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Open Thread 69.5

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

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1,059 Responses to Open Thread 69.5

  1. sty_silver says:

    Is it wrong to be really frustrated with Bill Gates? He has clearly identified the control problem, he has endorsed it publicly and has recommended Superintelligence. Why doesn’t he just drop a billion dollars? He could have a massive positive impact. I can’t help feeling that he cares more about his public image than about actually doing the right thing.

    This might sound ridiculous given how much he does for other charity, but still, why not fund AI safety research? I just… it’s so frustrating to look at how much money he has, at the total budget of organizations dealing with this problem, and the fact that he doesn’t do anything.

    Just looking for other thoughts here.

    • skef says:

      A commercial liquid thorium salt reactor would be a great thing too. But just throwing billions at the problem won’t necessarily get you that. At a minimum you have to figure out who to throw them at.

      A.I. risk seems to be gradually turning into what amounts to a rationalist jobs program. “I’m smart and I care about this — throw money at me or you’re immoral/hypocritical!” Who says the current pipeline can make better use of a billion dollars than a pile of “position papers”?

    • Tekhno says:

      A.I. risk seems to be gradually turning into what amounts to a rationalist jobs program. “I’m smart and I care about this — throw money at me or you’re immoral/hypocritical!”

      Combine this with Roko’s Basilisk and you’ve essentially recreated Medieval indulgences.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s easy to spend money. Who do you throw the money at? The Usual Suspects? The new kids on the block? You could shower a billion dollars on a variety of organisations and at the end have found 999 ways that didn’t work. That is a help, but you still have no idea what is the 1000th way that will work.

      I have a feeling that if AI is coming down the road, it will be from a direction none of the present groups are expecting. Some team or organisation doing commercial/military research who want to find out a way to make Thing That Will Do This For Us, and don’t care too much about the philosophy of it. And by that time, it’ll be a bit late for hand-wringing over “how do we get friendly AI?”

      • sty_silver says:

        Well, you could start with a 5kk$ donation to Miri and FHI and maybe another 5kk$ split among the remaining relevant organizations. Watch how well they scale and look where to spend money next year. Obviously you don’t just give 1kkk$ to a random person.

        I don’t buy the money doesn’t help argument. At all. I feel like this is what Yudkowksy is talking about here: https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10154981483669228

        There’s a certain Original Sin of rationality that I worry shows up even in people who’ve mastered Advanced Epistemology 101 and know about Bayes’s Rule and so on. Trying to put that fundamental sin into words, I’d call it something like, “slipping sideways into a slightly different mental world to reduce internal pressures”.

        For example: I think there’s a lot of people who know Advanced Epistemology 101, who also have a sense of status hierarchy such that it is relatively *more* uncomfortable to imagine placing themselves above X by contradicting them–where X could be a big-name professor, or the boss at work, or the general academic journal system or whatever. Believing that X is just screwing up, feels like claiming greater status than X, which is claiming too much status in the tribe and feels unnatural and precarious. Contrast to the much lower-tension state where X has the *right* amount of status, the amount of status that feels natural and proper.

        So they slip sideways in reality just a little, not to anywhere blatantly false, but to a world where Elon Musk must secretly have had some good and wise reasoning behind trying to advance AGI capabilities research with OpenAI. They don’t slip so far sideways in reality that they imagine their friends definitely refuting them; but they do slip sideways far enough to diminish or resolve the tension that comes from feeling like they’re putting themselves above Elon Musk.

        As for your claim that the first human level AGI will be created from an unexpected direction – okay if that’s true, it might not matter what we do, but why is that likely? Why would a military program be faster than Google?

      • John Schilling says:

        Watch how well they scale and look where to spend money next year.

        What does “watch how well they scale” mean in this context? If it means to watch the growth of MIRI, FHI, et al, how does that help? I suspect that one or more of these organizations may be charlatans, or more charitably that they may be well-meaning fools whose only real talent is soliciting donations from a more passive class of well-meaning fools. I donate and “watch how they scale” to guide next year’s spending, am I not then just donating to the most efficient charlatans or most enthusiastic fools?

        If there were a way to actually measure the effectiveness of MIRI et al in preventing unfriendly AI, that would be most helpful. But I do not believe such a thing exists.

        • sty_silver says:

          Find someone reliable who has looked into their publications and knows what he’s talking about.

          Something like this could help:

          http://effective-altruism.com/ea/14w/2017_ai_risk_literature_review_and_charity/

          Watch how well they scale means look at how many results they produce relative to their budget.

          • CatCube says:

            Mark Zuckerberg tried to help Newark’s schools with $100 million; that money mostly evaporated without doing a damn thing. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/19/schooled

            I think that Gates is going to be leery about dropping large sums of money. It’s really hard to evaluate the performance of an organization with tenebrous goals, and even hard metrics can be missed for reasons totally outside the organization’s control (or can be easily gamed to appear outside of their control).

          • John Schilling says:

            Watch how well they scale means look at how many results they produce relative to their budget.

            “how many” results, implies that results are discretely countable, and the count of Friendly AIs produced by any of them is zero. So presumably you mean “results” in the form of papers, or papers in high-impact journals or citations or something like that, and the gameability of those metrics in academia is sadly well understood by now.

            Find someone reliable who has looked into their publications and knows what he’s talking about.

            The friends of a charlatan will have looked into his publications and know what he is talking about, but they won’t warn you against squandering your money with him. And if there’s some honest informed observer who would, how do you distinguish them from the other sort?

            From the outside, the current AI risk community looks like a small and incestuous group, with most of the mainstream AI community saying “these guys are charlatans” and/or “…mean well but don’t understand what they are talking about”. For someone who doesn’t have both the time and expertise to independently dig into the matter, that’s a high risk for the community as it is being a money pit.

            And if it isn’t now, it certainly would be under your scenario. Seriously, a half-billion-dollar donation to an organization with a staff of fourteen and an annual budget of $1.7 million? That doesn’t result in half a billion dollars of high-quality friendly AI research and development, that just results in the handful of (we’ll postulate) honest and competent people at MIRI being swamped by the horde of fools and charlatans who will come seeking a piece of that billion-dollar pie.

            If Bill Gates were to devote a billion dollars to the task of AI risk mitigation, the only smart way to do that would be to use his technical expertise and more importantly his expertise at building and managing large institutions to put together his own billion-dollar AI risk team. Which in its first year would probably leave everything EY has ever done in the dust. And which might not want or need to advertise or self-promote, so how do you know he hasn’t?

            But there’s no way Gates or anyone else can put a billion dollars into AI risk mitigation without either A: leaving a billion unguarded dollars lying around with basically just a sign saying “fools and charlatans please stay away, for serious AI risk mitigation only”, or B: devoting a huge amount of their own time to project management. And Gates, at least, seems to want to spend his time helping the poor and sick and hungry people who definitely exist now and are suffering now, so that’s going to be a hard sell. Even harder to spin as some deficiency of character or judgement on Gates’ part.

  2. bobbingandweaving says:

    What are your favourite metaphors folks? Even in the loosest sense e.g. the invisible hand. Do any one you use metaphors to guide your life decisions/assess costs and benefits?

    • Salem says:

      I think (almost) all productive human thinking is by metaphor and analogy – it’s how minds work. To extend your example, it’s not just the “invisible hand” that’s a metaphor, our talk of “markets” is almost always a metaphor too. And metaphorical thinking is doubly necessary when spreading ideas and building off other people. Hence why I’m extremely unimpressed by “The Worst Argument In The World.”

      But if we think in metaphors, it follows that the choice of metaphors has tremendous social power. Even the hoariest of all metaphors, the “ship of state” still carries with it all sorts of connotations – that the ship has a common destination, that deference is due to the captain, that we’re better inside the ship than outside it, etc – that many would challenge if made explicit. However, they’re particular to their time and place. For instance, the metaphors underlying Keynesian economic thinking (“circular flow,” “kick-starting,” etc) originated in a time when industrial engineering was dominant. As the economy has changed, these metaphors have lost much of their power – I bet most people who use the phrase couldn’t tell you what “priming the pump” means.

      In my view, it’s best if we think carefully about the metaphors we use, and the effects they have, but accept we can’t step outside them. My own favourite, and one I do try to live my life by, is “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

      • Spookykou says:

        Isn’t that a simile?

        • Salem says:

          No.

          A metaphor is when you refer to an object with a non-literal description or reference. “We are all in the same boat.” “America is a melting pot.”

          A simile is when you compare two things of different kinds. “He’s as cool as a cucumber.” “I slept like a log.”

          So “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” is a metaphor.

          • Spookykou says:

            My education strikes again!

            Thanks for the info.

            Edit: I was taught some version of ‘simile = like or as’ and I conflated that with is to my peril.

            But looking at this definition, non-literally description, seems wrong. Sunlight(The higher frequency bits) is in some sense a literal disinfectant, I thought?

            Hopefully you can clear this up as well!

          • Salem says:

            It’s a treble metaphor.

            Maybe sunlight is in some weak sense a disinfectant, but it is not the best. Better than Dettol? It’s not meant to be a literal description of sunlight. But “sunlight” and “disinfectant” are also being used metaphorically here. It is intended to communicate something like “dodgy dealings can’t survive open scrutiny” which is decidedly not the literal meaning.

    • beleester says:

      I’ve started to become unironically fond of “the cloud.” When you can board a plane, go to another city, check in to your lodgings, and order dinner, all because you’re carrying around the right bits of information on your phone, you really start to feel like you’ve got this invisible cloud of data following you around.

    • andrewflicker says:

      In a very loose sense, I’ve benefited a lot by trying to think about nearly *everything* as boundary-less spectra rather than distinct categories. It’s tough to remain in that mindstate for long, but it’s very helpful when thinking about things as diverse as mental health, poverty, stress, alertness, skill, political alignments, strength-of-belief, etc.

      There *are* threshold effects in real life for various things, but they’re a lot less common or important than most of our speech and behaviour would indicate, I think. (examples of real threshold effects: certificates like college degrees, statute compliance, the state-of-being-awake, protein-immune response, etc.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Life is hard and then you die. Though I suppose that’s not a metaphor as such.

  3. onyomi says:

    Been reading/listening to Thomas Sowell lately (not that I hadn’t before) because he’s in the news a bit for retiring from his column. Thought this particular bit was especially striking.

    What really hit me most of all was his description of life in Harlem during his youth: most people could not afford a TV, so those who could would leave doors unlocked and let neighborhood children in to watch. He contrasts this with today, when most poor people have two TVs, but no one dares leave their door unlocked, or sleep outside, as he did then.

    This clearly shows that it is neither the absolute level of poverty or discrimination which causes crime and violence, since blacks were obviously poorer in absolute terms and subject to more discrimination then as compared to now.

    Sowell blames “liberal policies,” though I’d also put a lot of blame on the drug war, typically endorsed by Republicans at least as strongly as Democrats. Regardless, something has to be different, and it can’t be the more right-wingish view that HBD destines blacks to higher levels of crime and violence, either (my personal view on nature vs. nurture is that nature has a bigger role in deciding whether or not you have the potential to be a physicist, but nurture determines, to a large degree, whether or not you fulfill your potential. Most people of all races are not born with the IQ to be a physicist, but I think very few of those people will become criminals if raised well).

    So what do we attribute this to? Drug war? Welfare state? Victimhood culture? General societal breakdown? If the contrasting pictures Sowell paints are at all accurate (and I think there is an extent to which he is only allowed to paint it in the mainstream at all by virtue of himself being an old black man who lived it), they seem to cry out for explanation of the sort most of the traditional ones cannot provide.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      a lack of social cohesion

      who knows why but I think it has deeper roots than anything you said besides ‘general societal breakdown’ because I believe it’s happening to more than just black people

    • Cypren says:

      Sowell has previously written about how the War on Poverty destroyed African-American culture in the US by removing incentives for positive, middle-class behavior traits and adding concrete incentives for negative lower-class behaviors. He doesn’t name the source for his data — and quick Googling around isn’t finding me anything online prior to 1977 when the Census Bureau started taking periodic economic surveys — but Sowell claims that:

      The economic rise of blacks began decades earlier [than the War on Poverty], before any of the legislation and policies that are credited with producing that rise. The continuation of the rise of blacks out of poverty did not — repeat, did not — accelerate during the 1960s.

      The poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, during an era of virtually no major civil rights legislation or anti-poverty programs. It dropped another 17 percentage points during the decade of the 1960s and one percentage point during the 1970s, but this continuation of the previous trend was neither unprecedented nor something to be arbitrarily attributed to the programs like the War on Poverty.

      In various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959 — that is, before the magic 1960s decade when supposedly all progress began. The rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater in the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the five years afterwards.

      Note that though African-Americans are usually held up as the poster children for the destructive effects of welfare dependency, the worst effects really seem to be in lower-class whites in economically devastated areas where legacy industries have died off and not been replaced. J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy is a grimace-inducing portrait of a subculture that doesn’t usually get the same attention as the inner city ghettos but displays most of the same self-destructive tendencies, providing a strong indication that the problems affecting black Americans aren’t really about race, but about characteristics of poverty in modern society.

      Given that our modern underclass culture really traces its roots back to the 1960s, I’m in agreement with Sowell that this is a problem with the incentive structure created by the welfare state. It’s severely harming those it was meant to help by removing both the incentives and means for people to be self-sufficient.

      • onyomi says:

        It’s severely harming those it was meant to help by removing both the incentives and means for people to be self-sufficient.

        This reminds me of the one good argument I have heard against gay marriage, which I read somewhere linked on SSC (though, to be clear, I still support gay marriage), namely: “it sounds ludicrous to you, oh, upper-middle class, college-educated, agnostic white person, that the sanctity of someone’s heterosexual marriage would be threatened by the very idea of a same-sex marriage, but you’re not the people we’re worried about; rather, it’s precisely the marginal, edge cases–the poorly educated people whose only job options are pretty crummy and who are not super-inclined to take responsibility for getting their girlfriend pregnant–who need that extra bit of social sanction/pressure the normative idea of marriage can offer.”

        Same basic argument: “it sounds absurd to you, oh, upper-middle class doctor, lawyer, PhD, engineer, that you would just quit your job and do nothing all day if the welfare programs supporting such a lifestyle were just a bit more generous, but, again, it’s not you we should be worried about; rather, it’s the marginal cases–not just the people in any group with lower IQ or intrinsic motivation, but whole populations, be they inner city blacks or rural whites, who just haven’t, for whatever reason, developed the same degree of reverence for education and work, whose work opportunities are not as appealing or lucrative, and for whom, therefore, the prospect of roaming the streets or staying home all day drinking is not nearly so out-of-the-question as it seems to you.”

        • Creutzer says:

          This looks more like an argument against no-fault divorce than against gay marriage, no?

          • random832 says:

            It’s not particularly hard to turn it into an argument for gay marriage. Marginal edge case guy sees a large class of people who are forced to choose between non-marital sex or simply totally denying themselves a basic human need, which erodes his respect for the taboo against premarital sex.

            The fact that the institution of marriage is not there for everyone is a point against it in the mind of anyone who hasn’t been convinced that homosexuality isn’t real. (Which is something that I’ve seen claimed, but with arguments unlikely to be convincing to people who are actually straight rather than being deeply closeted.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The fact that the institution of marriage is not there for everyone is a point against it in the mind of anyone who hasn’t been convinced that homosexuality isn’t real.

            (a) What makes you think that the institution of marriage should be “there for everyone” in the first place?

            (b) On grounds do you speak for “anyone who hasn’t been convinced that homosexuality isn’t real”? I don’t remember electing you as my spokesman.

          • random832 says:

            (a) What makes you think that the institution of marriage should be “there for everyone” in the first place?

            Because it is normative. Because part of the “institution of marriage” – the most important part to @onyomi’s theory, in fact – is that it is sinful to have any kind of sexual relationship without being married.

            And if it’s not there for everyone what are we even talking about? My whole argument is centered around people thinking “if it’s not for everyone why should it be for me” – it not being for everyone is certainly a reasonable position to hold, but that also suggests anyone is entitled to opt out of it. You can’t force it on everyone if you’re not willing to let everyone have it. (Not without defining those people out of existence, anyway) And onyomi’s argument is that some people consider it very important to force it on people and not allow them to opt out of it.

            (b) On grounds do you speak for “anyone who hasn’t been convinced that homosexuality isn’t real”? I don’t remember electing you as my spokesman.

            If you in fact support the institution of marriage as defined in this discussion (i.e. both “normative” – no-one’s allowed to have non-marital relationships – and exclusionary of same-sex relationships) this implies that you believe that those people can/should choose to settle down in straight relationships. I.e. you do not believe homosexuality is real.

            If you’re going to attack people for “speaking for you” for pointing out the logical consequences of a set of beliefs, you could at least do a better job of acting like you actually hold those beliefs.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And if it’s not there for everyone what are we even talking about? My whole argument is centered around people thinking “if it’s not for everyone why should it be for me” – it not being for everyone is certainly a reasonable position to hold, but that also suggests anyone is entitled to opt out of it. You can’t force it on everyone if you’re not willing to let everyone have it. (Not without defining those people out of existence, anyway)

            Societies are quite capable of distinguishing between different types of sexual behaviour, and of having different norms surrounding them.

            If you support the institution of marriage as something that homosexual relationships should be excluded from, this implies that you believe that those people can/should choose to abandon homosexuality and settle down in straight relationships. I.e. you do not believe homosexuality is real.

            Even if it did, “Homosexuals should settle down in straight relationships” in no way implies or equates to “Homosexuality doesn’t exist”, and I seriously doubt that you’re arguing in good faith here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Creutzer:

            This looks more like an argument against no-fault divorce than against gay marriage, no?

            Restricting sex to marriage only makes sense if we see sex and marriage as primarily about having and raising the next generation of children. Gay marriage is incompatible with this notion, and thus any acceptance of gay marriage must necessarily be accompanied by an acceptance of extra-marital sex.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            Is it OK for infertile people to have sex out of marriage then?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Is it OK for infertile people to have sex out of marriage then?

            What’s that got to do with anything?

          • random832 says:

            Even if it did, “Homosexuals should settle down in straight relationships” in no way implies or equates to “Homosexuality doesn’t exist”,

            I said “can/should”, and it’s the “can” part that implies homosexuality (as contrasted to bisexuality) does not exist.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I said “can/should”, and it’s the “can” part that implies homosexuality (as contrasted to bisexuality) does not exist.

            If you take homosexuality to mean that homosexuals literally cannot have sex with members of the opposite sex, then maybe. But I’ve never seen any evidence that this is the case for any non-negligible proportion of homosexuals.

            ETA: Plus, recall your original claim:

            Marginal edge case guy sees a large class of people who are forced to choose between non-marital sex or simply totally denying themselves a basic human need, which erodes his respect for the taboo against premarital sex.

            Now, LGB people are less than 2% of the population to begin with; the number who literally cannot have sex with members of the opposite sex would be smaller still. I’m seeing no evidence of “a large group of people” large enough to seriously erode anybody’s respect for the taboo against premarital sex.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            “Restricting sex to marriage only makes sense if we see sex and marriage as primarily about having and raising the next generation of children. Gay marriage is incompatible with this notion”
            If gay marriage is incompatible with the notion of sex/marriage being primarily about procreation (because gay couples can’t procreate (disregarding adoption for whatever reason)) then so is marriage of infertile couples (who also can’t procreate).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If gay marriage is incompatible with the notion of sex/marriage being primarily about procreation (because gay couples can’t procreate (disregarding adoption for whatever reason)) then so is marriage of infertile couples (who also can’t procreate).

            Yes, which is why infertility and inability to consummate are and were both grounds for annulment.

            because gay couples can’t procreate (disregarding adoption for whatever reason)

            Adoption isn’t a form of procreation.

          • Iain says:

            Restricting sex to marriage only makes sense if we see sex and marriage as primarily about having and raising the next generation of children. Gay marriage is incompatible with this notion, and thus any acceptance of gay marriage must necessarily be accompanied by an acceptance of extra-marital sex.

            Post-menopausal women getting married is just as incompatible with having children. Nobody’s getting worked up about that.

            If there is a strong argument against same-sex marriage that does not ultimately rely on the axiom that homosexuality itself is wrong, I’ve never seen it.

          • random832 says:

            @The original Mr. X

            If you take homosexuality to mean that homosexuals literally cannot have sex with members of the opposite sex, then maybe.

            Stop playing games with semantics. It means that they cannot have a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex that will fulfill the basic human need for companionship. Someone who can is called bisexual (or heterosexual, but that’s not who we’re talking about).

            Now, LGB people are less than 2% of the population to begin with

            You see percentage points, I see multiples of three million (in the US alone). That’s large enough for me.

            Adoption isn’t a form of procreation.

            It’s true that there are a lot of assumptions inherent the adoption argument, some of which you may disagree with: that children are better off adopted than left to fend for themselves or cared for by state employees; that encouraging adoption is therefore a worthwhile public policy goal; that children are better off having two parents than having (say) a financially stable single parent; that even so there’s not a sufficient supply of financially stable would-be single-parents; that children are not particularly better off having two opposite-sex parents than having two parents of the same sex. Are there any of these in particular that you have objections to?

            Related is the question of whether same-sex married couples will be encouraged to at least one of them [perhaps both if they intend to have at least two children] procreate (with a surrogate providing genetic material, and the pregnancy itself for gay male couples), as compared to being forced to remain unmarried, and whether this is sufficient to align gay marriage with a supposed public policy goal of encouraging procreation. What are your thoughts there?

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            But nevertheless, infertile people can get married (it’s just that they can annul the marriage). So the logical consequence would seem to be that gay marriage should be legal, but can be annulled at any time. You might argue that actually infertile people can’t get married, since annulment retroactively voids the marriage. But annulment in civil law based on infertility (at least in England) is an option for the participants, not mandatory. You can’t take two strangers to court and forcibly annul their marriage even if you have solid evidence that one of them is infertile. Roman Catholic law (if you were referring to that) might differ, but it is not relevant to discussion of the (civil) institute of marriage (if you want to argue that neither gay nor infertile people should be married by the Catholic church I am happy to accept that).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Iain:

            Post-menopausal women getting married is just as incompatible with having children. Nobody’s getting worked up about that.

            There’s nothing inherently impossible about the idea of older people having children, and indeed women do sometimes (albeit rarely) conceive even when they’re thought too old. Conversely, a man is never, ever going to impregnate another man.

            @random832:

            Stop playing games with semantics. It means that they cannot have a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex that will fulfill the basic human need for companionship. Someone who can is called bisexual (or heterosexual, but that’s not who we’re talking about).

            Either you worded yourself very poorly in your initial sentence, or you’re shifting the goalposts like crazy. Either way, I’m not taking responsibility for your problems putting across a decent argument.

            You see percentage points, I see multiples of three million (in the US alone). That’s large enough for me.

            Whereas the people whose lives are screwed up by bad sexual choices, either their own or other people’s, aren’t worth bothering with because…?

            It’s true that there are a lot of assumptions inherent the adoption argument, some of which you may disagree with:

            It’s got nothing to do with the assumptions you list, and everything to do with the definition of “procreate”. Dictionaries are your friend here.

            @rlms:

            You might argue that actually infertile people can’t get married, since annulment retroactively voids the marriage.

            Annulment doesn’t “retroactively” void anything; rather, it’s a recognition that the marriage was void in the first place.

          • Randy M says:

            So the logical consequence would seem to be that gay marriage should be legal, but can be annulled at any time.

            Sure, if you ignore the fact that it is a lot more intrusive to determine whether someone is fertile than whether someone is a man.
            Also, I’d bet a lot more women believed to be infertile have conceived than women who were exclusively homosexual.

          • Creutzer says:

            Restricting sex to marriage only makes sense if we see sex and marriage as primarily about having and raising the next generation of children.

            I disagree. People argue for strengthening marriage and for restricting sex to it on the grounds that it supposedly increases societal stability, gives young men perspectives and a reason to contribute to civilisation, and fixes various issues in the dating market. Whether the these benefits would be worth the cost is another matter, but I don’t think you can say that these arguments just don’t make sense. Personally, I find them much more compelling than anything based on the need to raise the next generation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Creutzer:

            I disagree. People argue for strengthening marriage and for restricting sex to it on the grounds that it supposedly increases societal stability, gives young men perspectives and a reason to contribute to civilisation, and fixes various issues in the dating market. Whether the these benefits would be worth the cost is another matter, but I don’t think you can say that these arguments just don’t make sense. Personally, I find them much more compelling than anything based on the need to raise the next generation.

            From what I can tell, people who argue for marriage on the grounds of social stability don’t tend to have much of a problem with pre-marital sex.

          • Randy M says:

            And if marriage primarily for social stability, then you need to heed the argument that we need gay marriage because gays men need the institution to civilize them as much as straight men do, or however that runs.

          • Creutzer says:

            From what I can tell, people who argue for marriage on the grounds of social stability don’t tend to have much of a problem with pre-marital sex.

            I don’t know. Don’t they also want to move the age of marriage back to the early twenties? Having some sort of stigma against premarital sex seems instrumental in this.

            As for gay marriage, I think it’s almost orthogonal to these arguments because the numbers are too small for them to matter and at the same time, as someone pointed out upthread, humans are perfectly capable of viewing gay relationships as fundamentally different, for the purpose of social norms, from heterosexual relationships. That makes the argument for it rather weak. But indeed, I can’t see how that sort of approach would give you any argument at all against it.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know. Don’t [social conservatives] also want to move the age of marriage back to the early twenties? Having some sort of stigma against premarital sex seems instrumental in this.

            Against literal premarital sex, of the sort that leads to babies being born seven months after the wedding, not so much. Even the most traditionally conservative societies often seem to nod and wink at that. Sow your wild oats as you must, just keep in mind that the bedmate du jour needs to be someone you would be willing to spend the rest of your life with because that might happen.

            Amarital sex, between people who are absolutely not going to marry each other, whose offspring will surely be aborted if they manage conception through a condom, over decades and with multiple partners with at most a vague notion that when they are on the brink of geezerdom they will settle down with someone, that gets rather more pushback from social conservatives. And rightly, or at least consistently, so, because that pattern of behavior doesn’t promote social stability.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            As for gay marriage, I think it’s almost orthogonal to these arguments because the numbers are too small for them to matter and at the same time, as someone pointed out upthread, humans are perfectly capable of viewing gay relationships as fundamentally different, for the purpose of social norms, from heterosexual relationships. That makes the argument for it rather weak. But indeed, I can’t see how that sort of approach would give you any argument at all against it.

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, because the whole point of gay marriage is that we should treat gay relationships as exactly the same as straight ones.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            “rather, it’s a recognition that the marriage was void in the first place.”
            Yes, that is a retroactive effect isn’t it? A non-retroactive voiding would mean that the marriage changed from being valid from [date of marriage] to the future to being valid from [date of marriage] to [date of voiding] and invalid afterwards. But as far as I know, annulment changes it to being invalid at all times, even in the past. In any case, it’s not really relevant to the rest of my point.

            @Randy M
            Why are intrusiveness and likelihood of procreation relevant? As I understand it, you can marry an infertile person in full knowledge of their infertility, it’s just you have the opportunity to annul the marriage later if you want. I am saying that you should be analogously allowed to marry a person of the same sex (in full knowledge of that), but have the opportunity to later annul it. If you disagree with the latter, you should logically also disagree with letting knowingly infertile people marry.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, because the whole point of gay marriage is that we should treat gay relationships as exactly the same as straight ones.

            What I mean is that if one’s argument for taking marriage seriously is social stability, then how you treat gay marriage almost doesn’t matter because the numbers are so small that they don’t have much of an influence in the larger scheme of things.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes, that is a retroactive effect isn’t it? A non-retroactive voiding would mean that the marriage changed from being valid from [date of marriage] to the future to being valid from [date of marriage] to [date of voiding] and invalid afterwards. But as far as I know, annulment changes it to being invalid at all times, even in the past. In any case, it’s not really relevant to the rest of my point.

            The annulment doesn’t change the status of the marriage, retroactively or otherwise. The marriage was always invalid, and would have been even if the annulment tribunal had never looked into it.

          • skef says:

            @X

            Does that come with the requisite social shaming for all the premarital sex?

            Just kidding.

          • Randy M says:

            Why are intrusiveness and likelihood of procreation relevant?

            It matters for enforcement and to explain how the norms evolved. One’s biological sex is public knowledge; thus, two men getting ‘married’ is an open rebuttal to the obvious purpose of marriage, and thus wasn’t commonly considered a possibility until the meaning of marriage shifted from ‘family formation’ to ‘romance recognition’. It is not usually known that someone is infertile until well after marriage, was in the past impossible to determine before, even now may be wrong, and by it’s personal nature does not openly declaim the procreative purpose behind marriage.
            A law defining marriage as a union between a fertile man and a fertile woman would be significantly harder and more intrusive to enforce in practice then just asking making sure the gender of each are different.

            If you disagree with the latter, you should logically also disagree with letting knowingly infertile people marry.

            Are you just asking me to personally say the analogy holds, or asking for reasons why it is different in practice? Having done the latter, I won’t shirk from the former; if I die and my infertile wife ‘remarries’ that relationship is fundamentally different from the one we have now.

            (No, you cannot say that we aren’t currently married because of the infertility, because the purpose of marriage is lifelong commitment for the purpose of raising children conceived over the course of it. There’s other benefits in support of that purpose.)

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I don’t think that’s correct. See here. If you practice bigamy, incest, or underage marriage it is true that your marriage is void regardless of what you want. But if it wasn’t consummated, or you didn’t consent to it, or the woman was pregnant by someone other than her husband at the time of marriage, it is merely voidable — it is only invalid if you decide to annul it.

            @Randy M
            “if I die and my infertile wife ‘remarries’ that relationship is fundamentally different from the one we have now.”
            Yes, I agree that there is a significant difference (and that a gay marriage would be more different still). But even if you think that the relationship is essentially distinct from a normal marriage, it is a normal marriage in most ways that matter (for instance legally). I don’t think there are many gay marriage proponents who not only want gay marriage to be legal, but who also insist that it is more similar to normal heterosexual marriage than infertile heterosexual marriage.

          • onyomi says:

            Just to reiterate since this thread got kind of long: this wasn’t “the onyomi argument against gay marriage.” I was just repeating an argument I read somewhere which I thought was the only good one against gay marriage I had seen.

            I, personally, am in favor of gay marriage, because, a. I hate the form of argument which says consenting adults can’t enter into whatever voluntary agreement they want because it might be detrimental to society and b. yes, the same argument works that it might be the marginally accepted gay person who needs the sense of legitimacy marriage provides in order to feel like they are adulting correctly.

          • Creutzer says:

            Just to reiterate since this thread got kind of long: this wasn’t “the onyomi argument against gay marriage.” I was just repeating an argument I read somewhere which I thought was the only good one against gay marriage I had seen.

            I’m aware of this and hope I haven’t given impression to the contrary or misled anyone. With my initial reply, I just wanted to prompt you to explain why you thought it was an argument against gay marriage worth taking seriously. My impression is that maybe people made this argument because they wanted to argue against gay marriage, but that it’s worth taking seriously only as an argument for a different conclusion. Maybe that’s what you had in mind anyway.

        • Matt M says:

          Isn’t this just a long-winded way of saying “economics works on the margins.”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-gay-marriage-suicide-20170221-story.html

          Here’s a different category of marginal case– suicide attempts by gay and bisexual students dropped as gay marrige became legal.

          http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-gay-marriage-suicide-20170221-story.html

          The stastics should probably be checked, just because it’s hard to pull trends out, but this doesn’t sound implausible.

          One of the things about marriage being normative is that this has a bad effect on people who can’t marry, or can’t marry honestly. (When there was a lot of pressure to have a heteroxexual marriage, there were marriages between homosexuals and heterosexuals– this could be very rough on both partners.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Marriage being normative is about sex, but culturally speaking, it’s also evidence that one is doing adulthood correctly.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Cypren, it might be worth looking at whether the War on Poverty was the only destructive thing that was going on. For example, the war on drugs– with a high rate of imprisonment– was taking productive people out of the community. The war on drugs didn’t just targent addicts, nor do people remain addicts indefinities, nor are all addicts incapacitated by their addiction.

        Another argument is that stronger drugs became available, though I’m not sure about the timing on that one.

        There’s also a matter of how welfare was structured, in particular the man in the house rules, which meant that women and children could only get welfare if there wasn’t a man living in the hourse. This broke up families. I’ve heard it was aggressively enforced against black people, so it would be worth checking if the same happened to white people.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Another argument is that stronger drugs became available, though I’m not sure about the timing on that one.

          Of course, there is the hypothesis that that too is actually a result of the War on Drugs.

          (Side – I like their choice of photograph. As a general musical instruments nerd and, while not an aficionado of cocaine as such, definitely keen to wind down the War on Drugs in favour of a public-health-oriented legal regulation regime, I have the simultaneous reactions of “What a waste of a perfectly good ukulele” and “What a waste of perfectly good cocaine”)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As (if?) marijuana continues to be legal, I wonder whether there will be a rise of classic/heirloom marijuana which comes from plants that aren’t optimized for maximum THC.

          • skef says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            One would hope not just for health reasons.

            One of the cliches of the post-80s drug war was “this isn’t the pot that you [meaning Baby Boomers] grew up with, it’s much more powerful!”. That ignored the fact that pot smokers generally choose how high they get by how much they smoke, so higher concentrations mean less smoking. With other means of ingestion like edibles the “chef” chooses the concentration, which can easily lead to over-doing it, but mostly for reasons of ignorance on the part of first-timers.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t think it’s just about health, any more than liking wine and beer ove hard liquor is just about health.

            One person told me that the reason pot had gone downhill (tending to produce more paranoia) was that the people sampling pot to see whether it was worth smuggling became less able to appreciate the more subtle good effects of pot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            that the reason pot had gone downhill

            No, no, no.

            That is the wrong metaphor to use here.

          • skef says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            That argument would make more sense if there were now a small number of cultivars bred only for potency. But in fact there is a huge amount of variety that includes differentiation based on subjective effects, that starts with the setiva/indica contrast and goes on from there. Growers are aware of the propensity for strains to cause different effects and cultivate with that in mind. In the “old days” what you got was much more of a crap-shoot, because often the choice was between “weed” and “not weed”. Now when you go to a supplier you can hear about all of this until you are very, very bored.

            [I should mention that for me this is book knowledge. Most of my personal experience is with psychadelics. I have heard a number of such spiels, though.]

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The man in the house rule was ruled unconstitutional in 1968. It is an example popular with both sides.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A fast google doesn’t turn up anything about how long the man in the house rule was in play (apparently varied by state) or how much it was enforced.

    • rlms says:

      I think this is just one part of a general trend towards lower social trust, as a separate thing to the increase in crime. Social trust seems to have decreased across pretty much all groups. I would speculate that this is just due to increased population density and mobility — it’s easy to leave your door unlocked if there are only tens of people who are likely to walk past it, most of whom you’ve known since birth.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I loaned out my copy to a friend, so I don’t have quotes or citations on-hand, but Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice (my frequent go-to on many topics in this area) definitely seconds the view that “urban anonymity”, modern mobility, and population density changes are definitely one of the factors.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Harlem probably isn’t denser than when Sowell was a child. Manhattan has substantially fewer people than in 1890 when the subways opened. Density being correlated with crime is a recent development.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Why does it have to be attributed to one thing? The drug war clearly did a great deal of damage. So did poorly-designed social welfare programs that created bad incentives. You don’t have to pick one.

  4. Kevin C. says:

    An interesting result from Rasmussen polls: Democrats Think Muslims Worse Off Here Than Christians Are In Muslim World

    Most voters agree that Christians living in Muslim-majority countries are mistreated for their religion. But Democrats are more likely to think Muslims are mistreated in America than to think Christians are persecuted in the Islamic world.

    Particularly when you compare, say, FBI hate crime statistics showing the primary victims (57% in 2014) are Jews (Huffington Post), and The Guardian’s interactive map of the top 25 most anti-Christian countries.

    The perennial question that comes to mind whenever reading results of any broad public poll: how does this happen?

    • Cypren says:

      Clearly, from all of the beatings and murders of Muslim-American immigrants that make the news on a regular basis here in the US.

      …okay, to be less snarky, it’s partisan filtering at work. Following reports of persecuted Christians in the Middle East is a Red Tribe thing and most of the information sources will be Red Tribe-affiliated (and hence untrustworthy propaganda organs of the Enemy, from the Blue Tribe perspective). Meanwhile Blue Tribe media is guaranteed to report every incident of a woman being harrassed for wearing a hijab (and unlikely to give much attention to the ones that turned out to be hoaxes, afterwards).

      This is fairly similar to how people who mostly follow Red Tribe media probably think the “hate crime” is entirely an invention of the Blue Tribe, since the only hate crimes they’re ever likely to read about are those exposed as hoaxes.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Red Tribe media actually reports on two types of hate crimes: those that have been exposed as hoaxes, and those that haven’t been exposed as hoaxes yet. You definitely get some called shots along the lines of “the Mainstream Media is reporting this hate crime, who wants to bet it’s fake like the last hundred times”.

        Actually three, I guess. Muslim hate crimes get reported too.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “it’s partisan filtering at work.”

        Indeed. At yet here, on a “rationalist” site, we’ve had people defending building “bubbles” and “filters”.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Well, another possibility is that, when asked about Christians in Muslim countries, they are thinking of Christian immigrants to Muslim countries, even western or US Christian immigrants, rather than native minority populations. I’m assuming that these immigrants have fewer issues than local minorities.

        So, filtering is in place, for sure, but there is also an implicit use of a “typical” example which is flawed.

        • Randy M says:

          Any statistics on how common this kind of immigration is? Is it limited to businessmen in Dubai & oil workers in gulf states?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            No clue.

            I certainly immediately thought of the oil company workers that are bound to work in the various gulf states.

            It doesn’t actually matter how many there really are, though, does it? Rather it matters whether this is what comes to the median person’s mind when asked about “oppression of Christian’s in Muslim countries”.

          • Randy M says:

            I ask because it would be a way to gently suggest typical mind fallacy. When I think of Christians in the middle east, I think of Egyptian Copts and Lebanese, not immigrants, because immigration into the middle East from Christian nations is not something I think happens much at all, with the slight exception of temporary workers.

            I suppose Philippine domestic workers might be another category I have heard of, but I don’t think they are treated particularly well either.

            Ah, wait, you mean the reason they think of that isn’t because it’s something they are aware of, but because they are pattern matching “Muslims in the US” and in that case think of “Christians in the M East” as the reverse of them? Possible, I guess.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:

            Ah, wait, you mean the reason they think of that isn’t because it’s something they are aware of, but because they are pattern matching “Muslims in the US” and in that case think of “Christians in the M East” as the reverse of them? Possible, I guess.

            Correct.

            But also, I think this a mistaken use of a central example. I see this as a variant of the non-central fallacy. The central example of a Christian in the U.S. is white-evangelical-protestant. This is not the central example of a Christian in the Middle East, but many people won’t make that leap.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I still find it interesting that either most American Christians don’t seem to feel much solidarity with persecuted Christians in other parts of the world and/or concern with persecuted Christians doesn’t become a big topic in the media.

            And it may be evidence of a filter bubble that I haven’t seen anyone saying “I’m an American Christian and this is what’s going on about the lack of reporting”.

            Maybe it’s just that this is a hidden open thread with a new one starting soon, and I should bring the topic up again on the next public thread.

          • bean says:

            I still find it interesting that either most American Christians don’t seem to feel much solidarity with persecuted Christians in other parts of the world and/or concern with persecuted Christians doesn’t become a big topic in the media.

            Those who care (me among them) get our news from other sources. There are several organizations (Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors) which advocate for that group of Christians. Most churches I’ve been at have showed their videos and handed out their literature every year or so. At least among the target demographic for stories of persecuted Christians, there’s plenty of knowledge, at least on an abstract level, and it’s very easy to make that concrete if you want to. Go to the relevant website, and sign up for the mailing list. (This is how a lot of information is shared in the Church. Everywhere I’ve gone generally does a spotlight on some ministry each week, and gives a website link in the bulletin.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            American Evangelicals do feel solidarity with their oppressed brethren and discuss it frequently amongst themselves. You may simply not know enough of them to hear about it. We’re lousy at pushing such things into the broader narrative, and deep down, we kind of suspect that lefty media centers don’t really oppose the way Christians are treated overseas.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not an American, but I do share stuff about persecuted Christians. For which, incidentally, I’ve been criticised for some of my more liberal friends, because apparently it’s impossible to care about the plight of Christians without also thinking that the plight of Muslims is unimportant, or something.

          • Deiseach says:

            And it may be evidence of a filter bubble that I haven’t seen anyone saying “I’m an American Christian and this is what’s going on about the lack of reporting”.

            Here’s a link covered in an Australian news story. And another. This one. Another story.

            These are all from one particular blog which covers things from the Episcopalian/Anglican side.

            Why isn’t there more on this in the mainstream press? I have no idea.

        • Deiseach says:

          they are thinking of Christian immigrants to Muslim countries, even western or US Christian immigrants, rather than native minority populations

          I’d imagine that’s a large part of the problem: the perception, fed by movies, that Christianity is an alien imposition on the Middle East because The Crusades, and that prior to that there were happy Muslim native populations living in harmony with Jews – no pagans, because there’s no historical knowledge, it’s all of a piece with “colonialism! missionaries making the Polynesians wear shapeless cover-up garments!” The idea that (a) Islam is younger than Christianity (b) North Africa and the Middle East had native Christian populations before Islam came in with the conquerors (c) that the Muslims were conquerors and not just locals doesn’t enter their heads much, if at all.

          So of course there can’t be persecution of Christians in the Middle East because (as you say) they’re thinking “Christians = foreigners, probably Westerners, moving there in modern times”.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The plight of Christians in many countries – not just Muslim countries, either, as there is violence against Christians in India and persecution of Christians who are too independent-minded in China, etc – is often invisible in the western world, as western countries tend to have Christianity as culturally dominant. It may have gotten more visible recently, but I remember it coming as a surprise when I learned it in a class – and I had been studying religion in university for a few years at that point!

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve wondered about the lack of media emphasis on the serious persecution of Christians in various parts of the world.

        My guess is that the mainstream media doesn’t like Christianity very much, and the non-mainstream-media Christians would rather focus on the ways they feel mistreated in the countries where they live and which aren’t that bad.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          It is bizarre, though, that even organizations like the Catholic Church don’t seem to take that part of the situation very seriously. The Pope quite publicly took in some Muslim refugees in the Vatican, but Christian ones? Not so much.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            They do, it just doesn’t get reported very much because the media, by and large, doesn’t care.

        • Civilis says:

          My guess is that the mainstream media doesn’t like Christianity very much, and the non-mainstream-media Christians would rather focus on the ways they feel mistreated in the countries where they live and which aren’t that bad.

          To be fair to the media, I think it’s not so much this as worries about stirring up hate against Islam and non-Christian foreigners in general at home.

          The logic goes something like this: Everyone knows ISIS and Boko Haram are doing horrible things. Everyone knows that China has a spotty record on human rights. Pointing out what they are doing specifically to Christians won’t change those things. What it will do is fire up the people on the right against Islam and foreigners, and they’ll go on to do horrible things here.

          I’m on the right, so I don’t agree, but it seems defensible based on the way I think the blue / left looks at the red / right. Personally, I think we could generate some reforms in many of Islamic cultures with some outside public pressure and that this would not be a bad thing, but it’s something we’d need the will to carry out, which is questionable whether we possess enough to succeed. Trying and failing may make the situation worse than not trying at all.

          • Iain says:

            What form do you see this “outside public pressure” taking? The more explicitly you put America behind, say, Christians in Nigeria, the easier it is for Boko Haram (literal translation: “Western education is forbidden”) to paint them as tools of Western imperialism.

          • Civilis says:

            What form do you see this “outside public pressure” taking?

            The issue is a minefield, and every couple of months the situation has changed so completely that anything I’ve previously thought has to be reworked, so take anything below as a quickly thrown together start of a plan rather than a finished product.

            We’ve got two options. One is directly supporting countries like Nigeria in operations against Boko Haram. This means putting (more) US troops in harms way, and it means a greater risk of collateral damage. We can sustain only so much of each before public pressure cuts things off, and it depends on how much media coverage our failures and their successes get vs how much coverage our successes and their failures get. However, that’s only part of the battle.

            Option two is direct pressure on the cultural climate ultimately responsible for terrorism, the idea that ‘we don’t like it, but the people they’re doing it to are apostates or blasphemers or people that aren’t us, so we’re not going to stop it, because they might come after us’. As long as the repercussions for their co-religionists acting against others poses no risk to them, they have no reason to reform.

            A while back, a US pastor got completely dog-piled in the media for planning to publicly burn a stack of Korans. My first response was to agree with the criticism (certainly I wouldn’t be so uncouth as to burn someone else’s holy book), but on thinking about it, he was able to get the media’s attention. Why not use that? ‘You’re right, burning holy books is bad. I’ll swap these Korans for some of the Bibles the Saudi government was about to shred. Perhaps, Mr. Saudi Ambassador, you’d be willing to make the trade in front of the media as a demonstration of good faith?’ Yes, it puts pressure on the government of Saudi Arabia and increases the risk that they’ll be overthrown by extremists, but as long as our support for the Saudi monarchy is unconditional, they have no reason to try to contain their more vehement fundamentalists.

            The public, visible reminder that a good portion of the American electorate has real reason to object to what goes on in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Pakistan serves as a counter to the objections to what preachers in those countries have to say about what goes on in the west.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            …a US pastor got completely dog-piled in the media for planning to publicly burn a stack of Korans.

            Source of one of my favourite autotune the news remixes.

          • Iain says:

            One is directly supporting countries like Nigeria in operations against Boko Haram.

            I think you are concentrating too much on whether the US could sustain these efforts, and too little on whether they would do any good. It’s a complicated situation. Like all counter-insurgencies, being effective at killing people only gets you so far. This article is a reasonable summary of some of the complexities.

            Yes, it puts pressure on the government of Saudi Arabia and increases the risk that they’ll be overthrown by extremists, but as long as our support for the Saudi monarchy is unconditional, they have no reason to try to contain their more vehement fundamentalists.

            First, given the certainty of blowback from doing this in public, this seems like a clear situation where it is better to lean on Saudi Arabia privately than publicly. (And how do you know we don’t already do that?) Second, and more centrally: there’s an implicit assumption running through your post that America has the power to make whatever changes it pleases in the world, and simply lacks the will. I think this is naive. Foreign governments have many motivations and constraints, relatively few of which are under US control. The US is powerful, but far from omnipotent.

            Consider: the Washington establishment undeniably has more power over small-town America than it does over Saudi Arabia. Although the establishment has a poor understanding of the mindset of the white working class, it’s still closer to that mindset than it is to the average Saudi Arabian. Despite all that, the establishment failed to convince the white working class to vote for Clinton, and many of its attempts to sway them backfired.

            Why do you expect the American government to be better at swaying Saudi Arabians than it was at swaying Trump voters?

          • Civilis says:

            I think you are concentrating too much on whether the US could sustain these efforts, and too little on whether they would do any good. It’s a complicated situation.

            I’m well aware it’s a complex situation. While I don’t like the idea of propping up countries that commit human rights violations, at some level we’ve admitted that we’ll work with bad regimes against more horrible ones (from partnering with Stalin against Hitler to partnering with Saudi Arabia now). Our ability to work with these regimes isn’t a factor of what they do so much as how the public perceives what they do.

            First, given the certainty of blowback from doing this in public, this seems like a clear situation where it is better to lean on Saudi Arabia privately than publicly. (And how do you know we don’t already do that?)

            I’m almost certain we’re doing that privately, and it’s had some dividends. But I’m not worrying about persuading governments so much as persuading the Muslim public, and that’s not something that’s best done by the US government (or Western governments, as Europe definitely has a stake here), but by the Western public in the form of the media. You can’t persuade masses of individuals privately, because there are no private channels to reach them. Yes, influencing their government is a start, but as you’ve pointed out, it has risks.

            Right now, as the subject of this thread, we’ve pointed out that the US media doesn’t really cover Islamist atrocities against the west. There are many potential reasons why, and the answer is likely some combination of all of them. Meanwhile, the western media has much less of a problem covering reported atrocities against Muslims.

            This is one thing the red tribe right gets partially correct. The media won’t do anything that would make potential Islamist terrorists mad at the media; they have no problem making potential Islamist terrorists mad at the West in general. They’d rather have the red tribe right public mad at the media and the Islamists mad at the Western public than have the Western public mad at Muslims. I honestly don’t think their motives are primarily evil, but the result is horrible for everyone involved except the Islamists.

          • Iain says:

            I think you are seriously overestimating the degree to which Muslims in foreign countries make decisions based on their perceptions of the opinions of Americans.

            I reiterate: what makes you so confident that we can correctly diagnose the right way to “persuade the Muslim public”, when we have so much trouble changing the minds of Trump supporters right here at home?

            (Also, “the US media doesn’t really cover Islamist atrocities against the west” is not a good summary of the current discussion. For starters, the Christians whose persecution is purportedly under-reported are not Western.)

          • Civilis says:

            I think you are seriously overestimating the degree to which Muslims in foreign countries make decisions based on their perceptions of the opinions of Americans.

            We’re told that we had multiple riots with fatalities in several countries because a guard at Guantanamo Bay was reported to have dropped a Koran in a toilet. We had a gruesome mass murder based on political cartoons in a French newspaper. It doesn’t take much convincing to believe that what happens in the West, or more specifically what makes the news in the West, influences what happens in the Middle East.

            We know that in both Palestine and Syria groups manipulate the Western press for propaganda purposes, often with the knowing connivance of the Western press. They believe what makes the news in the West is important.

            I reiterate: what makes you so confident that we can correctly diagnose the right way to “persuade the Muslim public”, when we have so much trouble changing the minds of Trump supporters right here at home?

            I’m not at all confident, but it has to be less painful than any of the alternatives. Right now, various Islamist groups are poking several very vicious tigers. Because the Western media hides just how angry those tigers are, they have no idea how close they are to getting mauled. We’ve already gone from ‘relatively benevolent US shock and awe’ to ‘forceful Russian make the rubble bounce’ intervention against ISIL, and polls suggest that the US public would support much stronger restrictions on Muslims in the US than Trump proposed and the courts blocked.

            Much better to have the West tell them to knock it off and behave like adults now than to have to try to do it at the same time we’re cleaning up after the next major blow-up when we have to restrain our own baser instincts.

            (Also, “the US media doesn’t really cover Islamist atrocities against the west” is not a good summary of the current discussion. For starters, the Christians whose persecution is purportedly under-reported are not Western.)

            True. I probably could have phrased it better. They’re not truly Western, but they’re groups the Western public, especially on the right, can identify with more than anyone else in the region. As long as both sides are equally foreign, we don’t have a dog in the fight. As soon as one side is less foreign… perhaps because we share a religion, for example, we have a dog in the fight.

          • Iain says:

            Allow me to rephrase. I think you are seriously overestimating the degree to which Muslims in foreign countries make decisions based on their desire to please Americans. All of your examples involve pissing people off, which is generally pretty easy; convincing people to do what you want is much harder.

            Compare: there were lots of things that Hillary Clinton could do to piss Trump supporters off, but relatively few things she could have done to win them over. There is no reason at all to expect Muslims in the Middle East to be more pliable. What specifically are you saying America should do? What would happen if Washington (or the Chinese government, if you prefer — the metaphor is imperfect) used equivalent tactics in an attempt to convince the Republican base to abandon Trump?

            To be clear, I’m not suggesting any moral equivalence between Trump supporters and Islamists. I just think they are a useful model for considering interactions between distant powerful forces and people who neither like nor trust them, because right now it seems like you are not doing a good job of imagining the likely responses of actual flesh-and-blood people in the Middle East.

            PS: As I posted in another branch of this discussion, there has actually been quite a bit of coverage of coverage about Christians being persecuted in the Middle East; even limiting ourselves to Coptic Christians in Egypt, the NYT has published at least a half-dozen articles in the last few months. Given that the information is out there, but not prominent in the public consciousness, your hypothesis (that the existence of a “less foreign” side will galvanize public support) does not seem to be bearing fruit.

          • Civilis says:

            I think we’re arguing at cross purposes here, so I’m going to answer this out of order.

            Given that the information is out there, but not prominent in the public consciousness, your hypothesis (that the existence of a “less foreign” side will galvanize public support) does not seem to be bearing fruit.

            Right now, the left doesn’t want mainstream public opinion to turn against Muslims (and they have a point in this matter), so the leftist media minimizes stories which might be spun into ‘Muslims hate Christians’ by the right as much as possible. The left doesn’t have a monopoly on the media, so the right finds out about it anyways, which gradually shifts public opinion against Muslims and at the same time, makes the right angry at the media and shifts the public more towards the right. We’ve seen this in the increasing public distrust of Muslims and support for Trump’s policies and increasing distrust of the media. True, at the moment this sentiment is confined mostly to the right, but at some point there will be enough to trigger a preference cascade among those that generally don’t pay attention to the news, most likely because something will happen which will be so newsworthy they can’t avoid it (think 9/11).

            At the same time, the left doesn’t have a problem with mainstream public opinion being anti-right, underestimating the degree with which this can come back to bite them because what they do colors the opinion of the entire west, so they maximize stories which make right-leaning institutions such as the American military look bad, and this plays to both domestic and foreign audiences. This has the side effect of both making the west look both weak and evil to the Muslim man in the street and making the Islamists look like the good guys. Yes, the Muslim man in the street doesn’t subscribe to the New York Times, but somehow all those stories of toilet Korans and political cartoons make it into the public eye in the Islamic world. The thought leaders in the middle east, the people with the ability to manipulate public opinion do pay attention to the Western press, and considering how much success they’ve had manipulating the Western press, to think they’ve had less success manipulating their own press is laughable. The problem is that their eye on the West is the Western press, which isn’t an accurate view of what the west thinks.

            What’s important about the above is that the West looks weak, not that it looks evil. The fact that we gave in on burning that Koran because they were rioting and killing each other is ‘proof’ that they’re stronger.

            What would happen if Washington (or the Chinese government, if you prefer — the metaphor is imperfect) used equivalent tactics in an attempt to convince the Republican base to abandon Trump?

            Think of it as a trade. What can the Washington establishment trade the Trump supporters in return for not voting for Trump? They’ve failed to keep their end of the bargain in every previous deal, so offers that aren’t immediate and irrevocable don’t work. The establishment also can’t threaten the Trump supporters, as they’ve already been abusing the laws against them, so that won’t work. Likewise, China has nothing to offer or threaten the Trump supporters with to get them to change their minds.

            It’s not that way in the middle east. Back in Jefferson’s day, the trade was ‘you stop attacking our merchant ships’ and ‘we won’t invade Tripoli again’. There’s also the more modern ‘you don’t invade our allies’ and ‘we won’t wreck your military’, and ‘you don’t hijack or blow up civilian airplanes’ and ‘we won’t try to kill you’. Right now, what we want is ‘don’t support terrorism’ and ‘Islam behaves under the same set of rules as other cultures/religions’; we need to decide on what we can offer in return, like ‘we won’t blow you up’ and make sure it is communicated.

          • Iain says:

            No, you missed the point.

            You are claiming that Muslims in the Middle East would do what we want, if only we were willing to threaten violence against them. Even setting aside questions of international law, that is psychologically implausible. If Washington or Beijing made the same threats against Trump supporters, how do you think Trump supporters would respond?

            This is not a question about whether the army would obey orders, or whether America could repel a Chinese invasion, or anything like that. This is a basic intuition pump, designed to get you to stop thinking of people in foreign countries as emotionless chess pieces. If you don’t think sending in the army (or threatening to do so) would decrease support for Trump, why do you think it will be any more persuasive to foreigners?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You are claiming that Muslims in the Middle East would do what we want, if only we were willing to threaten violence against them. Even setting aside questions of international law, that is psychologically implausible. If Washington or Beijing made the same threats against Trump supporters, how do you think Trump supporters would respond?

            And yet, countries do change their behaviour based on threats.

          • Iain says:

            Do you have examples of threats against a country successfully changing that country’s culture (in the direction that the threatening party desired)? If not, I don’t see how that’s at all relevant to the conversation we are having. We’re talking about persuading the public, not the government.

          • John Schilling says:

            German and Japanese culture seem to have substantially changed since the 1930s, and in almost exactly the direction Americans wanted them to.

          • Iain says:

            Personally, I think we could generate some reforms in many of Islamic cultures with some outside public pressure and that this would not be a bad thing, but it’s something we’d need the will to carry out, which is questionable whether we possess enough to succeed.

            This is the claim that Civilis and I were discussing. I admit that the definition of “outside public pressure” has been somewhat unclear, but I very much hope that if Civilis were proposing a world war, a decades-long military occupation, and a new Marshall Plan, it would have been slightly more explicit.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Do you have examples of threats against a country successfully changing that country’s culture (in the direction that the threatening party desired)? If not, I don’t see how that’s at all relevant to the conversation we are having. We’re talking about persuading the public, not the government.

            I don’t know if it counts as a “threatening”, but South Africa ended apartheid largely due to international pressure, and several countries abolished slavery for similar reasons. Even if we only change government policies, this often has cultural effects downstream. If we managed to get the Saudis to stop promoting Wahhabism abroad, for example, this would reduce the relative influence of one of the most fundamentalist sects of modern Islam, and hence impact the culture of the Islamic world as a whole.

        • Brad says:

          I’ve wondered about the lack of media emphasis on the serious persecution of Christians in various parts of the world.

          My guess is that the mainstream media doesn’t like Christianity very much, and the non-mainstream-media Christians would rather focus on the ways they feel mistreated in the countries where they live and which aren’t that bad.

          Christians are being persecuted in China. China has about 1.35 billion people, of which around 31 million are christian. They also have a terrible overall human rights record. How much of a typical year’s worth of articles in say a Chicago paper should be about human rights abuses in general? Human rights abuses in China? Human rights abuses as it relates to Christians in China?

          I certainly get the fact that some devout Christians want to read about Christians, I have similar news reading habits for groups I’m a part of, but I don’t think the fact that some media outlets don’t cater to that desire requires a malicious explanation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Except that in a lot of cases, groups persecuting Christians do get covered, just not for persecuting Christians.

            Take that #BringBackOurGirls thing, for example. The girls in question were Christian, kidnapped by Boko Haram as part of its ongoing jihad against Nigeria’s Christian community, which had already been going on for some time. The western media, as far as I can tell, played down the religious angle almost entirely, instead presenting it as some sort of patriarchy vs. women thing. The rest of Boko Haram’s attacks, which are harder to fit into the leftist narrative about how evil men are, have been almost completely ignored by comparison.

            Or again, ISIS started persecuting Christians almost as soon as it came to power, but nobody really gave a sh*t about their actions until they started targeting the Yazidis, when there was suddenly a huge media uproar about how awful this was, how we really ought to do something, etc. Even then, Christians were hardly ever mentioned, except as “We need to help the Yazidis!!! (Oh and some Christians too, I guess)”.

            It would be one thing if the MSM just didn’t bother covering foreign atrocities. But when they cover foreign atrocities in such a way that persecution of one particular group always seems to get downplayed, that starts to look very much like bias.

          • gbdub says:

            There was a fair amount of outcry regarding the Trump immigration EO and “Religious tests at our borders” due to the order’s favoring of minority religious refugees once refugee intake was restarted. I’ve seen this interpreted as clearly an anti-Muslim measure.

            But religious persecution is a real thing, and certainly if you’re going to limit the total number of refugees it makes sense to take those at the highest risk. It’s unquestionable that e.g. Christians and Yazidis are facing an elevated risk from ISIS.

            The fact that this ongoing religious persecution is undercovered makes the “anti-Muslim” misinterpretation of the minority-religion favoring refugee policy more likely, which makes it harder to have a reasonable discussion about it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Here’s a simple test case:

            Russia recently passed a law restricting Christian evangelization efforts. Did you hear about it?

            Right around the same time, they also passed a law restricting gay evangelization efforts. I am confident you did hear about that.

            Similar laws, same time, in a country our media has no problem attacking. Only one was given exposure. Do you have a better explanation for why, beyond the fact that our media only care about the victims of one of the laws? I honestly think that’s the case, especially since we see them do the same for stories around the world.

          • Brad says:

            @Jaskologist
            Which media outlets do you pay for? Do you think more gay people or more evangelical Christians have paid subscriptions to the New York Times? Just as you want to hear all about how Christians are being oppressed and by whom, gay people want to hear about how gay people are being oppressed and by whom.

            Why would the New York Times, which as Trump likes to point out nauseum is having financial problems, cater to people that don’t subscribe and in fact only ever go to the paper’s website in order to quote mine for jeremiads against the “east coast liberal media elite”.

            The attitude towards the so-called mainstream media on the right is totally unreasonable. Where is the bootstrap mentality when it comes to that? Why don’t devout Christians go publish their own daily newspapers with news bureaus in 100 countries? Why didn’t the Koch brothers or one of the other conservative billionaires start CNN instead of Ted Turner? How many very intelligent, well educated, young right wingers are willing to sacrifice the potential for lucrative careers in order to work in journalism jobs with long hours, an uncertain future, and only moderate pay? Hey, don’t everyone speak up at once!

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I hadn’t heard about that anti-evangelism law. But the article is a bit vague about whether it is about non-religious people being able to crack down on Christians of all stripes, or whether it is basically about Orthodox Christians being able to persecute Protestant Christians (presumably with a neutral-sounding wording so that the law isn’t explicitly favouring one church over another).

            Not that it isn’t bad behaviour either way, but if it is the latter, it at least makes it a bit difficult to put such a coherent narrative on, because if you don’t have any reason to be attuned to the subtle differences between two different versions of the same religion, ‘persecution of Christians by Christians’ is going to sound pretty narcissism-of-small-differences-ey compared with ‘persecution of religious people by atheists’. Do you know which of these is closer to being the case?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Brad,

            “All the news that’s fit to print.”

            If you take that seriously, the idea that journalism isn’t just another facet of the entertainment industry but a truth-seeking endeavor, then the failure to cover atrocities committed against Christians is disgraceful.

            Personally, I share your cynical attitude to the role of the media. But most aspiring journos don’t: just talk to a journalism student sometime if you don’t believe me. By their own purported standards, what they’re doing is inexcusable.

            The attitude towards the so-called mainstream media on the right is totally unreasonable. Where is the bootstrap mentality when it comes to that? Why don’t devout Christians go publish their own daily newspapers with news bureaus in 100 countries? Why didn’t the Koch brothers or one of the other conservative billionaires start CNN instead of Ted Turner? How many very intelligent, well educated, young right wingers are willing to sacrifice the potential for lucrative careers in order to work in journalism jobs with long hours, an uncertain future, and only moderate pay? Hey, don’t everyone speak up at once!

            That’s a really weird complaint, given that the whole point of the attempted #FakeNews crackdown was that there were far too many right wing news sources available now.

            Today there are huge numbers of conservative bloggers, tons of right-wing radio hosts, a handful of conservative newspapers and one right wing TV network. You’ll notice that the closer you get to “real news,” AKA the MSM, the more effort has been put into pruning away conservatives.

            You can’t blame it on a lack of effort: clearly the demand is there, as is the supply of would-be journalists. It’s just that supply has been artificially restricted by the current media cartels.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad:

            Aren’t Fox and Breitbart just that?

          • Brad says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            “All the news that’s fit to print.”

            If you take that seriously, the idea that journalism isn’t just another facet of the entertainment industry but a truth-seeking endeavor, then the failure to cover atrocities committed against Christians is disgraceful.

            Personally, I share your cynical attitude to the role of the media. But most aspiring journos don’t: just talk to a journalism student sometime if you don’t believe me. By their own purported standards, what they’re doing is inexcusable.

            This argument strikes me as similar to atheists that endless quote scripture at Christians in an attempt to convince them that they are doing Christianity wrong. The charge of hypocrisy is simply not that compelling when it comes from a hostile outsider.

            Anyway, no paper has infinite resources, which would be required to meet the uncharitable spin you’ve put on the Times’ motto. Maybe you should subscribe so they’ll have more money to cover more topics.

            You can’t blame it on a lack of effort: clearly the demand is there, as is the supply of would-be journalists. It’s just that supply has been artificially restricted by the current media cartels.

            What’s the mechanism of restricting competition? Attacks from incumbents towards new entrants happen in every industry. That’s not cartelization.

            The WSJ exists. The Post exists. Fox exists. How did they get past this prohibitive cartel?

            @dndnrsn

            Aren’t Fox and Breitbart just that?

            Somehow they aren’t sufficient to counter the idea that there’s an east coast media elite liberal conspiracy. Don’t know why, you’ll have to ask the purveyors of that argument.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad:
            Your argument doesn’t seem to be that the so-called “mainstream media” rightfully belongs to the left and can reasonably be expected to report only on issues important to the left. Is this really what you’re trying to say?

          • Randy M says:

            Which media outlets do you pay for? Do you think more gay people or more evangelical Christians have paid subscriptions to the New York Times?

            This is somewhat circular, as if they have a political slant, that will affect their subscriber base. Even still, given that gays are ~3% of the US population and evangelical Christians are ~30% , I suspect their potential market is not as skewed towards the former as you assume.

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler
            I’m making the conservative bootstrap / free market argument. If you don’t like what the so-called mainstream media outlets are reporting on then by all means start your own media outlet or patronize ones that are more to your liking. I don’t spend a lot of time writing rants about McDonalds, I just don’t go there.

            I don’t see how the Times has any obligations to cater to the preferences of people that don’t subscribe and actively encourage hatred against them.

            I also don’t think that their coverage of Christian persecution abroad is objectively unreasonable given the limited space they have. Again, I can see why some would want that topic to get special treatment but I don’t see any reason the Times’ should cater to the desires of non- and anti-customers.

            @Randy M
            The Times subscriber base isn’t uniformly distributed across the United States. Nor would or should anyone expect it to be.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Brad:

            I don’t see how the Times has any obligations to cater to the preferences of people that don’t subscribe and actively encourage hatred against them.

            It’s not about “catering to the preferences of people that don’t subscribe”, it’s about giving people who do subscribe an accurate picture of what’s happening. If the newspaper systematically ignores the problems suffered by people who don’t look like its subscribers and focuses on the problems of people who do, it’s giving its readership a distorted view of the world around them.

          • Randy M says:

            Brad, of course it isn’t, but is it skewed enough to overcome 10 to 1 ratio? You can’t ignore baserates.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            People seem to be taking it as gospel (hah, wordplay!) that the NY Times isn’t covering Christian persecution in the middle east.

            That seemed unlikely to me, and lo:
            Is This the End of Christianity
            in the Middle East?

          • Brad says:

            @The original Mr. X
            Again no newspaper can report on everything and if they did no one could read it all. Running a news outlet inherently involves picking and choosing, and that picking and choosing quite reasonably takes into account the tastes of the audience.

            Do you also think the so-called mainstream media doesn’t report enough on the plight of the Rohingya in Burma, the Uyghurs in western China, and the Azeris in Iran?

          • skef says:

            To amplify Brad’s argument, the standard of “did X report on Y” and “did you know that Y (because of X’s reporting on it)” are very different. I don’t get the NYT in paper form and I certainly don’t read the whole website every day. What I know as a result of NYT reporting is largely the result of amplification, which is partly specific to my interests and who I interact with. It’s certainly true that it’s also partly affected by what the NYT chooses to make a big deal about with page or site placement, but I suspect that placement is largely driven by economic concerns, and therefore the preferences of the readership.

            So, did the NYT report on the proselytization ban on page A28 or it’s equivalent? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Do you know? Would it surprise you?

          • Iain says:

            It seems relevant that the NYT actually did report on this law, which covered a lot more than just public evangelism:

            The measures, passed on Friday by the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, introduced a prison sentence of up to one year for failure to report a terrorist act or armed mutiny in the planning stages. The lawmakers also forced cellular and internet providers to store all communications data for six months and to help security services decipher all messaging applications.
            The bill, which must be approved by the upper chamber and signed by President Vladimir V. Putin, also banned proselytizing, preaching and praying outside officially recognized religious institutions, among other measures.

            Given the total level of coverage given to this law, it does not seem like there is a disproportionate lack of focus on the anti-church content.

            Unless you read the NYT daily, your perception of what the NYT covers is going to be heavily influenced by the subset of articles that are widely shared in your social circles.

            ETA: Seems like we’ve got a bit of a ninja infestation going on in these parts. *shakes fist*

          • Nornagest says:

            Interesting. That breaks my model of Russian politics, sketchy though it was. Do we have someone here that can comment on how it fits in?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nornagest

            The following is a third-hand guess. I don’t have intimate knowledge.

            In America we tend to think of the various flavors of Christianity as, well, flavors. Basically the same thing at the core, and on the same side for any politics we care about.

            This isn’t true everywhere. Russians don’t think of themselves as Christian, they think of themselves as Russian Orthodox. Evangelical/Pentecostal (overlapping but not identical groups) missionaries are foreign, and a threat. Their converts are taken from the churches of the dominant sect.

            The converts/missionaries in turn tend to see the dominant sect as dead on the inside, going through the motions without any true relationship with Jesus. They see the Orthodox as being in need of saving, which is to say, effectively being another religion that needs missionaries sent to it. And the converts do tend to be much more zealous, for the obvious selection reasons.

            This happens in Latin America as well, although there it’s Catholic vs Protestant. Ecumenism is recent and unusual.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Brad:

            Do you also think the so-called mainstream media doesn’t report enough on the plight of the Rohingya in Burma, the Uyghurs in western China, and the Azeris in Iran?

            According to our trusty friend, Wikipedia:

            According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Christians are the most persecuted group in the contemporary world.[168] The Holy See has reported that over 100,000 Christians are violently killed annually because of some relation to their faith.[169] According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith.[170] Of the 100-200 million Christians under assault, the majority are persecuted in Muslim-dominated nations.[171] Christians suffer numerically more than any other faith groups or groups without faith in the world. Of the world’s three largest religions Christians are the most allegedly persecuted with 80% of all acts of religious discrimination being directed at Christians[172] who only make up 33% of the world’s population.[173]

            Now, whilst I agree that newspapers don’t have the space or resources to cover everything equally, the persecution of Christians is an order of magnitude larger than any of the groups you mentioned, so I don’t think your counter-examples are particularly valid here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @HBC:

            People seem to be taking it as gospel (hah, wordplay!) that the NY Times isn’t covering Christian persecution in the middle east.

            As far as I can tell, nobody argued, and nobody made any argument requiring, that the NYT has run literally zero pieces on persecuted Christians.

          • Brad says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I’m not sure I trust the ex-Pope or the World Evangelical Alliance to be particularly unbiased sources on the subject, but even if Christians face the most religious persecution of any religious group in the world, that still wouldn’t justify your conclusion.

            The Azeris in Iran (15 to 27 million people) face persecution unrelated to their region. Apparently the media outlets you choose to patronize completely failed you since you were unaware of this. By your logic after every seven articles about Christian persecution you should have seen one about Azeri persecution.

            Or you can abandon this silly line of reasoning that suggests that there’s some objective representation function that every news media ought to follow, give up the unjustified chip on your shoulder about the so-called mainstream media, and read the outlets that cater to your tastes while leaving in peace outlets that cater to the tastes of others.

            As far as I can tell, nobody argued, and nobody made any argument requiring, that the NYT has run literally zero pieces on persecuted Christians.

            What would be a sufficient number in your opinion? Per year, say?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Brad:

            So how big does a persecution have to be before the media has a duty to report on it? If the NYT had refused to report on the Holocaust because “Most people aren’t Jews, you can’t expect Gentiles to care about what happens to a bunch of Jews in Germany”, would you still be defending them? What if they’d reported on the Holocaust, but in such a way as to imply that the Nazis weren’t particularly targeting Jews for extermination?

            ETA: Not to mention, the Middle East is one of the most important and sensitive geopolitical regions in the world right now. Given that most of the west is made up of democracies where voters’ opinions have at least some influence on what happens, it’s at least somewhat worrying if a large proportion of the electorate are getting a skewed picture of what’s happening there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:

            As far as I can tell, nobody argued, and nobody made any argument requiring, that the NYT has run literally zero pieces on persecuted Christians.

            Or again, ISIS started persecuting Christians almost as soon as it came to power, but nobody really gave a sh*t about their actions until they started targeting the Yazidis, when there was suddenly a huge media uproar about how awful this was, how we really ought to do something, etc.

            “Is this the end of Christianity in the Middle East” seems like a phrase that would indicate that people do, in fact, give a shit.

            You are trying to have it both ways, here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Is this end of Christianity in the Middle East” seems like a phrase that would indicate that people do, in fact, give a shit.
            You are trying to have it both ways, here.

            Or else I’m just using normal idiomatic English, in which people can use terms like “nobody” without meaning “literally zero people”. That’s also a possibility.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I gave you evidence that “liberal” media outlets do in fact care about religious persecution of Christians in the Middle East. I assure you this is not the only article in non-conservative outlets to talk about the issue.

            For another example, NPR frequently mentions that Boko Haram is forcing conversion to Islam on the people it kidnaps. The imposition of their religion on others is clearly a part of the story when they report it.

          • Brad says:

            @Mr. X
            You still haven’t told us how many articles, column inches, words, whatever are acceptable. We haven’t been told how what the proper formula is for media outlets to carry out their supposed duties. Maybe it is one of those “I know when I see it” things?

            All we know is that some Christians are pissed off because there isn’t enough coverage of Christian persecution in media outlets that they choose not to subscribe to. And apparently don’t have similar concerns about the coverage of the Rohingya in Burma, the Uyghurs in western China, and the Azeris in Iran.

            If you think you can do a better job at putting out a daily paper with broad and deep coverage in the current advertising and subscribing environment I strongly encourage you to try.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            I gave you evidence that “liberal” media outlets do in fact care about religious persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

            You gave me evidence that one liberal media outlet has printed at least one article about persecuted Christians.

            @ Brad:

            If you think you can do a better job at putting out a daily paper with broad and deep coverage in the current advertising and subscribing environment I strongly encourage you to try.

            If you’re seriously going to claim that people aren’t allowed to notice media bias unless they own their own newspapers, I don’t think there’s much point carrying on this discussion.

          • Iain says:

            Out of curiosity, I just googled “coptic christians nyt”. Seven of the first eight hits are explicitly about violence targeted at Coptic Christians in Egypt; the eighth mentions it in passing. Five of those articles were written in the last three months.

            The ninth hit was this article praising the NYT’s coverage, with all the signs of being written by a person with extensive knowledge of the situation.

            If you don’t think the NYT covers violence against Christians in the Middle East, please consider that this might just be a fact about your belief, and not about the NYT.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            For what it’s worth, I’ve heard a fair amount about Boko Haram forcing the girls to convert to Islam, but I didn’t remember that they were originally Christian. I don’t think the latter was mentioned much if at all.

          • Do you think more gay people or more evangelical Christians have paid subscriptions to the New York Times?

            I can’t speak for Jaskologist, but my guess is many more evangelical Christians. A smaller percentage but of a much larger number.

            There are about 92 million American Evangelicals. Compare that to about 7-11 million gays and lesbians.

          • Brad says:

            As I said to Randy M, NYTimes subscribers aren’t uniformly distributed. Pew claims that 9% of the people in the NYC metro area are evangelical.[1] That’s still significantly larger than the LGBT percentage, which according to Gallop[2] is 4%, but again, within metro area residents NYTimes subscribers aren’t uniformly distributed. There are four major dailies in the city (plus Newsday on LI) and the Times occupies the middlebrow / left wing quadrant.

            I’ve managed to convince myself that I don’t know the answer, but I don’t think it is obviously evangelicals.

            [1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/29/major-u-s-metropolitan-areas-differ-in-their-religious-profiles/
            [2] http://www.gallup.com/poll/182051/san-francisco-metro-area-ranks-highest-lgbt-percentage.aspx

          • Randy M says:

            I can’t find numbers, but my impression is that the Times is widely read and available for subscription outside NY.

    • lvlln says:

      Maybe I’m misreading it, but that poll seems to compare the binary “are they persecuted or not” question and notes that a higher proportion of Democrats answer “yes” to Muslims in America than do “yes” to Christians in the Islamic world. Which doesn’t measure the severity of the persecution, which is what I think of when I see “worse off.”

      It’s definitely interesting and highly distressing that only 47% (a minority!!!) of Dems believe Christians are persecuted in the Islamic world, in comparison to 56% of Dems who believe Muslims are in America, but it’s possible that enough of them also acknowledge that the persecution Christians face in the Islamic world is far worse than what Muslims face in America, isn’t it? I’d certainly love to see a poll about that.

      I do think all the hysteria about hate crimes in the USA is likely a major factor in causing this trend among Dems. There’s almost a disdain for science when it comes to this; things like Southern Poverty Law Center’s listing of hate crimes based on submissions are held up as evidence that proves the prevalence and increase, without any comparisons to a base rate or the numbers in equivalent time periods in the past. And that’s when isolated (and often unverified) incidents aren’t just used outright as evidence of a larger culture at play. It reminds me a lot of the 1/5 campus rape hysteria. I wonder how different political groups in the US would answer polling questions centered around that issue, actually…

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This is way short of hate crimes, but I’m seeing a lot more anti-Semitism– not mentions of anti-Semitism, but material by people who are apparently anti-Semites– on facebook. I haven’t been looking for it. (Well, mostly not– when someone linked with moderate approval to a piece blaming way too much on Zionists, I read another article on the site which started off being about what’s wrong with education and went quickly to blaming Jews in the textbook industry)

        Anyway, if I saw any anti-Semitism on FB before the election, it was so little that I don’t remember it.

        • lvlln says:

          I find no reason to disbelieve you, but the issue is that your individual experience in this should move the needle just about zero in terms of whether or not there was an overall increase in antisemitism on FB or anywhere else. Your perception of an increase in antisemitism in your FB feed is decent evidence of an increase in antisemitism in your FB feed, but weak evidence of an increase anywhere else.

          Now, if we took a sufficiently random and large sampling of people’s FB feeds, we might have something (ignoring, for now, the question of whether FB feeds at all indicate anything about real-world trends). And obviously we’d want multiple such studies from independent sources that all point in the same general direction before we’d be justified in making any sort of semi-confident claim about the trend in antisemitism.

          But the general message seems to be along the lines of, “I saw a swastika on the train, Trump’s America, everyone! This is just more proof that his election has emboldened neo-Nazis to come out of the shadows!”

          • Iain says:

            Additional data point.

            Vandals damaged and knocked-over more than 100 headstones at a St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery.
            […]
            The incident coincides with waves of bomb threats directed at Jewish community centers across the US. On Monday at least 10 Jewish community centers were targeted with bomb threats, for the fourth time in five weeks.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I grant that more samples would be good. However, I’m not talking about someone saw swastika griffiti. I’m talking about a person posting a bunch of anti-Semitic material in Robert Anton Wilson facebook group, of all places.

            I think I’ve got evidence that a norm against being publicly anti-Semitic is breaking down.

          • lvlln says:

            @Iain
            Isolated data points (i.e. anecdotes) add pretty much zero to our understanding of the world or even just the US. The graveyard incident would need to be accompanied by information about the background rate of similar graveyard incidents before we could consider it as any sort of evidence regarding a trend in antisemitism.

            Notably, the waves of bomb threats that are also mentioned in the article is something I read about previously and something that I think does indicate an increase in antisemitism – the article I read noted that no such events had taken place in a similar time frame in the previous year. This isn’t slam dunk proof, but it’s evidence pointing in that direction, for sure.

            And if all or even most complaints about an increase in antisemitism referenced only that as evidence, there would be precious little to complain about. That is partly what makes the current hysteria so galling – if we look, we can find actual evidence of increase in antisemitism without having to claim that non-evidence actually counts. And I think it’s that hysteria that’s responsible for the highly suspect perception of persecution of Muslims in America vs. Christians in Islamic world indicated by that poll.

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            Yes, I understood what you were saying about your FB feed. It’s still incredibly weak evidence of overall increase in antisemitism – it’s only strong evidence of increase in antisemitism on your FB feed. We have no way of knowing if other FB feeds had equal or greater decrease in antisemitism.

            My personal intuition is definitely that it reflects an actual increase in antisemitism, but I think we all know that human intuition is an absolutely terrible guide for determining reality, especially when it comes to trends in populations of hundreds of millions.

    • Iain says:

      It’s also worth considering the exact wording of the questions:

      1. Are most American Muslims living in this country treated unfairly because of their religion and ethnicity?
      2. Are most Christians living in the Islamic world treated unfairly because of their religion?

      If the question is whether Christians in the Islamic world are ever discriminated against, the answer is clearly yes. If the question is about whether most Christians in the Islamic world are treated unfairly, you have to stop and think for a bit. Christians are doing pretty well in Lebanon. Christians in Syria tend to be treated worse by the rebels than by Assad, which makes it hard to score. Overall I think it still comes down in favour of “most” — especially once you take Indonesia and Malaysia into account — but “the Islamic world” includes a diverse array of countries, and I don’t think the answer is trivially obvious. You’re talking about countries containing roughly a fifth of the global population, here, many of which are very sparsely covered in the media.

      • Randy M says:

        If we use the “doing pretty well” metric, clearly most Muslims in America are also doing pretty well.

      • If the question is about whether most Christians in the Islamic world are treated unfairly

        If your definition of “unfairly” counts a violation of standard liberal values, the sort of thing that counts as unfair in the case of Muslims in America, the answer is that all Christians in any seriously Muslim country are treated unfairly.

        Under Islamic law, for instance, it is legal for a Muslim man to marry a Christian woman, illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man. It is legal for a Christian to convert to Islam, illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity.

        According to (I think) three of the four schools of law, the diya, the money damages for killing someone, are higher if the victim is a Muslim than if the victim is a Christian.

        There are lots of other examples if we take “the Islamic world” as places where traditional Islamic law is taken seriously, although admittedly there are Muslim majority countries where it isn’t.

    • shakeddown says:

      Never thought I’d find myself defending him, but unless there’s a side of this story I’m missing, this seems wrong.

    • James Miller says:

      Victims of sex abuse (such as Milo) will now be fearful of talking about what happened to them because if they don’t claim that the abuse destroyed their life they can be accused of promoting sex abuse by minimizing its consequences.

    • Cypren says:

      I find Milo’s antics generally childish and disgusting, but watching the full clip of the video that caused the outcry (not the selectively-edited version), it seems to me he’s making pretty sensible and reasonable points.

      There’s not some magical biological line at age 18 when children suddenly become adults and it’s morally okay to have sex with them. This is entirely a social construction and not even uniform in the Western world (or heck, even in the 50 US states!), much less the rest of the world. People who are defending that bright line like it’s been handed down on stone tablets from heaven make me very suspicious of ulterior motives.

    • Brad says:

      I can’t claim credit, but I think this sums it up “When you live your life as an edgelord, sometimes you get cut.”

      I don’t think the fallout is entirely fair, but it’s kind of like trying to get worked up about the problems in OJ’s armed robbery case.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Nah, fuck that. OJ deserves justice and not to be framed by the system, and so does Milo. When you live your life annoying powerful people, sometimes they use their power to smear you as a pedophile, but that doesn’t mean we should approve of it. Milo didn’t even murder anybody.

        • James Miller says:

          Agreed. “When you live your life annoying powerful people” then your protection serves as a forward defense for the rest of us, and your treatment shows the rest of us what the powerful do to their enemies.

          • Well... says:

            It doesn’t sound like that’s what happened at all.

          • onyomi says:

            I think what I find most upsetting about this is not even so much that the media and deep state dig up and hold onto damaging material in order to release it with optimal timing (Access Hollywood tape). I already knew that.

            What I find a little bizarre is the extreme swiftness with which e. g. CPAC will uninvite you or Simon and Schuster will cancel your book given the slightest whiff of scandal. Not that I don’t understand why one might do this (though I am more forgiving of a private company than an explicitly political organization like CPAC), but maybe wait… I don’t know, a week to see when the inevitable new information comes out?

          • James Miller says:

            @onyomi

            The good and powerful people on the left and right declared Milo a witch. This, and not anything Milo might have done, was probably why CPAC and Simon and Schuster had to disavow Milo.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, the moral equivalency of someone brutally stabbing two people to death with a rusty knife and a “edgelord troll” who says mean things and may have doxxed an illegal alien is pretty disturbing.

      • ChetC3 says:

        This is show business, of course it isn’t fair.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      It’s really sad to see how well corporate power these days can effectively silence people – what does he have left to get his messages out? Make the few with power mad and it doesn’t seem to matter how much people want to hear what you have to say.

      Hope he recovers even though I find him obnoxious as hell and disagree with almost all of his views. (Maybe this will REDpill him on capitalism but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.)

      • Brad says:

        He can have a blog complete with audio and video podcasts. He can self publish his book. There has never been a time when the ability to get one’s message out to those that want to hear it has been more democratized.

        If those that supposedly want to hear what he has to say won’t overcome the barrier of going from twitter or breitbart to his own website, well I guess they didn’t want to hear him all that much to begin with.

        • Matt M says:

          This. He’s significantly more “famous” than Tom Woods, for example, who has gone fully independent and seems to do be doing well enough for himself with books, podcasts, etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thanks for the pointer to Tom Woods. I’m currently listening to I Shouldn’t Write Off the Left Altogether and liking it.

            It does remind me of an idea I’ve been having that the SJW has had a corrupting effect on the right.

            Microaggression analysis– what I call the habit of thinking “this made me feel bad, what might be the malevolent motive behind someone saying that, a whole bunch of people must hate me”– is incredibly seductive and can be applied to any identity.

            Now, microaggression analysis isn’t total nonsense because sometimes people’s identities are being attacked on a large scale, but at the same time, it’s a huge energy drain and hostility builder.

            It seems to me that I’ve been seeing right-wingers get thinner skinned and more prone to generalize.

          • Brad says:

            In general, I seeing a lot of arguments whose style I would mentally categorize as “1980s crits” coming from people arguing right wing positions on the internet. It’s fairly bizarre.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            I’d say it did something different. The response of many right-wingers to the concept has been to embrace needless offense. That was Milo’s shtick, after all. Say something nasty, and when people react to it, giggle and say “ha ha their reaction proves me right!”Some on the left do this too, but I’d say it seems more common on the right, and those on the left who do it tend to wrap it in more intellectual rationalization/justification.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            “1980s crits”

            I don’t know what this means? Google suggest Critical Legal Studies, which I don’t think is what you meant?

          • Brad says:

            @HBC
            Yes, critical legal theorists, critical race theorists, gender theorists, postmodern critical theory (literature) and allied professors in psychology, philosophy and other departments used to go by the nickname “crits”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            Ah, OK. Those are all ?far? left takes on their various domains, correct?

            Are you saying that the right is doing the wrap-around thing where they start to sound like the extreme end of the spectrum of their ideological adversaries?

          • Brad says:

            Yep, that’s was my basic point. Sorry it was unclear.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            No, it makes sense. I just didn’t get the reference right off.

            Just out of curiosity, what parallels do you see?

          • Nornagest says:

            Critical theory tends to come from a leftist perspective, and it has a lot of Marxism in its DNA, but I feel like calling it “a far-left take on its domains” rounds off a lot of what makes it unique. Frankfurt School types are basically engaged in a sort of academic trolling.

          • Brad says:

            Non exhaustively:
            Above all a focus on the social construction of truth (talking about narratives is dead giveaway). Also–hostility towards institutions, a belief in self organizing conspiracies, Marxist derived analysis of group interests, and an inconsistently applied moral relativism.

          • Cypren says:

            This strikes me as the same phenomenon as right-wingers quoting Saul Alinsky, and they’re employing one of Alinsky’s own rules: “make the enemy live up to its own book of rules”. It’s an attempt to use the language, tactics and logical follow-through of left-wing thought to expose the beliefs as hypocritical or at least highly selective.

            Personally, I think it’s a mistake, and completely ineffective to boot, since left-wing ideology tends to be much less grounded in objective rules and far more in subjective judgment for individual cases. Accusing a left-winger of treating a wealthy white man with different standards from a poor minority is usually just going to be accompanied with a shrug and “so what?”

          • Spookykou says:

            Accusing a left-winger of treating a wealthy white man with different standards from a poor minority

            The implication here seems to be that the left-winger is not principled in this, but as I understand it there are plenty of principled ways to think about the world that allow you to treat people of different races or economic levels differently, and they are hardly exclusive to the left.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Throwing in economic levels is a distraction; there certainly are plenty of principled ways to think about the world which allow you to treat people of different races differently (ignoring trivia like sunscreen recommendations), but they tend to be BAD principles according to most.

          • Spookykou says:

            I feel like calling affirmative action racism and trying to lump on the bad association there, was one of the examples expressly used in the ‘Worst argument’ essay?

      • Urstoff says:

        He has the whole Internet, for one, and all the same privileges as any rando on the street (and obviously a lot more because of his following). Canceling a book deal because you’re a troll who finally stepped in it is not being silenced by corporate power. Publishers are not obligated to give anyone a book deal. I am not silenced by corporate power because Penguin refuses to give me a book deal.

    • Well... says:

      The caption is true, but misleading. Milo resigned so that the rotten image he cultivated wouldn’t keep getting mentioned in the same sentence as the word Breitbart. He says it was his choice; maybe so maybe not…if I was Breitbart’s CEO I wouldn’t want Milo associated with my brand. Easily misinterpreted sarcastic pedophilia apologetics are a train wreck. Branding poison.

      And he’s not being silenced either; he plans to start his own media company and do a speaking tour.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The great thing about Milo’s speaking tours is he can do them from home. He just announces them, there’s riots, they’re cancelled, and he doesn’t have to do anything. Not sure how he makes money off of that though unless he manages to get his book published.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Self-publishing isn’t all that difficult these days, and sufficiently popular writers (I think Milo qualifies) can make a living that way.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Self publishing is fine if you can get your book distributed. If Amazon won’t touch you, you’re probably SOL. Amazon may not be as bad as certain other companies when it comes to this kind of stuff, but they DID jump right on the ban-the-Confederate-flag bandwagon, so they might well reject Milo.

          • James Miller says:

            Vox Day has said he will publish Milo and if Amazon rejects Milo, Vox has the capacity to sell a Milo eBook. I don’t think Amazon would risk rejecting Milo because it would give such a huge marketing opening to someone like Vox who would gleefully grab it.

          • BBA says:

            I think you’re all overestimating Milo’s popularity, and underestimating how utterly toxic anything remotely connected to pedophilia is. This is not something that’s easy to bounce back from, especially when your entire shtick is “lol u mad” and all of a sudden you have to be sincere for the first time in your professional life.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Pedophilia’s only toxic if the Powers that Be want it to be; consider Lena Dunham.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pedophilia’s only toxic if the Powers that Be want it to be; consider Lena Dunham.

            Lena Dunham was never trying to be popular with the Right. Neither was Roman Polanski, to take the other obvious example.

            Your misplaced cynicism notwithstanding, there are people who actually care about pedophilia per se, and aren’t just using it as an issue to destroy their enemies. There are people who stir up witch hunts against suspected pedophiles who are political nobodies and not symbolic of any political faction. There are people who sincerely, deeply care about pedophilia, and not in a good way. Tens of millions of them in the United States alone.

            Almost all of them on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Pedophilia is toxic on the right even if the Powers That Be don’t want it to be, even if it is one of their favorites sons that got caught in the act. And unfortunately for Milo, the right is the only place that his act can grow beyond the lunatic fringe. So, while the people laying this accusations may be cynics who only yesterday were defending Roman Polanski, Milo has been neutralized. And it is the sincerely-held beliefs of people who would otherwise be on Milo’s side that will probably keep him neutralized.

          • gbdub says:

            In addition to Dunham and Polanski, there’s the segment in The Vagina Monologues that positively portrays a lesbian relationship between a girl and a significantly older woman. In the original version the girl was 13 and the segment ended with the line “it was a good rape”. That didn’t get much pushback (and certainly didn’t preclude the work’s massive popularity among campus feminists) until conservative critics picked up on it.

            Another aspect to consider is that “all gay men are pedophiles” is basically the Blood Libel of male homosexuality, so Milo adding credence to that would get let-wing pushback even if he wasn’t otherwise odious to them.

            FWIW the SJW segment of my Facebook feed isn’t so much criticizing Milo for his statements as taking the position “well he deserved to get axed for something, might as well be this” / “he’s been hoist by his own petard”. To their credit they noted he’s a victim of abuse and his behavior is consistent with one way people deal with that, but I did get one person saying “well, maybe it’s poetic justice for him making life harder for other victims”.

        • John Schilling says:

          The great thing about Milo’s speaking tours is he can do them from home. He just announces them, there’s riots,

          I don’t think it actually works that way. Riots don’t happen because Milo announces a speaking tour, riots happen because the Berkeley College Republicans announce a Milo speaking tour. And the Berkeley College Republicans are far more likely to invite an outspoken conservative to speak on their campus than they are an outspoken conservative pedophile.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I know of the people you’re talking about; they were actually my first introduction to what are now considered typical SJW tactics; they claim one should not employ a pedophile, not do business with them(not even so much as sell them groceries), etc. And they have a very wide definition of pedophile (not quite “anyone who thinks its OK to have sex under 30”, but not far from it). I don’t think there are tens of millions of them however.

            There are tens of millions who are really, really disgusted by pedophilia, but whether or not this makes a difference depends on whether or not the smear sticks. A conservative college group who isn’t put off by Milo being flagrantly homosexual isn’t necessarily going to be put off by him saying a sexual relationship between someone over the current age of consent and someone under it isn’t always harmful.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      While a lot of people right-of-center seem to have developed a misplaced loyalty to Milo, for the Alt Right his ejection over this is a huge positive.

      A genuine populist movement cannot include those who would prey on our people’s children. Pedophiles and their apologists need to be stopped, period. Losing sight of this obvious fact is exactly the reason the establishment needs to be destroyed.

      This isn’t an issue of him saying something unPC. His belief that gay men have the right to attack American boys is barely any less hostile to our society than those of Islamist rape gangs in Europe. There is no hypocrisy or weakness in this stance: quite the opposite.

      • rlms says:

        European rape gangs aren’t Islamist.

      • Deiseach says:

        I haven’t read any of this because frankly I don’t need that mess, but can anyone tell me what age range Milo was talking about re: minors?

        17 year old? 9 year old? There is a difference. People get very hot under the collar about statutory rape when “but they’re nearly legal age, why shouldn’t they be considered able to consent? how is it rape if it’s a 19 year old and a 17 year old?” and then get equally hot under the collar about “he had sex with a minor!” when the minor is 17.

        Just to clarify, I don’t think 40 year olds hitting on 17 year olds of whatever gender is a good thing, but is Milo saying “Hell yeah it’s fine for a grown man to have sex with a 12 year old” or is he saying “Hell yeah it’s fine for a grown man to have sex with a 15 year old?”

        Because the British original version of Queer As Folk had exactly that, including a scene where he drops him off to school the morning after their one-night stand, and we were meant to take the older guy as one of the admirable lead characters standing up to homophobes and bigots, and nobody (including the boy’s mother) was one whit concerned that her son who was not of legal drinking age was hanging out in the nightclubs in Manchester’s gay area drinking and hooking up with older men. Just to clarify, age of consent in the UK is 16 and at the time it was 18 for gay couples, so the lead character was committing an offence – there were complaints but in general the show got rave reviews. The writer, Russell T. Davies, then went on to revitalise “Doctor Who” and create “Torchwood”.

        The series was transmitted in early 1999, when Parliament were discussing LGBT equality; the series première aired on the day the House of Lords was discussing the Sexual Offences Bill 1999, which eventually reduced the age of consent for homosexual couples to 16. The première was controversial, in particular because it depicted the character Nathan, aged 15, in sexual intercourse with an older man; the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom received 136 complaints and the series received criticism from Hunnam’s parents and from activist Mary Whitehouse. The controversy was amplified when the sponsor Beck’s withdrew after several episodes and homosexual activists complained that the series was not representative of gay culture. Nevertheless, the show garnered 3.5 million viewers per episode and a generally positive reaction from fans, and was renewed for a two-episode special due for the following year.

        The main characters are Stuart Allen Jones (Aidan Gillen), who is highly sexually active, and successfully so. His long-time friend Vince Tyler (Craig Kelly), who has a crush on Stuart, has less luck regarding men. 15-year-old Nathan Maloney (Charlie Hunnam) is new to the gay scene but is not lacking in self-confidence.

        The producers say that Queer as Folk, although superficially a realistic depiction of gay urban life in the 1990s, is meant as a fantasy, and that Stuart, Vince, and Nathan are not so much characters as gay male archetypes.

        I suppose the 90s were different?

        • Nornagest says:

          I seem to recall a similar bit in The Vagina Monologues, not exactly a frothingly right-wing piece. It is a fairly old one, though, so maybe “different in the ’90s” has something to it.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          The BBC has had a bit of a pedophile problem itself, and is a full participant in the culture wars in favor of the gay community. Which itself has a large problem providing cover for predators.

          So a BBC series about “gay issues” which normalizes sex with children is, sadly, just something to be expected. We have a similar problem ourselves with Hollywood.

        • lvlln says:

          I only saw the video once out of morbid curiosity, but IIRC, Milo mentioned the age 14. I think he was explaining it in context of that he had a sexual relationship with a man 2x his age when he was 13-16 – in which he described himself as the predator in the relationship – and that he thought such a relationship could be a good thing. I don’t think he was condoning 30 year olds preying on prepubescents.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Daryl Davis is a black man who befriends KKK members, starting from a premise of trying to understand how people can hate him without knowing him, and also meeting people where they are.

    He’s got about 30 KKK robes which were given to him by people who left the KKK.

    There’s been a book by him for a while, but now there’s a movie, available on the PBS site until 2/28.

    Do *not* watch it at Film Lush, they’re scammers.

    http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/videos/accidental-courtesy/

    • Well... says:

      That guy gets my vote for man of the decade.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Here are a couple of reasons (beyond the obvious– that Davis is doing extraordinary work) to watch the movie.

      One is that I suspect he’s doing something subtle that I’m not seeing. Most of what people say is at least somewhat predictable, but when Davis is talking with KKK members or neo-Nazis or whatever, what he says is normal and reasonable, but I couldn’t predict the particular points he would make.

      The other is that this man who can turn KKK members was getting no traction at all (or none that I could see) with BLM members. Now, it’s possible that he’s starting a slow but effective process, or that the BLM conversation that was filmed was under less favorable circumstances (like being filmed), but I suspect that Social Justice is better armored against his sort of approach than old-fashioned racism is.

      • shakeddown says:

        Could be that the fact that hes black is actually a disadvantage with BLM activists. With KKK members, maybe his biggest asset was the ability to give a sympathetic example of a black man.

        For example, one theory of why gay rights came so far so fast is that once gay people became more open, they started being personal examples for people they knew.

        • Loquat says:

          My guess is that a non-angry middle-aged black man telling angry young black men to be less angry and confrontational with white people gets pattern-matched to Uncle Tom. KKK guys don’t, afaik, have a negative stereotype that’s convenient for dismissing a friendly, intelligent, respectable black guy.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s odd to me, but Davis may have more in common culturally speaking with racists his own age or older than with the BLM guys. For example, Davis can bond with older people by being quite a good jazz pianist, but I’ve gotten the impression that there are younger black people who have literally never heard jazz. (This comes up on NPR when a black person talks about discovering jazz as an adult.)

            KKK members have handy stereotypes for dismissing *all* black people. Davis manages to undercut use of the stereotypes some of the time.

            I really think the BLM argument was Davis not operating according to his principles– he wasn’t looking for common ground or meeting people where they are. It wouldn’t surprise me if he finds a way to talk to BLM members.

          • Loquat says:

            Well, I mean, with the KKK guys he’s going “why don’t you sit down and talk with me“, whereas with the BLM guys he’s going “why don’t you sit down and talk with them (white people)”. In the second case he’s not part of the outgroup he’s encouraging his interlocutors to make peace with, so he can’t be a living example of why their preconceptions are wrong.

      • Rob K says:

        What was he trying to convince the BLM members of?

        • Aapje says:

          To stop wearing hood(ie)s?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          You could watch the movie, you know. The BLM bit starts at about 1:05. The time marker doesn’t work if you slide it (ends the movie), but you can estimate about 2/3 of the range and drop it in place.

          He was trying to convince them to talk with white people (including white racists) instead of having a completely oppositional stance.

          He was talking with two black men who thought he was wasting his time on white racists instead of directly helping black people. And when I say “wasting his time”, I mean making a serious mistake that he should be blamed for.

          The conversation blew up. This is the only one where Davis lost his temper.

          If you watch this, I hope you also watch more of the movie to see Davis in his element.

  6. Paul Brinkley says:

    Appropos of the talk above about raising native birthrates: does anyone living in Denmark have any comments about how well this is doing?

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Cypren, here reminds me of something I’ve wondered about. How do competent bosses get their information?

    Formal survellance seems to dispirit people and take up their time and is at risk of being gamed.

    Good bosses get their information somehow, but I’ve never seen this discussed.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      More people naturally open up to those who are genuinely open or caring.

      People naturally feel confident in telling them.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I think I’ve been a good boss over several previous positions. I dealt with the need for accurate information with a three-pronged approach. Listed in order of descending importance:

      1. Make good hiring decisions, and be very choosy at this step. Good choices here will require far less supervision later, while bad choices might lead you into a trap without any good options.

      2. Be kind, transparent, and reliable to your employees. You don’t need to be their friend, necessarily, but you should show reasonable compassion, keep your promises, and be open to them about their performance, their chances of promotion or pay increase, the structure of the company, etc. People respect this, and are likely to be pretty open with you in return, as well as being “kind” to your own goals by working hard, keeping promises, etc.

      3. Informal surveillance. Least important of the lot, but does play a role. Be aware of what people do-but-don’t-say, through third party social contacts, official email logs, random “hey-how-ya-doing” desk drive-by visits, and by sharing their overall workspace (ie, no private office).

    • John Schilling says:

      I mostly just ask my staff. What are you working on, how is it going, what are the biggest problems, what support do you need? Repeat once a week. So long as nobody is overtly lying to me, the biggest issue is someone being too shy or insecure to ask for the support they need, which fortunately isn’t a problem with my current staff. On my end, that’s the most important question to ask, and I need to come through with the support they ask for if I want them to keep being open about it.

      I also ask the customers (broadly speaking) how things are going from their perspective, and whether they are getting the support they need. If the staff were outright lying to me, this is where I’d catch it. More generally, if the customers are happy, my staff is almost by definition doing their job.

      If employees lying to me was a major problem, I’d be looking for a different set of employees or a different job. I do understand that the economy as a whole depends on being able to get useful work even out of people who really rather wouldn’t and are willing to lie in the name of shirking; that’s not my corner of the economy, and I don’t know how managers on that side do it.

    • Cypren says:

      I’ve generally found that the most important thing is to cultivate friendly relationships with people on the ground level of your organization. In any large company that has multiple layers of management, the ladder-climbers have a strong tendency to advance (as I outlined in that post) and it’s very difficult to create a system that successfully selects against socially-skilled but ethically-challenged people gaining status and power. (Just like politics!) As a result, information that filters up to executive management will frequently be full of lies and half-truths designed to make the various managers in the chain seem like heroes and shift blame for anything going wrong elsewhere.

      But the worker bees on the ground know what’s going on and who’s responsible, typically; if a project is failing, people are working long hours, or product requirements are shifting every other day because manager X isn’t actually leading and is just taking every piece of feedback as the new gospel, the workers know about it. The key is to get that information out of them in a way that they feel comfortable telling you and not like they’re risking their own careers.

      Social activities help a lot here. If your division has a soccer league or a foosball night, the VP should definitely play alongside the workers. Go out to dinner with them. Make it clear you’re all in the same team so that they’re comfortable talking to you and don’t see you as some Sauron-like figure hovering over the heads of their captains and warchiefs. You learn more that way than you’ll ever learn by reading the reports of your middle management.

  8. nimim.k.m. says:

    Somewhat relevant to Trump’s “last night in Sweden” speech. True, a couple of nights ago nothing happened, but this night in Sweden there was a (possibly) immigrant riot in Rinkeby, Stockholm.

    SVT: Riot in Rinkeby, the police fires warning shots, one officer lightly wounded. Cars burning, shops looted. Emergency services too scared to enter the area. Google Translate.

    Then the police updated their statement: “They weren’t warning shots, we are just lousy shoots.”Translate.

    SVT is the BBC of Sweden, so naturally the article does not mention that Rinkeby is predominantly immigrant area. Assailants were masked.

    Precognition or time-travel? Discuss!

    • John Nerst says:

      Everybody already knows Rinkeby is a predominantly immigrant area.

    • rlms says:

      Someone theorised about Trump being a time traveller in a previous open thread, so this is just further confirmation of that.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Make America’s future great again!

      • hlynkacg says:

        Listen, Donald Trump has come unstuck in time. Donald has gone to sleep as a octogenarian grandfather and awoken as a young man on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 2017 and come out another one in 1968. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1983. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the moments in between.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Let’s hope he can get Planned Parenthood defunded before the guy who grows up to lead the rebellion against Skynet gets aborted.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          I’m pro-life, but I changed my view a number of years ago. One of the primary reasons I changed [was] a friend of mine’s wife was pregnant, and he didn’t really want the baby. He was crying as he was telling me the story. He ends up having the baby and the baby is the apple of his eye. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him. And you know here’s a baby that wasn’t going to be let into life. And I heard this, and some other stories, and I am pro-life.

          That friend’s name? Kyle Reese

    • Anatoly says:

      Trump isn’t a time-traveler, he’s simply the protagonist in the simulation game that is this universe. Everything is going implausibly well for him because he’s the main hero; all the rest of us are simulated personalities that exist to make it a rich experience for him.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        What would Thiel be, in this scenario?

        • Jaskologist says:

          Proto-morlock. It’s only a matter of time before his thirst for young blood evolves into something a hunger for something more… meaty.

        • Anatoly says:

          Thiel is Thiel, only tweaked to support Trump. Everybody is the same person they are in real life, only copied into the simulation and warped to whatever degree necessary to ensure that Trump has the best experience possible.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I think this actually some sort of politics-themed tabletop roleplaying game. Trump is a min-maxer, who’s taken all sorts of negative traits (Buffoonish, Inarticulate, Orange) to boost his stats in Charisma, Luck and Political Cunning.

        • Randy M says:

          That’s terrible optimization, though. You want to have negative traits that affect abilities you aren’t planning to use much; Inarticulate and Buffoonish penalize Charisma rolls!
          Maybe he had to roll on a chart for disadvantages in return for extra starting wealth and connections?

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ nimim.k.m.
      Then the police updated their statement: “They weren’t warning shots, we are just lousy shoots.”Translate.

      I would suspect hacking somewhere around the Translate process.

      • random832 says:

        I don’t see this quote, and I’m not sure if nimim.k.m. intended it as a literal quote. The article says – Det stämmer, de första uppgifterna var att det var varningsskott, men poliserna sköt mot stenkastarna men missade, säger Tony Lagerkrantz, stationsbefäl vid Solnapolisen. — which seems to translate to ” – That’s right, the first information was that it was warning shots, but the police fired at the stone throwers, but missed, says Tony Lagerkrantz, station officer at the Solna police. ” I don’t actually know Swedish, but it’s similar enough to English to pick out words like “warning shots” and “missed”.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        Yes, I was paraphrasing for the effect, not quoting literally. The updated statement says that they also shot at the people throwing stones and missed, not just warning shots (presumably in the air and meant to miss) as previously reported. In other words, the situation could have ended far worse (rioters dead) than the initial reports suggested.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      I want Trump to go on TV right away and praise that cancer cure they discovered last night in Sweden.

  9. BBA says:

    Today I saw Crystal Pepsi for sale, and I bought a bottle just for the hell of it. It tastes pretty much the same as a normal Pepsi or Coke (tasted a little odd to me, but that’s probably because I’m used to the taste of diet cola). Aside from the novelty of a cola that looks like a 7Up or seltzer there’s really not much to it, and I can see why it failed the first time around.

    Of course it uses the ’90s Pepsi logo and it’s being sold for the nostalgia factor. Next to it there were a few bottles of Diet Pepsi with the ’00s light blue label, advertised as having the “classic sweetener” since current silver-label Diet Pepsi has switched from aspartame to something else. Nostalgia may be lapping itself.

    But reading up on the product is where things get interesting. Coca-Cola responded to Crystal Pepsi with Tab Clear, a nasty cinnamon-flavored diet soda. According to one executive interviewed years later, it was an intentionally unattractive “kamikaze” product meant to tar “clear cola” with the uncoolness of Tab and diet drinks in general. Nobody was supposed to like Tab Clear, and the hope was that they’d associate it with Crystal Pepsi and make it fail too. I don’t know how well this strategy worked versus how much Crystal Pepsi just failed because the novelty wore off, but I’ve never heard of a company trying this before.

    (Contrast New Coke, which despite the rumors was not meant to fail so Classic Coke would bounce back more strongly, nor was it a distraction from the replacement of cane sugar with HFCS in the formula, which happened a couple of years earlier. It was a blunder, plain and simple.)

    • Well... says:

      I’ve heard that the “craft-style” beers put out by Budweiser and Miller serve a similar purpose: they’re intentionally made to taste bad so that people will not be tempted to switch to microbrews. I don’t know if that’s true.

    • Matt M says:

      Wouldn’t that strategy only work if retailers are willing to stock the kamikaze product, and enough customers purchase it such that its horrible taste becomes known to the public in general?

      How exactly does Coke convince Wal-Mart to go along with something like that?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I never heard of “Tab Clear” in the first go-round; when I think of clear beverages of that era it’s Zima (which somehow became popular despite the terrible taste) and Crystal Pepsi.

      I don’t think the major brewers craft-style beers are intended to taste bad. Blue Moon isn’t notable for being terrible, nor Killians, for instance.

      • BBA says:

        An ad for Tab Clear. For me this slips into Poe’s Law territory – you can’t tell if they sincerely thought this would make people buy their soda or they were trying to make clear cola seem ridiculous.

        The “kamikaze” explanation comes from Sergio Zyman, who may have just been trying to make himself look good. He was the man behind two other big flops out of the Coca-Cola Co.: New Coke and OK Soda. (On the other hand, he also came up with Fruitopia. There’s a thought for a nostalgia campaign – maybe they could bring back a ’90s product people actually liked during the ’90s.)

    • random832 says:

      Aside from the novelty of a cola that looks like a 7Up or seltzer there’s really not much to it, and I can see why it failed the first time around.

      One thing that I didn’t consciously notice until you made this comparison, even though it was true the first time around… it really doesn’t look like 7up. It is (and was) sold in a clear (uncolored) bottle. Clear sodas otherwise tend to be sold in green bottles, even though most other sodas are sold in clear bottles. A clear liquid in a clear bottle, nothing else looks like that except water. EDIT: Or some brands of cream soda, I guess. (which weakens the point)

      Not sure whether it means anything, just something that might have affected how it was perceived (people expecting it to taste even more “clear”?)

      • BBA says:

        Seltzer comes in clear bottles, but it’s almost never drunk straight out of the bottle.

      • random832 says:

        The other odd thing is, while most sodas that come in green bottles (not all of which are clear – squirt is cloudy white and mountain dew is green) are citrus flavored, not all are lime flavored (squirt and fresca are grapefruit flavored, mountain dew is nondescript but contains orange juice)

        I also remember one of the ‘uncanny valley’ aspects of the alternative 7-up flavor “dnL” was that it was green and was in a clear bottle.

        I doubt there’s a deeper meaning to any of this, just weird unspoken cultural assumptions about how products are packaged.

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    My best guess is that most people don’t have a strong desire to have children. It was good enough for evolution that people like sex and are mostly willing to raise such children as they’ve got.

    Until recently, the lack of large scale support for old people meant that there was a practical reason to have a lot of children. (It doesn’t matter whether the support is government programs or pensions.)

    Also, the desire for grandchildren may be stronger than the desire for children. When adults were in closer contact with their parents, it was easier to apply effective pressure.

    Of course, the big deal is availability of birth control.

    One added pressure against having children these days is parents competing with each other for how much time and money they can put into their children.

    I’m not sure what can be done– getting back to the discussion above, perhaps more can be done to teach parents how to have good relationships with their children. I think a fair amount has already been done along those lines– my impression is that the younger people I know are much less likely to hate their parents than people from my generation, and more likely to have good relationships.

    In the bad old days, it was just considered normal for parents to use their children as emotional dumping grounds. There were limits, but they were pretty wide.

    However, it’s plausible that the good relationships make life better, but just with one or two children.

    It’s possible that the human race is going through a bottleneck– people who want children, whether for genetic or memetic reasons– are going to outbreed people who don’t want children. There could be a second demographic transition, but this time towards larger families.

    • Civilis says:

      My best guess is that most people don’t have a strong desire to have children. It was good enough for evolution that people like sex and are mostly willing to raise such children as they’ve got.

      Could it be that the change is that now there are other desirable options that are not as readily available once you have children? In the past you might not have had options for entertainment that would have given you a reason for putting off children. It might also explain why people are having children starting later in life; they’re starting to get to the point where age and maturity is starting to limit what they can do, so having a child blocks off less options.

      The friends I know who have kids are now limited in choice of entertainment by their children’s schedules. It’s also worse now in that you are expected to be constantly supervising your children when they are not at school to a far greater extent than when I was growing up. It also might be that there’s a point when enough of the people around you have children that having children yourself opens up more options than it takes away.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There are a bunch of changes, though I believe the tremendous increase in entertainment for adults happened after the big drop in the birthrate.

        It’s possible that fewer adults having children– and adults having fewer childrne– is part of what drove the increase in entertainment for adults.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Well it is obvious that the genes of people who want children will be selected for in future generations. I don’t think there is any possibility of humans dying out for lack of interest.

      For the record, I have kids and I can’t imagine going through life without having kids. I find it hard to believe that a majority of folks don’t feel pretty much the same. And I think most people do have kids, and with the effectiveness of contraception these days, I think that shows that most people do want kids.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “Well it is obvious that the genes of people who want children will be selected for in future generations.”

        But what else is selected for with that desire? To quote a different post on the topic from the blogger I linked earlier,

        As near as I can tell, in purely descriptive terms, what is being selected for is being from the third world, having low impulse control, and being religious.

        What is being selected against is being rich, being western, planning one’s life choices carefully, and preferences that emphasize high investment in each child.

        Of course, this trend can’t last forever. The conditions that have produced the very environment of permanent calorie surplus seem unlikely to survive when the population becomes poor, third world and with low impulse control. But you probably don’t want to be around to see what that looks like – it’s kleptocratic third world famine, if there were no western countries to provide food aid. Things will get much, much worse before nature causes them to automatically get better again, when civilizational traits once again become eugenic.

        If you, like me, value the ideas and culture of the West, then the decline of western populations has to be reversed. Without it, the traits that define the west simply become smaller and smaller among the population. It is possible that those western traits that are purely cultural in nature may still be passed on socially to the remaining population, even if they come from different demographic backgrounds. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The strategy is on brilliant display in the efforts by Republicans to convince Hispanics to vote for them. I leave you to judge its success for yourself.

  11. There is an interesting article on how recent campaigns, in particular the Trump campaign, have used the tools provided by social media and the internet more generally, to get the process of targeting ads down to the individual level. The approach uses information about individuals relevant to what sort of argument will persuade them, largely obtained via Facebook, and feedback at the individual level, seeing what worked with someone in order to decide what to try on him next.

    The author is concerned with the effects of the technology on democracy, partly perhaps because the current cutting edge work seems to be being done mostly for conservative clients, but it isn’t clear that it changes much from the older and cruder technologies used for similar purposes.

    The same technologies have obvious implications for commercial advertising.

    I had a blog post on it, thought people might be interested in discussing it here.

    • Matt M says:

      Interesting. It seems like a few short months ago I was questioning the notion that Hillary’s campaign was clearly better at using data while Trump was relying on the crude dark arts of “persuasion” and various individuals here were insisting to me that this HAD to be the case, because silicon valley leans liberal and such….

  12. Evan Þ says:

    Re “What Universal Human Experiences Are You Missing?:

    For perhaps the first time in my life, I have felt viscerally offended by someone online stating a theoretical position: the Roman Catholic Church, saying my parents’ marriage is invalid because my mother (who was baptized as an infant in the Roman Church but left upon adulthood) neglected (years later, after coming back to Christianity and joining a Protestant church) to ask Rome’s permission to get married in a Protestant service. This does follow from their premises, and it’d have near-zero practical consequences; in the astronomically-unlikely instance that either of my parents joined the Roman Catholic Church, I’m told marriages can be “convalidated” as a matter of course.

    But still, I feel extremely offended.

    • Randy M says:

      Can Catholic commenters clarify if the RCC thinks all non-Catholic marriages are invalid? Otherwise it doesn’t seem a very consistent position, if that is the only reason given.

      That said, I don’t see why a non-Catholic would care.

      • Evan Þ says:

        From my reading, they say that if you’ve been baptized Catholic, you need to get married in a Catholic church or go through the process and get a dispensation. If you haven’t been baptized Catholic (e.g. me, baptized Protestant), they don’t care as long as you marry one person of the opposite sex.

        And I’m not totally sure why I care. As far as I can tell, it’s because they’re just close enough to me that I consider them heretics instead of outgroup… but even then, when they say contraception is a sin and second marriages after divorce aren’t valid, I don’t mind. Maybe it’s just that I don’t get offended on behalf of Hypothetical Future Contracepting Self, or on behalf of the divorced members of my extended family?

        • Randy M says:

          To me it seems like trying to have it both ways–if they can require Catholics to get married in a Catholic service, then is a $CatholicMarriage or regular marriage?

          It’d be like saying, if you have been baptized, you need to have confession to be saved, but if you are not Catholic you are saved automatically or just by dint of feeling remorseful after major sins.

          Also, if someone is no longer practicing, indeed has converted to another sect, then why do the Catholic requirements still apply?

          But still, it’s of an intellectual disagreement; I don’t see any reason to get “offended” by it any more than a vegan accusing meat-eaters of murder.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But still, it’s of an intellectual disagreement; I don’t see any reason to get “offended” by it any more than a vegan accusing meat-eaters of murder.

            You’re logically right; I should be offended by both or neither.

            But – as far as I can remember, for the very first time – my emotions refuse to cooperate, and I am indeed offended.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I mean, you’re talking about sacramental validity, right? Protestants don’t get Catholic sacraments, I don’t see why you think they should. The opposite position also offends people, like when Mormons nonconsensually posthumously baptize people. I think on the whole it is better if people keep their sacred rites within their own communities of worship, and providing an easy method of sacramentalizing your marriage when you convert seems like a good compromise.

      • random832 says:

        I mean, you’re talking about sacramental validity, right? Protestants don’t get Catholic sacraments, I don’t see why you think they should.

        I mean, all western religions seem to have some concept of which sexual relationships between people of other religions are “marriages” and which are living in sin. The claim seems to be that an ex-Catholic* who has a non-catholic marriage is not married and therefore will go to hell for fornication**, not merely that they don’t have the magic Catholic pixie dust.

        * in this case it’s someone regarded as having been catholic on the basis of a baptism but no adult practice of the religion, but I’m not sure it’s important.

        **a status that does not apply to other protestant marriages

        • suntzuanime says:

          Just leaving the Catholic Church is enough to send you to hell though, right? In principle, though of course the ways of God are mysterious? When you convert to Protestantism you’re turning your back on God’s grace, that’s a big nono. And if you do reconvert obviously you’re going to realign yourself with God. Does it really matter if you go to hell for fornication or for mockery of the Holy Eucharist?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Sure, because there’s still the question of which level of Hell you land on. The lustful just get blown around by wind a lot. Mockers of the Holy Eucharist might land on levels 6 or 8, which are way worse. l2Dante

          • suntzuanime says:

            Right, so the main problem is being Protestant to begin with, not any bureaucratic oversights regarding your marriage. Although I am fairly confident that The Divine Comedy is not actual Catholic doctrine.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You can’t prove a negative, so you can’t prove that Divine Comedy is not Catholic doctrine.

      • quanta413 says:

        I understand intellectually the complaints about Mormons posthumously baptizing people, but it’s also pretty interesting in that unlike a lot of other religious restrictions it’s sort of forced inclusion instead of exclusion.

        Being an atheist and thinking that I simply cease to exist when I die, but not being 100% certain about this, I can’t help but feel that I’d prefer a theoretical world where all religions were really into this posthumous baptism thing. It gives me a chance to have my cake and eat it too. Then again, my vague thirdhand understanding of Mormon theology on the afterlife is that it’s rather nicer to nonbelievers than most Protestant sects already…

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ quanta413

          If Mormons are the only ones offering cake after death, that’s one situation. But if others religions do it too, that could make for some interesting competitions on the Styx. Oh dear….

    • Zephalinda says:

      If it helps, I’m pretty sure that this reaction is based on a fundamental misinterpretation of the nature of a sacrament in Catholicism. You’re treating it like a certificate of honor or status: we get “offended” when we feel someone’s refused to pay us a measure of social respect to which we were entitled, so your being offended over this suggests that you feel like the Church is insulting your parents by refusing to treat their marriage with the same honor that it does other marriages. Kinda like when a friend comes to hear your band in concert and is like, “Eh, that’s not a real metal band,” and the natural reaction is like SCREW YOU YES IT IS TOO REAL METAL.

      But insofar as I understand the Catholic doctrine around sacraments (disclaimer: IANAcanonlawyer), the idea is that they’re not merit certificates or social honors, but outward signs of an actual change in the state of a person’s soul. Grace “does” the sacrament, the Catholic church just tries to figure out the forms through which it occurs– a decent analogy would, I guess, be the case where a physician administers a vaccine, but your body’s developing immunity as a result is a separate (linked) phenomenon. Because that interior change has important consequences if it did take place, many of the complicated rules surrounding valid and invalid sacraments are focused on figuring out whether anything metaphysical actually did happen or not– so, less like “Your band didn’t play real metal at that concert,” and more like “I’m pretty sure the vaccine wouldn’t produce real immunity under those conditions,” which is not at all an insulting statement and something your doctor would be obligated to tell you if she honestly believed it to be true.

      AFAIK doctrines surrounding the validity and invalidity of sacraments are entirely separate from judgments of value concerning people and social roles– a priest can boil babies and take a poo on the altar, and the church can laicize him with extreme prejudice and universally agree in deeming him a right bastard, but if he was validly ordained he’s held to still concretely have some “mark” of holy orders on his soul whether or not he’ll ever be let within miles of a parish again. Similarly, there have been historical cases of terrible, universally-not-respected marriages that were nonetheless sacramentally valid and thus held to have real (though unfortunate) spiritual consequences. The difference is in whether you view the religion as a system for assigning purely social honors, or a way of navigating what are held to be actual metaphysical realities, in the same way medicine does physical ones.

      Also, I’m fairly sure most golden-age Protestant theologians would consider it a badge of honor to have one’s marriage unrecognized by the Catholic Church. So there’s that!

      • Evan Þ says:

        Thanks, but I think you’re confusing a few points. As I understand it, if I got married tomorrow to another lifelong Protestant, and converted to Catholicism next week, they’d receive me as married without any convalidation required: two Protestants got married, no problem. Conversely, if I got divorced in the meantime and then converted, they’d say I was still married: marriage between two Protestants (or any other non-Catholics, for that matter) is a very real thing.

        The difference is that if someone got baptized Catholic as an infant and then got married outside the Catholic Church, suddenly the answers to both these scenarios change: they would need to get their marriage convalidated, and if they got divorced, they could remarry because the first marriage (in Rome’s eyes) wasn’t even real.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      who was baptized as an infant in the Roman Church but left upon adulthood

      Was she confirmed? I’m not a Catholic, and really don’t know much about their traditions and laws. But what you claim seems unlikely just because of a baptism-as-a-baby. It seems likely it would also take an adult, freely chosen, confirmation.

      • littskad says:

        This happened to my wife and me, so I can tell you my story here.
        My wife was baptized as a Roman Catholic soon after she was born, apparently to please her father’s mother. However, her mother was a Baptist, and her father didn’t practice, so she was raised Baptist, but was never enthusiastic about it.
        I was raised Lutheran, and still am actively Lutheran. So, when we married, we were married by a Lutheran pastor. Twenty years and four children later, my wife converted to Roman Catholicism (apparently Lutheranism is a gateway drug). While undergoing the requisite conversion classes, she learned that since she was baptized a Roman Catholic, the Roman Catholic church would not consider our marriage valid, since it had not been officiated by a Roman Catholic priest (a “canonical impediment”). As a consequence, communion was withheld from her until this could be rectified.
        Her parish priest told us that the thing to do was to have our marriage officially recognized by “renewal of consent”. That is, he would marry us, and our marriage would be officially recognized by the Roman Catholic church from that time forward. My position was that our marriage was already valid, and if the Roman Catholic church couldn’t recognize that, it was the Roman Catholic church’s mistake and not ours. (Fortunately, my wife understood, and really agreed, although she would have been fine with just doing what the priest wanted to do and move on.)
        The priest would have simply left it at that, but I figured even the Roman Catholic church can’t be that bone-headed, so I went and looked through the canon law on the subject myself. That’s when I found out about “radical sanation”, in which the bishop (apparently even the pope himself may be necessary in extreme cases) can revalidate the marriage “by reason of consent formerly given”, and then the marriage is considered valid ab initio. It required paperwork and witness statements and the assistance of a canon lawyer, but essentially we went over the parish priest’s head, and the deed was done. (Fortunately, that priest has since been reassigned, and the current priest is much better.) I joke with my wife that she’s stuck with me now, since she can never get our marriage annulled now that a bishop has officially recognized it, and I have the paperwork to prove it.

  13. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Immigration restrictionists: Can you think of any set of criteria such that, if a potential immigrant meets all those criteria, they should be allowed to immigrate?

    Motivation: part of what makes immigration regimes seem unjust is that they are arbitrary by design – lots of lotteries and quotas. I’d like to know what a restrictionist agenda would look like that sets clear criteria for admission which are under the control of the individual.

    My guess, but I’m not a restrictionist and I suspect I’m off:
    (a) pass a language exam e.g. 90 on the TOEFL
    (b) no criminal record
    (c) pay a one time fee equal to a year of median income, either to pay for government services or just to prove you have the skills needed to make money
    (e) Publicly spit on a selection of holy books to show you are not a fanatic

    • Jiro says:

      I don’t think (e) will work. Fanatics aren’t that stupid. They’ll justify it to themselves just like they justify going out to see strippers before committing terrorism. And you left out (d).

      (a) will never work because of children, family reunification, etc. Some limits should be put on extended family family reunification, but that’s a problem in Europe and I don’t know enough about European immigration problems to really make suggestions here.

      (c) may help but is completely impractical because of refugees. Perhaps what you need are two separate sets of restrictions, one for economic immigrants and one for refugees.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I would fight to the metaphorical death against any regime that includes (e) and interprets it to always include the immigrant’s own holy book. I would be blocked by that standard, as would millions of my fellow Christians (and millions of Muslims and Jews too) who would never do anything remotely like terrorism. There’s far too much collateral damage.

      Also, I’d be extremely reluctant to impose (c) as a requirement to immigrate. For citizenship several years after immigration – or even for permanent residency – it might be fine. But as it is, you’re asking the prospective immigrant to earn $50,000 disposable income while living in his old country… and in a lot of countries with lower standard of living, that’s basically impossible.

      All this said, I like the idea of a more predictable system with requirements under individual control. But you’re going to need to change the requirements a whole lot.

    • gbdub says:

      Playing off hog^5’s comment above: Immigration less-restrictionists, but not open-borders advocates, what immigration restrictions do you support, and more importantly, what enforcement mechanisms are you okay with using?

      Motivation: Many people seem to agree The Wall won’t be particularly effective, but at the same time deporting anybody who’s not a convicted serial killer gets a ton of negative coverage. Basically I’ve noticed some wishy-washiness: Democrats aren’t pushing for open borders explicitly, or even substantially loosening legal immigration restrictions, but they do want to make it increasingly difficult to prevent illegal immigration or the current population of unauthorized immigrants.

      • Brad says:

        I know there’s a lot of distrust on the restrictionist side regarding amnesties, and I think that distrust is somewhat justified. Nonetheless as a non-open borders but generally pro-immigration person I think any solution has to involve a distinction between the stock and the flow.

        While I think a literal wall is simply not very cost effective, I have no problem with a more reasonable version of the same. And I think it would be very reasonable to couple some sort of earned legalization for the stock with much more effective enforcement against companies that utilize black and gray market labor. Dry up the jobs and you dry up the flow.

        I’d also like to see things like crackdowns on the H1B body shops that everyone agrees are a problem except their clients, the enforcement of affidvaits of support, more scrutiny of bogus asylum claims, and similar.

        I’m all for an expansive immigration policy — including the unskilled labor that we clearly need, the high skill labor that increases the size of the pie, and a humane and generous refugee policy. But I want it to be orderly, not have winners be whoever can lie, cheat, or steal their way in. I realize that a strict application of those principles would suggest deporting the stock too, but I think that is neither practical nor humane.

        • gbdub says:

          I agree there needs to be a distinction between the “stock” and the “flow” in a practical sense, but there seems to be a push to treat anyone who gets a foot down as “stock” and to treat efforts to enforce existing law strictly (even for new immigrants) as racist. See “sanctuary cities”. How do we avoid that, and the obvious consequence of that policy, serial amnesties?

          The wall is somewhat attractive in that the border itself seems to be the one place Democrats are comfortable enforcing immigration law.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure that your characterization is fair, at least not beyond the fringes. Cubans had a wet foot / dry foot policy exactly as you describe — one foot in and you were home free. Obama eliminated the policy and for the rest turned a lot of people back at or near the border. Those people at or near the border were counted as deported and then there was a whole debate about whether that was accurate, but I don’t think anyone disagrees about the underlying fact that Obama was not slacking as compared to GWB at the southern border.

            As for sanctuary cities, I think there’s two issues.

            One, immigration policy really isn’t a city’s problem. The federalism thing works both ways. If you don’t think a city should have to enforce the nation’s drug laws, why should they have to enforce the nation’s immigration laws? At the local level there really are trade-offs in terms of cooperation from the communities. Let the federal government hire people to enforce federal law.

            Two, stocks and flows. ICE isn’t making a distinction. Cities might be more willing to cooperate if it was about drying up flows than they are if they are being asked to go after people embedded in these cities for long periods of time.

            As a general note, I find your comments such as “seems to be a push … racist” and “the one place Democrats are comfortable …” as examples of unhelpful and inaccurate sweeping generalization about the left that occurs here with some frequency.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not intending to make sweeping generalizations of the left – in this case I’m strictly limiting myself to what appears to be the consensus view of the Democratic Party and their immediate supporters, as I’m exposed to them (less so here – which is why I’m seeking a more nuanced response precisely among this forum!)

            Do you deny that “opposing illegal immigration is racist (or ‘lacks compassion’ or ‘is against American values’)” is a common Democratic talking point? I really don’t want to paint with an overbroad brush, but pretending that’s not part of the ongoing rhetoric is also unhelpful.

            I’m aware of the wet foot / dry foot policy, and that Obama stopped it. That this (and his border enforcement that got tracked as deportment) went off largely without comment supports my statement that Democrats are largely more supportive of border enforcement than deportation from the interior.

            I buy the federalism argument for sanctuary cities to some degree (though I do think there’s a line between “not actively cooperating” and “actually obstructing” worth talking about).

            But I’m not interested in sanctuary cities per se so much as what policies you’d support that would make them in your view unnecessary. (In this case “you” applies to anyone who thinks our current policies are too restrictive but open borders are not restrictive enough).

            EDIT: I’ll admit I was potentially overbroad on “stock vs flow”. So where do you draw the distinction? How long must someone be here before they are “stock” (presumably deserving of amnesty in your view) vs. “flow” (those you’d be okay with deporting, if I’m reading you right)?

          • Brad says:

            I’m not intending to make sweeping generalizations of the left

            Fair enough. I’m making an attempt to point these things out regularly and calmly instead of rarely and nastily.

            Do you deny that “opposing illegal immigration is racist (or ‘lacks compassion’ or ‘is against American values’)” is a common Democratic talking point? I really don’t want to paint with an overbroad brush, but pretending that’s not part of the ongoing rhetoric is also unhelpful.

            I don’t agree. I think suggesting that all the illegal immigrants already in the country be deported is branded with ‘lacks compassion’ or ‘is against American values’ along with something like wanting to cut the number of refugees. Xenophobia may also be thrown in there.

            Racism, in my experience, seems to be reserved for those that want to focus in on Mexicans as if they were the only illegal immigrants and imply or outright state that Mexicans in general or Mexican illegal immigrants in particular are pervasively or uniquely terrible people.

            But I’m not interested in sanctuary cities per se so much as what policies you’d support that would make them in your view unnecessary. (In this case “you” applies to anyone who thinks our current policies are too restrictive but open borders are not restrictive enough).

            EDIT: I’ll admit I was potentially overbroad on “stock vs flow”. So where do you draw the distinction? How long must someone be here before they are “stock” (presumably deserving of amnesty in your view) vs. “flow” (those you’d be okay with deporting, if I’m reading you right)?

            I was alive in 1986, but I wasn’t politically aware. Clearly the law that was supposed to couple an amnesty with effective controls going forward didn’t work. Was it foreseeable at the time that it wouldn’t work? Is it a problem with the law that was passed or the way it was enforced? These are questions I don’t know the answers to, but am interested in.

            Nothing we do is going to stop all illegal immigration, but I think we could do a lot better. In particular, I think we could do a lot more to dry up the demand for off the books labor. Companies and company owners have a lot more to lose than a poor desperate illegal immigrant trying to cross the border. Send some farmers, restaurateurs, and landscaping moguls to prison and you’ll see their fellow business owners sit up and take notice.

            Exactly who in the current stock should be able to take advantage of earned legalization is a tricky question. I don’t have a good solid answer I can defend. The dreamer that was brought here as a two year old and just got admitted to Harvard, yes, the guy caught 100 miles from the border he crossed last week definitely no.

            Likewise what we should do in the steady state about people that do manage to enter under the new regime and stick around for long stretches of time is another thorny question. I would hope we’d be talking about a much smaller number, but it wouldn’t’ be zero.

            If you take nothing else away from this exchange, I’d hope that you’d take away that “build a wall” pushes people away that are open to the idea of trying to stop people from illegally entering the U.S.

        • Wrong Species says:

          And what about sanctuary cities that don’t want to comply with enforcement?

          • Brad says:

            What about them? It isn’t NYC’s job to enforce federal immigration law anymore than it is Seattle’s job to enforce federal drug law.

            If you want to abolish the federal system, get rid of the Senate and the Electoral College and go to unitary system, well I’ll certainly keep an open mind to any proposal you might offer.

            Instead of playing chicken with the economic engines of the country why don’t the Republicans make E-Verify mandatory already? Or issue a social security card that has more security against duplication than a typical library card?

          • Wrong Species says:

            So you would be ok with states not enforcing labor or environmental laws? What about a state that decided not to recognize gay marriages? It cuts both ways.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think states enforce federal labor law. At least not to any great extent. And I’m fine with that.

            I’m not sure about environmental law. I think there’s some kind of thing where states can have their own rules instead of the federal rules but have to submit them for approval? To be honest I don’t remember the details or never knew them in the first place.

            But anyway, yes I’m fine with a strict interpretation of the anti-commandeering doctrine. If federalism means anything it means that city cops answer to the agenda of the mayor, not the president. Doesn’t mean that they can themselves violate federal law, but they aren’t federal law enforcement. If we need more FBI agents, then we should hire more FBI agents not draft the NYPD.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I want you to keep this in mind the next time a conservative state decides not to enforce a federal rule because I honestly don’t believe this is a principled stand on your part.

          • John Schilling says:

            I want you to keep this in mind the next time a conservative state decides not to enforce a federal rule because I honestly don’t believe this is a principled stand on your part.

            The rules that conservative states might not want to enforce, e.g. environmental protection or gun control, are rules where the federal government has already taken over the bulk of the enforcement. I don’t think there is any parallel to the situation where the federal government e.g. bans marijuana but doesn’t immediately arrest anyone running a dispensary.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            How convenient for Brad.

          • Brad says:

            I believe you had a late edit in regarding gay marriage. I don’t remember seeing it there when I replied originally. Between that and your more recent comment, I think perhaps you don’t understand the anti-commandeering doctrine and how it differs from nullification. If you hadn’t accused me of lying about what I believe I might elaborate, but as it stands you can do your own research.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think you’re lying. It’s the same way that people who complained about Obamas golf sessions but are silent about Trumps weren’t lying then. It’s just that principles tend to be forgotten when it’s “my side” doing something.

            For what it’s worth, I’ll concede to conflating nullification and anti-commandeering.

          • random832 says:

            @Wrong Species

            I want you to keep this in mind the next time a conservative state decides not to enforce a federal rule because I honestly don’t believe this is a principled stand on your part.

            My take is, I don’t believe it’s a principled stand on anyone’s part (but the conservatives shot first). Some laws are good and should be enforced, others are bad and should not be enforced, and anyone who cares about some law being enforced or not will take what they can get on who’s doing the enforcing/obstructing.

            If you don’t believe that (marijuana / illegal immigration / gay marriage / guns / the environment) is actually good or bad, then what’s the point of obsessing over what size unit of government has authority over what area?

            No-one who supports sanctuary cities was supporting Arizona’s extralegal immigration enforcement games, or vice versa, because they care about the issue, not about state vs federal. State vs federal has been nothing more than a smokescreen since 1865.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            (deleted my old comment because it was stupid and duplicative)

            When someone you don’t like is elected President, that’s when you really want “we are ruled by law, not ruled by man.”

            But we can’t have “rule by law” if laws are ignored when inconvenient.

            I know most people flip on issues regardless of the law. They should not be celebrated nor encouraged. We need to get more people into the “rule of law” camp, not abandon it. Remember, some day you might really hate who is President!

            (You don’t have to accept that all laws are just. But when you weaken the rule of law in your favor, you are also weakening the rule of law not in your favor. See of course A Man For All Seasons.)

            I guess I’m more deontological than I thought.

          • My take is, I don’t believe it’s a principled stand on anyone’s part

            (About federalism)

            It may depend on what you mean by a principled stand.

            You can be in favor of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” even though you also wish a particular criminal who is going to get off under that standard would be convicted and punished.

            Similarly here. You can believe that having decisions made at the state level whenever the decision of one state has most of its effects on inhabitants of the state is a good policy because, on average, it produces better outcomes, even if there are particular cases where you prefer the outcome of having the decision made at the federal level instead.

    • gbdub says:

      Answering hog^5’s question: Certainly anybody who did all those things should be allowed to immigrate, but they seem pretty over the top.

      I’d be fine with anyone (with no upper limit) with a demonstrated ability to produce income / not be a burden on the state, placed on a say 5-year probationary period, at the end of which they’d be expected to demonstrate familiarity with US law etc. and that they’d integrated into the community (the last part is fuzzy, but I basically mean “aren’t an itinerant hobo”, and have the recommendation of some naturalized citizens). Also that they’d been employed for the majority of the time (or lived with a head-of-household who was), were not delinquent on their taxes (or maybe their private debts as well), and had not been convicted of any felonies. During the 5-year period they’d be ineligible for most benefits (but their kids could attend public school).

      At any point during the 5 years they get one free-return: we’ll ship you back to your home country at low or no cost to you, but if you try to re-immigrate you have to wait 5 years and start the process over.

      Jus soli would not apply to any child born to the probationary immigrant. Deportation for those failing probation would be humane but strict. We would enforce the border and visa overstays more strictly as well.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I will summarize my favorite idea from your response to make sure I understand:

        “Rather than making the immigration bottleneck be getting a green card, make the bottleneck “graduating” from green card to citizenship, put a hard time limit on “graduation”, and don’t apply jus soli for children of green card holders to avoid hacking.”

        (Note that this could result in a large number of foreigners with no real intention to assimilate.)

        • gbdub says:

          Basically that, yes. I would structure the requirements as much as possible to encourage assimilation, though I’m personally fuzzy on what that would actually look like.

          I should also add that I’d favor much stricter enforcement of employment laws, and harsher punishments for offending employers.

      • random832 says:

        Jus soli would not apply to any child born to the probationary immigrant.

        What if their country of origin has Jus soli and this would make the child stateless?

      • Kevin C. says:

        Jus soli would not apply to any child born to the probationary immigrant.”

        Jus soli is part of the Citizenship Clause of the 14 Amendment, and would require Constitutional amendment to remove:

        “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

        (See also US v. Wong Kim Ark.)

        • gbdub says:

          Didn’t claim it was practical or easy, but the so-called “anchor baby” is a problem. Taking the parents away from a child is always going to be a tough sell. Changing or re-interpreting the 14th Amendment (there’s the “under the jurisdiction of” hook in there to play with) is probably easier.

          To random832’s question, how many, if any, states are exclusively jus soli? I can’t think of any offhand. Most children would be citizens of wherever their immigrant parent is from.

          • Randy M says:

            Taking the parents away from a child is always going to be a tough sell.

            This is silly. If you deport alien parents with a citizen son or daughter, the obvious answer is that they take their son or daughter with them and raise them in their home, not that you split them up. Then, assuming we retain the silly current interpretation of birthright citizenship, he can come back when he wants to seek his fortune in the land of his birth.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Note that, AFAIK, Randy’s system is the one currently in force.

            (Alternatively, if the citizen child has non-illegal-immigrant relatives in the US, he can stay with them. Which is also a good thing.)

          • gbdub says:

            That’s one solution, but is going to get spun as deporting a citizen, and there’s the potential difficulty of the home state not re-accepting the child (but it’s likely the child would have jus sanguinus status there). Personally I still think them getting automatic citizenship rights when they come of age is still going to encourage a lot of baby tourism (and inevitable begging for “family reunification”), which is a negative. But yeah, probably easier than changing the 14th amendment overall.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The big problem is that it’s unjust to discriminate against someone on the basis of ethnicity, which becomes innate in early childhood, yet ethnic groups are cultures that vary in crime statistics, work ethic, etc.
      Also, the native working class may have real grievances against a “reserve army of labor” even if the immigrants are as law-abiding and industrious as themselves. One can, I think, empathize with this without accepting the ridiculous racism it can lead to.*

      *See “… Chinaman sitting on a railroad fence, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.” Curse those thrifty Chinese laborers!

      There’s no easy solution to this, even in a better world where we didn’t have to deal with the specific problem of Muslim immigration.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        While I agree with you, part of the game is to figure out “what can convince me, a person who believes that Arab Muslims are disproportionately likely to blow something up for nonsensical reasons, a Vietnamese is particularly likely to out-compete me, and a Frenchman is particularly likely to fatally corrupt Western civilization, that this particular Arab Muslim/Vietnamese/Frenchman is good to be around?” I think there should exist practical answers that can convince even true xenophobes.

      • When you view these ‘deep philosophical and ethical’ debates as simply a network of simulated machines trying to estimate a function with severe collinearity (i.e. what you noted with ethnic groups and cultures varying together), it really kills lots of the ‘profound insights’ behind ethical philosophy.

        It’s also awkward when you think about how it takes more work to disentangle phenomena, and different people vary on dimensions of both IQ/ability, and time/interest to research. For some it’s ‘Muslim immigrants’ for that same view, but refined at a higher IQ level, it’s a cultural clash between liberal Europeans and North African Muslims. The more time you invest, the more you can refine and sharpen your view.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      If I was chosen as one of Trump’s New Founding Fathers*, I’d probably use a two-pronged approach to citizenship as follows:

      A. A genetic test to show that you’re a member of one of the major demographics present in 1776 (English, Scots-Irish, Dutch, German, African-American freedmen) or a native American / Alaskan / Hawaiian / etc. Then pass a basic test of English literacy and American civics, plus a background check. Finally, pledge allegiance to the flag and obtain citizenship.

      B. Honorable discharge from any branch of the US Military or a (revived) Civilian Public Service unit.

      *Not so sure about his 28th amendment though…

    • Wrong Species says:

      Motivation: part of what makes immigration regimes seem unjust is that they are arbitrary by design – lots of lotteries and quotas.

      Is the possibility that who I let in my home is arbitrarily decided make it unjust that I don’t let in everybody? There is no right to enter the country. It isn’t in the Constitution. If we decided that not a single other person should be allowed to immigrate to this country then that’s our prerogative. Now we do want immigration, at least to some extent, but we don’t need to justify ourselves.

      • Randy M says:

        And if we decided we needed x thousands upright young new citizens, and there are 100 million people who are interested in filling those positions, we are going to end up with some arbitrary rewards, no matter how objective we try to make the criteria.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Auction them off.

          • Randy M says:

            That would be a perfectly fair solution, but seems like it would rub progressives the wrong way. No more accepting poor and huddled masses, huh? Picture cartoons of the statue of liberty with overflowing bags of gold demanding the widow’s mite.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I don’t need to believe that there is a right to enter the country, in order to believe that it would be more just if our system were more responsive to the actions of the individuals whom it affects. In fact you can believe as a matter of meta-ethics that rights don’t exist, and live in a failed state with no constutional rights, and still believe that some states of affairs are more just than others.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I have no idea what that has to do with immigration.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Nothing. I’d have the same response to any argument of the following form:

            There is no right to XXXXX. It isn’t in the Constitution. If we decided that not a single other person should be allowed to XXXXX then that’s our prerogative. Now we do want XXXXX, at least to some extent, but we don’t need to justify ourselves.

        • hlynkacg says:

          …some states of affairs are more just than other.

          You actually need to make that case though. Why should a 3rd party consider your preferred state of affairs “more just” than any other?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            My only intended claim so far has been that, all else being equal, a law is more just if the consequences for the individual it affects are somehow related to the individuals’ actions, rather than to a lottery or to the actions of demographically similar individuals. That is a non-obvious claim and people can disagree with it, but I’d rather save that for future meta-jurisprudence thread rather than an immigration thread.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @hog

            Do you think it is unjust that who I let in my home is arbitrarily decided?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @Wrong Species

            Yes, actually.

            As a matter of fact I doubt it is arbitrary – probably you let your friends into your house. If there is not much room at your house, due to a party for example, probably you are more likely to let in your better friends, or the ones who enjoy parties more.

            Furthermore, if you didn’t act this way, I would consider it suboptimal bordering on immoral. Someone who rolled dice on January 1st to figure out which friends to ignore that year would widely be considered a jerk (all else being equal, of course: maybe she’s running a controlled experiment).

          • Wrong Species says:

            Ok so I decide to throw a party. I throw an invite and 100 people RSVP, even though I don’t know all of them. I only have room for 30 people and only personally know 10 of them. Let’s assume that I have good reason to believe that none of these people are significantly better than the others.

            So just to be clear, if I decide to leave the other 20 positions up to chance, you think this is an unjust situation? I’m sorry but that’s dumb and I don’t really see why I should care. In fact, you never even tried to justify this line of reasoning in which case I don’t see why anyone should agree with you.

            We have three options. We can let in nobody. We can let in literally everyone except those who have obvious defects. Or we can have limits that are going to exclude people in a way that seems arbitrary. I don’t see any reason to believe option three is less just than the others. Let’s say we let in anyone who’s white and forbid anyone else. Is that more or less just than the arbitrary option?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Your example shows that sometimes it is hard to discriminate justly. I agree! It does not show that we shouldn’t attempt such discrimination when we can do so cheaply. Just like in the criminal justice system, there is a trade-off between accurate justice and cost, and you will probably lean towards higher accuracy in high-stakes situations, and lower accuracy in low-stakes situations.

            Now you might claim that accurate justice is impossible necessarily prohibitively expensive in immigration policy, but now the burden of proof is on you, not me.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You haven’t even shown that what I said is unjust. You’re just asserting it. I don’t feel like I need to prove that what I’m saying is ok. The fact that it’s my property means I can invite whoever I want for whatever reason. Almost everyone agrees with me so it’s really you who the burden of proof is on. If you disagree then I guess there is no where else to go in this argument.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            The fact that it’s my property means I can invite whoever I want for whatever reason.

            I think you misunderstood my position. I agree that you can invite whoever you want for whoever reason, but I also think that it is better to act in some ways than other. “Should” does not mean “must.”

            This is particularly important when we are talking about sovereign states: states don’t have to do anything. But there are still some things that they should do and others that they should not do.

            EDIT: I suspect I’m still misunderstanding you; maybe it would be better if we assume for the sake of argument that you are an American citizen like me, and that we are talking about American immigration policy. Then “America can let in whoever she wants” is not a relevant point, since both of us are America. If two Americans are trying to come to a consensus about the optimal immigration policy, they need to appeal to widely accepted norms of behavior like “increase average utility.” One widely accepted norm of behavior is that you should treat other people according to how they act, rather than by rolling dice. Again, you can deny that norm, but then we’re talking meta-ethics, not immigration policy.

    • Space Viking says:

      @hogX5:

      Agreed on the language exam and the no criminal record. (c) is not really necessary, and (e) is silly.

      I would add: an IQ test, a strict Western culture, politics, and values literacy test, and a background check to screen out spies, dangerous political extremists (e.g. Communists), and Muslims. Over time, this process will be streamlined by keeping good statistics on the characteristics of immigrants who assimilate well and contribute to society and those who do not.

      I also want a lengthy delay on immigrants’ right to vote and deportation of immigrants who cause problems.

      Additionally, the total number of immigrants must be low no matter the individual characteristics, as assimilation is paramount to avoid changing our culture, politics, values, and institutions and risking Western civilization itself. Both the actual and potential downsides of mass immigration greatly outweigh the actual and potential upsides.

      • random832 says:

        I’m not sure I agree on “no criminal record” as such. Any such record is going to be under the control of the country they came from (assuming it has a functioning government at all), which presents problems in both directions.

        • Space Viking says:

          This is a good point, but the IQ test helps here, and soon there will be genetic testing available for criminality. Deportation of immigrants who cause problems also helps here. I would also make exceptions for crimes that are not crimes in the West to allow in political dissidents who meet the other criteria.

          • random832 says:

            I would also make exceptions for crimes that are not crimes in the West to allow in political dissidents who meet the other criteria.

            This presumes a level of cooperation from repressive regimes in categorizing their political dissidents’ crimes that I am not willing to grant.

          • Space Viking says:

            Then either there’s a better way to let in political dissidents, or they stay out. I’m okay with it if it’s the latter.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Keeping statistics on an individual level of which immigrants do well seems smart. I wonder how far the Feds could do that with current green card holders (or to what extent they already do)? Social science goldmine right there.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What defines someone as an “immigration restrictionist”?

      I’m a Canadian, and I think the Canadian immigration system is pretty good. Our biggest problem is that the way we take in refugees/asylum seekers is a real mess: the system is underfunded, the courts are hugely inconsistent, and it’s full of bad incentives. If the refugee system worked better, we could admit more refugees – I think we should fix it so we can; saving people’s lives is a worthy cause.

      Am I an immigration restrictionist because I’m not an open borders advocate, or am I not, because I think immigration is necessary, and good if done properly, and am in favour of allowing refugees into the country?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I intended immigration restrictionist to mean “anyone opposed to open borders.” Really I just want to see what people think about immigration without getting hung up on “more versus less”: since quotas and lotteries are against the rules of the game, the player is required to figure out what specifically makes a stranger safe and profitable to be around.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, in that case, I’d say, the Canadian system seems like a good model. Most immigrants are chosen based on criteria that prioritize people considered a good bet to contribute to the economy, and not cause problems (criminal record usually keeps you out). A smaller number are sponsored by family members who already have Canadian citizenship or permanent residency. Third place in numbers are refugees.

          The Canadian systems works pretty well. The biggest problem with the non-refugee bits of the system is that it’s a little arcane: figuring it out requires too much clicking around on a government website (which, in my experience, are badly designed). The refugee system, like I said, is the weak link. If it was fixed, we could easily take in more.

          The US system seems like more of a shambles than the Canadian system, on many levels.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I would like a test selecting against pro-monarchist/nobility inclinations.

      It’s the closest thing to a pro-egalitarian/pro-liberty stance I can think of that is fully supported by the legal documents of the USA. And thus should not be too hard of a sell.

      Caveat: I’m nearly in favor of open borders.

      • rlms says:

        Restricting immigration from the Commonwealth realms?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          As necessary, yes. They are the group I have historically been most leery of.

          It’s bad enough we have our own, home-grown monarchists and nobilists. I don’t favor Downton Abbey: https://tinyurl.com/p4p87zz

          • rlms says:

            I’m not quite sure what the relevance of that article is, but I suppose that historically speaking, allowing large numbers of Britons to immigrate had negative effects on the existing population.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I’m not quite sure what the relevance of that article is,

            He’s an immigrant from Australia. He created a Downton Abbey-like situation where his wife took on a major role for the corporation he heads (but didn’t found), but she has no position in.

            This is a major tenent of aristocratism (nobilism) in my mind.

  14. skef says:

    Oh dear … did the “useful faggot” stray too far from the reservation?

    For whoever in the earlier thread that asked what the Overton window had to do with all this, this may be a pertinent example.

    • random832 says:

      As it happens, I asked a question about the Overton window a couple threads ago, but I have no idea what your comment is in reference to.

      • skef says:

        Milo is in the news today. (Link picked at random among many.)

        Basically, a particular earlier period of “edginess” of an inconvenient kind is coming back to bite him from the side he makes his livelihood from.

        • onyomi says:

          I found this blogpost to be the best commentary on Milo I had yet read–the only one that actually takes a close look at what he says rather than just rising to his troll bait.

          It feels even more correct to me now that this new scandal has arisen. After all, for someone whose top two priorities are “be edgy” and “defend the Catholic church,” in that order, what could better fit the bill?

          *Updated to add: now Milo is saying that he was a victim of pedophilia between the ages of 13 and 16 and that he only used “gallows humor” to try to deal with it (which is certainly not to say that being an abuse victim means it’s okay to publicly defend abusers, but it certainly puts it in a different light). I can’t claim to know what he really thinks about this (beyond his explicit statements), much less what happened to him as a teenager, but I am sympathetic to his claim that the people responsible for digging this up care 100% about using it to destroy him and 0% about him somehow encouraging pedophilia or harming abuse victims.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And if you actually watch the interview with Rogan, you will find this claim to not match at all what he actually he said.

            He actively defended the concept of sex between 14 year old boys and priests and said that he (Milo) was the “predator”.

            I dislike that people can’t seem to distinguish between pedophilia and statutory rape, but its probably expecting too much to ask that the US to make the distinction.

            Milo now claiming “I was a victim” is particularly rich. It’s not that he was not the victim, but that it doesn’t in any way excuse all of his various statements, and it is the kind of thing he is particularly attuned to attack in others.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Well, looks like I’m back here again. To any and all: I am indeed AnonEEmous. I’ll see how I can go about regaining that nickname, but looks like a site change has stripped me of it.

            Anyways: what I see clearly is that Milo wishes to argue that sexually active young boys or young men, as you’d have it, who chase older partners, should be counted as consenting adults, or at least something close to it, and therefore these relationships are not a problem, even if between, say, a 13-year-old and a 29-year-old.

            I don’t agree with this belief but I don’t condemn it either. Sadly, it seems as though most others would, which is a shame since it is his true belief. Apply this filter to his statements, pair it occasionally with the filter of his sexual abuse making him think sexual abuse wasn’t a big deal, and everything he’s said makes sense. Even his apologies do, because they are incredibly vague; he says he worded certain things poorly and never says what they are. Probably because he can’t – he expressed his true views. And actually, I’m OK with that, because it actually seems pretty consistent with another view that many people hold and I disagree with.

            Basically, many people believe that a young teen – say, thirteen years of age, or perhaps a bit older – who scores with a hot teacher has lucked out and is to be envied. Now, those same people may or may not believe that the teacher deserves punishment (and apply double standards based on gender), but let’s get real: if the teen is really to be envied, then how can the teacher have done anything criminal or more than slightly immoral? They might consider the teacher to be a loser or to lack decorum, but criminal? In other words, the teen consented – in fact, initiated – so what the teacher did in response was perfectly acceptable, if to be frowned upon.

            Now, my personal belief is that this young teen has actually experienced sexual abuse and, though he and others may not realise it, it will harm him down the line. Which is why I don’t agree with this view. Then again, maybe Milo believes that he is one of a few for whom this will not occur. If he’s right, then there’s at least potential there for something, though I have a feeling he’s not. In his press conference today, he certainly seemed to believe that his sexual abuse led to him acting out in his twenties – though he could just be saying that. (Arguably, his entire public persona could be an extension of this type of trauma, if you want to play armchair psychologist). Of course, Milo knows that any case of this type would have to be examined on an individual basis to see if the individual could really consent, and that could never work under the law, which also explains why he thinks “the consent age is fine where it is”.

            Anyhow, I hope this somewhat uncharacteristic post doesn’t cause anyone to think that I’m not really who I claim to be. Hoping for some good answers to this post, because I’m not going to be able to talk intelligently about this issue anywhere else.

          • onyomi says:

            Though he seems maybe to have edited it a few times since I read it, he made a statement on his facebook page which seems a perfectly reasonable and consistent position to me. To summarize, it was roughly “I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest between the ages of 13 and 16. That was wrong and bad and traumatic. This, I wrongly felt gave me license to make flippant comments about sexual abuse of 13 year old boys. I had a relationship with a 27 year old man when I was 17 that was good and empowering and not wrong in my eyes, nor in the eyes of the law, since the age of consent in the UK was 16 at the time.”

            Again, I don’t know what he really thinks or what really happened, but this seems reasonable to me: I don’t think it’s possible for a 13 year old boy (or girl) to have a psychologically healthy sexual relationship with anyone. I do think it’s possible for a 17 year old man (or woman) to have a psychologically healthy relationship with a 27 year old man, as Milo claims he did (though I think it’s also possible for a 17 year old to have a psychologically abusive relationship with an older person as well, depending on the emotional maturity level and the specific details).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There’s been recent news about Milo Yiannopoulos advocating for sex between children and adults and getting into trouble (losing a book deal and a speaking engagement) as a result.

            The thing is, while I believe Milo is malicious and destructive, I also believe that our laws about age of consent aren’t well-grounded. As far as I can tell, the laws are some combination of “feels right” and who can yell the loudest.

            What I’d like to see is a big survey of adults about their history of sex before age 18. What sexual experiences they had, how they think it affected them, age of partners, who initiated, consent…. There are probably some other good questions, and a project like this should probably start with open-ended interviews to figure out what survey questions would be good.

            It’s possible that there should also be a survey of teenagers about their experiences, though since the arguments against early sex are to some extent about long run effects, surveying adults might be more relevant.
            The effects of illegality can be explored because the age of consent is different in different times and places.

            (If this seems familiar, it’s because I also posted it to facebook.)

          • skef says:

            I don’t really care about the merits of his “case” given his normal occupation. “Useful faggot” of course stands in relation to “useful idiot”. Milo spends all day every day in an effort to a) make money and get publicity with the effect of b) increasing the political power of people who, disproportionately to the rest of the population, view him as a gross partial-human. When he got too prominent, the latter faction started working against him. Now he’s pretty much hoist on his own petard, complete with making the sort of victim claim he has consistently mocked.

            To those who pursue this line of work: be more careful.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz, There has been research on this. Some studies have reported that the long term effects of underage sexual activity are, on average, not nearly as severe as widely believed, and that they are in particular smaller to non-existent in many cases when the underaged individual perceives themselves as having consented. But these were of course social science studies with the usual problems. There are, for example, very few studies which bother to investigate whether the underage participant perceived the encounter as consensual (since after all we know the underaged can’t consent) and as always it’s precarious to draw conclusions from a tiny number of studies. Some also seem to have used extremely expansive definitions of what counts as child sexual abuse (I think showing a 17 year old pornography qualifies in some jurisdictions, for example); presumably if very mild cases are included, and especially if they then turn out to be the majority of cases, the data from the mild cases may swamp the effects from more severe incidents and produce misleadingly sanguine results. So I am disinclined to draw any firm conclusions. However, further research in the area has certainly been hindered by the fact that any study which indicates less than horrific effects from child sexual abuse tends to lead to the authors being accused of being pedophile apologists.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Relevant: Rod Dreher quotes an anonymous e-mail about the Milo mess.

            I wonder whether there isn’t something of a double standard being applied to Milo. A number of darlings of the bien pensants have made similar remarks in the past and haven’t been hounded out of public life on account of them. [The UK gay rights campaigner] Peter Tatchell has suggested that the age of consent be lowered to 14 and, in a letter to The Guardian, praised the courage of a book challenging the idea that all sex between adults and children is abusive. George Takei has laughed and joked about being molested as a 13-year-old by a cute camp counselor, denying that it was molestation and calling it cute. StephenFry created a play about the relationship between a Latin master and his 13-year-old pupil which has been criticized for its minimization of the seriousness of what is actually abuse. He has also argued that girls who had sex with rock stars at 14 weren’t victims. Of course, a significant percentage of the rock pantheon is guilty of having sex with underage girls.

            The difference between people’s reactions to statements seemingly minimizing ephebophilia when it comes to their heroes as opposed to their opponents is telling. It suggests to me that people recognize that the issue is a lot more complicated than we would like to think and that they are prepared to cut people a lot more slack if they like them, while being merciless if they don’t. I would like to see all sides ratchet responses down a level.

            The whole thing is worth reading, and makes some of the same points as Protagoras.

          • onyomi says:

            Now he’s pretty much hoist on his own petard, complete with making the sort of victim claim he has consistently mocked.

            Part of his shtick has always been: “your attempts to tar me as a racist nazi won’t work because I am a gay, Jewish man with a black boyfriend.” I don’t see how “you can’t tar me as a sexual abuse defender because I am a sexual abuse victim” is very much different.

            If this succeeds in taking him down where other smears have not, it will only be because pedophilia hasn’t lost its sting the way racism has, due to its overuse. What does it say about a supposedly increasingly enlightened society that we have to dig deeper and deeper for ever more odious accusations, given that the old ones no longer work?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Milo spends all day every day in an effort to a) make money and get publicity with the effect of b) increasing the political power of people who, disproportionately to the rest of the population, view him as a gross partial-human. When he got too prominent, the latter faction started working against him.

            From what I can tell, the people leading the charge against Milo at the moment seem to be mostly liberal-leaning people who hate him anyway. I’m not sure what you mean by “people who, disproportionately to the rest of the population, view him as a gross partial-human” (I assume you mean religious conservatives here) “working against him”, given that they’re not actually the group trying to bringing him down at the moment.

          • Matt M says:

            If this succeeds in taking him down where other smears have not, it will only be because pedophilia hasn’t lost its sting the way racism has, due to its overuse. What does it say about a supposedly increasingly enlightened society that we have to dig deeper and deeper for ever more odious accusations, given that the old ones no longer work?

            It’s not quite that simple. There’s the added complication of the fact that the pedophilia attack was designed to damage his credibility with the right while the racist/homophobic/xenophobic charges were obviously general “deplorable” stuff that the right is used to hearing and no longer takes any stock in. The point of this latest round of attack was to get him dis-invited from CPAC. Calling him a racist ain’t gonna do that. And all the people who are saying “Well he’s no worse than Roman Polanski” are missing the point. The right hates Roman Polanski too, and he ain’t speaking at CPAC any time soon either…

          • Randy M says:

            The topic is muddled as Protagoras’ comments indicate by lumping together very different age groups and very different activities. It’s pretty much the best example of the Worst Argument in the World, as Scott dubbed it, where negative affect of brutally raping young children gets used against those guilty of quite obviously lesser crimes, or vice versa. And of course because of that it is dangerous to try to make a principled stand based on subtle distinctions or free speech rationale.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @onyomi

            You will probably like Ace’s take:

            I’m not a fan of Milo’s and have rarely cited him. I won’t get into the “why” of that here, for similar reasons that I didn’t get into why I wasn’t a fan of Pam Gellar’s after the shooting at her Draw Mohammad event, when the Social Justice Warriors of the left and the right saw fit to mob up on her hours after she’d been shot upon by a jihadi.

            Yeah I’ve got a few problems with him — but let’s leave that for another day. I haven’t seen it necessary to have one opinion or another about Milo so far, so I don’t know if I have to suddenly burst forth with a lot of Strongly Held Opinions I Just Formed Six Minutes Ago today.

            Another day when, you know, he’s not in the eye of the Social Media Scalp-Hunting Hurricane.

            I just think that when the whole world sets its sights on one lonely target, it’s not really terribly useful or moral of me to join in the collective attack.

            All that said, I do have an interest, and that interest is less about Milo than this same sick game of Pick the Day’s Hate Object and Destroy It.

            Is it my scalp they’ll be coming for next week?

            Who knows — maybe this very post you’re reading right now will be cited as the reason Ace Must Now Be Purged to Maintain the Purity of the Body of the Church of Twitter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think it is important that people acknowledge that the current surfacing of Milo’s remarks was not done by the left.

            After he was invited to CPAC, many people on the right started objecting.

            The American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, felt “blindsided” by the announcement. “The ACU board was not consulted on this, nor was there a board vote,” tweeted ACU board member Ned Ryun.

            By Sunday, that was the least of CPAC’s concerns. The Reagan Battalion, a conservative blog, tweeted out a video of Yiannopoulos making anti-Semitic remarks and railing against the “arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent.”

          • skef says:

            @onyomi

            No, if this scandal succeeds in taking him down, bit will be because the issue too much offends the side he has allied with.

            I love the neutral way this discussion is proceeding in these threads. In two weeks I expect people to be referring to how “the left” brought down Milo and how terrible they are for it, and why can’t they be understanding and open to free speech like the right is …

            A group on the right released the edited video. People on the right tweeted against his participation at CPAC, and it was those tweets that got publicity. CPAC rescinded the invitation. Threshold Editions, S&S’s conservative imprint, rescinded the book deal.

          • The Nybbler says:

            He’s not being attacked by the side he’s allied with. He’s being attacked by the “NeverTrumpers”, probably in a strange-bedfellows alliance with the establishment (not SJ) left.

          • skef says:

            He’s being attacked by the “NeverTrumpers”

            Well, then as a jester he should have paid more attention to his court’s internal politics.

          • valiance says:

            Gotta add a bit to what HeelBearCub said here:

            1. There is an argument to be made that not all sexual contact between adults and minors is abuse ipso facto. Milo says this was his point; and that further, contact between adults and minors is fairly common in the gay community and can be an important part in the development of the minor partner. This point has been made before by less controversial figures.

            For my part I think for all its imperfections, the idea of an age under which minors cannot legally consent to sexual contact with adults is a very, very good one. I’m far more worried about a lack of Romeo and Juliet exceptions to statutory rape charges, and teenagers being prosecuted as sex offenders for sexting each other than I am with the idea that some hypothetically-mature-enough-to-consent 14 year old cannot legally consent to sex with an adult. Ick.

            2. Current Affairs argues that The Right tolerated Milo’s homophobia, misogyny, racism etc. but has excommunicated Milo for talking about the complexities of gay sexual life: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/02/what-well-tolerate-and-what-we-wont

            3. Rogan (rightly) pointed out the victimization multiple times, and multiple times Milo not only denied being a victim, he went further and said he himself was preying on adult men at 14, perhaps helping perpetuate the dangerous myth that it’s ok to have sex with minors. Maybe now Milo realizes he was victimized, as he claims here:
            https://www.facebook.com/myiannopoulos/posts/852600161544547
            but it seems difficult to take him at his word. He has a completely reasonable defense–he was processing his abuse in a non-PC but fairly common way–if I could believe his sincerity; but I can’t. This is the danger of being a professional troll: you can’t gear shift down into serious when the road gets rough, and you were driving 15,000 mph to begin with, flipping everyone off as you went.

            4. All the above aside, this seems like a pretty clear example of a coordinated media attack; calculated to destroy the chosen hate-figure of the day.

            Some in the thread have said being associated with pedophilia is a death sentence, but Milo seems fairly Teflon so far; much like Trump. He may bounce back yet (more’s the pity).

          • Randy M says:

            Valiance, aren’t your #1 & #2 there in conflict? It’s not the “complexities of gay life” that got Milo in trouble, it’s for saying things like he was lucky to get molested at age 13.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Current Affairs’ argument fails on the grounds that, like pretty much anyone on the left that attacks Milo, they don’t actually prove that he is any of the things they claim, except transphobic and possibly fat-phobic.

            So, there’s that. Personally, I doubt that if evidence of Milo’s being bigoted equal to the evidence of him being pedophilic surfaced, that he could get away with it. Though obviously, not having defenders on the right doesn’t help – when you’re being attacked by the outgroup, it’s a lot easier than when you are being attacked by the ingroup, since the outgroup still hates you and will pile on.

          • onyomi says:

            @Valiance

            The Current Affairs piece is precisely what I was thinking: the right can tolerate a gay provocateur slamming feminism and Islam, but they can’t tolerate a gay man talking openly about the complexities of gay male adolescence. After all, I don’t see George Takei‘s mostly left-leaning fans denouncing him in droves. I don’t even necessarily see this as hypocrisy on their part, except insofar as they’re using it to denounce Milo, because typically it would be the left who is more open to hearing about the complexities of gay adolescence.

            And if it turns out it was a ploy on the part of the Bill Kristols of the world and not so much the progressive left per se to hit Milo where it would finally hurt him with his conservative base, well, that to me is about as good as saying “don’t get mad at Beelzebub–this one was Satan himself!”

            Speaking of which, looking into what 4chan has to say on this subject has given me slightly more sympathy for the “Trump has emboldened evil Nazis” claim: many of these people seem really sick: here Milo is basically the most mainstream voice for their reactionary views and many react by saying, essentially “good riddance, (((fag))).”

            Put another way, those saying “don’t blame the left! This is the work of the never-Trumpers on the right!” may not understand how deep that rift is and, how much, from my perspective, Bill Kristol is basically Woodrow Wilson.

            Put yet another way, the Milo affair gives me plenty of reason to be depressed about everyone.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @onyomi

            The actual neo-Nazi part of the alt-right has been anti-Milo for a long time. The ironic neo-Nazi part will say that kind of stuff whether they mean it or not. The Trumpers are still with Milo, as are the ants, and _American Spectator_ posted an article in support (if not an enthusiastic endorsement).

            The _American Spectator_ article has me thinking he’s not out yet.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            The article you’re talking about is, I believe, by Stacy McCain, which may or may not change that (I actually don’t know, but just putting it out there).

            And yeah – he had an elegant narrative, but the more obvious narrative of “being ostracized by ingroup is worse than being ostracized by outgroup” fits the facts a lot better. In case the AntiFa riots and multiple outlets calling him a “white supremacist” weren’t enough to puncture holes in it already.

            Oh yeah – it’s worth noting that parts of the alt-right, the real hardcore parts, do not have the ability to exercise tactical caution. The things they hate are bad and they will attack them even to their long-term detriment. Milo’s talked about that before, of course.

          • Now, my personal belief is that this young teen has actually experienced sexual abuse and, though he and others may not realise it, it will harm him down the line.

            It’s certainly possible, but what’s the evidence on which you base your belief?

            At only a slight tangent, H.L. Mencken mentions in something he wrote that he lost his virginity at fourteen with a girl of the same age who, he adds, is now a very respectable grandmother.

            Modern America is unusual in how high it sets the age at which sex is legal, relative to our own past, other developed countries, and past societies.

          • I don’t think it’s possible for a 13 year old boy (or girl) to have a psychologically healthy sexual relationship with anyone.

            Why do you think that? People vary a lot in how mature they are at what age. Is it your thesis that every woman who married younger than 14 had a psychologically unhealthy relation with her husband?

            Under Rabbinic law, a woman was legally an adult at twelve and a half. She could marry earlier than that, but only with parental permission.

            Or is your thesis limited to our society, in which case what are the relevant differences?

          • equal to the evidence of him being pedophilic surfaced

            “Pedophilic” meaning “willing to defend sex by adults with minors”?

            My first reading of what you said was that you meant he had confessed to committing pedophilia, which as far as I can tell he hasn’t done. The problem is that the the “phil” in the former reading is doing double duty.

          • onyomi says:

            @David Friedman

            Or is your thesis limited to our society, in which case what are the relevant differences?

            Though I may go too far in saying “impossible,” I do think it’s highly unlikely in our society for anyone to have a healthy sexual relationship at age 13, though I imagine a relationship between a 13 year old and a 14 year old is much less likely to be traumatic than one between a 13 year old and a 27 year old, due to the difference in power dynamics.

            As for why, in our society, it is highly unlikely that any 13 year old is ready for a sexual relationship when, in fact, many past societies and probably some existing ones think that is plenty old enough: I do think it has to do with expectations: children today in the developed world are not raised with the expectation that they will take on adult roles and responsibilities at the age of 13, Bar Mitzvah notwithstanding (though the existence of the ritual clearly shows how earlier societies had given thought to the question of how to quickly get a 13 year old ready for adult roles and responsibilities, and they were probably better at it).

            In a world where life expectancy is 40, people get married at 14, and take over the family business at 18, children and parents are spending the first 12 years of the child’s life in cognizance of that fact. If you have a daughter whom you expect to send off to live with her husband’s family at age 14, and expect her thereupon to hopefully soon get pregnant and start raising children and helping to run that household, the way you raise your daughter from ages 1 to 13 is going to be very different than if you are expecting her to go off college for a liberal arts degree at 18 and maybe settle down with a nice man some time in her late twenties.

            I’m still frankly a little skeptical that, even with preparation, it wasn’t pretty traumatic for many 13 year olds to be married to an often much older, often pretty unfamiliar man and start having a sexual relationship with him right away. But having expected and prepared for that for as long as you can remember plus having a new socially sanctioned role to fit into has got to help a whole lot. The vast majority of 13 year olds beginning a sexual relationship in our society are not going to be doing so as part of the beginning of a new, socially sanctioned role.

            I’m also a bit skeptical about a 13 year old boy being very actively “mentored” in sexuality, but it’s got to have been a lot better in the age of Socrates when socially sanctioned and structured in some way than today when it is almost certainly done in secret with the result of children feeling guilty, shameful, etc.

            I do think Milo is right to draw a distinction between pedophilia of the, to be blunt, “Michael Jackson” variety (i. e. sexual activity with prepubescent children) and pederasty or very young teenage sexuality (that is, sex acts with a sexually mature, albeit still very young by our standards individual).

            Sex with teenagers has been the norm throughout human history and only recently have we decided to draw somewhat arbitrary (if still maybe necessary for legal clarity) lines determining where consent begins (though I personally would be in favor of some level of prosecutorial-type discretion to allow for the difference between 18 year old and 17 year old have sex versus 40 year old and barely-pubescent 12 year old have sex; the former is prima facie not abusive, the latter, at least in our society today, almost certainly is).

            Sex with prepubescent children, however, I think has long been considered deviant in every culture I know of. And of course, it makes sense biologically: if life expectancy is 40 and infant mortality high, it may be worth it from a societal perspective to mildly traumatize everyone’s daughter so that they can get started producing offspring at 14. There is no reproductive benefit, of course, for sex with the prepubescent.

            I definitely see it as very bad that these two categories are now being somewhat intentionally blurred, because I think they are just very different for all kinds of reasons. The problem may be, as Milo found out, one doesn’t win any popularity contests by splitting hairs about pedophilia. This is a problem, though, because teenage sexuality is frankly a part of life (as is pedophilia, unfortunately), and being unable to talk openly about it doesn’t seem to serve much useful purpose (whether we’re talking about sex with teenagers or pedophilia, I highly doubt anyone is going to be inspired to become a pedophile just because some public figure talked about it; on the contrary, more open conversation might inspire less fear of seeking professional help).

          • valiance says:

            @Randy_M

            Sure, 1 and 2 conflict. I believe 1, I just thought 2 was an interesting perspective.

            @onyomi @DavidFriedman

            I can’t find the graph now but I just read something in the past few days which seemed to show that age of first sexual experience and age of ones partner have no correlation with ones perception of how good that experience was.

          • valiance says:

            @onyomi @DavidFriedman

            ok dead open thread but necroing to note I found those charts showing that those who lost their virginity before 18 to an adult view the experience no less positively than same age couples:

            https://twitter.com/sentientist/status/834003079997571073

  15. One Name May Hide Another says:

    If I’m unable to post a comment, and haven’t been banned, what’s the relevant etiquette? I tried resubmitting the comment, but it again failed to show up. I am thinking of trying to edit the comment to get rid of things that might be potentially problematic (links, potentially banned phrases) but I want to avoid a situation where all of my failed submissions show up at the same time and spam the comments section.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t think blocked comments get approved later. If you refresh and don’t see your comment, it is probably safe to resubmit it. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  16. Odovacer says:

    When did nice take on a bad meaning?

    I’ve read numerous pieces online about how being nice isn’t a good thing, e.g. “nice guys”, “be kind, not nice” I remember countless messages in pop culture about how you should be nice, or how being nice was a good thing. Does anyone know when this transition happened?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Nice is a compliment of last resort. It’s what you say about someone when the best you can say about them is that they’re inoffensive. So calling someone nice is damning by faint praise.

      Beyond that, “nice guy” has a very specific meaning. It’s not so much a Mensch but a schmuck: someone who is taken advantage of because he plays by the rules and observes social niceties. Listening to the “countless messages in pop culture” about being nice is his weakness, not his strength.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t think this is new.

      What comes to mind is the stock overbearing mother phrase “You should call him/her. Such a nice boy/girl”.

      It’s a bland sentiment, and those tend to easily fall into a sort of uncanny valley where they are performed, rather than sincere.

      • Odovacer says:

        It’s a bland sentiment, and those tend to easily fall into a sort of uncanny valley where they are performed, rather than sincere.

        Can you explain this? I’m not sure what you mean exactly.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If as I am going through a door, I briefly glimpse back, see someone right behind me and pause half a second so that they can catch the door before it swings closed, it’s just a sort of politeness.

          If I realize someone is behind me, open the door, smile warmly and say “Pretty day out there!” it’s actually nice. It’s really an outward social display of my own self-confidence and ability to be both social and magnanimous.

          If I half mumble “Have a nice day” while awkwardly bobbing my head, that’s the uncanny valley effect. You are close to it enough to be off-putting. Anything that’s not either confident, socially appropriate, or actually magnanimous.

    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s because people hate nerds but it’s difficult to justify bullying someone who is nice to you. So they make up this epidemic of “nice guys” who are actually more sinister.

      • Matt M says:

        Yes, the implication is that the “nice guy” is not nice out of a genuine, heartfelt desire to be kind to others – but that he is deliberately planning and perpetuating a fraud, wherein he masquerades as nice solely to obtain some sort of benefit for himself (typically female affection).

        • John Nerst says:

          TBH I suspect self-identified “nice guys” are often (not always) not full of a hearfelt desire to be kind more than anyone else, and use “nice” to mean something more like a passive “not mean”. Thing is, “nice” and “mean” are not perfect opposites and you can easily be none of them.

          Of course, implying that people are secretly pretending is uncharitable in the extreme.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Neither of the linked articles read that way.

      • Loquat says:

        Well, if you’re looking at specifically feminist condemnation of “nice guys”, their actual argument is more like Dr Dealgood’s “compliment of last resort” above – that the stereotypical Nice Guy complaining that women want jerks and won’t go out with him does not in fact have much in the way of actually desirable qualities, and “nice”, aka “inoffensive” is the best that can be said of him.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          This is a common belief, hence the choice of label, but its not really true. Nice guys are failing socially in a couple specific ways and in fact might have quite a bit to offer, even their derided “niceness”, if only their errors were corrected. Many “nice guys” can gain the ability to sleep with, if not have a functional relationship with, women after going through some of the training provided by PUAs. Of course such a choice by them probably doesn’t do much to counter the idea that they are secretly entitled assholes. Misguided is perhaps the most positive description of people involved in “The Game”.

          • Randy M says:

            To steelman pick-up artistry, granting that there are techniques or attitudes that can increase attraction, someone who would otherwise be a good mate is doing a disservice to their partner or potential partners in not maintaining sexual attractiveness.

            In other words, pick-up artist techniques are only negative if either used carelessly (as those who devise them probably do) or if there are some inherent negative trade-offs to using them, in which case one would have to get down to the object level to hash out.

            But all that aside I don’t think that’s where nice gets it’s perjorative connotations from.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            A Nice Guy is a guy who complains that he is so nice but girls only date assholes and not him. The implication of the capitalization and trademark symbol/quote marks is that he is really an entitled jerk expecting his mercenary niceness to equate to a sort of sex currency he can trade in for female attention/affection. The nice guy is often assumed to have no attractive qualities aside from his affected niceness. I was arguing that that is not the root cause of his issue. My example being the very blech skills taught by pick up artists that allow a Nice Guy to get laid. Therefore its unlikely he has no good qualities. Its more likely he lacks knowledge of the natural, not morally objectionable skills that are perverted by pick up artists and used to manipulate women.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Just some general points about Nice Guys– the original definition was a man who hangs around a woman he’s attracted to. He never makes it clear he’s attracted because he’s afraid she’d dump him.

            Instead, he spends years listening to her complain about the awful men in her life and keeps hoping she’ll notice that he isn’t awful.

            After a while, he starts complaining that women are only attracted to awful men, instead of someone nice like him.

            In the real world, *some* women are attracted to awful men. The Nice Guy seems to have a filter which prevents him from seeing women who are attracted to men who treat them well.

            Then some women notice the pattern, get annoyed by it, and give it the unfortunate name of Nice Guy.

            Humans are a nervous bunch, and men (many of whom don’t fit the whole pattern) start wondering if they’re being attacked for behaving decently. Women get defensive about being blamed for being angry at something that gets on their nerves…..

            If I weren’t more or less a materialist, I’d be blaming the whole thing on demonic intervention, but it’s probably just Murphy.

            Now that I’m looking at the behavior of the Nice Guy I described at the beginning, I think he’s depressed. He doesn’t have the initiative to think “I’m attracted to this woman, but she isn’t interested in me and listening to her complain about other men is no fun”, and then either spend less time or no time with her.

            He’s desperate for some sort of companionship, even not very good companionship, and unwilling to take the risk of seeing if he can do better.

            She’s not very clear-headed about getting good relationships, either.

            I blame parents who aren’t good at raising children and who have bad relationships themselves, but that might just be my filter.

            Now, let’s get to niceness. What I grew up with (female, 1950s/60s, middle class, northnern Delaware) was superficially that being nice was being considerate and virtuous. What it actually meant was behaving as though my desires were less important than other people’s.

            It’s a complicated matter because people do need to give way to each other to some extent to live well with each other, but giving way isn’t an absolute virtue.

            Girls get (got?) more niceness training than boys, but we can assume some overlap there. It’s not as though unassertive men get noticed a whole lot.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Well yes. The problem is the definition has vastly expanded and is quite often used as a personal attack. We live in a descriptivist society linguistically. What the concept was originally conceived to mean is mostly irrelevant.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            A complication is that a fairly common feminist narrative is to complain about men who initiate. I’ve seen a decent number of feminists give advice to men that is basically grooming ‘nice guys:’ be yourself*, get to know her first**, wait for signals***.

            * If the guy is shy, that means no initiating
            ** Invest a lot of time in her, expecting a chance at romance
            *** If the guy is bad at reading signals, that means waiting around forever, until he gets upset over nothing happening

            Basically it’s a recipe that is completely wrong for some personality types & mostly based on expecting that successful strategies for women also work for men, which due to gender norms is often not true. So it tends to fail and result in a slow building up of frustration. When that is vented by expressing disappointment, it is taken as proof that the guy is an asshole and thus doesn’t deserve anyone, rather than that the advice is misguided.

            He doesn’t have the initiative to think “I’m attracted to this woman, but she isn’t interested in me and listening to her complain about other men is no fun”, and then either spend less time or no time with her.

            Actually, a lot of it seems to involve miscommunication. For example, a common narrative that you hear from men in this situation is that the woman makes statements like ‘why can’t my boyfriend be more like you’ or she calls him ‘nice’ and then later complains that there are no nice guys to date.

            A strong cultural narrative is that most men (who are not George Clooney) are inherently unattractive and thus merely desired by women for practical purposes. So many men don’t understand that there is a lack of physical attraction at play, so those previous statements should actually be parsed as: ‘why can’t my boyfriend be more like you, except not unattractive?’ or ‘where are all the nice guys who are also hot?’

            This lack of understanding is why a (simplistic) concept like ‘friend zone’ can be eye opening to these guys.

          • John Nerst says:

            those previous statements should actually be parsed as: ‘why can’t my boyfriend be more like you, except not unattractive?’ or ‘where are all the nice guys who are also hot?’

            They should obviously be interpreted that way, which raises the question: am I crazy to think that saying such things is actually really rude?

          • Cypren says:

            Personally, I suspect there’s a pretty strong inverse correlation between male attractiveness and attentiveness to female needs for very good reason: men who are naturally attractive don’t need to be attentive and polite to women in order to attract them, so most don’t ever learn to be. We are all ultimately creatures who respond very strongly to incentives, and the incentive structure here is to only learn courtship behaviors to the extent required to obtain your objective.

            For many men, the objective is simply sex, not romance or a long-term relationship. So the answer to, “why can’t my boyfriend be nice like you?” is really simple: “because you sleep with him anyway.” As the classic saying goes, “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?”

            The corresponding female gripe is about how airheaded women with lovely figures can attract men while intelligent and successful but less attractive women struggle for dates. And the trope of the desperate girlfriend who is trying to cater to her man’s every whim at the cost of her own individuality or identity (because she’s terrified of losing him to a younger or prettier woman) is a pretty strong parallel to the pathetic loser “nice guy” who spends his days as a shoulder for women to cry on when their asshole boyfriends dump them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, those are fair points, especially since feminists don’t explain what is plausibly a signal, though they do talk about what isn’t a signal.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Nerst

            My first example is obviously rude, but the second is merely implicitly so, which seems fine to me.

            But my point is more that giving only compliments can easily be misconstrued. Imagine a boss that only gives you compliments, but never gives you a raise or promotion. Wouldn’t that be really confusing to most people?

          • valiance says:

            So this was supposed to be in response to Cypren but I think comments were nested too deep and I couldn’t reply to the below comment:

            Cypren:

            Personally, I suspect there’s a pretty strong inverse correlation between male attractiveness and attentiveness to female needs for very good reason: men who are naturally attractive don’t need to be attentive and polite to women in order to attract them, so most don’t ever learn to be.

            Berkson’s Fallacy explains why handsome men are such jerks:
            http://www.slate.com/blogs/how_not_to_be_wrong/2014/06/03/berkson_s_fallacy_why_are_handsome_men_such_jerks.html

            In short, Cypren you’re exactly right:

            http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/how_not_to_be_wrong/traingle-of-acceptable-men.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge.jpg

            The handsomest men in your triangle, over on the far right, run the gamut of personalities, from kindest to (almost) cruelest. On average, they are about as nice as the average person in the whole population, which, let’s face it, is not that nice. And by the same token, the nicest men are only averagely handsome. The ugly guys you like, though—they make up a tiny corner of the triangle, and they are pretty darn nice. They have to be, or they wouldn’t be visible to you at all. The negative correlation between looks and personality in your dating pool is absolutely real. But the relation isn’t causal. If you try to improve your boyfriend’s complexion by training him to act mean, you’ve fallen victim to Berkson’s fallacy.

    • Deiseach says:

      It does depend what you mean by “nice”. As regards the complaints about “nice guys”, I think that’s because the stereotypical example of that is someone who says “Why won’t [Object of Interest] go out with me? I’m a Nice Guy!” and then segues into ‘why do women like the bad guys’. The answer to that is nobody is obligated to return your romantic interest, no, not even if you’re Nice. Being nice is basic human courtesy and decency, you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass, just the same as you don’t get a reward for “hey, today is the 1,000th day in a row I didn’t murder anyone!”

      The larger context of “be kind, not nice” is that niceness is seen as a social construct, a fake politeness that is meaningless, and with the craze for “authenticity”, fakery is seen as bad. So therefore niceness is seen as bad, it’s seen as false, as not costing and therefore not meaning anything, whereas being kind involves genuine effort.

      I tend to disagree with that second view, I see nothing wrong with niceness as social ritual keeping the gears of human interaction lubricated so they don’t grind against each other and break down.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        The problem with the whole “nice guy” who whines that girls only like assholes is that the “nice guys” are sort of correct. Girls don’t only like assholes in the sense that ice cream doesn’t cause rape but the correlation is there and its pretty strong. Unfortunately modern culture operates under the utterly ridiculous assumption that social skills will be gained automatically totally unlike regular skills which we teach in school and clubs. Thus people who fail to naturally intuit how to obtain social success haven’t got much of a chance.

        This results of course in all the MRA/PUA nonsense because when faced with a choice between having no way to learn to achieve romantic or sexual success, which is a massive part of status in modern society, and using shady “dark arts”, which are not only morally problematic but also about as useful as a degree from a sketchy for profit university, people choose the latter because its not really a choice if you only have one clear option. This is actually a major reason why Trump received so many votes from certain classes of people. He was a shitty choice but he was functionally their only choice.

        • Mark says:

          Are there such things as social lessons? It feels like that should be a thing.

          I would definitely pay to go somewhere where I could have myself recorded in various social role-play situations, and then get feedback and advice on what is happening.

          Is that a thing?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Well therapy is often one way you can learn this stuff. Couples therapy, special needs targeted therapy, and others. We often have some vague morals based learning, and in the old days of course you learned the proper behavior for traditional gender roles. Um, there also used to be stuff like charm school for women. There has probably never been a low level, broad material, secular school or section of a curriculum that dealt with this issue, though.

          • Randy M says:

            “Don’t point, it’s rude” and “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” are social lessons. If there are full-on curriculum to teach advanced topics or catch up late bloomers, its news to me, but the social skills most people pick up at home and through observations tend to work passably.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Passably depends on your definition of success. If 20% of men, or women, fail to organically learn the skills needed to achieve romantic or sexual success, even with people in their own “league”, that suggests that something can and should be done, especially given the value of those things both culturally and psychologically.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard that the Dale Carnegie course offers something sort of like this.

          • Chalid says:

            There are some corporate versions of this. One company I know of had new managers go to a class where they roleplayed various situations – e.g. “I’m an employee who has seemed distracted at work lately. You are my manager and you want to discuss the situation with me,” followed by feedback.

          • Randy M says:

            something can and should be done,

            Oh, sure, by all means; my point wasn’t that everyone is well served at the moment but more that there is in fact passing on some knowledge and not everyone is just winging it at every moment.

          • John Schilling says:

            there is in fact passing on some knowledge and not everyone is just winging it at every moment.

            The social skills necessary to avoid offending peopleand making them angry, e.g. your “don’t point” example, are very effectively passed on because of the immediate negative feedback for getting it wrong.

            Building a positive social life requires a different set of social skills, and those aren’t so readily learned by trial and error because failed attempts put one in a sort of uncanny valley that garners worse feedback than staying quiet.

            If you are one of the people who was taught or managed to otherwise learn that latter set of skills, then you may find yourself in a world that consists of some people who are your friends and lots of people who manage to not annoy and offend you and so conclude that social skills generally are being efficiently taught. This is incorrect. Only the “how to not make people actively angry at you” social skills are being efficiently taught. And since one of the things the socially inept do learn is that complaining about their loneliness gets them labeled as Creepy Nice Guys and otherwise offends people, they generally don’t complain and you generally don’t notice they exist. Which is great for you, not so much for them.

            People blindly assuming that this is a solved problem and that positive social skills are being passed on to everyone who wants to learn, that offends me. So please don’t do it any more.

          • Randy M says:

            People blindly assuming that this is a solved problem and that positive social skills are being passed on to everyone who wants to learn, that offends me. So please don’t do it any more.

            Is this to me? Because “Are there social lessons” and “Does everyone have adequate social lessons” are two different questions that I would have answered differently.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Social skills ARE learned automatically. The problem with this is you learn the social skills appropriate to your position in the status hierarchy. If that position is “buttmonkey” or “pariah” (and these positions have to exist), those are the skills you learn. And that’s the position you’ll have anywhere you go.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            No I’ve seen people taught, mostly by friends, better social skills who then improved their lives. Scott himself admitted to being a nice guy for ages. Now you’re just some random right wing nobody on his blog.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think this is true. There are a lot of guys who are nerds and then learn how to talk to women and suddenly gain social status. It’s like having career related skills. Some people are naturally better than others, but people can usually improve from where they are at.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think this is true. There are a lot of guys who are nerds and then learn how to talk to women and suddenly gain social status.

            In roughly the same sense that there are a lot of people who are poor and then learn how to get jobs and make money.

            Quick, let’s dismantle all the social welfare programs, poverty is a solved problem. Anybody who is still poor, it’s their own damn fault for not learning how to get a good job.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            I certainly don’t believe anything like that. My point was just that social skills don’t perfectly correlate with potential social status. Imagine a guy who was friendly, charismatic and helpful being considered for a retail job. The only problem is that he doesn’t take showers and doesn’t understand how badly he smells. He could be a good worker but this one issue is going to be debilitating.

          • John Schilling says:

            He could be a good worker but this one issue is going to be debilitating.

            He’s also a figment of your imagination, as is the corresponding hypothetical of the man who would in every way be a good lover except for one debilitating quirk. The cases where all we need for a happy ending is one piece of good advice are trivial, uninteresting, and sufficiently rare that when they are invoked I tend to suspect someone is trying to avoid dealing with the hard problem.

            In the real world, the person who as an adult can’t get a job or a date is probably deficient in dozens of ways, any one of which might be small and easily corrected but as a package are damnably hard to address because the feedback for fixing 75% of the problems is the same as for fixing none of them – “shut up and stop bothering me you loser”.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If you have never met someone who was generally a normal person but was not good with women then you need to talk to more people.

          • Matt M says:

            If you have never met someone who was generally a normal person but was not good with women then you need to talk to more people.

            I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s saying. You seem to be acting as if the majority of people are completely fine except for one fatal yet superficial and easily fixable flaw – when that’s pretty much not the case. A lot of people who struggle to form relationships do, in fact, take showers and dress reasonably well. We’re not really talking here about the people where you can readily identify one fixable flaw – we’re talking about people who when you meet them, they seem “just a little bit off” and they make you uncomfortable for some vague reason that you can’t quite put your finger on. You couldn’t even explain to them what they’re doing wrong even if you wanted to, because you don’t quite know yourself – you just know that it’s something.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I never said anything about easily fixable. If someone can’t get laid, then obviously something as simple as “take a shower” is probably not going to help. But if they can get a women’s attention then they’re fine. He said that anyone who can’t get dates is “deficient in dozens of ways”. There are plenty of guys who struggle with that issue even though it’s not obvious when you first meet them.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Being nice is basic human courtesy and decency, you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass, just the same as you don’t get a reward for “hey, today is the 1,000th day in a row I didn’t murder anyone!”

        I forget who it was that said that “nice guys” are just men who take what feminists say too literally, but this seems like a good example of the phenomenon. If you accept all that nonsense about rape culture, patriarchy theory, and the like, being nice and non-threatening towards women *is* an achievement.

        • Matt M says:

          Not to mention that the attitude of “I didn’t murder anyone, so why don’t I get to have a girlfriend?” does not exist in a vacuum. It usually is accompanied by a lifetime of watching guys who do murder people obtain numerous girlfriends with little difficulty – AND a lifetime of listening to women openly, loudly, repeatedly declare that “nice” is the one primary attribute they desire.

          I’ve had two ex-girlfriends who dumped me for what were (in my opinion) rather trivial complaints about my personality, who also stayed with literal punch-you-in-the-face-if-dinners-not-ready abusive boyfriends for several years (one before dating me, one after). So while intellectually, I know that I am not entitled to anything and that women have a large variety of preferences and it is not my place to judge them – it’s definitely hard to watch something like that and not feel like you’ve somehow been wronged by the universe.

          It’s hard NOT to become a male chauvinist when you have to reconcile your brain to things like “Sure, he may beat the shit out of her, have no job, be addicted to drugs, and cheat on her constantly, but one can hardly blame her for choosing him – after all his butt looks better in tight jeans than mine does.”

          • Deiseach says:

            And the hard truth is, there is still no automatic entitlement to companionship (romantic or sexual), friendship, pleasant work colleagues or the like simply because you yourself behave like a decent human being.

            Joe the Jerk is an abusive asshole? Yes. But he still gets the girls? Yes. And I don’t? No. No more than “Joe the Jerk stabbed three guys and he managed to get away with it when his lawyer did a plea bargain, why can’t I just give this guy a bloody nose?” Joe’s bad behaviour does not mean you are entitled to “but at least I’m not as bad as he is, I should be doing equally as well”.

            I don’t know what to tell anyone other than “life is not fair”. There’s an online acquaintance currently sobbing her heart out (and that’s not a metaphor) because she has just broken up with her boyfriend – or rather, he’s broken up with her. She’s asking why is she so terrible and what did she do to deserve this.

            The plain, hard, truth is: she’s not terrible, she didn’t do anything to deserve this, and he’s not a louse (at least there’s this much: nobody is blaming him or calling him names), sometimes you get your heart broke because that’s how love and sex works. The person you are into is not into you, or is no longer into you. She’s no more entitled to keep him as a boyfriend than a Nice Guy is to get a girlfriend ‘just because’.

          • Mark says:

            “And the hard truth is, there is still no automatic entitlement to companionship (romantic or sexual), friendship, pleasant work colleagues or the like simply because you yourself behave like a decent human being.”

            Of course there is. A society where people aren’t entitled to friendship and companionship is a sick society. Especially, if we’re going to make a big song and dance about those same people being entitled to something relatively unimportant, like tv. Or bread.

          • Randy M says:

            Nah. You’re entitled to the pursuit of companionship, not the thing itself. Even moreso than bread, because friendship and love depend upon the spirit in which they are offered. The most we could guarantee, if we were okay conscripting the labor to do so, is time with a therapist or prostitute.

          • Deiseach says:

            Of course there is. A society where people aren’t entitled to friendship and companionship is a sick society.

            No, you’re not entitled. Mark, imagine someone coming up to you and demanding “Be my friend! Do all the friend things friends are supposed to do! I’m entitled to a friend, I want you as a friend, and you have to be my friend!”

            Would you feel inclined to befriend a clingy, demanding, entitled person? If you and he/she have common interests or meet and strike it off, that’s one thing; but someone declaring they are entitled to friendship and they’ve decided they want you, with no input or choice from you – how would you like it?

            There are a lot of lonely and friendless people out there. If there is an automatic entitlement, are you going to go out right now and seek them out and befriend them? You’re telling me it’s a civic duty and a right, so?

          • Randy M says:

            There’s no entitlement without an inverse responsibility.

            That said, maybe we’ve got a solution to the under-employment problem. UBI + randomly assigned mandatory friends. What could go wrong?
            It could even be staged. For every 25,000 in taxes, get one friend. For every 100,000, one mistress.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            @Randy M, I remember a story with a concept called the public service, basically regular people providing sex to the public. With safety controls. Involved a lottery as well. Possibly I first heard about it here?

            Also we do have paid for friends. Therapists. In fact we also have paid for sex therapists as well. Presumably the government could provide social interaction welfare for money. Though you’d probably start with friends rather than sex since sex is such a touchy subject.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Therapists are not your friends. They “hang out” with you once a week to talk about your bullshit and never do any other kind of activity. Can you imagine Snapchatting your therapist?

          • Mark says:

            “There are a lot of lonely and friendless people out there. If there is an automatic entitlement, are you going to go out right now and seek them out and befriend them? You’re telling me it’s a civic duty and a right, so?”

            I think the fact that I’m not doing that says something about my lack of character. Yes, of course we have a duty to make the lives of the lonely more bearable.

            Of course we have a duty to be kind and considerate to those around us. (Even if they smell a bit funny.)

            No, they don’t have the right to eat all of our chocolate biscuits without asking – but we can make some sacrifices.

            [I’ve always tried to be kind to the isolated/friendless, in my experience they’re normally not that interested in spending time with me…]

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Therapists allow you to vent. They provide advice, and according to Scott the advice is about on par with what a friend could tell you a lot of the time, and a couple other things. They aren’t perfectly equivalent to friends but they do fulfill some of the rolls.

          • Mark says:

            I went to a therapist and I didn’t really like it.

            It’s not like a friend, because therapists are too interested in listening to you talk about yourself.

            If you hired a friend, it’d just be someone who sat in the same room as you while you watched tv, and occasionally cracked some jokes.

          • rlms says:

            @Deiseach
            To advocate for the Devil, you can be entitled to friendship without being entitled to a specific friend. Consider the idea that people have a right to food and healthcare. A strict libertarian would disagree with that idea, on the basis that it seems odd to call something a universal right if it was impossible to universally fulfil for the majority of history. But (to the extent I agree with rights-based ways of looking at things, which is not very much) I think it is possible to say that people nowadays have a right to things like food and healthcare that can easily be provided.

            Applying the same logic to the right to friendship (or sex), I don’t think you can say people nowadays have that right on the basis that it isn’t practical to supply everyone with those things. But in a future where improved technology has made many jobs redundant and there are many people willing to work as a companion (either platonic or Firefly) for reasonable wages, I might agree that people have the right to friendship and sex.

            Alternatively, if you interpret “people have a right to x” as “it would be *very nice* if all people had x” (which means it makes sense to describe people in the 14th century as having a right to food and healthcare) then I would also agree that people have a right to friendship and sex.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But if you interpret “right” as “it’d be very nice if…”, then that throws out most of our protection against the government infringing on free speech, free press, etc. Maybe you could construct something along the lines of SCOTUS’s “strict scrutiny” standard?

          • Wrong Species says:

            A hooker fulfills the roll of letting me have sex with them that a girlfriend provides but it doesn’t mean I’m bringing them back to meet my parents.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think you can say that some situation is unfair without any particular person involved acting unfairly. Consider, for example, being unable to get a job for years on end because, although you’re well-qualified, have a great work ethic, etc., it just so happens that for every job you apply to somebody slightly better also applies and ends up getting hired instead. Nobody involved is wronging you in any way, but I don’t think it would be inappropriate to describe the situation as unfair in some sort of general, cosmic sense.

          • rlms says:

            @Evan
            I think there can be a distinction between positive rights to do or have things, and negative rights for people not to interfere with your things and actions (or possibly two other similar categories). One category of rights (mostly negative rights) *can* be guaranteed regardless of how advanced farming/medicine is, so you can call them universal. Others (mostly positive rights) can only be guaranteed with a certain level of technology.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ rlms:

            Alternatively, if you interpret “people have a right to x” as “it would be *very nice* if all people had x” (which means it makes sense to describe people in the 14th century as having a right to food and healthcare) then I would also agree that people have a right to friendship and sex.

            Maybe not a right to healthcare, but I’d say they had a right to food in that if, e.g., some nobleman had plenty of food and the peasants didn’t, he’d have an obligation to give the peasants enough to live on, and would be wronging them if he refused.

            ETA: And of course the “Is it OK for a starving man to steal food?” question was discussed in medieval philosophy, the general consensus being IIRC that it is.

          • Mark says:

            I think that when a social situation is unfair, we have a duty to recognise that social situations are a product of people interacting, and can be changed.

          • Matt M says:

            There are a lot of lonely and friendless people out there. If there is an automatic entitlement, are you going to go out right now and seek them out and befriend them? You’re telling me it’s a civic duty and a right, so?

            I dunno. We acknowledge a general sense that people who are advantaged economically bear some sort of moral obligation (and in many cases, an outright legal requirement) to help out those who are economically disadvantaged. Putting aside the issue of taxation for a moment, a greedy billionaire who gave nothing to charity would be condemned as a selfish jerk

            I see no equivalent for this when it comes to social skills. If someone is socially disadvantaged, the general response in society seems to be to mock them. There is no push for people with great social skills to go out of their way to befriend people without friends. No army of NGOs attempting to ensure the friendless have “basic access” to healthy human relationships.

            Why not? If you’re short, tall people are expected to reach things off the high shelf for you. If you’re poor, rich people are expected to give you their spare change. If you’re stupid, smart people are expected to tutor you in math. Not individually of course, but generally. Not enforced at the point of a gun (usually), but through social expectations. Why is it only the socially awkward who are told, “Life isn’t fair, get over it?” Why isn’t the guy with lots of friends considered to be the moral equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge for not befriending the lonely guy at work?

          • Vermillion says:

            No, you’re not entitled. Mark, imagine someone coming up to you and demanding “Be my friend! Do all the friend things friends are supposed to do! I’m entitled to a friend, I want you as a friend, and you have to be my friend!”

            I mean there are certainly times when that’s worked out pretty well.

            For one of the parties at least.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I see no equivalent for this when it comes to social skills. If someone is socially disadvantaged, the general response in society seems to be to mock them.

            Well, yeah. It’s a catch-22. If those without social skills could get people to help them, it’d be evidence they had social skills and don’t need such help.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            “Why is it only the socially awkward who are told, “Life isn’t fair, get over it?””

            Because of how primate status hierarchies work? Darwinian selection in action for a social species? And because life really isn’t fair?

            “If someone is socially disadvantaged, the general response in society seems to be to mock them.”

            And so? If I may be allowed to play devil’s advocate for the moment, how would you answer a contention that social ineptness is a thing inherently deserving of mockery? That those sufficiently poor at acquiring social skills in the usual manner really do constitute an inferior sort of human being, and thus it is only right and proper that they be treated as such?

          • Matt M says:

            That those sufficiently poor at acquiring social skills in the usual manner really do constitute an inferior sort of human being, and thus it is only right and proper that they be treated as such?

            I fail to see why that couldn’t just as easily be applied to the unintelligent or whoever. You’re right that life “really isn’t fair.” I don’t disagree with that at all.

            But it seems particularly cruel to work tirelessly to make it as fair as possible in all areas except one and I’ve yet to see anybody really attempt to justify that (or even to generally acknowledge it as a thing that does, in fact, exist)

          • The Nybbler says:

            I fail to see why that couldn’t just as easily be applied to the unintelligent or whoever.

            You want a really dark answer to that? Because there’s only the one status hierarchy, the one mediated by social skills. Those at the top of it work actively to either destroy (as with intelligence or strength) or bring into line (as with wealth… to a degree) the value of all other things which might give rise to competing hierarchies. So we have welfare, not to help the poor, but to make sure those who are good at making a living can’t get too far ahead and challenge those who are good at the “people stuff”. We have special education and taboos on making fun of the less intelligent not to help them but to prevent intelligence becoming the basis of an alternate hierarchy. We have rules requiring disputes to be settled by appeal to authority rather than by strength not to keep order or create fairness for the weak, but to keep those with authority on top rather than the physically strong.

          • Jaskologist says:

            A society where people aren’t entitled to friendship and companionship is a sick society.

            You’re not entitled to anything, nobody is going to get for you what you won’t get for yourself, and anybody who says differently is selling something.

            That said, any society where engaging in prosocial behavior does not bring with it the overwhelming likelihood of friendship and sex is indeed a very sick society, and probably not long for this world.

          • James Miller says:

            @The Nybbler

            This could only happen if high social skills people could overcome collective action / free rider problems and coordinate to achieve this.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This could only happen if high social skills people could overcome collective action / free rider problems and coordinate to achieve this.

            They can; that’s part of being highly socially skilled.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Matt M

            But it seems particularly cruel to work tirelessly to make it as fair as possible in all areas except one and I’ve yet to see anybody really attempt to justify that (or even to generally acknowledge it as a thing that does, in fact, exist)

            A society where all forms of cruelty have been abolished is probably too boring for humans to bear. I don’t think we really want a complete all conquering consistency and scouring of human foibles.

            We want free bread and safety from violence, but we still want to be able to dislike people and say bad things about them. Even movements that try to narrow the acceptable range of groups it is okay to dislike and say bad things about just end up transferring the cruelty to new outgroups.

            I don’t even really think it’s possible to be completely free of the belief that some people are inferior to others, because even if you proclaim that belief you end up believing that people who don’t believe this are inferior.

            People who suck at social interaction are kind of the ultimate outgroup (or maybe far group when they are the loner type rather than the mocked nerd type), since they are alienated from other humans on the lowest level most basic thing possible rather than on a high level as with things like politics. A progressive and a conservative can get on as long as they avoid politics, but someone with an unlikeable personality can’t get along with anyone on the most basic level of interaction. They are the ultimate universal inferior.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Nybbler

            They can; that’s part of being highly socially skilled.

            But if they don’t want to…

            I see no reason to believe that high social skills correlate with a lack of selfishness. If anything, in my own life I’ve become vaguely suspicious that people who are really socially skilled are more likely to successfully screw me over to benefit themselves… but I’m probably just paranoid.

          • Mark says:

            You’re not entitled to anything, nobody is going to get for you what you won’t get for yourself, and anybody who says differently is selling something.

            No – the fundamental social unit is the family, and it doesn’t work as you describe it. You are in a family and you are entitled to love from your family. And if you don’t get love, you have a shitty family – it’s not like some market decision – “hmmm… should I love little Timmy, well… his dancing doesn’t please me sufficiently…. so I’m only going to give him 6 love points”

            Social bonds that matter are not based on market decisions – they are based on duty. What people are talking about here I would call a “fair weather friend” – a useless friend, only out for what they can get.
            That’s a losing strategy socially – families beat loosely connected networks (if those loosely connected networks are all you have).
            And, it can also be somewhat true for the larger networks – networks based on ethnicity, religious loyalty – some duty to a certain set of people rather than social decisions based upon individual attractiveness – can also successful.

            Society as a whole works because we have a duty to not steal, lie, cheat. The societies with the most universal conception of duties have been the most successful, because they are able to become bigger.

            So, yes, we can talk about entitlement and duty.

            People who suck at social interaction can do fine as long as they aren’t reliant on the kindness of selfish strangers.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            If anything, in my own life I’ve become vaguely suspicious that people who are really socially skilled are more likely to successfully screw me over to benefit themselves

            Perhaps they are just better at it…

          • Cypren says:

            If anything, in my own life I’ve become vaguely suspicious that people who are really socially skilled are more likely to successfully screw me over to benefit themselves…

            That’s often been my general feeling as well, based largely on my professional experience, but I think it’s selection bias.

            People with poor social skills typically don’t play political games because they are very bad at them, and aren’t rewarded for it. Instead, they have to focus on producing quality output for the organization in order to succeed. People with high social skills can use those skills to achieve status within the organization in excess of their actual output by shifting blame for their mistakes, taking credit for other people’s work, and so forth.

            Many people have these skills without abusing them, but because climbing a corporate hierarchy is a competitive endeavor, those who are willing to use their social skills to undermine their competitors and inflate their own perceived value will usually climb faster and shut out those who are unwilling to do so. As they ascend and face competitors who were also willing to do the same, the politics get more vicious and there’s more collateral damage among the peons, until you eventually get to an organization like Uber where most of the senior management seem to spend more time figuring out how to crush each other than they do competitors.

            As a result, you’re likely to notice that if someone betrays you, backstabs you or undermines you at work, it’s usually someone with high social skills — because they (correctly) believe they can get away with it and use it to advance their own career. It’s not that there weren’t plenty of other good-natured and socially skilled people around; you just don’t notice them because they aren’t playing the game of thrones like the evil ones, and therefore aren’t negatively impacting you.

          • Randy M says:

            @Mark

            So, yes, we can talk about entitlement and duty.

            You’ve convinced me, and I retract my snark from yesterday.
            I was thrown because typically the language of rights and entitlement is only used in reference to the government.

            @Cypren

            Many people have these skills without abusing them, but because climbing a corporate hierarchy is a competitive endeavor, those who are willing to use their social skills to undermine their competitors and inflate their own perceived value will usually climb faster and shut out those who are unwilling to do so.

            My previous boss told me not uncommonly, “Perception is everything,” meaning it doesn’t matter if you accomplish things if you aren’t known to do so. That wasn’t only about social skills, but where professional rewards limited, they could well be a deciding factor.

          • Deiseach says:

            There is no push for people with great social skills to go out of their way to befriend people without friends. No army of NGOs attempting to ensure the friendless have “basic access” to healthy human relationships.

            Well, I have to say, I’m one of those low social skills persons with literally* no friends and I don’t particularly care (this is probably because I don’t much like people, anyway). If there were an NGO which attempted to ensure “the friendless have basic access to healthy human relationships” and their Official Caretaker signed me up on a mandatory course to teach me How To Make Friends and alloted me a timeshare Best Buddy, with exercises every week I would have to do and provide evidence of doing (e.g. this week you must join a local club or society for a hobby or pastime!) I would loathe it with the passion of the galactic core going supernova, would baulk like a mule, and sulk my way through the entire miserable course and do as little as possible to get away with the mandatory “socialisation exercises” and as for my Best Buddy, if they were found floating face-down in the local harbour I have an alibi and you can’t prove anything, copper!

            So y’know, tastes differ and I have no feeling that I am owed friendship or that someone is obligated to be my friend or that I must have one of these particular social relationships everybody else is having. And I absolutely, positively reject all notions that I owe or am obligated to be a friend/romantic interest/what have you to anyone else. (Civic duty as a member of society is something different and I do accept that citizenship involves responsibilities as well as rights).

            Now, if you want to say that society owes me a million quid, my bank account details are… 🙂

            *I mean that ‘literally literally’, not ‘metaphorically literally’.

          • lvlln says:

            Deiseach:

            If there were an NGO which attempted to ensure “the friendless have basic access to healthy human relationships” and their Official Caretaker signed me up on a mandatory course to teach me How To Make Friends and alloted me a timeshare Best Buddy, with exercises every week I would have to do and provide evidence of doing (e.g. this week you must join a local club or society for a hobby or pastime!) I would loathe it with the passion of the galactic core going supernova, would baulk like a mule, and sulk my way through the entire miserable course and do as little as possible to get away with the mandatory “socialisation exercises” and as for my Best Buddy, if they were found floating face-down in the local harbour I have an alibi and you can’t prove anything, copper!

            I’m not too familiar with most NGOs, but I was under the impression that they don’t coerce (or even have the power to coerce) the objects of their charity. Like, is the typical NGO going over to impoverished people and forcing them to accept bed nets or food at gun point, regardless of whether or not they express desire?

            So y’know, tastes differ and I have no feeling that I am owed friendship or that someone is obligated to be my friend or that I must have one of these particular social relationships everybody else is having. And I absolutely, positively reject all notions that I owe or am obligated to be a friend/romantic interest/what have you to anyone else. (Civic duty as a member of society is something different and I do accept that citizenship involves responsibilities as well as rights).

            When I think of concepts like “everyone is entitled to food/housing/healthcare,” it doesn’t at all imply that any given food-maker/homeowner/doctor must provide food/housing/healthcare against their will.

          • John Schilling says:

            When I think of concepts like “everyone is entitled to food/housing/healthcare,” it doesn’t at all imply that any given food-maker/homeowner/doctor must provide food/housing/healthcare against their will.

            Of course, that’s easier to arrange for commodity goods like food and housing than personal services like education and health care. A universal right for e.g. health care does run into the problem that at some point there’s a whiny obnoxious hypochondriac that no doctor wants to treat at any price society is willing to pay.

          • Deiseach says:

            You are in a family and you are entitled to love from your family. And if you don’t get love, you have a shitty family

            But Mark, this attitude is so very much out of fashion today! The old-fashioned notion was “you have a duty to respect and honour your parents as the authors of your being, even if they’re opposing some of your wishes”.

            Now it’s “I don’t have to love my mother, she was a horrible person, and telling me I have to love her is saying I deserved all the abuse. I refuse to accept that I have to love someone who didn’t love me”.

            Both attitudes can be taken to harmful extremes: you have to obey and not alone obey, but force yourself to feel positively towards, someone who may be cruel or indifferent to you, and you can unilaterally cut off all connections because you feel like it, regardless of what the other person feels.

            You can be entitled to love from your family, but that’s not saying you are going to get it. There are bad parents, ungrateful children, drifting away, cold relationships – we have social services for the worst cases.

            The ideal is the happy, loving family. The reality is that not all families are like that.

            The ideal is that each one of us is a happy, successful, popular person who wants friends and who has friends because other people like us, who want sexual/romantic partner(s) and gets them because we have sufficient appeal, possibly a family of our own. The reality is not such. Some people want and can’t get, because they’re too weird/ugly/have mental and/or physical problems etc., some people don’t want one or the other or any of it.

            I would as much hate having a state-mandated compulsory ‘friend’ as I would hate being a state-mandated compulsory ‘friend’.

            And a sex lottery doesn’t seem to me to solve the problem, either: if what you want is the ideal of romantic attraction and someone who cares about you because they are attracted to you, find you interesting and funny and worthwhile, how satisfying is it going to be to get someone who is only laughing at your jokes and letting you put your arm around them because they’re paid for it/it is part of state-mandated civic duty? You know that when they say “And I really care for you, too, Bob” they’re acting?

            Well, toadies and sycophants have always had a niche and there’s no shortage to this day of the rich and successful who like a clique of hangers-on fawning over them. But for someone who wants “genuine, real, like those other people get” emotional warmth and attachment, is it going to be enough if you know you didn’t get it on your own merits but because you were allotted it, and it isn’t real liking (because state-mandated friends/lovers are going to have their preferred, chosen, real friends and lovers that they spend time with when they’re not ‘on the clock’ performing their shift of being with you).

            Automation may be the solution, where if it’s a sex bot and friend bot, at least it’s real fake emotion 🙂

          • Well, I have to say, I’m one of those low social skills persons with literally* no friends

            Online interactions don’t count? I would have said that you have a fair number of friends here. Certainly a lot of people who both like you and respect you.

          • Mark says:

            @Deiseach
            It’s important to establish the ethical principal before addressing the awful reality. There are people who can’t distinguish between the two, and who almost lack the language to do so.

            I would as much hate having a state-mandated compulsory ‘friend’ as I would hate being a state-mandated compulsory ‘friend’.

            Perhaps you question the state as a moral authority, but, if there were some moral authority that you could recognise, and it were necessary for you to be a “friend”, you would be one despite the difficulty of the role.

            We have a duty towards others – if you find it exceptionally hard to deal with other people, it may well be that there is someone better placed to provide others with companionship. That doesn’t change the fact that *if necessary* we should be prepared to take up the ethical role.

            how satisfying is it going to be to get someone who is only laughing at your jokes and letting you put your arm around them because they’re paid for it

            How satisfying is it when your mother tells you she loves you because she is your mother? I think it’s a sick distortion of normal human relations to imagine that we can only take satisfaction from affection that has been *earned*.

            You can’t pay families, because the moment you cease paying them they would stop being your family.
            That isn’t how relations work. It really isn’t how any normal relations work.

            “Oh, she was paid, she didn’t *really* love me, for me”
            Yes, she should just love you for you, without payment, and without *you* being a payment, either.

            I have a duty towards people because they are human. How much satisfaction can they derive from that fact? Quite a lot, I would imagine.

            You know that when they say “And I really care for you, too, Bob” they’re acting?

            People have been trained to believe that everything must be a transaction, and therefore believe that caring for others must be difficult.
            For modern man, without any particular material pressures, caring for others is as easy as anything else. As easy as caring about any of the things their Facebook feed tells them they should be caring about, certainly.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          The interesting thing is that the thing you quoted is wrong. That’s part of the problem. Nice Guys are arguing that not only do you not get rewarded for not behaving like a jackass, but that you in fact get rewarded for doing so. That’s the whole point of “girls only like assholes.” The problem is that Nice Guys sort of put asshole behavior and arrogance in with confidence. In fact many women do as well.

          To use rationalist terminology, the incentives are not in line with the stated rules. Women do not react to stimuli the way they say they do. Men don’t either of course but this specific discussion is about how to have success with women. As a monolith. Obviously different people are different but for this topic we necessarily need to generalize.

          Being a selfish, narcissistic person, which is essentially synonymous with being an asshole is an advantageous trait in romance/sex related activities. This is especially true when most people have their formative experiences, from ~12-21. In face I believe research has recently come out saying narcissism is an adaptive trait GENERALLY around those ages. Now as I mentioned in another comment this is similar to the famous correlation/causation example you probably all had in intro sociology. Increased ice cream consumption tracks increases in rape very well. Of course the truth is that both of those stats track a separate third thing which causes both of them to rise. Similarly with being a jerk and getting laid/getting a girlfriend. Its a bit more complicated than the ice cream but the general theory is the same.

          There is a clearly observable correlation between romantic/sexual success and some of the behaviors that are displayed by jerks/assholes.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @axiomsofdominion

            “Women do not react to stimuli the way they say they do.”

            Isn’t the answer to this to internalize “actions speak louder than words” and “revealed preferences” and adjust accordingly?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            I mean that’s what a lot of people in the manosphere/puasphere do. Though they take it too far the other way. Some people may lack the ability to pull themselves up by their social skills bootstraps, though, hence my suggestion that we teach people a wide variety of social skills as part of the education system. Just like knowing that cutting back on my sugary drinks will lose me weight doesn’t mean I can easily just yell “Bam!” and then make healthier life choices, knowing at an abstract, non-detailed level how to act to get girls doesn’t mean people who struggle in that area can just magically get over shyness, fear of embarrassment, and years of believing in their heart that women like jerks. If you are viscerally uncomfortable asking girls out or flirting and trying to interpret subtle cues as indications of interest you can’t just magically internalize effecting romance skills. Plus the early phase where you are not very practiced will be filled with rejections in many cases.

            If I tell someone how to get a date, that doesn’t mean they will successfully execute the first couple tries. Showing someone the proper form for throwing a baseball won’t make them Greg Maddox.

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, I’m flinging down the gauntlet: what’s a Nice Woman? Or a Nice Girl, as it’s more generally put?

          Because I am possibly jaundiced by too much Elizabethan, Jacobean and Cavalier poetry that boiled down to:

          (a) I wanna fuck you
          (b) Why won’t you let me fuck you? Are you some frigid bitch that gets off on treating guys mean?
          (c) Okay, so I persuaded you that you don’t want the reputation of being a frigid bitch, so you’re finally down to fuck. But before we do, a few conditions:
          (d) I don’t want you to have fucked other guys before me, because ewwww you slutty whore
          (d) And I don’t want you to fuck other guys after me if we break up, because ewwww you slutty whore
          (e) And if we break up, it’s my decision not yours – if you decide to break up with me, see (b) above
          (f) And if you let me fuck you, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna hang around or not fuck other women, see (e) above

          The “Nice Guy” has a long pedigree 🙂

          Though Suckling at least is witty and recognises men can be as fickle:

          OUT upon it, I have loved
          Three whole days together!
          And am like to love three more,
          If it prove fair weather.

          Time shall moult away his wings
          Ere he shall discover
          In the whole wide world again
          Such a constant lover.

          But the spite on ’t is, no praise
          Is due at all to me:
          Love with me had made no stays,
          Had it any been but she.

          Had it any been but she,
          And that very face,
          There had been at least ere this
          A dozen dozen in her place.

          • Deiseach says:

            Sir Philip Sidney has a great Nice Guy’s Lament:

            This Lady’s Cruelty

            WITH how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies!
            How silently, and with how wan a face!
            What! may it be that even in heavenly place
            That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
            Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
            Can judge of love, thou feel’st a lover’s case:
            I read it in thy looks; thy languish’d grace
            To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
            Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
            Is constant love deem’d there but want of wit?
            Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
            Do they above love to be loved, and yet
            Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
            Do they call ‘virtue’ there—ungratefulness?

            Yeah, I like her but she doesn’t like me back, that’s not because nobody is obliged to return affection, it’s because she’s proud and vain and likes having attention and people in love with her but makes fun of the nice guys honest lovers and pretend it’s ‘virtue’ when it’s selfishness that she won’t fuck me return my love.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Taylor Swift literally sings songs that are the female version of the nice guy thought process. Feminists get immensely pissy when they is pointed out. Also: https://www.reddit.com/r/Nicegirls/

            Are you even trying to find examples? No. You literally could have cracked open google.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A “nice girl” is a much simpler phenomenon; it’s someone your mother would enjoy helping shop for baby clothes.

          • Randy M says:

            Nice is inherently more feminine. A “Nice girl” with average or better looks will probably not have trouble finding offers of companionship, though she may not deem them suitable.

            An analogous situation to a Nice Guy would be if men told women that what they really wanted in a mate was an assertive woman who conquered the workplace and didn’t concern herself with appearances, then got upset when men were hitting on the barrista with the flirty smile.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            In that case @RandyM something like 50% of feminists are “Nice Girls”.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, the parallel was intentional, but are feminists pursuing a rewarding and empowering career (lets call it) in order to get sex or male companionship, or because they want a chance to change the world or earn lots of money?
            In the end they make the same complaint, “why don’t men/women find this socially-lauded, non-regressive behavior alluring?!” but the motivation may be different.

          • Matt M says:

            I wonder how many “assertive women who conquer the workplace” are single?

            I work for a fairly elite firm in a glamorous industry. I’m pretty sure none of the women in my office are single. Of the various partners/boyfriends I’ve met, all seem fairly desirable. If they had to make trade-offs in terms of relationships for the sake of advancing their career, they certainly aren’t readily apparent….

            (The same is true for the men, by the way. Having to study hard, work long hours, volunteer, etc. hasn’t seemed to have stopped them from finding beautiful wives and having kids, etc. I’m legitimately concerned that bachelorhood may put me in the outgroup and may significantly harm my chances of promotion)

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            @MattM, its a fairly common complaint among career women. Maybe your office is anomalous?

          • Matt M says:

            Can you direct any of these complaining women my way?

            I have no particular reason to assume my office is anomalous. Many similarly successful women I went to grad-school with were either in relationships or clearly single-by-choice. I really can’t think of any women I know who have been involuntarily single for longer than a few months at a time.

      • As regards the complaints about “nice guys”, I think that’s because the stereotypical example of that is someone who says “Why won’t [Object of Interest] go out with me? I’m a Nice Guy!” and then segues into ‘why do women like the bad guys’. The answer to that is nobody is obligated to return your romantic interest, no, not even if you’re Nice. Being nice is basic human courtesy and decency, you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass

        I think the point of the complaint is the claim that people who do behave like jackasses get the reward. Not merely that being nice isn’t an adequate qualification for romance but that being not nice is.

        Whether that’s true I don’t know, but I think it is the claim.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Its the claim and its true. Scott has given us eloquent testimony on that from his own life. The thorny problem is what to do about it. Personally I advocate for teaching people, of both genders since this problem exists within both of them, the things that a moderate majority of people successfully learn on their own. You probably can’t help everyone but a difference between 20% of people who fail at achieving romantic/sexual goals vs 10% or even 5% would still be a major benefit to overall happiness of humanity.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @axiomsofdominion

            “The thorny problem is what to do about it.”

            *puts on devil’s advocate hat*

            Why do we need to do anything about it at all? Why isn’t “nothing” an option? Sure, some of us get the short end of the stick. Sucks to be them, so what? Life isn’t fair, some people are simply doomed to a miserable existence, life’s a b**** and then you die, that’s just the way it is, suck it up and deal with it.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            For the same reason we help people with disadvantages in other areas?

            Because helping them causes a net increase verses not doing do?

            It would arguably be cheaper to cause a significant improvement in the social lives of 10-20% of the population than it is to keep millions of cancer patients alive for 1-10 relatively painful years of existence.

            Training in social skills would also help the ~40% of the population who could do better even though they sort of muddle through currently.

          • psmith says:

            helping them causes a net increase verses not

            A typo, but also a pretty neat unintentional indictment of “point-of-view-of-the-universe” metaethics.

            Also, positional goods matter here. It’s (plausibly mostly) not about being faster than the bear.

            Anyway, the real answer to Kevin’s questions is something like “kinda, but also noblesse oblige”, but I’m pretty sure he already knows that.

          • Matt M says:

            Training in social skills would also help the ~40% of the population who could do better even though they sort of muddle through currently.

            Careful with this though. It can end up being a zero sum game. Do expensive SAT prep courses help poor minorities get into Harvard? Maybe in theory. But in reality, it’s mostly rich white kids who will be taking those courses and getting an even bigger advantage than the poor.

            Nerds fell for this scam with online dating. They saw it as the ultimate equalizer. Finally, a way for the introverted and socially awkward to meet women away from the loud noisy bars with the aggressive jocks. Then the aggressive jocks all signed up too, every woman ended up with 500 new messages a day, and ended up picking based on appearance and witty one-liners, just like at the bar. Rather than an equalizer, it just served as a productivity enhancing tool for the already successful.

        • Matt M says:

          Not JUST that, but that being nice is also the nominal qualification.

          It’s like applying to a job, seeing that they list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement, interviewing, and then not only not getting the job, but noticing that a high school dropout was given the job instead.

          Have that happen to you a few dozen times in your life and see if explanations about how employers technically have a right to hire whoever they want and that you aren’t entitled to a job satisfy you.

          • Randy M says:

            On that analogy, being a “nice guy” romantically is like being the very punctual employee. It might help you advance, or at least might help you avoid one reason to be fired, but it sure isn’t going be the thing to get your resume a second look.

            Then again, it might make it look like you have nothing going on.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            I think Brad’s comment got to the root of the majority of the issue. Most Nice Guys probably haven’t asked out many girls. And in our society men are usually the initiator. Asking less than 10 girls out who are in your league should be a requirement before you are allowed to complain.

          • Matt M says:

            It might help you advance

            Except for the part where I see absolutely zero evidence that being nice helps one advance romantically, and plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest the opposite is true, that it harms your chances of advancement.

          • Matt M says:

            “Most Nice Guys probably haven’t asked out many girls.”

            Perhaps because they are regularly told that being aggressive isn’t a thing “nice guys” do.

          • Randy M says:

            Matt M, I guess that depends on what exactly nice looks like in practice. Things that make a nice but unattractive acquaintance seem creepy might work okay for a hot boyfriend. Just like being punctual might help, so long as you are completing assignments that make the company money, but otherwise you’ll be laid off like the rest.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            That would be correct. Being socially and sexually aggressive is a benefit but often the signal is sent that it isn’t.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @axiomsofdominion

            “And in our society men are usually the initiator.”

            Not just our society. We’re placental mammals, with all the implications vis-a-vis Bateman’s Law and Triver’s sexual selection rules that follow thereby.

            “Being socially and sexually aggressive is a benefit but often the signal is sent that it isn’t.”

            So just ignore the (false) signal.

            @Randy M

            “Things that make a nice but unattractive acquaintance seem creepy might work okay for a hot boyfriend.”

            Three rules: Be handsome. Be attractive. Don’t be unattractive.

      • Nyx says:

        > Being nice is basic human courtesy and decency, you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass, just the same as you don’t get a reward for “hey, today is the 1,000th day in a row I didn’t murder anyone!”

        You can say that if you like, but there are a great many people out there that are not nice, so clearly, “niceness” isn’t really any kind of basic quality at all. There are cheaters and deadbeats and wifebeaters and murderers and rapists and all sorts of terrible people out there, and many of them even manage to maintain relationships, and yes, it is unfair that horrible people get to have happy relationships while there are lots of nice people who don’t get to have relationships at all, and it’s ridiculous to blame people for their loneliness. It’s the flipside of conservative free-market ideology that asserts that the only reason anyone could be poor is because they’re lazy.

        > The answer to that is nobody is obligated to return your romantic interest, no, not even if you’re Nice.

        Well, no, nobody is individually obligated to solve other people’s relationship problems, any more than they’re obligated to personally rescue people from poverty out of their own pocket, but at the same time, poverty and inequality are still problems and just blaming them on the lazy poors is a callous and unproductive attitude to take.

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, no, nobody is individually obligated to solve other people’s relationship problems, any more than they’re obligated to personally rescue people from poverty out of their own pocket, but at the same time, poverty and inequality are still problems and just blaming them on the lazy poors is a callous and unproductive attitude to take.

          Money is a thing. Unless you are telling me you are sexually and romantically in love with money, it’s a material possession (or even an abstract concept). I wouldn’t like someone to take a brick out of the wall of my house, but I wouldn’t feel the same way about it as if they cut off my finger. I may grouse about the government taking social insurance contributions out of my paypacket, but it is not the same as if they literally wanted a pint of my blood.

          Emotions like love, friendship, liking etc. are corporeal, they’re expressions that are literally embodied in our bodies. Forcing or requiring us to give these expressions to someone for whom we do not feel that is an imposition in a way that taking money is not.

          I am not saying “if you can’t get a romantic partner, that’s your fault and you deserve to be treated like shit”, I am saying you cannot make people feel things that they don’t feel and don’t want to feel, and that includes feeling friendship or romantic attraction.

          • Nornagest says:

            Unless you are telling me you are sexually and romantically in love with money…

            “We’re doing it for the money. When the money arrives, we’ll be doing it with the money.”

      • John Nerst says:

        you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass

        That can be refactored into “you don’t get a punishment for behaving like a jackass” which sounds less obviously justified. I think this is closer to what is being complained about.

        • valiance says:

          No, I think the complaint is that behaving like a jackass is rewarded with sexual success (for certain values of sexual success); which it is. See Ozy’s anti-heartiste FAQ hosted on this very blog: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/20/ozys-anti-heartiste-faq/

          Disagreeable and high-dark-triad men have more sexual partners than agreeable and low-dark-triad men.

          Ozy comes up with an interesting reason this might be so:

          People who are more motivated by casual sex tend to have more casual sex, for a couple of reasons. If you really don’t want casual sex, you’re probably going to turn it down. If you really want casual sex, you’re probably going to put a lot of effort into getting it and lower your standards of sexual partner. And if the people who are most desirous of casual sex are also the most likely to be massive assholes, we’ll see that massive assholes tend to have the most sexual partners. This is not because nice people are unattractive, it’s because nice people, in general, don’t want casual sex.

          • John Nerst says:

            I suppose it’s a tricky matter of interpretation. What a general statement like “behaving like a jackass is rewarded with sexual success” actually means in real terms is unclear if there are internal differences in the things being described.

            I seriously doubt being a jackass is beneficial on average, but it clearly seems to work for a subset of people.

            And I did say “closer”, I don’t disagree with you, really – it’s just that I think the “women like assholes” narrative is significantly overstated and a softer version might be more accurate.

          • valiance says:

            It is tricky! But I think it’s clear that “behaving like a jackass is rewarded with sexual success” is true where you define behaving like a jackass as possessing dark traid traits/high big 5 disagreeability, and sexual success as a high number of sexual partners. So I would say Deiseach’s and your original statements don’t go far enough.

            Not sure if being a jackass is on average beneficial. I can imagine situations in which it isn’t. For example, if attractiveness correlates with both dark triad personality traits and sexual success (however it’s defined) then you have a confound with these negative personality traits. You think bad personalities explain sexual success but it’s just good looks! I can see good looks predisposing one to narcissism… And this is just one made up confound. Maybe the data on sexual success and personality traits controls for looks, but I can’t recall offhand.

            So, “women like assholes” seems to me clearly true, as per Henry in Radicalizing the Romanceless. And I would agree that most super players (tons of good looking women, high sociosexuality) are likely assholes.

            But I’d disagree for example with “women only like assholes.” I see too many non-asshole men do well with women to credit this. I think Ozy was on to something; this PUA stuff seems to ignore low sociosexuality individuals, or lump them all into the “beta male” template. Sexual success defined solely as physical attractiveness or number of sexual partners doesn’t seem to accord with the principles by which most men want to pick their mates.

    • Mark says:

      I dislike ‘nice’ people because to me there is something a bit passive aggressive about ‘niceness’. “Oh! He’s such a ‘nice’ guy” Normally means that he isn’t genuinely kind, but that he engages in superficial displays of kindness as a form of politeness.

      I like my politeness a bit more low key.

      That said, I love genuinely friendly and kind people.

      Actually, I think when ‘nice guys’ complain about not getting women they are saying “I haven’t killed anyone recently or broken any laws, give me a girlfriend, now.” Which, to me, is a fairly reasonable position to take.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I assume you meant “fairly unreasonable position” there at the end? If so, I think Scott’s alternate translation makes more sense: “I didn’t think I deserved to have the prettiest girl in school prostrate herself at my feet. But I did think I deserved to not be doing worse than Henry.”

        • Mark says:

          No, fairly reasonable – I think that being a normal decent human being should be rewarded with sex.

          I just don’t think that being “nice” should really come in to it.

          I didn’t kill anyone today – or do any other of the numerous anti-social things I could have done – that’s enough.
          I want the option of sex, please, or this society thing is not a good deal for me. There’s only so much food and shelter a man can take without sex.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think Scott got this right or you are. Many of the people that are enraged about their lack of sex don’t make reasonable efforts to have sex. They either don’t ask for it at all expecting to somehow drop from the sky, ask for it only rarely and only from one particular very attractive person which they fixate on one at a time, and/or don’t take extremely basic steps to make themselves more attractive such as showering and brushing their teeth.

            Above all the biggest problem is not asking. The first girlfriend I had, had to literally invite me to sleep in her bed before I finally made a move. And I could imagine a slightly different version of myself not even getting the point then (“oh she must just not want me to have to sleep on that uncomfortable couch”).

            I think it is somewhat unreasonable to expect a girlfriend without even having to ask. Though to be fair women do get something like that deal, though they have other things they have to deal with.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Okay, Brad, what efforts would you consider reasonable?

            (And please don’t say “hire a prostitute.” Moral issues aside; in this context, at least half the time, “sex” is synecdoche for a romantic relationship.)

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Brad, you have pretty much listed one of the major issues. The only real helpful thing PUA teaches you is to ask lots of girls. That is one of the things I think we could teach people in social skills classes. There are many, many other things as well not even related to dating.

            One of the reasons assholes seem to get more girls is that not only do they ask girls to go out with them or have sex with them but they are less limited by the word no so they will often not only make the initial ask but push on passed resistance. Sometimes its resistance expressed for cultural reasons and pushing on results in a consensual interaction, sometimes they are being aggressive and pressuring girls/women which can still result in success for various reasons. But that is most of the explanatory power.

            Its sort of like the human tendency to perceive a bear or other dangerous animal more often than one exists.

            You have a couple situations:
            There may or may not be a sign that a girl would say yes if you asked her for something.

            There are, at a high level, four options:
            There is a sign and you go for it.
            There is not a sign and you go for it.
            There is a sign and you don’t go for it.
            There is not a sign and you don’t go for it.

            People who either have more false positives than false negatives or who just don’t care are going to do better romantically/sexually than people who have more false negatives than false positives.

            The system incentivizes seeing signs. And acting on them. PUA teachings basically cause you to act like a person with more false positives even though you naturally aren’t.

            Of course ideally you would always actually know whether there was a sign or not. But humans suck at that and for other reasons women are incentivized to be ambiguous. Men sort of are also though not as much.

            The other major issue as you mentioned is fixating on people out of their league.

          • Mark says:

            Welfare? Poor man, why do you worry about eating? You haven’t begged to 300 people today for your supper. You should be ashamed of yourself.

            The expectation that people are entitled to sex must come first – then you can work about the particular cultural details.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark
            But presumably you agree that people are also entitled to not have sex with specific other people. So practically speaking you have to balance the two.

          • Mark says:

            [Marriage.]

            I guess really I’d like a system where everyone thinks “yes of course incredibly ugly people are entitled to sex” just as a general idea in society.
            I don’t like the thought that if you can’t have sex, buck your ideas up and be more attractive. Sounds very tiring for everyone – just chill the hell out and help those ugly people find a partner.

            Best example of this is the tv show “the undateables”. That’s the world I want to live in.

          • The first girlfriend I had, had to literally invite me to sleep in her bed before I finally made a move. And I could imagine a slightly different version of myself not even getting the point then (“oh she must just not want me to have to sleep on that uncomfortable couch”).

            You remind me of an incident when I was about fifteen, involving a girl I was very much attracted to but not in a romantic relationship with. She said something which, looking back at it, I suspect was an invitation to kiss her.

            But that interpretation didn’t occur to me at the time.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            David, there was a SUPER relevant r/askreddit thread about that a few days ago. Some were very relateable and some were like, how could you not see what was going on? r/askreddit is like 95% crap but the good ones are pretty fun to read.

          • Brad says:

            @Evan Þ

            Okay, Brad, what efforts would you consider reasonable?

            I’m far from an expert or an arbiter of objectively reasonable.

            There are probably people out there that have terrible situations they couldn’t do much about no matter how much effort they put in.

            But there’s another group of people that could brush their teeth, shower, put on deodorant, get a haircut, wear clean clothes, and ask some women out on dates. And not only women that look like models, are super smart, and tons of friends — though by all means give them a shot too.

            I can’t give any guarantees that will work, but if you are in my company and start moaning about how woman are bitches that only date assholes, I’m going to be much more likely to give you a pass and a sympathetic ear if you’ve tried and failed than if you haven’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think that being a normal decent human being should be rewarded with sex.

            Do you see the weasel word there? “Rewarded”.

            Mark, I don’t know your orientation or with whom you would prefer to have sex, but let’s imagine Person Of Gender You Aren’t Attracted To comes over and is fairly pleasant in a normal, casual, two strangers passing the time of day way.

            Then they make a pass at you, which you decline because they seem like an okay person but you’re just not interested.

            And then they go “Hey, I could have punched you in the face and when you were stunned, held you down, pulled off your clothes and raped you! But I didn’t, I was Nice! You should reward me for being Nice!”

            See the problem there with “being nice should be rewarded with sex”? You are still making it a matter of compulsion: if L does not like P in that way, too bad: P behaved in a civilised human manner and therefore should be rewarded.

            We coax children with bribes to learn and to behave, but after a certain point we expect them to behave without the expectation of a reward. If the Nice Guy/Gal is stuck on the six year old level of “i won’t do it unless i get a cookie”, too bad for them, but it’s even worse for society to force everyone to give them their goddamn cookie or else they’ll murder you.

            As for “ugly people are entitled to sex”, that is a different matter if we’re talking of sex only – that’s why there is such a thing as prostitution. Again, I wish there was some clarity – does the Nice Guy want sex, romance, both? Do they want a relationship or do they just want to stick their dick in a breathing woman? If option B, I am led to believe there are several ways of setting up an exchange of cash for services.

            And finally, if it really is a case of “I’m gonna behave like an asshole unless you let me fuck you”, then I set aside my objections to Punching A Nazi and firmly believe every man, woman or other is fully entitled to behave like an asshole right back at them, which may include anything from “Lay a finger on me and I’ll get my three brothers to beat the shit out of you and put you in the hospital” upwards. Whiny baby in the office is going to hang around your desk and moan that you didn’t want to go out on a date with him? Staple his balls to the desk.

            I don’t know if I believe every detail of that story about the woman who worked at Uber that is making the rounds, but if her example is correct, this is why Nice Guys are seen as pests – her new boss emailed her about his open relationship, pestered her for a date/sex, and when she went to HR they admitted he would give her a bad performance review for not sleeping with him but there was nothing they would do about it.

            And I’m sure he thought he was being a Nice Guy, sending her a polite email being open and honest about having a girlfriend and in an open relationship, and that he was flattering her with his attentions and that he was attracted to her, and that he wanted to have sex with her. She should have rewarded him for that, right? For being nice?

          • Randy M says:

            We coax children with bribes to learn and to behave, but after a certain point we expect them to behave without the expectation of a reward.

            We expect them to behave without the certain expectation of an immediate reward. We still expect that behaving well will tend to lead to happier lives for most people. Socially proscribed behavior should lead to most people having what they want most out of life (at least if we’ve stopped believing in rewards in the afterlife, honor, things like that) or else they won’t do it and will be right to.

            This isn’t all a nit-picky tangent. See discussions like”men on strike“–when men don’t feel like hard work and social conformity will lead them to a likelihood of female attention, they aren’t going to work hard professionally and personally.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            We expect them to behave without the certain expectation of an immediate reward. We still expect that behaving well will tend to lead to happier lives for most people.

            Exactly. In most circumstances, if society is set up such that pro-social behaviour leaves one worse off than anti-social behaviour, we consider that there’s a problem with society, not the people trying to act pro-socially.

            ETA @ Deiseach:

            And I’m sure he thought he was being a Nice Guy, sending her a polite email being open and honest about having a girlfriend and in an open relationship, and that he was flattering her with his attentions and that he was attracted to her, and that he wanted to have sex with her. She should have rewarded him for that, right? For being nice?

            Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. We have no way of telling one way or the other, nor do we have any way of telling how common this sort of mindset actually is among people who get labelled “Nice Guys”.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Randy M

            “We still expect that behaving well will tend to lead to happier lives for most people.”

            Do “we” really? And are “we” right to expect that?

            “Socially proscribed behavior should lead to most people having what they want most out of life”

            I think you made some sort of error in phrasing here; the definition of “proscribe” is: “To forbid or prohibit; to denounce; to banish or exclude.” I think you may have wanted to say “socially prescribed behavior”.

            “at least if we’ve stopped believing in rewards in the afterlife, honor, things like that”

            Maybe that’s the problem, then.

            “or else they won’t do it and will be right to.”

            How would they be “right to” refuse to do the right thing? It’s right to do the right thing and wrong to do the wrong thing — or refuse to do the right thing — pretty much by definition, yes? If the “socially prescribed behavior” is the right thing to do, then it’s the right thing to do, and those who “won’t do it” most assuredly won’t “be right to.”

          • Randy M says:

            Do “we” really? And are “we” right to expect that?

            By definition. Otherwise, to quote Michael Bluth, “I’d like to think of it as an imposition.”

            I think you made some sort of error in phrasing here

            Quite, thanks for pointing it out. My fingers typed what my brain told them to, so it wasn’t a typo, but a mixing up of the two similar words.

            Maybe that’s the problem, then.

            Well, sure, but consider the venue.

            How would they be “right to” refuse to do the right thing?

            Two possibilities–either there is objectively correct behavior, in which case you follow it regardless of consequences and enjoy your reward in Heaven, or “right behavior” is defined as that which tends to lead to better outcomes for the most individuals, and if it isn’t doing that, your defection will be a social signal that it is time to change the social conventions. (Also, of course, both may be true for different sets of actions).

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Randy M

            “By definition. Otherwise, to quote Michael Bluth, “I’d like to think of it as an imposition.””

            So what if it’s an “imposition”? What’s wrong with impositions, and why can’t the right thing be an imposition? What about “impositions” like the duty to respect and obey one’s parents and elders, which is pretty much universal to human societies? You don’t choose your parents, after all. Life itself is an imposition; nobody chooses to be born.

            “Two possibilities–either there is objectively correct behavior, in which case you follow it regardless of consequences and enjoy your reward in Heaven,”

            What if you believe in non-consequentialist ethics, “right and wrong” to be followed regardless of consequences, but not in a “future state of rewards and punishment”, as it were? That there exists objective right things to do that result in negative consequences with no afterlife or karma-based-reincarnation to “balance the scales”?

            One might reject that such a view can be meaningful, but to do so is to imply thereby that all non-consequentialist (non-realist) moral systems are dependent upon the reality of a “just” afterlife or reincarnation. But note that appealing that one should do the right thing because of “reward in heaven”, then you’re arguing it’s the right thing to do because of the outcomes of the action, and thus arguing consequentialism. So first, this view would constitute arguing that consequentialist ethics (where “consequences” can include post-death states) are the only possible ethics. Second, it would imply that non-consequentialist (at least with regards to earthly consequences) morals are dependent upon belief in a future state of rewards and punishment, and thus that atheism and irreligion mandate consequentialist ethics. I’m sure there’s at least one philosopher or ethicist out there with arguments against this (I admit I’m not well-read enough in that field to name one off-hand). I’d also dispute this due to my (many) reasons for rejecting particularly utilitarianism, and consequentialist ethics more broadly.

    • Protagoras says:

      I think “nice” has long been ambiguous and problematic in various ways, as others have implied. I remember a scathing Bertrand Russell essay about nice people; it didn’t have much to do with the current complaints about niceness, except to the extent that one of the problems he accused the nice people of being guilty of was hypocrisy. I don’t recall the publication date, but obviously written while Russell was alive, so at least half a century ago.

    • rahien.din says:

      Being “nice” is sometimes just submission to the other person’s will. IE, “Tell me what you want me to be and I will be it.” Normal people don’t want their romantic partners to be mere supplicants. That explains why most women would reject this overly-submissive “niceness.”

      Are there “nice women” IE female supplicants? Sure there are. Their existence would explain why asshole guys get girls. The asshole dude is a narcissist who likes nothing more than a supplicant girlfriend. Are there “asshole women”? Sure there are. But they behave differently from asshole men and/or they are less prevalent and/or they are less recognized.

      (And then there are healthy men and women.)

      So we can divide everyone into supplicants, narcissists, and healthy people. If we assume:
      – Healthy people are most likely to pursue or accept other healthy people
      – Supplicants are more likely to pursue unhealthy people, and most likely to be accepted by narcissists
      – Narcissists are least likely to pursue or accept narcissists

      …then most supplicants will find that the people they pursue are ending up with narcissists by virtue of simple math. Moreover, a supplicant who becomes a narcissist (a la PUA) would improve their chances with supplicants, worsen their chances with narcissists, and do little for their chances with healthy people.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Women in your system would have an inherent advantage because of the cultural dating roles for genders. That is, men propose and women accept. Being a supplicant is functionally identical to being healthy for women. Again I’m assuming that your classification system is properly descriptive.

        Being a supplicant male is much harder because the pool or women who initiate is much smaller. Also, healthy women are much more likely to end up with narcissists. Healthy confidence and narcissism are often not immediately apparent.

        • Kevin C. says:

          @axiomsofdominion

          “Women in your system would have an inherent advantage because of the cultural dating roles for genders. That is, men propose and women accept.”

          Again, this is more biological than cultural (evolutionary theory applied to sexual selection says so).

    • When I tell my wife that she is too nice, it is not a good thing. But I am using a meaning of the word that survives, outside of my usage, only in the phrase “nice distinction.”

  17. Mark says:

    Re: Trump’s Sweden comments – I wake up this morning, check the news, and it seems as if Trump has made some big mess-up by referencing some non-existent terrorist attack in Sweden, he has admitted his mistake and states he got his info from some (faaaake) Fox news story.

    Real story – Trump was referencing a Fox news story about immigrant crime in Sweden.

    I like this guys take:
    Angry Foreigner

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Eh.

      Trump was most likely referring to an terrorist attack which was referenced on Tucker Carlson’s show the previous night but took place in 2010.

      The real issue is that Trump does not care about getting his facts correct, so he does not bother to check things. He said he was surprised, that it was “unbelievable”, but this does not prompt him to make sure the information is correct.

      • Mark says:

        He didn’t mention terrorist attacks in Sweden, though. He said –

        “The President has the right to keep people out if he feels it’s not in the best interests of our country… we’ll be doing something over the next couple of days..we don’t give up… we never give up. We had a court that I disagree with bigly…
        Here’s the bottom line – we’ve got to keep our country safe. We gotta keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden! They took in large numbers now they are having problems they never thought possible. You look at what is happening in Brussels. You look at what is happening all over the world – look at Nice. Take a look at Paris….”

        It’s pretty clear to me that he is saying there are problems with immigration (mass sexual assualt in Germany/ rape in Sweden / lack of integration in Brussels / terrorist attacks in France) and that as President he has the right to restrict immigration where it might not be in the country’s interest.

        Has to be a pretty uncharitable reading to get “Trump invented a terrorist attack in Sweden” from that.

        The criticism seems to have mutated into “well, he gets all of his information from television” now. Still seems pretty uncharitable to me.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Trump is talking about the ban he put in place, which he says is to specifically stop terrorist attacks, and lists several place where terrorist takes have taken place.

          what’s happening last night in Sweden

          It takes a very charitable reading to say that Trump wasn’t indicating that something had happened “last night.”

          And perhaps reading Trump very, very charitably is the only way to make his actual words make sense as a general rule. But given there had been a program on the previous evening where a terrorist attack in Sweden had been referenced as happening recently, it’s not a stretch at all to believe he was referencing that.

          Again, the big issue is that everything he says has to be interpreted to get to what he might possibly be referring to. He clearly does not care about precision when claiming things are facts.

          • Mark says:

            I think it’s a conversational style – like if I said “Hey – did you see the Second World War thing last night?” it’s perhaps not the best way to phrase things, but it’d be a bit of an odd response to call me an idiot for not knowing that the war ended 70 years ago.

            It would also be a bit odd to pedantically insist that I rephrased my statement as “Hey – last night I watched a TV show about the Second World War – did you see that?” – in normal conversation people often phrase things somewhat ambiguously – we manage to get by because we interpret their words in ways that make sense.

            The thing that makes most sense is that Trump was referring to generally bad things associated with undocumented immigration (he has form – bad hombres/rapists/ etc.) and specifically to a TV show he watched the night before (which is what he has said he was saying) rather than him imagining a terrorist attack.

            I take this as evidence that his critics are uncharitable and pedantic.

          • random832 says:

            It would also be a bit odd to pedantically insist that I rephrased my statement

            The difference is that “second world war thing” can reasonably refer to “a TV program about the second world war” and requires no excessively charitable reading to be so. There is no such meaning available for Trump’s words. He talks about something happening last night, and the emotional content of the message is definitely that something happened recently (not six years ago) that people should be concerned about. This last point removes the validity of a pedantic “yes, a TV broadcast is a thing that happens”.

            I take this as evidence that his critics are uncharitable and pedantic.

            I take it as evidence that this is the response their words are designed to provoke, just like how Kellyanne Conway “misspoke” about the “Bowling Green massacre” and then it later turned out that had been carefully rehearsed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not pedantically insisting on anything.

            Hey – did you see the Second World War thing last night

            Yes, but if you say “Dieing in a fire is horrible. That thing with the Branch Davidians, and can you believe what happened last night in Dresden? So many people who died in that fire.” People are going to be confused.

            And, if your buddy says “What the heck are you talking about?” You should not get huffy at them.

            When the President of the U.S. says something happened in Sweden last night, no one should be surprised when people hear that for the plain meaning of the words and wonder what in the heck-fire he is talking about.

            And that is all that is happening. Donald Trump does a Donald Trump thing and people are pointing it out.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark
            “last night in Sweden” implies something happening last night in Sweden, not that you saw a programme about something in Sweden last night. The correct comparison would be “hey, there was a Second World War thing in Germany last night”, which does sound odd.

          • Mark says:

            There is no such meaning available for Trump’s words. He talks about something happening last night

            random832 – I think you’re wrong.

            I would say Trump was saying “Look at (the TV), (showing) what is happening, (oh yeah it was on) last night, in Sweden.

            I think we can know that this is what he means because of his use of the words “is happening”. If I was talking about something that happened in Sweden last night, there is no way I’d use the words “is happening” – it doesn’t make any basic sense – “Look at [the terrorist attack] that is happening in Sweden last night.”
            I think you’d have to be a non-native speaker or George Bush to say something like that.

            It’s not the emotional content of the message that makes it sound as if something happened recently – it’s the grammar that tells us it’s something that is still occurring, and that “last night” must be referring to something else.

            I don’t know – I think I’m just finely attuned to Trump’s manner of speaking – that supposedly indecipherable comment he made that was doing the rounds a while ago made perfect sense to me – and yeah, it could always be some kind of planned controversy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark:
            But Trump could just as easily have said in a speech the day after Orlando “and look at what is happening last night in Florida” and it would still have parsed correctly in your view.

            In other words, if you already know what Trump is talking about, you can understand what he probably means.

          • random832 says:

            @rlms

            The correct comparison would be “hey, there was a Second World War thing in Germany last night”, which does sound odd.

            I don’t think this is nearly a strong enough claim. The correct comparison is more like “nazi thing in Germany last night” – the fact that it has enough surface plausibility that almost certainly many people walked away from the rally thinking there was a real thing that really happened last night and never saw any of the fact-checking (or, if they did, they assumed it was more left-wing media lies) is important to the analogy.

            @Mark

            I would say Trump was saying “Look at (the TV), (showing) what is happening, (oh yeah it was on) last night, in Sweden.

            But that’s because you already know the facts. Without it, it sounds like “what is happening” is just “too many refugees, causing problems”, which would justify the present tense, and “last night” something went wrong in a specific way related to that (i.e. a terrorist attack, or maybe riots or something).

            And if someone had told me, in the comments here this morning, that there had been an incident in Sweden last night, I would have believed them. I would also be very angry with them after I googled it and found nothing, but my point is, it’s certainly plausible for me, just as for everyone at his rally – basically anyone who doesn’t watch 24/7 cable news – to have not yet heard about a real incident that had happened so recently. And that goes double for his supporters who are constantly being fed a narrative about the media suppressing and refusing to cover terrorist attacks.

          • Fahundo says:

            I would say Trump was saying “Look at (the TV), (showing) what is happening, (oh yeah it was on) last night, in Sweden.

            So you can only understand the sentence if you already know exactly where the blanks are and how to fill them in properly?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Here’s the bottom line – we’ve got to keep our country safe. We gotta keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden! They took in large numbers now they are having problems they never thought possible. You look at what is happening in Brussels. You look at what is happening all over the world – look at Nice. Take a look at Paris…

          Looking at that in context, it seems to me that talking about the Sweden thing is a bit of a red herring. Sure, it looks like Trump goofed up there. But the rest of his examples, and the overall point he’s trying to make, are still clearly right.

        • Odovacer says:

          @Mark

          This reminds me of the “fake but accurate” meme during the Bush administration. Every time I hear a plea to take Trump seriously, but not literally, fake, but accurate comes to my mind.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            probably because it makes sense though

            like, it’s no fun that Trump is this easily fooled by news shows. But he’s clearly correct about Sweden in general. It sucks that we need to have someone like that in power just to address these basic issues that we should’ve already addressed, but clearly we do or he wouldn’t be here.

          • It isn’t clear, listening to the speech, that Trump was fooled by news shows. The alternative interpretation is that what he meant was “what we heard about last night that has been happening in Sweden” not “what we heard about that happened last night.”

          • Randy M says:

            Or as a sort of more emphatic “currently”, though I’d only give him benefit of the doubt here if he is talking extemporaneously.

        • Matt M says:

          I hadn’t actually heard or seen the quote before. The fact that he brings up Nice and Paris, where attacks obviously did happen, seems relevant. And seems to expose that the media is being deliberately uncharitable here. His point is “lack of immigration restrictions leads to terrorism.” In proving that, he cites 3-4 examples, all but one of unquestionably happened. By ignoring those and focusing entirely on “HE SAID SOMETHING HAPPENED IN SWEDEN BUT NOTHING DID LOL WHAT AN IDIOT” it seems as if they are ignoring his greater point entirely. Not having a constructive debate on the issues, but engaging in pointless partisan “gotcha” journalism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There is and has been plenty of coverage of Trump’s idea that stopping immigration from these countries would stop terrorist attacks. This is not a new claim of Trump’s.

            But they call it “news” for a reason.

          • Matt M says:

            There also is, and has been plenty of coverage of Trump saying weird things that have little bearing on actual facts.

            “Trump says thing that, under normal interpretation of English, would seem to be totally wrong, but can be defended if interpreted a certain way by people generally sympathetic to him” is a story that we’ve already seen 500 times in the last year. That’s not “news” either.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But a statement that strongly implies an event in Sweden last night is new. Him mentioning Sweden at all is new.

            That’s going to get noticed and commented on. People have to figure out what the fuck he might mean, depending on whether today is the day he is being serious or the day he is being literal.

            I mean, if something actually did happen in Sweden and people didn’t go figure out what he was talking about, Trump would be all over that too.

          • Matt M says:

            “That’s going to get noticed and commented on. People have to figure out what the fuck he might mean, depending on whether today is the day he is being serious or the day he is being literal.”

            Yeah, and it took about five seconds for people here to tell you exactly what he meant. It’s fairly obvious. The constant harping of it does not come from some genuine desire to inform the public, but from an ideological desire to harm Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            I didn’t bring it up.

            Look, in the 12 to 24 hours after he says that, people are going to note that he said something about Sweden, point out that nothing happened last night, try to figure out what he meant, report what they think he meant, ask for official clarification and try and figure out if the official clarification matches the new thing he said. Slightly more time because it was over a weekend.

            And then it goes away, unless people try and bring it up as an example of how he is being mistreated by the media.

            ETA: Remember, my original thesis was simply that he needed to be more precise about what he says and make sure it matches what actually happened. Not that it was a very big deal that he said it.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I think this is pretty easy to overlook – when people started pointing this out, they didn’t know about the Fox News thing. They just knew Trump said something in Sweden last night, and nobody knew what he was talking about.

            Also, two of his staff members had already been caught repeatedly referring to (separate instances of) attacks that didn’t happen, which is going to lead people to noticing a pattern.

            (And I actually do think the pattern still sort of lines up, since the Bowling Green thing was also likely a case of ‘misunderstood something I saw on TV, didn’t bother to check, made myself look dumb/dishonest’.)

          • random832 says:

            Yeah, and it took about five seconds for people here to tell you exactly what he meant. It’s fairly obvious. The constant harping of it does not come from some genuine desire to inform the public, but from an ideological desire to harm Trump.

            Or the fact that they have to provide enough coverage of something for people not to conclude “there was a real attack and the media refused to cover it, just like Trump and Conway are always saying they do.”

            The piece you’re missing is that people hearing the Trump speech, and people seeing this coverage of it, don’t already know that there was no incident in Sweden last night, let alone already knowing that there was something on Hannity about a 2010 attack in Sweden.

          • Deiseach says:

            If he mentioned placenames where historical (in this context “did not happen last night, happened some time before”) attacks occurred, using the formulation “what is happening in – ” and mentioned Sweden in the middle, that does lean towards the interpretation that what he meant was “all this list of examples where countries that took in large numbers of migrants had problems with crime and rioting”, rather than “and something happened last night in Sweden”.

            I haven’t seen anybody taking him to task for saying “what is happening in Germany/in Brussels”, even though at the time there was nothing happening right then – but they did jump on “last night in Sweden”, which does seem to be looking for any stick to beat the dog.

            I know people like to say Trump is dumb, but this and the thing alleged about his lack of focus – he could be ADHD and quite smart, but his mind jumps from one link of the chain of thought to another in a fast, unstructured way so he leaves out the intermediate steps in “And another example is something I saw last night on the TV about similar trouble in Sweden” and “this is happening in Sweden also”, so you get “happening last night in Sweden”.

          • beleester says:

            @Deiseach: “Is happening” is generally used to mean “Has been happening in recent times,” because unless Trump is a clairvoyant, he’s probably not describing an incident which is happening right this very instant. “Last night,” on the other hand, is usually used to mean “last night.” It takes a tremendous amount of charity to interpret it any other way, and it’s unreasonable to say that the people who took it literally are just looking for trouble.

            Because obviously, a reasonable, virtuous person would have spent the evening looking through the Fox News archives to find out what he meant, right? That’s the natural thing to do when you’re told about an event last night in Sweden, and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to smear him.

            And it takes a significant amount of chutzpah to decry the media for reporting statements that, while truthful, might give listeners the wrong impression, but to defend statements by Trump that, even if you twist yourself into pretzels to show how they aren’t really lies, are definitely going to give someone the wrong impression.

        • rahien.din says:

          Mark,

          You look at what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening last night in Sweden.

          Your claim seems to be that the phrase “last night” modifies “You look,” rather than “what’s happening in Sweden.” There’s no way to reach that conclusion from the syntax. So, in order for your claim to be true, we must interpret/reject syntax in the context of the sentence’s presumed meaning.

          To some degree that is a reasonable and normal thing to do in conversation. But, in order to give someone the benefit of the doubt in that way, there has to be some common ground of discourse. Trump’s administration has become known for “alternative facts,” which run the gamut from competing interpretations to provably false statements. It is hard to tell how much of this is carelessness and how much is tactical (as they are so hostile to the press), but either way, the common ground has undeniably been eroded.

          With no common ground to rely on a priori, and when he so tortures the syntax, there is no basis for deciphering his statements. We can only restate our logical priors – exactly what everyone has done. Charity demands we acknowledge that Trump’s statement is simply unclear.

          I do agree that his sentence does not imply a terrorist attack whatsoever. Even the most syntactically-strict reading is merely that something happened last night in Sweden.

      • gbdub says:

        The news spin is implying that he referenced a specific event and conflating it with the earlier Bowling Green gaffe. But while he did refer to “last night” he otherwise said nothing about a specific incident (or even say that whatever “last night” referred to was a terrorist attack).

        I am seriously in full on pox-on-both-their-houses mode. Trump is awful, but the press is in such a lather that they can’t help feeding his narrative.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But “last night” strongly implies a specific incident!

          In the grand scheme of things, this particular malapropism is nothing. But as part of the pattern where Trump and the administration repeat confusing bullshit statements over and over?

          At some point you just have to admit that you can’t believe there is objective meaning in any particular thing he says.

          • gbdub says:

            So you have to read over-charitably to get a non-BS reading out of the statement.

            But you have to read under-charitably to get “Trump made up a Swedish terror attack that didn’t happen!”

            I’m just sick of the cycle: Trumps says something exaggerated/dumb -> media battles to see who can make most uncharitable overreaction -> Trump calls out media. Media tells their audience Trump is a liar and buffoon, Trump tells audience media overreacts and is against him, both audiences pat themselves on the back for their views being vindicated (and they’re both partly right!). It’s tiresome.

          • random832 says:

            What else is the media supposed to do? The “they suppress coverage” narrative makes silence a losing option, so if there’s no story about a real attack, there has to be a story about a fake attack, otherwise large numbers of people will walk away believing there was an attack and the media didn’t cover it.

          • gbdub says:

            Run the quote and say “it was not clear what specific event, if any, Trump was referring to”. Run some stats on Swedish crime if you want to spin it whichever way. Anti-Trumpers will still get it.

            He never said anything about an attack in Sweden, just an amorphous reference to last night and “problems they never thought possible”, so I’m not sure why a terrorist attack is the only possible conclusion. In any case, more people are probably hearing about the quote because of the negative coverage than they would with a blander story about the speech. Hell, there are probably way more people associating “terror attack” and “Sweden” now than if the media had stayed silent!

        • beleester says:

          it was not clear what specific event, if any, Trump was referring to

          That’s even worse! That implies that there could be multiple events that “last night in Sweden” refers to!

          If there was no terror attack, then you shouldn’t hedge and say “maybe there was a terror attack, maybe there wasn’t.” It’s not virtuous to create uncertainty where none exists. Say “There was no terror attack last night in Sweden, and it is unclear what Trump was referring to.”

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I wake up this morning, check the news

      Well, there’s your problem.

      But yeah this doesn’t seem particularly notable. Another day, another MSM #fakenews story.

      The genuinely interesting question is whether Trump will actually do anything to “keep our country safe” or just keep tweeting. His performance so far has been disappointing: rolling over meekly for the courts instead of ignoring their illegal rulings, letting the rogue intelligence community take out his people one-by-one rather than going after them, etc. I’m still trying to suspend judgement until his first 100 days are up but he’s quite got a lot of work left to do.

      • beleester says:

        His performance so far has been disappointing: rolling over meekly for the courts instead of ignoring their illegal rulings

        Say what? The courts are the ones who decide if something is illegal or not. Not Trump. The President doesn’t get to ignore court rulings he doesn’t like, that’s not one of his powers.

        (Yes, yes, Jackson got away with saying “The court has made their decision, now let them enforce it,” but that’s not a strategy you should encourage. In general, ignoring the federal courts is how you get the US Marshals sent after you.)

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Hardball answer: Marbury v Madison was illegitimate, since the court can’t interpret the power to interpret the Constitution into existence. The Supreme Court and lower courts have no power to overrule an EO except on Constitutional grounds.

          Softball answer: If the courts abandon the Constitution, they lose their legitimacy. A “living document” isn’t law, it’s ideology and thus rulings based on it have no legal force.

          Either way, as a practical matter as long as Gen. Mattis backs him up, it doesn’t matter what the courts say is legal or illegal.

          • beleester says:

            You are literally saying Trump should use military force to override the legal system.

            If you’re wondering why people keep calling Trump supporters fascists, this is why.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But judicial review was clearly anticipated as early as Federalist #16:

            The success of it would require not merely a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void.

            There’s a lot to dislike about judicial review, especially how it’s devolved into the executive and legislature leaving the Constitution completely up to the courts to determine. But, it’s pretty clearly in there.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            “Hardball answer: Marbury v Madison was illegitimate”

            Marbury v. Madison was over two hundred years ago. You can try to argue that America’s been doing Constitutional jurisprudence wrong for ~94% of its existence, but it will be quite a hard sell even on the American Right, let alone the Left, particularly those in government and law with the most say on this issue. (Add in Evan Þ’s reply as well.)

            “Softball answer: If the courts abandon the Constitution, they lose their legitimacy.”

            But the courts haven’t abandoned the Constitution, they’re closer to it than anyone, the same way a ventriloquist is the closest to his or her dummy.

            “A “living document” isn’t law, it’s ideology and thus rulings based on it have no legal force.”

            It seems to me like most people disagree with this; they accept that a ““living document” is indeed law, and they certainly act as if the resulting rulings have legal force; again, particularly among those in law and government.

            “Either way, as a practical matter as long as Gen. Mattis backs him up, it doesn’t matter what the courts say is legal or illegal.”

            First, there’s a whole power structure with plenty of layers between Gen. Mattis and the (purportedly) Trump-loyal rank-and-file. What if he were to “side with Trump” in these sorts of action, and then his subordinates defy his commands as “unlawful orders” (which they are supposedly required to disobey), and help with his arrest for sedition, or whatever the appropriate charge under US law is for those attempting a coup d’état?

            Second, you do seem to be at least strongly implying here that for Trump to “win” against the bureaucratic establishment and the “deep state”, he’ll indeed have to carry out a sucessful military-based auto-coup and massive “purges” of the federal government, said purges one can pretty much guarantee will not be bloodless (at the very least due to resistance from those to be “purged” and their supporters). This comes pretty close to the “Trump: Caesar or Romanov” and “helicopter rides” view I’ve criticized here before. And as beleester illustrates, promoting such a position invites significant escalation from the Left to prevent that “fascist takeover”.

        • Brad says:

          FYI:
          “The court has made their decision, now let them enforce it.”
          or more commonly
          “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”

          Is believed to be apocryphal. Though it probably does reflect Jackson’s general attitude.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “ignoring their illegal rulings”

        And how would this work? After all, recall that Trump simply gives orders; it’s up to the people (nominally) under him to do the actual defying. And can a court ruling be “illegal” anymore, given how, in the way our system actually works in practice (rather than the theory from which it has significatly diverged), the courts get to decide what the law “really says”, and so decide what is “legal” and what is “illegal”?

        “going after them”

        How exactly would Trump “go after” the “rogue intelligence community”? Give them more orders to ignore?

        And look at how bad the screaming about fascist dictatorship and auto-coup are, and the talk of the need for pre-emptive violence to “defend” against having to “be hiding Anne Frank in their basement a few years from now”, and so on. What would it be like if he did do any of things you’d like him to? Would it be days, or just hours, between his taking that sort of action and Congress beginning the impeachment proceedings?

        • Kevin C. says:

          Not to mention, there’s Chuch Schumer’s comment from early January:

          “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

          “So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

        • hlynkacg says:

          How exactly would Trump “go after” the “rogue intelligence community”?

          The Intelligence Services are a branch of the executive which means Trump has the authority to fire them if he so pleases.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “Trump has the authority to fire them if he so pleases”

            So people say, but see my previous comments about how it takes years to actually remove a Federal employee who resists their firing, particularly a “politically motivated” firing. And that’s before the courts get involved. So when Trump says “you’re fired”, and they reply “no, we’re not” and keep on coming to work, and the court eventually agrees their jobs are still theirs, what then?

            The people of the Executive Branch work for, answer to, and can be fired by President Trump in theory. As we are seeing, it looks like the reality is quite different.

          • Cypren says:

            It’s not really a problem of authority, but one of practicality: how are you going to find the leaks when the majority of the senior members of the organization hate you and aren’t going to actually cooperate? They’ll feign cooperation and then do everything in their power to make sure you pay for crossing them, and you can’t fire them all without bringing the agency to a halt.

            Fighting the bureaucracy in Washington is a sisyphean task and almost always going to fail catastrophically. This goes doubly so for the intelligence community, who have access to all kinds of information to undermine politicians from sources both legal and illegal, as Mike Flynn found out.

        • random832 says:

          Would it be days, or just hours, between his taking that sort of action and Congress beginning the impeachment proceedings?

          I mean, technically you can measure any interval in any unit of time. Days, let alone hours, are an odd choice, given the 2018 election is in 623 days.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Trump does tend to bring a lot of these problems on himself, you have to admit. There was no need to muddle up the immigration order in a way that created innumerable camera-friendly victims at airports, or to start picking fights with the bureaucracy before he had his Cabinet in place, or to have Administration spokespersons wandering around saying random crap without even thinking about it. Yes, yes, the media are partisan jerks will spin everything in the worst possible light anyway, but that doesn’t mean one should make their jobs easy, does it?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I like this guys take:
      Angry Foreigner

      I watched the first 5:33, and it was very informative. This doesn’t change the fact that the refugee and immigration system the US has/had prior to Trump’s inauguration isn’t comparable to Sweden’s. And Trump is being disingenuous by implying it has to change to prevent a Sweden-like state.

    • DavidS says:

      My take is that
      1. Reading him charitably, I can accept he wasn’t claiming there had actually been a terrorist attack the previous night and was instead referring to the Fox thing (though I agree with HBC that the reference read at surface would have suggested some sort of specific incident and I suspect most people hearing the speech would have assumed that too)
      but
      2. But if we accept this, he said ‘what’s happening last night in Sweden’ meaning ‘what was claimed on a show I watched last night’ and expected everyone to understand what he meant. Which means that
      a. POTUS is getting his understanding of foreign affairs (and justification of hasty and radical action at home) from watching random things on Fox
      b. Almost more worryingly at a psychological level, he seems to think that because he saw it last night, everyone else saw it too (or that it just ‘happened’ last night in some fundamental sense). This is to me a quite bizarre way to see the world (except for small children). It’s like he doesn’t quite grasp other people have different experiences to him. Unless constantly watching Fox is actually a quality of all Republicans, I guess.

      • shakeddown says:

        If Trump just doesn’t have much of a theory of mind, it would explain a lot. Compare the thing where Abe told him the photographer said “look at me”, so he looked at Abe.

        • Iain says:

          That one is a stretch. I watched the video, and I think most people would have been just as confused at that point.

          • shakeddown says:

            It’s a bit of a stretch, but I think “weak theory of mind” explains a lot of both Trump’s weaknesses and strengths (he’s much better at the type of mass social interaction, like rallies, that doesn’t rely on theory on theory of mind). I don’t think there’s strong evidence for it, just enough for it to be considered a plausible idea.

          • Randy M says:

            Would a “weak theory of mind” make someone better at rallies than another person, or just less worse at them? I don’t see why it explains his strengths.

          • shakeddown says:

            It wouldn’t make him bad at rallies, unlike most potential explanations of his weaknesses.

        • Compare the thing where Abe told him the photographer said “look at me”, so he looked at Abe.

          Spoken English does not usually include quotation marks, so the listener cannot easily distinguish between “The photographer said ‘look at me'” and “The photographer said look at me.”

          It’s true that the latter ought to be “The photographer said to look at me,” but spoken English isn’t always that precise.

          • Matt M says:

            Not to mention that it’s entirely reasonable, in context, that the photographer might want a photo of Trump looking at Abe, rather than at the camera.

  18. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    As a result of the ACA, some people have more access to medical insuarance and care, and other people have less.

    What I’ve seen is that when less access comes up, someone will say that it wasn’t Obama’s fault, he tried as hard as he could to get care to be more generally available, but Republicans blocked him.

    It seems to me that the wrong question is being answered, but I’m not sure what the right question is. It just seems like a fast skid to go from bad situation to who should be blamed, with very little attention given to how the situation could be improved.

    Thoughts?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “less access to medical insurance and care”. Can you be more specific?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The cost of insurance has gone up for them. Sometimes they’re getting a worse plan which costs more money, sometimes they can’t afford insurance at all.

        This has some discussion of people losing jobs due to the cost of the ACA– in particular, legal support staff. It seems odd to me that the job loss would be so concentrated, but not impossible.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “The cost of insurance” can be a misleading category, for one thing. But it is the case that the young are paying more for policies than they would have. Over a lifetime, you make that up on average, though.

          Healthy people are paying “more” for policies than they would have as well. But, given that one can transition from healthy to not so, it’s not clear to me that we can count this as less access to care. Pre ACA, there are many things that could take you from “paid up health insurance customer” to “uninsured and uninsurable”, if you were in the individual market. Making a health insurance policy so that it actually covers the cost of the cancer treatment it purports to (annual/lifetime caps are no longer allowed, policies can’t be dropped when they get too expensive) makes things more expensive now, but it’s not actually because access to care is reduced.

          But the linked piece looks like it might be a case where they are in a state that did not expand Medicaid. Household income of something like 15K should be Medicaid eligible under the ACA. Obviously that’s not a designed piece of the law. (ETA: assuming it’s Pennsylvania, they did expand, but in a non-standard way. But they still should be eligible, I think).

          As to the employment piece, that seems more like a well documented trend pre-ACA. Health insurance costs were rising all of the time pre-ACA, and companies were constantly getting tipped from “this employee is profitable” to not, based on the cost of health coverage. My guess is that there were some one time accelerations of that trend, as well as price adjustments based on the annual/lifetime cap piece. The ACA makes a good scapegoat here, but “the insurance companies” were the scapegoat before.

          Healthcare inflation was the real enemy there. And the numbers seem to show that the ACA is doing good work on that front.

          The employee based health insurance system in the US is not how most anybody else does it. You can’t really fault the ACA for the intrinsic flaws in that system, when the ACA didn’t create that system. There was simply recognition that you can’t eliminate once it’s in place.

          • gbdub says:

            You’re right that the issues with employer-based insurance started before the ACA, but my big beef with the ACA is precisely that it largely entrenched the flaws with that system further. Now employers are mandated to provide insurance (incidentally causing a lot of employees to lose hours since there’s a huge incentive to cut your full-time employees if you’re near the cap). Insurance is still not portable between jobs or between states. It further encourages insurance as pre-paid care rather than actual insurance.

            Basically the ACA seems to have resulted in more nominally insured people (mostly through Medicaid, both by expanding it and by encouraging a bunch of already eligible people to actually sign up) at the expense of making everyone else’s insurance somewhat worse.

            It really sucks if you’re young, healthy, and make too much for a subsidy – the plans are all very high deductible (and usually don’t cover anything until the deductible) which would be okay if the premiums were cheap, but they aren’t because ACA mandated zero copay coverage of “preventative” care that’s mostly a benefit for old people (and oh yeah, it capped how much more you can charge old people – yet another wealth transfer to the older and wealthier).

            Frankly my new post-ACA insurance is the opposite of what I want. I’d rather pay a co-pay or out of pocket for routine care (which is relatively cheap and predictable, and anyway being relatively young and healthy I don’t use often) and have lower deductibles for unexpected emergencies (when I can’t shop around). But that’s illegal now. Instead I’m stuck with a higher premium and a literally 10x increase in potential out of pocket costs for a serious injury. I liked my plan, but I wasn’t allowed to keep it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I feel like you are doing something akin to “I like the guaranteed coverage but we should get rid of the mandate”. You have to evaluate the whole package, not complain about only the things you don’t like.

            The trend to higher and higher deductibles was on-going before ACA. My sense is that almost everyone (including the insurance company actuaries) agree that higher deductibles are one of the things that lead to lower inflation in the healthcare sector.

            Primary/preventative care is not where the bulk of healthcare costs go. If you have some data that says this is what is driving health insurance costs rises under the ACA, I’m interested. But I think you are overestimating how much of your premium is paying for low/no copay everyday services.

          • Brad says:

            “The cost of insurance” can be a misleading category, for one thing. But it is the case that the young are paying more for policies than they would have. Over a lifetime, you make that up on average, though.

            Was it at all conceivable regardless of who won the last election that the ACA healthcare system was going to be in place for the rest of the lifetime of young people being overcharged under it?

            ACA was designed to broaden coverage it did little to nothing to deal with the cost crisis. Which meant that some other dramatic change would and will need to be done no later than the next decade or so.

            The life cycle excuse for a regressive funding mechanism just isn’t very compelling.

          • Matt M says:

            HBC,

            What do you expect is going to happen with the health insurance markets given this?

            I feel like this hasn’t gotten nearly enough coverage. If accurate, it essentially means that Republicans don’t have to do anything, and that Obamacare will simply get more and more expensive until nobody even wants it anymore, yes?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            The ACA has specific design elements which are intended to slow healthcare inflation. Current metrics are in line with and slightly ahead of the predicted pace of slowing. Maybe we won’t see that bear out, but it’s to early to say it doesn’t address cost growth, and definitely false to say it had no intention to do so.

            @Matt M:
            That just means this years policy at the IRS will be the same as last year’s.

            I do think the ACA can be greatly damaged by the Trump administration, moreso in states that don’t control their own exchange. We will see how that plays out.

          • Deiseach says:

            What do you expect is going to happen with the health insurance markets given this?

            Reading that article and speaking as a minor bureaucratic minion, I think that the IRS has seen the light with the people at the coalface processing the forms yelling that “if we refuse to process the forms without the box ticked, half the forms won’t get processed and people will owe tax and won’t be getting their refunds and then they phone up and yell at us so hey, management, give us a decision here: can we or can we not accept the form even if line 61 is not filled in?”

            It sounds like a typical ‘ruling from above’ that was meant to make people take out insurance plans, else they’d have to pay the penalty or not get their tax affairs straightened out. As any of the staff dealing with the public directly could have told them, it wouldn’t work like that. And it sounds like the IRS have discovered this, and have had to revise their methods accordingly in order to get back to normal levels of processing tax returns.

            Besides, it’s not the job of the IRS to chase after health insurance in the first place, and it was dumb to include that as part of the rule.

          • gbdub says:

            @hbc – I’m not saying “keep the coverage but nix the mandate”, I’m more saying that, if employer-based coverage was part of the problem, there should not have been an employer based mandate.

            My ideal version of the ACA (not necessarily ideal health care plan in general) would have been something like individual mandate, but only for catastrophic coverage, no employer mandate, shift tax credits/deductions for health insurance from employer to employees. The people currently getting employer-provided coverage are wealthier and healthier; they’re the ones you want in an individual marketplace to keep it solvent.

            I don’t know how much of the overall increase in health care costs are due to routine care. But for most people it’s most of their spending in a given year, and now it’s all been rolled into your insurance premiums + additional overhead. And on top of that nixing co-pays encourages overuse (it’s use it or lose it, after all), and “preventative healthcare reduces costs!” is based on bad statistics. It basically has to increase costs. Even if it’s not the main driver, it’s a definite knob in the wrong direction and a better law would have avoided it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I feel like this hasn’t gotten nearly enough coverage. If accurate, it essentially means that Republicans don’t have to do anything, and that Obamacare will simply get more and more expensive until nobody even wants it anymore, yes?

            Yes, but that happens regardless of whether the IRS enforces the individual mandate. The individual mandate is $695/adult + $347.50/child up to $2085/family, or 2.5% of income, whichever is greater. An average Obamacare bronze plan for a single 30-year-old is $3734. So, if you’re healthy and poor, even if you’re going to have to pay the mandate, it’s probably still better than paying for the medical plan.

          • Brad says:

            @HBC
            The most important cost measure, the Cadillac tax, was headed for repeal the moment the bill was signed. It would have had the same fate as the donut hole and for much the same reason.

            The other grab bag of nothing-burger programs were never going to bring health care cost growth in line with the rate of general inflation. And indeed if you look at national healthcare expenditures every year since ACA was signed each year it grew faster than the rate of general inflation.

            Cost growth is a crisis. It the underlying cause for basically all the unhappiness by insured people with health care system in this country since the 80s. The HMO, the giant deductible, the drug formula, the doctor that runs in and out of the room in 30 seconds, and so on are all traceable to the cost growth. ACA didn’t fix the problem, and even had the Cadillac tax not been DOA, didn’t really have a chance to. Bending the cost curve slightly was never going to be enough.

            Why exactly Obama and the Congressional Democrats decided to tackle access before cost growth is a bit of a puzzle to me. But clearly they would have had to go back if they were still in charge.

            So I just don’t buy the claim that the regressive cross subsidies scheme selected to fund the exchanges would all have worked itself out over the course of decades.

          • Matt M says:

            That just means this years policy at the IRS will be the same as last year’s.

            I’m just curious here though. How is it that both sides of the aisle have regularly stood up and loudly declared that the ACA cannot exist viably without the individual mandate, while it seems to be no particular secret that the individual mandate shall not be enforced?

            What was the point of all the time, expense, and drama of a supreme court case over whether or not it was legal if the IRS has no intention of enforcing it anyway?

            This strikes me as a partisan-flipped version of sanctuary cities. We don’t like what the law says so we’ll just ignore it. But the right complains pretty loudly about sanctuary cities. Why isn’t the left complaining about this?

          • John Schilling says:

            But the right complains pretty loudly about sanctuary cities. Why isn’t the left complaining about this?

            If “the left” complains about this now, people will see the left as specifically demanding that the government impose massive fines on poor people who don’t have any good options. The optics are much better if the complaining is delayed until the ACA either collapses or is replaced with something with a Republican label.

            Cynically, the ACA was designed to work tolerably well during Obama’s administration and self-destruct under his probably-Republican successor for precisely this reason.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s the cynical interpretation of it.

            I’m curious to get a left-leaning person who likes the ACA’s thoughts.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Isnt HBC a left leaning person who likes the ACA? I’m very left leaning, sort of, I campaigned for Bernie Sanders. He and I both think the ACA is a horrible mess and it never should have happened.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            C’mon, man. That is a bulllllshhhitttt argument. We didn’t immediately drop health care inflation to the CPI? Please.

            What we have done is spend far less on healthcare overall than predicted.

          • Brad says:

            Apparently not in 2019 either. In this theory that the law fixed the crisis, when exactly was health care cost growth supposed to converge with general inflation? Because that green line doesn’t look like it is converging with anything.

            ACA didn’t solve the cost catastrophe and it had regressive elements to boot. Don’t expect me to fall to my knees and sing its glories just because it’s probably better than whatever Paul Ryan is cooking up.

          • With regard to the Reason story on the IRS not enforcing the mandate …

            Is this any different, legally speaking, from Obama not enforcing the rules against illegal immigration on a specified subset of illegal immigrants? In either case, the underlying principle seems to be that the people enforcing a law have discretion on how hard they try to enforce it–which seems reasonable, given limited resources.

          • Cypren says:

            @HeelBearCub: Claiming that we’ve seen reduced healthcare costs since the ACA passed is true but extremely misleading. National healthcare spending did indeed grow at a rate of 4.2% over Obama’s term in office, compared to 7.2% over GWB’s term. However, the drop did not happen when Obama took office, but in the final year of GWB’s term, coincident with the financial crisis. Using the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data (see table 1) year-over-year cost growth dropped from 6.5% (2006-2007) to 4.5% (2007-2008). It then dropped to 4% (2008-2009) and went as low as 2.9% (2012-2013), though that one year was an outlier. So the initial drop in spending happened before Obama was elected and well before the ACA was passed; crediting it for the reduction in costs is quite self-evidently false.

            The ACA baseline estimate for cost growth was set at 6.5%, which was where growth sat prior to the recession. This was reasonable, given that no one knew how long the recession would last, but it means that comparing the actual growth in costs during a recession with an unprecedentedly slow economic recovery to a baseline estimate that assumed no recession makes the ACA appear to be a magic pill.

            Additionally, one must recall that the ACA was designed in such a way as to game the CBO numbers by front-loading all of its revenue-generating provisions and back-loading its benefits so that most kicked in starting in 2014; this provided 10 years of revenue generation for the CBO scoring window but only 6 years of full payment of benefits, making it appear to cost much less than it did. And indeed, from the CMS data, we see that the healthcare year over year increase rate jumped from 2.9% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2014 and then 5.9% in 2015.

            In sum, the claim that the ACA has slowed healthcare spending growth is extremely dubious and the weight of the evidence is against it. Claiming that costs are well under the ACA projected baseline is true, but the projections were overestimated and the decline in the cost trendline happened before the ACA passed and only held while its spending provisions were yet fully in effect.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression was that the ACA was sold as making things better for all health care recipients (with the possible exception of some young and healthy people), not just slow down the rate of things getting worse.

        • John Schilling says:

          Healthy people are paying “more” for policies than they would have as well. But, given that one can transition from healthy to not so, it’s not clear to me that we can count this as less access to care.

          Why not, for those people? Nancy isn’t claiming that ACA provides less health care for everyone, or for the average someone, or integrated over society as a whole.

          Pre-ACA, there were policies being sold to healthy adults that cost $X per month and would cover them for all reasonable medical expenses after a deductable of $x including those that might occur in the future when they became really sick – without requiring them to pay more than $X/month even after becoming sick. I used to have one of those policies.

          Now, policies that cover all reasonable future medical expenses cost $2X and have deductables of $10x. This is the only way to make the insurance industry even remotely viable when the rules change so they have to sell insurance to people who are already sick. But it means that the people who are A: healthy now and B: foresightful enough to buy insurance when they are healthy and C: can afford to budget only $1.5X for insurance or $3x to cover deductables, receive absolutely less health coverage under the ACA than they did beforehand. Less coverage now when they are healthy, less coverage in the hypothetical future when they are sick. Before, they could have insurance policies that covered them when they were healthy and when they were sick. Now, they have nothing – or they have policies whose deductables are so high that they’ll be broke before they receive a penny in benefits.

          You have to evaluate the whole package, not complain about only the things you don’t like.

          If I am trying to determine whether there are people who receive absolutely less care or coverage under the ACA, I only need to consider the parts of the package that affect those people. You may want this to be an argument over whether the benefits of the ACA to other people outweigh the harm it does to e.g. young healthy people, and that might be an argument you could win, but arguing that there are no people who are harmed at all is much tougher for you and it does not require the opposition to integrate over all aspects of the program.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, thank you for this explanation and for various other times you’ve been accurate about what I meant.

            I think it’s really bad for supporters of the ACA to tell people who are worse off that, in effect, the most important thing is that Obama shouldn’t be blamed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m definitely not saying everything is peachy keen.

            But I am saying that when you buy health insurance, it should actually insure you. It’s all well and good to pay for health insurance and have it then pay for your yearly physical and your prescriptions. But you can pay out of pocket for those (yes, at a higher price, but still probably less than your premium). And yes I understand that there are many doctors who won’t accept if you don’t have insurance. And that definitely sucks.

            That cost isn’t what determines your cost of insurance though. The individual market wouldn’t let you pay less in the premiums than they shell out for the every day stuff.

            You have insurance for the overall package, and especially if you need high dollar care.

            So if you paid all that money in premiums, and you don’t get really sick or need some sort of high dollar care, that’s great, because you aren’t sick. But having the insurance didn’t prevent you from from getting sick.

            And if you do get sick, and they cancel your policy or you reach your limits for whatever reason, then how much care did you actually buy?

            Under the old rules, you were always a bad day away from losing all access to health insurance. And you have to include the chance of that happening in to your calculation.

          • Under the old rules, you were always a bad day away from losing all access to health insurance.

            That would seem to eliminate the point of insurance qua insurance.

            I’ve frequently seen the claim that insurance companies reneged on their contractual obligation by canceling on some excuse if someone got sick, but I have never seen any evidence of it and it is inconsistent with my very limited observation.

            I can believe that it happened at least once. I can also believe that someone deliberately misrepresented his condition when applying for insurance, got caught, and then blamed the insurance company for canceling. But does anyone have actual data showing that fraudulent cancellation was common enough to be a real problem?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            Rescissions were common enough to affect tens of thousands of people.

            And that doesn’t get into the issue of whether your insurance policy was guaranteed to be renewable. I believe that even if they didn’t rescind your existing coverage, they could deny your renewal.(Most coverage renewable, see below). In addition, if an existing policy pool was small enough, they might just stop offering that product altogether.

            Any of which would leave you without insurance, and therefore looking for new coverage with a pre-existing condition.

            ETA:
            Here is a good overview of the pre -ACA marketplace. One of the biggest issues for people with existing coverage were how the company composed the underwriting pools. If they wanted the lowest cost product possible, it would be comprised of only new-enrollees, and then closed to new members. Adverse selection then takes its toll, causing the insurance pool to be more and more composed of only the members most in need of care. Premiums for those who are in need of care aren’t supported by those who are not. Premiums rise each year to levels which cannot be paid.

          • John Schilling says:

            And if you do get sick, and they cancel your policy or you reach your limits for whatever reason, then how much care did you actually buy?

            Well, if you reach your lifetime limit of $1 million or whatever, I’m going to make an educated guess and say you actually bought $1 million worth of medical care.

            Under the old rules, you were always a bad day away from losing all access to health insurance.

            If by “a bad day” you mean the insurance company going bankrupt or exiting an entire segment of the market, sure. That risk hasn’t exactly gone away under the ACA, if you’ve been paying attention.

            Otherwise, as David Friedman has already noted and you have belatedly discovered, continued coverage was pretty much guaranteed by the law and market. Yes, “tens of thousands of people” were affected by rescissions – out of a market of tens of millions.

            And you have to include the chance of that happening in to your calculation.

            I did, back when I was a customer in the individual market. From my experience and from my research at the time, the vast majority of the people who purchased pre-ACA health insurance while they were still healthy, got exactly what they paid for and without paying an exorbitant price – an insurance policy that actually covered their health care expenses even if and when they got really sick and started costing the insurance company $bignum.

            Those people today, if they can get that sort of insurance at all, have to pay far more to get it. They are, absolutely, worse off under Obamacare. And they are not some tiny fringe population. If I didn’t presently have an employer that insists on buying me more insurance than I know what to do with, I’d be one of them.

            Tell me that I’m subsidizing a greater good, and I might believe you. Tell me that I haven’t lost anything, and I no longer believe you are even trying to argue in good faith.

          • skef says:

            Comparing recision counts to the number of paying customers makes no sense. At a minimum you have to compare recision counts to the number of patients over the time-span who have become unprofitable.

            Part of the pre-ACA problem that has gone underaddressed by its opponents is the number of cheap “insurance” policies that were structured to only provide routine care and were purchased by people who simply didn’t understand that. They were happy with their insurance because the hadn’t happened to have run into a serious problem, but would (it was pretty obvious) be counter-factually very unhappy with it had they done so. A portion of the “I want to keep my plan” people had the medical equivalent of dental insurance.

            I saw the same thing to a lesser extent with normal policies and coverage hassles. Lots of tech programmers were convinced that because they were Masters of the Universe, that universe must have provided them with gold-plated health insurance. But then some (not all) of the people who ran into problems would have trouble getting coverage for things they needed because their plans were pretty much the same off-the-shelf entities as most people got, with the tweaks being mainly in the monthly charges and deductibles. (HR departments are presumably aware that the graveyards of the world are filled with indispensable people.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Comparing recision counts to the number of paying customers makes no sense. At a minimum you have to compare recision counts to the number of patients over the time-span who have become unprofitable.

            Do I really need to do the math to show that the number of health insurance customers whose costs exceeded their premiums was much more than a hundred thousand?

            I get that you and HBC and far too many others want to paint the entire pre-ACA insurance industry as nothing but a bunch of con artists who took people’s money and found excuses not to pay their medical expenses. It ain’t so. Those of us who were there at the time and did do the research, know there was much more to it than that, and that most of it was pretty damn good.

            We know what we have lost. We know how much we are paying to subsidize your guy’s master action plan to Make Health Care Great Again, and we know – we have known from the start – exactly how it was going to collapse in ruin even if Saint Obama had been anointed president-for-life to try and hold back that tide. In the interim, between the creation of the ACA and its inevitable demise, it has helped some people. You get to share credit for that, at least. But don’t try claiming that it helped everyone, or that it came without a real cost even in the era when it was doing some good.

          • skef says:

            Do I really need to do the math to show that the number of health insurance customers whose costs exceeded their premiums was much more than a hundred thousand?

            No, you don’t, but some math to determine how much more than that would be helpful, given that a 5-10% effective recision rate would still be entirely unacceptable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            As I already pointed out, rescission was an issue, but not the big one. Did you read the article I linked?

            To reiterate, the biggest issue was how the underwriting pools could be structured. If you are healthy, every time you go the market, you get quoted a very affordable rate. Everyone in your pool is also healthy.

            If you get sick, then you are locked into that pool (because you can’t go out and get another policy). As that pool naturally bleeds people, it becomes more and more comprised of only sick people. This causes premiums to rise each time you renew. The rising premiums incentivize the healthy people in the pool to get a different policy. The risk pool goes into a so called death spiral.

            That’s adverse selection at work, and it absolutely was a feature of the old market. Not ALL policies, but many of them.

            This isn’t a false critique of the pre-ACA market. It’s not complaining about very small numbers just to make one’s own case look better. It’s a simple recognition that actors in the market are going to look for a way to price their product to new customers as inexpensively as possible, while protecting themselves from the risk of that low price.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, you don’t, but some math to determine how much more than that would be helpful, given that a 5-10% effective recision rate would still be entirely unacceptable.

            Fine. Quick and dirty only. Average annual health insurance premium (including employer contribution) for a covered adult in 2009, $4526. Fraction of insured with more than $5k in claims, eyeballing the graph here, 15%. Fraction of health insurance policies subject to rescission in 2009, 0.37%. Fraction of health insurance policies subject to rescission for reasons other than a medical condition diagnosed to the insured at the time of application, 0.019%.

            If you bought pre-ACA health insurance when you were still healthy, and kept up the premiums, you were 99.87% certain of still having insurance that paid your expenses when you started costing the insurance company more than you were worth in premiums. 97.5% certain even if you were diagnosed as chronically ill when you bought insurance.

            And, HBC:

            That’s adverse selection at work, and it absolutely was a feature of the old market. Not ALL policies, but many of them.

            Would it be too much trouble to ask you what fraction of insured consumers in 2009 were being priced out of the market, or even above current ACA levels for equivalent coverage, by these “many” policies?

            Not that it matters, because while you are correct that this didn’t affect ALL policies pre-ACA, it does now. Adverse selection is being applied to the entire Obamacare customer base, as healthy people find themselves better off going without insurance (and even paying the ACA mandate penalty), than paying the excessive prices for the low-coverage, high-deductible policies that are the only ones allowed under the new order.

            In the name of your perverse refusal to admit that SOME people actually were better off under the old rules, you have had to back off from your prior claim that rescission was the thing and are now reduced to invoking a type of cost growth that affected some but not all customers then and all customers now.

            But show me your numbers anyway. Defend, with actual math, your claim that Obamacare is better for everyone.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            If you want me to admit that people who are relatively healthy, and stay that way, would be better off under the old system, sure, I admit that.

            I don’t that gets us much of anywhere, but there you go. And I imagine that you will be annoyed by this answer, but it is not meant to be annoying.

            I also admit that the ACA makes the landscape different. People hate change, so they will certainly perceive this as a negative. I also admit that, on the margin, there are people who were actually better off under the old system who are worse off now.

            But I also submit that many people who perceive that everything was fine pre-ACA simply had been lucky enough not to encounter the problems of the market pre-ACA. When you run the clock forward, you can’t say for certain that any of those individuals would stay better off under the old regime.

            Take as an example the couple that Nancy linked to earlier, who had health insurance through the wife’s employer. The ability to simply cover your spouse, at low cost, had been going away before the ACA. Or if that spouse lost her job pre-ACA, they might have been on the individual market with pre-existing conditions.

            Maybe I will come back later with a more math based approach.

          • skef says:

            If you want me to admit that people who are relatively healthy, and stay that way, would be better off under the old system, sure, I admit that.

            My own version of this sentiment is that of course some people are worse off under the new arrangement. The ACA architecture is redistributive. To the extent that [in my view] Obama can be criticized for “you get to keep your old plan”, it’s that plan features were no doubt going to change, and did. It was never plausible or meaningful that people would get to keep their plans at the same price — prices were changing constantly (upward) before the ACA anyway. The hope, realized or not, was that prices would level off, not that they would be fixed at the inception cost.

            As for people suffering under the yoke of the ACA now, what is their situation? Have they become actually deprived, or is the issue just a reduction to a living standard that an outsider would have trouble recognizing as substantially different? Must the fundamental organizing principle of society be loss aversion?

          • Cypren says:

            The larger issue with the ACA are not the individuals whom it negatively impacted (a significantly smaller set than the number of people who gained coverage through the law), but the fact that it completely destabilized the individual market into an unsustainable trajectory.

            The exchange market as a whole has been losing money every year since its inception. You can cherry-pick individual insurers who made profits, but someone else was always taking a larger loss to compensate. The Obama Administration was able to make under-the-table payments (the so-called “risk corridor transfers”, which were eventually ruled illegal expenditures) to compensate insurers and keep them participating for a while, but those were heroic efforts and couldn’t sustain the program long-term. Obama’s goal was simply to keep it on life support long enough to replace the Republican Congress so they could rewrite the law.

            “It would have worked if only we’d been able to pass a law that was totally different from what we actually passed” is not a justification or an excuse for the disaster that was the ACA. Neither is “but look at all these people it helped who were uninsurable” when the insurance they’ve got is going to be gone shortly as the market collapses.

            I’m deliberately biting back a long and angry rant here about people who claim healthcare is a “fundamental right”. But whether or not you think it’s a right, the fact is that if you want universal healthcare, there has to be a sustainable funding mechanism for it. And Obamacare wasn’t and isn’t one, as evidenced by the rapidly collapsing exchange markets and the pullout of insurers both large and small.

            It’s very nice that ACA proponents wanted to bump all of the coach cabin customers up to first class. But if the weight of the plane is now unbalanced and it’s crashing into the ocean as a result, you can’t really make the argument that people’s lives have been substantially improved.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HBC: If you want me to admit that people who are relatively healthy, and stay that way, would be better off under the old system, sure, I admit that.

            But it’s not just the people who are relatively healthy and stay that way. The pre-ACA system was also better for people who were healthy and then got very sick, provided they had the foresight to buy insurance when they were healthy and keep up the payments.

            Not every single one of them, because you are correct to note that some insurance salesmen were frauds or nearly so, and some people were hornswoggled by them. But not all of them, not most of them, and I’d be surprised if you could show it was more than 10% of them. Mostly, when healthy people went to insurance companies and asked to buy insurance that would cover them if they were sick, insurance companies sold them policies that were a better deal than they can afford to offer under the ACA and they mostly kept up their end of the bargain without cancelling the policies or jacking the premiums into the stratosphere or whatnot. Those people, even the really sick ones, were better off under the old system.

            But I also submit that many people who perceive that everything was fine pre-ACA…

            …are not present in this debate and you are not arguing in good faith when you go there. Everyone you are arguing against here, has been careful to be clear that they are asserting only that some people were better off under the old rules, that some harm was done by the change. This is in no way an assertion that “everything was fine”, and to claim otherwise makes me doubt the sincerity of your handwaving attempts at minimizing the harm of the present system or the benefits of the old.

            @skef: Must the fundamental organizing principle of society be loss aversion?

            If someone says “here is a loss that we should factor into our moral calculus”, they are not demanding that the fundamental principle of society be loss aversion. If you aren’t willing to meet them in the middle and address the magnitude of that loss and the benefits you wish to weigh against it, you are taking up the burden of proving that there is no loss.

          • Iain says:

            @Cypren:
            Risk corridors were designed into the original structure of the ACA, and their current problems have a lot to do with the fact that the Republicans added in a new requirement that they be cost-neutral as part of the 2014 omnibus bill. “It would have worked better if some of its mechanisms hadn’t been deliberately crippled” is a meaningful defense. It is not hard to see why risk corridor payments not being made in 2014 and 2015 might have a deleterious effect on insurance premiums in 2016.

            To put it in perspective: paying out the risk corridor transfers to date would cost $8B. That is a lot of money by most standards, but not by the standards of the US government’s healthcare spending, which was $980B in 2015 (and that’s not even counting tax expenditures). The generally accepted number for people who gained insurance under Obamacare is 20M; at $8B, that’s $400/person. For comparison, national health expenditure per capita in 2015 was $9,990.

            Nobody’s saying that the ACA is perfect, but your airplane metaphors are pretty overblown.

          • BBA says:

            Re risk corridors: they weren’t illegal, under-the-table payments, but part of the ACA as originally enacted (section 1342 if you have your copy handy). Congress subsequently defunded them but the Court of Federal Claims recently ruled that the government is still liable to pay.

          • skef says:

            @John Schilling

            To be clear, my point was that much of the resistance to the ACA’s re-distributive aspects don’t seem to be driven by arguments over levels of effective taxation — whether explicitly through taxes or in virtue of regulation, but by the reaction to the increase in cost by those who are on the loosing end of the redistribution. In that light it doesn’t seem to be so much about who should be paying as about “I had this and now I don’t have this”. Hence, specifically, “loss aversion”, which is at least arguably a cognitive distortion.

          • HeelBearCub says: