teach skepticism about claiming to know the subconscious motives of people you don’t like.

      Do a hard split about privilege depending on context. The current meaning has value in the sense that you probably can’t give useful advice to people who are worse off than you understand. You run a high risk of being annoying.

      On the other hand, it’s also important to distinguish between what everyone should have (like not being randomly hassled by the police) and what no one should have (like being able to get away with assault).

      Tension-relieving joke: I don’t like the gender binary– not one bit.

      • Iain says:

        I have been deliberately holding myself out of this discussion because I would like to get other things done today, but I do want to say that I endorse this post.

      • Tekhno says:

        Social Justice has turned out to be right about gender complexity. This surprised the hell out of me– both that gender was so much map rather than territory and that SJ could do something with such good effects for a lot of people.

        This seems like a weird thing to say to me. Gender is socially constructed, so Social Justice made itself right by making up more genders, and now they are incorporated into antidiscrimination law in Canada (Bill C-16) along with traditional forms of trans-identity that can link gender to sex.

        Rigid genders existed to fulfill social roles in a less economically comfortable world, where we needed to squeeze out every bit of specialization we could get from male and female archetypes, and so consequently “man”, and “woman” were very strong (with some stand out cultures having a catch-all “third” category), and men and women were under strong pressure to try and live up to male and female archetypes.

        It’s kind of disappointing that in the modern West where living standards have advanced so much that we were able to relax these pressures, that people have decided that instead of continuing the relaxing of gender pressure and reducing complexity even more by giving less of a shit, we instead are being told by activists that we need to increase social paranoia about conformity to gender by allowing each individual to impose a (possibly legal as well as social) duty on everyone else to respect their own personal pronouns and unique gender identity.

        It’s more map than territory all right; these people are bandying about a map from a McDonald’s happy meal as if “Grimace’s Castle” is a real place.

        for a lot of people.

        For an incredibly small minority of the population at the expense of everyone else including trans people who just want to be women or men because of gender dysphoria, and end up being called “true scum”.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m not sure whether moving towards not giving a fuck is feasible for the larger society, though it’s plausible that would be good. Do you have any ideas about how moving towards not giving a fuck could be achieved?

          • Fossegrimen says:

            What if we’re already there?

            In my experience, we got the 5% who are SJ fanatics and making noise enough for 50% on the one hand and the 5% religious nutjobs making just as much noise on the other. In between you got the 90% who already don’t give a fuck.

            Other possibility is that my entire social circle consists of the tiny minority who don’t give a fuck, but the odds of me never meeting anyone outside seems low.

          • Aapje says:

            The problem is that these people are not merely content to harass their own, they want to force others to adopt their puritan beliefs (and they actively seek to amass disproportionate power).

            ‘Not giving a fuck’ can very easily turn into ‘being fucked.’

        • Tekhno says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz

          Well, gender roles are already withering in the face of economics, and technology is going to accelerate that. People, men in particular, feel less strong about their male identity than previous generations.

          In the long run, transhumanism and becoming machines (which will be needed for a space faring species anyway) would render gender a spent social force, because the underlying sex dynamics wouldn’t remain fixed.

          Right now, we are in an awkward phase where the social roles of gender are at the end of their usefulness, but people are still biologically primed to be male, female, or some confused mix. We still have chromosomes, are filled full of hormones, and have genitals, and we interact socially based on these factors, even if the relaxation of economic pressure is sending the form this interaction takes into disarray.

      • Thegnskald says:

        High punishment/high shame strikes me as a significant core of the issue. Is Original Sin really that appealing to people, that we keep reinventing it?

        • Kevin C. says:

          Is Original Sin really that appealing to people, that we keep reinventing it?

          “Appealing”, or self-evident? “Reinventing”, or rediscovering? To quote Xunzi, “Man’s nature is evil; goodness is the result of conscious activity.”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think being in the position to define and punish original sin is a handy way of getting power over people.

    • Spookykou says:

      Kind of unrelated but maybe not.

      I have never liked the concept of justice, I am not really sure why/can’t put it into words very well.

      I think maybe I don’t like the related concept of retribution, and in as much as justice can’t be disentangled from retribution very well I don’t like it?

      • Randy M says:

        I have always like both; my definition of justice is “to experience the full forseable consequences of one’s actions.” I do not object to one choosing to extend mercy, but a society that distorts or eschews justice is in danger, short of the transhuman perfection of mankind.

        • Jiro says:

          my definition of justice is “to experience the full forseable consequences of one’s actions.”

          The forseeable consequence of practicing Judaism in medieval times is being forced into a ghetto.

          • Randy M says:

            Right. And obviously I was making an anti-semitic dogwhistle rather than omitting a word or phrase. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you kids and your dog. Grrrr!

          • Iain says:

            Actual question: what word or phrase do you add to your definition to fix it? Jiro is obviously using an over-the-top example, but he has identified a legitimate problem with your proposed definition.

          • Randy M says:

            Well, I don’t object to being put on the spot because I did opt to make a statement in words, so I should be able to put in all the words. Jiro’s did seem like a deliberate misreading, but I guess that’s uncharitable.

            I want to say “physical consequences” to separate out the unreasonable results stemming from other human behavior, like shooting a gun at a human tends to result in a dead human, so doing it entails the actor deserving death themselves. One should be able to anticipate immoral and unreasonable actions of others to protect oneself, but they are not a force of nature. To use the recurring example, a drunk women around rough men is unwise, but not deserving of rape. Someone who takes a barbeque bath and jumps in the lion pen is probably mentally
            incapable, but otherwise deserving the mauling that entails.

            Now to incluse speech designed to cause an action (“Hey, I’ll give you a million dollars for killing Joe”) while excluding speech or behavior that provokes an irrational response in another person is trickier. Jiro’s example is unjust, because nothing in Judaism* entails the being forcibly moved.

            Basically it was just a restatement of the principle of proportionality and karma. The application of such is more complicated, but as a concept, a moral ledger is very sound, imo, despite any clumsy phrasing my own inelegance may put it into.

            *unless one grants animals equal moral worth and the participant performs ritual sacrifice, I suppose. Someone practicing worship of the Aztec gods that involve harming people may would deserve punishments.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            He could put the word “legitimate” in front of consequences, but then legitimate is doing all of the work.

            It really just gets back to the question of moral intuitions and systems.

            @spookykou:
            I’d submit that your dislike for justice is that you live in a world where the injustices you are likely to experience are relatively small.

          • Randy M says:

            @HBC similar to the “reasonable man” standard in legal parlance.

          • Spookykou says:

            @HBC

            That might be true, like I said I don’t really understand it, and I haven’t formalized my opinion here at all.

            I just remember the first time I had this impulse involved thinking about the punishment for murders, and how I personally would hope that my murderer would not be unduly punished just so that my family could receive some sense of vengeance.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Spooky –

            From a strictly pragmatic perspective, one can regard a critical purpose of the justice system as being to reduce injustice by discouraging vigilantism and blood feuds. I don’t think it is an accident that the death penalty is most prevalent in the states best known for long-standing blood feuds and/or mob “justice”.

            ETA: Absent popular support for a more humane justice system, a more humane justice system might just incur extrajudicial “justice”, since clearly popular sentiment runs towards punishment, and if your justice system isn’t sufficiently punishing the guilty, it will be regarded as insufficient to the task.

          • Iain says:

            @spookykou: One conception of justice/punishment I have seen breaks it down into four components: retribution, deterrence, safety, and rehabilitation. Retribution is the eye-for-an-eye stuff you don’t like. Deterrence is straightforward — people will commit fewer crimes if they expect to be punished. Safety is the idea that society is better off when dangerous people are locked up. Rehabilitation is the idea that locking people up is an opportunity for them to change (or be changed) for the better. Each system of justice, and each criminal sentence, will involve each of the components of justice to a greater or lesser degree.

            Not sure how directly this applies, but it is interesting to think about.

          • Spookykou says:

            Iain

            That matches perfectly with how I think of justice, that there is a retribution element that goes above and beyond deterrence that I don’t like and as long as that is part of the whole, then justice as a whole is somehow lesser, in my eyes.

          • Randy M says:

            Can a (high) court render an unjust verdict?
            If you answer yes, that standard to which the court aspires is the sense of justice I thought we were discussing; if you answer no, “justice is a term for that which courts do”, we have a different conception of the term–and likely reality.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Well, the factors Iain listed are the traditional considerations for sentencing. It seems to me that there are other ways to be unjust beyond disproportionate sentences- for example, a law forbidding people from protesting against the government is unjust even if the sentence is token.

            Justice, as in the classical moral term, seems to me to be one of those things which you can’t have. A simple example- I am opposed to the death penalty, and so I find a sentence of death unjust even for the most heinous murderer. On the other hand, I am well-acquainted with people who would say that a life sentence for a truly despicable crime is not justice, and that only blood washes blood. I can see no way for both of us to be satisfied by the judgment in a major trial.

            What the law strives to do with that four-part consideration and complex sentencing schemes is to approximate penalties that the average member of society would find appropriate. It is, if you will, looking for the mean and mode of justice, not any individual’s ideal. So long as society is, on average, convinced that justice is being served, the justice system can ensure order without provoking outrage.

          • Randy M says:

            A simple example- I am opposed to the death penalty, and so I find a sentence of death unjust

            Can you define unjust as you used it in that sentence? I can understand “I am opposed to the death penalty, so I want an unjust punishment to be administered” as a reasonable position, as justice is not the only consideration. But it seems you are just using “unjust” to mean “what the justice system shouldn’t do” and that’s not quite the connotations I have. I may be idiosyncratic (or simply anachronistic) here.

            But the thread started with spookykou’s objection to the concept of justice; I gave a (insufficient) definition to see if the thing he disliked was the same as the thing I see as a goal.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Randy M – I actually don’t have that much of a qualm with your earlier definition of justice; like I noted, I don’t think there’s a perfect justice to be found in life anyway.

            I use “justice” in the moral sense mostly to mean “the consequences which I find intuitively to be appropriate” and I think that’s the common meaning. When I say the death penalty is unjust, I mean that I don’t feel that the appropriate consequence for any bad action to be death (in a setting like a court, where any probable threat posed by the defendant is reasonably likely to be indefinitely containable).

            I suppose I also use it in a technical sense, where it’s kind of synonymous with “due process”, too- that is, it’s unjust to punish someone without going through the sufficient safeguards and burdens of the justice system. In that sense I also tend to see the death penalty as unjust, for the simple reason that while most sentences contain an element of reversibility in the event that the court is later proven wrong, an executed defendant is gone for good.

            So to me, a court can render:

            – A just verdict by issuing an appropriate sentence after an appropriate process.
            – An unjust verdict by issuing an inappropriate sentence after an appropriate process.
            – An unjust verdict by issuing an appropriate sentence after an inappropriate process.
            – An unjust verdict by issuing an inappropriate sentence after an inappropriate process.

          • Spookykou says:

            @randy M

            Can a (high) court render an unjust verdict?

            Yes.

            The only definition I can think of for justice in which the answer to that question is no, is one where justice is that thing the justice department does, however the word used in this tautological manner has no moral weight attached to it, so is not objectionable or very useful as far as I can see.

          • Randy M says:

            You were right, my question was poor; it doesn’t cut at the issue as I thought when I posed it. (I need to have more care with my word choice today, I guess).

            In my thinking, justice and injustice are objective parts of reality that the justice system attempts to promote or redress. Kind of like darkness and light; concepts that are relative, human-invented terms to describe perceptions of an objective fact. If I steal money from you, there exists a state of injustice, an imbalance that can be restored by my returning the money, perhaps with some additional compensation depending on circumstances. If I willfully murder you, it is unjust that I continue to live and you must remain dead; only half of that can be redressed.
            A Justice System can, and should, also serve to deter future crime and protect citizens (which it may be able to do through rehabilitation or not) but these are additional features apart what I think of as “the concept of justice.”
            In and of itself, I see justice as a virtue, but it is not the only one. Redemption and reconciliation are superior. Nonetheless, I think it is a good impulse to want justice, to see the evil men do revisited upon them, at least as one of conflicting virtues.

            Jordan:

            I suppose I also use it in a technical sense, where it’s kind of synonymous with “due process”, too- that is, it’s unjust to punish someone without going through the sufficient safeguards and burdens of the justice system.

            I think it is unwise to punish without proper due process, because an injustice has a greater chance of being done. A poor process can still produce a just result, such as fining an actual thief due to bad evidence that just happened to implicate the real killer. This is just because the thief suffers; it is unwise because it sets a precedent that will lead systematically to more injustice in future cases, and probably also because people will lose confidence in the legal system, etc.

            Likewise, I’m quite alright with different standards for capital punishment based on different assurances of guilt, and understand opposing capital punishment because one doesn’t feel a sufficient case and ever be made

          • Jordan D. says:

            I understand the distinction you’re making between wisdom and justice, but I don’t agree with it. I do honestly believe that a case is unjust if a judge disallows valid defenses or a prosecutor lies, even if the defendant did indeed commit the crime. I agree that it is also unwise, but I would feel in that situation that it was morally correct to reverse the penalty even though it is the penalty proscribed for the crime the defendant committed.

            Possibly illustrative- if a man killed a notorious crime boss, who everyone knows was guilty of a dozen murders himself, I wouldn’t consider that to be justice done either.

          • Randy M says:

            I disagree with your judgement of the example. We discourage vigilantism (imo) because it is much less likely than a formal court system to be considerate of proportionate justice and confine it’s punishment to the truly guilty. Not because the guilty deserve due process, but because the accused may not be guilty.

            But, you dislike even fairly and well-processed capital punishment, so use a more fair example:

            If you saw a man selling items recently stolen from you, were absolutely and correctly sure they were yours, and could take them without risk of harm to you and others (an unlikely scenario all told, but grant for the sake of uncovering the true objection); you still think it would be wrong to recover them yourself rather than go to the authorities?

            I understand the distinction you’re making between wisdom and justice, but I don’t agree with it.

            Great; I’m not trying to convince you, but simply explain my conception of justice–one that is concerned with correctly balancing the ledger, not in how. (The how matters for other reasons)

          • Jordan D. says:

            Okay.

            And yes, I would still disagree that this was the right course of action, albeit not very strongly.

          • Jiro says:

            I want to say “physical consequences” to separate out the unreasonable results stemming from other human behavior, like shooting a gun at a human tends to result in a dead human, so doing it entails the actor deserving death themselves

            Two problems:

            1) The original statement was that justice is experiencing the [physical] consequences of one’s actions. Not “experiencing the physical consequences of one’s actions, except substituting yourself for the person affected”. The physical consequences of you shooting someone is that they are dead–not that you are dead.

            2) Separating out the result of human behavior gets rid of too many cases. The consequence of committing a crime is that you are arrested, tried, and go to jail. But you’re arrested, tried, and sent to jail by humans–if human action doesn’t count, then being arrestedm tried, and sent to jail can’t be justice.

          • Randy M says:

            The original statement was that justice is experiencing the [physical] consequences of one’s actions. Not “experiencing the physical consequences of one’s actions, except substituting yourself for the person affected”.

            Goodness, what an odd way to parse it. I wasn’t writing code. You really thought I meant that “Justice is when the robber gets to enjoy his money?”

        • One problem is that unjust consequences might be forseeable, as Jiro points out.

          Another problem is that “consequences of your actions” ignores the ambiguity of causation.

          I wouldn’t have run you down with my car if I hadn’t been driving at night and not paying much attention–that consequence is (probabilistically) forseeable. I wouldn’t have run you down if you hadn’t been crossing the road dressed in dark clothing. That consequence is equally forseeable. Was the accident the consequence of my action or your action?

          Two careless hunters simultaneously shoot a third, one through the brain and one through the heart. The death was the consequence of neither shot, since if one of them hadn’t fired the victim would still have been dead.

          Lots of other examples available. It’s tempting to think that A caused B, but it’s much more complicated than that.

          • Randy M says:

            Was the accident the consequence of my action or your action?

            I don’t believe in conservation of blame; both parties can be fully at fault.

          • @Randy:

            That sounds as though blame is based on marginal cost. But by that definition, neither of my two hunters gets assigned any blame for the death of the third hunter both of them shot.

            Go back to the dual causation of a car hitting a pedestrian. On your principles, do you hold that if the outcome depended on both, then each should pay the full cost? I get fined the amount of your hospital bill but you don’t get the money, so have to pay the bill yourself? If so, who does the fine justly go to?

          • Randy M says:

            Dunno if responses on this thread will be noticed? Anyway, justice is a moral question, and how to achieve it, or if it is desirable, is a different matter (also a moral question, but with more factors than that). But the fact that the driver can bear full blame due to carelessness would obligate them to stop and try to save the injured or dying man, even at cost to themselves. The fact that the pedestrian took no effort to be seen nor sufficient care to avoid the collision would mean he should not attempt to punish the other driver.

            Lots of other examples available. It’s tempting to think that A caused B, but it’s much more complicated than that.

            Yep, those are the hard cases where prudence informs the response. Gross negligence should be punished, but lighter than intended actions. But some cases are not complicated, and the principle of justice is that the thief pay restitution and the murder die.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I think the issue is malidentified groups; asserting group-level justice tends to result in individual injustice.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The idea of justice is usually just a way of asserting ones ideals in a way that sounds more objective than it is, like the Founding Fathers referring to “self-evident rights”.

    • Tekhno says:

      Why not try left wing liberalism instead of “social justice”? In order to usurp it you’d have to de-associate the term from the intersectional radicals who don’t want anything to do with liberalism, and they’d fight you on that.

      Why bother reclaiming elements from it in the first place? Everything worthy already exists in other philosophies, and everything harmful is contained in the base assumptions. Until this new decade, “social justice” wasn’t a mainstream part of left wing dialectic (discounting the older Catholic meaning that did not at all mean the same thing), so it’s not like this time honored essential part of the left. Certain right wingers have “made social justice” synonymous with “left wing” to suit their own purposes, but it’s sounding now that the left has bought into this, and closed ranks around it.

      Why not just reset to 2000s era liberal-leftism after fucking up? It was flat out better and had a larger support base.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        This raises the question of why the left switched to social justice in the first place. That sounds like a real problem for historians and I can only speculate.

        My speculation though is that is’s due to internalizing norms of self-reliance from conservatives and Clintonites. That is, during the Clinton administration you could no longer say “I want to help the poor,” as that would make you a bleeding heart. What you could still say is “the poor are victimized by the rich, and require retribution.” But then you are a class warrior, also bad. So you instead choose a subset of the poor that plausibly were victimized by people richer than them.

        The way out of this is to stop obsessing over the deserving and non-deserving poor. And indeed, that’s exactly the way the conversation is shifting, as you can see right here on this website.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My theory is that it has become popular on university campuses – which, after all, have an outsized influence relative to the number of people on them – because it doesn’t logically demand material sacrifice in the same way as class-based thinking does, and university students, professors, etc, are on average better off than most people.

          If you have money, and you have a left-wing politics with class (which, ultimately, is about money) at its centre, why not give away some of that money? If you feel guilty about being rich, why, you can burden yourself of that; sell your stuff and give the proceeds to the poor. On a larger, less individual scale, on a systemic level, you could work to dismantle the system you live in – the one which benefits you, as someone who has money.

          In comparison, switching the focus to things that are far less material, and far less mutable, changes the game. It allows someone who, economically, is quite well off, to still be on the right side. It allows other people who are not on the right side, but are “allies”, to substitute (often smug and self-centred) self-criticism for divesting themselves of what they have.

          I am not suggesting that people consciously do this. However, I believe the account of how people reach their opinions in which people gravitate to those opinions that bring them social status and let them feel that they are in the right.

          Identity-based politics is also far, far friendlier to the neoliberal economic consensus than class-based politics. Old-fashioned leftists ran around actually wanting to change the capitalist system in a big way, or even destroy it. Whereas, something like altering the gender balance of Fortune 500 boardrooms would please someone who cares about gender but not class.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Good points. In particular any explanation of SJ should be able to explain why the movement is so incredibly college-y, which mine doesn’t.

        • Jaskologist says:

          They abandoned their old religion, which left them defenseless against more virulent ones. Same basic thing that happens when you nuke your biome.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Because that leaves considerable social power in the wrong hands. Like it or not, social justice is a powerful movement, and abandoning it results in the repudiation of useful ideas, because people aren’t very good at disentangling the movement from the ideas.

        • Tekhno says:

          What ideas are good specifically that aren’t already contained under leftism, like help the poor and so on?

          We already have full legal equality in the West for groups like black people, women, transpeople, and x-sexuals, so what more is there to do other than raise the station of everyone on a low income level through the welfare programs that left-liberalism already supported? The ideas behind social justice to me seem to directly create a kind of “some are more equal than others” caste system.

          Unless of course, you are doing exactly what I said, and using “social justice” as a direct synonym for “left wing” rather than a sub-category based on criticial race theory, intersecting oppression, status dependent definitions of things like racism and sexism, kyriarchy etc. If so, then you’ve internalized the right wing’s outgroup homogeneity bias for some reason.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I claim that you can’t remove the focus on victim-hood from SJ without making it useless:

      Redistribution (either in the sense of money or of social status) is good but not just. Since most people are not utilitarians, this is a big problem for redistributionists. Politically, the point of social justice is to square this circle: since many low-class and low-status groups *have* plausibly been victimized by the rest of society, you can justify redistribution as retribution.

      Luckily, there are SJ, victimization-focused arguments that are non-stupid (example below), so we shouldn’t need to remove the victim concept in order to make SJ great again.

      http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

      • AnonEEmous says:

        this post was going really well until you put some tah nehisi coates up into it

        this is very uncharitable of a post by me. But, it’s true. Reparations is the worst possible idea.

    • Mark says:

      How to avoid having a movement co-opted by the powerful?

      It’s not really good enough to make a story about society, about power and its abuse, but leave off the more abstract/general understanding of what power is.

      Social justice can’t see the wood for the trees. And, because it’s all they can see, they focus all of their attention on cutting back a couple of overgrown trees, while the rest of the wood goes to hell.

      How to fix it – this might be stupid, but, as an argument, I think focusing on the power of language might be useful. Campus SJWs like to think of themselves as eloquent and intelligent. Eloquence is a form of power over dinguses such as myself.
      Focus on the fact that it’s impossible for someone like me to truly evaluate the claims they might be making, and it’s impossible for me to engage in a discourse on their level – their duty as privileged people is to make my argument for me… or to make their point less well…

      I think that is a way of working an understanding of conservatism, and simplicity, back into SJ.
      With regards to BLM and other associated rioters – I’m not a fan of riots, mobs, or even protests really, but if we have to have them, I really think non-violence is the way to go. Sometimes violence is necessary, but I think unleashing mob or group violence without a clear understanding of the target is a seriously bad idea.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Preventing something from being coopted by the powerful requires one to be powerful, though, at which point one will probably be the one doing the coopting. Not that one will intend to.

        Imagine you’re the marketing director for a lingerie company. You think “oh hey people are starting to agitate about most women not looking like close-to-underweight women. That’s actually a good point.” So you do an ad featuring a bunch of attractive women who are in the middle of the “regular weight” BMI range, with a slogan like “THIS IS WHAT REAL WOMEN LOOK LIKE”. Then somebody says “hey, those women are still slimmer than the norm, this is bogus.”

        So, you add a couple of chubbier women, on the overweight end of the regular/overweight line. They are still attractive – they still have nice, symmetrical, well-balanced facial features, etc. Then someone says “hey, those women are all white!” So, you add a few non-white women. They’re all still attractive women who at the most are a bit plump. Then someone says…

        This process will probably repeat several times, but it is highly unlikely that at any point the ad will feature women who are ugly or obese. Your ad campaign, run on a platform of “this is what real women look like”, will still feature exclusively women at the 51st+ percentile of socially accepted attractiveness, probably higher, and thus does not resemble all women, not in the slightest – because, after all, with any given quality, half of all people are below average.

        And, you won’t see what you’re doing, you’ll think you’re doing a good thing, and maybe you are: after all, if you pick your models from a wider range of women who are still definitely attractive, at least you’re not making attractive-but-not-supermodel women feel bad about themselves. But you’re never going to stop making the obese and the unattractive feel bad about themselves, which was supposed to be the point in the first place.

        • Mark says:

          I think this is a great example – I’m going to write what I imagine might be some different responses to the problem:

          SJW – Have to make sure that the attitude of marketing managers is aligned with assuring confidence for groups that have been shown to have lower self esteem (with “groups” quite broad).

          Libertarian – People should be free to ignore marketing managers. In this case, marketing managers are just responding to the opinions of society anyway, so there isn’t really a problem.

          Conservative – There may be damaging effects to changing the view of what is an attractive body – could cause people to become less healthy and, ultimately, less happy.

          Old left – (1) If adverts make some people disproportionately unhappy, get rid of the adverts. (2) Have some systematic way of choosing models that ensures all percentiles of attractiveness are represented, market be damned.

          SJW – doesn’t even consider systematic change.

          Libertarian – Are they free to ignore marketing managers? (I don’t think there is, ultimately, a distinction between “positive” and “negative” freedoms – you can’t just ignore the social system.)

          Conservative – Always something to bear in mind, have to be careful.

          Old left – need to be more conservative.

          I personally find (my imagined) SJW most annoying of these – libertarians have a clear conception of how the *system* might ensure a good outcome, conservatives don’t really know what’s going on, but they want to be careful, old left want to tear things up…
          SJW just, keep the system the same but change the people in charge and everything sort of works out. It’s kind of like they are saying – “the market mechanism, the system doesn’t ensure a good outcome – the people in charge ensure a good outcome.”
          Which is the worst part of the old (centralising) left, without any of the good left stuff about systematic change.

  15. Deiseach says:

    And in today’s “I don’t think you thought that one through, Chauncey” news via my Tumblr dash:

    Reblog of tweet and photo on Twitter – oh no, the KKK (complete with hoods!) turned up in McPherson Square in DC!

    Cue alarm and “Very glad that visibly disabled non-white husband is working from home this week” posting on Tumblr!

    Except that it turns out – as at least one person with a functioning brain cell pointed out to quell the hysteria – it’s not the real KKK, it’s anti-Trump protestors dressing up.

    I really would be interested to know exactly how much of the “swastikas and neo-Nazi messages scrawled on walls to threaten people” was this kind of carry-on, and will it really make a difference to the already entrenched attitude amongst the non-Trump voters that the Fourth Reich is upon us today?

    • Matt M says:

      This also happened about a week ago with a protest/disruption of the Sessions confirmation hearings by a bunch of left-wing protesters dressed up as KKK members. They were ironically reported to have shouted, “You can’t arrest me, I’m white!” as security dragged them off…

      • Anonymous says:

        Heh. A friend had a fascinating comment upon seeing this: “You mean they actually believe their theories?” I replied that yes, why wouldn’t they? “Because we don’t believe that ‘Hitler did nothing wrong’?”

        It’s a fascinating point, but I think the dynamic is different. The SJWs get internal piety points for espousing their ideology; some doubtless are frauds who only care about the piety, but don’t believe what they say, but some are also doubtless true believers who buy into this the whole way.

        Whereas the Alt-Righters and related folk don’t generally believe that “Hitler did nothing wrong”; you get no points believing that. Even if you like Hitler and what he did, you have to admit he made mistakes, and lost his grand conflict because of that. Saying “Hitler did nothing wrong” is intended to rile up the enemy faction, not prove piety to one’s own.

        • Spookykou says:

          Wait, maybe I am confused here, is Matt M and or your friend assuming that the protesters literally believe “You can’t arrest me, I’m white!” and not that it was shouted intentionally as part of the protest of racism in law enforcement?

          • Iain says:

            This also seems like a much more plausible reading to me.

          • Anonymous says:

            Could be. That doesn’t invalidate my point, though.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not assuming that. I just think it’s silly of them to shout an exaggerated thing that they don’t truly believe during the process of having said thing disproven right in front of them (and everyone else).

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Is this serious? Do you really think the belief that policing in this country is racially biased is comparable to the belief that Hitler did nothing wrong?

          • Anonymous says:

            He is comparing “You can’t arrest me, I’m white” with “Hitler did nothing wrong”. Which is fair.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You do realize that “you can’t arrest me, I’m white!” is just an arch way of saying that policing in this country is racially biased, right? This means your conversation was basically:

            “I can’t believe social justice warriors think [something reasonable]!”
            “I know! It’s not like we [applaud the murder of 11 million innocent people]!”

            If this was any attempt to make social justice warriors look bad and you (and “your friend”) look smart in comparison, I don’t think it could have backfired more spectacularly.

          • Anonymous says:

            You do realize that “you can’t arrest me, I’m white!” is just an arch way of saying that policing in this country is racially biased, right?

            You do realize that “Hitler did nothing wrong” is just an arch way of saying “please get mad”, right?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            but to be fair, it’s a really, really, really stupid way of saying it

            it’s funny in a dumb way, but still really stupid

          • DrBeat says:

            yeah, at least “you can’t arrest me, I’m white” indicates a factual belief about the world

            “hitler did nothing wrong” means and only means “this sequence of noises will cause you to become upset”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “hitler did nothing wrong” means and only means “this sequence of noises will cause you to become upset”

            I think you are really underestimating the power of the corollary to Poe’s law.

        • BBA says:

          Reminds me of the Andrea Dworkin obit posted on the subreddit a couple of days ago. According to the writer, Dworkin’s views became extreme to the point of insanity because she actually believed the things that her fellow activists were saying.

          Nowadays the whole world is becoming like that, where it’s increasingly unclear what anyone really believes vs what they’re supposed to believe vs what they’re just saying to score points.

          • Aapje says:

            @BBA

            It makes more sense to believe that she had medical and/or mental issues that she failed to understand and fabricated stories and narratives to make sense of her experiences.

            For example, in the infamous rape accusation of 1999, she accused the waiter of drugging her. But her entire story actually has no hard evidence, makes little sense (why would the waiter choose her as victim, rather than a young pretty woman?) and all of it can be explained by getting drunk (perhaps easier than usual due to medicine and/or drinking on an empty stomach) and messing herself up.

            PS. Note that the above article by Dworkin, as well as the letter in the NYT on why she opposes pornography feature doctors that think that she is mentally ill.

          • BBA says:

            @Aapje

            It’s not either-or. And mental issues have become another oppressed minority – how dare you be ableist! Which is another reason why in current activism we’re more likely to see distorted logic informing the narrative.

          • BBA says:

            It’s both. Bad ideas plus bad chemicals, as Vonnegut put it.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          i once got into a twitter argument with a lot of alt-right people who believed that hitler did nothing wrong

          as in, nothing morally wrong. You also seem to be trying to shift “nothing wrong” into “nothing wrong militarily / tactically” which is a real odd move because, that’s not really the relevant factor.

    • Randy M says:

      Are they still pulling this hysteria-satire feedback cycle? They keep this up, no one is going to believe them.

      Okay, couldn’t keep a straight face typing that.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      During the protests in Ferguson over the death of Michael Brown this photo went around Twitter with the claim that it was the Ku Klux Klan marching in Ferguson in 2014, despite the fact that it contains tram tracks and a shop sign in Cyrillic.

    • gbdub says:

      So in the immediate aftermath of the election there was circulating a picture of graffiti that consisted of the word TRUMP, with the “U” replaced by a swastika (or was it the “M”?).

      This was being passed as an obvious example of literal neo-Nazis, emboldened by Trump’s victory, openly declaring their support and opinion that Trump was one of them.

      Which was weird to me, because my immediate interpretation of the graffiti was “This is an anti-Trump person calling Trump a Nazi”, and I was honestly baffled as to how anyone would consider the other interpretation more likely. I’m not calling it a false flag or a hoax – I’m thinking it was an obvious and sincere declaration of an anti-Trump message.

      • Matt M says:

        There was a house in San Francisco that flew a Nazi flag after Trump’s win. It was originally reported as “look at how Trump has emboldened the Nazis to come out of the woodwork!” Eventually a reporter actually talked to the homeowner, who said “What? No I hate Trump and am making a statement about how it’s bad that America has now become Nazi Germany!”

    • Earthly Knight says:

      I haven’t seen any of that because I don’t use tumblr, but I did run into this gem circulating on right-wing social media. Ben Swann, a newsman for a CBS affiliate in Atlanta, immediately became a hero to the right after challenging the mainstream media’s narrative on pizzagate. He asked a number of important questions, like: “Does owning modern art make you a pedophile?” And, “why would the owners of a pizza parlor send emails about pizza unless they were secretly communicating about child molestation?”

      (Reminder: half of republicans think the pizzagate conspiracy theory is probably true. These are not just some random idiots I found on tumblr.)

      • Spookykou says:

        I haven’t seen any of that because I don’t use tumblr

        This is surprising, the only news I get is a few minutes of NPR in the car to and from work(and what I read here) and even I have heard of the ‘post election hate crimes’ thing, as collected by that law group. Is this not related to that?

        These are not just some random idiots I found on tumblr

        I am not sure why you would expect some random republicans to be smarter than some random people on tumblr. /s

        • Earthly Knight says:

          The point is the number. How many leftists see klansmen everywhere? Well, we have some anecdotes… But half of republicans are willing to believe that there are satanic pedophile rings all around them on the basis of approximately no evidence. Hence, citing the anecdotes gives a badly distorted picture of the reality, which is this: the right in this country has become uniquely deranged.

          • DrBeat says:

            Half of Democrats believe that Russia literally hacked into voting machines to change the election in favor of Donald Trump.

            The point is not that they are just as bad, the point is how bad you think this belief is does not matter. People form their beliefs based on what is emotionally rewarding to believe. It is emotionally rewarding for people to believe all negative terms are true of their political opponents. Therefore, they believe that all negative terms are true of their political opponents.

            Facts have never mattered for anyone, ever, at any point in time, literally in the entire history of human civilization. Pointing out how far one side’s emotionally self-serving beliefs are from reality is meaningless. It is without meaning. It is without value. It is nothing.

          • Iain says:

            Half of Democrats believe that Russia literally hacked into voting machines to change the election in favor of Donald Trump.

            It is very likely true that Russia engaged in hacking to sway the outcome of the election. It is similarly true that many voting machines are not well safeguarded against hacking. It is not true that Russians hacked into voting machines, but it’s not hard to see how low-to-medium-information voters could take two pieces of true information, combine them in the intuitive, and come up with the wrong answer. It’s not true, but it’s at least plausible.

            Pizzagate is many things, but plausible is not one of them.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Half of Democrats believe that Russia literally hacked into voting machines to change the election in favor of Donald Trump.

            Okay, but 62% of republicans believe that millions of illegal votes were cast in the last election. The election that they won. In terms of sheer, senseless paranoia, today’s republicans are in a class of their own.

            People form their beliefs based on what is emotionally rewarding to believe. It is emotionally rewarding for people to believe all negative terms are true of their political opponents.

            I’m sure that people do often form beliefs on the basis of their ideological allegiances and without regard for the evidence, as you say. But I expect that sometimes things go in the other direction, too, and people change their ideological affiliation due to false beliefs they’ve acquired. We need to explain why Hillary lost the election despite the fact that she was inheriting a strong economy from a popular predecessor and running against a cartoon villain, and I suggest that this is partly because the right has succeeded (well, “succeeded”) in weaponizing stupidity and delusion to an unprecedented degree.

          • Mark says:

            Pizzagate isn’t plausible for exactly the same reason that Russian hacking of machines isn’t plausible – no evidence.

            On the level of ‘could this story possibly be true’ – well, yeah, of course it could. Podesta is close friends with a child molester and his brother has pictures of naked teens on his wall. There have been pedophile gangs consisting of the rich and powerful in the past. Political elites are members of secret societies with bizarre rituals.

            Now “pizzagate” sounds stupid to me, because there is no real evidence (that I can see) that references to “pizza” are referring to anything but pizza. But the idea that powerful people might be sexual abusers isn’t all that ridiculous.

          • Aapje says:

            @Earthly Knight

            A ‘strong economy’ is rather meaningless to people in an area with few jobs and/or stagnant wages.

            Also, for many, Hillary was a cartoon villain (as well).

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Unemployment in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania stand today at 4.1%, 4.6%, 4.8%, and 5.7%, respectively. In 2009 these figures were 8.5%, 13.6% (!), 10.2%, and 8.1%. Hence, your hypothesis that opposition to Hillary was a rational response to Obama’s job record is false.

            Indeed, all explanations for Trump’s victory which attribute any degree of rationality to his supporters fail, as we’ve seen here time and time again. It could not have been the economy, because pretty much everyone is better off than they were at the beginning of Obama’s term, when the recession was in full swing. And it could not have been Hillary’s shaky morals, as Trump is incomparably more dishonest, corrupt, and criminal.

            If we wish to understand why we are faced with the national humiliation of an incompetent sexual predator in the oval office, then, it appears as though we must look for other explanations. The mass psychosis which has engulfed the right– one manifestation of which is the obsession here with illiberal college students, even as Trump promises to tear the constitution to shreds— seems like a good candidate.

          • Aapje says:

            @Earthly Knight

            You ignored the second part of my statement and I believe that the disappearing middle class is a major driver of dissatisfaction.

            I also believe that it is a mistake to try to correlate the dissatisfaction with short term statistics. People don’t decide their level of dissatisfaction from scratch based on the latest statistics. New data is direction pushing when it comes to changes in beliefs, not target hitting. People also don’t necessarily look at the data that you think is relevant.

            I believe that it is a mistake to assume that people should be content when the economy improved during a presidential term. People (also) have expectations that are independent of presidential terms. For example, from 1979-2012, the 99% had just 2.6% income growth. It’s no surprise that more and more people are indicting the establishment as a whole. From such a perspective, Obama is not meaningfully different from George W Bush, who is not meaningfully different from Bill Clinton. All failed to change broken policies that stagnated the economy for the 99% in the long term.

            That you can’t imagine why people would vote for a radically different candidate, shows that it is you who is suffering from “mass psychosis.” Human history is filled with examples where people chose radical change after being unhappy with the establishment. America gained its independence due to this (because Britain increased the tax burden on the colonies, which had been much lower than in Britain).

            You blame Trump for ‘shredding’ the constitution and wanting radical change, but the constitution was written by radicals who ‘shredded’ having British law applied to the US.

            PS. Unemployment statistics are extremely unreliable, because people can stop looking when the economy gets worse and vice versa; so unemployment figures can actually go up when the economy is recovering and down when the economy has been stagnant for some time. They also don’t count hours worked (above a threshold), so replacement of full-time jobs with part-time jobs can lower the figures without any increase in hours worked. Etc.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I believe that the disappearing middle class is a major driver of dissatisfaction.

            Look carefully at the first graph from your link, the one of median household income. Notice how the horizontal axis terminates in 2011, shortly after the recession ended, even though the article was published in 2015? This should have aroused your suspicions. Here is an updated graph which shows real median household income has since recovered and is now approaching historic highs.

            It’s no surprise that more and more people are indicting the establishment as a whole.

            The idea that a trust fund millionaire isn’t part of “the establishment” just because he’s an unstable, bomb-throwing racist is another common feature of the delusion. If there was any doubt that Trump is a charter member of “the establishment” before the election, his cabinet appointments should by now have laid it to rest.

            PS. Unemployment statistics are extremely unreliable, because people can stop looking when the economy gets worse and vice versa; so unemployment figures can actually go up when the economy is recovering and down when the economy has been stagnant for some time. They also don’t count hours worked (above a threshold), so replacement of full-time jobs with part-time jobs can lower the figures without any increase in hours worked.

            The U-6 measure of underemployment does take these factors into account. You can see it here, falling in unison with the unemployment rate.

            I reiterate that if the election had been a referendum on the economy’s performance under Obama, Hillary would have won in a landslide.

          • Deiseach says:

            We need to explain why Hillary lost the election despite the fact that she was inheriting a strong economy from a popular predecessor

            Part of the answer is right there, Earthly Knight. Her popular predecessor got out the minorities vote in large numbers. Her campaign made the fatal assumption that the same result would stick for them, not taking into account that non-white voters who made the effort to vote for the first black president were not going to make the same effort to vote for yet another white president, even if it were a woman this time.

            Also – popular predecessor. Whatever you want to say about Obama, he does have charisma. By comparison, Hillary is about as appealing as – I was going to say “tapioca pudding” but I like tapioca – a bowl of raw broccoli without any dressing? Very healthy and good for you, no doubt, but not really appealing (except to the few who find raw broccoli delicious, there must be some I suppose).

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “It is very likely true that Russia engaged in hacking to sway the outcome of the election. It is similarly true that many voting machines are not well safeguarded against hacking.”

            But I could present some questionable e-mails and say “these e-mails are questionable. Now here are some weird pieces of art and some true quotes about spirit cooking”. It’s not surprising that people might put those two true pieces of evidence together to form the wrong answer. Plausible!

          • Iain says:

            Is this really the hill you want to die on?

            Like, I can tell a low-information voter two sentences: “We have strong reasons to believe that Russia engaged in hacking to manipulate the election”, and “Many voting machines are vulnerable to hacking”. Both sentences are true. Your average low-information voter is going to quite reasonably conclude that Russia hacked the voting machines.

            What are your two true sentences that make Pizzagate a reasonable conclusion?

          • rlms says:

            @AnonEEmous
            No, I don’t think you could produce some questionable emails (presuming you mean ones by Clinton or acquaintances thereof). If you can I would be interested to see them.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “…

            Is this really the hill you want to die on?”

            No. But somehow I doubt “Russians hacked the voting booths” is the one you want to die on either.

            “What are your two true sentences that make Pizzagate a reasonable conclusion?”

            How about “pedophile rings at the highest level of government are quite common and have happened before” and then I really can show off one or two e-mails that I happen to think have perfectly reasonable interpretations but also sound kind of off. Then…throw in all of the weird stuff floating around 4chan, none of which proves anything, so I’m not saying Pizzagate’s real, but a lot of twisted art, creepy stuff…

            Besides, a lot of people still don’t think the Russians actually did any hacking, and the evidence on the ground’s pretty thin there too. So you’re really only going off of one fact so far, and one, let’s call it a strong conjecture.

            Actually, based on some comments in this sub…I’ve heard that it wouldn’t be that easy to hack the election machines either. Something about tons of different counties having different methods? So you could actually have zero facts to this little hypothesis. Just sayin’.

            “No, I don’t think you could produce some questionable emails (presuming you mean ones by Clinton or acquaintances thereof). If you can I would be interested to see them.”

            There’s one about a pizza map handkerchief, and more relevantly “will I play dominos better over pizza or cheese” or something like that, where the three suspect words are probably stand-ins for drugs or something but they’re definitely not just words, unless you think a game of dominos on a piece of pizza is the literal interpretation and, OK that’s possible, but come on man.

          • Iain says:

            @AnonEEmous: To mistakenly conclude that Russians hacked voting machines, you need to read a couple of accurate articles from reputable sources, and then combine them in a logical way that happens to be false. To mistakenly conclude that Pizzagate is real, you need to look at a bunch of “weird stuff floating around 4chan” and then make a completely unsupported leap to pedophilia.

            These cases are not equivalent, and I do not understand why you seem to find it so important to assert that they are.

          • Jaskologist says:

            To mistakenly conclude that Russians hacked voting machines, you need to read a couple of accurate articles from reputable sources, and then combine them in a logical way that happens to be false.

            Which says rather a lot about the “reputable” sources, doesn’t it?

          • Spookykou says:

            @Jaskologist

            This implies a level of malevolent intent that I am not sure is warranted.

            My media exposure is limited but I remember distinctly NPR running reports on the Russian hacking of the election. Reading things on SSC about how many democrats misconstrued that to mean that Russia hacked voting machines, and shortly after that hearing the most recent NPR reports on the issue in which they go to great pains to state multiple times that the Russians did not hack the voting machines.

          • Iain says:

            @Jaskologist: How about instead of drive-by sneering, you make an actual argument?

            One of the articles I cited was about Trump himself acknowledging that the evidence points to Russian hacking. (Well, Priebus on Trump’s behalf, but close enough.) The other one includes an actual video of somebody hacking a voting machine. I could probably find a half dozen more sources for either of those stories. They are both well-attested stories about issues of legitimate public interest. If you want to make some sort of point, you are going to have to do a lot better than wrapping the word “reputable” in scare quotes and calling it a day.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “One of the articles I cited was about Trump himself acknowledging that the evidence points to Russian hacking. (Well, Priebus on Trump’s behalf, but close enough.)”

            Probably because “reputable” sources have blown up non-evidence to levels sufficient to force such *acknowledgements*.

            The biggest difference between Pizzagate and russian hacking is that mainstream right-wing media has not tried to normalize Pizzagate in any way. Not saying that denotates some kind of virtue, as such, but it’s the main difference.

            “The other one includes an actual video of somebody hacking a voting machine.”

            But the fact that there are tons of different voting machines in tons of different places means you would have to have some incredible stealth operatives and blah blah blah. It’s still pretty tinfoil.

          • Iain says:

            Probably because “reputable” sources have blown up non-evidence to levels sufficient to force such *acknowledgements*.

            This is wilful blindness. Every intelligence agency in the US agrees that Russia was involved in the hacking. Here is one small example of the kind of evidence that they are using to reach this assessment: an analysis of the infrastructure behind the hack on Podesta’s email lets us see what else the hackers found interesting. The answer, in short, is “Russia’s interests”. There’s all sorts of juicy information in that link, and that’s just one small publicly available example of the sort of data on which the intelligence community is basing its estimate.

            Russian hacking is true. It just wasn’t targeted at voting machines. Pizzagate is unmitigated bullshit. The fact that you continue to try to equate them says very little about media bias, and much more about your own.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “This is wilful blindness. Every intelligence agency in the US agrees that Russia was involved in the hacking.”

            Every intelligence agency in the U.S. is either beholden to the Democrats or neocon-based. We’ve already seen them start to leak in a manner directly designed to hurt Trump. And what kind of evidence can they come up with?

            “The answer, in short, is “Russia’s interests”.”

            Actually, a better answer, based on the pie charts provided, seems to be “America”. Seriously, despite about 50% of the hacked people being in Russia / Ukraine, his interests are listed as “64% U.S.”. So yeah, a lot of juicy info…too bad not all of it lines up with your narrative.

            I note you haven’t tried to defend the “voting machines are hackable bit”, at least beyond the fact that individual voting machines are easily hackable. Because if the media were doing their jobs even remotely, people would know that this was nonsense. But since they’re not, people’s imaginations are given permission to run wild.

            At best, you can argue that Russians have (maybe) hacked stuff. I’ll return with “rich and connected people have (definitely) formed pedophile rings” and that’s about as good in my eyes.

          • Iain says:

            @AnonEEmous: I have not replied to the voting machines thing because you have not said anything that needs a response. I am well aware that the Russians did not hack voting machines. I believe I have said so in every single post I have written in this thread. The media is also well aware of this fact; as Spookykou said above, they have been spending plenty of time debunking this misconception. Ask yourself: how do you know that half of Democrats have this false belief?

            And seriously: you think the FBI is run by neocons and Democrats? There’s a famous saying about motes in other people’s eyes; before you accuse the Democrats of being prone to conspiracy, you might want to meditate on that a bit.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Iain,

            Fine, you want an effortpost? I’ll oblige just this once, but only because I like you.

            The “reputable” sources are playing footsie with the left-wing conspiracy theorists. The sum total of the “Russian hacking” story is that some real emails were released which showed the DNC engaged in shady behavior, and maybe those came via Russian agencies. Maybe it also influenced the election, but that’s hard to know, and would be just as true if the emails actually came from a disgruntled staffer like wikileaks claimed without any Russian involvement. By referring to all of this as a “Russian hacking” story, NYT etc get to keep the idea of “Russia hacking vote counts” alive while maintaining the plausible deniability. Consider the different effect if they instead called it the “Podesta emails” story, or even the “DNC election tampering” story. None of those would be lies. All of them lead the mind in different directions.

            They do this sort of thing all the time. Downthread, you link to an analysis of Trump’s speech using the novel statistic of “words he used that previous presidents didn’t.” I assume the analysis is entirely factual. The narrative it aimed to push was that Trump’s speech was “dark,” and so a statistic was found that would back this up. Had the Post been so inclined, they could have used the same statistic to paint Obama’s speech as dark. Had they wanted to push a different narrative, they could have pointed out that Trump’s most used 5 words were the same as the last 5 presidents. Had they wanted to push a really different narrative, they could have emphasized his most used word: dreams.

            Tiny things, I know, but like I said, they do this all the time. Heck, there’s even a bit about the NYT misleading without technically lying still in this very blog’s Recent Posts box. The pattern is very clear and a big reason why trust in the media is at an all-time low.

            tldr; Reputable sources? I don’t think they lie about basic facts. But they do deceive by decided which facts to tell, which to hide, and how to spin them.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Jaskologist

            Do you think NPR is out of the loop on this particular elaborate left wing media conspiracy, because they do insist quite regularly that the hacking was not of voting machines at this point. Or are they just embarrassed by the conspiracy theory they intentionally inspired?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Jaskologist

            The sum total of the “Russian hacking” story is that some real emails were released which showed the DNC engaged in shady behavior, and maybe those came via Russian agencies.

            It is the consensus view of the US intelligence community that Russia was behind the DNC hacks, and released the emails specifically for the purpose of helping Trump win the election:

            The ODNI’s 25-page report (embedded below) from US intelligence agencies lays out a vast Russian intelligence operation that extends from hacking both Democratic and Republican targets to propaganda campaigns to troll-fueled social media disinformation. It re-asserts the intelligence community’s findings that the Kremlin is behind breaches of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and even state election board websites. And the express intention of those operations, the report states, was to not only disrupt the American electoral process, but to elect Donald Trump.

            You should refrain from criticizing the media in the future unless you are sure you have the facts straight.

            Had the Post been so inclined, they could have used the same statistic to paint Obama’s speech as dark.

            Could they have? What were the words Obama used in his first inaugural address that no president had used before? You need evidence, not speculation.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Spookykuo

            The Liberal Media is not a monolith. Nor is this a particularly elaborate conspiracy theory. It’s just the usual cognitive biases manifesting themselves among reporters.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @EK

            Just scroll on down to that subthread, where people darkified previous speeches.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’ve read through the thread. It is full of people who also failed to present adequate evidence for their claims. To make your case, you would need to show that:

            # of negative words Trump used for the first time/# of words Trump used for the first time.

            # of negative words Obama used for the first time/# of words Obama used for the first time.

            As far as I can tell, no one has even tried to establish this.

          • cassander says:

            @Jaskologist

            I might be mis-reading you, but I think you’re implying a lot more conscious effort than is plausible. Don’t attribute to conspiracy what can be adequately explained by sloth, monoculture, and the human tendency to believe the worst of people we don’t like.

            nevermind, we’re in violent agreement.

            @ian

            >And seriously: you think the FBI is run by neocons and Democrats? There’s a famous saying about motes in other people’s eyes; before you accuse the Democrats of being prone to conspiracy, you might want to meditate on that a bit.

            97% of DOJ donations went to Clinton, not trump. Don’t have information on the FBI specifically, but since about 1/3 of DOJ employees work for the FBI, there can’t be too many republicans there.

          • Iain says:

            @Jaskologist: Like AnonEEmous, you appear to be in denial. The Russian hacking thing is not fake. The public evidence alone is reasonably compelling. Even if you think it is plausible that the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA are all conspiring together to lie to the American people about this, I think you might have difficulty explaining why Trump’s chief of staff would have joined them.

            I think your argument about media bias is, if not wrong, at least seriously overblown — everybody can find cases where the media seems biased against them — but I thank you for taking the time to actually make it.

          • Matt M says:

            To make your case, you would need to show that:

            # of negative words Trump used for the first time/# of words Trump used for the first time.

            # of negative words Obama used for the first time/# of words Obama used for the first time.

            As far as I can tell, no one has even tried to establish this.

            No kidding. MAYBE the New York Times should have done that before painting Trump as an evil doom and gloom person. Why does this duty fall to random blog commenters? Why isn’t American’s “newspaper of record” doing it?

            My sarcastic and rhetorical question ansers itself.

          • DrBeat says:

            It is not plausible that the CIA, FBI, and NSA are all in on a conspiracy of malice, but it is also not plausible that the CIA knows what they are talking about. Never, ever, ever, ever trust the CIA, for any reason, on any subject, in any capacity, for any length of time. This is not because they are an evil organization, but because of their breathtaking and all-encompassing incompetence.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Matt M

            MAYBE the New York Times should have done that before painting Trump as an evil doom and gloom person

            Which New York Times article are you talking about, here?

          • Matt M says:

            EK,

            Sorry – the NYT was mentioned upthread and I got sources confused in my brain. I was meaning to refer to the Washington Post’s tweet of “these are all the dark words Trump used that had never been used before” and the New Yorker’s article about how “dark” Trump’s speech was.

            Why do you demand context and mathematical comparison from us here on this blog – but not from them?

          • I don’t think they lie about basic facts. But they do deceive by decided which facts to tell, which to hide, and how to spin them.

            Here is an example which has nothing to do with the election, but provides a striking case of how to lie while telling the truth.

            One major positive effect of increased CO2 is increased agricultural yields. It has been known for a long time, and is routinely used in greenhouses. For obvious reasons, people pushing the “we have to keep down CO2 or terrible things will happen” narrative would prefer that other people not be aware of this.

            So a group of researchers study in detail the effect of adding CO2 and discover that, not surprisingly, different nutrients increase by different amounts. In particular, iron and zinc, two of about ten minerals in wheat, increase by less than calories increase. They then report this as increased CO2 making crops less nutritious, with a discussion of the bad effects of iron and zinc shortages. If you read carefully, you can discover that “less nutritious” means “if you eat the same number of calories worth you get a little less iron and zinc,” but that isn’t how the information is presented. Roughly speaking, the numbers imply that doubling CO2 increases carbohydrate output per acre by 30%, iron and zinc by 20%.
            Headline:

            Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition

            The work is then reported in various news stories, without the explanation.

      • Deiseach says:

        These are not just some random idiots I found on tumblr

        These are the random idiots voting for your candidate, Earthly Knight. Making the phone calls and sending the emails to their local representatives as instructed by the campaigns to protest and disrupt Trump.

        Even more disheartening, I don’t follow people’s Tumblrs for politics, it’s for shared interests, and the people sharing these posts are otherwise people I enjoy interacting with. So either you have to admit the majority of Democrat voters are “random idiots” or maybe stop using politically-charged rhetoric?

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Previous thread topic: I have a notion that the left is more likely to form circular firing squads because it attracts idealists. The problem with idealism (as distinct from “we like this thing we’ve got and want to defend it) is that ideals are instead people’s heads, but feel like they’re obvious truths.

    As a result, when your ideal bumps up against the similar but not identical ideal from someone on your own side, spontaneous combustion may ensue.

    This is from observation of SJWs– purges in Communist governments probably have a more complex explanation.

    • gbdub says:

      I don’t know, I feel like true believers of any stripe can be idealists-to-a-fault. And infighting / status games within nominally aligned groups is ubiquitous across the political spectrum.

      Circular firing squads seem like a natural symptom of success – very few movements achieve their big goal and then just say “good job everyone, let’s all go home”. Maybe the footsoldiers, but the generals have often gotten to rather like the status and power, and want to keep it.

      Once the big goals that drew the movement together have been achieved, you have to work harder and harder to manufacture sufficient give-a-damn. With fewer external enemies to fight, attention turns to defeating internal rivals as the best way to gain status. Your ranks will also natually pare down to true believers – likely the most stubborn and opinionated – as the more wishy-washy and allies of convenience move on to things they care more about now.

      So maybe this is why it seems more prominent in social justice circles – they really have won significant victories in living memory, and now the disagreements within the movement itself generate more heat than most external enemies.

      That said, if you really want to get philosophical about it, the “imperfectibility of man on Earth” baked into a lot of religions could be a useful brake. Easy to ignore in practice though.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think this has the opposite problem of trying to determine which side is nastier; it always looks like your side is more prone to infighting, because that’s where you actually see the internals. There was certainly lots of infighting on the right from the Tea Party on through Trump’s ascension.

      Speaking as an outsider, it looked to me like the lack of infighting was a major problem on the left. You guys needed to purge the crap out of the guys on your side who were undermining classical liberalism. The failure to do that is one of the things that forced the right to rally behind Trump, and will now force us to treat the left as an undifferentiated mass that must be crushed, because we don’t have the tools needed for surgical strikes. Only the guys on the inside can do that.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Speaking as an outsider, it looked to me like the lack of infighting was a major problem on the left. You guys needed to purge the crap out of the guys on your side who were undermining classical liberalism.

        That’s not lack of infighting; that’s infighting where Team SJW won the day.

    • dndnrsn says:

      How do you tell whether someone actually is an idealist or not, though? Hell, how does an individual person tell whether they are an idealist, or just tricking themselves into thinking the actions they take to benefit themselves are idealistic in nature.

      Take, as a fairly small-scale and non-charged example, and one that is close to my heart because they are terrible and even the SJ activists I know agree, the Canadian Federation of Students. They’re Canada’s largest student union umbrella group. They love, love, love SJ language, methods, and goals. I have no doubt that some of them are sincere. However, they are also corrupt as all-get-out, as are most (all?) of the student unions under them. They take advantage of extremely low voter turnouts in campus elections to install hand-picked successors whenever possible. Sinecured student “radicals” will take as many years as possible to finish their degrees (as in, you’ll have the same person in various positions, drawing a salary and doing very little, for the best part of a decade). The CFS fairly transparently sends people to campaign for their preferred candidates during campus elections, and denies that this is an official thing. Also, turns out they have a secret bank account hidden from auditors.

      So, they and their student unions run things in the same fashion as the government of a country that is technically a democracy but isn’t. Not the kind where the ruling party gets 105% of the vote, rather the kind where the ruling party rigs it so they can get elected with single-digit support, because nobody votes. They also make it really hard for constituent student unions to leave the CFS, and whenever their unions have bodies that make up the union in whole, it’s made as hard as possible for those bodies to leave the union. Student money is used to hire lawyers to fight attempts to leave.

      Then, people who have had positions in the CFS and its constituent unions usually find employment working for other student unions, working for labour unions, etc. There’s a whole pipeline, basically. Becoming a professional activist/student union person is a great way to set yourself up for life.

      So, given the degree to which they personally benefit from what they’re doing, and the various tricks they pull to do it – are these the actions of good-hearted idealists? I don’t doubt that many of them think that they are. They do some good things. But the degree of corruption is simply absurd.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m inclined to think that the fact they can coordinate with each other so smoothly means they aren’t idealists.

        • dndnrsn says:

          There are internal conflicts – attempts to reform individual unions and the CFS – but I don’t know if they ever come to much. When a non-incumbent or non-incumbent-selected student government gets into power, it seems like they spend a fair bit of effort having to wrangle with the outgoing exec, who often behave in sketchy ways.

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I did a little cursory research about Danial Amen– the SPECT brain scan guy. He makes extreme claims for the value of brain scans. He is not respected in his field, but I didn’t find anything about actually investigating whether he gets good results. Anyone have information?

  18. Chalid says:

    We receive new information, and we update our views of the world. Sometimes we over-update – if the information is particularly emotionally charged, if it’s visual, if it involves ourselves or people we know, then we are likely to assign the information too much weight. Conversely, sometimes we under-update – the information is hard to understand, or is boring, or we round a small effect down to zero, or the like. If I get mugged in a neighborhood, it is likely to alter my perception of risk in that neighborhood greatly compared to simply reading crime statistics for that neighborhood, even though the statistics are likely to be more informative.

    Does anyone know of a reasonably comprehensive list of the types of information that we know cause people to generally make the error of over-updating vs the error of under-updating?

    • Vermillion says:

      Would that be as straightforward as appeals to system 1 being more likely to cause over-updating vs. system 2 under-updating? Also these constructions are somewhat awkward and so I will now refer to the phenomena as ovedating and undating.

      So information that is likely to cause ovedating might be:Implicit, Automatic, Low Effort, Rapid, Associative, Contextualized, Domain Specific, Evolutionarily Old, Nonverbal, Includes recognition, perception, and orientation, Independent of working memory, Non-Logical, and Parallel.

      Undating: Explicit, Controlled, High Effort, Slow, Inhibitory, Rule-Based, Abstract, Domain General, Evolutionarily Recent, Linked to language, Includes rule following, comparisons, and weighing of options, Limited by working memory capacity, Logical, and Serial.

      Source.

  19. MNH says:

    Musical skills question:
    I have zero musical training and want to learn to sing at a decent level. I’m also flat broke. Can anyone outline an effective path or give any advice for how I can develop this skill without hiring a coach or similar?

    (Normally to improve something, I just practice, notice what I am failing to do, and test hypotheses for how to improve at those things, but for music I don’t even know enough to know what’s failing and I don’t think I hear my voice the way any other observer does anyways, so I’m feeling kind of stuck)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You might try Felicia Ricci’s youtube channel.

      There is a ton of content there and my sense is that it is all pretty good.

    • rlms says:

      One thing you could try is aural training. There are a few free apps/programs for this out there, I think this one is decent, but others might be better. But I would encourage you to try to take couple of lessons if at all possible (maybe try to find a music student who will also likely be broke) in order to get some fundamental technique down. I think singing technique is more difficult to self-teach than instrumental technique. You could also try joining a choir and get advice there.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Find a nearby church choir, and join. That’s how I learnt to sing.

    • Well... says:

      Try bartering for lessons. Do you have a skill you could teach to someone who could, in return, teach you how to sing?

      • Jiro says:

        Remember that barter is taxable.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Even the IRS isn’t harsh enough to go after informal barter of services:

          The term doesn’t include arrangements that provide solely for the informal exchange of similar services on a noncommercial basis.

          https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc420.html

          So if you teach someone a skill that you don’t teach for a living, in return for them teaching you a skill that they don’t teach for a living, you’re probably OK.

          (Disclaimer: not a tax attorney. If you end up in PMITA Federal Prison, don’t mention my handle)

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Mr. X has the right answer. However, if you want to practice alone in addition to joining a community group here are my $0.02:

      The main things that make a beginning musician bad are (1) bad pitch and (2) bad rhythm. To fix the first you should practice scales and arpeggios, very carefully. At some point you will want to check these against a tuner or a friend’s second opinion. For (2), you should 100% always practice with a metronome, even if all you are doing is scales.

      Beyond this, you should find a song you like and try to sing it. Practice with a metronome, beginning at about 40% the actual tempo, so you are able to detect whether your pitch and timing are accurate, and slowly bring the speed up. If you find yourself compromising accuracy do not continue to accelerate.

      Singing in harmony is extra hard, and I don’t think you can learn how to do it alone.

    • johnjohn says:

      Choir

      Or

      Record yourself singing something.
      Find someone halfway credible on youtube that explains a couple of exercises (around 30 minutes worth of exercises), do the exercises every day.
      For a month.
      Record yourself singing something.
      Better? Continue
      No change/Worse? Find some other halfway credible person on youtube, repeat

      Eventually you will become more skilled and will want to do the self evaluation thing more often, until you can evaluate what you’re doing on a daily basis. But in the beginning it’s more important to pick a plan and stick to it

  20. OriginalSeeing says:

    Does anyone have suggested sources to look in to regarding spirituality and spiritual experience?

    I’m attempting to implement a heuristic of “Don’t categorically ignore or dismiss sources of information and experience that other smart people you’ve met consider possibly useful.”

    • Nornagest says:

      Crowley’s more scholarly (as opposed to his more mystical) books on magical practice and the religious experience are insightful and reasonably accessible, if somewhat unhinged. Liber ABA is probably the most comprehensive single volume.

    • Well... says:

      Tom Bradford’s “Torah Class” podcasts are pretty excellent in my opinion. Start with Genesis 1:1 and work your way through.

    • Jaskologist says:

      William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience is a classic for a reason.

    • Jaskologist says:

      In a more esoteric direction, there’s also Jordan Peterson, who I’m still undecided about. I suspect he sees far more connections than are actually there, but I can still listen to the man ramble on for hours.

    • Polycarp says:

      You might try reading some of the works of Rudolf Steiner. Three of his basic books are Theosophy, An Outline of Esoteric Science (also translated as Occult Science), and Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment (also translated as How to Know Higher Worlds).

    • I can recommend Sam Harrus on Dzogchen.

    • Matt M says:

      Worth noting that the examples “from the right” are all coming from elected officials, while the examples “from the left” are coming from the students and campus administrators themselves.

      Whether one is “better” or “worse” than the other is probably a matter of opinion, but that’s probably why the perception is what it is.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Nancy — You really ought to put comments here, instead of just putting in a link with no comments. Since you have mostly commented on left wing repression, I suspect you mostly disagree with the link. But I’d like to see what you think.

      I myself do mostly disagree with the link. Her first example of right wing censorship is attacks on tenure. I don’t think tenure is a good thing at all — it just gives some professors a life-time spot on the university payroll regardless of their contribution. Employers should have the right to direct and fire employees even if those employees are la dee da professors.

      The second example is republican legislators trying to outlaw what they see as stupid classes at universities — in the example a course called “The Problem of Whiteness.” It sounds a bit like micro-management, but again the ones who pay the bills have the right to determine the content.

      Etc. I think she did maybe have some true examples of right-wing censorship. I don’t think the right is any less susceptible to censorship than the left; it’s just that the left has control of the universities, and that’s where censorship has been the most pernicious. I would hope that fighting censorship shouldn’t be about right or left but about allowing minority points of view.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Tenure serves an important purpose – it is an important part of academic freedom. If professors serve at the convenience of administrators, then no research that upsets donors, etc will happen. I don’t think that “Ivory Tower” is a wholly bad concept.

        I think that professors past a certain point – and the decline of tenure is worrying – should be protected from their students, protected from elected officials, protected from administrators, protected from donors. There has to be a place for people to seriously consider things that may not be popular.

        • gbdub says:

          But why is academic freedom important? In theory, you want academic freedom because it protects a robust and diverse investigation into a range of ideas and ideologies.

          In practice though, it seems like academic freedom is largely being used to protect a thin slice of ideology from criticism, while a large swath of American viewpoints go unrepresented. Communists, critical race theorists, radfems – all are easier to find on campus than moderate Republicans. When you’ve got someone like Judith Curry resigning tenure because of over-politicization, it seems clear that academic freedom doesn’t extend very far if you’re in the “wrong” direction.

          If you’re going to publicly fund academic freedom, I think it really does need to be viewpoint-neutral. You’ve got Republican legislatures asking, “why should we be funding universities if they are just going to operate as Democratic think-tanks?” And they have a point.

          Academic freedom is valuable, but only if applied neutrally and fairly – academic freedom is a responsibility, and I’m not sure the modern university has help up its end of the bargain.

        • Jaskologist says:

          What gbdub said. The defense of tenure would work better if we saw that the academy actually had diversity of thought. As it is, it seems pretty clear that tenure does not perform as advertised.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I agree with this. This is an argument for fixing the system, not for destroying it, though.

          • gbdub says:

            How do you fix the system from outside, without destroying it? If the issue is the gatekeepers of tenure, who are themselves unremovable, what do you do? Any measure that weakens their power is going to get labeled an “assault on academic freedom”.

            Cutting funding is a blunt measure, but it’s the only tool the legislature really has. I don’t think they want to “destroy” the university though, I think the intent is to sufficiently threaten it that it reforms itself.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Contra both you and Cabranes, whenever someone mentions tenure I am compelled to post this link: https://quomodocumque.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/i-am-cranky-about-people-who-are-cranky-about-the-tenure-system/

        the ones who pay the bills have the right to determine the content.

        You’re probably correct, but it still might be 100% never wise to exercise this right in that way.

        • JayT says:

          I really don’t see that link as giving any kind of argument in favor of tenure. If you believe that tenure causes professors to stop caring about teaching (which was absolutely my experience in school), then what does it matter if you are hiring bad teachers for low pay vs teachers that become bad teachers for low pay? Is it just to get those five years of teaching when the professor actually cares while they try to acquire tenure?

          Also, for most PHDs, I don’t buy that a university job pays significantly worse than the open market. Sure, the STEM, law, and MD people could probably do better (though there is also a question of workload in a university setting vs the market), so perhaps there is an argument for them, but for pretty much any other professor I fail to see the value in tenure.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You’re completely ignoring the value of research, though. Tenure isn’t meant to attract people who otherwise would go to the open market with the promise of job security. It’s meant to allow professors to say and write things that aren’t popular with the people controlling the purse strings.

          • gbdub says:

            Do tenured professors actually produce more and better research though? If anything it seems like there’s a mad push to publish “research”, whether or not it provides any real value, just to get tenure, and after tenure professors can rest on their laurels. And an awful lot of them are crappy teachers to boot.

            Insofar as a professor continues to produce good research (especially the sort of research that brings in grant money), they aren’t going to get fired with or without tenure. Insofar as they don’t – maybe they should get fired, or at least not elevated to an unfireable overpaid class at the expense of up-and-coming PhD’s who are stuck on subsistence wages as adjuncts.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d also question the idea that tenure somehow guarantees professors will be willing to publicly proclaim controversial positions.

            Yes, tenure prevents the administration from instantly firing you for your controversial position – but it does not prevent them from making your life miserable in other ways. It doesn’t prevent them from creating a media firestorm, loudly condemning you, organizing social ostracism among your peers, having gangs of students surround and scream at you and your wife on the campus quad, etc.

            At the vast majority of universities today there are major incentives to toe the line of PC orthodoxy. They can, and will, make people who violate their norms as miserable as possible. And everyone knows it. Tenure might help a little at the margin, but these other things are still very big issues.

          • shakeddown says:

            though there is also a question of workload in a university setting vs the market

            Anecdotally, everyone I know who’s transitioned from academia to industry listed industry’s easier workload as one of their main motivations.

          • gbdub says:

            shakedown – how many of the people you know were tenured professors?

            In the humanities, I don’t want to say there are no hardworking professors, but the hardest working ones I met had most of their workload from projects not strictly related to educating students. And there are plenty of them puttering along on “their book” while offloading most of the day to day teaching to grad students (using a 15 year old syllabus and lecture notes).

            Anecdotally – how many of the major blogs (that aren’t professional media projects) are run by professors?

          • shakeddown says:

            how many of the people you know were tenured professors?

            A few. They were all math or CS professors, though. Humanities professors are a different category I don’t know enough to comment about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            In my experience as a humanities guy, the least competent professors generally fell into the category of “not distinguished serious-business professors, but not newbies either”. PhD-student instructors and new professors tended to try really hard. High-status profs (I didn’t have any stars, but wasn’t in a field that produces big-name stars people outside of the field care about; I mean people who are known in the field or have achieved high rank within the school) tended to be good, if sometimes prone to don’t-give-a-fuck behaviour.

            The “this professor has clearly been doing it for a while, but holy crap are they bad at their job” was the most common bad prof. I don’t know how many of them had tenure and how many didn’t.

      • shakeddown says:

        Is this actually a common problem with tenure? I hear people worrying about it a lot, but it doesn’t seem like unfireable unwanted professors are actually a common problem.

        • James Miller says:

          Because no one goes to the trouble of trying to fire unproductive tenured professors, you don’t hear much about them. As a tenured professor myself, one of the big problems is that it greatly reduces mobility of tenured but not star professors so most professors end up spending their entire careers wherever they get tenure.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I posted the link because I thought it was interesting, but I didn’t have anything I wanted to say about it.

        The author is Barry Deutch– he’s male.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Ah. So, after years of this all coming from the left, the right gets a few digs in, and now there’s cries of hypocrisy? The legislation to repeal tenure is from THIS WEEK. It was discussed in the subreddit; what I said is that if being a left-wing radical is “academic freedom” but being on the right is a “Title IX violation” not protected by tenure, it rather weakens the institution and makes it subject to such attacks.

      One of the examples coming out of the University of Wisconsin is a representative wanting to cancel a class called “The Problem of Whiteness”. I suppose, strictly speaking, this is an attack on academic freedom. But it’s a peculiar kind of academic freedom, since we know it wouldn’t protect a course filling in any other identity (besides masculinity).

      (The South Carolina example about “Fun Home” appears to be legitimate, however)

      Banning political advocacy disguised as courses in state universities is long since overdue, though the Arizona bill they describe does a lousy job of it.

      Free speech on campus is reported as a near-exclusive threat from the left because it is a near-exclusive threat from the left, in particular the identitarian SJW left. Pointing at a few places the right has responded in kind and declaring a pox on both houses is a false equivalence.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Ah. So, after years of this all coming from the left, the right gets a few digs in, and now there’s cries of hypocrisy?

        Correct. Insofar as the right was defending itself in the language of academic freedom, this is what hypocrisy means.

        Incidentally the Problem of Whiteness class really doesn’t seem so bad.

        Critical Whiteness Studies aims to understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to help dismantle white supremacy.

        That sounds pretty question-begging until you remember the weird jargony meaning of “white supremacy” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_supremacy#Academic_use_of_the_term

        • The Nybbler says:

          Correct. Insofar as the right was defending itself in the language of academic freedom, this is what hypocrisy means.

          In law, there’s this concept of estoppel. One of the things it says that if one side asserts a claim and that assertion is accepted, that side cannot then assert the opposite. However, this only holds if the assertion is accepted; if it is not accepted the party is free to then assert the opposite in the future.

          I think something similar holds here. Even if the same part of the right crying “academic freedom” are the ones trying to shut down lefty academics, it’s not wrong for them to do so because those claims of “academic freedom” were rejected. The academic left-identitarians, on the other hand, cannot reasonably assert “academic freedom” against such intrusions because they already rejected that it covers such things.

          (tl;dr they made their bed and must lie in it)

          That sounds pretty question-begging until you remember the weird jargony meaning of “white supremacy”

          Uh, yeah, let me know when “The Problem with N*ers” gets into the course catalog, based on some novel weird jargony meaning of the slur.

          • Well... says:

            Even if the same part of the right crying “academic freedom” are the ones trying to shut down lefty academics, it’s not wrong for them to do so because those claims of “academic freedom” were rejected. The academic left-identitarians, on the other hand, cannot reasonably assert “academic freedom” against such intrusions because they already rejected that it covers such things.

            I can’t remember, does the example of Michael Bérubé support or violate your statement?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            let me know when “The Problem with N*ers” gets into the course catalog, based on some novel weird jargony meaning of the slur.

            Sorry, I was unclear: the word with a jargony meaning is “supremacy”, not “white.”

            My point was just that the course description appears to be assuming that conscious racism is an important political force today, which many would dispute. But because of jargoniness, it is not assuming that.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @hog: That doesn’t contradict the objection. You’re still claiming that an outrageously offensive-sounding course name is perfectly fine because there’s some weird ingroup jargon according to which it’s supposedly harmless.

            Even if one accepts that spin on it and the course name is genuinely innocent, the “I didn’t say that word you’re accusing me of, I said something completely different and harmless, see, look in the dictionary” defense was rejected by the social justice left long ago so I’m really not seeing why they get to use it now.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @#13: I guess I didn’t realize that “problem of whiteness” was on its own offensive. If you took it as “the problem with white people” or “the problem with being white,” then yeah, hella offensive. But I read it as “the problem of what whiteness is” and the course description makes it pretty obvious that yes, this is the intended meaning.

            As for the second paragraph, I feel no need to live down to that standard of discourse, since my only claim is that this class sounds ok.

          • Matt M says:

            “But I read it as “the problem of what whiteness is” and the course description makes it pretty obvious that yes, this is the intended meaning.”

            I think you’re still dodging the issue.

            Do you honestly believe that “the problem with what X identity is” would fly as a class if X = anything other than white, male, heterosexual, etc.?

            Trying to teach a course entitled “the problem with the modern conception of the african-american identity” (the nicest way I could think to phrase it) would get you instantly fired, tenure or no, period.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @Matt M: Black history courses routinely address problems with the modern conception of African-American identity. So yes, not only do I not believe anyone would be fired for that, I don’t even think it would raise any eyebrows.

          • Matt M says:

            I thought about adding a small qualifier there.

            A course like “the problem with black identity” would go viral instantly and be seen as an outrage. Eventually the professor in question would calmly explain that the only problem with black identity is that it has been shaped ad influenced by the evils of right-wing white people, and then all the non-right-wing media would gladly accept that as a satisfactory answer and move along.

            I admit it’s a bad analogy because the notion that someone who actually was a virulent white nationalist would somehow end up as a college professor is so unrealistic as to be difficult for our minds to conceive of at all.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I guess I didn’t realize that “problem of whiteness” was on its own offensive

            You’ve got to be taking the piss here. You don’t see any way someone would be upset by that phrase?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            So, in case we’re talking past each other, here are some topics that I think would be on the syllabus in a class about the US* entitled The Problem of Blackness:

            1) It is generally agreed that American has a more binary model of race than most countries, even most postcolonial countries. Why is this? How has this affected assimilation of Black people into the rest of the culture?

            2) Black identity has sometimes been constructed by Black people in a maladaptive way, treating behaviors that lead to economic or academic success as “acting white.” Has this always been the case, and is it still the case? How does this relate to the “twice as good” rhetoric of early Black activists?

            3) Do contemporary African immigrants to the US always assimilate into Black culture, or can they assimilate into white culture? Does this differ for, say, the Igbo versus the Hausa? What about immigrants who would be mistaken for African by many Americans but in fact are not, such as Papuans?

            *The Wisconsin course is explicitly not primarily about the US, but I don’t know enough about the rest of the world to make a more cosmopolitan verison of this list.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            (1) Drop, a book about how 60 black people developed their racial identity. It’s not limited to the US, and it’s more complicated than I could have imagined.

            Loving Day, a novel about having a mixed identity.

      • Chalid says:

        after years of this all coming from the left, the right gets a few digs in, and now there’s cries of hypocrisy? The legislation to repeal tenure is from THIS WEEK.

        well the article’s first phrase is “four stories that I’ve run across recently”, of course some are going to be very recent.

        Is there really any basis for the idea that we’re looking at the right finally getting a few digs in, as opposed to the right just doing what it’s always done? Just offhand in the past few years I can think of Steven Salaita losing his job over anti-Israel tweets and a ridiculous crusade against professor Erik Loomis for making tweets that were hostile to the head of the NRA.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          My impression from googling around for less than a minute, about the U.S. only: Professors have never been much threatened in the US. Successful attacks on academic freedom seem to target students, not professors.* The right carried out some successful witch-hunts on professors during the HUAC era, but only with buy-in from the center-left (sounds a lot like Salaita actually): http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/uchistory/archives_exhibits/loyaltyoath/symposium/schrecker.html

          * I think the “customer is always right” attitude of the modern university, whatever its flaws, makes that less of a danger these days.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      let’s just look at the four -attacks-

      attack one: gutting of tenure

      the whole point of tenure is that we pay a high price in exchange for making super-sure that a professor can’t be fired for speech, because they can’t be fired for pretty much anything else, including subpar work and so forth. this issue is thus a lot thornier than just “speech”.

      attack two:

      I can’t make it clearer that the job of a university is not to teach political ideology, but rather established facts and methodologies.

      When you give out university credit for digesting and parroting back a political ideology, then you’ve made worthless the idea of a “university”. The only difference between social justice and any other type of political ideology (imagine a class called “Why libertarianism is good”, can you imagine that as a university course?) is that a lot of social justicians and feminists have convinced themselves that their ideology is factual and has identified factual things, when at best they’ve identified social science stuff that sometimes gets debunked later on. That’s not something a university should ever get involved in and good on them.

      then a list of links:

      First link, professor watchlist: Sorry, but in the same way I want a ratemyprofessor.com to find out if my professor will rant about his personal life, I want this to determine if my professor will rant about white males. People hearing something you said and deciding that they don’t want to take your class…that really is the definition of consequences. You can’t teach shittily and demand people take your class anyways, you realise?

      Second link, Mann: never heard of this specific instance, and I bet there’s a bit more to it, but Mann specifically has filed a number of frivolous libel cases. At worst that has to even it out?

      Third link, Guardian: Yeah, no, this one I’ve heard about. And it looks like their hand got caught in the cookie jar and now they’re refusing to give up the information via FOIA that would prove it. Seriously, I don’t find any of this particularly chilling, unless of course there’s doubt about your work being legitimate.

      Fourth link, Fifth link, Sixth link Salaita: Definitely not a fan of what happened to these people, but their behavior wasn’t precisely excellent either.

    • Wrong Species says:

      For all their complaining about the left, I find it hard to be sympathetic to radical traditionalists when they complain about persecution. You would do the exact same thing if you were winning! They even tell us so.

  21. Deiseach says:

    It’s Friday, it’s a lovely sunny day (still cool but bright and blue-sky), I’ve a half-day from work, our state funding agency has just sprung a surprise on us that they’re sending someone down from Dublin to check our finances because they claim we’re €73,000-odd in the red that we claim we’re not, so the office has been running around pulling out files and getting paperwork in order on top of the usual post-Christmas “work piled up to be cleared” and in sum, between the jigs and the reels, I’m feeling a bit giddy.

    So – a link courtesy of my Facebook friend. I had no idea Virginia had pretensions to being wine country. I also had no idea Donald Trump (well, okay, his son Eric) owned a winery. And I had no idea the wine was any good. At least, according to this 2015 article, you can get a decent red to go with your dinner and get classily loaded 🙂

    • Jordan D. says:

      As far as I know, every state in America has pretensions to being wine country. I suppose I can’t speak for the ones I haven’t visited, but the entire Northeast and Northwest do, in any event.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Not the state I live in; while we do manage to have four “wineries”, they mostly just produce fruit wines from fruits/berries other that grapes, and we have no designated vigticultural areas. But then, plenty of people seem to forget or not know we’re a state, despite being the largest (by far) in land area.

        For alcohol, we mainly have beers, and a variety of vodka (smoked salmon vodka, anyone?)

        • The Nybbler says:

          For alcohol, we mainly have beers

          At first I read that as “mainly have bears” which I think is also true.

          I can definitely recommend Alaskan beer. I cannot recommend Virginia wine.

        • Matt M says:

          A lot of “wineries” in midwest states actually import the vast majority of their grapes from California. They typically grow a few vines near the road to trick the various eco-snobs into thinking they’re buying a “local” wine.

      • Deiseach says:

        Isn’t the Northwest “when it’s not raining, it’s covered with clouds” and the Northeast is more “hardy fishermen and whalers and laconic farmers on the windswept, wave-lashed Atlantic coast”, neither of which immediately make “Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!” spring to mind?

        • The Nybbler says:

          hardy fishermen and whalers and laconic farmers on the windswept, wave-lashed Atlantic coast

          That’s just Maine, or New England maybe (and more their ad copy than their actuality). The Northeast includes the Washington DC/NYC/Boston corridor, along with most points north and east and a somewhat fuzzy western boundary (Pittsburgh is the City of Maximum Confusion between the Northeast and the Midwest)

          This includes the Finger Lakes region of New York, well known as a wine region. Also Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, which indeed has vineyards even if they’re not the main attraction. Lots of lesser known grape-growing areas. Though there’s probably a reason these wines (somewhat excepting Finger Lakes) aren’t so well known internationally, and it’s not just their small quantities.

        • Jordan D. says:

          I actually did manage to get sunburnt in northern Oregon once, and in August no less. But it wasn’t easy.

          Most of the northeast is kind of dour, I’ll grant you, and probably half the wines are from the finger lakes anyway, but you can find vineyards all the way up past Lake Ontario. I guess I wouldn’t make any large bets about the state of vineyards in Vermont or Maine.

          • Matt M says:

            Native Oregonian here – it’s quite easy to get sunburned in Oregon. Summers in the Northwest are fantastic – better than a lot of other places in the U.S. actually. While the weather can be nonstop gloom from October through May, summers are generally warm (but not too hot – you can get by without air conditioning) and dry and free of rain. Much more consistently than I’ve experienced living in the Midwest or in Texas.

        • Nornagest says:

          Isn’t the Northwest “when it’s not raining, it’s covered with clouds”

          That’s the stereotype (and not an entirely unjustified one) for Portland and the Northwest coast, which is where most of the people in the PacNW states live. But the actual wine country up there is mostly further inland and/or at higher altitude — the Yakima Valley in central Washington, the upper Willamette Valley in central Oregon, and the Rogue and Umpqua river valleys in southern Oregon. Those are drier and sunnier, especially in the summer; the Yakima region in particular is semi-arid.

          I actually think Oregon and Washington wine is generally better than California, although that might be my dislike for Cabernet talking.

          • Jordan D. says:

            I refuse to drink wines from Napa, at this point. Oregonian wines are pretty good, but I really prefer stuff from New York to the whole West Coast scene.

          • Matt M says:

            The Willamette Valley isn’t really “central Oregon.” It’s basically in the same general climate as Portland is. The vast majority of the population of the state is located in the valley, which includes not just Portland, but most of the state’s other major cities such as Eugene, Salem, and Corvallis as well.

            (The only real cities of any consequential size outside of the valley are probably Medford and Bend)

          • Urstoff says:

            Well Cabernet is the one true wine, but the best of it comes from Chile and Argentina. That said, I like Charles Smith wines, which come from the Columbia Valley. Good wines come from all over (except Ethiopia; I think their soil may be poison).

          • Matt M says:

            Fair. California is great for Cab. Oregon is known for Pinot.

      • BBA says:

        There are licensed wineries in all 50 states, with the caveat that (as others have pointed out) wineries aren’t necessarily vineyards, and there are odd quirks to the licensing regime. For instance, mead is legally categorized as wine (because it’s not beer and it’s not distilled).

        Of course some 90% of American wine comes from California, and most of that is from industrial farms in the Central Valley, not the picturesque vineyards of Napa and Sonoma.

      • BBA says:

        There are licensed wineries in all 50 states, but as others have pointed out, “winery” doesn’t mean “vineyard.” (Also, the law can be counter-intuitive. Mead is legally “wine” because it’s not beer and it’s not distilled, thus mead producers are licensed as wineries. And you can keep a beehive just about anywhere.)

        Some time ago the US signed a trade agreement that made us finally respect the French appellation system, with the caveat that any American winemaker currently using a restricted appellation was allowed to keep using it domestically. Thus there are still a few producers of “California champagne” and one vineyard near Atlantic City makes “New Jersey champagne.” Yes, really.

        For the record: about 90% of American wine comes from California, and most of that is from the large industrial-scale winemakers of the Central Valley, not the picturesque vineyards in Napa and Sonoma that everyone thinks of as “California wine country.”

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      One of my friends does paintings of Virginia wineries.

  22. Deiseach says:

    Congratulations on your new president, sworn in a few minutes’ ago (by the coverage on our national news that I’m watching) 🙂

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I was kind of looking forward to this, though now I find myself among those retching and moaning.

      …bad timing on that stomach virus.

      But yeah, all jokes aside, let’s all hope the next four to eight years go well. For America and for the world.

      • Deiseach says:

        I can see Trump doing four years but not eight. What would surprise me is if Pence decided to run in 2020, and even more, if the forecast Trumpocalypse had not eventuated, that he won.

        I wonder who the Democrats are thinking of for 2020? They need to start planning now, so the back-stabbing and knifing in the back can be got out of the way in good time to select a candidate or even two.

        • Jordan D. says:

          Actually that’s one of the biggest issues the Democratic party is working on right now. They’ve got popular politicians, but all of them are going to be mid-to-late 70’s come 2018 and 2020, and the young up-and-coming politicos aren’t well-known. Obama and Biden are reportedly trying to set up something to locate promising Democratic politicians at the state and local levels and get them some spotlight and platform. I suspect a lot of that comes from having fewer Governor-ships- the GOP has a cadre of natural national politicians from safe states, and the Dems don’t.

          The party leadership are determined not to become too reactionary, but I don’t think they have a lot of choice. Their platform- and therefore the people best-suited to carry that platform- is going to depend a lot on what the GOP does and doesn’t do in the next couple of months. I suspect it will also depend a lot on whether America reacts badly to Trump’s persona in power or seems to embrace it.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m hearing Cory Booker’s name tossed around a lot lately.

          • Vermillion says:

            I agree, a lot of the future of the Dems (and Republicans for that matter) will depend on exactly how big of an impact crater Trump winds up leaving. Two things in particular I’m going to be paying close attention to:

            The first is who will get the chairmanship of the DNC. I heard Keith Ellison on Ezra Klein’s podcast and I think he both correctly diagnosed the issues facing them and proposed what seems to me a workable action plan to make up for the absolute slaughter of the party from 2010-2016.

            The second will be if groups like Indivisible successfully rally grass routes opposition in the model of the Tea Party. Succeeding like the Tea Party did seems like a pretty high bar but reachable if the left gets sufficiently infuriated.

            It’ll be an interesting couple of years for sure, but I don’t think anyone was doubting that.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            If they nominate Cory Booker they will get buried under a landslide of shit. I think you’re just saying this aspirationally cause it would be glorious victory for the neo-reactionaries.

          • Deiseach says:

            If they nominate Cory Booker they will get buried under a landslide of shit.

            Why? I don’t know the guy and reading the Wikipedia article on him pulls up nothing special; apparently “Salon called him an avatar of the wealthy elite, a camera hog, and a political cipher” but eh, that’s different from the run of politicians how? And he fudged reduction in jobless figures in his state under his governorship but again, par for the course.

            He seems to hold the right positions on the right causes, and is testifying/has testified against the nomination of Jeff Sessions.

            So what lurks in the background that would scupper all this?

          • BBA says:

            Andrew Cuomo has been making motions towards running. And as a duly enrolled member of the Democratic Party of the State of New York, let me say: if we nominate him, we’ll lose 49 states and deserve it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Cory Booker was not governor of NJ but mayor of Newark, mostly known for his propensity to heroics.

            He’s pretty well-liked in NJ but I’m not sure how he’d play elsewhere.

    • Urstoff says:

      Kind of like saying congratulations on your new STD

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The New Yorker’s reaction to his inauguration:

      “… the new President insisted on a break. Trump spoke about a history in which power had been concentrated among élites and politicians, and said, ‘That all changes. Starting right here and right now.’
      This was a dark inaugural. The America Trump described was filled with victims.”

      Progressives are weird.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve been seeing the word “dark” thrown around a lot today. It’s an odd stylistic tic; are they all getting it from the New Yorker?

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          It’s been the word of choice for quite some time now. I’m not convinced it’s entirely a double standard: a lot of people in both parties still assume that Republicans must follow the upbeat Reagan template.

          • Deiseach says:

            I thought “dark” was a disfavoured word, given that it and other words associated with blackness are used in a negative sense, and that contributes to the negative stereotypes associated with African-Americans?

            Or was that just “It’s not PC to use these words except when we can use them against our ideological enemies who are all white anyway”?

            I really love this example from Writing With Color about Tolkien’s creation of the Black Speech:

            It is notable that the letter “e” is totally absent from the Black Speech. It was omitted on purpose for being a favourite letter of the Elves, and for forming a smile when uttering it.”

            What’s the mot juste here to describe this, apart from “utter bollocks”? Do I really need to say “No, e is not a ‘favourite letter’ of the Elves and a professional philologist had other reasons for creating the sounds of his languages than “your face makes a smile when you say this letter”?

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Deiseach

            I can’t imagine what point you think you’re making with this post. If you’re arguing that the New York Times considers the use of the word dark to mean bleak, evil, or just plain bad to be racist, then the first link you posted appears to make exactly the opposite argument.

            The text in question is an extract from the New York times magazine’s regular column “on language”, that was usually, though not always, written by conservative columnist William Safire. In fairness, it is a bit hard to follow as it seems to have suffered some kind of formating related mutilation in transit from the magazine archives to the NYT website, and the byline seems to have been lost.

            In the column Safire (or whoever) relates a story about former DC mayor Marion Barry’s response to a story written about him by Bella Stumbo of the LA times.

            If you don’t know who Marion Barry was, he was the black Rob Ford. If he ever met Donald Trump, they would have mutually annihilated each other on contact, leaving only a shower of gamma rays.

            After he was caught smoking crack, and then reelected, Barry became such an embarrassment that Jesse Jackson
            at one point considered running against him.

            When Stumbo conducted an interview with Barry on the question of a possible Jackson candidacy, Barry responded to Jackson’s potential challenge by denigrating him, saying among other things “he don’t wanna be no mayor”, and “Jesse don’t wanna run nothin’ but his mouth”. More background on the incident can be found here in
            Stumbo’s 2002 Washington post obituary.

            When Barry, a hall of fame player of the race card, read the published interview and realized it made him look like an idiot he responded by accusing Stumbo of putting words in his mouth, and of course of being a racist.

            To qoute from (possibly) Safire’s column

            Mr. Barry objected to the imputation to him of the use of black dialect, which he denied having used, observing: ”Most reporters realize that in casual conversation, grammar may occasionally slip; they account for this by making appropriate corrections in the written text. That is only fair.” The Mayor went on to say, in a letter to the editor, ”In no way did I denigrate him,” referring to Mr. Jackson, adding that ”all the denigration in the article” was the reporter’s, toward him.

            The etymology of the word denigrate was promptly called to my attention by a media colleague, who wondered whether the Mayor was unwittingly using a term that illustrates how racism is buried in the language.

            Niger is Latin for ”black”; denigrationem is Late Latin for ”a blackening.” The de- does not mean ”the opposite or reverse of,” as de- so often does; in this case, as in denude and declaim, it means ”completely”; thus, denigrate is rooted in ”to blacken completely.” The term was picked up as a verb in Old French meaning ”to blacken” and transferred to English in the 16th century in the sense of ”darken a good name,” or ”defame.”

            Historically, black and dark have signified ”bad” (Satan was called the Prince of Darkness long before the self-styled meanie, Robert Novak, was born), and white and light have meant ”good” (none but the brave deserve the fair, meaning ”light-colored”).

            The question is: Should we now take cognizance of the prejudice inherent in this and try to root it out? For example, should an aide to the Mayor of Washington whisper to him, ”You should not use denigrate in reference to Jesse Jackson, because the root means ‘to blacken,’ and for years we have been saying that black is beautiful.”

            I think that is taking anti-racism too far. Language is like a great coral reef, built of the fossils of millions of organisms; to go back through the language’s development and to ”correct” what we now see as wrong or cruel unnecessarily hacks away at the reef.

            The whole point of this allegedly humorous anecdote is that someone (who William Safire totally didn’t make up) was unfairly accusing Marion Barry, of all people, of racism. If your wondering who ever thought William Safire was clever, it was the same kind of people who laugh at New Yorker cartoons.

            The second link is to a blog that has no affiliation with the New York Times or, as far as I can tell, any established media institution. If you think it’s hard to make people on the right look ridiculous by linking link to random blog posts, think again.

            You’re post was bad, and you should feel bad for posting it. You can see where I got the crazy idea that you’re secretly Moon/Jill, because that’s the level were talking about here.

          • Iain says:

            Your post was bad, and you should feel bad for posting it. You can see where I got the crazy idea that you’re secretly Moon/Jill, because that’s the level were talking about here.

            This is neither necessary nor kind, and I’m not even convinced it is true.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The really weird thing about the totally-not-made-up question from Safire’s totally-not-made-up colleague is: if you’re going to go looking for effects of racism in what Barry said, why would you dive into the etymology of “denigrate” while completely ignoring Barry’s evident shame at having been caught using Black Vernacular English?

          • Deiseach says:

            I can’t imagine what point you think you’re making with this post.

            *sigh*

            hyperboloid, I was not intending to say that the Writing With Color blog was affiliated with the NYT, I was using it as an example of the kind of lecturing re: unconscious racism I was talking about (no, I’m not going to invoke SJWs since that is over-used and unfair, but there is or was an element of “white people using blackness metaphors to describe evil, dirt, the night where bad things happen and so forth are reinforcing racist attitudes about the value of whiteness over blackness” in progressive thought).

            Yes, I realised Safire was making up his colleague and the anecdote as a humorous exaggeration. On the other hand, there have been genuine instances of people creating folk and false etymologies for such words as “picnic” to make them exemplars of racist terminology, so you can never be sure that what you intend as plainly identifiable fiction will never crop up as “this is trufax!” in real world discourse.

            My point, such as it was, was that using “dark” as a term of disfavour would have come under the umbrella of PC speech as something to be avoided as tending to downgrade the notion of blackness and hence black people, but now that it can be wielded against Trump etc it is suddenly all over the place. I was trying to point out an internal contradiction, nothing more, nothing less.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            If the left of this commentariat took to mining the fever swamps of the right the way Deiseach combs the hidden byways of tumblr for things to be outraged by … well, I’m guessing we would slowly devolve into the comments section on a random Washington Post article.

            hyperbloid is just pointing out this is Deiseach once again having an outrage party, and that this is worthy of criticism and not particularly interesting or useful. When she posts these kinds of things they fail kind, they fail necessary, and lots of times they fail on true.

          • Iain says:

            @HBC: I am well aware of Deiseach’s penchant for outrage parties. I just didn’t think this one was particularly noteworthy, and that specific paragraph of hyperboloid’s response seemed excessive to me.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If the left of this commentariat took to mining the fever swamps of the right

            You ask, elsewhere on this thread, whether it’s possible to ban phrases as well as words. If it is, I’ve got a candidate as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z:
            Yes, well, I generally happen to agree.

            But you seemed to have missed my point, as in posting I was essentially agreeing with you already.

          • Iain says:

            @HBC: I’m pretty sure Cerebral Paul Z. objects to “fever swamps of the right”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            I know.

            My point was that regularly finding weakmen to beat is not helpful. If I were to start regularly trolling worldnetdaily or stormfront or even just twitter, I’m sure I could find some straw-like right-wing avatars, but this is not what we want to be doing.

            My use of the phrase in question was meant to illustrate how unhelpful this would be.

          • If the left of this commentariat took to mining the fever swamps of the right the way Deiseach combs the hidden byways of tumblr for things to be outraged by

            The most notable outrage in her post was against someone misrepresenting Tolkien’s art, not a hot left/right topic so far as I know. Beyond that, she was pointing at the idea that references to “black” as negative are sometimes viewed as bad because they encourage racist stereotypes.

            Do you think no such idea circulates in modern American culture?

          • Nornagest says:

            references to “black” as negative are sometimes viewed as bad because they encourage racist stereotypes […] Do you think no such idea circulates in modern American culture?

            The idea exists, and it’s familiar enough that a reasonable number of people would at least treat it with nodding respect, but the only people that take it seriously (viz. modify their language, or even put much effort into parsing their opponents’) are either neck-deep in cultural studies academia or pretty far out on the social-justice fringe. It’s deep magic, in other words, not part of the usual culture-war playbook; I wouldn’t expect the likes of the New Yorker to bother.

            If Deiseach’s main exposure to the American Left is through Tumblr, though, it’d be a relatively easy mistake to make.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          That would be my first guess. My second would be that “dark ages” still has the status in political rhetoric as it did in, say, Churchill’s time (this is where academic historians cry), so you get a whole bunch of political rhetoricians independently using the first half.

        • James Miller says:

          From Scott Adams “If you are following the media coverage after the GOP convention, you know that Democrats and their surrogates are describing Trump’s speech as “dark.” The first ten times I heard the word, I thought it might be a situation in which someone clever used the term once and others copied it.

          That is not the case.

          “Dark” is a linguistic kill shot from the left. I assume all the TV pundits on Clinton’s team got the message to use the word “dark” right out of the gate. I confess that at first I didn’t recognize how good it is. It’s designed, Trump-style, and it didn’t come from an amateur. The Clinton team is playing some serious 3D chess now. ” http://blog.dilbert.com/post/147918620271/clinton-uses-dark-magic

        • Iain says:

          I suspect that the tone of Trump’s speech had something to do with it. Here’s a fun list of the words Trump used that had never previously made it into an inaugural address. See if you can find a theme.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Some of these are surprising. “Solidarity” was never used in an inaugural address before? “Urban”?

          • Well... says:

            Do we know if that’s a comprehensive list?

          • Iain says:

            More here, if people want to follow up.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Here’s Reagan’s first inaugural address.

            Contains such words as

            affliction
            suffer
            worst
            penalizes
            crushes
            struggling
            unemployment
            misery

            I could go on, but it clearly had a “dark” tone.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t want to be accusing the “Washington Post” of maybe leaning towards a certain interpretation, but here’s how they led off in that opinion piece about Trump’s speech:

            It stood out from the 57 prior in one way: It was bleaker. A lot bleaker.

            Now, someone on that linked Twitter stream did up a list of words Obama used in his 2009 inauguration that were used for the first time ever. They included (I’ve selected the negative ones out, just as the WP selected out the negative ones in Trump’s speech):

            storms, greed, sapping, nagging, grievances, recriminations, strangled, fainthearted, sweatshops, whip, struggled, cynics, stale, expedience, spectre, waver, slaughtering, outcast, swill, segregation, blame, silencing, starved, grudgingly, icy

            Trump’s speech was “bleaker” than that? Thumb on the scale there! 🙂

          • JayT says:

            According to FiveThirtyeight, Trump’s speech was far more positive that Obama’s first speech, and pretty much the same as his second. Apparently it was just that his negative words were ones that hadn’t been used before. Based off of Trump’s odd way of speaking in general, I don’t find that too surprising.
            https://espnfivethirtyeight.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/conroy-sentiment-01-update.png?quality=90&strip=all&w=575&ssl=1

        • Jaskologist says:

          We need that same list for the previous 10 inaugural speeches to properly form an opinion.

      • Well... says:

        I didn’t hear the whole speech, but did hear excerpts from it, ostensibly presented in order.

        I thought it started out nicely but then at some point he mentioned God or an almighty creator or something, and it was like an actor flubbing a line and looking at the camera. Totally took me out of it. Everything after that was used car salesman.*

        *I deleted and retyped that last metaphor like half a dozen times. Decided to keep it for recognizability, but has anyone noticed that used car salesmen have mellowed out a lot since Craigslist, Autotrader, and Cars.com became popular first stops for car shopping? The last two cars I bought, I hardly had to negotiate at all and the dynamic was really low-key and friendly. We both knew the lowest fair market price for the car in question, given its condition, and it was mostly just a matter of me stating it and him agreeing. There you go, one thing the internet has made better!

  23. shakeddown says:

    This graph is interesting. If we look at total influence, it seems like more people are members of groups that are expected to rise in influence than the reverse, but most people expect to lose influence.

    Uncharitably, this is a form of media hostility bias. Charitably (and in this case, I think more accurately), this is the study failing to catch the right categories – as a hypothetical example, if people expected Trump to declare himself God-emperor, “Men” and “Rich people” would be expected to gain influence even as most people lose influence (because the right categorization is Trumps vs non-Trumps).

    • cassander says:

      Potentially interesting, but not without context. What did the same people say to about Hillary, Romney, Obama, et al.

      • shakeddown says:

        I’d expect Obama or Bush to have better numbers on these, since they came in with higher favourability ratings. Would be interesting to see if there’s still an effect after adjusting for that. (Unfortunately there’s no way we have precise enough numbers to tell).

  24. Mark V Anderson says:

    I would like some advice on books. I mostly alternate between SF and non-fiction. I buy my non-fiction in a batch from Amazon.com. I am on my last two non-fiction books, so I need to buy a new batch. Below I list my tentative list of 8 books to buy. I’d love to get opinions on those books, or suggestions of other books.

    Blank Slate / Stephen Pinker
    The Holocaust:… / Gilbert
    America’s Trillion dollar housing / Howard Husock
    Housing Policy in US / Alex Schwartz
    Wages of Destruction / Adam Tooze
    A Collection of Essays / Orwell
    Against Empathy / Paul Bloom
    Moral Tribes: Emotion… / Oh I didn’t write down author
    Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation / Laura Silber

    Whoops that’s nine books.

    • shakeddown says:

      The undoing project? A lot lighter than the things you listed, but very well written and ties in with this blog.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I haven’t read the book version of Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, but the BBC documentary is excellent and well worth a watch, particularly in the Trump era. For all the people drawing over the top parallels with early twentieth century Fascism, it surprises me no one has brought up Slobo as a historical precedent for the orange menace. Dog whistle appeals to rabid ethnic nationalism, slimy conman personality, Russophile Islamophobia, Serbia’s saw dust Stalin had it all.

      • Deiseach says:

        Dog whistle appeals to rabid ethnic nationalism

        On that note – this list of the speakers at today’s National Prayer Service, traditionally (so I am given to understand) held the day after the inauguration in the Episcopalian National Cathedral in Washington:

        The century-old National Cathedral has served as the go-to site for presidential funerals, prayer services at times of national tragedy, and public inauguration prayer services. Billy Graham gave a sermon at Ronald Reagan’s inaugural service there in 1985.

        In the years since, presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama expanded the scope of the customary National Prayer Service to feature well over a dozen faith leaders representing various traditions. Such events included a few evangelical pastors and organization leaders, including the Grahams, former Foursquare Church president Jack Hayford, North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley, Sojourners president Jim Wallis, National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, and National Latino Evangelical Coalition president Gabriel Salguero.

        The site from which I obtained this is a little exercised over “Trump Stacks Prayer Service Lineup with Evangelicals”, but to me it looks like a fairly usual interfaith service. The only unusual thing is that Trump has asked a lot (relatively) of Baptists, for someone who is nominally a Presbyterian, but every president (including The Blessed Obama) has held and attended such a service. And they do note that:

        Trump opted to include a half-dozen religious leaders in the official Capitol lawn ceremony, instead of the customary one or two.

        So, horrendous roll-call of Bible-bashers or customary attempt at diversity, and how much reporting do you think will be on “he asked a Hindu to pray at the service?” (and do you think does that depend on whether reporters think this will cast Trump in a good light with liberals, and so bad for the narrative of “fundamentalist theocracy is being established” or cast him in a bad light with evangelicals (pagans and idolators!), and so good?).

        I’m asking this in part because of the “Trump appealed to the remnants of the Religious Right/the evangelicals and fundamentalists, and he’s going to undo a lot of the hard-won progress for reproductive and LGBT rights – e.g. roll back Roe vs Wade – to pay them for their support” that is going around in places, and in part because this is about the only place I know where non-religious and/or the Religious Left (yes, it exists) will discuss such matters in a reasonable, rather than partisan, manner:

        •Carlyle Begay – Navajo Nation
        •Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington – Episcopal Church
        •James B. Magness, Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries – Episcopal Church
        •Randall Marshall Hollerith, Dean, Washington National Cathedral – Episcopal Church
        •Cantor Mikhail Manevich – Washington Hebrew Congregation
        •Rabbi Fred Raskind – Temple Bet Yam, St. Augustine Florida
        •Alveda King – Pastoral associate, Priests for Life, Atlanta, Georgia [yes, niece of Martin Luther King and yes, working with Catholics]
        •Harry Jackson – Hope Christian Church, Beltsville, Maryland
        •Narayanachar L. Dialakote – Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, Lanham, Maryland
        •D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
        •Imam Mohamed Magid – All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center, Sterling, Virginia
        •Sajid Tarar – Baltimore, Maryland
        •Greg Laurie – Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, California
        •Jack Graham – Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas
        •His Eminence Geron Archbishop Demetrios of America – Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
        •Rosemarie Logan Duncan, Canon of Worship, Washington National Cathedral – Episcopal Church
        •David Jeremiah – Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, California
        •Ronnie Floyd – Cross Church, Springdale, Arkansas
        •David Swanson – First Presbyterian Church, Orlando, Florida
        •Jesse Singh – Chairman of the Board of Sikh Associations of Baltimore, Maryland
        •Ian McIlraith – Soka Gakkai International – USA, Los Angeles, California
        •Anthony Vance – National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States
        •Cissie Graham Lynch – Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Charlotte, North Carolina
        •Ramiro Pena – Christ the King Baptist Church, Waco, Texas
        •Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. – Roman Catholic Church
        •Darrell Scott – New Spirit Revival Center, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

        • hyperboloid says:

          If I had to guess, mainstream media coverage will focus on tensions between Trump’s personality and conservative Christian values, with lots of “politics makes strange bedfellows” stories, and I think that’s a perfectly legitimate take on the situation. My father was raised southern baptist, and every thing about Trump personal character, if not his policies, strikes me as 180 degrees away from what my George W. Bush loving grandparents would have wanted in a president.

          Who exactly has been saying that the Trump administration is going to be a theocracy?
          That claim made little sense to me when it was made about Bush, and it makes even less sense to about Trump. If Trump is a Christian, of any stripe , then I am a cocker spaniel.

          the Religious Left (yes, it exists)

          Unless someone else is going to chime in,
          I think I’m the closest thing to a representative of the view point of the religious left around here. And that really shows how low the bar is, as I’m not what you would call a man of faith; it’s just that the leftists I associate with disproportionately come from the religious left and I tend to share many of their distinctive views.

          I find it odd that this forum hosts every kind of secular right wing extremism known to man, (Including not far below this comment someone defending David Irving’s views on the holocaust*) , and yet the genuinely religious are a minority of, well, apparently …you. For all the talk of leftists being underrepresented people of faith are really getting short changed around here, especially for such a US centric forum.

          *And have we really sunk this low? I’m going to avoid engaging with that mental deficient, and give one of my right wing peeps a chance to educate him as to the historical facts about the final solution. If someone does not police this stuff, reasonable people will desert this forum, and it will become a cesspool of people who idolize child murderers.

          • NIP says:

            this forum hosts every kind of secular right wing extremism known to man

            Oh, you sweet summer child. If libertarians moaning about the social justice movement and playing devil’s advocate for Trump is your bar for “secular right wing extremism”, I’m afraid you’ve still much to learn.

            the genuinely religious are a minority of, well, apparently …[Deiseach]

            Don’t forget our dear Jaskologist! Then there’s me, but I’m new. I think there’s at least one or two others as well, but when the topic of religion comes up on a rationalist forum, there are understandably few who venture to smash their foreheads against a theologically illiterate wall.

            I’m going to avoid engaging with that mental deficient

            …but Heaven forbid you avoid insulting him. Isn’t that a no-no around here? I was under the impression that all points of view were to be tolerated and respectfully discussed here – even the one whose name we do not utter, oddly enough.

            If someone does not police this stuff, reasonable people will desert this forum, and it will become a cesspool of people who idolize child murderers

            As someone who hangs out in cesspools of people who idolize child murderers on the regular, I can assure you that this place is far too boring to hold their attention for any period longer than a short raid. I’m the closest you’re going to get, and I’m downright affable if I do say so myself. So don’t worry, you can let go of your pearls.

          • Deiseach says:

            If Trump is a Christian, of any stripe , then I am a cocker spaniel.

            I think Trump is a fairly representative mainstream Christian, that is, his family background is Presbyterian, so the church services he doesn’t attend would be that denomination 🙂

            I think this also affects the Evangelical background, in that the “Evangelical vote” of those who turned out to vote for Trump are going the same way – something that is not really being understood by those who talk about the “white working class vote, white male straight Christian redneck men who voted for Trump” – that also has a strong element of “cultural Christianity” to it, where people identify with the background or values but don’t kill themselves attending any particular church, being involved in church or ministries activity, prayer, etc. Many Evangelical leaders were very much against Trump but “a record 81% of white evangelicals” voted for Trump. Not because of religious concerns (the Culture War abortion hot-button issue) but the economy, stupid.

            That’s the kind of disconnect that gets glossed over in talk of the Religious Right and the religious conservative base of the Republican Party.

            the genuinely religious are a minority of, well, apparently …you.

            Oh, no, there’s a good minority of us types about on here! I am interested in the American view of religion, because I find it fascinating – there are several uniquely American Protestant doctrines that seem to be taken on face value, by everyone both religious and not, as the representative view of global and historic Christianity when they’re not. And the necessity, as we’ve seen discussed, of a politician at least making a nod to some kind of faith background.

            I think Trump’s Presbyterianism is as convenient as Hillary Clinton’s Methodism or Joe Biden’s Catholicism; it makes for shorthand in signalling to voters “I’m one of you, I have values in common with you, you can tell where I’m coming from”. Even if the practice is more lax or individualistic than what the actual denomination would require – this is a big thing with the Democrat Catholic representatives, who espouse – I won’t say a peculiarly American version of Catholicism*, but it’s a very ‘I get to say what is and isn’t Catholic not the bishops or the pope’. And to bash those on my conservative side of the fence, it’s equally as bad when Republicans go full-throttle for support of the death penalty as when Democrats go ‘personally opposed but -‘ on abortion.

            I don’t think Trump is going to particularly be exercised about overturning or rolling back Roe vs Wade because I don’t think abortion is a particular concern of his, nor of the ostensibly religious-aligned bloc that voted for him. That won’t stop a lot of alarm about taking away women’s rights in the press and elsewhere, based on the assumption that (a) as Earthly Knight dearly loves to remark ‘he’s a serial sexual predator’ and (b) he hates women because he’s Republican, QED and (c) he’ll pander to the religious zealots who voted for him.

            *The Wikipedia article on Americanism, which never reached the status of actual heresy but was condemned, is a little heavy-handed; there was a strong assimilationist tendency within American Catholicism, probably associated with racial elements – whites versus the ideas of [ethnic slurs for Italians, Spaniards, Southern Europeans and South Americans which would probably get me banned by the spam filter if I used them] and fighting back against the Nativist Party propaganda – that portrayed America as a ‘special case’ where Catholicism could not operate according to the usual rules and exceptions would have to be made to ‘go along to get along’. The pope responded – reasonably, in my view – that Americans were humans like everyone else and human nature was the same all over the globe, so no special treatment for Americans or American Catholics trying to pass for good decent Protestants (my paraphrasing here). Though I do agree Leo XIII probably did have absolutist tendencies; then again, if I were pope, so would I (be glad Catholicism doesn’t have women priests, if I could be pope you would have seen nothing yet when it came to crackdowns).

          • Deiseach says:

            there are understandably few who venture to smash their foreheads against a theologically illiterate wall

            This site isn’t bad at all in that respect (in contrast I’m thinking of PZ Myers about the desecration of the Host and other sites which are Christian but like to fight over doctrines of Catholicism, naming no names but I have one in mind especially).

            People here generally have a decent idea of common beliefs, are willing to ask questions where they don’t, and most importantly put in the reading. If you tell them “read this source”, they’ll go and do it. And even where they think being religious is a damn fool notion, they are willing to talk about it, not sneer and plume themselves on their superior wisdom.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Oh, you sweet summer child.

            Can Scott ban phrases as well as just words?

            I hate this phrase with a passion. It’s essentially as-hominem (assume the person is young and naive, attack them for that rather than their argument).

          • Nornagest says:

            Who exactly has been saying that the Trump administration is going to be a theocracy?

            I don’t think I’ve seen the word “theocracy” used seriously, but I’ve seen a lot of worry that the Trump administration will be pushing the same Religious Right agenda that’s been floating around since circa 1995 (and maybe earlier): anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, pro-school prayer, etc.

            I think this is about two-fifths outgroup homogeneity (i.e. assuming that any particular Republican must be or at least act like a Christian dominionist and a crony capitalist and a libertarian or something), two-fifths overinterpreting campaign rhetoric, and one-fifth assuming that Pence will really be calling the shots policy-wise.

            (And I do expect Trump to make some gestures toward the faith-based policy crowd. I just don’t expect them to do much, or him to put a lot of effort into it.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Can Scott ban phrases as well as just words?

            I hate this phrase [sweet summer child] with a passion.

            It is exceedingly rare for me to express agreement with HBC, but I’ll make an exception just this once. The phrase in question(*) can in principle say something necessary and true with at least a nod in the direction of kindness, but it has been overused and misused to the point of being an almost mindless ad hominem.

            * Almost referenced it by abbreviation, but that really won’t work here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling :

            There will be absolutely no SSC at SSC? Jolly good show!

          • NIP says:

            @Deiseach

            People here generally have a decent idea of common beliefs, are willing to ask questions where they don’t, and most importantly put in the reading. If you tell them “read this source”, they’ll go and do it. And even where they think being religious is a damn fool notion, they are willing to talk about it, not sneer and plume themselves on their superior wisdom.

            I’ll grant that people here are willing to educate themselves if pressed, and aren’t particularly nasty, but I don’t agree that the level of knowledge of religious subjects goes much further than Comparative Religions 101. Note that our host, as a prime example, has repeatedly questioned the value of theology as a subject of study, period; has described C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton as heretics begging to be for burned at the stake and his love for them as based on the warm fuzzy humanists dwelling inside their nasty religious wrappers (charges which they would vociferously defend against were they alive); and in his fiction has demonstrated a lack of knowledge of even the most basic Christian liturgical practices (he describes Christians as “really stupid” because they can’t go a whole service without saying the Lord’s name as “Jehovah”; apparently we’re all Jehovah’s Witnesses), setting aside the countless theological errors and weird assumptions made on every other page. The commentariat here aren’t much better. Religion, when it comes up, seems to be treated as a quaint, if interesting avenue of anthropological study whose fuzzy details are utterly unimportant. Having “a decent idea of common beliefs” and knowing how to Google doesn’t clear them of the charge of being theologically illiterate, any more than my decent knowledge of arithmetic and access to free online textbooks clears me of the charge of being mathematically illiterate.

            @HBC + John Schilling

            While I will preemptively agree that two wrongs do not make a right, I’m surprised that no one other than myself is apparently bothered by hyperboloid living up to his name in that very ignorant post of his, in which he insulted somebody for merely recommending a book by a revisionist historian, and suggested that such references, if not “policed”, would lead to the SSC comment section becoming /pol/ 2.0

            I hope you’ll pardon me for meeting moon-worthy straight-faced hyperbole with just the littlest bit of snark. Plus, I wasn’t wrong, was I?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @NIP:
            The phrase in question has been cropping up too frequently here. It’s the 5th or 6th time I have had to resist calling someone out on it, and I didn’t this time.

            As to holocaust denialism? Yeah, I have no problem calling it bullshit. I don’t think the words mentally deficient should be in that post, but otherwise, assuming that book is holocaust denial (I don’t know), I think it’s a bad thing if holocaust denial is being marketed here without a great deal of pushback.

          • NIP says:

            @HBC

            The phrase in question has been cropping up too frequently here. It’s the 5th or 6th time I have had to resist calling someone out on it, and I didn’t this time

            What can I say, Game of Thrones is really popular.

            I think it’s a bad thing if holocaust denial is being marketed here without a great deal of pushback

            By “pushback”, I’ll charitably assume you mean “stuff near the top of this pyramid?” There are a lot of things that get called “Holocaust denial” which are more charitably called “revisionism”, and are not bullshit, insanity, or indicative of moral reprobacy. I mean, theoretically, if I had evidence that some or all parts of the mainstream Holocaust narrative had holes in them, and wanted to discuss that, then…what? You’d call for me to be banned forthwith? Theoretically, you understand.

          • CatCube says:

            @NIP

            Well, Scott’s Jewish, so I can forgive not knowing the ins and outs of Christian religious practice*–I’ve only been to one Jewish service myself, and couldn’t recall the liturgy without research if you took my family hostage.

            This place is a lot better than some other heavily-atheist places, in that a lot of them tend to give lectures on what Christians should believe. “Gee, thanks. I don’t know how we got along for two thousand years without smug atheists interpreting our doctrine for us. The objections you brought up are totally novel, and haven’t been seen and disposed of in Christian apologetics before,” isn’t a thought I have here nearly as often as elsewhere.

            * I don’t recall the “Jehovah” at Christian services thing from Scott, and would appreciate a link–I’m assuming the context is as you describe it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HBC: Irving hadn’t fallen into outright denial at the time he wrote that particular book, although he claimed that Hitler didn’t know what was going on, which as I discuss below, is an absurd position to take. By the late 80s he was a full-on denier.

            Then he got absolutely wrecked when he sued Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier, etc, and lost the case, and further was held responsible for the defence’s costs. After this, nobody worth taking seriously considers him remotely credible.

          • NIP says:

            @CatCube

            I don’t recall the “Jehovah” at Christian services thing from Scott, and would appreciate a link

            It’s in Unsong. Ehh, gimme a minute or sixty to find it, it’s buried in one of the earlier chapters. I mention it because it stood out, so if you’re better at searching a text for passages than me (and you almost certainly are), you’ll be able to find it yourself. But I’ll do as you ask and then edit this post. I’ve been trying to find that passage again lately anyway.

            Edit: It’s here. Fifth paragraph.

            Here’s the full passage:

            It is a well-known fact among kabbalists that Christians are really dumb. At some point in the AD era, the Christians decided that something something Jesus died for our sins something something made us pure, and they decided to show their deep communion with God by just speaking the Tetragrammaton willy-nilly at random points in their services. Luckily for them by this point Uriel had pretty well finished blocking the divine light, and their services caused nothing worse than facepalms from any Jews who happened to overhear. Then the sky cracked. There very well could have been this huge catastrophe the Sunday afterwards when every Christian church suddenly went up in flames. But the Tetragrammaton is famously difficult to pronounce, and the true pronunciation, which turned out to sound sort of like “JA-HO-RAH”, came as a total surprise to everyone, wasn’t in anybody’s liturgy, and actually doesn’t even quite correspond to the Hebrew letters involved. Thus was the entire Christian religion saved by its inability to pronounce a four-letter word.

            So, not just ignorant, but rather insulting about it as well.

          • Jiro says:

            If you tell them “read this source”, they’ll go and do it.

            Good reasons not to “read the source” (post not by me): http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/03/06/against-interminable-arguments/#comment-334677

    • dndnrsn says:

      The Blank Slate is interesting, and I got a fair bit from it, but Pinker is out of his depth sometimes when he talks about stuff that isn’t his area of specialty. The section on art is a little cringeworthy, and he buys Hoff Sommers’ categorization of feminists, which boils down to “good feminists, by which I mean, me, Christina Hoff Sommers, and bad feminists, who are the other ones”, more or less. Get it from the library instead of buying it. (Really, a library card is better than buying books a lot of the time. I had to break a terrible book addiction)

      The Wages of Destruction is an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in WWII. It’s pretty heavy going in places – both in terms of information density and the tone of the subject matter, but it is fantastic. I learned a lot of new stuff, and even with stuff that wasn’t new, it put it in a new light. Worth actually buying. Shows Albert Speer to be even more of a liar than I thought he was going in. For a good biography of Speer, Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth is excellent.

      If you have an interest in the Holocaust as a topic of study, Ian Kershaw’s Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution is an excellent collection of essays. It’s not an overall history of the Holocaust, and it’s grounded in and supports the “functionalist” school of thought regarding the Holocaust, but he is relatively fair to the other side (“intentionalist”) and it is very well written. Kershaw also wrote a two-volume biography of Hitler, and they are real doorstops, but also serve as a history of the Third Reich in general, and there is a single-volume condensed edition. Problem: Reading a book that says HITLER on it in gigantic letters on the bus is maybe awkward? For something much more focused on one part of the Holocaust, Ordinary Men by Browning is very good but, as with everything else on this subject, very dark – it’s about a unit of reserve police who shot over 80,000 Polish Jews in 1942-1943.

      If you have a general interest in military history, I do like War by Gwynne Dyer. Sort of a history of war as a social thing – not a generals-n-battles coverage. Two editions have been published. There was a documentary that came out at the same time as the first edition, back in the ’80s. John Keegan’s one-volume history of WWI is quite good, although I think he’s a bit too soft on the Generals (and one thing that bugs me is that he points out that more British generals died in WWI than WWII – but far more British died in WWI in general, over double!) Keegan’s The Face of Battle and The Mask of Command are both also good, and he has a one-volume “history of war” that is worth reading. I prefer Dyer’s book, though.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I picked a Pinker book because I was so impressed by his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” and wanted to see if others were as good. Probably won’t be as good, partly because Pinker was so good on the data aspect of his Angel book, and Blank Slate is inherently less data heavy. I will see.

        I liked the looks of Wages of Destruction because it looks like it tries to explain the economics of Hitler’s Germany, and I’ve never understood that aspect.

        I am reading the Holocaust one as a recommendation of someone in SSC, when we were discussing the holocaust. I’m looking for the best evidence there is for the holocaust as it has been reported — that is, the purposeful killing of 6 million. It is certain that there were horrific killings in Nazi camps, based on so many eye witnesses, but I want to better understand the details. But I’m not so interested that I want more than one book on the subject.

        I am not getting any of these books from the library. I like to read my books on my schedule, not based on when they must be returned. If they are worthwhile books with good information, then I write in the books, and may refer to them later when a particular topic comes up. This is besides the fact that going to the library, finding the book I want, and later returning it takes up more time than I want to take. Going through Amazon is much more efficient. When I was poor, going to the library made sense; it does not anymore. I may still shy away from the most expensive books, but even paying $20-30 for a book is better than the time it takes to visit a library.

        • Jiro says:

          I’m looking for the best evidence there is for the holocaust as it has been reported — that is, the purposeful killing of 6 million.

          I find it difficult to believe that you would not have run across such information already. It’s not exactly hard to find.

        • dndnrsn says:

          OK, so, here’s the thing. It is incontrovertible that the Holocaust happened. Around six million Jews were murdered by shooting and gas, starved to death, died of disease, were worked to death. The evidence for it is extremely good, and the evidence against it is extremely weak and ranges from misinterpretation to fabrication.

          However, the popular depiction of the Holocaust – what you get if your exposure to it is Hollywood movies and so on – is an inaccurate picture, as popular conceptions of history usually are.

          First, it focuses on Western European Jews, who were more assimilated and educated and thus more likely to have left diaries, etc, but the bulk of victims were Eastern European Jews – about half of them were Polish, for example, and Eastern European Jews made up about five and a half million of the total dead.

          Second, it focuses primarily on Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a joint concentration/death camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau was a subcamp built for extermination – men and women deemed capable of work would be sent to the work camps at Auschwitz, the Monowitz subcamp, and various smaller subcamps; the elderly, children, and others deemed incapable of work were generally murdered shortly after arrival. There were camps that were exclusively limited to extermination, such as the Aktion Reinhard camps – the only prisoners kept alive were those who disposed of the bodies, and they were killed en masse and replaced periodically. Additionally, almost one and a half million were shot – this is how the vast majority of Jews murdered in the Baltics and the USSR died. Auschwitz is better known because survivors from the work camps produced memoirs; the vast majority of those sent to extermination-only camps were murdered (for example, only seven Jews sent to Belzec survived the war) and the vast majority of Jews who fell into the hands of the Einsatzgruppen and other units involved in mass shootings died.

          A good history will cover the entire span of what happened. As I understand it, Gilbert’s book does this. There are also a couple of new books that were well-reviewed in a recent New York Times book review but I cannot recall their names.

          • cassander says:

            You can, I think, make a case against part of the holocaust. It rests on the following facts.

            A) millions of jews disappeared during the holocaust

            B) The Soviets demonstrably had neither qualms about not difficulty in blaming their atrocities on the germans.

            C) the “liberation” of the vast majority of the death camps was carried out by the USSR, not the allies.

            D) There were an awful lot of ways to die or disappear for the unfortunates that got caught between hitler and stalin.

            Conclusion, It’s not just possible but likely that a lot of deaths traditionally assigned to the holocaust actually either died or relocated during the war or were killed or relocated by Stalin. Deaths for which we do not have proof of direct german involvement from records that were never in soviet hands (e.g. shipping records seized by the allies in berlin are to be trusted. Arrival records from treblinka should not be) should not be assigned to the holocaust.

            That said, I’ve never seen a holocaust denier actually make that claim, nor have I ever seen a rigorous effect to determine how many deaths can be proven with untainted records.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The degree of fabrication that this would require would be enormous, though. The Soviet attempts to frame the Germans for Katyn were clumsy and relied on brute force both figurative and literal, as Soviet attempts (generally successful) to frame people usually did – successful inasmuch as they got the Soviets what they wanted, false confessions and an excuse to do whatever it is they wanted to do. Forced confessions under the Soviets tended to lack credibility, as forced confessions often do.

            The confessions of Germans involved in the Holocaust, however, tend to hold together much more. Many of these confessions took place in West Germany after the war – no incentive there to cover for the Soviets, in fact, quite the opposite. There were, during and after the war, including people who the Soviets never really got a chance to touch, eyewitness testimonies by people involved in the killing, witnesses, photographs, etc. Germans, in general, knew something bad was going on in the East. The half a million or so West European Jews who died were shipped east for a reason – to be murdered or worked to death.

            Beyond this, conspiracies tend to unravel. There’s no reason that, had this all been done by the Soviets seeking (for unspecified reasons – the Germans had a clear motive) to wipe out the Jews (I’d note that Jews in the Russian areas the Germans never got to were safe – look at the statistics for Russian as opposed to Ukrainian Jews) it would not have come out and been used to say “hey it turns out the Soviet leadership were monsters too” in the same way that Katyn was. There’s no reason that the survivors would have continued saying it was Germans – after all, there was no reason for Jews, especially those who had gone to the US or Israel, etc, to maintain it was the Germans when it was the Soviets. Conspiracies of this magnitude don’t work and because conspirators tend to know this, they don’t attempt conspiracies of that magnitude. Of course, conspiracies that are wholly fictional never unravel.

            There is also no motive. The Germans had concentration camps in Western Europe – I don’t believe the Western Allies liberated any death camps or sites of death camps – but people were worked to death there. The reason the death camps were in Poland was that Polish Jews were a huge number of the Jews that fell into the clutches of the Germans, and it was decided that Western European Jews would be shipped there to be murdered, in an attempt to hide it from the people there. Jews east of Poland were killed by shooting because it was logistically untenable to ship them west to be murdered in Poland – any capacity on the rail system east of Poland was needed for the war effort. The Soviets at Katyn had a reason to murder all those Polish officers, etc – they, like the Germans, wanted to dominate Poland (or, at the time, the chunk of it they’d gotten) and so set out to suppress those who might be the nucleus of future resistance. There’s no reason for the Soviets to want to kill vast numbers of Jews.

            I understand that you’re playing devil’s advocate. The reason that this isn’t a Holocaust denier claim one sees is that Holocaust deniers tend to hold that the whole thing is a malicious myth created to advance the interests of Jews. Holocaust deniers want to say the Holocaust didn’t happen, or that there was no intentional killing and the numbers were much smaller, or whatever. “It happened but someone else did it” doesn’t serve the purposes of their motivated reasoning.

            For a good coverage of how people who fell into the hands of both the Germans and the Soviets were extremely unlucky, check out Bloodlands by Snyder – unless you’ve read it already; I know we’ve referenced it before.

          • For a good coverage of how people who fell into the hands of both the Germans and the Soviets were extremely unlucky

            Or Conspiracy of Silence, written by an Austrian communist who was imprisoned first by the communists and then by the Nazis. Interesting book, giving an inside picture of the Great Purge.

          • My thanks to both Cassander and dndnrsn for a not obviously wrong argument against the usual account of the Holocaust and an explanation of the evidence showing that it is not correct.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            >The degree of fabrication that this would require would be enormous, though. The Soviet attempts to frame the Germans for Katyn were clumsy and relied on brute force both figurative and literal, as Soviet attempts (generally successful) to frame people usually did

            I’m not sure about that. How much would would it really have been to shoot up a bunch of partisans, then dump them into the furnaces? Maybe you add some names at the bottom of a roster somewhere.

            >The confessions of Germans involved in the Holocaust, however, tend to hold together much more. Many of these confessions took place in West Germany after the war – no incentive there to cover for the Soviets, in fact, quite the opposite.

            No doubt. But consider the alternative. Someone shows you a list of dead people and asks if you killed them. You can A) tearfully confess in hopes of sympathy or B) explain that you only killed half of them and that the other half were killed by your interrogator’s good friend uncle joe. Heck, how do you even know if that was the case or not? You signed off on trainloads of people going to the chambers. You certainly didn’t count them, how do you even know if there’s a bunch of extra names tacked onto the list by stalin?

            >Beyond this, conspiracies tend to unravel.

            They do when they have to be maintained. but if everyone agrees that it was 12 million, and it’s considered holocaust denial to look more closely, former conspiracy can become conventional wisdom.

            >had this all been done by the Soviets seeking (for unspecified reasons – the Germans had a clear motive) to wipe out the Jews (I’d note that Jews in the Russian areas the Germans never got to were safe –

            Oh, I’m not alleging the possibility of a soviet holocaust, though there might have been a small one if stalin had lived a few years longer. What I am saying is that the Soviets might have taken advantage of the unquestionably real german holocaust to sweep 6 or 7 figures of their handiwork under the rug.

            And there is, in fact, no question that this DID happen. the soviet approach to post-war casualty analysis was basically to count every dead body between moscow and berlin that wasn’t in a german uniform and say the germans killed them. the Katyn Massacre victims, and the other victims of soviet liquidation in poland, were listed as war casualties caused by the germans in soviet, and thus many western, history books until the end of the USSR. We know for a fact that many of those millions of soviet war dead were killed directly or indirectly by stalin, but we’ll never know how many. The question is was this game also played with holocaust numbers.

            > The reason that this isn’t a Holocaust denier claim one sees is that Holocaust deniers tend to hold that the whole thing is a malicious myth created to advance the interests of Jews. Holocaust deniers want to say the Holocaust didn’t happen, or that there was no intentional killing and the numbers were much smaller, or whatever. “It happened but someone else did it” doesn’t serve the purposes of their motivated reasoning.

            I’d say my claim is more “it happened, but to 10 million not 12. Stalin got the other 2”. Other than that, though, I agree completely.

            >For a good coverage of how people who fell into the hands of both the Germans and the Soviets were extremely unlucky, check out Bloodlands by Snyder – unless you’ve read it already; I know we’ve referenced it before.

            I have. it’s good, though it does not address this question. I actually consider that reasonable evidence that the story I’ve just told is not true, though I would be interested in asking snyder about it if I ever got the chance.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            I’m not sure about that. How much would would it really have been to shoot up a bunch of partisans, then dump them into the furnaces? Maybe you add some names at the bottom of a roster somewhere.

            The Soviets showed no qualms about things like declaring the Polish Home Army to be fascists as a pretext for getting them out of the way once Poland was under communist control – they didn’t kill them all and say “musta ben the Germans”.

            No doubt. But consider the alternative. Someone shows you a list of dead people and asks if you killed them. You can A) tearfully confess in hopes of sympathy or B) explain that you only killed half of them and that the other half were killed by your interrogator’s good friend uncle joe. Heck, how do you even know if that was the case or not? You signed off on trainloads of people going to the chambers. You certainly didn’t count them, how do you even know if there’s a bunch of extra names tacked onto the list by stalin?

            The Germans kept relatively accurate records of the number of victims, though. And the interrogators weren’t always communists – why would an SS man being tried by a West German court in the 60s confess to something they didn’t do?

            They do when they have to be maintained. but if everyone agrees that it was 12 million, and it’s considered holocaust denial to look more closely, former conspiracy can become conventional wisdom.

            12 million? The agreed upon number of Jews is just short of 6 million. Are you using Snyder’s number of dead civilians who can directly be blamed on the Nazis? That doesn’t include all war dead civilians – starved, disease, etc – which would be a way easier place to blame people killed by the Soviets on the Germans.

            Oh, I’m not alleging the possibility of a soviet holocaust, though there might have been a small one if stalin had lived a few years longer. What I am saying is that the Soviets might have taken advantage of the unquestionably real german holocaust to sweep 6 or 7 figures of their handiwork under the rug.

            And there is, in fact, no question that this DID happen. the soviet approach to post-war casualty analysis was basically to count every dead body between moscow and berlin that wasn’t in a german uniform and say the germans killed them. the Katyn Massacre victims, and the other victims of soviet liquidation in poland, were listed as war casualties caused by the germans in soviet, and thus many western, history books until the end of the USSR. We know for a fact that many of those millions of soviet war dead were killed directly or indirectly by stalin, but we’ll never know how many. The question is was this game also played with holocaust numbers.

            For one thing, this fell apart following the fall of the USSR. For another thing, if “inconvenient partisans killed by the Soviets” or “civilians who starved to death because of the Soviets” could be filed under “partisans killed by the Nazis” or “civilians who starved to death because of the Nazis”, then what would be the point of filing them under “Jews and other minorities intentionally killed in death camps and shooting pits”? Especially given that the latter ended up getting more attention than the 10+ million dead Soviet civilians – why would they have taken the riskier option?

            I’d say my claim is more “it happened, but to 10 million not 12. Stalin got the other 2”. Other than that, though, I agree completely.

            Again, I don’t see why those 2 wouldn’t just get filed under “general war dead civilians, not killed intentionally” or “partisans killed in action”, neither of which are counted in Snyder’s 12 million figure.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            >The Germans kept relatively accurate records of the number of victims, though.

            That’s precisely what I want to check, using records that we can be relatively certain weren’t doctored.

            >And the interrogators weren’t always communists – why would an SS man being tried by a West German court in the 60s confess to something they didn’t do?

            For leniency, obviously. And because the SS guy has no idea how many people got killed, he was just the guy that stuck them on trains.

            >12 million? The agreed upon number of Jews is just short of 6 million.

            and 6 million non jews.

            >Again, I don’t see why those 2 wouldn’t just get filed under “general war dead civilians, not killed intentionally” or “partisans killed in action”, neither of which are counted in Snyder’s 12 million figure.

            Like I said, I’m not endorsing this theory as something that definitely happened, just that it’s not completely implausible.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That’s precisely what I want to check, using records that we can be relatively certain weren’t doctored.

            Hoefle telegram is a good example. It was intercepted by British signals intelligence and attests to about one and a quarter million people sent to death camps.

            For leniency, obviously. And because the SS guy has no idea how many people got killed, he was just the guy that stuck them on trains.

            By the trials of the 60s, they got a great deal of leniency anyway. The guys who did get convicted got some pretty feeble sentences – but it was mostly low-ranking camp personnel by then. My point was that false confessions tend to be extravagant and incredible in the literal sense of the term.

            and 6 million non jews.

            The Holocaust is generally held to only refer to the Jewish dead, isn’t it? And that’s what we’re discussing here.

            Like I said, I’m not endorsing this theory as something that definitely happened, just that it’s not completely implausible.

            It’s not that it’s implausible, it’s that it’s less plausible than the conventional historical version. I think this is further underlined by the fact that the Soviets had many other ways of hiding the numbers of those they killed, from fudging censuses to just not mentioning them. People the Soviets wanted dead would have been easier to hide in the ~20 million Soviet war dead in any case.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Holocaust is generally held to only refer to the Jewish dead, isn’t it?

            I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used that way.

          • Romani certainly talk about the Romani holocaust.

            At a tangent … . The thing they mostly don’t talk about is that the Germans seem to have succeeded in killing a much smaller fraction of the Romani in territory they controlled than of the Jews, although both (with minor exceptions) were targeted for elimination. That suggests one advantage of the Romani strategy for dealing with governments–keep a low profile, stay under the radar, don’t register births, play games with names, … .

          • Aapje says:

            Don’t have a culture where compliance is the coping strategy for oppression, be highly mobile…

          • dndnrsn says:

            The murder of the Roma is generally referred to as the Pojramos, isn’t it? I have mostly heard “Holocaust” or sometimes “Shoah” used to refer to the murder of the Jews exclusively.

          • rlms says:

            Wikipedia suggests that some people use the term to refer to the killing of Jews, and others include other groups. Personally, I think I use it to refer to the 6-7 million people (Jews, Romani, the disabled, gays) who were targeted by Nazi policy before the concentration/death camps (i.e. excluding the millions of Poles and Soviet POWs). I don’t know what usage is most common.

    • Levantine says:

      I second dndnrsn on Blank Slate.

      On Pinker, Tooze, Gilbert and Silber:
      I think these are too mainstream, in the sense that they give you enormous amounts of frequently indispensable information, while showing biases. Those biases can be due to lack of knowledge, lack of passion for truth, or generally conformist lifestyle of the author.

      I’ll speak about the subject I know best: Yugoslavia etc: During the break-up I was a teenager asvid follower of politics without any feeling of belonging to a nation. In 1988, at age 13, I independently concluded that the social system, and perhaps the country, will fall apart, and obsessively asked myself why isn’t it happening yet.
      My only connection with Silber’s book listed above is that I watched the accompanying TV series.
      It’s full of information. Some of it was both exclusive and contained nuggets. … It did not reflect the general feeling that I had of the dissolution. The idea about Milosevic & Serbian nationalism being the cause …… is laughable. Relative to the truth, it’s a different ballpark.
      The book I’d recommend is “Yugoslavia: A State That Withered Away” by Dejan Jovic. The author, with whom I’ve had online contacts, can be described as an honest nerd. He gets the right feel, and is considerably insightful. He took a broad view in a proper way, and, in that, did a good job.

      On the Holocaust: I suggest Hitler’s War by David Irving. During the Lipstadt trial of David Irving his books were combed for any little bit of dishonesty. It revealed about a dozen false statements. Now, when we can look up those and keep them in mind, in Irving’s opus we have some of the most truthful war accounts ever. In the case of the Holocaust topic, he’s pretty thorough, even.
      Irving’s interests are personalities and people’s relationships. Since he is also a tireless independent researcher, in writing Hitler’s War Irving discovered up a lot of novel information about the Holocaust.* That makes him one of the best historians of the Holocaust, in part precisely because of his disinterest in it, and in part because most other historians just quote each other rather than make original research. By reading him, by osmosis you’ll boost the instinct of a real pursuer of truth rather than a mere narrator.

      (*) much of it more damning than the conventional narrative)

      • dndnrsn says:

        Irving wrote Hitler’s War before he went off the deep end and started denying the existence of gas chambers and so on, though. You can’t look at his work as a whole and say “this man cares about the truth” because the existence of death camps in Poland, which killed by gassing, is extremely well established.

        What’s wrong with Tooze or Gilbert? I think I read Gilbert long ago. Tooze’s book is excellent, and is only about the Holocaust incidentally.

        • dndnrsn says:

          And, I had forgotten that Irving’s frankly absurd position that Hitler did not know about the Holocaust dates to that book at not later. It’s an absolutely unbelievable position to take. Random Germans had an idea that something bad was happening to Jews in the East, they knew Jews were being deported, the units responsible for both mass shootings and the camps kept records of what they were doing, people participating in the killings and witnesses to the shootings didn’t keep their mouths shut, etc. If random German soldiers and civilians had some idea of what was going on, and in some cases saw what was going on, it is unlikely in the extreme that the dictator of the country didn’t know what was going on.

          • Levantine says:

            …. denying the existence of gas chambers and so on, though. …. Irving’s frankly absurd position that Hitler did not know about the Holocaust dates to that book at not later. It’s an absolutely unbelievable position to take.

            His position is that Hitler knew of the gas chambers. In many youtube lectures he can be heard stating that,. He found the evidence and changed his view. Doubt does not make dishonesty. I couldn’t care what’s “beliveable” or “unbeliveable.” David Irving was a subject of a smear campaign. To disrespect him because he’s a “Holocaust denier” or some such falsehood means to service & pay respect to lies and hatred.

            What’s wrong with Tooze or Gilbert?

            You can probably read that in amazon book reviews.
            Cheers

          • Levantine says:

            You can’t look at his work as a whole and say “this man cares about the truth”

            Yes I can. He put everything he had at risk to defend his views. Hat off.

          • rlms says:

            “Yes I can. He put everything he had at risk to defend his views. Hat off.”
            So did e.g. David Icke.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Did this smear campaign dress someone up as him and have him give speeches at Holocaust denier conferences? Did this body double sue Lipstadt and then get absolutely wrecked in an English libel court? Is it supposed to be impressive that, after denying the existence of gas chambers, he “found” evidence, to reach the conclusion that was already held by respectable historians, after destroying whatever credibility he had?

            The negative reviews of Tooze’s book run the gamut from useless one-star reviews complaining that it’s too long or describing it as an “horriable and unthruthfull portrail of History.” (sic) All the rest of the “critical” reviews are three-stars, only one of which identifies or purports to identify serious errors, stating “[s]o, concluding, Wages of Destruction is a good book, but way overrated as it tries to explain more than can be explained with only the economic aspects of the war.”

            The reviews of Gilbert, meanwhile, include a few utterly useless one-star reviews, and a bunch of three-star reviews, most of which complain that it is overly reliant on personal memoir, etc, and repetitive.

            So, if you’re going to criticize them, you might want to do a little more than lmgtfy.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I think Irving’s suggestion was that Hitler was locked in his “Wolf’s Den” bunker in eastern Prussia, so busy micromanaging the war effort and slowly obliterating his mind through drug abuse, that by the end he had so poor a grasp on anything happening in Germany that the holocaust very well could have occurred without him understanding very much about it, let alone personally overseeing it.

            Irving has made a lot of other claims that are unsupportable, and my understanding is that in his private life he’s an out-and-out racist, but the controversy concerning this particular view of his, by my understanding, isn’t well founded. I think this particular view was adjudged and enshrined as an offense (let alone a paramount one) simply for the fact that it was what he was talking about around the time that various other controversies surrounding him matured.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The Holocaust probably began in mid to late ’41, though. Barbarossa was going slower than expected, but the stuff that caused him to start to crack (Soviet counteroffensive in the winter of that year, disaster at Stalingrad late the next year) hadn’t happened yet. It is also unbelievable that given the degree of infighting and jockeying for Hitler’s favour that occurred in the Nazi regime that if, say, Himmler doing something without his permission or post facto approval, Goering or whoever wouldn’t come running trying to use it as a way of wresting power away. And, even after Hitler was a methed-up lunatic, he was still prone to micromanaging. He’s not gonna notice what’s going on?

          • The Red Foliot says:

            Before learning of his unreliability, I accidentally read Irving’s biography of Goebbels. In it he presented some letter from Hitler, wherein Hitler seemingly betrayed an ignorance of the holocaust and it’s scope. My understanding is that one of Irving’s other books contains other, similar shreds of evidence and that these correspondences from Hitler are what he predicates his doubts on.

            Two things in regards to your own contentions:

            “It is also unbelievable that given the degree of infighting and jockeying for Hitler’s favour that occurred in the Nazi regime that if, say, Himmler doing something without his permission or post facto approval, Goering or whoever wouldn’t come running trying to use it as a way of wresting power away. And, even after Hitler was a methed-up lunatic, he was still prone to micromanaging. He’s not gonna notice what’s going on?”

            My understanding is that Hitler ran his Reich in a very loose manner, preferring to disseminate policy through public speeches that could be vaguely interpreted by his lieutenants, to assigning his underlings with specific tasks. Except for the areas of military and diplomacy, Hitler did not care very much for detail. But in those areas he was obsessive.

            And the bar of standards was set very low for the lieutenants. Goering and Goebbels were both continual sources of embarrassment for the Reich– Goebbels for his philandering and the Kristallnacht fiasco, and Goering for his morphine abuse, bizarre social behavior and idiotic military management. While there was a lot of jockeying for power, I think it was highly chaotic in nature and that Hitler wasn’t able to harness it as effectively as you suppose.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        On Pinker, Tooze, Gilbert and Silber:
        I think these are too mainstream, in the sense that they give you enormous amounts of frequently indispensable information, while showing biases. Those biases can be due to lack of knowledge, lack of passion for truth, or generally conformist lifestyle of the author.

        Well I am reading these books as someone who doesn’t know a lot about the subjects before reading the books, so getting “frequently indispensable information” is pretty important. Every author is biased, although it is true that I want to get information that is as objective as possible. I looked up Jovic’s book on Amazon. IT does look interesting. It certainly has its own biases. Thanks for your comments.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        “Only had a dozen false statements” is a rather unimpressive record to trumpet, especially when that leaves out the body of criticism which had more to do with selective quotations, misquotations, and a mixture of extreme credulity to some sources and extreme skepticism to others on dubious grounds.

    • I don’t know that Orwell collection, but Orwell’s nonfiction is worth reading.

  25. IrishDude says:

    Entrepreneur Appreciation Post

    Shout out to Nick and Alessia Galekovic, entrepreneurs who made the Beard King, a beard bib that catches hair clippings when trimming a beard. It makes for a clean sink, easy clean-up, and prevents hairs from clogging the drain. Which makes my wife happy. Which makes me happy.

    So cheers to Nick and Alessia for inventing a useful product at a good price and bringing the product to consumers!

  26. srconstantin says:

    Ok, can I get a “weight loss ideas” thread going?

    About me: high-thought-investment things (like cooking or planning) are comparatively hard for me, physical discomfort is comparatively easy.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What’s your money situation like – to what extent can you pay someone else to deal with the planning and cooking and so forth for you?

      • shakeddown says:

        What would you say are the relatively cost-effective weight loss areas where money can help?

      • srconstantin says:

        Money situation is not bad.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @shakedown:

        There are services that will provide healthy meals for you. They are quite expensive, relatively speaking. Not as expensive as eating out 2 or 3x a day, and healthier, but considerably more expensive than preparing your own food yourself, healthy or not.

        @srconstantin:

        Then consider one of those services. They’ll provide whatever numbers of meals a week, and deliver them to you, or you pick them up. Provided you don’t snack on top of them or drink a ton or whatever, you’ll be able to produce a caloric deficit that way.

        Generally, cutting 100 calories a day on average will lead to a weight loss of 10lbs a year. So if you cut 500 calories a day on average, 50 lbs a year. More extreme weight loss than 1-2 lbs a week is only really doable and advisable in the short term.

    • cassander says:

      track your calorie consumption for a while (like a month), then cut out the biggest sources of empty calories.

    • The time it was easiest for me to lose weight was when my wife was out of town for a month or more taking care of her mother, both kids (I think) off at college. Eating is in part a social occasion, so it’s harder to skip meals or make them very light when you are living with other people.

      The strategy that worked for me was one meal a day, usually dinner, and making that reasonably light. To keep my weight down since then it’s usually been one meal a day, but that pretty substantial, with occasional nibbling and occasionally a second meal.

      But it’s clear that that approach works for some people, not for others.

    • andrewflicker says:

      If planning is the hard part but physical discomfort is tolerable, you can follow my diet! Very simple:

      Skip a lot of meals! Aim to eat only 2 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 6 dinners a week. Plus side is *lots* of forgiveness on portion size. I drink about 14-21 drinks a week (counting 1 beer, 1 glass of wine, or 1 moderate cocktail as a “drink” here), and avoid snacking entirely (except for the rare damn office cookie), and take my coffee black. Works like a charm to keep the weight off if you can tolerate the discomfort of skipping meals.