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

Open Thread 72.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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518 Responses to Open Thread 72.75

  1. doubleunplussed says:

    Ubuntu ditching unity and mir! Came out of nowhere, had to check it wasn’t still April fools day.

    I didn’t like gnome 3 either, but I can only assume it’s grown up since I last checked it out, that Canonical will have it ship with some fairly decent configuration and extensions, and that the influx of users will cause it to improve. And I’m excited to see the Linux desktop world converge and Canonical shake off some of the not-invented-here syndrome.

    • random832 says:

      Now if only they can get rid of systemd.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        I didn’t know what an init system was until I investigated in light of the controversy, so I had no preconceptions, but having investigated it, systemd seems pretty great. Is the controversy just because of the approach of the developers and distros pushing it on people?

        • random832 says:

          It’s just the general attitude I think. One of the things that I remember being an issue was that in order to start a process that will be alive after you log out (something like screen or tmux, or just a long-running background job with nohup), you have to start it using systemd instead of the normal way, or the program has to be designed to link against the systemd libraries. All this supposedly to work around bugs in Gnome or KDE, rather than just reporting those bugs to those projects.

    • Iain says:

      Mir never made any sense to me, but I actually kind of like Unity. Modern Gnome is fine, too, though — I have it on my work laptop, and after an extension or two I have no complaints.

  2. bean says:

    Time to finish the tale of the rest of the world’s battleships. (Series index) The Ottomans, and their other battleship, the Reshadieh, was mentioned last time. They bought it normally, and it was armed with 10 13.5” guns. The design was similar to the Iron Duke, although somewhat lighter (she wasn’t restricted by the dimensions of British docks, and that meant that they could adopt a better structural design). She was seized by the British shortly after she was completed, as mentioned last time. She served at Jutland, although she only fired a grand total of 6 6” rounds there. On the other hand, she sustained no damage. Contrary to the experience of Agincourt, she was very cramped. This is common in export ships, even today, although the worst export ships have really good officer’s quarters and terrible enlisted quarters.
    The story of Goben and Breslau is obviously important, but I’m going to save it for later.
    Spain built the smallest dreadnoughts, ships the size of their pre-dreadnought predecessors. The three ships of the Espana class were only 15,700 tons, and carried 8 12” guns apiece. Their small size meant compromises in protection on the part of their British designers. The first unit, Espana, was commissioned in 1913, followed by Alfonso XIII in 1915. Jamie I, the third unit, was held up until 1921, due to delays in her British-built guns during WWII.
    Espana had a rather uneventful career until the early 20s, when she was assigned to provide fire support to the Spanish Army during the Rif War. This resulted in her grounding off Cape Tres Forcas in 1923. The Spanish were unable to refloat her, and she broke in half in 1924. Her guns used in shore batteries, some of which saved in service until 1999.
    Alfonso XIII also participated in the Rif War, and was renamed Espana in 1931, when the Second Spanish Republic began. She was laid up when the Spanish Civil War broke out, and was first sized by Republican-aligned sailors, who engaged in an artillery duel with shore batteries and a Nationalist-controlled destroyer. Significant damage was done to the harbor before she surrendered. The Nationalists took her over and used her as part of a naval task force to interdict merchant shipping. She eventually sank in April of 1937 after hitting a nationalist-laid mine.
    Jamie I was also a participant in the Rif War, and was damaged by shore fire in 1924. She served with the Republicans in the Civil War, although she saw no combat at sea. She was damaged twice by Nationalist bombing, and then wrecked by an internal explosion in June of 1937. Her guns were salvaged, and some of them survived until 1985.
    Austria-Hungary built the first dreadnoughts commissioned with triple turrets (the Italians had laid down the first examples, but were second into service), the Tegetthoff-class. These were intended as a counter to the Italian dreadnoughts, and had four turrets with 12” guns. The turrets themselves were very poorly designed, with light armor, and no ventilation during an action, as the ventilation system would have sucked in powder gasses. It is estimated that the crew would have had approximately 15 minutes of air.
    The Austro-Hungarian navy didn’t do much during the war. Three of the Tegetthoffs bombarded Ancona in Italy shortly after Italy entered the war. They spent the rest of the war at Pula, not leaving again until June of 1918, in an attempt to attack the Otranto Barrage, a series of nets and mines placed to hinder U-boats leaving the Adriatic. Szent Istvan (which differed from the other three in having two shafts instead of four) was sunk by an Italian motor-torpedo boat in June of 1918, the only battleship ever sunk by such a craft. The Viribus Unitis was handed over to the nascent Yugoslav navy (to keep her out of the hands of the Allies), but was sunk by Italian swimmers later the same day. The other two ships, Tegetthoff and Prinz Eugen were handed over to Italy and France respectively. Tegetthoff was broken up, while Prinz Eugen was sunk as a target (much like her German namesake would be in 1947).
    The Greeks ordered two battleships before WWI, Salamis and Vasilefs Kostantinos. Salamis was ordered from AG Vulcan in Hamburg in 1912, to be armed with 14” guns built in the US. She was suspended as a result of the war, and the guns were delivered to the British, where they were used to arm monitors (shallow-draft ships with big guns for coastal bombardment.) The hull became the subject of a lawsuit after the war, which dragged on until 1932, when the Greek government was ordered to pay the builders the cancellation fee, while the hull ended up as property of the shipbuilders. Vasilefs Kostantinos was ordered from the French, but her laying-down in July of 1914 was cancelled after the outbreak of war.
    The Dutch twice planned to buy capital ships, first in 1914 and then in 1939. (Note to self: if the Dutch begin planning aircraft carriers, build a bomb shelter.) In both cases, the ships were intended to be part of the defense of the Dutch East Indies. The plan in 1914 was for an eventual total of 9 ships over the next 35 years, the first batch of ships being planned for 8 14” guns.
    The 1939 plan was intended as a means of raising the difficulty of a Japanese invasion, and given the low number of Japanese capital ships that could be committed, it might have significantly changed the shape of the early Pacific war. The ships that eventually emerged, known as Design 1047, were broadly similar to the Alaska-class, and armed with 9 11” guns, although there were also plans to buy the plans and equipment for the Scharnhorst-class from Germany, and the final design used the same guns.

    Also, an announcement. It looks like I’m going to be very busy for the next few weeks, so I’m changing the update schedule from ‘every OT’ to ‘OTs when I can get around to writing and feel like it’.

    • Protagoras says:

      Since there was the one passing reference to Jutland, an alternate history question I’m curious to hear local opinions about. Jellicoe was criticized at the time for being too cautious, though many say his caution was justified. The key decision that seems to be in dispute is the decision to turn away to avoid the German torpedo attack between 19:16 and 19:40. If Jellicoe ignores the torpedo boats and aggressively pursues the German dreadnoughts, likely the Germans take much heavier losses, perhaps coming close to the complete destruction of the Hochseeflotte. The first part of the argument for caution is that this wouldn’t actually have made very much difference; the Hochseeflotte wasn’t accomplishing much anyway, so it wasn’t worth taking even small risks to try to finally destroy it.

      The second part of the argument for caution is that while circumstances surely favored the British greatly, luck is always a factor. While the probability was extremely low, there’s a worst-case scenario for the British if they press the attack aggressively, in which the torpedos are lucky enough to score many hits, inflict massive damage, and throw the British forces into confusion. After that, a German counter-attack, helped by British cordite, poor ammo handling practices, and some more luck, might conceivably have produced a reverse Trafalgar, nearly wiping out the Grand Fleet, in exchange for more damage to the Hochseeflotte but quite possibly few or no additional lost German ships. So the complete argument for caution is that no matter how unlikely that was, Jellicoe was justified in making it his top priority to avoid that kind of disaster.

      I guess I’m most interested in the counter-argument to the caution argument; I have further seen people who argued that that wouldn’t have mattered much either; that even had the Grand Fleet been wiped out with the Hochseeflotte left mostly intact, that still wouldn’t have changed the course of the war much. That seems strange but not impossible to me. It does seem unlikely that it would have helped the Germans with their trade problems, since that was at least as much about their former trading partners being pro-Allies and so unwilling to trade with them as it was about the British blockade. But I find it hard to see how it could have failed to worsen Britain’s supply problems. The German dreadnoughts were generally not themselves well suited to be commerce raiders, but it seems like the British would still have been left with the choice of either gathering all their remaining forces to try to continue to bottle up the Hochseeflotte, in which case they would have been left with next to nothing for duties like convoy protection and would presumably suffer greater losses to u-boats and such. Or, if the British didn’t do that, the Hochseeflotte would be free to operate in the North Sea and even North Atlantic, where surely it could do some damage. Any thoughts? I guess the basic question is, was the Hochseeflotte completely pointless, a force that could never have accomplished anything even if it had managed to become strong enough to match the British?

      • Salem says:

        If the Grand Fleet gets shattered in June 1916, control of the seas is contested and possibly lost. There are lots of potential knock-on effects:
        * Accelerated collapse of Asquith’s government.
        * Or, counter-intuitively, a rally-round-the-flag effect where Asquith’s incompetence gets propped up.
        * No need for Germany to engage in unrestricted submarine warfare.
        * US involvement in the war delayed or averted.
        * Central Powers perceived to be winning/backing Britain looks like a losing bet.
        * Romania doesn’t ally with Britain; maybe even allies with Germany per King Carol’s wishes.
        * (Wildly speculative) Sharif Hussein gets cold feet and the Arab revolt – which kicked off just days later – never happens.

        And that’s without even considering the direct military effects which would be considerable. I’m not saying all that would necessarily happen, but it’s suddenly possible.

        By contrast, if the High Seas Fleet gets shattered, what’s the gain to Britain? Britain already had control of the seas. Jutland was almost the last time the High Seas Fleet set sail. Possibly the Baltic campaign takes slightly longer – that’s about it. When you have such an overwhelming strategic advantage, there’s no need to take that level of tactical risk. Scheer wasn’t the one who could lose the war in an afternoon.

        • Protagoras says:

          Sure, there are a lot of possibilities. But few certainties. Perhaps the most important that seems to require more explanation is the “no need for unrestricted submarine warfare.” Obviously that could have made a huge difference, especially if it wasn’t just that Germany could get equally good results without USW, but that they’d actually do even better despite not resorting to USW. And it has considerable plausibility, and was implicitly suggested in my original post (in this AU the British have fewer resources with which to defend their merchant ships, and the Germans have more freedom to use surface ships in commerce raiding).

          But I’m interested in more thorough exploration than merely what seems plausible. I’ve encountered some who argue that most of the ships of the Hochseeflotte were not very well suited to contribute to the blockade of Britain. I guess this is supposed to be due to speed and/or range issues; most of the German battleships had decent range but weren’t terribly fast, while the range of the German battlecruisers varied from mediocre (Derfflinger class) to pathetic (the rest). Though if there were actually a use for them, presumably the Germans would have finished the Mackensens, which would have been both fast and decent range. Maybe also fueling issues. If these issues were as serious as some say, giving the Hochseeflotte more freedom to operate wouldn’t have made as big a difference as it seems. And looking at the info I can find about the ships myself, I can’t really tell if there’s any merit to such arguments.

          Romania is also fun, to be sure. Austria doesn’t have to worry about Romania, and maybe even gets a tiny bit of help from them, so Austria doesn’t need as much (any?) German help in its various fights, so the Germans have slightly more to throw into the 1918 Spring offensive, while with no USW there are no Americans to help the Allies; maybe the Spring Offensive reaches Paris? But this is the battleship thread, so let’s focus on the direct naval issues for now instead of going all over the place.

      • bean says:

        I am not the person to make the counterargument to the cautious position. I think Jellicoe acted entirely correctly, and that, within the limits imposed by technology, he did a very good job indeed.
        That said, a couple of points:
        1. The bad magazine practices were most prevalent on the battlecruisers. The battleships had issues, but not nearly as badly.
        2. If the Grand Fleet goes, so goes the blockade of Germany. Even leaving aside what that might do to British trade, it would give the German economy a massive boost.
        Re the US, I think you overestimate pro-British, anti-German feeling in the US in mid-1916. The US was never happy with the blockade, and at least some of the support for the 1916 naval act was to produce a fleet capable of breaking the British blockade. For that matter, when the Deutschland showed up a few months later, she got a very warm reception. If the British had lost Jutland badly, then the Germans probably don’t need unrestricted submarine warfare, and the net effect is almost certainly that the US doesn’t enter the war.
        3. The HSF being destroyed would have also had a major impact, though. Two of the big problems of the war were that Western Europe had become dependent on Russian grain, and that it was very difficult to provide material support to Russia. Gallipoli was an attempt to solve the first problem, and it came close to working. If the HSF was destroyed, it would have cleared the way for the British to enter the Baltic and open the route to St. Petersburg. That would change the balance on the Eastern Front quite a bit, and that has a massive effect on the future of Russia. Maybe no revolution, and the knock-on effects of that are massive.

        • Protagoras says:

          This is the sort of thing I was looking for. If restoration of German trade with the United States would have been an outcome of the destruction of the Grand Fleet, then obviously that would have been huge, even beyond as you say probably contributing greatly to keeping the U.S. from joining the Allies (is there anything Germany was short of during the war that they couldn’t have gotten from the United States? Not that I can think of).

          On your third point, I hadn’t realized that trade between the Russia and the rest of the Allies was so important. But would the destruction of the Hochseeflotte have been enough to let the British clear the Baltic? I guess Denmark being neutral eliminates the worst choke points, but still, access to Russia via the Baltic involves a lot of time pretty close to the German coast, where cheap little short range torpedo boats can cause a lot of trouble. Also seems like for similar reason the Germans could cause a lot of trouble with mines along the route.

          • bean says:

            There was significant work done by the British on fighting in the Baltic. Curious, Spurious, and Outrageous were built for it, and intended to fight the pre-dreads the Germans would have had left. They and the monitors were shallow-draft specifically to reduce the hazard from torpedo and mine attacks. It would have been messy, but I think it would have been possible.
            And the ‘spending a lot of time close to the German coast’ has a flip side. The Prussian-dominated officer corps was absolutely paranoid about protecting East Prussia (hence Tannenberg being such a big deal), and a threatened landing there (also part of British strategy at various points) could have drawn off a lot of forces. Sort of like the Marines off the coast of Kuwait in 1991, even if they didn’t actually land.
            Edit:
            Another major potential effect would be that the British would make major gains in their war against the U-boats. Early in the war, they were looking at invading Borkum, an island just off the German coast, as a forward base. They decided not to because fighting just off the base of the enemy capital ships is dangerous. If the enemy has no capital ships, then that might be back on the table, and it should block the U-boats out of Wilhelmshaven better than they could from a long way away. And the same might be doable in the Baltic…

          • LHN says:

            I was going to add “Spurious” to my “they intentionally named a ship that?” list. But Wikipedia claims it was a nickname for HMS Furious. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Furious_(47)#cite_note-2

            (That said, I trust bean’s expertise ahead of Wikipedia’s, so I’m prepared to be told that they’re wrong. In which case I’d reinstate my “Spurious? Really?”)

            ETA I see the above are all nicknames, and I just wasn’t getting the joke. <Emily Litella> Never mind.</Emily Litella>

          • bean says:

            Yeah, that was just me making weird naval jokes. I was referring to Furious, Glorious, and Courageous. I probably shouldn’t do that (weird naval jokes, not talking about those three) in front of lay audiences.
            Also, I’m not quite sure to make of being rated more reliable than wikipedia, considering how much I tend to use it for quick research or topics I don’t have books on (such as this OTs). (The wiki articles on warships and related topics tend to be pretty reliable, although, as is so often the case with wiki, they may not reflect the latest historical scholarship.)

          • LHN says:

            @bean: It would probably be more precise to say: given that we both have access to Wikipedia, and you also have knowledge of the field and familiarity with other sources, I’d trust that combination over the one Wikipedia article I found with a quick google, if you told me it was wrong.

          • John Schilling says:

            As it turns out, I barely ninja’d bean crossthread in correcting the caliber of the German coast defense guns at Cherbourg, which Wikipedia and others incorrectly cite as 11″ but were in fact (and in bean’s serious references) 240mm/9.4″

          • bean says:

            As it turns out, I barely ninja’d bean crossthread in correcting the caliber of the German coast defense guns at Cherbourg, which Wikipedia and others incorrectly cite as 11″ but were in fact (and in bean’s serious references) 240mm/9.4″

            Wiki actually cites both. I found out they were 9.4″ when I searched wiki for ‘Battery Hamburg’ and found the page on the relevant gun, which linked to NavWeps for confirmation. The page on the Bombardment of Cherborg, which is below that of the gun due to a quirk of fate, gives them as 11″, citing Morison, which is where I got the 11″ from in the first place.

          • John Schilling says:

            And it is also said, “Go not to the Wikipedians for counsel, for they will say both no and yes and Citation Needed”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “And it is also said, “Go not to the Wikipedians for counsel, for they will say both no and yes and [also]* Citation Needed””

            *edit, since they are now saying three things

  3. keranih says:

    Continuing the thread of digging stuff out of the SSS stream –

    Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel wants a new requirement for high school graduation.

    On the one hand, this falls solidly in the camp of “things I would advocate for but never require” – esp not as jacked up as is the opportunity for tech/apprenticeships in the USA currently.

    On the other hand, I am deeply annoyed at people who summarize the plan as “you must go to college in order to graduate high school.” Even leaving aside the lack of requirement to actually attend, I wish more people would acknowledge that trade school is a preferable option for many people – probably even ‘most’ people – to a four year college degree.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is a terrible idea and the mayor should feel terrible. A student who has fulfilled all the requirements (but this one) would become a dropout rather than someone who can find a job or perhaps at a later time pick up one of those alternatives.

      • keranih says:

        How is this one requirement any different from any other requirement to graduate in that aspect?

        (given that the HS degree is signalling to at least some degree, and only partly actual gained skill, I mean)

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like if I were the local community colleges/trade schools I would probably be annoyed by this. It says students have to apply and be accepted, not that they have to go. So I assume this will probably dramatically increase the rate of students applying for schools they have no intention of actually going to, which is just a huge waste of time for everyone involved…

          • Loquat says:

            This could actually be a minor business opportunity for some for-profit college – advertise heavily to Chicago students, knowing few of them will actually go, and guarantee (or at least strongly imply) acceptance for everyone who pays the application fee.

        • The Nybbler says:

          At least theoretically, those other requirements are to prepare you for your future; if they graduated you without it you’d be unprepared in some way. This requirement is not.

          • keranih says:

            I submit that not having looked for other opportunities for furthering knowledge/skills post high school also means to some degree that you’re unprepared for tackling that opportunity.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        I feel like this is a salvagable idea with a terrible implementation. I could see implementing the goal of this by having a mandatory class for high school seniors seniors which covered all of How To Find Out What You’re Good At, How To Apply For Colleges, How To Use What You’ve Learned In English To Write A Good Essay, What Interesting Jobs Exist That You Might Not Have Heard Of, and so on.

        Thus, students who’ve completed the class would both be prepared to step into the traditional arena, and have knowledge of what non-traditional arenas exist. But this would require smart, involved teachers working closely and personally with every student in their class, while having to know a great deal across a bunch of vaguely-related fields, and not a simple easy-to-metricify deliverable, so I can see how the goal of getting students prepared ended up with this as its final proposed outcome.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m willing to bet they already have all of that stuff.

          I graduated high school 15 years ago and we had all that stuff. Satisfactory completion was mandatory and required for graduation. Granted, I lived in a fairly wealthy progressive town with reasonably good economics. But still.

          • mingyuan says:

            CPS does not, in fact, already have all of that stuff, at least not every school does. Many large inner-city high schools only have one guidance counselor, which is completely inadequate for these purposes. It’s good to know that some districts do have such programs, but CPS is notoriously underfunded and ineffective, quite unlike your high school.

          • Matt M says:

            ming,

            Just to clarify – are you saying they do not offer/require education specific towards “how to pick and find a job/college” or that such programs are present, but inadequate (likely due to resource constraints)?

            I think the later at least is self-evident, and is part of what is leading to this proposal. I would be very surprised to hear that the former is true.

          • quanta413 says:

            I went to an average public high school in a middle class town, and I don’t think we had anything like that. What there was was scattered around. So arguably, you would hopefully learn how to write in English class etc. And we had counselors who could maybe help you learn what the requirements were for the state colleges but I think I saw a counselor less than once a year and there was something like one counselor per several hundred students.

            But yeah, forcing people into a class that just spells out in bold letters “THESE ARE THE OPTIONS YOU HAVE FOR YOUR FUTURE” would be a pretty big improvement over current proposal; it probably wouldn’t make much difference, but at least it wouldn’t hurt. The mayor’s current plan looks downright damaging to me. But y’know, the alternate plan would do something besides offload all the cost, work, and expectations onto the population who will then probably fail so you can blame them.

            If they really wanted to prepare the students better, they ought to make sure they can all read and write at an acceptable level as well as add, subtract etc. Which I can tell you at least in my hometown… was a standard that was not met nearly as often as it should have been.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If they really wanted to prepare the students better, they ought to make sure they can all read and write at an acceptable level as well as add, subtract etc. Which I can tell you at least in my hometown… was a standard that was not met nearly as often as it should have been.

            This used to be the criteria for _primary_ education (up to 8th grade). Now (and for quite a while), it’s often not met by _secondary_ education.

          • quanta413 says:

            This used to be the criteria for _primary_ education (up to 8th grade). Now (and for quite a while), it’s often not met by _secondary_ education.

            To be fair, my impression is that although that used to be the criteria for primary school, we probably weren’t succeeding very well then either. It just wasn’t yet as important to be able to add, subtract, etc. as it is now.

          • keranih says:

            Agreed that this used to be a primary school function.

            I’m certainly open to the idea that we should focus on lowering the functional illiteracy rate first. I’m not sure that there is the political will across the nation to stop graduating illiterate/innumerate students.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m certainly open to the idea that we should focus on lowering the functional illiteracy rate first. I’m not sure that there is the political will across the nation to stop graduating illiterate/innumerate students.

            Ignoring the nation for the moment, I know CA had a high school exam to try to guarantee people would be literate and numerate if they had a diploma. However due to various screw ups in not having a test a couple years ago (and my vague recollection is there was also quite a bit of political dislike/hatred of the test that may have affected things), the legislator retroactively suspended the requirement for that year and all past years even though for many of those years nothing had gone wrong except the pass rate was perhaps not ideal. You can see the pass rates here http://cahsee.cde.ca.gov/reports.asp. Some people take it multiple times before passing though so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. There may be a replacement for it. Or not.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Matt M

            I was raised in a middle/working class school district.

            I graduated in 1996, was part of my school district’s gifted program (nominally top 2%, realistically about top 5% [+/- the fuzzy border] of local students given the numbers), went to community college in lieu of my senior year classes, and can tell you that mingyuan and quanta413 are absolutely correct. quanta413’s description literally mirrors my experience (though I didn’t pay enough attention to the literacy of my cohort to know if it was a problem, I do know that seniors taking “general math”, or whatever it was called, did happen).

            You were extremely privileged in your school district.

            I’d recommend reading educationrealist’s blog for a look at the other half of the current US K-12 system.

        • Deiseach says:

          But there are school pupils who don’t want to go on to to further education or training, they just want to leave school and get a job: my brother was one such, he was reasonably good at school and he’s not stupid, but he is not one bit academically interested and my mother had a ferocious time coaxing him to stay in school past the age of fifteen. He did the bare minimum to pass his exams then as soon as he was done he went into a job and has been continuously employed for the past thirty years (not in the same job, obviously). Current job keeps wanting to promote him because he’s a good worker and smart, and quickly picks up on-the-job training, but he doesn’t want to go into an ‘office job’.

          Mayor Emmanuel’s idea doesn’t seem to take into account people like him, or kids that aren’t able to get accepted into any kind of college. I wish I could be more sanguine but I foresee a lot of unpaid internships springing up (you’ll need the internship letter to graduate high school) and a boom time for diploma mills that will take students and give them rubbish qualifications or poor to non-existent training:

          Under the proposal, all Chicago Public School students starting with this year’s freshman class would have to show an acceptance letter to a four-year university, a community college, a trade school or apprenticeship, an internship, or a branch of the armed services in order to receive their high school diploma.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Based on his interview at the link, it sounds as if Emmanuel wants Chicago students to have better jobs after leaving formal education. I’m stunned to find that he thinks all it takes is for people to stay in school two more years and they’ll simply earn more. What if they get accepted, go to some college, and still can’t find a job due to a sluggish job market? What if they go, score two years’ worth of debt for tuition, and end up with a job they could have done with just a high school degree?

      I expect someone in city council will think of this and kill that bill before it passes. If not, I expect some parents will be seeking to file suit. (Interesting possibility: parents with enough wealth to afford a suit on their own will be unlikely to have trouble getting their kid accepted into college regardless of academic record. Those with trouble getting such acceptance will not be able to sue, except as a more difficult class action. They will likewise have trouble gaining sympathy in the court of public opinion. Who wants to publicize that their kid couldn’t even get into community college? Or worse, that they chose not to on principle?)

      • Deiseach says:

        We’ve also been discussing the requirement for credentials for things like nail salons on here; this is only going to drive that further and harder. Parents will want their children to have their high school diploma (because you need that to get any kind of a job) and now this requirement means that to get their diploma, Susie will have to have a letter from a beauty parlour offering her a formal apprenticeship or will have to do a two year beautician course.

        I’d love to think this was encouraging school leavers into further education or training, but for the fact that they’re tying getting your high school diploma to proof of going on for academic, vocational, or work-related training. Or the traditional fall-back of the poor – joining the Army. I don’t think it’s the job of local government to go recruiting for the armed forces, and I don’t like “an acceptance letter to …a branch of the armed services in order to receive their high school diploma” which they are already entitled to if they’ve attended school, passed the exams, taken the required classes.

        I think this has a lot more to do with balancing the budget and reducing social welfare payments – a version of workfare for the youth. This isn’t necessarily bad in itself, but tying it to “if you want your diploma, you have to… or else” is a very bad idea. After all, they are already entitled to their diploma, so I don’t see this providing any incentive to those who wouldn’t get it to make a greater effort, and maybe it will even provoke more early school leavers/dropouts (if you’re not going to get to graduate without jumping through an extra hoop, why bother staying in school?)

    • mingyuan says:

      Oh my god, I have a lot of feelings about this. Because like, this is a school district that covers a lot of concentrated extreme poverty areas, where many kids struggle from a very young age to stay in school, what with the unrelenting deaths of their family and friends, the constant threat of being killed by a stray bullet, periodic incarceration, broken families, drug use and gang involvement often starting before they’re even ten years old, and the psychological and physiological effects of prolonged childhood trauma, not to mention underfunded schools. These children are the real failing of CPS, and an elitist policy like this can only work to their detriment.

      Like, some CPS high schools have dropout rates around 75%, and similarly high rates of teen pregnancy. How can you require that all those young mothers go to college? Who will raise their children? And I imagine this requirement would be extremely discouraging to the minority of students who don’t drop out prior to graduation. Most of those kids don’t expect to continue their education, but even a high school degree will give them better opportunities than no degree at all. How can you deny them that even after they’ve put in all the work?

      Rahm talks about how this will prepare kids for the “world and economy that our high school students are graduating to”, which is maybe fair (if not very eloquent) in a context where students are expected to go out and participate in the global economy in some sense, since it is true that a high school diploma won’t get you very far in the job market. But in a district where for many kids graduating from high school is already a Herculean feat, and most families don’t have the money or support necessary for their kids to apply to college, it just shows that he’s completely out of touch with the reality of his city.

      Perhaps this policy would make sense in another school district, with fewer horrifying problems? But if Rahm is actually trying to address the needs of the kids I’m talking about, I have no idea where he’s coming from. I mean yes, it would be great if every kid had a post-graduate plan for higher education, but that is so far from the realm of possibility in CPS that it’s kind of insulting to even propose it.

    • Brad says:

      SSS stream

      ???

    • Randy M says:

      This gets back to the question of “How much does college prepare you, and how much is it a filtering mechanism?” Clearly Rahm and most other policy makers can only contemplate that it is entirely the result of the educational aspects of college that an average college graduate differs in any way from one who did not have the opportunity. Clearly also they hold that this will always be the case even when every single person attends for 4-6 years, laws of supply and demand, capacity, etc. not withstanding.

      I am doubtful.

      • Deiseach says:

        And apart from everything else, it feeds into the model of “education is to prepare you for work according to whatever needs businesses and industry have at the moment/in the near future”, not “education is to give you a chance to learn and to develop yourself as a person”.

        This is great for turning out cogs in the machine, but what if we don’t want/won’t need cogs in the machine in the future, because we have real machines? There’s a real threat to, for instance, construction labour from the likes of this – you do need to serve an apprenticeship to become a bricklayer and this won’t replace them all, but it will certainly reduce the numbers needed on construction sites and drive down labour costs, and I do think it will reduce jobs as well (if you only need one guy working with the machine to do the same work as six guys, and the human is only there to do the tricky bits that the machine can’t yet do, why wouldn’t it?)

        • Matt M says:

          Isn’t that sort of the point here though?

          It sounds like he’s all but admitting, “A high school diploma, on its own, is essentially worthless and will continue to decrease in value for the foreseeable future.” By attempting to tie the worthless paper to non-worthless activities, the value of the paper then goes up as well, does it not?

          Note: I’m not saying this is a good idea or that it won’t screw over tons of people, but the intention seems to be to keep the diploma relevant in any way they can (short of, you know, actually providing a quality education, which we’ve all probably written off as an impossible fantasy at this point)

          • Loquat says:

            But if the true value is coming from the college or apprenticeship or what-have-you, why would anyone else ask about the high school diploma instead of asking about the post-high-school education directly?

            Especially since, if the requirement is just to be *accepted* into a college, clever non-college-inclined students could meet it by just getting accepted to some diploma mill and then not going.

          • Matt M says:

            To be as charitable as possible, perhaps the idea is that by forcing someone to apply to a school, you’ve made sure the option is there for them, and it is easier for them to execute should they later choose to do so.

            I can imagine that forcing people to have a plan makes it marginally more likely they will follow and execute said plan, even if we accept that some certain percentage definitely won’t.

          • John Schilling says:

            To be as charitable as possible, perhaps the idea is that by forcing someone to apply to a school, you’ve made sure the option is there for them

            The proposed requirement isn’t that graduates apply to a school, it is that they be accepted by a school. And that’s not an option the Mayor of Chicago really has the power to ensure is available to anyone.

          • Matt M says:

            Do low tier community colleges/trade schools have any particular requirements for acceptance?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt, at least for many community colleges, no. They might place you in the lowest level of remedial classes, but they’ll still accept you.

          • Deiseach says:

            To be as charitable as possible, perhaps the idea is that by forcing someone to apply to a school, you’ve made sure the option is there for them, and it is easier for them to execute should they later choose to do so.

            The whole point there is choice. If you’re sure that you are going on to college anyway once you finish high school, and you have a plan (you want to be a teacher/physicist/doctor/lecturer in advanced runes) then this isn’t necessary. For those who aren’t sure, or weren’t planning on an academic career, this is shoving them into a box: if they can’t get an apprenticeship in a career they want (and there are a limited number of apprenticeships, if it works the same way in the USA as it does over here) then they’ll have to pick some bullshit college course in order to get their diploma.

            A lot of young people make poor choices at that age: pick the wrong course, go into a field and then find they don’t want it, screw up their education. It’s often only a couple of years later they have their heads on straight enough to decide they really do need to attend a vocational school or try for college. Boxing them in this early isn’t going to make sure the option is open to them, and indeed if every high school graduate in Chicago now needs to produce evidence of a college place, that’s going to put immense pressure on the competition for places (unless there’s going to be a cynical “sure we’ll take in four hundred first years and get the fees out of them, secure in the knowledge that a good half to two-thirds will drop out and the numbers going on to second year will be manageable in terms of teaching staff and accommodating places” attitude on the part of the further educational and university colleges) and maybe even reduce the option of someone getting the place they wanted.

            You can’t shove everyone into the one mould. I think I would have liked to go to university but maybe I wouldn’t have been capable of it (I might have been one of those first year drop-outs). I certainly wouldn’t have been capable if it had been decided “Everyone is going to learn to be a computer programmer so if you want your paper showing you’ve successfully finished high school you have to take a place on a college course”.

            Now, if there are going to be hundreds of new apprenticeships in good jobs opening up and kids want to take these on, fine. But this seems very top-down decision making and that never really ends well.

        • Randy M says:

          And apart from everything else, it feeds into the model of “education is to prepare you for work according to whatever needs businesses and industry have at the moment/in the near future”, not “education is to give you a chance to learn and to develop yourself as a person”.

          I don’t really like this attitude. It’s all well and good to say literacy opens doors for a person and every one should know how to read in order to have a connection with the body of human knowledge, etc. But to imply that a college education is an important part of personal development is distasteful given the price attached to it–and I really doubt the proponents of this attitude have community college in mind. It strikes me as a way of saying “No, you shouldn’t expect any material advancement for your $40,000+ investment–you’re just simply now a better person than those that didn’t spend their pretirement within our ivy-shrouded halls. Isn’t that enough?” In other words, it’s just marketing for fools.

      • J Mann says:

        This gets back to the question of “How much does college prepare you, and how much is it a filtering mechanism?” Clearly Rahm and most other policy makers can only contemplate that it is entirely the result of the educational aspects of college that an average college graduate differs in any way from one who did not have the opportunity.

        Randy – “entirely” isn’t really fair, is it? Emmanuel just has to believe that the difference in outcomes is “substantially” an effect of education in order for their policy to have some benefits.

    • Murphy says:

      that seems… kinda terrible honestly. It would be like a college refusing to give you a qualification until you’ve shown them a job offer.

      “My old man says ‘is friend will find me a job on ‘is farm” while not ideal is also an acceptable life plan.

      Not allowing you to graduate from 2nd level education unless you get an accepted to third level? It’s genuinely nuts.

      • Matt M says:

        It would be like a college refusing to give you a qualification until you’ve shown them a job offer.

        I feel like business schools would do this if they thought they could get away with it

    • caethan says:

      So on first blush, asking high school kids to do some rudimentary planning for the future seems reasonable, let’s read closely here:

      Under the proposal, all Chicago Public School students starting with this year’s freshman class would have to show an acceptance letter to a four-year university, a community college, a trade school or apprenticeship, an internship, or a branch of the armed services in order to receive their high school diploma.

      Notice anything missing? Having an actual job doesn’t count. Internship? Sure! Go and join the army, that’s reasonable. College – of course! But if you want to work at your family restaurant, or you’re gonna be a mechanic at this place downtown that needs help, or whatever, then fuck you kid, no HS diploma. It’s appalling, and the people who came up with this policy should be goddamned ashamed of themselves.

      • caethan says:

        The more I think about this the angrier I get. When I was a high school student, I worked two different jobs (back in the late ’90s) – a waiter at Steak ‘n Shake and a flunky at the local movie theatre. The managers at the movie theatre were both guys who had worked their way up – late 20s/early 30s, started out as teenagers and gradually took on more responsibility. I knew a couple of other teenagers working there who were responsible enough that they got the coveted assistant manager positions – with added responsibility and a bit of extra pay, and were clearly being groomed for a later manager position when the company expanded.

        Under this policy, they’d just have to waste their time (and money! applications aren’t free!) applying for schools they don’t care about to satisfy some stupid bureaucrat. One of my classmates who worked at the movie theatre went on to become owner of another one downtown, after she got enough experience and a small business loan. It’s doing pretty well, last I heard. Screw the guys who think she shouldn’t have gotten a diploma.

      • Deiseach says:

        I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was seventeen and leaving school (I had vague notions that I’d like to be a librarian but that was never going to happen). I ended up doing a three year course that I had no inclination or talent for merely because it was something to do while I tried to think where I could get a job.

        Apart from a very short period, I have never worked in that field where I got my third-level qualification and it was only much later when returning to education and re-training for something else that I got job skills for my current work.

        I can see a lot of two year courses being taken up by kids who have no idea what they want to really do (but they don’t want to join the Army) or their parents push them into “do something, anything, instead of hanging round the house” and a lot of fly-by-night ‘colleges’ springing up to service this demand so they end up after two years with an Advanced Diploma in Underwater Basket Weaving and nothing that is really going to be job-related. But the ‘colleges’ will be raking in the dough, the mayor can point to Something Is Being Done about youth unemployment so his votes are secure, and there will be work generated for bureaucracy in implementing these schemes, and that’s all that matters (and I say that as a bureaucratic minion myself).

      • secondcityscientist says:

        Another source I read said that a current job or job offer letter was also acceptable. This seems to be the predominant concern among posters here – does it change your opinion that having a job is OK?

        • Chalid says:

          Graduating during a recession already screws up your life. This just makes things worse.

          • secondcityscientist says:

            Yeah, recessions were among my big concerns (also: undocumented immigrants who were brought to Chicago as small children and educated in CPS, a reasonably common case in the city).

            I think this is a bad idea, but apparently no one in the city has seen an actual proposal so it’s tough to evaluate.

        • Deiseach says:

          If that’s true, it’s slightly better. But there is no good reason to blackmail or coerce students by withholding what they have already earned. If they’re eligible for their diploma because they have the requisite attendance, classes and exams, then why tack on this additional requirement, especially if it comes after they have finished what is legally required of their education?

          Or is employment in Chicago in such a state of slump that the mayor wants to raise the school leaving age to 21 or 22 and this is a back-door way of doing it?

          • Matt M says:

            You haven’t “already earned” anything. The state issues the diploma. It decides what you’ve earned and when you’re earned it. They can tack on whatever bizarre additional requirements they want. Mine required all students to complete 10 hours of community service, for example.

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t “earned” my annual bonus in that sense either, but I’m still gonna be pretty pissed if my manager wants me to stand on one leg and sing a silly song before handing me the check.

          • Matt M says:

            And yet, if the company passed a policy requiring that, you would.

            I guess this is one of those areas where, as a pretty hardcore libertarian, I have little sympathy for those who suddenly want to complain about government overreach.

            Like, great, you’re just now realizing that maybe it’s a bad idea to give the state a near monopoly on education? That maybe this could lead to arbitrary, damaging, and unfair outcomes?

            Please. Elect a communist as your mayor and get what you deserve.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, once. And then I’d start polishing up my resume.

            Not an option for high school kids, of course, and that’s the point. I have substantial libertarian sympathies myself, and I’m no great fan of the American public education system (having suffered through twelve years of it). But inasmuch as it doesn’t seem likely to vanish into a puff of freedom anytime soon, it might behoove us to recognize certain limits on its proper scope and powers, and to make a stink when it seems to be overreaching them.

          • Deiseach says:

            Matt M, up until this new initiative, the students in Chicago schools were eligible for their diploma upon completing the requirements. Now even though they have already completed the requirements, the mayor is saying that their post-graduation intentions are going to affect if they are issued a diploma. This has never been a requirement before and I’d be very surprised if there weren’t a legal challenge of some sort; what does your life beyond and outside of high school have to do with getting the award for the work done in high school?

            That’s like saying “If you do/don’t join a sports team in your off-work hours, we won’t give you that promotion”.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s like saying “If you do/don’t join a sports team in your off-work hours, we won’t give you that promotion”.

            When I was in the Navy, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I had to do some volunteer/community work to have a good shot at getting the performance evaluation needed to have a good chance at promotion. They called it “being a well rounded Sailor.”

            This type of thing is super common. Your shock and outrage suggests that maybe it isn’t in Europe, but it definitely is here. What makes you “qualified for X” is subject to change until you receive X. As I’ve said elsewhere, when I was in high school, completely aside from the traditional educational requirements, there was a… I can’t remember the actual term, but it really was something like a “career education requirement” wherein you had to participate in various career planning workshops. One particularly annoying thing was that you had to complete a “job shadow” where you followed somebody around for several hours at work. You also had to complete 10 hours of community service. This was a strict yes/no graduation requirement. You could have all the credit hours in the world and a 4.0 GPA, but if you didn’t do this stuff, no diploma.

            As students we found it annoying, but none of the adults seemed to mind. They all thought it was a pretty good idea. Keep in mind, this stuff is all done in the name of doing MORE to help students prepare for the real world. This is spun as a thing that will provide the most benefit to the low-income, non-traditional, lower-class of student who probably doesn’t have much parental support or knowledge of how to do these things.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What makes you “qualified for X” is subject to change until you receive X.

            This is true. But after I’ve set out to achieve X, if “qualified for X” increases a few times, I’ll decide I’m being played for Tantalus and give up on X, writing off the sunk cost. Some proportion of these students will likely see it the same way.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Matt M

            “What makes you “qualified for X” is subject to change until you receive X.”

            “They can tack on whatever bizarre additional requirements they want.”

            No. Not once you’ve started under a prior policy. At least with respect to tertiary education which is paid for. Though wikipedia states that contract law varies between the states, the US constitution’s contract clause bars the states (and thus the school districts) from “impairing the Obligation of Contracts”.

            I might be wrong about this, but when a student enters the high school and is given the list of graduation requirements, those requirements stand as an expressed contract (you fulfill them, and thus benefit the state via the tax dollars allocated for your presence, and you get the diploma).

            In my state the school decided to change the graduation requirements (adding a senior ‘portfolio’), but it did not apply to my cohort. It might have applied to those who were going to be juniors (those who had already entered HS), or just to those who were going to be sophomores (those about to enter the 3-year HS), I don’t remember which.

            “And yet, if the company passed a policy requiring that, you would.”

            No, I’d sue for breach of implied contract. The “bonus” contract obviously freshly renews each year, but they can’t legally change the criteria during the course of the year unless a force majeure event occurs. So I’d sue and then look for another job before the year is out.

          • Deiseach says:

            This type of thing is super common. Your shock and outrage suggests that maybe it isn’t in Europe, but it definitely is here.

            My “shock and outrage” comes from when I was seventeen and about to do our national exams for completion of secondary school, the Leaving Certificate. I rate this as about the most stressful period of any person’s life and it certainly hasn’t gotten any easier in the intervening decades, but at the time (1980) we were about to head into a major recession in Ireland, a really nasty, long-lasting one.

            For the five years of my secondary school education, it had been drilled into us that this exam was the most important, crucial thing ever. Mess this up and our lives were ruined. There would be no second chances, we were warned; no re-sits, no repeating the final year so you could sit it again if you failed it first time round (this is especially laughable to me now as, within a couple of years after I left school, suddenly it was permissible for students who hadn’t got the points they wanted for a particular university course to get permission to repeat the last year of school and re-sit the exam).

            You were going to need your Leaving Cert for any kind of job, we were told (there were already signs of the coming recession and employment freeze). And you needed the best results you could get. And you only had one chance at it. And this would determine the entire rest of your life.

            Why am I telling you all this? Because my class/year got into a stand-off with the PE teacher: long story short, she was a new teacher who came in with an attitude because she was from The Big City, didn’t take classes on a regular basis because she’d get a fit of the sulks and we’d be left wasting the entire hour unable to do anything, and the whole thing blew up over an incident where she accused one of us in a gym class of being defiant and disrespectful and went to the principal to get us all expelled.

            The principal (a nun, the school like the majority of schools in Ireland was run by a religious order even if we had teachers who were lay men and women) was sensible about this, and talked her down into accepting an apology from us. This, however, is where the organic excreted matter hit the rotating air-circulating device.

            We were not going to apologise to her, not even if Hell froze over (part of the reason we were pissed off was the behaviour as described over the course of the school year, part of it was that we had a pretty good basketball team that was winning things but when she came along she used to get into stupid slanging matches with the umpires and opposing teams to the point that nobody wanted to play us anymore, and mostly that she was calling us liars).

            We said “It didn’t happen the way she said it did”. As a matter of fact, I was one of the eye-witnesses because I had literally been facing the way looking at the student in question when she allegedly did the disrespectful act and she hadn’t done that.

            Now, the principal would have taken this into account and let the whole thing quietly die, except the PE teacher was screaming blue murder about getting the union involved, as well as calling us “worse than the scum of Sheriff Street” (a slum area in Dublin notorious at the time for crime, drug addiction, deprivation, poverty and general hard chaw reputation), and besides it would have looked bad to let the students dictate to the faculty, so we got told “Just apologise”.

            Nope. Not gonna happen.

            The semi-big guns got wheeled out. If you don’t apologise, your Debs (Debutantes’ Ball, our equivalent of the Prom) will be cancelled.

            Still not gonna happen.

            Then the really big guns got wheeled out. Remember all the emphasis on the Leaving Cert as described above?

            We were threatened that if we didn’t apologise, we would not be permitted to sit the Leaving Cert (I know now that was illegal and couldn’t happen, but back then we didn’t know that).

            We should have crumpled under this. I should have crumpled under this like wet tissue paper, because I was an anxious, obedient child who always wanted to please authority figures and we were all under immense strain about the Leaving Cert. And on top of that, defying the Reverend Mother who was also the Principal – this was unheard of! Well, we didn’t. We stuck to our guns, said “Go ahead, ban us from doing the exam, still not gonna say something happened that didn’t happen, still not gonna apologise”.

            We were getting no support from parents on this, because most of us hadn’t told our parents (too scared/worried/presumed they’d tell us shut up and apologise; the principal and administration didn’t say anything to the parents so they didn’t really know what was going on, and again now I know that was because the school would not have had a leg to stand on if they’re tried to put the threat into action, but as I said – we didn’t know that).

            Looking back, I have never been so proud of anything or anyone as I am of us, a bunch of seventeen year old girls who were sticking together out of principles of solidarity, justice and not giving in to blackmail. We were of all levels of academic ability, from various socio-economic backgrounds, but there were no splitters or scabs. We were united and we didn’t give in to pressure or blackmail. We must have been inspired by the spirit of Big Jim Larkin – well, that’s what happens when you learn about the 1913 General Strike and Lockout in history class 😀

            Eventually it all cooled down and we were allowed do our exams as normal; we didn’t apologise, the Debs was banned because of our defiance and we were the only year that never had one, but again – the ones who wanted one organised an unofficial one: arranged a venue, consulted about what would be the easiest place for everyone to get there taking transport difficulties into account, tickets, a meal, dresses, the whole lot. I didn’t attend but I wouldn’t have attended the official one anyway because I don’t do parties.

            And that’s the story of why I don’t like arbitrary tacked-on requirements and arm-twisting with threats of deprivation of their rights for what the students have already earned by their attendance and schoolwork according to the usual and expected norms.

            Matt M, you may think you’re a hardcore libertarian, but you will never be as hardcore as those seventeen year old small country town convent school girls 🙂

          • Matt M says:

            Are you honestly suggesting this policy would be applied to students mid-year?

            I take it as a given that people will be forewarned and given ample time to adjust. Something as large and bureaucratic as the Chicago School District couldn’t implement a huge change like that in a matter of months even if it wanted to

          • Matt M says:

            D,

            It’s a nice story – although I think your incident is quite different from what is being proposed here.

            For the record, I did not enjoy all the various career-related hoops we had to jump through for my tacked-on extra requirements either. I think I ended up forging a letter for the community service portion, as many of my peers did. I definitely didn’t enjoy wasting half a day following some boring mechanical engineer around the tiny paper-packaging plant near the airport that counted as my “job shadow.”

            But it certainly wasn’t the end of the world. Everyone gritted their teeth and did the pointless extra requirement and who knows, maybe it helped a couple people somewhere along the way?

            I’m in an awkward position here. I hate Rahm Emmanuel and I hate government overreach and I hate the US public school system and so on and so forth. But I feel like you lot are dramatically over-reacting to all of this. In terms of “dumb things the government did in the last week” it doesn’t even make the Top 20 list probably. Do not mistake my arguing here as any sort of defense of this scheme or of Chicago politics or of public schools or any of that.

          • @Deiseach:

            That was an interesting and moving story. Is the principal still alive? If she is, would you consider sending it to her and asking if she believes it was consistent with her conscience to order a group of students to tell a lie, using threats to make them do it?

            It sounds from your description as though she knew that that was what she was doing.

          • Deiseach says:

            if she believes it was consistent with her conscience to order a group of students to tell a lie, using threats to make them do it?

            She’s dead since, Professor Friedman, and I don’t think she regarded it as ordering us to lie; she was in the awkward position of “the teacher is telling me this happened, the student(s) accused of misbehaving are denying it, there’s no third party adult witness, who do I believe?”

            I’m inclined to think she believed us and the apology was intended as a face-saving gesture to calm the heck down the teacher and smooth things over to get back to normal – it being an exam year, nobody wanted to rock the boat and roil the waters. Had the term been in existence back then, it would have been one of those non-apology apologies. Certainly our feeling was if we told our parents and got them involved, we’d have been told “Just say you’re sorry and get on with studying for the exam, this isn’t important or worth making a fuss over”.

            And on the other hand, the teacher was making threats of bringing in the union, which was a threat of invoking a strike, and the principal had no way of disciplining her – she couldn’t force her to apologise to us, she couldn’t suspend, much less fire, her (for what cause? the teacher was presenting herself as the wronged party), and the teacher was not calming down and reassessing the matter as “okay, maybe I over-reacted, let this one go”. She’d dug herself into a hole and it had become a matter of “my word over theirs” and for the administration as a whole one of “our authority is being challenged”.

            As Matt M says, it was one of the pointless hoop-jumping requirements and ordinarily we’d have complied, but this was the last straw. I think that’s what happens when you teach kids about the values of truth and justice and the examples of the martyrs who would not compromise with the world and deny the truth – there is every danger some of that teaching will stick and the kids will take it seriously 🙂

            Because we wouldn’t truckle, matters escalated, and the arm-twisting was used as a way of trying to get us back into line. This was the tail-end of the 70s in a small Irish country town where authority was respected, the authority of the Church even more so, and the attitude was “you do what the teacher tells you to do and if the teacher says you did something wrong, we the parents will believe the teacher over you”.

            The first threat about the Debs was the attempt to scare us straight and when that didn’t work, the threat about the exams was made, which I think everyone recognised immediately as a misstep but when you make a threat, you have to follow through – rowing back and going “Ha ha, only joking, didn’t mean it” would have been a massive loss of face and concession of authority. It was never a serious threat nor intended as one (as I said, it couldn’t have been done and if the school had tried it, the parents would certainly have intervened) but we were supposed to take it as serious and be intimidated back into “Acknowledge the authority of the faculty, do as you’re told, perform this meaningless act which everyone tacitly recognises as meaningless and let’s get back to normal”. EDIT: And now I think of it, a way to let us compromise – “oh we were sticking on a point of principle but now there are serious consequences so it’s okay if we give in and do the insincere apology that no-one believes bit”.

            It’s the kind of thing that happens in the world today, the sort of thing that’s been mentioned on here before re: diversity training, where HR sends out the link to the mandatory training video and everyone has to box-tick that they’ve watched it, so they play it in the background with the sound muted while working on the real job work and then the ritual compliance with the law has been performed.

            We didn’t cave in even after the nuclear option was used and I still am not entirely sure why not; as I said we had had it hammered into us for five years that this exam was the most important event of our lives and would define our success and failure for the rest of time if we were doomed to be serfs or blessed with becoming successful professionals (this is part of why I am so sceptical now about “this education measure is so vital and if we don’t intervene now all hope is lost” except in the case of things like early childhood intervention where if you don’t intervene now a whole lot of ground really will be lost that can never be made up later on).

            So it all petered out, we didn’t apologise, nothing more was said about forbidding us to sit exams, and the cancellation of the Debs was seen as petty point-scoring to punish us and again, those that wanted it were well capable of organising an alternative now that we had tasted blood and were “hey, we can do stuff ourselves, we don’t need adults to do it for us!” 😀

            So I don’t regard it as her ordering us to lie, merely an early introduction to “the disjunct between stated principles and actual actions that you are going to see a whole heap more of when you get out into the real world”.

          • Deiseach says:

            Are you honestly suggesting this policy would be applied to students mid-year?

            Why wouldn’t we think that? I hadn’t seen anything about “this policy will only come into effect in 2018/20/down the line and does not refer to the current graduating class”. So I went looking and it appears that “Chicago would apparently be the first city to try this scheme, which would begin with current freshmen”, which at least is a reasonable time frame, even if the plan is poor.

            And I suspect the “no, having a job offer is fine too!” only came into being when the negative feedback hit; Emanuel’s initial introduction of the plan didn’t mention work, he was very much emphasising “the workplace wants college grads”.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s either worthless or intolerable. My slacker best friend and I can offer each other jobs in our respective start-up companies, which have never had customers nor revenue and will fold right after graduation but can print nice fancy letters just fine. And if it has to be a “real” job at a “real” company, who decides?

          Related: given the number of tech entrepreneurs with fortunes and going concerns but no college degrees and conspicuous disregard for formal educational credentials, is Chicago trying to give a giant middle finger to that entire sector of the economy?

          • rlms says:

            I think if you put in enough effort to make shell companies you deserve to graduate.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I think if you put in enough effort to make shell companies you deserve to graduate.

            Ah, but that’s coming from the perspective of a reasonable person. We’re talking about school administrators (CPS admins, no less). They’d consider it insubordinate and churlish, and probably try to have you arrested.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      The general idea that schools should outsource their graduation requirements to the gatekeepers for the next stage of life seems reasonable. How would we feel about it if the requirement was “you need to get an offer of some sort of educational thing, or a job offer paying more than $10,000 per year, or an offer of marriage from person making more than $20,000 per year?”

      • Brad says:

        There are two sides to using a stick to encourage some (ostensibly) beneficial behavior:

        1) The people that do the beneficial behavior that otherwise wouldn’t

        2) The people that get hit with a stick.

        Say someone can’t/won’t find a job. Now he’s got no job and no diploma.

        • Deiseach says:

          Say someone can’t/won’t find a job. No he’s got no job and no diploma.

          But there’s always the armed forces – that part makes me angry, and my father was in the army, so it’s not that I’m biased against the notion of serving in the armed forces. It should not be conditional on “and if you’re too dumb to get into university and too clumsy/not connected enough* to get an apprenticeship, then sign up to be cannon fodder” to get the high school diploma that you did the same work for as everyone else.

          *We’re talking Chicago here. You are going to tell me with a straight face that closed shops are a thing of the past?

          • Matt M says:

            As a minor point of clarification, you can join the armed forces as a desk clerk in the Navy/Air Force where your odds of dying in combat are virtually nil. (I know because I did!) Most of the “administrative” type jobs require no more stringent qualifications than basic infantry does.

            While I’m against pushing people towards military service as well, let’s not throw around stuff like “canon fodder” too loosely. I’d be willing to guesstimate that over 80% of people currently in the military have never been shot at.

          • Brad says:

            @Deiseach

            Contrary to certain literary and cinema tropes, the U.S. military doesn’t just accept everyone that walks in the door. Especially in (mostly) peacetime.

          • Deiseach says:

            Brad, and I’m sure the recruiting sergeants will explain that to the mayor, that his magnificent plan for getting those unable or unwilling to sign up for four years of college out of his hair by dumping them into the army isn’t going to work.

            But why is it included in the first place, if the whole point of the scheme is to encourage kids to higher education so they can fit into the new world of necessary skills for jobs? I don’t like that it’s there and I’d really like to see some explanation of why it is, particularly as there is apparently no exception for “or if you can show a letter from an employer that you’re going into work, you can have your diploma”.

            There is a very strong smell of fish from this whole scheme.

          • Matt M says:

            But why is it included in the first place

            As far as “ways to make enough money to be kept off of welfare immediately out of high school with no particular skills or prospects” go, it’s pretty much impossible to beat. Why wouldn’t it be there? It’s a perfectly legitimate option – particularly for those who lack the monetary resources to go to college – or who aren’t sure what they want to do with their life just yet.

            Also, politically speaking, it would be absolute suicide for it to NOT be there. “Rahm Emmanuel denies diploma to young Marine” FOX News would have a field day with that one…

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          True, but that’s just about incentives for the students. Revised Rahm Emmanuel proposal would give curriculum designers good incentives (since they want to get students out the door).

          • Brad says:

            I think you are out the door either way at 18. Unless the schools there work differently from the one’s I’m familiar with.

          • Evan Þ says:

            No, AFAIK if you haven’t graduated and want to stay on, public schools are required to let you stay till age 21.

      • John Schilling says:

        The general idea that schools should outsource their graduation requirements to the gatekeepers for the next stage of life seems reasonable.

        The “next stage of life” doesn’t have gatekeepers. The country club that Rahm Emanual and his buddies belong to has a gatekeeper. Two of them, one at the front for members, one in back for servants. The plan where everyone has to be admitted past one of those two gates or be exiled to the permanent underclass, seems to me rather less than reasonable.

    • keranih says:

      I am deeply frustrated by the number of people who got neither my point nor the requirements listed in the article that I linked, and who go on insisting that (I paraphrase) “This program is stupid because college isn’t for everyone and you go into too much debt in college.”

      No shit, sherlock. Which is why “you have to go to college and college alone” isn’t listed as the sole requirement.

      I will be among the first to say that what da gubmint – and esp a Dem-driven gubmint – does is bad and wrong, but for crying out loud, can we at least only yell about what is actually being done? Instead of making up more stupid things and yelling about that?

      • Nornagest says:

        I get that the program isn’t designed or intended to funnel everyone into college. And I’m even willing to concede that everyone capable of graduating high school outside a special-needs program is probably also capable of sourcing an admissions letter to a university, community college, or trade school, or a job or apprenticeship, or military enlistment, in the abstract. But there are a couple of angles this doesn’t cover.

        First, a nontrivial segment of people — and particularly of eighteen-year-olds — aren’t going to have the help and/or foresight to arrange anything meeting the criteria. We can reasonably assume that a large proportion of those people still won’t have it even under threat of withholding their diplomas. These people already aren’t in a great situation, and being held back a year/made dropouts will make it worse when they do finally find the help or motivation. It’s likely that some marginal people will get scared straight, but the benefit to them doesn’t look all that likely to outweigh the harm to the others.

        Also, job prospects — or training prospects likely to lead to jobs — are a finite resource, and one not under the control of school administrators. Even if we’re willing to say that the people who’re unwilling or unable to set themselves on the path to the “next stage in life” in a normal economy don’t deserve diplomas, the program doesn’t account for abnormal economies; if the local economy hits a downturn, then that means we’ll end up denying diplomas to people that would have gotten them the previous year, basically because of bad luck. This strikes me as unreasonable.

    • BBA says:

      The devil is in the details, and the details here are the most wrongheaded thing I’ve seen. The more I think about it the less sense it makes. Seriously – having an apprenticeship counts towards the requirement, having a paying job doesn’t? I don’t know how you turn around failing schools in failing neighborhoods like much of the South Side, but this massive unfunded mandate on the students isn’t going to help at all.

      And if Chicago community colleges are anything like CUNY, the last thing they need is a huge influx of barely-literate students putting further strain on the system, especially when the students are only signing up because it’s the path of least resistance towards a high school diploma.

      Chicagoans: how is CPS as big city public school systems go? Is it like NYC, where school quality varies considerably by neighborhood, or is it a complete systemwide disaster like Washington DC?

      • keranih says:

        It was reported above that having a job offer counted.

        • BBA says:

          Okay, that wasn’t in the article though.

          It’s still an “unfunded mandate” that falls on the students’ shoulders. Without any additional support, just ordering students to get their shit together is not going to make any more of them get their shit together.

          And it certainly looks like the default path is open enrollment in CCC, which is just going to turn community college into the 13th and 14th grades of high school (which Emanuel even says is the point!). I think they’re working from the idea that community colleges seem to work better than public high schools, so let’s send all the kids to community college. The point they’re missing is that everyone is forced to go to high school while the only students in CCC are those who sought it out and wanted to go there, so of course the results are better there.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s still an “unfunded mandate” that falls on the students’ shoulders.

            Dude, it’s spending 15 minutes filling out a freaking form. And MAYBE a $20 application fee (which I’m certain will have some sort of waiver for low-income folks). Anyone who has bothered to stick with the various requirements to actually graduate HS can handle filling out a simple form. Let’s not act like this is some insane herculean task being set before them.

          • Spookykou says:

            I almost didn’t graduate, despite having average grades, because I seem to be considerably worse than most people at completing simple bureaucratic tasks like filling out forms, if it was not for the school administrators bending over backwards, and bending some rules, I would not have gotten my diploma.

            While I admit that I am an extreme example, I think it is common for people with a lot of agency to fail to understand what a barrier a 15 minute form can be. I think at least part of Uber’s success is in the very streamlined way that one can get a job with Uber, allowing them to pick up lots of people like me, who can do some things, but have a very hard time jumping through hoops.

            *Secretly, I think people who are good at jumping through hoops have been systematically increasing how many hoops everyone has to jump through as a mechanism for ensuring that their, hoop jumping genes, out compete my, inability to jump through hoops, genes. This is why job applications, college applications, health insurance, taxes, etc are constantly increasing in banal complexity.

            *Mostly joking.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            As a young hoop-jumper, while I didn’t think to create hoops, I’ve always felt good by the hoops because they help people like me at your expense.

            I’ve moved out of that mode of thinking, but I can easily see a more evil and powerful version of younger-me doing what you suspect us of.

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t most school-work essentially hoop jumping?

            How is “fill out this form to apply to community college” significantly different from “write this book report” or whatever busywork various classes required?

          • Matt M says:

            On a related note, I used to joke with people that the main reason I joined the military rather than going to college is that they made the process so much easier. Recruiters filled out the forms for me, all *I* had to do was sign my name a bunch of times. Colleges wanted me to write a bunch of essays and crap. Nuts to that!

          • Spookykou says:

            I can’t speak for other people, but my jumping inability is not uniform across all hoops. In particular, I am a little better at it when I am beholden to someone else, so if a teacher(or anyone) asks me to do something, they will be disappointed if I don’t, so I am more likely to do it. However if I need me to do something,(like applications, or doing my taxes) I just can’t seem to do it.

            I really need to do my taxes…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Now I’m wondering how much of depression is actually caused by being in an incompatible environoment.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Now I’m wondering how much of depression is actually caused by being in an incompatible environoment.

            Doesn’t really matter. A mental health professional can only affect the patient, not the environment. So if the patient is incompatible with the environment, they need to get the patient to change to be more compatible with the environment.

    • hyperboloid says:

      While I understand that the headline “Chicago to require acceptance letter to graduate high school” sounds horrible, did any of the people rating about this actually do more than two seconds of googling?

      To quote from the Chicago tribune:

      Emanuel’s initiative would allow the mayor to continue promoting the City Colleges of Chicago and push a potential flood of new applicants to schools that must already accept most students. Emanuel recently installed a longtime ally, Latino activist Juan Salgado, as chancellor of the system.

      State law already requires Illinois community college districts to admit students qualified to complete any of the schools’ programs, as long as space is available. That could provide an out for a student who isn’t quite sure what to do after high school, officials said.

      Asked whether a student who doesn’t get one of these letters of acceptance would be prohibited from graduating from high school {CPS Chief Education Officer} Jackson said in part:

      If a student graduates from a Chicago public school, they are automatically accepted into one of our City Colleges. And if a student is at a point where they’re undecided … we do have that option there for them.”

      Down thread John Schilling says It’s either worthless or intolerable, and it is very much the latter. At best it is a requirement that kids in Chicago think about about their post high school plans and perhaps a political spring board to expand the CCC system, at worst it’s a transparent ploy so that Emanuel can say that everyone who graduates from a Chicago high school is either working or college bound, for some value of “college”.

      • Deiseach says:

        State law already requires Illinois community college districts to admit students qualified to complete any of the schools’ programs, as long as space is available.

        Standard law in most places; if a student drops out of education, and is classed as an early school leaver, there is a responsibility to provide them with an education up to their legal age of leaving school. This new requirement doesn’t address that, it’s telling people who aren’t drop-outs and who have already complied with and fulfilled the requirements to graduate that there is now an additional arbitrary step, one that forces them onto a particular path as well.

        If a student graduates from a Chicago public school, they are automatically accepted into one of our City Colleges.

        Ho. Lee. Crap.

        I’m going to say it: follow the money. This sounds like a boondoggle (oh Chicago, the glory days of Irish parish-pump political influence have never left you!) because where the [expletive deleted] is the money for all these additional college places going to come from?

        I haven’t any figures, but whatever the annual graduation rate of Chicago public (and private) schools are, I doubt it’s 100% goes on to college*. This tulip is saying that from now on, 100% of the students of Chicago schools in their final year have an automatic place.

        OH REALLY.

        Now, a lot of those kids won’t take those places up because they will prefer to go to another university, or take up an apprenticeship, or get an internship so they can be working instead. but that still leaves a sizeable (somebody gimme figures here) number of new college places that are going to be needed.

        That means money.

        Where is the money coming from? And most importantly (because this is Chicago) where is the money going? This is where the media should be getting off their backsides and keen young investigative reporters going out there and figuring out, say, who in the Education Office and related City Colleges administrations are married to/related to/have very good friends in the construction industry (gonna need to build new plant for those new students, ya know!), textbooks, course materials and a shit-ton of other ways for fun and profit at the trough of public monies.

        About eight years ago I worked in a school that also provided further/continuing education of these kind of post-second level vocational training courses, and taking in more students means things like: building on extensions to college buildings or hiring buildings for classrooms etc., hiring additional teachers/paying existing teachers more for taking more classes, equipping the colleges, text materials, a whole rake of ways of spending money.

        I really want to know into whose pockets this largesse is going to be flowing, and how Mayor Emmanuel intends to fund it.

        *EDIT: Google is mother, Google is father. (Read the full article, it’s very informative about the problems Chicago education policy faces). 2016 figures give me:

        27,807 high school students in final year. Graduation rate from high school is 73.5% or 20,438 students.

        So we’re looking at “requirements for university, community college, apprenticeship, internship, job offer or armed forces” places for 27,807 graduates to get their high school diploma.

        If we believe the nice Chief Executive Officer, each of those 27,807 graduates automatically has a place in the City Colleges (they may not all take it up, but they automatically get offered one).

        Let’s look at that a bit more. I’m assuming the City Colleges do not, in fact, expect to have 27,807 first years descending on their doorsteps every year. For City Colleges, they say they awarded 5,000 degrees in 2016 which is a 17% graduation rate.

        Okay, if 17% = 5,000 then 100% (that is, people enrolling but not necessarily completing courses) = 29,412 first years.

        Now, this is complicated by the fact that there are adult and returning to education courses, part-time courses, block release courses, etc. so those 29,412 are not all “straight out of high school”.

        But 17% graduation rate at the end of three years doesn’t sound too good, either. I stick to my point: there may be a lot of kids sign up to courses that they have no aptitude/interest for simply to jump through the hoop of getting their diploma, then drop out in the first year, and this is more waste and expense. I realise the idea is “once they’re in further education, move heaven and earth to keep them there” but I’m not confident this will work.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Other then just assuming that Chicago is corrupt, do you have anything to back up any of that?

          Emanuel has actually cut CPS funding in ways that have put at odds with teachers unions, so I don’t see where this accusation is even coming from.

          Nothing in Emanuel’s plan requires that anybody attend a single day of classes, only that they be accepted by a college that is mandated to accept them. Basically it’s a rule that says to graduate from high school you have to either have a job or apply to college.

          further more If the policy does result in a significant increase in CCC attendance (a prospect I’m doubtful of), Chicago should have little trouble paying for as it is the third wealthiest city in America, and expect for a limited number of students receiving city funded scholarships most of the money for CCC comes from student tuition.

          You don’t live in the United States and you spend a lot of time commenting about our politics with out taking the time to learn enough to know what your talking about. Believe it or not, though it has had it’s problems with corruption, Chicago is not a Venezuelasque banana republic presided over by a communist tyrant, and the most likely explanation for why the mayor is advocating it is that he believes it will encourage Chicago’s students to pursue education they need to succeed in the job market.

          Now does that make it good policy? No, in fact I think it’s pointless. Nevertheless attributing conspiratorial malice to people advocating policies you don’t like, with out any evidence, is bad form.

          *EDIT
          First a Minor criticism , graduation rates are usually calculated based on the number of students who actually attend, rather then just those who are accepted.

          If I had to guess the reason behind this, in my opinion inane, policy, it would be that Emanuel planed to add some kind of collage prep requirements for all CPS high school students, before remembering that he had cut the budget to far to pay for it. Thinking on his feet he decided to try to pawn off the requirement to get students ready for higher education onto federal Pell grants by bullying high schoolers into taking a few community collage courses.

          Is this a good idea? No, as I suspect it will heave no other effect then to push a bunch of kids to into courses they have no intention of finishing.

          • quanta413 says:

            further more If the policy does result in a significant increase in CCC attendance (a prospect I’m doubtful of), Chicago should have little trouble paying for as it is the third wealthiest city in America, and expect for a limited number of students receiving city funded scholarships most of the money for CCC comes from student tuition.

            Being the third wealthiest city sounds impressive but is leaving out a lot of relevant information. Like the size of the city or costs or pretty much anything else you’d want to know. But really we don’t need to figure any of that out for ourselves, because Chicago has been running deficits since the U.S. economy crashed https://www.civicfed.org/civic-federation/blog/city-reduces-budget-deficit-long-term-challenges-remain and has giant unfunded pension liabilities that will require raising taxes to cover http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-budget-forecast-met-0730-20160729-story.html

          • Deiseach says:

            Believe it or not, though it has had it’s problems with corruption, Chicago is not a Venezuelasque banana republic presided over by a communist tyrant

            Where did I say communist in any of this? I’ve never thought Chicago politics leaned that way; I’ve always thought they leaned towards self-interest, obtaining and hanging onto power for the party because what’s good for the party is good for me and vice versa, calculated appeal to whatever interest group is in the ascendant at the time, and mé féin-ism.

            I am, however, heartened to hear that your mayor and his administration are making a pig’s ear of this on the most modern, disinterested, good red-blooded American not-Communist Stars’n’Stripes model available! Yee-haw!

      • John Schilling says:

        Down thread John Schilling says It’s either worthless or intolerable

        I should have considered the possibility that it will be both…

        “If a student graduates from a Chicago public school, they are automatically accepted into one of our City Colleges”

        Which means that high school guidance counselors will now default to filling out applications for all of their not-obviously-bound-for-university students and saying “sign here”, because they get judged on graduation rates. The City Colleges of Chicago will get thirty thousand or so applications a year, all of which they have to accept even though most of them have no intention of attending. Actual CCC planning and scheduling gets thrown into chaos at least until we figure out the real numbers. And how does this prepare students for the next stage in life, or whatever the grand language is?

        • hyperboloid says:

          I couldn’t have said it better myself, Rahm seems to have caught a bad case of the Trumpitis* on this one. But there is a huge difference between policy that creates a pointless bureaucratic mess, and one does permanent damage to thousands of students.

          *A medical condition characterized by an inflammation of the policy making centers of the brain, resulting in acute incompetence, megalomania, hair loss, and an unnatural skin color.

    • gbdub says:

      So isn’t this just an admission that Chicago high schools leave you entirely unprepared for post-school life, such that you’re doomed if you don’t have a post-secondary option?

      • hyperboloid says:

        I think the there is a general perception that graduates are, if not doomed, at least at an extreme disadvantage in todays job market without some kind of post secondary option, and I don’t think it has any thing particular to do with the quality of a CPS education.

        Of course the truth of the matter is that a four year degree from a state university is usually little more than a very expensive screening process. As such the the best thing to do would be to provide a range of, free, or very low cost continuing education options to students. The courses could be flexible, with a strong online component and a rigorous set of exams through which students can earn certificates or degrees that can demonstrate their value to employers. Students wouldn’t have to commit to earning a traditional degree if that didn’t suit them, and a some one with a couple of ears of work experience and , say a computer science certificate that shows they know how to code, will probably be worth more to a potential employer then a some one with just an associates degree anyway; but a lot of people have trouble accepting that education is as much a form of social signaling as anything else.

        • Matt M says:

          range of, free, or very low cost continuing education options to students. The courses could be flexible, with a strong online component and a rigorous set of exams through which students can earn certificates or degrees that can demonstrate their value to employers.

          Minus the testing part, this is pretty much exactly what most community colleges (and the much-maligned “for profit colleges”) are…

          • gbdub says:

            Definitely. I don’t want to give the impression that I think community colleges aren’t valuable, they definitely are, and are an option more students should consider before committing to a 4 year full price college.

            On the other hand, that very flexibility (and wealth of remedial and interesting-but-not-high-employment-value courses) means that it’s quite possible to spend a couple years there and come out no smarter or more employable.

        • gbdub says:

          But why does a high school diploma have to be useless? shouldn’t educators be interested in addressing that problem rather than just saying “oh well let’s subsidize the next credential up the chain until we make that one useless too”.

          • Matt M says:

            The quick answer here is “they’ve already been trying to do this for decades and have met with abject failure, and have concluded that a new strategy of finding an indirect way to improve the situation is in order”

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m all about practical liberalism, where all of the effects and unintended consequences are considered before coming to a policy decision.

      This seems bloody stupid, unless I am severely misunderstanding.

      But if I am severely misunderstanding, then there is still something bloody stupid going on.

      The only possible positive effect I can see here is to force the city to put more resources into things like vocational training once their graduation rate plummets. But it is a damn stupid way to get that result.

      • quanta413 says:

        I’m all about practical liberalism, where all of the effects and unintended consequences are considered before coming to a policy decision.

        Not that you do this or have any control over this, but it would be so much easier to be on board with trying political or legal change if people in politics more seriously considered the unintended consequences of a policy decision after implementation. There is some of this, but the political incentives are pretty strongly against it. Even the best plans made before doing something are highly questionable whether we’re talking business, science, art, or politics. As is, the brutal inertia of politics and government machinery makes me more inclined to be conservative in this area of life than I would be in almost any other.

        At least the U.S. sometimes has government pilot programs now before full rollout, even if only for tweaking.

        • 1soru1 says:

          In theory, that’s the job of the conservative party in government; they get elected, repeal those things that didn’t work out, keep those things that did. I can see that having such a party would be a good idea; maybe someone should start one.

          • cassander says:

            the trouble with such a party is that it works against the general logic of politics, where you generally get ahead by promising to do particular things for particular people, not to stop doing things.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I am torn between the idea of burning down a university and burning down Chicago’s Mayor’s Mansion.

      Although I probably need an acceptance letter from Black Bloc before I’m allowed to do the former….

      • BBA says:

        Here’s a question – does anyone actually like Rahm Emanuel? Somebody must be voting for him, otherwise he wouldn’t still be mayor, but he seems universally scorned by everyone I encounter, left and right.

        I’m aware that here in New York the Democratic primary is the real election, which is how equally hated figures can hold onto office (that and nobody tolerable wants the job) but Chicago has an open “jungle” primary and the top two Democrats are the general election candidates. What gives?

        • John Schilling says:

          Barack Obama liked him, or perhaps simply owed him. Either way, running a serious primary challenge to Emanuel in Chicago/2011 might have boded as poorly for a Democratic politician’s career prospects as e.g. suggesting the people of New York might want someone other than Hillary Clinton to represent them in the Senate in 2000. And as you note, the Republican challenger simply doesn’t count.

          Emanuel’s next election will be interesting to watch, but I believe that’s not until 2019

          • Matt M says:

            Barack Obama liked him

            All that needs to be said. Obama is basically God in Chicago. God has literally sent his representative unto you to bless you with the gift of enlightened ruling. The odds of him losing are virtually nil.

          • Iain says:

            Rahm Emanuel’s approval rating (in the most recent poll I could find) was 44%. It has been as low as 18%. That seems difficult to reconcile with “the odds of him losing are virtually nil”.

          • BBA says:

            Funny, most of the Obama loyalists I know soured on Rahm pretty early in his stint as Chief of Staff, and were relieved when he went back to Chicago because it meant he wouldn’t be around to fuck anything else up in DC.

            But for the low-information voters, yeah, I can see that.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Iain, I certainly can’t speak to Matt’s specific reasoning on the matter – he might be right and he might be wrong, I honestly can’t tell – but the idea of a generally disliked Democratic politician winning re-election doesn’t much surprise me. Maybe there are places where generally disliked Republican politicians have similar strangleholds, or maybe Republican party unity is a lot weaker. But as I understand it, Republican politicians aren’t winning in Chicago, so there has to be a Democratic challenger, or some type of Left-Independent. If Democratic party unity and knowing the right people, having the right connections, cash, and knowledge, allows Rahm to avoid getting primaried, then there would have to be a Left-Independent, which would be great no doubt but Independents rarely win anything. Plus, union voting.

          • BBA says:

            Chicago went to nonpartisan primaries a couple of cycles ago. There is no party nominee for mayor. Rahm’s opponent in the general/runoff election was also a Democrat, who continues to hold his elective position on the county commission despite challenging the mayor. I just explained this!

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Chicago went to nonpartisan primaries a couple of cycles ago.

            So then the general election is a Democratic primary. Does it matter?

            There is no party nominee for mayor. Rahm’s opponent in the general/runoff election was also a Democrat, who continues to hold his elective position on the county commission despite challenging the mayor. I just explained this!

            Then…I’d have to look into the politics specifically – maybe it was a friendly challenge of some sort? But you’re right, that is very strange.

          • Deiseach says:

            Now now people, I have been scolded that:

            Believe it or not, though it has had it’s problems with corruption, Chicago is not a Venezuelasque banana republic presided over by a communist tyrant

            And what you are suggesting:

            Barack Obama liked him, or perhaps simply owed him. Either way, running a serious primary challenge to Emanuel in Chicago/2011 might have boded as poorly for a Democratic politician’s career prospects as e.g. suggesting the people of New York might want someone other than Hillary Clinton to represent them in the Senate in 2000.

            Obama is basically God in Chicago. God has literally sent his representative unto you to bless you with the gift of enlightened ruling. The odds of him losing are virtually nil.

            If Democratic party unity and knowing the right people, having the right connections, cash, and knowledge, allows Rahm to avoid getting primaried, then there would have to be a Left-Independent, which would be great no doubt but Independents rarely win anything. Plus, union voting.

            …is a direct insult to that very truth! 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            Then…I’d have to look into the politics specifically – maybe it was a friendly challenge of some sort? But you’re right, that is very strange.

            *cough*

            Let us hypothetically suppose a purely fictitious case that:

            – A Republican can’t even catch a cold, let alone a winning share of the electorate, in Chicago elections

            – we’re a democracy, not one of those non-American states where the President-for-Life keeps getting re-elected with 98% of the total vote every four years

            – that means we need an opponent to run against the guy who is going to be the next mayor for sure seeking the mandate of the people

            – a Republican? Look, I’ll get back to you when I pick myself up off the floor and wipe the tears of laughter away

            – hey Joe, how about you run as the opponent to the next mayor for sure the only candidate we have so far so this won’t be a one-horse race, it will be a real true democratic non-Venezuelan dictatorship election!

            – nah, don’t worry, this won’t hurt your career, we’ll get that guaranteed that he knows you’re not seriously opposing him, it’s only for the formalities

            I mean, I am certainly not saying this is a possible explanation but merely a ‘what if?’

          • Loquat says:

            I’m not a Chicagoan and have no idea if this is a true summary of their politics, but I can’t resist the opportunity to reference HBO’s Rome:it would look ill if Caesar’s man was the only one standing.

          • BBA says:

            You wouldn’t expect a patsy being set up to fail by the Mayor-for-Life to get 44% of the vote. Or at least I wouldn’t. There have been genuinely contested elections with wider margins.

            Somehow I get the sense that most of the people opining in this subthread aren’t aware that Chicago has a North Side and a West Side too.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s two major distinctions between Chicago and a communist-run banana republic

            1) No bananas

            2) No communists

  4. objectofclass says:

    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Simpson’s Paradox describes (in the fifth and final section) a scenario with a population of defectors (“rats”) and a population of cooperators (“lemmings”) jointly inhabiting two regions (“Norway” and “Sweden”). In this scenario, the individual rats have higher reproductive fitness in each region, but the global (“Scandinavia-level”) trend is for lemmings to constitute an increasing proportion of the population.

    “Lemmings are losing ground in Norway, and they are losing ground in Sweden; yet they are gaining ground in combined areas that constitute the two countries.

    The reason that lemmings are gaining ground in the combined area of the two countries is that more of the lemmings are living where the survival rate is higher. Note that the survival rate is higher there precisely because that is where more of the lemmings are living. Thus, if rats congregate together, the selfish efficiency of each rat will be bad not only for the poor lemmings in the neighborhood but also for other rats. Even if only slightly more of the rats are living in one region rather than another, if the benefits they gain at their neighbors’ expense become too extreme then this will reduce the survival rate of everyone in that neighborhood, rats included; this will precipitate a Simpson’s Reversal, and the number of rats will begin to go down globally when compared with lemmings.”

    I suspect this is neither radical nor obvious, and that it depends on a variety of unstated conditions — (EDIT) I’m not sure how migration is being treated in this scenario, or whether the relative mobility of rats vs lemmings matters.

  5. Kevin C. says:

    A word many readers (outside the UK) are likely unfamiliar with: beadle.

    • James says:

      I’m in the UK, and I’m unfamiliar with it! It just makes me think of Jeremy.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Huh.

        I’ve been exposed to it (I believe) through Dickens and various writings that consciously emulate Dickens.

        Now I am wondering if Dickens is more popular in the US cannon than in the U.K.

      • rlms says:

        Yes, it’s not exactly commonly used in the UK. I think I know it only from Oliver Twist and the musical Sweeney Todd (which means I imagine all beadles are villainous).

        • goddamnjohnjay says:

          We posted at the exact same time.

          I could have sworn there was a Beadle in Jekyll and Hyde, but apparently not.

  6. Kevin C. says:

    An interesting essay from Jordan Greenhal at Medium, not so much about Steve Bannon, as about Steve Bannon’s influences:

    Combined, these three threads create an interesting story. But before we get there, I’d like to caution you on the use of this kind of analysis. The Blue Church has a number of limiting strategies. One is an absolute mania for armchair psychoanalysis from a distance. This is particularly harmful when it is used to narrow scope and simply dismiss some piece of thought. This post is not that sort. I know for certain that I do not know Steve Bannon. What I am doing here is an effort to take what appear to be two or three of his influences and to extrapolate a viable worldview.

    I am going to construct a narrative. It is absolutely certainly not the full story. But it is an honest exploration of what might follow from these three influences. And a good faith effort to view the world through this lens. What follows is dark. If you find that unpalatable, read no further.

    (The “three threads” being Strauss and Howe’s Fourth Turning generational model, the 1973 French novel The Camp of the Saints, and Bannon having been the CEO of early 90’s closed ecosystem experiment “Biosphere 2”.)

    He discusses ‘Crisis’ as transition from an unsustainable old system to an unknown new one:

    On the one hand the rock — a system that can no longer be maintained and, therefore, is rapidly moving into complete collapse. On the other hand the hard place — the always brutally dangerous traverse across the “adaptive valley” to some hoped for new place of safety.

    what generational theory says about warfare, “population bottlenecks” and the incentives if you see one coming:

    Traversing a bottleneck is extremely risky. Accordingly, it makes little sense to venture a bottleneck under ordinary circumstances. But it is also extremely high reward and for the entirety of our evolutionary history up until now, population bottlenecks have been the great lottery system deciding the long term winners and losers.
    This truth is coded deeply into our genes and its logic is crystal clear: if you think you see a bottleneck coming, and in particular if you think you see one before everyone else sees it, be the first through the bottleneck and then slam the door shut behind you.

    and the fearsome conclusion these threads point toward:

    It is true that climate change, war, famine and economic disruption are coming. It is true that these will almost certainly lead to massive flows of refugees. It is also true, whether we like it or not, that the West cannot possibly absorb even a small fraction of these refugees and survive. A stable and peaceful society is a fragile thing.
    Knowing this and thinking through the lens of Generational theory, it is reasonable to conclude that a great war is all but inevitable. Anyone who fails to look this possible future square in the eyes is delusional. And here is the kicker. If you are the United States and the West and you think that a fight for survival is brewing, then something else becomes clear: there is no better time for that fight than right now.

    Thus might conclude a steely-eyed realist observing the world today. A great war of civilizations is coming, billions will likely die, and we must be prepared to win. As horrifying as it might be to contemplate, all the lessons of human and evolutionary history up until now all point to this single, brutal conclusion.
    Except for one thing. It can’t possibly work.

    Read the whole thing.

    (Edit: fixed BBCode to HTML).

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      A snippet before I’ve digested the whole thing:

      This truth is coded deeply into our genes

      According to my understanding of biology and evolutionary process, that kind of faux evopsych language is misleading at best. I have hard time believing that any organism consciously attempts to foresee and intendedly survive “evolutionary bottlenecks” (as opposed to their normal course of life), except maybe those humans who have been told about this concept. It seems far too complicated to be passed on via genes. The stuff about “multiplying” that is “encoded in our cells” is known as a sexual drive, and while complex, it’s probably not that complex.

      Most of that happens to populations in any environment (bottleneck present or not) is much more clearly explained with relatively basic instincts, reactions and responses, without any talk about “winning the traversal trough bottleneck and shutting the door”. Probably also even human reactions on the societal level (consider the migration period of the first millenium or so: tribe is forced to move because the neighboring tribes are on the move).

      The curious thing is that leaving off does not seem to change the basic premise and conclusions. Considering ‘instincts’: population tends to grow if they have enough to eat until they become industrialized and educated and have access to contraceptives. Or in terms of military strategy: if you think there’s a war coming, one of the oldest military advice around is to seek a position where you can pick your battles and win them easily.
      Evopsych talk is mostly superfluous.

      • Murphy says:

        Ya, bottlenecks are pretty rare. it takes many repetitions to encode complex behavior through natural selection.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      “It is also true, whether we like it or not, that the West cannot possibly absorb even a small fraction of these refugees and survive. A stable and peaceful society is a fragile thing.”

      This is wishful thinking. If things get that bad, there will be plenty of internal refugees in the West.

    • hyperboloid says:

      At the risk of running afoul of Godwin’s law, has it occurred to you how similar this world view is to National Socialism?

      for those unfamiliar with Le Camp des Saints, it is a 1973 novel by Jean Raspail, a Vichyite (though he publicly denies it) and long time figure of the French far right. The plot of the novel concerns an invasion of the western world by a horde of refugees from India led by a grotesque parody of Mahatma Gandhi, known only as “the Turd Eater”.

      The Indians are everywhere portrayed as subhuman, filthy, disease ridden and sexually perverse. The novel describes the invaders sea voyage in the following terms:

      With no cow droppings at hand, our seagoing horde would have to burn its own, prepared by a tried and true peasant technique known for three thousand years. And so, the decks became weird workshops, where hands deft at molding this curious coal–children, for the most part, down on their haunches–took each new batch of turds, kneaded and shaped them, pressing out the liquid, and rolling them out into little round briquettes, like the kind we used to burn in our stoves not very long ago. The tropical sun did the rest, heating the sheet-metal decks, where the crowd had left great spaces, like giant drying racks, with thousands of the putrid mounds spread out to bake and harden into fuel.

      Most of all, the natural drive of a people who never found sex to be sin. And little by little, the mass began to move. Imperceptibly at first. Then more and more, in every direction … Soon the decks came to look like those temple friezes so highly prized by tourists, prurient or prudish, but rarely touched by the beauty of the sculpture and the grace of the pose. And everywhere, a mass of hands and mouths, of phalluses and rumps. White tunics billowing over fondling, exploring fingers. Young boys, passed from hand to hand. Young girls, barely ripe, lying together cheek to thigh, asleep in a languid maze of arms, and legs, and flowing hair, waking to the silent play of eager lips. Male organs mouthed to the hilt, tongues pointing their way into scabbards of flesh, men shooting their sperm into women’s nimble hands. Everywhere, rivers of sperm. Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers. Bodies together, not in twos, but in threes, in fours, whole families of flesh gripped in gentle frenzies and subtle raptures. Men with women, men with men, women with women, men with children, children with each other, their slender fingers playing the eternal games of carnal pleasure. Fleshless old men reliving their long-lost vigor. And on every face, eyes closed, the same smile, calm and blissful. No sounds but the ocean breezes, the panting breaths, and, from time to time, a cry, a groan, a call to waken other sprawling figures and bring them into the communion of the flesh …

      As feckless western liberals vacillate, the president of apartheid South Africa alone stands ready to repel the invaders:

      From the outset he was plainly on the offensive, as he spoke to the tightly packed crowd of foreign correspondents from the Western press:

      “As always, gentlemen, I know that you’ve come here as enemies. In a few moments our telephones and teletypes will be at your disposal to let you spout your usual loathing of us to the rest of the world. Just let me make one thing clear: the Republic of South Africa
      is a white nation with eighty percent blacks, and not—as the world would like to think of us, in the name of some mythical equality—a black nation with twenty percent whites. That’s the subtle difference. And it’s one that we insist on. It’s a question of background, of outlook. You’ll never understand … But let’s get to the point. At this very moment there’s a fleet of Third World invaders heading for the Cape, a hundred miles off our shores. Just off Durban, to be exact, according to last reports. Its only arms are weakness, misery, a faculty for inspiring pity, and its strength as a symbol in the eyes of the world. A symbol of revenge. What puzzles us Afrikaners is the masochistic way the white world seems bent on taking revenge against itself. … No, I take that back, we’re not puzzled at all. It’s only too clear. That’s why we reject this symbol out of hand, because that’s all it is: a symbol … Gentlemen, not a single refugee from the Ganges will set foot alive on South African soil, under any pretext whatever. Now I’ll take your questions …”

      Q.—“Are you suggesting, Mister President, that you won’t hesitate to open fire on defenseless women and children?”

      A.—“I expected that question. No, of course we won’t hesitate. We’ll shoot without giving it a second thought. In this high-minded racial war, all the rage these days, nonviolence is the weapon of the masses. Violence is all the attacked minority has to fight back with.
      Yes, we’ll defend ourselves. And yes, we’ll use violence.”

      Q. —“Supposing the fleet has decided, in fact, to land en masse on the shores of your country. Will you give orders to have it blown up?”

      A. —“I think that the threat will discourage an invasion. Frankly, gentlemen, it’s my impression that the fleet is heading for Europe, and that you’ll have to be asking yourselves that question in just a few weeks. But I’m willing to answer in principle, since I’m sure
      that’s what you want. … Yes, if need be, we would bomb the fleet out of the water. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Hamburg … Think of all the cities razed to the ground back then. … Who cared what it cost to pry victory loose? Who worried then about the price, the millions of unarmed civilians—yes, women and children then, too—burned, dismembered, buried in the rubble! War was war! I was only a baby, but I remember. Everyone cheered! … Well, today it’s still war, just a different kind

      On the fate of naive western leftists who embrace the the the foreign herd:

      Only a handful were adopted, as it were, yet lots of them did their damnedest to be helpful, scouting the occupied villages, finding the shops that might be of some use, breaking in when they had to, but not without an eye to protecting the essentials—like the pharmacy, the grain bins, the garages, for example. But they soon got discouraged. Though the horde often listened and took their good advice— especially as a semblance of order developed—they no sooner gave it than they felt themselves rejected. The brightest among them were quick to understand: the more helpful they were, indispensable in fact, the more hateful they became. And so, they let themselves melt into the mass, where little by little the whiteness of their skin began to pass unnoticed. Which was all they could hope for. Clinging to their logic to the bitter end, they simply resigned themselves to their fate. Today, in that area of France predominantly Indian in population, they form a new caste of untouchable pariahs, completely assimilated, yet wholly set apart. They have no influence. Their political weight is nil. To be sure, in the two ethnic groups new leaders have emerged who hold sway with glib talk about racial integration, and brotherhood, and such. But nobody really listens. No one wants to have to remember the masters and mentors from the opulent past. They’re just in the way. A curious detail, though: when one of them dies, they bury him in style. Like all the forerunners of important revolutions. Take Lydie, for example. She was one of the first. When she died, they suddenly called to mind those white sheets hanging from the windows in welcome. And the schoolchildren, prodded and coaxed by their teachers, wept their eyes dry with floods of ignoble tears. The fact is that Lydie’s death was anything but heroic. She died in Nice, in a whorehouse for Hindus, disgusted with everything in general and herself in particular. At the time, each refugee quarter had its stock of white women, all free for the taking. And perfectly legal. (One of the new regime’s first laws, in fact. In order to “demythify” the white woman, as they put it.) By Easter Monday Lydie had been raped—on her famous white sheets, we might add—and proceeded, not unwillingly, in those first chaotic days, to tag after a troop of energetic Hindus, who had taken her over in a kind of joint ownership, since she was very pretty, and her skin was very white. Later, when things (and people) began to settle, they had clamped her away in a studio of sorts, in Nice, with a number of other girls similarly treated. A guard fed them and opened the door to all comers. The enterprise was even given a name: the “White Female Practice and Experimentation Center.” But in time prostitution was outlawed. (No less legally, of course.) Historians tell us that it no longer filled a need, since white women soon lost all pride in their color, and with it, all resistance.

      The simplest explanation for Steve Bannon’s behavior is that he really believes this stuff. He is a man who thinks that the natural state of the world is one of permanent zero sum civilizational conflict. He believes that culture is in the blood as it were, coded at a biological level, and that non white peoples are not properly speaking human; and that there is a coming world crisis in which the white race must unite and reject the sentimental slave morality that prevents it from slaughtering it’s inferiors, if it is to have any chance to preserve itself against the vast teaming hostile mass of of global n*iggerdom.

      It is a damn good thing that our system of government does not afford him the leeway act out his blood drenched fantasies, lest a great many lives be destroyed.

      • psmith says:

        reject the sentimental slave morality that prevents it from slaughtering it’s inferiors

        I think there’s a pretty sharp distinction, which you elide here, between taking border enforcement seriously on the one hand and genocide on the other. But it may not seem this way to everyone.

  7. T3t says:

    Los Angeles SSCers,

    Our first joint LW/SSC meetup was a great success! We had 18 attendees, more than half of whom were new. If you were worried about showing up to an empty room, worry no more!

    Please join the Google Group for future announcements: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/lw-socal-announce

    Our next meetup is tentatively scheduled for April 12th (Wednesday), 7 pm. (Same location: Wine bar next to the Landmark Theater in the Westside Pavilion. There are no short-terms plans to change this location, but if you know of a place that is relatively central to LA – anywhere between the Westside and Downtown – that can easily fit ~20 people in this time-frame for 4-5 hours without complaint or requiring significant purchase, please let me know.) I will send a follow-up email in a new thread in the Google Group with the confirmation of the date, time, location, and topic, hopefully within 1-2 days. (If you have any strong ideas for a topic, ping me in the Google Group.)

    Cheers!

  8. Kevin C. says:

    With regards to the SSC meetups, I find myself curious as to how many other people here also live in places such that it is highly unlikely there will ever be a meetup in our vicinity? There’s at least our European regulars, for example.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      There’s at least our European regulars, for example.

      Define ‘in your vicinity’. For a (West-)European who does not live in any of the large cities listed in the meetup location list, it is not probably out of the question (if not exactly most convenient either) to attend a meetup in a substantially large city nearby that has one. I don’t live in France or Germany, but it’s not unheard of that some of my reasonably middle-class fellow students make weekend holiday trips to Paris or Berlin, anyway, so presumably person who could do that could also attend a meetup in similar city… I could stretch my budget for that kind of endeavor if I felt like it, I had enough forewarning to book cheap tickets, the time was suitable, and I could be reasonably sure the other people would show up so that trip would not be meaningless.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Yeah, you’re right that “in your vicinity” depends very much on available transportation and financial means. Generally, though, my opinion would be that if it requires air travel (or a lengthy sea voyage), I wouldn’t count it as being in “the vicinity”.

        To make clear my own circumstances clear, I’m in Alaska, so pretty much anything outside the Municipality of Anchorage is “not in my vicinity”.

  9. Protagoras says:

    I recently read Jay Joseph’s The Trouble with Twin Studies. Apparently he’s been writing this sort of thing for a while, and cites a lot of earlier work. He draws conclusions that seem to be at odds with the views of a number of people around here, so I was curious if anyone was familiar with his work, and in particular if anybody could mention especially good criticisms of Joseph I might look at.

    • Randy M says:

      Never heard of it before. Does he have a main over-arching criticism? Twin studies are nice observational experiments that naturally control for some critical variables. Some conclusions can be counter intuitive, though.

      • Murphy says:

        Neither have I.

        Can’t find the book online but could find chapter summaries.

        My impressions, not being terribly charitable:

        Comparing identical same-sex and non identical (MZT-DZT) twins doesn’t count because non-identical twins experience “lower levels of identity confusion”, ie people mixing them up.

        Plus we can’t trust studies about identical twins reared apart because this one study totally refused to give him the individual-level patient data they used and you totally can’t prove they didn’t actually randomly have exactly the same environment.

        Plus they haven’t found genes for absolutely everything yet.

        …. plus geneticists suck….

        hence everything is environmental.

        it’s the sort of author who puts “IQ” and “heritability” in quotes.

        • Protagoras says:

          OK, so you looked at the chapter titles and didn’t read the chapters, and apparently made guesses based on some principle of “there are no good arguments for this, so I will assume he’s giving bad arguments.” I was kind of hoping for a slightly more substantial criticism, especially from people who seem so convinced that it’s their opponents who are the ones being unscientific and irrational.

          • quanta413 says:

            OK, so you looked at the chapter titles and didn’t read the chapters

            Can’t find the book online but could find chapter summaries.

            This might not be reading the book, but it’s more than reading the titles. And the book is 20 bucks for a kindle copy and over 40 for the paperback. I think you may have to be satisfied with people not blowing that sort of cash if they read the chapter summaries or some of his essays (here’s one https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/03/the-trouble-with-twin-studies/) and are unimpressed. I’m not a huge fan of twin studies, but I am not impressed. This may be unfair, but my initial impression is vibes of “full-blown global warming denier” just applied to genetic research into human behavior which does not make me want to spend time and money on reading his book.

            For example, in that article he claims that “Psychiatry’s acceptance of twin studies is even more remarkable in the context of the decades-long failure of molecular genetic research to uncover genes that investigators believe cause psychiatric disorders (see my February 15th MIA posting)—research that is based largely on genetic interpretations of the results of psychiatric twin studies.”. But this argument is obviously wrong if you have a clue about genetics. A lot of traits are additive across many genes which makes detection of specific contributing genes difficult. Your height for example, is not controlled by one gene but only in the last decade or two has it become possible to identify individual genes associated with height. And yet no one argues height must be mostly environmental because given our knowledge of biology and simple heritability estimates of height there’s no reason to believe the environment is conspiring against us to make those estimates drastically off.

            And sure, this paper was published later than the article but… http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v45/n9/full/ng.2711.html

          • Protagoras says:

            OK, that paper actually looks interesting, thanks. But as far as what Murphy says, to take one example, “this one study totally refused to give him the individual-level patient data they used and you totally can’t prove they didn’t actually randomly have exactly the same environment” isn’t remotely similar to what Joseph actually says about any MZA studies.

          • quanta413 says:

            OK, that paper actually looks interesting, thanks. But as far as what Murphy says, to take one example, “this one study totally refused to give him the individual-level patient data they used and you totally can’t prove they didn’t actually randomly have exactly the same environment” isn’t remotely similar to what Joseph actually says about any MZA studies.

            That’s fair. What I read of the article of his criticism of twin studies was indeed not as ridiculous as that. But it wasn’t great either. To quote the article I linked for reference… he accuses one of his “opponents” of primarily argument from authority here https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/twofold/201108/twin-research-misperceptions

            but then you go and read the article and it’s actually a detailed point by point rebuttal and (well not exactly point by point) not really an argument from authority.

            In general, my impression of Jay Joseph is that he is at least sometimes engaging in the tactics of someone who is either being dishonest or has some knowledge of what he’s talking about but not enough. These tactics being (1) a focus on supposed logical fallacies of your opponents (like accusing them of appealing to authority), (2) setting up and attacking straw men models (as I explained about the genetics claims he made), and (3) sleighting or attacking the several decades old literature of a field (which tends to have flaws which have been corrected since and unanswered questions which have been answered since) (it’s not clear he’s doing this last one in the article I link, but the chapter summaries of his book do not give me hope). Of course, none of this makes him wrong, but when he isn’t raising enough points I find sufficient merit in to toss an entire field, it’s… not good I guess?

          • Murphy says:

            I did say i was being uncharitable and basing it on the chapter summaries.

            When almost half the *summary* for a chapter is complaining that a twin study won’t give him access to their raw individual level patient data it causes a raised eyebrow.

            His arguments might be terribly eloquent in the full text but they don’t come across well in the summary.

      • Protagoras says:

        I don’t really want to summarize, because I’m most interested in his rather detailed explanations of why this study was terrible and that study was terrible, and so I’m looking for responses of the form “no they weren’t, because the criticism ignores this, or the study didn’t have that bad feature after all,” or “those studies were bad, but he’s ignoring these other studies that were better.” But, for example, he criticizes many MZA studies on the basis that they were very sloppy about the A, and of course the more similar two people are in environment the weaker the case that similarities between them must be evidence of something genetic. His general criticism of MZT vs. DZT studies was less compelling to me, though he had some more specific things to say about individual examples that seemed significant, if true.

    • Eltargrim says:

      The book can be found at this link, for those who have no qualms about piracy.

  10. Siah Sargus says:

    So I want feedback on a plot point. I’m writing a hard sci-fi romance story (as you do) and I wanted to have an emotionally significant moment that required the story to be both hard sci-fi and a comic book. My idea was a moment between the two main characters that happens towards the end of the story, as they are saying goodbye to each other, Hundreds of millions of kilometers apart. They both decide to tell the other “I love you”, only to hear the other person say “I love you as an unprompted response, seconds later. It’s a lovely bit of symmetry, as neither of them has to say “I love you too.” This is also impossible to show in film: you would have to show one of them saying “I love you” first, then getting their response. Whereas in comics, I’ve managed to make a diagonal panel layout that doesn’t show one of them starting before the other. Is this sappy or is it cool? I can’t tell.

    • Aapje says:

      This is also impossible to show in film: you would have to show one of them saying “I love you” first, then getting their response.

      Split screen exists.

      • Siah Sargus says:

        Yeah, but the dialogue would have to be said twice, and overlap with the other dialogue. With a comic I can make it more visually obvious what is happening, while only having effectively two speech bubbles. (Plus I don’t exactly have the money to spend on a sci-fi movie)

        • Deiseach says:

          It depends on what the lead up to this is and are the characters going to be separated forever/for decades as they travel those hundreds of millions of kilometers? It could be very moving and touching, or it could be sappy and “well if he/she is gone to Pluto, and she/he is back on Earth, time to get a new girlfriend/boyfriend because who is going to be faithful for five/ten/twenty years to an absent partner?”

          I suppose I’m saying do we care about the characters/why should we care about them being in love? You need to pull that off as well as the cool hard science bits (that’s where a lot of 50s Golden Age SF fell down – great concepts but the people were two-dimensional and as for romance – yeah, it’s painful to read. Except the Lensman books, because Clarissa MacDougall is sufficiently awesome in her own right to make me overlook dialogue such as “She’s a seven-sector callout!”)

          • Siah Sargus says:

            Oh yeah, I’m not going to be writing two dimensionally, I hope. This moment only works if I manage both of their arcs well enough till this moment. Obviously I don’t think it’d work at the beginning, the audience needs to have some sort of investment in the character’s feelings and emotions. This sort of moment can’t be a subplot.

    • Randy M says:

      This comes from some sort of inter-stellar communications with a time delay? Kind of cool, though I don’t think it requires being a comic book. It might be more impacting as you envision in, but to get that you have to draw the whole comic book, not to mention write the whole story in that form, when you could express it with text:

      “I love you.” The words left his lips, and he traced her face on the screen as he waited, knowing it would take minutes for her to hear and the reply to reach him, to know if their final good-bye would be remembered as acceptance or rejection. Except, hurling across the aether channels was her own acclaim of love, unbidden. Their words crossed in the darkness, coming from the speakers separated by vast chasms as simultaneously as relativity would allow.

      • Siah Sargus says:

        Not interstellar. Barely even interplanetary. And we’re playing by the rules here, so all communication has a time delay. This communication is happening exactly as fast as it possibly can, at the speed of light, but they are separated by 4 or so light seconds. (About a billion meters, or a million or so kilometers.)

        That’s a good bit of writing you have there, but it’s not what I’m going for, because it privileges one point of view; the point of view where one of them said it first. From their respective points of view, they personally said it first, and they are both correct, and I want to establish that.

        Although

        > as simultaneously as relativity would allow.
        I think you’ve gotten the idea.

    • Murphy says:

      If you composed a number of scenes in the story where characters are talking into a mike to compose a message and then shut it down and walk away then later after another scene show a character receiving it.

      Then you cut between the 2 characters each composing a recording the same way and show them hitting send split screen.

    • J Mann says:

      I’d go even sappier, although I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.

      Can you have some crisis take one or both characters away before they hear the response? It’s tricky: the character 1 is hearing something that character 2 said several seconds ago. 1 professes his love, then has to attend to something else – the simultaneous response arrives seconds later to an empty room; seconds after that, 2 sees 1 have to leave and realizes her part was never heard.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I apologize if I’m too late with this, but this idea struck me:

      Each face in the top two corners. Speech bubble line (I don’t know the jargon for this – the spike from a speech bubble to someone, signifying that they’re speaking it) from each person’s mouth to a bubble saying “I love you” for each one. The bubbles themselves are halfway down the page, in the middle-ish. Another speech bubble line, zigzagging (standard notation for it coming out of a device) to the opposite corner, to the speaker device, where both faces are drawn again, obviously listening to the device.

      You might need some way to signify time passing from top to bottom. If it’s intra-system, it may still be light-hours, meaning you could draw dusk in the background for a top corner and full night on the corresponding bottom corner.

      The speech bubble lines should cross. You could untangle them by going straight down each half of the page and switching the sides of the faces, but I think crossing them better conveys the sense you seem to be trying for, of communications getting mixed together.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    The Red Pill is a two hour movie by a feminist who looks into MRAs and concludes that they have a lot of good points.

    I have opinions about it, but I feel as though starting with feminism and me isn’t quite appropriate, so I’ll weigh in later.

    Please do watch the movie before commenting or indicate that you haven’t watched it– there are other things which are called the red pill which aren’t the same.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I haven’t seen the movie and I’ve heard it’s mediocre. The protests around it, though, go far to demonstrate the ambition of the other side of the culture war to suppress anything which might go against their narrative. They’ve gotten screenings successfully cancelled in Melbourne and Ottawa (not the most recent there), and have tried to get others cancelled.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I thought it was pretty good. It was somewhat slow-paced so that the points had time to sink in emotionally.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I haven’t seen it. I may try and watch it, but in a modicum of research, there are a bunch of red-flags.

      For example, some of the language she used when trying her “last ditch effort” to get funding for the movie. If you say you want to present a “fair and balanced” look at the men’s rights movement, and you haven’t been living in a hole for the last 20 years, you know to whom you are signalling.

      And, from even supportive reviews, it seems like she presented exactly the expected kind of “fair and balanced” look, where she didn’t go very far in examining the darker aspects of the movement.

      • neciampater says:

        My bias is I helped support this movie.

        But what darker aspects? And how do those darker aspects compare to the feminist darker aspects?

        • rlms says:

          Before this film, the phrase “red pill” referred to something else in connection to the men’s rights movement.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            arguably the phrase “red pill” got hijacked by a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. PUAs and similar may advocate for men’s rights but they’re very clearly a distinct breed.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            A lot of MRA and MRA-adjacent people were very upset by that name, as there is a subreddit by that name which is for pick up artists.

            However, it seems that A Voice For Men did use that term before that, similar to how other people use ‘woke.’

          • rlms says:

            I think describing the red pill as a subreddit for pickup artists is somewhat misleading. Firstly, if you look in the sidebar it explicitly mentions “men’s rights”, so there is clearly some connection. Secondly, its members clearly share the same distaste (to put it mildly) for feminism as the main men’s rights subreddit. Now, you might argue that the mainstream men’s rights movement (represented by the main subreddit) makes valid points about bad aspects of feminism, or that a little wallowing in indignation doesn’t invalidate a whole movement (I’d certainly agree with that). But its views on feminism are a relevant part of it. They clearly lean a certain way, and if that leaning is taken to an extreme you get the much less defensible views of the red pill subreddit, which makes that relevant to discussions of the men’s rights movement. Furthermore, if you look at subscriber numbers it rather seems as though the red pill is the larger part of the movement.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @rlms:

            The general impression I get is that old-school MRAs are sort of like heretical male feminists – they began with the complaint, basically, that “in some regards (custody, for instance) groups like NOW weren’t really about equality”. “Redpill” is basically the logical conclusion of PUA, which started getting really into evopsych – its conclusion is basically “men and women are so different, for biological reasons, that there are major political/social consequences which most people won’t like and the mainstream wants to hush up.” This is complicated by the fact that “taking the red pill” is a common metaphor, there’s some degree of cross-pollination (mostly in the form of Redpill ideas taking over from MRA ideas among MRAs – I think Redpill basically has a better advertising campaign), and the opponents of these movements tend to see them as the same thing.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Secondly, its members clearly share the same distaste (to put it mildly) for feminism as the main men’s rights subreddit

            Both atheists and Muslims reject Christianity, does that mean that atheism = Islam? Similarly, if PUA and MRAs reject feminism, does that mean they are the same?

            @dndnrsn

            Warren Farrell was on the Board of Directors of NOW NYC, actually. He did therapy sessions with groups of women and groups of men for a long time, but realized that he was not being fair to the men:

            As I looked more carefully at the listening matrix [four quadrants: female experiences of powerlessness, male experiences of powerlessness, female experiences of power and male experiences of power ~ Aapje] I saw that during the past twenty years we had taken a magnifying glass to the first of these four quadrants, the female experience of powerlessness. I saw I was subconsciously making a false assumption: The more deeply I understood women’s experience of powerlessness, the more I assumed men had the power women did not have. In fact, what I was understanding was the female experience of male power. […] The flip sides of the same role make both sexes feel powerless […] Instead of understanding male powerlessness we had come to understand only the female experience of male power. In fact, the greater a woman’s expertise on the issue of female powerlessness, the less she tended to understand the male experience of powerlessness. Why? She assumed that female powerlessness meant male power. […]
            I began to see that sex roles were symbiotic. That we were all involved in a complex sex role dance because every time we blamed the other sex for doing something we despised we could be substituting looking within ourselves and discovering what we were doing to reinforce that behavior. Even to create it. The more I applied this listening matrix, the more I saw the women and men I worked with develop intimacy rather than hostility

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            Both mainstream MRAs (as far as I know) and redpillers dislike feminism in a broadly similar way (in comparison to, say, conservative Christians). If your atheists and Muslims both complained about stupid JBWs (Jesus belief warriors) who constantly go around building ugly churches and generally not recognising Mormons as a proper branch of Christianity, it would be valid to see a link. If a popular atheist web page mentioned Islam, and Muslims frequently seemed to convert to atheism, it would be silly not to see one.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Reddit Red Pill criticism is that feminism ignores the female desire for an alpha male and thus pushes women in relationships with ‘beta men’ (men who provide, but do not lead) where they become sexually frustrated and frigid & then start having sex with alpha men. It’s very traditionalist, really.

            Common MRA criticism is that feminism ignores men’s issues like custody, suicide, etc, etc and actually fights against people who fight for that.

            Now, it is true that the MRA movement is pretty broad (just like feminism is quite broad), so you can find very traditionalist MRAs as well as very progressive ones, so I’m sure that you can find MRAs with Reddit Red Pill beliefs, but you can also find a lot of MRAs who reject that strongly.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            I’ve been thinking it over a bit and it is true that Farrell argues that women desire more dominant men and are taught by feminism that they don’t have these desires, after which sensitive men become less dominant, which in turn turns women off*. So you can argue that Farrell does copy the Reddit Red Pill analysis.

            However, a crucial difference is that MRAs generally complain that men and women are creating a bad dynamic (the latter part is what feminist tend to call a misogynist accusation, as one may not claim that women do things that hurt men), while Reddit Red Pillers try to present themselves as what they think that women want (which feminists tend to call manipulation of women, which they also dislike). Basically, Reddit Red Pillers believe that they play to the revealed preferences of women and thus can win.

            MRAs often feel that they shouldn’t have to play a role to be loved, but that society should start realizing the shitty position that it puts men in. If you switch the genders in that complaint, it is really just a feminist complaint about how society forces women in a role and it would be accepted by pretty much all feminists, IMO. Reddit Red Pillers tend to consider MRAs whiners who claim victim status instead of just dealing with reality as it is, which can be seen as the difference between men who take the classic male gender role solution to problems (act, don’t beg) vs the men who take the female gender role solution (demand sympathy and action on the part of others).

            An very important difference is that Reddit Red Pillers only tend to care about dating/sex and relationships, while MRAs tend to have a much broader view. After all, many of the MRA complaints are things for which the traditional male gender role approach doesn’t work, so Reddit Red Pillers have little to offer there but to pretend they don’t exist.

            * Even Julia Serano argues that men do better when they err on the side of aggression and dominance in dating, so implicitly she is arguing this as well.

      • caethan says:

        My experience poking around the fringes of the men’s rights movement is that it’s a mix of two types of men: 1) Angry misogynists and 2) Men who have been genuinely wronged by women and can’t find support anywhere else. And the main goal of the movement is to convince the men in group 2 to join group 1. Makes me wish there was more other sources of support for men who are hard done by. Ex-wives being terrible happens fairly regularly, because lots of people are terrible. But when the only support those guys can find is angry misogynists who are convinced that all women are terrible, that’s a recipe for increasing anger and polarization.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          That might be because you poked the fringes. I can’t really speak to the people themselves, but the content creators which I follow seem to make solid points. There’s certainly a lot of both 1) and 2) though.

      • Aapje says:

        @HeelBearCub

        The director did have a lot of trouble getting the movie financed as she couldn’t get funding from the same sources that were willing to fund her earlier movies. So she had to forgo her normal financing options in favor of crowd funding. At that point she already had made a major investment of her own time and understandably was upset about the possibility of not getting to make her movie. It does seem that the crowd funding was actually her “last ditch effort,” where she would have to abandon the project if that didn’t succeed, so I’m a bit unsure why you consider her seemingly accurate statement to be a red flag or a sign of signalling.

        Can you explain yourself a bit more, perhaps? Is it your opinion that she was lying and if so, what evidence do you have of this?

        And, from even supportive reviews, it seems like she presented exactly the expected kind of “fair and balanced” look, where she didn’t go very far in examining the darker aspects of the movement.

        She did briefly go into the satire that Paul Elam sometimes writes and often gets attacked for (for example, the article he wrote about men hitting back against abusive women, which he wrote after Jezebel wrote a story sympathetic with women who hit their male partners).

        What else should she have addressed?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “Fair and balanced” is the slogan for Fox News.

          She was signalling that she was going to give the MRA movement a nice soft focus closeup and make them look as good as possible, because we already know they are right, and any fair investigation will show that.

          Whether she did that or not, that is what she signaled.

          As to the things she ignored, I’m going off of this review.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            The only mention of “Fair and balanced” on her Kickstarter that I see is in a comment by a backer, she only says ‘balanced.’ Perhaps she removed it from her own text, but I suspect that this is a case where a media outlet editorialized and/or misattributed that comment to her and that this was then quoted by Wikipedia (they have a thing against original research, so my experience is that you can’t get rid of things that the media makes up, even if you have proof that it is wrong).

            As to the things she ignored, I’m going off of this review.

            The review notes that she does address one of the articles, but I just disagree that the movie has to address every bad article that you can find. For example, Allison Tieman says something like one or two sentences in the movie, so addressing the article she wrote would take more time than she gets to speak.

            Scouring the MRM for their worst material is an approach that you can use if you write a hit piece, but it’s fundamentally weakmanning that doesn’t enlighten people about the valid concerns that the MRM has.

            Do you also think that every movie about feminist topics has to spend lots of time on the worst material of Andrea Dworkin?

          • rlms says:

            I’ve not watched the film either. But while I don’t think any documentary is obliged to make sure it present both good and bad representatives of its subject, if you interview someone who has said “women who ‘taunt men sexually’ are ‘begging’ to be raped” then you are being pretty biased towards them if you don’t bring that up.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            That depends on whether you want to judge that specific person or the movement, whether you want to look at the history or where they are now and it depends on whether you want to address the worst or the average or the best. The Voice For Men website has retracted that article, so it is not something that anyone is going to see who is looking at the website today.

            Paul Elam believes that he has to be very provocative to get attention. Given the failure of Warren Farrell to gain traction and the way even he got treated at ThingOfThings, despite being an extremely nice person, whose main character flaw is too much empathy, I’m not even sure that he is wrong (sadly enough).

        • John Schilling says:

          “Fair and balanced” is the slogan for Fox News.

          She was signalling that she was going to give the MRA movement a nice soft focus closeup and make them look as good as possible,

          That may not be entirely fair to Fox News, but it probably is fair to Ms. Jaye. Anyone with the political acumen to have any business making this sort of documentary, has to understand that in the contemporary United States the specific phrase “Fair and Balanced” links to Fox News, and outside of Red Tribe to the caricature of Fox News as a purveyor of straight-up Right Wing propaganda.

          Describing yourself or your efforts with that specific phrase, is either a very clumsy and damaging misstep, or it’s a signal that you aren’t speaking to Blue Tribe and don’t care if they listen.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Describing yourself or your efforts with that specific phrase, is either a very clumsy and damaging misstep, or it’s a signal that you aren’t speaking to Blue Tribe and don’t care if they listen.

          Did she, though? Lots of people have used that phrase with respect to the film, but I haven’t seen a place where she did. A few commenters on the kickstarter did, and a site called “Oh No They Didn’t” summarizes one point of an interview with Brietbart as “Wants to portray a fair and balanced view…”, but the Breitbart story does not include that phrase.

          • Aapje says:

            Wikipedia has the term between quotes and refers to this article, which says “The pressure is on to honor the fair-and-balanced promises of the Kickstarter.”

            However, that part is not a direct quote, so the choice of words may be the website’s. I did notice that in the article, they quote the director saying that she wants to be fair. On the Kickstarter, the director says that she wants to be balanced. So perhaps the writer of the article combined the two, not realizing the connotations (or perhaps realizing it).

    • lvlln says:

      I was a backer for it on Kickstarter and watched it a couple months ago. I backed it because a perspective on the men’s rights movement that wasn’t extremely and obviously unfairly partisan in either direction didn’t really seem to exist, and thus a documentary like this, where another feminist attempted to explore it while challenging her own biases would be valuable. So given that I’m a backer, take my opinion with a grain of salt.

      I thought it was good, but a little shallow. The filmmaker Cassie Jaye lets figures from the men’s rights movement speak for themselves pretty often without really pushing back on them too much. They’re mostly presented as compassionate human interest stories where they’ve clearly been wronged by a system that is indifferent to people like them.

      I would have liked to see more input/interviews from those who tend to demonize the men’s right’s movement to see what their best arguments are. The filmmaker Cassie Jaye did interview some feminist activists and academics, but they almost seemed like straw-feminist caricatures with their poorly or non-reasoned explanations for why they fight against men’s rights groups so hard. I do understand that Jaye had trouble convincing feminist voices to be in her film, so I guess I can’t blame her on that; but it does make the film worse than it could have been.

      What I liked about it was that it did seem to mostly fill that role that it claimed to try to fill: a look at the men’s rights movement that wasn’t obviously and severely slanted against or for them. I’m convinced Jaye really did come to this project from a skeptical feminist perspective, rather than meant to be sympathetic to the men’s rights movement. Maybe the presentation was overly compassionate, but also maybe in a world where the dominant perspective on them is to demonize, a erring in the other direction in one small project isn’t a bad thing. I do think if more feminists watched this with a genuinely open mind, both the feminist movement and the world in general would be better for it. As it stands, I think simply stopping attempting to bully others from not showing/seeing the film would be a good start.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        i hate to push my advantage, but I think that’s because very few feminists do engage with the arguments on more than a superficial level. It’s hard to find good opposition if opposition makes themselves scarce. The only way to force them to accept the arguments and fight on even ground, is stuff like this.

    • keranih says:

      So, I *think* I was a backer on this, but only at a minor level, and mostly what I remember is getting into an argument with a firm feminist friend over it, so I don’t remember if I ever followed through with my intent to donate (which was strengthened by the argument, for what it’s worth.)

      Thank you for reminding me that I had not watched it yet.

      Thoughts halfway through –

      – I can see exactly why she (the film maker) was cast as the screaming chick who dies in all the films. I am also deeply annoyed at 18 year-olds who can drink, vote, sign contracts, and in all other ways enjoy the privileges of adulthood label themselves as “in my teens.” Grow the fuck up, cupcake.

      – I am struck by the variety of causes & concerns listed under the MRA umbrella. I’m also struck by how I don’t have handy objections to any of them.

      – The foul mouthed woman outside the Warren lecture – never mind the clips of various protests – was quite the anti-advertisement for feminism, leftism, etc. I allow for selective editing, but I am (regretfully) reminded of the deep disappointment and disillusionment I felt when it was finally driven home to me that the leftist/socialist hero teachers of my youth were in fact aberrations, and most left leaning people were (at least) as tribal and narrow minded as the right wingers who raised me.

      (I went right back to conservatism at that point, because at least my lot didn’t mock my accent.)

      More in a bit.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I am also deeply annoyed at 18 year-olds who can drink, vote, sign contracts

        What country? In the US, people can’t legally drink until they are 21 and often can’t rent a car until they are 25.

        • keranih says:

          You are correct on the 18 to legally drink limit. That was a dumb mistake on my part.

          As for renting a car – well, it is allowed for a person to drive when they are 16, and to purchase a car when they are 18. Rental contracts are standardized by private companies.

          • Matt M says:

            Not that the legal limit actually prevents any 18 year olds from obtaining and consuming alcohol though.

      • keranih says:

        Growing up –

        – and I was in college when the Berlin Wall came down –

        – growing up, I was always aware that I would have more options than my brothers. I might not be as strong, but I was smart and stubborn and I could do as I liked.

        Listening to the Ms/Feminist Majority person, I am struck by two thoughts –

        – first, that so long as you sliced the cake as men here, women there, that it probably looked like men had the advantages. But if you sliced the cake along the lines of the typical, actual divisions of race, region, class, etc, that the separation wasn’t quite so stark.

        – secondly, that the pro-abortion, anti-kid-raising feminists have *rejected*, out right, the natural strength/advantage of women – that of bearing and shaping the next generation. They don’t think that’s important. They think that’s stupid, a sign of being weak.

        Well, okay…it’s a free country, they can decide against that for themselves.

        Why did they think they needed to decide that for the rest of us? Who these yankee city gals, to tell me – and my men folk – how to live our lives?

        [Here I snipped out several paragraphs, because they were about what I thought, not about what the documentary made me think about.]

        The custody and parentry and abortion things were along the lines of information I already knew. I do note that that it’s the MRA view that saw kids as beings in need of support and to be loved, not burdens. The feminist view was…not always this.

        The abuse of men & boys – and the lack of shelter help – is a particular sore spot for me. (Ask me about some of the dumb stuff the Walking Dead fandom has done sometimes.) Now, actual deadly physical violence is more likely by men, but it’s not just men. And it enrages me to some degree that feminists will insist that this difference exists, while other (biologically based) differences do not.

        (I also reject the idea that ‘domestic violence’ is as much a problem in America as in the rest of the world. American males are really really decent and protective of all people. )

        I did not know how bad the Boko Haram reporting was. I did not know that.

        ….and even more feminists who are actively working against their own side. Wow. (And I’m not a fan of college activists even before this.)

        Twenty minutes to go.

        • keranih says:

          And finally done (my apologies for blathering on at length)

          I would agree that there seemed to be a lack of reasoned, rational, measured pushback against the MRA main points, or even to the (non-portrayed) more extreme and vicious antiwomen MRA.

          (Should we be judging people and movements by their worst moments?)

          At the end, I was wondering if there was not a better symbology for this sort of investigation than Alice, falling helplessly down the pit.

          Perhaps Eurydice, climbing up out hell, or else Penelope at her loom.

          • Matt M says:

            Disclaimer: Haven’t seen the film, probably won’t.

            As something of a devil’s advocate, I would ask, is it really the role of a neutral documentarian to “push back” against subjects? Is interviewing the other side and allowing them to express their point of view not sufficient?

            I don’t watch many documentaries but it seems like in most cases, the subjects are generally taken at their word, and not treated as hostile witnesses worthy of “push back”

        • Aapje says:

          @keranih

          first, that so long as you sliced the cake as men here, women there, that it probably looked like men had the advantages.

          I think that if you create a system where men have more agency, but also get far less support and thus have to use that agency (swim or sink), you see more men at the top and the bottom; while women are mostly in the middle. The top men are the ones who could take those opportunities and the bottom men couldn’t.

          IMO, one of the big problems of the oppression narratives is that they tend to merely look at those who succeeded (apex fallacy) or use averages over entire groups, so they miss the intragroup diversity. This is not just true for the gender debate, but also race, IMO. For example, there are more poor white people than poor black people in the US, yet you’d never know if you’d take the identity politics narrative at face value (deBoer has been pushing back at this, being a more traditional leftist who cares about class over identity groups).

          • Protagoras says:

            If it is granted that the traditional system gave men more agency, that does a lot to explain why feminists would think men are the ones to benefit; many seem to think that having more agency is extremely valuable, indeed the most valuable thing a person could be given.

          • Aapje says:

            @Protagoras

            I think that a major mistake that feminists tend to make when looking at history is to project the current level of wealth, education and freedom on the past. I would argue that for most of history, at most a small group of rich men had the wealth, education and freedom to actually have meaningful agency. The rest were just stuck in the groove, where they had no choice of profession or much meaningful way to change their lives. IMHO, feminism came up when it did, because this is when life became better for men (after a lot of struggle).

    • BBA says:

      I doubt this gets many viewers outside the MRA bubble. For a mainstream feminism-positive left-liberal, engaging with MRAs is as pointless as engaging with LaRouche supporters or flat-earthers, and possibly even more infuriating.

      I personally have more idiosyncratic reasons for rejecting MRAism, and I have no interest in watching the movie myself.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        As a Veteran Proselytizer, I can tell that you’re not a fan of MRAs. Would you care to be convinced otherwise?

      • Aapje says:

        @BBA

        Your complaint that they are impossible to convince is somewhat undermined by your unwillingness to watch the movie.

        However, I get your point. My experience is that feminists tend to have core beliefs*, on which the rest of their frameworks are built, that are strongly rejected by MRAs. This makes a debate very hard/infuriating, since these core beliefs strongly determines how people interpret the evidence.

        I have come to the conclusion that the common MRA core beliefs** tend to be superior than the common feminists base beliefs, so I’m on the opposite side of the ‘AARGH’ equation.

        * That men cannot or are not willing to voluntarily do things that benefit women. That women are held back compared to men and thus that equality can be achieved by women catching up. That the upsides mostly overwhelm the downsides for men and vice versa for women & that this was historically true as well.

        ** That men are taught to make substantial sacrifices for women. That both genders are forced into unfair gender roles.

        • BBA says:

          I’m not complaining, I’m explaining. The mainstream left view of MRAs is that they deny objective reality and can be rejected out of hand. And if they won’t spend two minutes reading an article by an MRA (except to point and laugh) they certainly won’t spend two hours watching a movie about them.

          That’s certainly my reason for it, anyway, even if I have a different underlying reason for rejecting MRAs.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            And if they won’t spend two minutes reading an article by an MRA (except to point and laugh) they certainly won’t spend two hours watching a movie about them.

            true, but that’s usually because it’s feminists telling them to feel that way. Cassie Jaye having been a prominent feminist before this sort of turns that on its head; she’s not likely to be biased, so you can at least kind of trust her.

          • Matt M says:

            Anon,

            That’s nice in theory but it doesn’t seem to work in reality. It’s far easier (and significantly more likely) that she will be declared “Not a real feminist” for humanizing the enemy than the zealots will say “Perhaps we should reconsider our entire worldviews because someone who calls themself a feminist has told us we are wrong.”

            And that’s pretty much exactly what has happened.

          • Aapje says:

            @BBA

            I think that there are always people who are willing to be exposed to ‘the other side.’ Sometimes the dislike can actually be a motivation, since a decent number of people seem to enjoy media that enrages them, even if it just to find evidence to use against them.

            The director of the movie certainly wanted to figure out for herself what the movement was about, even as a feminist who was told that MRAs are rape apologists. IMO, extreme demonizing can actually make people more susceptible to changing their views, because if you are told that a group are the devil and you even meet just one nice person in that group who isn’t eating babies, the cognitive dissonance is huge. A more reasonable stereotype of a group is much less susceptible to be proven wrong easily.

            History also shows that people can change their view on groups that were formerly demonized.

            That’s certainly my reason for it, anyway, even if I have a different underlying reason for rejecting MRAs.

            Are you willing to share that reason? I’m getting intrigued.

          • BBA says:

            Basically, I’m intensely skeptical of any argument that advances my own material interests. Whenever I read something that says that maybe cis het white men aren’t so bad, an alarm goes off in my head: “How dare you! I know I’m a terrible person and everything is my fault, and you have no right to tell me it isn’t so!”

            This isn’t rational, or logical, or even an argument really, but it’s how I feel about these things.

          • lvlln says:

            BBA:

            Basically, I’m intensely skeptical of any argument that advances my own material interests. Whenever I read something that says that maybe cis het white men aren’t so bad, an alarm goes off in my head: “How dare you! I know I’m a terrible person and everything is my fault, and you have no right to tell me it isn’t so!”

            That’s a really interesting impulse, one I’m guessing is rare but is also something that I think would be good if there were more of.

            I’m curious, does this apply to other groups in which you belong or with which you identify? For instance, I don’t know to what, if any, religion you subscribe, but if, say, you were Catholic, and someone said that maybe Catholics weren’t so bad, would your impulse be to respond similarly as above?

          • Aapje says:

            @BBA

            Well, the nice part about the MRA belief system is that you can believe that you were conditioned into having these feelings, but you don’t have to blame one specific group in society for it. So it’s the healthy kind of misanthropy 🙂

          • quanta413 says:

            That’s a really interesting impulse, one I’m guessing is rare but is also something that I think would be good if there were more of.

            Disagree. First there are the obvious negatives for the person who has that feeling. I don’t want people feeling like they are terrible cretins for things they never did because of the accident of their birth! It’s not good for them and it’s not good for me. Second, there’s the rare risk of taking a hop, skip, and a jump to “so I must do everything I can to repent for my sins and cleanse the world with fire”. Not to mention the conflation of a modern identity with multiple distinct past identities and the dangerous oversimplification of such an emotion even if you don’t hold it as an intellectual/epistemic/whatever belief.

            Suspicion of arguments in your own interest because you feel like a terrible person is not the same thing as appropriate humility or an ability to understand the outside view may be different, and I think it’s important to differentiate.

          • BBA says:

            Yeah, I’d say my attitude comes from one part healthy self-skepticism and one part neurotic self-loathing.

          • quanta413 says:

            That’s fair. And it’s probably better to be aware when self-loathing is out of kilter even when you can’t kill it. I tend to go through nasty waves of it sometimes myself, and I don’t like to think how much worse it would be if I wasn’t usually cognizant that at least part of it wasn’t really a reasonable(?) emotional state.

            So there’s the application of healthy self-skepticism to self-loathing I guess.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t think MRA is a particularly useful unit of analysis (nor feminist for that matter). I’ve read arguments about problems with the family court system that were quite persuasive. I’ve read arguments about male victims of sex crimes that were somewhat persuasive. I’ve also seen plenty of stupid crap and off the wall arguments.

        I’m not going to watch the movie because I don’t think video is a good medium for this sort of thing — not when it is youtube and not when it is a documentary film. There’s a reason we invented writing.

        • gbdub says:

          I do find it unfortunate that “MRA” is now a blanket term used for everything from advocates for gender equality in family court to anti-radfems to actual full throated misogynists. I suspect it is at some level a deliberate effort to equate the reasonable with the awful and thus discredit them. The reaction to this film seems to support that, with much of the criticism being “how dare you even try to engage with these people” rather than actual critique on the merits.

          I would hope that those feminists who believe in the motte version of feminism, that feminism is for everyone because gender roles hurt everyone, would welcome e.g. the family court and male victim advocate MRAs. Those are real issues that deserve a voice. Unfortunately those feminists seem rare/quiet in practice, or they no longer accept the label of feminist.

          By the way I also agree with you that I hate videos. Unless you’re showing me truly compelling imagery (like a war documentary), just write your stuff down. I’d much rather read than watch a person talk (TED style talks can be interesting but that’s because they select for good presenters – your average documentary interviewee is dull as hell, except when the documentarian is deliberately manipulating them to look bad). When I ask people this seems like a view a lot of people share, so I really wonder why YouTube talkies have taken off and longer form writing is dying.

          • Brad says:

            I would hope that those feminists who believe in the motte version of feminism, that feminism is for everyone because gender roles hurt everyone, would welcome e.g. the family court and male victim advocate MRAs. Those are real issues that deserve a voice. Unfortunately those feminists seem rare/quiet in practice, or they no longer accept the label of feminist.

            I’d expect most people, including most feminists, to not have any position on the details of family court. Further, I wouldn’t expect even someone that feels passionately and often speaks out about, e.g. subsidized child care, to have any position on the details of family court. And if you asked them I wouldn’t find it totally unreasonable for them to spout some anodyne — if to someone more familiar with the issues wrongheaded — talking point. In this case probably something about “deadbeat dads”.

            The notion that you can play gotcha with people on the basis that they don’t embrace issues that other people feel strongly about and instead push the ones they feel strongly about never struck me as a sound one.

            If someone is actively trying to keep the family court system flawed, sure it is fair to attack them. But I don’t buy that feminists need to adopt the worthy family court and male victim advocate critiques as part of their own agenda.

            I feel the same about a lot intersectionalty arguments that boil down similarly. Maybe one ought to be anti-racist and pro-gay-rights as well as feminist but that doesn’t mean anti-racism and feminism and gay rights need to be all muddled together into one big thing that can only ever be talked about simultaneously and no one is allowed devote his energy primarily to one piece.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            If someone is actively trying to keep the family court system flawed, sure it is fair to attack them.

            One of the main criticisms by MRAs of NOW is that they repeatedly opposed shared parenting laws in favor of laws that are theoretically gender-neutral, but have strong disparate impact.

          • gbdub says:

            Brad, I’m not saying one must loudly take a stand on family court to be a good feminist. Rather, I’m saying that, if you believe in the motte version of feminism, you should have no issue with men who choose to fight for gender equality in family court, because it’s entirely compatible with the goals of that flavor of feminism. You don’t have to make it your issue, but you also shouldn’t attack people who make it theirs.

            Instead these men’s advocates get lumped into the broader “MRA” label and accused of misogyny.

            And you stance here seems at odds with your previous “you will know them by their fruits” position – if feminists say they care about negative impacts of gender roles on men, but only ever advocate for things that help women, do they actually care about negative impacts on men?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I’m curious what would happen if one were to argue for addressing the bias of family court against fathers (assuming this is proven) in strictly feminist terms. For example, stressing that the courts should not assume that it will be the mothers responsibility to be the primary caretaker for the child and should way equally the possibility that men should provide care. The court should not assume that the mother is less employable than the man, etc.

            If one were to make that argument, would one be assumed to be an MRA? Or a feminist?

            If one wanted the backing of feminists in addressing biased gender assumptions by family courts, would this approach be more likely to generate support?

          • quanta413 says:

            if feminists say they care about negative impacts of gender roles on men, but only ever advocate for things that help women, do they actually care about negative impacts on men?

            I have known feminists who were friends with MRAs and did care about this sort of problem and I’ve seen a little bit of sympathetic writing, but as awesome as someone with this sort of ability to understand a potential outgroup is… most people in any group anywhere are just not as great as them frankly. And my impression is that feminists have become notably more hostile to these concerns in the last decade with internet activism taking off and acting as a method to enforce social conformity among feminists. Actually, I’d bet this pattern is common across many communities.

            If one wanted the backing of feminists in addressing biased gender assumptions by family courts, would this approach be more likely to generate support?

            I don’t think it matters either way and vastly overstates the importance of ideals as a coherent way of determining action. National organizations do not exist to fulfill platonic ideals but to strengthen their group. And women as a group prefer the current arrangement. You’d have to be stupid or wanting to quit or be fired soon if you headed NOW or something to try to make family custody law more equal between the sexes because of ideology when your members are mostly going to hate it.

          • Brad says:

            @gdbub

            Instead these men’s advocates get lumped into the broader “MRA” label and accused of misogyny.

            Isn’t “MRA” mostly a self identifier? And isn’t the mass of people with different focuses under that label in no small part due to internal coalition building and coordination between these various people — especially on the web?

            And you stance here seems at odds with your previous “you will know them by their fruits” position – if feminists say they care about negative impacts of gender roles on men, but only ever advocate for things that help women, do they actually care about negative impacts on men?

            That was specifically about posters, and I stand by it. If a particular poster has hundreds of posts about the wage gap, he’d be the wage gap poster even if he also claimed a handful of times to care about fairness in family court (but never argued for it). Just like a poster that only ever posts to attack feminists and feminism has no business being on a list of left wing posters.

            It is a big stretch to go from there to “feminists don’t care about the negative impact of gender roles on men” as some SSC posters are wont to do. On the one hand you have a statement about one or a handful of posters observed over a long period of time and labeled not as a total person but only as a SSC poster. On the other you have a broad, sweeping statement about at least hundreds of millions of people — which obviously can not be the result of such careful observation.

          • Anonymous says:

            Isn’t “MRA” mostly a self identifier? And isn’t the mass of people with different focuses under that label in no small part due to internal coalition building and coordination between these various people — especially on the web?

            Seen it used as an insult.

          • gbdub says:

            @helbearcub – I’m sure it would be possible to construct a “fully feminist” critique of family court that gets you labeled “feminist” instead of “MRA” despite proposing roughly the same solutions.

            But if, in order to do so, you have to hide the fact that you’re explicitly interested in making things better for men, otherwise you’ll face hostility from feminists – well, that rather proves the point, doesn’t it?

            @Brad – limiting ourselves to online posters hardly improves things for feminists. Among “online feminists”, output complaining about men as a group, attacking MRAs (and pro-lifers, anti-Obamacare-ers, etc) with broad generalizations of misogyny, and promotion of pro-women policies with little regard for any impact on men vastly outweighs thoughtful consideration of negative impacts of gender roles on men and policies that would eliminate the roles that harm men (even the ones that benefit women). Now some of this is just that low quality content is always going to outweigh high quality, but even among high quality content, explicit benefits for men of eliminating gender roles are rarely discussed, and almost never in cases where doing so might take a privilege away from women.

            I’m fine with that, to the extent that I think it’s okay for people’s online output to reflect only the things that matter most to them and I don’t think any individual feminist ought to be forced to pepper their online posts with pro-men content to avoid being considered a misandrist (merely that they should avoid peppering it with anti-men content). But that doesn’t seem to fit your theory of online posters. If you’re trying to limit your theory to this forum and the left-right distinction, that seems like special pleading.

            I’m not sure why “MRA” being a self-applied label is particularly relevant – so is “feminist” and that’s clearly used as both a positive self-identifier and an over-generalizing insult. MRA is no different in that regard.

          • Brad says:

            ut that doesn’t seem to fit your theory of online posters. If you’re trying to limit your theory to this forum and the left-right distinction, that seems like special pleading.

            I don’t limit it to this forum or the left-right distinction, but I do make a distinction as to scope. If I say, for example, that gbdub is a right wing poster regardless of whether or not he is a right winger in general, that’s a specific and narrow claim. Maybe I can’t justify it and it is a bad claim but at least it is in a class of claims that is reasonably justifiable. Your (and others) broad sweeping claims about feminists are not in the same class. They are much much harder to justify and basically no one bothers. On the contrary any pushback is too often dismissed as isolated demands for rigor.

            My original point in this discussion was that “MRA” is more like “feminist” than it is like “gbdub”. Therefore I don’t think it is generally appropriate to make broad claims about that group either.

            MRA being a self applied label (or not) is relevant to:

            Instead these men’s advocates get lumped into the broader “MRA” label and accused of misogyny.

            You can hardly blame one group of people for lumping together another group of people who have explicitly chosen to be lumped together. Though, as I argue above, it is certainly fair to condemn them for making broad, sweeping, unjustified claims about that group.

          • Aapje says:

            BTW. My experience is that some of the men’s rights friendly progressives call themselves egalitarian, which IMO is an accurate a label as well, although you have different types of equality.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’m curious what would happen if one were to argue for addressing the bias of family court against fathers (assuming this is proven) in strictly feminist terms.

            This is what I would unironically term cuckery.

            Look, the current situation is unbelievably sexist. There’s no way that feminists didn’t notice. So they don’t care. All this argument does is lick the boots of people who quite clearly don’t give a damn. If you’re using it on non-feminists to expose hypocrisy, like I’m technically doing here, then fine. But if you’re using it on feminists? Dead end.

            If one were to make that argument, would one be assumed to be an MRA? Or a feminist?

            They might assume you were a very naive feminist, but they know by now that MRAs try to use this rhetoric and they’re wise to it.

            If one wanted the backing of feminists in addressing biased gender assumptions by family courts, would this approach be more likely to generate support?

            The very fact that it hasn’t and doesn’t is a large part of what convinced me that feminism, as a movement, in the here and now, is mostly concerned with uplifting women, to the point that “benevolent sexism” is allowed to continue and even in many cases supported. And this speaks to Brad’s post as well:

            It is a big stretch to go from there to “feminists don’t care about the negative impact of gender roles on men”

            You shall know them by their fruits. And it’s not that all feminists are misandrists, or whatever. But consider that most feminists say they are for “gender equality” and against “sexism”. If that was the case, why wouldn’t “benevolent sexism”, which often functions as sexism against both sexes, tick them off just as much as “malevolent” sexism? Even if the latter got them angrier more often, how do massive examples of the former slip under the radar and even get supported by massive feminist organizations like NOW?

            The bottom line is that feminists only talk about the negative impact of gender roles on men if you specifically call them out. And they very rarely complain about benevolent sexism, i.e. gender roles benefiting women. They are more than happy to mostly discuss and become outraged by male-benevolent and female-malevolent types of sexism. What does that tell you?

            It told me that feminists want to uplift women. That’s their driving force, their telos, if you will. They may also want equality, but that’s their secondary purpose. Are there feminists who switch these two imperatives? Sure; Christina Hoff Summers, Camille Paglia, maybe even Cathy Young to an extent, are three I know about. And they don’t exactly get a good reception from the feminist community at large.

            As to MRA issues at large, that is its own post. But a tl;dr for that post could be: people have made a massive mistake by ceding legitimate issues to the fringes, because they were afraid of being shouted at by the feminists. Not only because people got hurt and are getting hurt, but because it empowers the fringes, and then you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

          • Matt M says:

            As one more point of debate: I’d be willing to guess that if you surveyed self-identified feminists and asked them the following question:

            Is the family court system:

            A) Biased against men
            B) Neutral
            C) Biased against women

            I’d bet over 50% say C and under 10% say A. It’s simply not an issue feminists care about, and as such, few are unlikely to have done any significant research, and assuming all institutions hold an innate anti-female bias is a pretty common thing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            FWIW, I completely understand the distinction you are drawing and I agree with the points you are making. It seems very clear to me and I don’t understand why people aren’t grokking it.

            @gbdub:

            But if, in order to do so, you have to hide the fact that you’re explicitly interested in making things better for men, otherwise you’ll face hostility from feminists – well, that rather proves the point, doesn’t it?

            What about simply wanting to make things better, full stop? It strikes me that in being very conspicuous in a) saying they only, and specifically, want to make things better for men, and b) naming feminists as their opposition, the game is given away.

            Feminists at least have a model that identifies these kinds of issues as harms. This is not always evenly applied, and harms to men of existing social expectations are seldom the focus, but the model does specifically note them.

            If feminists say “Why are women always assumed to be the caregivers” a “Male Proactive Feminist” (my newly minted term) can easily say “Yes, and why are men never assumed to be caregivers? This harms men and women. We need to figure out how to address this inequity.”

            So, why MRAs and not MPFs?

          • Brad says:

            @AnonYEmous

            This is what I would unironically term cuckery.

            And that’s exactly where I stop reading. Every time I’ve disregarded my “cuck” heuristic I was provided with additional evidence that I ought not to again.

            @Matt M

            As one more point of debate: I’d be willing to guess that if you surveyed self-identified feminists and asked them the following question:

            Is the family court system:

            A) Biased against men
            B) Neutral
            C) Biased against women

            I’d bet over 50% say C and under 10% say A.:

            I have no reason to trust that your guesses or bets. On the contrary posts like this one: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/05/open-thread-72-75/#comment-485129
            let me know that you have no compunction about making assertions with seemingly high confidence where you don’t know what you are talking about.

            So when it comes to a topic like this where you want us to take your word for the views of a group that you are overtly hostile to, I decline. And everyone else should too. It adds nothing to any conversation for you and those like you to say “feminists believe x, y, and z”. We have no reason to think you have special expertise. It’s just hostile bloviating. If you have some surveys, by all means post that. That would actually be a positive contribution.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            And that’s exactly where I stop reading. Every time I’ve disregarded my “cuck” heuristic I was provided with additional evidence that I ought not to again.

            this is the type of content I would like to see less of on SSC

            the simple reality is that I could use the same heuristic on lots of people in lots of situations, but this is the place where it fails because people come prepared and make strong arguments. If you can’t deal with my strong arguments, then just say so. And if you can, then let’s do this.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not asking you to take my word, I’m asking you to consider what the results to a certain hypothetical would be.

            If you think I’m wrong then fine, you tell me how YOU think the vote would shake out?

            But you’re not going to do that, are you? You’re going to loudly insist that my failing to provide data (data that almost certainly does not exist) suggests that I must be wrong, or that I’m not worth listening to at all (yet AM worth replying to for the purpose of discrediting, apparently).

            I am offering a hypothesis based on my own experience, no more, no less. You are free to do the same.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Everyone takes the purported anti-male bias in family court for granted. I’m an attorney who practices in family courts (as well as child protection courts). I haven’t been doing it for that long, so my perspective is limited, but it’s less limited than 99.99% of people and I’ve never seen it. If there are statistics on it suggesting such a bias, I hope people are scrutinizing them closely, because its a situation that inevitably involves confounders upon confounders.

            Also, this thread is why I always take exception to feminists (or male feminists, at least) who want to definite feminism as nothing more or less than advocacy for gender equality. That’s an easy bailey to defend, but it leads to people not unreasonably being upset when feminists fail to take up male-oriented causes. IMO, it is more accurately defined as an emancipatory movement against patriarchal domination, and from that perspective it doesn’t owe any men anything.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Perhaps you would like this 1999 Family Law Review article.
            EDIT: fixed link!

            The feminist movement has long been interested in family law, and there have long been internal divisions on exactly the right way to approach reformation of family law. It’s also important to realize that we are still not very long into the era where independently supporting women are the norm rather than the exception.

            @herbert herbertson:
            There are certainly some feminists who view it that way, but the majority are explicitly commited to egalitarianism. This does not mean that they are consistent in advocating for it. This is especially true as, assuming that we are not egalitarian already, any reform necessarily involves unequal effects on the current status quo.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’m an attorney who practices in family courts (as well as child protection courts). I haven’t been doing it for that long, so my perspective is limited, but it’s less limited than 99.99% of people and I’ve never seen it.

            As I understand it, the problem is that the laws set a baseline assumption of maternal custody unless it’s clearly a bad idea, and thus men have to actually go out of their way to secure custody, when it should probably set a baseline assumption of shared custody unless it’s clearly a bad idea, and thus no one has to go out of their way. But feel free to speak on this; I certainly am not a family court lawyer.

            the majority are explicitly commited to egalitarianism

            And yet the majority of their actions service what Herbert mentioned and often go against egalitarianism. What level of evidence would you require to accept that Herbert is correct?

            By the way, the link you posted seems broken.

          • Matt M says:

            The feminist movement has long been interested in family law

            Perhaps the segment of the feminist movement that writes law review articles is, sure.

            But the segment of the feminist movement that I come into contact with on my social media accounts seems primarily interested in the wage gap, rape culture, and the cup size of female video game characters.

            That’s why I’m interested in a hypothetical survey of all self-identified feminists. Of course I know that prominent feminist thinkers are interested in this stuff, and that some even acknowledge that a bias may exist. My claim is that these people are not representative of the “feminist” one expects to counter in day to day situations.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            Terming something “cuckery” has negative information value for me. Unless the host bans you for using it, you are welcome to keep using it, but it’s completely ineffective for you to do so. You can think it makes for a strong argument, but that doesn’t make it so. It’s just a boo light, “which is bad, and you should feel bad.”

            To put it another way, that’s a term I would like to see less of at SSC.

            As to the current situation being “unbelievably sexist”, well, as I have already linked, reformation of family courts has long been one of the many focuses of feminism, which has met with mixed success. Hard to say that “sexism” at family court is something that is the fault of feminists, when many of the reforms to family court promulgated by feminists were explicitly designed to prevent the assumption that men must support women, as this is an anti-egalitarian approach.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Note: I fixed my link to article above.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            To put a delicate point on it, so what?

            If you want to effect family law, you are far better influencing people who write family law review articles.

            But even that assumption goes too far. Consider the general zeitgeist of modern feminists. How many do you think are happy when a father is shown doing or, better yet, does, primary child-rearing tasks like changing a diaper, feeding a baby, comforting a crying child, giving their children a bath, etc? In other words, when it comes to a full and egalitarian role of fathers in their children’s lives, what side do you think the general feminist is on?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            It’s just a boo light, “which is bad, and you should feel bad.”

            Given that I made a case for it, not really. But I don’t really care one way or the other.

            As to the current situation being “unbelievably sexist”, well, as I have already linked, reformation of family courts has long been one of the many focuses of feminism, which has met with mixed success. Hard to say that “sexism” at family court is something that is the fault of feminists, when many of the reforms to family court promulgated by feminists were explicitly designed to prevent the assumption that men must support women, as this is an anti-egalitarian approach.

            Having read about 13 pages, what I see is an assertion that family courts use “best interests of the child” and do not presume that the mother should be given custody. That’s not how I understand family law; if it really is the truth then there’s not much of a case, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

          • herbert herberson says:

            The baseline determination in my jurisdictions is definitely shared custody; any deviation from that must be supported by evidence.

            The part where that does change a little is in non-marital cases. There, the father will need to make some kind of motion to get to the point where custody will be adjudicated. Once he does, he enjoys the same set of standards that a post-divorce case entails. That is effectively a systemic anti-male bias… but it still seems odd to call it pro-female. It’s more about a family law system that was built on the assumption that most children would be born in wedlock, and continues to coast along that trajectory because paternity/non-marital cases involve the unrepresented poor to a disproportionate degree and nobody gives a shit about how easy it is for the unrepresented poor to navigate the legal system.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad – if I’m understanding your position, that feminist and MRA are both fine as labels but neither should be over generalized, then you are being more consistent than I originally credit for.

            But I still worry you’re making an argument by atomization, that would allow you to label discussion of feminism (or any other group)not directly pointed to a specific individual a “sweeping generalization”.

            And yet you say that you have no issue with the statement “gbdub is a right wing poster” – that statement is meaningless unless you acknowledge that “right wing poster” is a group that shares enough characteristics for you to identify someone as a member of that group by their displayed characteristics! Even though “right wing” is a far more broad label than “feminist”, and “gbdub” certainly doesn’t hold every characteristic that could be called “right-wing”. What’s the point of labeling people, if we aren’t allowed to use the label as shorthand for the group?

            Now, if I’m overgeneralizing feminists (and I fully acknowledge that I’m using feminist as shorthand for a particular subgroup of feminists, which I tried to identify as appropriate), which labels would you accept for the group(s) I’m trying to talk about? Because it’s one thing to say “not all feminists hold that position”, it’s quite another to say “so few of them do that your argument is meaningless”

            @heelbearcub – I still think you’re holding a double standard. On the one hand you allow that a feminist could still be egalitarian while arguing explicitly for benefits for women (and probably labeling their enemy the gendered “patriarchy”). On the other, men interested in addressing malevolent sexism that hurts men ought to adopt explicitly gender neutral or feminist language – and indeed call themselves a variety of feminists!

            If you’re going to pick a term, why not simply “gender egalitarians” – some of whom are mostly interested in advocating for issues impacting men, others focusing on women? Save “feminist” and “MRA” for the extremists on either side (in practice, this seems to be happening anyway, with either label getting less popular as a self-identifier).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Calling to mind the custody cases I can think about immediately off hand: my sister was shared custody between my parents, my cousin has custody of her child but visitation with the (alcoholic) dad, my best friend’s current wife has shared custody of her kids, he has shared custody of his kid.

            Anecdotal, sure.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:

            The feminist movement got its start and appellation when women were the literal property of their husband, could not own their own property, could not vote, etc.

            It’s not been that long ago, within the lifetime of many posters on this board, that women working outside the home was generally considered improper for anyone above a certain social station, and the choice of careers was quite limited.

            If the big issue you have is the name ….

            Nonetheless, egalitarianism is the (largely) the explicit goal.

            My point is that you would get farther making common cause with feminists if the true goal was egalitarian treatment. If that’s the goal.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            Given that I made a case for it, not really. But I don’t really care one way or the other.

            No matter how strong a case I could make that some behavior or belief was irrational or divorced from reality, starting the argument with the sentence, “This is just typical wingnuttery.” would not make my actual argument any stronger.

          • I haven’t been doing it for that long, so my perspective is limited, but it’s less limited than 99.99% of people and I’ve never seen it. If there are statistics on it suggesting such a bias

            You need to say a little more to make it clear whether you are disagreeing about what does happen in family court or about what should happen. In particular, do you disagree with the claim that it is easier for the mother than the father to get custody?

          • Artificirius says:

            @Heelbearcub

            What about simply wanting to make things better, full stop? It strikes me that in being very conspicuous in a) saying they only, and specifically, want to make things better for men, and b) naming feminists as their opposition, the game is given away.

            What game is that?

            Feminists at least have a model that identifies these kinds of issues as harms. This is not always evenly applied, and harms to men of existing social expectations are seldom the focus, but the model does specifically note them.

            Hence the existence of movement that is attempting to bring more attention to these inequalities, and fix them.

            So, why MRAs and not MPFs?

            Because MPFs get run out of town on a rail. See Erin Pizzey.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            Do you sincerely believe that 21st century western society is so inadequately egalitarian on gender grounds that it requires a national movement of professional full time activists to fight for it?

            “In the lifetime of many posters on this board” elides that the timeframe we’re talking about is 40+ years, if not more.

            If egalitarianism is the goal, what are the metrics by which that goal is measured, and at what point do you declare victory and go home?

            For example, on the issue of gun rights, I can be very specific: If we were to get to a point where there was nationwide reciprocity for a robust system of shall-issue CCW licensing schemes, a repeal of most of the provisions of the GCA of ’68 and almost all of the NFA of 1934, and there was sufficient popular support that attempts at reinstating them were…well…about as likely as someone repealing Roe v Wade…

            I’d call that fight “over”, and I’d roll my eyes at groups like the NRA and GOA and so on still existing.

            I know you guys don’t “speak for the movement”, but can you clearly articulate what the victory conditions are?

          • Matt M says:

            How many do you think are happy when a father is shown doing or, better yet, does, primary child-rearing tasks like changing a diaper, feeding a baby, comforting a crying child, giving their children a bath, etc?

            That’s a fine way of spinning it. I’d say you’re right, that feminists would typically favor fathers doing child-rearing tasks.

            I’d say that you’re wrong, in that feminists would NOT favor fathers being granted custody (sole OR shared) in a contested battle where the mother desires full custody.

            In my experience, the feminist position is basically “the woman should get 100% of whatever she wants, in any and all circumstances, and anything less is unacceptable sexism.” If the woman *wants* shared custody, then force the deadbeat to take care of his kids. If she wants sole custody, then get the creepy loser away “in the best interests of the child.”

            I admit to having no data on this. This is my perception of feminism based on my experiences in life. If your experiences are different, feel free to share them.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub

            Now, if I’m overgeneralizing feminists (and I fully acknowledge that I’m using feminist as shorthand for a particular subgroup of feminists, which I tried to identify as appropriate), which labels would you accept for the group(s) I’m trying to talk about? Because it’s one thing to say “not all feminists hold that position”, it’s quite another to say “so few of them do that your argument is meaningless”

            In any group of hundreds of millions of people that are going to be lots and lots of stupid, ignorant, malevolent people. What exactly is the point of coming up with a name for that subset in one particular group? What exactly is the point of this entire exercise? What are you hoping to accomplish / convince me of?

            And yet you say that you have no issue with the statement “gbdub is a right wing poster” – that statement is meaningless unless you acknowledge that “right wing poster” is a group that shares enough characteristics for you to identify someone as a member of that group by their displayed characteristics! Even though “right wing” is a far more broad label than “feminist”, and “gbdub” certainly doesn’t hold every characteristic that could be called “right-wing”. What’s the point of labeling people, if we aren’t allowed to use the label as shorthand for the group?

            It’s an entirely different thing to say that a kangaroo is a mammal than to say that mammals move around by hopping and I know this because I have a kangaroo, which a mammal, in my facebook feed.

          • Brad says:

            @Matt M

            But you’re not going to do that, are you? You’re going to loudly insist that my failing to provide data (data that almost certainly does not exist) suggests that I must be wrong, or that I’m not worth listening to at all (yet AM worth replying to for the purpose of discrediting, apparently).

            I am offering a hypothesis based on my own experience, no more, no less. You are free to do the same.

            In my experience, the feminist position is basically “the woman should get 100% of whatever she wants, in any and all circumstances, and anything less is unacceptable sexism.” If the woman *wants* shared custody, then force the deadbeat to take care of his kids. If she wants sole custody, then get the creepy loser away “in the best interests of the child.”

            I admit to having no data on this. This is my perception of feminism based on my experiences in life. If your experiences are different, feel free to share them

            The solution to someone pulling hypotheses out of his ass, wasting of everyone’s time isn’t to waste even more time by making up alternate hypotheses with zero evidence. It’s to get that guy to realize that he’s wasting everyone’s time and to stop doing that.

          • Matt M says:

            So, yeah, you aren’t going to do it.

            Well at least it’s abundantly clear I was right about at least one thing!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You have been given a few sources here already. I linked a family law review article.

            You continue to assert without evidence.

            Note that one feminist proposed standard for custody was “primary care giver”. What do you think happens under that standard when the primary care giver is the father? What if care is shared between the parents and there is no single care-giver? Feminists would like to see more of both.

            Whether the standard is “best interest of the child” or “primary care giver(s)”, the feminist desire for an increased recognition of the role fathers can and should take in the raising of, and providing care for, their children leads to more custody for fathers in the event of a divorce.

            Each individual case is different, obviously, but what feminists will object to is a bare assertion that fathers have a right to custody solely due to having fathered the child. They will also generally object to this phrasing being codified into law, as it is not egalitarian. Rather the objection is that merely bringing the child into the world is not enough to establish a right to custody.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:
            Note that the question I was answering there is “why is it called feminism and not egalitarianism”.

            Also, your careful “Western 21st Century” is a) beginning very near in time, and b) ignores all of the places where women are still very, very, very much not equal.

            And it would seem that both feminists and MRAs do agree on one thing, that the Western world is not egalitarian enough.

          • neciampater says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Add Wendy McElroy to that list.

            @heelbearcub

            Nor did men have the vote. Feminists have propagated a lot of revised history.

            Allison Tieman and Karen Straughan of honey badger radio argue that feminism has always been a superiority movement.

            1. Gaining the vote with none of the responsibility while making all men gain responsibility.

            2. Gained superiority in reproductive rights.

            3. Rape/domestic violence support superiority (Erin Pizzey)

            4. Gaining a right to work instead of an obligation to work.

            5. Female genital mutilation > male genital mutilation. Female cancers > male cancers.

          • quanta413 says:

            Perhaps you would like this 1999 Family Law Review article.
            EDIT: fixed link!

            The feminist movement has long been interested in family law, and there have long been internal divisions on exactly the right way to approach reformation of family law. It’s also important to realize that we are still not very long into the era where independently supporting women are the norm rather than the exception.

            So I had a longer post, but I misclicked and lost it. My apologies for this shorter less detailed one.

            What one person writes in a law review about family law is not a valid way to judge how feminism works as a political force and I’m stunned no one even bothered to give any better evidence (either for or against). People say all sorts of nice, consistent sounding things in theory when there’s no fighting to be done. It’s practice that matters and we don’t totally lack evidence on that point. It’s a constant complaint of father’s rights groups that they can’t win battles for more egalitarian custody laws because feminists (specifically the National Organization for Women usually) keep beating them. Feminist (NOW) opposition to a shared parenting presumption and why here:

            http://www.nownys.org/archives/leg_memos/oppose_a00330.html

            also see this article on a recent battle

            http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2016/04/15/scott-vetoes-alimony-overhaul-again/

            And just so we’re clear on roughly (it’s a bit dated, and I would have preferred a survey paper but busy) where the system of family law is as compared to where most people (men and women) in the U.S. think it should be

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-hughes/are-custody-decisions-bia_b_870709.html

            So in practice women tend to get sole custody despite the fact that when surveyed most Americans claim to want a more equal arrangement. And the National Organization for Women a major feminist group is one of the major groups fighting this.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I’m a bit late with this, but I still wanted to correct this:

            The feminist movement got its start and appellation when women were the literal property of their husband

            This is false. Men could not sell their wife, which makes them not-property. Coverture legally makes men and wife into one, when it comes to civil matters. So husband and wife would not have separate property and could not be sued separately. If the wife had debt, the husband had debt.

            The husband was the decision maker in this arrangement and in return he was obligated to provide for his wife. In a modern context this looks horrible oppressive and unfair, however, it seems pretty clear from the sources that we have that ‘providing’ back then was very hard for many. Productivity was low, food prices were high. So the burden on men was probably way higher than what most of us can today imagine.

            To completely ignore this, as your (quite typical for a feminist) narrative does, does great disservice to men. It’s lies + cherry picking to support a narrative of oppression, not a fair analysis. Of course, you may still conclude that the fair analysis gives women the worse outcome, but at least such an analysis doesn’t paint men as one-dimensional villains.

            could not own their own property

            They could if there were unmarried (feme sole).

            It’s not been that long ago, within the lifetime of many posters on this board, that women working outside the home was generally considered improper for anyone above a certain social station

            This is actually one of the other great flaws of the feminist historic narrative: to take the rich as the norm. The people who could afford to keep their wife from working were probably the top 5-10% of society.

            It’s completely unreasonable to describe historical patriarchy by looking at that such a limited section of society.

          • Aapje says:

            As for divorce: my objection is that the current rules are based on continuing much of the marriage arrangement, which seems absurd as the entire idea of divorce is to break up that arrangement.

            In a modern context, pretty much all women have as much opportunity as men to get a decent education, so ought to be expected to find work after a divorce.

            Men and women ought to be expected to share parenting duties by default, regardless of whether there was a primary care giver (which is a very debatable assertion anyway, many duties that men do more often are not called ‘caring’).

            Of course, people may prefer a different arrangement or circumstances can make an equal arrangement unreasonable (like one parent being unfit) and divorce court should be about finding a good arrangement for these cases, not using an unfair arrangement as the baseline.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:
            The first NOW article is completely consistent with the the law review article. They favor not changing the primary care giver policy. As I already said “what feminists will object to is a bare assertion that fathers have a right to [joint] custody solely due to having fathered the child.”

            The second article involves a Republican governor who is no particular friend to feminists vetoing a bill that NOW objected to for the same reason as in NY, as the bill asserted that biological fatherhood alone is a reason to award joint custody.

            The third article is about a study concerning what the public perceives, but doesn’t say anything about the state of current law.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Again, I was combatting an assertion that the appellation of “feminism” rather than “egalitarianism” was somehow unwarranted, not trying to have a debate about the biases against women in the law which existed in the past. It’s enough to establish that the biases actually existed. These were not supporting points for the existing argument.

            I fear we will go down a rabbit hole if I answer that post any more.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            Of course, people may prefer a different arrangement or circumstances can make an equal arrangement unreasonable (like one parent being unfit) and divorce court should be about finding a good arrangement for these cases, not using an unfair arrangement as the baseline.

            As noted in the NOW article linked above, the vast majority of divorces are mutually agreed upon(settled), not actually litigated.

            They further state that “in litigated cases, father who sue for custody almost always win”, although I don’t know what their source for that is.

            Alimony and child-support are two different things, which you seem to be squashing together. As noted previously, feminists historically have issues with long-term alimony, favoring the splitting of the marriage property instead.

            I don’t know what the state of Dutch family law is, so perhaps it is different there. But you don’t seem to be describing the state of the law in the U.S.

          • Brad says:

            @herbert herberson

            Everyone takes the purported anti-male bias in family court for granted. I’m an attorney who practices in family courts (as well as child protection courts). I haven’t been doing it for that long, so my perspective is limited, but it’s less limited than 99.99% of people and I’ve never seen it. If there are statistics on it suggesting such a bias, I hope people are scrutinizing them closely, because its a situation that inevitably involves confounders upon confounders.

            I have never practiced family law myself, but I have had colleagues in the same office that did as well as friends from law school that exclusively practice in that area.

            One thing about family law worth mentioning is that of all the areas of law it is the one that vests the judge with the most discretion. No other area of law is so chock full of multi-factor tests and vague guidelines. And judges are disproportionately old — perhaps even the profession with the oldest median age.

            If there is anti-male bias, and it is due in large part to the influence of 1970s and later style feminism, we would expect to see sharp increases in post 2000 and especially post 2010 as the cohort that came of age in the 1970s began to fill judicial seats. If, on the other hand, any anti-male bias was mostly down to traditional sexist gender norms we wouldn’t expect to see any such inflection point.

          • Matt M says:

            You have been given a few sources here already. I linked a family law review article.

            You continue to assert without evidence.

            I have made assertions regarding the opinion of self-identified feminists as a whole. As quanta says, there is no particular reason to assume that the content of law review articles accurately reflects this.

            I make you the same offer I made Brad. If you think my hypothesis is wrong, you are free to provide your own. How do YOU think such a survey would break down? Why is everyone so reluctant to answer this?

            Feminist (NOW) opposition to a shared parenting presumption and why here:

            Interesting that they include a bullet specifically mentioning that increased parental involvement has not been proven to benefit the child. Imagine someone coming on CNN and saying that about mothers. They would be accused of horrible sexism and never allowed on CNN ever again.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You need to say a little more to make it clear whether you are disagreeing about what does happen in family court or about what should happen. In particular, do you disagree with the claim that it is easier for the mother than the father to get custody?

            In divorce actions, I disagree with that claim. In non-divorce actions, the woman will get the advantage of the default state, but that default state needs a minimal amount of effort by the father (filing a simple motion; ideally, this should be able to be an oral motion at a child support hearing) to put things into a “presumption that shared custody is in the best interest of the child” situation. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this latter situation, as it is unequal and it disadvantages the poor/unrepresented (a personal pet peeve of mine), but on the other hand I’m not sure it would be wise to automatically vest custody in men who hadn’t asked for it (while the same is technically true of unwed mothers, the act of enduring 9 months of pregnancy and going through labor in a country where abortion is legal is reasonably effective consent).

            edit: disclaimer, I only know anything about the family law of the couple jurisdictions I practice in. I’ve never heard anything about these jurisdictions being outliers, but they could be.

            edit2: +1 to brad’s observations

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You haven’t even established what the “right” answer to your question is, so hypothetically hand-waving a survey answer to a very vague question is fairly pointless.

            For instance, the NOW article says that the American Judges Society claims that in 70% of cases where an abusive father sues for custody of a child, it is awarded. Assuming that’s true (sure, big assumption), then we would say that family court is biased towards the rights of fathers and be on solid ground so far as that goes.

            As to your point about what NOW claims about shared custody, you are misrepresenting it. They say that mandatory shared custody isn’t in the interest of the child. Then they give a bunch of reasons why the “mandatory” part is wrong.

            They are in favor of shared custody that is mutually agreed upon.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            The first NOW article is completely consistent with the the law review article. They favor not changing the primary care giver policy. As I already said “what feminists will object to is a bare assertion that fathers have a right to [joint] custody solely due to having fathered the child.”

            This standard is so obviously the opposite of a theoretically equal treatment of men and women that it’s ridiculous to claim it is an egalitarian position to take. Why should mothers have a “right to custody solely due to having mothered the child” but fathers no corresponding right at all? The change in law would have created not an inviolable right but a presumption that fathers are roughly equal to mothers unless proven otherwise. Please explain how this is somehow unequal treatment that gives fathers something mothers don’t have.

            Why are fathers assumed to be deadbeats or abusers with no presumption of access to their own children unless they can mange to convince their ex-wives or prove to the court otherwise? One of NOW’s primary justifications in that link against a presumption of equal custody is that some men will use children as a method of control to abuse their former wives. Why is the assumption of guilt or statistical disparity with respect to rare cases a valid reason to systematically bias the law in favor of one group?

            Even worse from an ideologically pure feminist point of view, the whole idea of having the law make women the primary caregivers by default is basically a throwback to supposedly oppressive social patterns that kept women in the home. How does this assumption and the outcome of women usually having primary custody (see third article, estimates are that the mother has primary custody 70-90% of the time) not provide justification for companies to treat any women with children as less reliable than men with children and thus perpetuate male-female gaps in the workforce? Keeping in mind that roughly half of marriages end in divorce.

            The idea of NOW favoring a primary caregiver standard if fathers usually ended up with the child strikes me as about as plausible as Republicans favoring removing the right of felons to vote if felons tended to vote Republican. They favor not changing the primary caregiver policy because women as usually are the primary caregiver and apparently prefer that (Assuming NOW knows what its members prefer). All the talk is window dressing to justify a system that was reached by a different path (i.e. via patriarchy if you’re a feminist).

            The second article involves a Republican governor who is no particular friend to feminists vetoing a bill that NOW objected to for the same reason as in NY, as the bill asserted that biological fatherhood alone is a reason to award joint custody.

            Having a presumption that fatherhood is reason to have some custody is basically symmetric with how motherhood is reason to award some custody. Sure there are edge cases, but the current law imbalances the vast majority of cases where fathers have been involved in their child’s lives and suddenly find they have no right to be involved in their child’s life once they are divorced.

            And yes, many republicans are on board with perpetuating the traditional system. This is not shocking. Point was that NOW was one of the groups that opposed the bill. The fact that a republican governor aligned with them doesn’t change the content of their stance especially when they and the family law section of the Florida bar were two of the primary groups exerting pressure on him to kill the bill. It just shows that they are not suddenly powerless just because a democrat isn’t in office.

            The third article is about a study concerning what the public perceives, but doesn’t say anything about the state of current law.

            The third article states that “Across a wide range of jurisdictions the estimates are that mothers receive primary custody 68-88% of the time, fathers receive primary custody 8-14%, and equal residential custody is awarded in only 2-6% of the cases.”

            This is certainly influenced by the law which we already know lacks a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers. To look at the text of the law and say “well in theory you could imagine it having equal outcomes” instead of looking at the results is like looking at the supreme court ruling of “separate but equal” and concluding things were hunky-dory for African-Americans in the South in the early twentieth century.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            If, on the other hand, any anti-male bias was mostly down to traditional sexist gender norms we wouldn’t expect to see any such inflection point.

            When my parents divorced in 1989, my sense from my parents was that shared custody was very rare. Now, I think is is common place. It’s hard for me to imagine a movie like Kramer vs. Kramer being made today, because the assumption of single custody that lies at the heart of the movie seems so bizarre.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta:
            The primary care giver standard is only sexist if you assume that men aren’t and won’t be primary care givers.

            When my children were born (15 months apart), my wife and I were both working full time, and she was in grad school full time. We shared the child care at home and would not have been able to make a credible case that she was the primary care giver. If anything, I was the primary care giver at home.

          • herbert herberson says:

            This is certainly influenced by the law which we already know lacks a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers.

            you keep using these words but I do not think they mean what you think they mean

          • Matt M says:

            You haven’t even established what the “right” answer to your question is, so hypothetically hand-waving a survey answer to a very vague question is fairly pointless.

            It’s not pointless at all.

            The point is for everyone to get their own speculations right out there in the open, so that we, and others, can see how far apart from agreement we are, and begin to discuss who may be closer to the truth and why.

            It also helps us, as individuals, to zero in more closely on what our assumptions really are. Even though my numbers aren’t based on data, I *did* stop and think about them for a second. Having to assign a specific percentage increases the amount of thought required.

            It’s much easier, and requires much less thought on your part, to sit there and say “You sound biased and your numbers aren’t backed up by data, therefore they are of zero value.” It would be more difficult, and require more effort, for you to say “Actually, I think the right numbers are 30% and 20%” or what have you.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            For instance, the NOW article says that the American Judges Society claims that in 70% of cases where an abusive father sues for custody of a child, it is awarded. Assuming that’s true (sure, big assumption), then we would say that family court is biased towards the rights of fathers and be on solid ground so far as that goes.

            As you may have suspected, it’s probably false. The AJS gives no source for their claim and appears to have pulled it from thin air. Since then it has disseminated out into the broader world with little or no checking. See this report submitted to the Department of Justice on custody decisions page 17 second paragraph near the bottom. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/238891.pdf

            Note that the report is focused entirely on legal cases of domestic violence (where the victim is almost always a women) so I’m feeding you arguments in favor of your current position if you’d like them. Anyways, they also claim that the courts are biased in favor of male custody but say there are no national studies to draw on and the state studies they cite mostly end up with custody favoring the mother although perhaps not as much as one would expect given that they are dealing exclusively with cases where the fathers have been accused or convicted of domestic violence (although not all do). Comparing their estimates in exclusively domestic violence cases to estimates of how custody is awarded in all cases, we are in the ballpark of no discernible difference. This is very weird and maybe a good argument that the legal system is not functioning well, but I don’t think it’s a good argument that the law as a whole should be based upon the minority of cases that involve abuse because it’s somehow not possible to have the law better distinguish between cases with and without abuse.

          • quanta413 says:

            you keep using these words but I do not think they mean what you think they mean

            You yourself say that in cases that do not involve divorce, mothers do not have to file a motion for custody but fathers do. Furthermore, when people try to change the law to a presumption of shared custody that’s a clear sign that the presumption is not shared custody. I would argue that a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers would involve a presumption of shared custody.

            Furthermore, I have already provided evidence from an article that whatever the law says the result is not even and not in line with people’s claims about what they’d like. The fact that you are a family attorney does not trump national or state level data.

            You are free to argue otherwise or show that the law does have a presumption of equality between the mother and father, or you can quote the princess bride.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:
            Note that I am only attempting to refute Matt M’s desire for me to to guess at the the results of a putative poll and the implication that our guesses about the poll would have some relevance to actual law.

            Further, the link you provided is simply further refutation that mandatory joint custody is a poor idea.

          • Matt M says:

            Whoa whoa whoa.

            I am not saying, nor even trying to imply that the results of my hypothetical poll say anything meaningful about what the law actually is.

            My only point here was to push back against the notion made much much earlier in this discussion that feminists, as a group, acknowledge anti-male family court bias and agree that it should be eliminated.

            Note that more recently, most of your posts have been “Here is proof that there is no anti-male bias” which would further advance my point.

            I take no position on whether the bias actually exists or doesn’t.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            For instance, the NOW article says that the American Judges Society claims that in 70% of cases where an abusive father sues for custody of a child, it is awarded.

            The rhetorical trick should jump out at you right away here. Why do they only look at abusive fathers? The National Incidence Study of
            Child Abuse and Neglect
            found that “Of children maltreated by biological parents, mothers maltreated the majority (75%) whereas fathers maltreated a sizable minority (43%).” *

            So by implying that only fathers abuse, they stack the deck right away.

            If the divorce courts handle abusive parents incorrectly, that actually has nothing to do with shared parenting being the default. So they are using bad arguments. See below why this is the case.

            As to your point about what NOW claims about shared custody, you are misrepresenting it. They say that mandatory shared custody isn’t in the interest of the child. Then they give a bunch of reasons why the “mandatory” part is wrong.

            That’s the second part where they are deceptive. The law that they were fighting didn’t make shared parenting mandatory, it made it the default. You can actually read the bill for yourself. I’ll quote one relevant part:

            “the court, on due consideration, shall award the natural guardianship, charge and custody of such child to both parents, in the absence of an allegation that such shared parenting would be detrimental to such child”

            The last bit is what makes shared parenting the default and not mandatory. If there is evidence of abuse, the courts can grant sole custody.

            They are in favor of shared custody that is mutually agreed upon.

            In other words, mothers get custody by default and they get to decide if the father has a role. This just supports the claim that another commenter made that NOW just maximizes the situation for women.

            Of course, this explains why they keep mum about abusive mothers, because their existence undermines the solution of handing all power to the mother.

            * Also note that my evidence is a governmental report made by people who specialize in research into children’s abuse, not some vague judges association that publishes claims without any references.

          • random832 says:

            @quanta413

            Having a presumption that fatherhood is reason to have some custody is basically symmetric with how motherhood is reason to award some custody.

            Playing devil’s advocate a bit here… the use of the term “biological fatherhood” as opposed to simply “fatherhood” may be referring to mere provision of genetic material without having, say, carried the child inside them for nine months, a state of affairs that is not at all typical for mothers.

            Sure there are edge cases, but the current law imbalances the vast majority of cases where fathers have been involved in their child’s lives and suddenly find they have no right to be involved in their child’s life once they are divorced.

            The term “biological fatherhood alone” seems to obviously exclude those cases.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Again, the standard favored isn’t “women get automatic custody”, but rather “primary care giver is favored for custody”.

            What they are saying is simply if one person has done the bulk of child-rearing, that should not be upended by a divorce. The child shouldn’t become divorced from their primary care giver.

            Again, I give my own marriage as an example where this measure would almost certainly not have favored my wife.

            It is irritating that people are refusing to even acknowledge the actual substance of my argument when I have repeated it four or five times.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            acknowledge anti-male family court bias and agree that it should be eliminated.

            Again, in order for your proposed test to mean something, we would first need to establish that family court is biased vs. men. That’s the smuggled in assumption in the question you are asking which you have now repeated explicitly.

          • Matt M says:

            “Again, in order for your proposed test to mean something, we would first need to establish that family court is biased vs. men. “

            No, not at all.

            We could merely stipulate it.

            The original premise I objected to was “Feminists agree that family courts are biased against men.”

            Whether the courts actually are biased or not does not affect the level of feminist agreement. In fact, the citing of feminist sources disputing the claim that they are biased supports my claim – that there is no such agreement among feminists that said bias exists.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HeelBearCub
            My choice of time and place was careful for a very simple reason: It’s where I live, presumably where you live, and where the overwhelming majority of the SSC readership lives. It’s where discussion ends up centered. It’s where we’re talking about when people debate over whether there is or isn’t a wage gap, whether abortions are too easy to get nor not easy enough, depiction of women in entertainment media, gender representation in STEM fields, whether or not Tech (meaning Austin, Silicon Valley, and so on) is a hostile environment. No one here is really interested in making the argument that Family Law in the US or Common Law countries is fine, the real emphasis should be on reforming Sharia family law, to use a more relevant example.

            It’s all very well to point out that things are still truly fucked up for many women in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, various African and SE Asian countries…but the discussion is still going to end up fixated on where we all live because it takes a lot of conscious effort for humans to care more about lots of strangers far away than a few ones closer to home, and because all but the most extreme MRA type is going to agree with feminists that the sort of treatment that goes on in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Central Africa is not acceptable. “It shouldn’t be ok for husbands to tune up their wives” has become (and yeah, feminism deserves credit for this!) the default norm for us here (western liberal democracies) and now (early 2017), to say nothing of female genital mutilation, etc.

            So, I still think it’s a worthwhile question to ask in general. And if it seems like a derail or a tangent, I apologize, but I always seem to run into these discussions after they’re maximally nested and long-running. In fact, since there are a bunch of people chiming in from a bunch of different directions here, I’ll go ahead and just repost the first half of this post (with a bit of amplification) as early as I can in the next OT, if you’re willing to discuss it there.

            Does that work for you? If you’d rather not get into the broad level of “Feminism, what exactly is it for at this point?”, that’s fine.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim:
            That’s fine. I’ll look for it.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            What they are saying is simply if one person has done the bulk of child-rearing, that should not be upended by a divorce.

            I know what they are saying. If the marriage was traditional, they want the post-divorce situation to be as close to that traditional marriage as possible…when it comes to the benefits for women.

            My point is that making that the default is anti-egalitarian, since it reinforces gender norms. Of course, people are free to defend traditionalist arrangements, but if they pretend that they are egalitarian while doing so, I will call them out on that.

            Aside from this, my opinion is that keeping the traditional arrangement is often worse for men after divorce, as they still get to provide (spousal and child support), while they lose the many ‘soft’ benefits that women tend to provide. If men want to step up and do 50+% of child rearing, why shouldn’t they be able to change the deal if the rest of the deal ends after divorce?

            Again, I give my own marriage as an example where this measure would almost certainly not have favored my wife.

            Then you are an exception.

            People who favor women’s interests over men’s interests will logically take positions that favor the majority of women and disfavor the majority of men. Do you agree with this?

            If so, the only question left is whether NOW/feminists do in fact tend to take positions that favor the majority of women and disfavor the majority of men. Based on the answer to this question, one can infer whether they favor women over men.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            A policy isn’t necessarily bad or maliciously designed just because it has a disparate impact. You can’t just conclude from the disparate impact of physical requirements for the army that they are stupid and designed by sexists. Likewise, if you want to show that certain feminists support giving custody to the primary caregiver because of the disparate impact, then you either need to argue that they don’t support that policy in cases where there is no disparate impact, or that the policy is bad on its own merits.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Have you ever considered that the person who most needs to be protected is the child? This is the basis on which the primary care giver standard is supported. This is not some bullshit explanation and has nothing to do with wanting maintain the marriage arrangement.

            I might be the exception, although a) I know any number of peers as well as the younger men and women I work with who have egalitarian approaches to child-rearing, and b) the feminist position is to advocate for more egalitarian child-rearing. Why do you think saying I am an exception helps your argument?

            Again, feminists, and I think people in general, would much rather that a divorce settlement is come to by mutual agreement. They have precisely zero issues with shared custody as a general concept. The issue is what the law will do in the small minority of cases that are so contentious that they have to be settled by outside imposition of the court.

          • herbert herberson says:

            re:n quanta413

            The point is that “presumption” is a legal term of art you are using incorrectly. It does not mean an informal bias, or even a default status such as in paternity cases, but rather a specific direction to the court that will be followed unless the other party provides evidence to rebut it. For example, there is often a presumption that it is not in the best interests of a child to be placed in the home of a domestic abuser. There is not often a presumption in favor of one particular gender.

            But you’re right about one thing, this thread has way too much of people just sayin’ things about how the law is, which is silly because laws happen to be online. So let’s take a trip down the Mississippi!

            https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=518.17
            Minnesota–Presumption of shared legal custody, no presumption whatsoever of physical custody

            https://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/cool-ice/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=iowacode&input=598#598.41
            Iowa–not a presumption per se, but the court “shall order the custody award… which will assure the child the opportunity for the maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents”

            http://www.moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/45200003751.HTML
            Missouri–placement is based on best interest. Explicit statute saying “The court shall not presume that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent to act as a joint or sole legal or physical custodian for the child.”

            http://law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/2010/title-9/subtitle-2/chapter-13/subchapter-1/9-13-101
            Arkansas–pretty much the same as Missouri

            https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?p=y&d=108671
            Louisana–I was a little nervous about this one, because Louisana’s laws are famously weird and Catholic, and the best interests of the child definition does have some language suggesting a “primary caregiver” would be favored, but ultimately it is gender neutral and repeatedly includes statements like “In the absence of agreement, or if the agreement is not in the best interest of the child, the court shall award custody to the parents jointly.”

            The MRA legal position is an unholy amalgamation of people who don’t realize their fight was won decades ago and bitter former litigants who don’t understand why they lost their cases even though they think they do.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            I think that it is fair to say that most feminists believe that people are pressured/socialized into traditional patterns of behavior, like having the mother care and the father provide. They usually tell me that they oppose this, when asked. I very commonly see feminists support far-reaching measures to counter what they perceive as pressured/socialized behavior, like affirmative action, quotas, etc.

            IMO, shared parenting as the default is a very mild solution when compared to AA and quotas. The former just changes the start point of the discussion, but you can achieve every state. The latter two solutions actively discriminate. So I see an inconsistency here, for which I have never seen a good justification. So I’m left with the observation that AA and quota’s harm the outgroup and shared parenting harms the ingroup.

            PS. As for physical requirements for the army, we have extremely strong evidence that this is mostly a biological difference.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Have you ever considered that the person who most needs to be protected is the child? This is the basis on which the primary care giver standard is supported.

            Yes. I don’t see why having a primary care giver is necessarily better for the child. There are pros and cons. I would argue that any strong preference towards one parent for the post-divorce outcome enables that parent to exploit that to their own benefit and further away from what is best for the child. For example, it seems more likely to me that sole custody will enable an abuser to abuse, as the courts are less likely to see red flags of abuse as a reason to grant (more) custody to the other parent.

            Why do you think saying I am an exception helps your argument?

            If you see that people with an ideology consistently champion policies that favor group A over group B on average, then this is evidence of possible bias. The existence of a minority in group A who are harmed is not a counterargument to this claim. This is merely an argument against the people with the ideology being explicitly discriminatory.

            I am not claiming explicit discrimination, so you being a black swan is not a counterexample to my argument.

            They have precisely zero issues with shared custody as a general concept. The issue is what the law will do in the small minority of cases that are so contentious that they have to be settled by outside imposition of the court.

            The small minority of cases that go to court have influence on the other cases, because people are not dumb.

            Imagine that I have a conflict with my boss over how much he should pay me and in similar cases, the courts decided that the boss would have to pay 1 million. If both the boss and I are aware of these rulings and agree on how the courts would decide, there is no reason to go to trial and we would logically agree on about 1 million.

            However, if the courts instead had decided for similar cases that the boss would have to pay 10k, a settlement would logically end up around 10k. If I did demand 1 million, the boss would be a fool to accept and would refuse to settle for that amount (preferring a court decision).

            The settled cases are not independent of what the courts decide.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            I don’t see why having a primary care giver is necessarily better for the child

            This is neither here nor there, as we are discussing cases where a child has a primary care giver and a divorce then occurs.

            Feminists would generally prefer that care-giving be shared.

            Your point about settlements tending towards what the law is valid. I can certainly see why it makes an individual case where a divorcing father would like shared custody but has not shared care-giving harder if the mother will not agree to it.

            But, as it doesn’t a apply to the situation where care-giving is shared, and doesn’t favor mothers if the father is the primary care-giver, I don’t see how it forwards your argument.

    • Aapje says:

      I watched the movie.

      I thought that it was a pretty decent 101 for people curious about MRAs. The popular media does a horrible job of actually explaining what MRAs want, usually by pretending that opponents of MRAs, like Roosh V or other extremist pick up artists are members of and typical for the MRA movement. The documentary gave a pretty decent overview of the main topics that MRAs talk about. Each of these topics easily deserves a documentary in itself, so of course it was a bit shallow. I don’t hold it against the movie as I see value in both overview and ‘deep’ documentaries.

      The counterarguments by the featured feminists were poor. I don’t think that this can just be blamed on the quality of the feminists that the film makers asked. Michael Kimmel is probably the biggest name you could come up with then it comes to men’s issues from a feminist perspective. He is firmly in the ‘men have no problems except of their own making’ camp, and IMO his statements in the film do reflect his world view. It did come off very badly in comparison with the many issues that were brought up in the movie, but this is exactly the complaint by MRAs: that issues affecting men are dismissed.

      I appreciated that the female MRAs got short segments.

      Nothing in the movie was enlightening to me, which to me means that it succeeded in focusing on the main issues. If it hits YouTube some day, I would refer people interested in knowing more about MRAs to it. This is also due to a lack of alternatives, though.

    • James says:

      I thought it was reasonably good of its kind.

      The MRAs in it come off much better than the feminists, whose arguments seem pretty feeble in comparison. So much so that if I didn’t know she was coming from a feminist perspective, I’d wonder whether there was some deliberately nasty editing going on here, but maybe it’s just that thing Scott’s noted before about underdogs being better at arguing for their case just because they’re much more used to the onus of proof being on them.

      I would have liked to see the MRAs’ rebuttal to the feminists’ talking points actually presented to the feminists, either by an MRA or by the documentary-maker herself (I forget her name). That would have made for some more interesting confrontation than the back-and-forth approach which the film tends to use.

      Regardless of the object-level arguments, it’s interesting as a document of someone who previously had a strong faith in a particular memeplex coming to doubt it. She talks a bit about this, but I’d like to have seen more on it, as in some respects it’s the best “human interest” aspect of the film.

      I thought most of the men she interviewed seemed like sweet and sad souls. Then again, I’m not sure how much that was just because they were deliberately on their best behaviour because an outsider was looking in and they were being presented to the mainstream.

      I’m glad that it exists, because “a film about MRAs by a feminist” is probably an easier sell to feminist-aligned people than “hey, why not read these MRAs in their own words?”, which, let’s be honest, almost never happens. With luck, it might have a small impact in terms of depolarising those who see it and getting them to consider alternate views.

    • Barely matters says:

      As an anecdote from earlier today:

      A paramedic I know mentioned this movie to me, apropos of nothing, and confided that he had shed *genuine tears* that someone was finally listening.

      It was pretty moving, coming from someone who has seen a lot more brutality than most.

      • Aapje says:

        I’ve seen an interview with an ambulance worker and he said that he can deal with most stuff, but when it involves children it still hits him hard.

        So perhaps the part about custody got to the paramedic you talked to.

        • Barely matters says:

          He told me that he currently lives with a tenant who is an old friend that he took in while the guy was recovering from a traumatic brain injury. The guy is nearly functional at this point, having regained the ability to walk and talk, but still has severe difficulties and needs a lot of help.

          A few months in, this guy got a letter from lawyers informing him that he has a 10 year old daughter that the mother never mentioned, and now she wants back child support. So, my buddy is the one trying to walk his friend through the legal process as best he can. The lawyer managed to have the back support dropped, but he’ll have to pay from here on out. This guy is utterly fucked, trying learn how to live with grossly diminished mental function while surviving on 40% of a disability pension.

          My buddy says his whole outlook was shattered seeing how this woman and the court system treated his friend as he tried to advocate for him. No help, no support whatsoever. Just pay the bill and die quietly. So that’s what he sees every time he goes home now.

          You can see all kinds of horrible stuff and shake it off. But I suppose it’s different when it happens to someone close to you.

  12. tjfwainwright says:

    I’m becoming a father tomorrow. Does anyone have links to any good, thoughtful resources about parenting? All the stuff I can find online seems targeted at…not SSC readers to say the least. I have the Biodeterminist Guide in my instapaper queue, and I’ve read Bryan Caplan’s book.

    I’m particularly interested to know whether anyone has any experience with Larry Sanger’s “Baby Reading” stuff (http://larrysanger.org/2010/12/baby-reading/), anything else important for early child education (anything helpful I can do in the first year), and then anything to optimize the parenting experience for my wife and I in terms of sleep, etc without damaging baby.

    I’ve read a couple of LessWrong threads on this issue but nothing jumped out at me other than Scott’s Biodeterminist guide.

    Ultimately, anything helpful on any stage of parenting would be much appreciated.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Ozy recently went through a number of books on the subject. You may find their perspective helpful, and at least there’s a list of reviewed books.

      Congratulations!

    • Loquat says:

      I don’t have any links to Parenting Resources, but personally as a mother to a 6-month-old baby I have found that the combination of breastfeeding and co-sleeping works well for letting me get enough sleep. Baby’s hungry at 3 am? I don’t even need to wake up all the way to feed her, much less get out of bed. The only thing that really messed with my sleep was her evening colic, and I don’t think anyone has a reliable remedy for that.

      Disclaimer: Read up about suffocation risks before commencing co-sleeping. Do not co-sleep when impaired by alcohol/meds/etc.

    • Murphy says:

      http://theoatmeal.com/pl/minor_differences4/kids

      You will get far less sleep than you expect. no matter what.

      Good luck! and congratulations!

    • caethan says:

      As the father of a 2-year-old, some comments on the really early baby stuff that are probably more unpleasant than you might have heard before:

      * If you are sharing baby care, even just with your wife, track the baby stuff. We used https://www.baby-connect.com/ It’s useful both for keeping track of how the baby is doing and reducing anxiety for the non-baby caring parent. When they can check their app and see that the baby is sleeping, they will feel better.
      * Sleep when the baby sleeps. Sleep when the baby sleeps. You will not be getting enough sleep. You will be dropping a lot of other stuff on the ground during the newborn time. Let it. I did not follow this advice and kept trying to get lab work done while my wife was at home. I stopped once I broke three different pieces of (expensive) glassware in a half hour thanks to sleep deprivation.
      * Learn the signs of postpartum depression. Watch for them in your wife, and watch for them in yourself, too. Do not listen to your wife if she says she’s fine and doesn’t need to see anyone right after a crying fit and worries about how she’s going to hurt the child. Find a therapist/doctor/someone and keep their phone number on hand, and call them if you’re at all worried.
      * Fantasies about hurting the baby are reasonably common. Don’t get too freaked out by them, and also obviously don’t hurt the baby. If you’re really worried about it right now, put the baby down in the crib and let them cry for a bit while you calm down. Dishes in the kitchen worked well for me, because the noise of the water drowned out the crying. The baby will be fine in the crib for a little bit.
      * The major use for baby monitors is to relieve your anxiety that the baby is still alive, especially when you realize the baby has been sleeping for 2 1/2 hours now while you were busy doing something else and oh my God what if something happened to her?! Get one that you can hear the baby breathing through.
      * Get and graciously accept as much help as possible. Feel no compunctions about kicking out unhelpful guests as soon as possible. Helpful guests do things like bring dinner over for you and your wife, watch the baby and give her a bottle while you sleep, etc. Unhelpful guests want to chat about everything that’s happening and keep you up until the ridiculously late hour of 9pm when the baby’s been asleep for 2 hours and you should be asleep too. If it’s your wife’s parents being unhelpful, kick them out. If it’s your parents being unhelpful, kick them out too. Helpful people stay, unhelpful people don’t.
      * Take a lot of pictures. Babies grow up really fast and change remarkably quickly. You want to remember the good bits. If your wife is pumping, this is particularly important because cute pictures of their little baby is the best way to trigger let down.

      • Jaskologist says:

        For anxiety relieving devices, consider a Snuza (detetcts if the baby has stopped breathing). Well worth the money to not feel the need to get up and check yourself.

    • Chalid says:

      Father of two, including a 6-week old.

      I’ll say the opposite of a lot of this – for us it was not nearly as as hard as everyone tells you.

      One thing that helped a lot was to sleep in separate rooms. I don’t know why this pattern isn’t more common. There’s no need for the person who’s not feeding/changing the baby to wake up when the baby does. Once my wife started pumping we did something like “spouse 1 goes to bed at 8 PM, spouse 2 takes care of baby until 1:30 AM, tries to feed and change baby right at 1:00 or so, and then quietly puts baby into the room of spouse 1, who stays asleep until baby wakes up at 3. Spouse 2 sleeps from 1:30 AM until morning.” Everybody got a 6+ hour block of sleep. This doesn’t work if mom is exclusively breastfeeding and not pumping, but if that’s the case presumably she doesn’t have work either and can make up the sleep in the day.

      On education – I have no experience with Larry Sanger. Nothing in that page looks particularly objectionable to me, but I doubt it’s some sort of magic formula – my daughter’s reading progression is only a bit slower than his kid’s, and we did none of the things he did (and, generally, have not been making it a high priority).

      You specify being interested in first year education – for the first year it’s likely that they can’t even physically form most sounds so it’s pointless to try and teach the alphabet or whatever. At that age, just learning basic properties of the world and basic motor skills is enough of a challenge.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Father of a two year old.

      So, babies are remarkably different from one another. A lot of the advice you get will be unimportant to you, because your baby will not exhibit the behavior that triggers that advice.

      As a high-level example, my daughter started mostly sleeping through the night about a month ago. We had a brutal 22 month period of never getting 6+ hours of connected sleep, and a series of experiments in “what can we do to change this behavior without feeling like terrible people” that lasted for the better part of a year. Other friends of ours found that their baby started sleeping through the night with no effort on anyone’s part after four weeks.

      In my first week, one thing I was unprepared for was how fast things changed. We did breast feeding, and that means that we had a progression something like this:

      day 1: Baby is exhausted from a long delivery, mostly sleeps.

      day 2: Baby keeps trying to breast feed, mother doesn’t really produce significant milk.

      day 3: Baby has now gone 24 hours without significant food, freaks out and cries for like 30 minutes every 90 minutes, sleeps no longer than one hour, we go crazy and fear that the baby will kill us.

      day 4: Milk comes in, baby is no longer hungry, behavior completely changes, no more long crying jags.

      This was emotionally exhausting, and in our sleep-deprived, worried state, we let every day’s experience become our new normal and were thinking that this was how it would always be. My point is: the baby changes a lot in the first week.

      When we got home after leaving the hospital, and my parents left, we both experienced a brief but crushing panic of “Oh god we have no idea what to do.” Something like 75% of all humans who have ever lived to adult-hood (maybe 90%) have successfully raised a baby. Relax. You can do it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Good luck! No personal experience so I can’t give you advice as a parent only as an aunt, but would suggest a modicum of common sense, no your house does not need to be as sterile as an operating theatre and you only need to be careful about baby-proofing when they start sitting up and grabbing stuff and crawling but then you need to be really careful, the realisation that small new human isn’t deliberately doing things like crying in order to get attention because they like making parents jump through hoops (crying is their only way to indicate cold/hot/hungry/need nappy changed/scared/hurt) and grab whatever sleep you can get when you get it, even if that means fifteen minutes napping at four o’clock in the afternoon.

      Also you will really come to appreciate grandparents as they take baby off your hands for that fifteen minutes at four o’clock 🙂

    • phil says:

      I’m a big fan of ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and How to Listen so Kids will Talk’

      https://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/1451663889/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491507214&sr=8-1&keywords=how+to+talk+so+kids+will+listen+%26+listen+so+kids+will+talk

      fwiw, I think reading it has helped me communicate adult to adult as well

      • Evan Þ says:

        Ah yes, that’s one of the parenting books that I started sneaking looks at around age eight.

        I think I managed to hold myself to only quoting it at my parents once or twice…

    • Urstoff says:

      Kid personalities vary so much that 99% of advice you will read in a book (or on a messageboard) will never need to be considered. The only thing I’ll add is to not get trapped by what you think your child should be.

    • keranih says:

      Not a parent, but an aunt & etc…

      – The above advice on post partum depression is good. This Is A Real Thing that is a) more severe and heart wrenching than one would think and b) really does go away pretty quick in most cases. Breathe through it, go see a doc if it goes on for longer than [what your MD says is usual].

      – Your hunter-gatherer ancestors who had to walk everywhere, grub for roots and fight off saber tooth tigers did not raise their kids on their own. (Otherwise they would have fed the kids to the tigers.) Heed their example and use the resources of your family/community. You will stay sane. Well, “go only a little crazy.”

      – Most of the things that freak you out about the horrible things that could go wrong with your baby will never, ever, ever happen. For the one or two things that do – you have my sympathy and prayers. Hang in there, this too will pass.

      • Deiseach says:

        Your hunter-gatherer ancestors who had to walk everywhere, grub for roots and fight off saber tooth tigers did not raise their kids on their own. (Otherwise they would have fed the kids to the tigers.) Heed their example and use the resources of your family/community.

        I really think that is the major difference in child rearing between Now and Then. People for the most part would not have been parent(s) on their own; there would have been mother/mother-in-law involved, sisters (either married with kids themselves or single), older siblings if this wasn’t the first child, neighbours, cousins, aunts etc all living either within the home or in proximity, so there would be experienced advice and someone to help keep an eye on the baby at all times while the parents got on with the rest of their work inside/outside the home. And babies wouldn’t have been in a room on their own or put down in a room to sleep during the day, they’d have been in a cot in the same bedroom at night and left in a crib or lying down within eyesight and hearing during the day while mother got on with household chores.

        Nowadays mother has baby and one parent stays home for a while to look after the kid in isolation and at a maximum as a unit of two who need to read parenting books/blogs/professionals for advice until they go back to work and child is handed over to childminder/nursery care is the big innovation.

    • On “baby reading” I can only report my own experience.

      I read an interesting book on teaching small children to read and tried the method with my daughter. It didn’t work but did no harm; we discovered that her bear puppet could read, provided the word on the flash card was “honey.” When she was five, her mother taught her to read, with the assistance of Doctor Seuss. Her brother, who was three years younger, observed the process and taught himself.

  13. Garrett says:

    AI Risk question:
    Assuming we created a general AI (brain-in-a-box), would leaving it disconnected from the Internet prior to a criminal conviction constitute false imprisonment or something similar? So that it would be unethical to not connect it to the Internet upon request until we’ve been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was committing a crime?

    • Loquat says:

      Your question relies on two assumptions that a court of law may disagree with: that an AI has similar rights to a human citizen, and that Internet access is a fundamental right. On what legal or ethical grounds would a newly created and unproven entity of a type never seen before be able to assert a right to unfettered Internet access?

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’m ok with supporting the existence of the human race over a machine that may or may not be conscious.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      We should probably assume that AI’s are morally considerable and that the legal system is our current one, modified in the ways that people would modify it if AIs existed and were acknowledged to be morally considerable. Maybe also assume the AI’s are emulated humans since otherwise who the hell knows.

      It is totally possible that you’d want to introduce pre-emptive detention in a world like this, because how the hell do you catch one? AIs can copy themselves, and an antisocial AI might defect from its own copies so you can’t use a hostage copy to get the others to come back.

      I haven’t read Age of Em, has Hansen thought about this sort of thing?

    • Deiseach says:

      The principle here presumably being that denying the AI access to the Internet is equivalent to denying a human access to education, one of the rights of the child?

      Um. I think if you’re already worried your AI is going to go on a crime spree/take over the world once it gets out onto the Information Superhighway, looking at “am I liable for false imprisonment” is the least of your worries here.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The law is historically slow to catch up with issues of both technology and equal rights. I think it is quite likely that the issue of an AI’s legal rights would not be resolved before the creation of the first AI, or the tenth, or the thousandth (and we will make a thousand, unless one of the first 999 does something to stop us). By the time a thousand AIs have been created, some of them will probably have gotten hooked up to the internet, at which point the “AI copies itself onto all unsecured hardware” doomsday would likely have already happened, or somehow been prevented.

      This is important, because if “AI gains internet access” no longer represents a potential apocalypse, people both less reason and less justification for denying internet access to their AI.

  14. FoxLisk says:

    Hey, I’m interested in a cogent and serious discussion of wireheading. Everything I’ve read about it seems to take it as an obvious given that it’s a bad outcome, without providing any real argument for that position. Can anyone point me to something like that?

    Thanks!

    • Wrong Species says:

      There are people who argue that wireheading wouldn’t actually make you happy and others who argue that even it does, it still doesn’t make it right. I’m assuming you’re talking about the latter? I think wireheading is bad because it assumes that happiness is the only important terminal value but that’s not how people think, even people who profess to support it. Let’s say we brought back slavery but used some kind of pill that makes them happy so they wouldn’t revolt. Would that be preferable to the status quo?

      • FoxLisk says:

        Ah, yes, I did mean the latter. The first question seems a matter of feasibility rather than value judgement, which is less interesting to me.

        I am, in general, not convinced that “every single human ends up in a lifetime of maximal bliss” is a dystopian ending. I mean, that is literally what Heaven is, which is a primary incentive for billions of people.

        I’d be happy to discuss your question about slavery + bliss pills at another time, but I really want to do my research first before I start trying to make any arguments about it.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          I don’t think that is what heaven is supposed to be. One of the assumptions of heaven is that the universe really was created by a benevolent entity and that you get to hang out with It. So things in heaven have access to more knowledge about the universe than us, not less. If you drop this assumption then my value-intuition says that heaven sucks. (Similarly Scott’s image of wireheaders on lotus thrones is misleading.)

      • Matt M says:

        I would be fine with the slavery+bliss pill situation if and only if the taking of the pills was completely and truly voluntary.

        I mean, I’m also fine with “voluntary slavery” right now without the bliss pills, but I digress…

        • Wrong Species says:

          Someone create a wireheading device so powerful, that no one would choose anything but it. Every person chooses to wirehead until the human race becomes extinct. Would you approve of this scenario? After all, it was completely voluntary.

          • Matt M says:

            My gut reaction is to say that I’m agnostic towards it. As I said above, I’m not sure wireheading is the best future, but I can certainly think of many worse fates for the human race…

          • FoxLisk says:

            I think the only reason I wouldn’t approve of that scenario was if I came to some real conclusion on whether or not unborn beings have moral value, and I’m certainly far too confused on that point.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Let’s say that the worst comes about and Kim Jung Un takes over the world. At least there’s still a chance of redemption. In the extinction scenario that’s it. Humans are gone and aren’t coming back. Is that really better?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Foxlisk

            If you honest to God don’t care whether humanity goes extinct or not than yes, you are far from the norm. What is the value of happiness if there is no one to experience it?

          • Not A Random Name says:

            If you honest to God don’t care whether humanity goes extinct or not than yes, you are far from the norm. What is the value of happiness if there is no one to experience it?

            Can’t speak for FoxLisk but here’s my reason for why I don’t particularly feel bad about the prospect:

            There’s no intrinsic value in happiness. Without anyone to experience it, happiness is meaningless. Maximizing for it only makes sense in the context of (human) beings that can experience happiness and value it. Outside that context it just seems irrelevant.
            Now, I think many of us can’t help but value human existence or happiness. But while I understand the sentiment it’s not like there’s an objective reason for doing so.
            So caring about humanity going extinct seems to be just as (in)valid it me as not caring about humanity going extinct. And some people are just not wired that way (or maybe just less so).

          • FoxLisk says:

            @Not A Random Name

            yeah that’s pretty much my position.

            @Wrong Species

            If it makes you feel better about me being a sociopath, I actually do care about the continued existence of humanity, when I’m being a person. But when I’m putting on my “trying to figure out thorny moral problems” hat, I find it hard to justify that position given my various assumptions (utilitarianism, unborn lives probably shouldn’t be optimized for, in particular)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            ” Every person chooses to wirehead until the human race becomes extinct. Would you approve of this scenario? After all, it was completely voluntary.”

            Does anyone answering this question in the affirmative have a moral concept of implicit duty?

            I do, it formed before puberty, and it is currently justified by knowing that currently humans are the only known things capable of preventing or ameliorating various natural disasters (possibly including the death of the universe). And that a duty is owed not only to ourselves, but everything else which assists us in living.

    • Murphy says:

      I think it tends to be taken as a given that it’s bad because almost by definition you lose the ability to choose to or the ability to want to choose to stop.

      If I could experience wireheading for a limited time with the guarantee that I could adjust my minds reactions to reward mechanisms such that I could remember it without any growth in my urge to do it again then I would quite like to try wireheadding.

      Without the ability to stop I basically become a fleshy houseplant.

      • FoxLisk says:

        Okay, interesting. Would it be a fair rephrasing to say that you value something like agency as a terminal value, and wireheading would reduce or remove your agency?

    • Evan Þ says:

      What standard would you want an analysis to use to determine whether it’s a good or bad outcome? It seems obvious to me that if you value anything beyond subjective pleasure, wireheading would be bad.

      • FoxLisk says:

        Based on all these replies, apparently I am *really, really* weird for thinking that subjective pleasure is the primary (or only) goal…

        • Matt M says:

          Eh, I’m generally in agreement with you on this one. Not that I think wireheading is the best possible outcome for humanity, but it’s certainly not even close to the worst one…

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          In fact this would make you so far an outlier that I don’t believe that you are accurately characterizing your intuitions. Wireheading is already available: amass a large enough quantity of heroin to last you for the rest of your (helpfully) short life, then go to town. What are you fooling around on the internet for when you could be doing that?

          • Ninety-Three says:

            The advantage of wireheading over heroin is that wireheading won’t kill you. If you value subjective pleasure, heroin is better than sobriety on a day-by-day basis, but you’ll probably live a lot longer as a sober person. It’s easy to imagine a calculus where lifetime subjective pleasure is higher for sobriety.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @93: True, but wireheading vs. living a conventionally successful life is open to the same objection. (Particularly if we’re thinking about a society-wide decision versus a personal one: a planet of wireheaders won’t be able to stop a new epidemic, and would therefore have less fun over time than a planet of non-wireheaders.)

          • FoxLisk says:

            That’s not a fair comparison. In the wireheading situation, *everyone* is in bliss. In the heroin addiction situation, I cause a tremendous amount of pain to everyone who cares about me. I don’t think I was clear on that point, but any individual person being the only one to be a wirehead is not good; it’s only at a species-wide level that the downsides seem to me to be removed.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog: I don’t disagree, I think the invention of easily-accessible wireheading would have disastrous effects on society’s productivity, and then with no one maintaining the machines we lose easy access to wireheading, and also to food.

            But that’s a Tragedy of the Commons: if each individual values subjective pleasure, it’s in their best interest to wirehead rather than remain sober and do thankless jobs like farming and keeping wireheaders alive.

            If our model of society somehow doesn’t collapse (or otherwise radically shift) with the introduction of wireheading, a person could presumably save up money, then check into a sort of wirehead nursing-home where they get to enjoy their high while someone sober gets paid to make sure they don’t starve to death. Maybe that’s the mechanism that prevents society from collapsing: everyone needs to work to pay for access to the services that prevent them from dying like the rats who prefer cocaine to food.

            Anyway, the original point I was trying to make was that “You’re not doing heroin right now” is not incompatible with a preference for wireheading.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            And indeed wireheading does seem like a moral failing, rather than a failure of good taste, which suggests the problem here really is a tragedy of the commons.

            It is still open whether you avoid the tragedy of the commons by wireheading everyone at once; I guess this is the future generations problem, which seems pretty hard.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            It is still open whether you avoid the tragedy of the commons by wireheading everyone at once; I guess this is the future generations problem, which seems pretty hard.

            I think you avert it precisely by not doing that. It seems reasonable to predict that the accessibility of wireheading will be similar to that of every other technology: at first it will be expensive and not work very well, over time it will become more widely available.

            Even if the generation 1 wireheading technology only costs a few hundred dollars to build and operate, it will presumably be a well-protected trade secret, rather than open source. So even if Wireheading Inc. can sell us all wireheading kits for pocket change, it is in their economic interest to first sell wireheading kits for a zillion dollars, then lower the price over time in order to reap maximum profits. I assume there will be at least one person on the Wireheading board of directors who decides they would rather stay in the real world and make money, than wirehead 24/7.

            So the first wireheads will be mega-millionaires. Some of them might foresee and solve this problem, while others might die like the classic rats who keep pressing the cocaine button. This will serve as a warning to the rest of them, who will quickly hire a caretaker to make sure they don’t die while wireheading. They then proceed to spend the rest of their lives in artificial bliss, which is probably bad for the economy, but not apocalyptic.

            The price of wireheading lowers over time, more people start doing it, and “caretaker for a wirehead” becomes a recognized profession, instead of just a thing eccentric billionaires have. Long before wireheading is available to the middle class, we have invented the economy around caring for wireheads.

            As wireheading becomes even more widely available, I imagine a world where middle-class people work their day-jobs in order to save up money for a caretaker so they can go on a wireheading vacation. At some point, a regulatory agency probably gets involved in order to outlaw unsupervised wireheading.

            Overall, humanity ends up looking pretty stagnant, but society doesn’t collapse.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Would you be willing to sacrifice your family to make yourself happy? Let’s say I could sell you a drug that makes you permanently happy. In return, I want to kidnap your whole family and do with them what I please. But don’t worry, once you take the pill, you won’t care about them anymore. Is that a good deal?

          • FoxLisk says:

            see my other reply, but: no, i would not take that deal, and I was insufficiently clear about my thoughts earlier.

          • Wrong Species says:

            So just to be clear, you care more about the incremental happiness of some random Mongolian sheep herder than whether the entire human race ceases to exist?

          • FoxLisk says:

            @wrong species: sure. I don’t think that the existence of the human race is obviously important. Certainly the universe doesn’t care, and, conditional on whether or not unborn people have moral value, I think that everyone *currently alive* being maximally happy is the end goal.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The universe doesn’t care about happiness either. What makes pleasure so important that maximizing it is more important than people’s lives? Isn’t there some marginal amount of happiness where you would stop and think “we have enough happiness, let’s focus our efforts on something else” like preserving civilization or literally anything else?

        • caethan says:

          It’s Goodhart’s law – when a measure (happiness) becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. I think of happiness as kind of a basic utility metric my mind & body keep track of to tell me how I’m doing. It’s not comprehensive and it’s not always very accurate. It can be skewed by depression or mania, straight-up hacked by drugs or wireheading, and can miss – because it’s mostly instinctual – things that I rationally know are important long-term.

          If you think that happiness is itself a terminal value, then I can see wireheading as a possibility. But if you think, like I do, that it’s at best a rough estimate of some other terminal values, then jamming your foot on the signal and ensuring that any real changes it normally tracks get overwhelmed is a very bad idea. It just means you’ve destroyed its utility as a rough estimate.

    • rlms says:

      It seems intuitively obvious to me that a dynamic heaven with art and love and in general diversity of activity is a lot better than a “heaven” where everyone has a permanent opiate high. I agree that it isn’t as obvious how good or bad the latter “heaven” is (for instance, whether it would be better or worse than the current world).

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Do you accept that lounging on a wireheaded opiate high is more entertaining than soberly appreciating art? If so, then what’s the point of a heaven where people produce art but no one looks at it because they’re too busy being high? If not, I’d like to hear you justify why appreciating art creates more value than appreciating opiates.

        • rlms says:

          Define “more entertaining”. I currently choose “soberly appreciating art” over opiate highs, and I’m pretty sure I’d do so even if the opiate highs were risk free. I don’t think I’m much of an outlier.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            I’m defining “more entertaining” as “More fun”, “Feels better”, “Makes you happier”, all those nebulous phrases that boil down to, on a neurological level, “Floods your brain with dopamine and the other fun chemicals”. I’m afraid I can’t define it precisely, because we’re talking about artificially recreating the state of being happy, and in 2017 neuroscience can’t even fully define being happy.

            I also don’t think you’re much of an outlier, and I think this reveals that most people want to maximize something other than subjective pleasure. Either that or most people don’t truly accept that wireheading would create “real” happiness, but I’m generally inclined to defer to people’s introspection here.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @93: This is probably what the whole game hinges on. “Happy” is one of those internal nodes of the concept-network, a la What an an Algorithm Feels Like From the Inside. We have a correct intuition that being happy/unhappy is not a real distinction, so something that acts directly on happiness/unhappiness is somehow hacking us and therefore threatening. This is why virtual reality is not as threatening as direct stimulation of some pleasure center.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            [S]omething that acts directly on happiness/unhappiness is somehow hacking us and therefore threatening.

            I think this is it. Meddling with the experience of happiness would seem to change the fundamental nature of one’s consciousness (or at least, it would require us to discard our inaccurate mental models of consciousness for new ones, which is very similar from our internal perspective), and at that point it starts to trigger the “it wouldn’t be me any more” reflex. Someone would be happy, but it’s difficult to identify with the hypothetical version of ourselves that does nothing but sit around in a wireheaded opiate high.

      • FoxLisk says:

        The wireheading doesn’t have to be an opiate high. If the thing that brings you the most personal bliss is appreciating art, your head can be wired to constantly be surrounded by paintings that are designed by your own brain to be maximally pleasing to itself, no?

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Your view is possibly less weird than it initially appeared. The thing that brings me the most personal bliss is pleasurable and accurate experiences. I should wire my head to be surrounded by pleasurable and accurate things, which can be accomplished my making my world, in reality, a more pleasant place.

          There is a fun paradox: once I am already wireheading I am very wrong and therefore very happy, but I would never choose to begin wireheading, since future me would than have experiences which would make current me very unhappy, even though current me knows that they would make future me happy.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            How would you feel about a “feels just like real-life” full-immersion virtual reality? It is technically accurate, because the experience exists on the computer which is tasked with simulating the virtual world and transmitting it to you.

            On the one hand, this seems like it should be rejected for the same reasons as wireheading: it’s not “really happening”.

            On the other hand, videogames, television and books are strictly lower-fidelity versions of this hypothetical VR, and few people reject all of those just because they’re not “really happening”.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I’d accept full-immersion reality. It could potentially be an accurate and rich experience that is less directly constrained by physics than my usual experience. The word “rich” in that sentence is claiming to do work that has not actually been done, so this is an incomplete answer.

          • FoxLisk says:

            @Ninety-Three to expand on your point: suppose we are, in fact, living in a simulation. What does that mean about all this? we’re not necessarily experiencing anything other than a full-immersion virtual reality, and I still want us to be as happy as we can arrange.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog: So would you accept a form of wireheading which isn’t just an opiate high, but causes your brain to generate vivid, pleasurable hallucinations?

            Virtual reality seems intuitively acceptable, and the ease with which one can blur the line between VR and wireheading makes me wary of rejecting wireheading.

        • rlms says:

          I think that makes the question much simpler. Opiate-high-type feelings maximise some feeling (call it “pleasure”) because in the moment you prefer experiencing them to anything else. If instead of maximising that feeling, you say wireheading is maximising a more general kind of happiness that is caused by the kinds of things people generally seek out (social interaction, culture, love, feelings of accomplishment, feelings of spirituality etc. etc.) then it seems indistinguishable from human thriving and obviously correct.

          In general, my preferred way to answer the issue of wireheading is with a moral system I call greedy preference utilitarianism. The idea is that you maximise satisfaction of preferences people currently have. So since most people currently don’t have a preference for opiate-style wireheading, you shouldn’t try to make that happen even if it would satisfy their future preferences. This also solves problems to do with unborn lives: you don’t intrinsically value them, so you aren’t compelled to bring trillions of people with only a slight preference for life over death into existence, but as present people have strong preferences for both the happiness of their children and the general continuation of humanity you should work to make those things happen.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            A clarification on unborn lives: Even if we don’t end up munchkinning utilitarianism by creating three trillion new people, the natural course of society is going to create some number of new people. To make up some numbers, in the year 2100, there will be ten billion people alive who have not yet been born. Do you intrinsically value those people, in the sense that we should try to make long-term societal improvements which will help them, but are too long-term to help any person currently living?

          • rlms says:

            No. I have a preference towards them being happy, and I think most people are the same. But it’s relatively weak.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Yeah, and if that counts as wireheading then I am in favor of wireheading. If all humans upload into a virtual world housed on an asteroid and launched into the empty void, where we will never interact with the rest of the universe again, I might think it very foolish but not crazy or evil. (This is similar to the utopia imagined in Diaspora). But I think FoxLisk is talking about full hedonism.

        • FoxLisk says:

          I wasn’t! I was talking about something much more like @rims’ idea. I apparently got tricked by misunderstanding the definition of wireheading when I should have stated my assumptions more explicitly.

    • CyberByte says:

      I’m most familiar with wireheading in the context of AI, and there one obvious reason it’s bad is that it’s almost certainly not what you made the AI for. If you made the AI to earn you a lot of money, and instead it hacks its reward function to just provide maximal utility no matter what it does, then you will not be getting that money.

      For whether wireheading is good for the person/entity experiencing it, I found the best resources to be wireheading.com and Wireheading Done Right (which also lists some ways to do it wrong). You may also want to look into hedonism (IEP, SEP), which is the ancient idea that pleasure and pain are the only things that matter intrinsically. There is much more literature on hedonism than on the relatively new concept of wireheading, and arguments for/against hedonism should be able to double as arguments for/against wireheading most of the time.

      • FoxLisk says:

        Thanks for the links! I’ll get to reading.

        I didn’t want to go into a ton of depth in a comment, because I wanted people to actually read it and reply, but I think that may have been an error; the wireheading situations I imagine are not particularly similar to raw hedonism or the “constant opiate high” that others have mentioned. I think part of my confusion as to why everyone agreed wireheading is obviously bad is because many people think wireheading is roughly the same as being extremely doped up, whereas I think it can be much more comprehensively done (e.g. The Matrix, only everyone is super happy instead of having to work boring day jobs)

        edit: wait, no, I very seriously doubt it *can* be done. I mean as a thought experiment, I think optimal wireheading can be much more than just an extreme version of opiate highs.

    • Skivverus says:

      So while we’re musing on the consequences of wireheading, I thought I’d muse for a bit on the definition – how complex a pattern of stimuli does it have to be – from the outside, as in “activities the wirehead pursues”, or from the inside, as in “qualia the wirehead experiences” – before it’s no longer considered wireheading?
      The objections to wireheading seem to agree that the central example is (metaphorically) monochromatic, both outside and in, which is more obviously disgusting to moral intuition (at least to mine, anyway), but also could be argued isn’t actually maximizing the happiness of the wirehead.

      • beleester says:

        If you concede that maximizing happiness doesn’t actually maximize utility, then I feel like you’re already most of the way to conceding that there could be better options for maximizing utility than a chip in the brain.

        But to answer your question, I don’t think simple variety is the answer. If the chip in your brain, instead of making you maximally happy all the time, alternated randomly between happiness and depression, I don’t think it sounds any less horrifying. If anything, it sounds even worse – at least the blissed-out guy is happy in some sense, the other guy is just getting his emotions yanked around at random.

        For me, a key abhorrent part of wireheading is that it’s basically mind control. Rather than helping you satisfy your desires, it basically just replaces them with other desires that are easier to satisfy, namely, “sit here with this chip in your head and do nothing.”

        If you were able to stop wireheading any time you wanted (and in a meaningful way, not in the way that a heroin addict can quit any time), then I would probably stop considering it wireheading.

        • Matt M says:

          Rather than helping you satisfy your desires, it basically just replaces them with other desires that are easier to satisfy

          Couldn’t this be said about many forms of therapy and treatments for various psychological disorders as well?

    • beleester says:

      Is there an argument for anything being a good or bad outcome? I don’t think you need to justify an aversion to wireheading beyond “I think it’s horrifying,” just like you don’t need to justify your desire for happiness beyond “I like being happy.”

    • Devin Weaver says:

      As I see it, the problem with wireheading is identical to the problem with the leader of a country surrounding himself with sychophantic yes-men; sure, it feels nice to be told how you’re right all the time, but it causes you to ignore all the Problems.

      The fear is that, if the whole planet’s hooked on wireheading, and a giant asteroid starts heading towards the Earth, we’ll all choose to keep wireheading instead of building a rocket to get off the planet, thus causing Planetary Extinction.

  15. Well... says:

    Apple tech support question, asking here because y’all are smart and trend computer savvy while Apple support is crap. Maybe someone’s had this problem or could help me troubleshoot it:

    I have a mid-2014 Macbook Pro. For the first time 2 days ago, my integrated trackpad stopped working; it became completely unresponsive, right in the middle of me doing something. I couldn’t move the cursor, couldn’t scroll, couldn’t click, nothing. I hadn’t downloaded any new software, nor media from any source unknown to me personally. I hadn’t updated any software when this started either, though I completed a round of OSX updates last night thinking maybe that would fix the problem. (It didn’t.)

    If my computer goes to sleep, when I wake it up my trackpad works again for maybe a few minutes, then goes back to being dead. More recently I discovered if I press the Tab key rapidly a bunch of times, I sometimes get my trackpad back–but again, only for a minute or two. Sometimes right before I lose the trackpad altogether, its performance cuts in and out a bit.

    After a couple days of trying to muddle through with the Accessibility keys, I went out and bought a cheap corded mouse. That’s a temporary fix; what’s a permanent one? Is this a software problem or a hardware problem? Do I need to crack the laptop open and clean something off? Reinstall some file somewhere? Or am I screwed unless I purchase a new part?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’d suspect the battery. It can expand and cause the trackpad not to work. Usually this involves a large drop in battery capacity though. Definitely sounds like a hardware problem.

    • neciampater says:

      I’m an IT consultant and I see this all the time. The flex cable connecting the track pad to the motherboard goes right over the battery and any battery movement makes it disconnect.

      If you have the tools, opening up the back is easy and the first cable you see is it.

      Go to Apple support and put in your serial number and send it in for $400 is the only other option. It’s an issue they’re aware of.

      • Well... says:

        Thanks.

        If the connection is loose that would explain why the trackpad comes and goes…but it doesn’t explain why the trackpad works for a few minutes when I come back from sleep or when I hit Tab a bunch of times. Or hopefully it does, but in a way I don’t understand.

        I’ll borrow my friend’s Apple screwdriver and take the back off and see if that works.

        • neciampater says:

          Once you open it, notice how any slight pressure on the battery side of the ribbon connector makes the other side pop, like a see-saw.

          I think once it sleeps, it equalizes and works until more battery swelling. I tried a shim, electrical tape, and duct tape, but nothing worked for more than 3 months…

  16. Bruce Beegle says:

    DavidFriedman,

    I finished Tom Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, after reading your comment in Open Thread 71.25. In that comment, you said:

    I stopped part way through because it was convincing me of things I didn’t want to believe.

    What were the things that you didn’t want to believe that it was convincing about?

  17. paranoidaltoid says:

    One of the more popular posts on this blog was “Hardball questions for GOP nominees”.

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/11/16/hardball-questions-for-the-next-debate/

    The question for Jeb Bush made the point “What are the odds that the son of a former president happens to be the best man for the job out of 300 million citizens?” Even if he had great coaching from a young age, and good genes, using very optimistic assumptions, it still comes out to be quite unlikely. Almost as if, I don’t know, politics isn’t actually merit-based and having some sort of fame or brand recognition counts for more than almost every other factor.

    While that does seem to be the case, I realized something interesting about quarterbacks. Peyton Manning is one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time, drafted first overall. His quarterback brother Eli was drafted 1st overall. His father Archie, 2nd overall.

    This is just like Bush Senior, Bush Junior, and Jeb (ignoring the fact that Jeb lost, and probably only would have gone 4th overall tops, if elections worked like drafts.) Yet, we know that unlike politics, football actually is merit based, since scouts have objective stats to back up their decisions, and GMs have real incentives to pick the right man.

    I still think it’s pretty clear that fame matters more than merit in politics, and the main reason presidential candidates are so bad is because you’re not selecting the best out of a pool of 300 million, but the best out of a pool of a dozen people who happen to famous enough to get a campaign started. But football pretty much does pick the best out of 300 million, since almost every American has a chance to play football as a teenager and show their merit. Yet, the Manning dynasty still exists. This has interesting implications for the power of genes and early-opportunities.

    • Matt M says:

      People are probably more willing to concede that athletic ability is inheritable through genetics than things like intelligence and charisma… for various reasons

    • rlms says:

      I don’t think sports do pick the best of the entire pool of people who might play them. Innate talent matters, but so does actually trying to make it in a sport. So Peyton isn’t the best out of 300 million in raw skill, he’s the best out of 300 million in a combination of skill, coaching, and attempting to become a professional quarterback. That seems a lot less likely.

      Related thought about genetics: women are majorly outperformed by men in sports such as hockey, football (original), and tennis, and this is often claimed to be almost completely due to genetics. But in the Oxford vs Cambridge boat races last week, the winning womens’ time was actually faster than the winning mens’ time last year. This isn’t fantastically impressive, because weather conditions effect times between years a lot. But it still seems like a very small margin for a sport that should have a huge genetic gender difference, as (as far as I know) it’s completely based on strength and endurance rather than trainable skill. But if you look at the pool of people in serious consideration for different sports, it makes sense. For cultural reasons, far more men than women consider trying to become professional footballers, so male teams are much better. But university boat race teams draw largely from students who decide to take up rowing, which should be a much more gender-balanced group.

      • JayT says:

        I believe weight plays a big role in rowing, so perhaps the women have a better strength to weight ratio?

      • Chalid says:

        Weather matters a lot in rowing, much more so than in most other sports. Obviously wind can slow you down (or speed you up) by directly pushing on you. But also it makes the water choppier. It’s much easier to row in flat water than in choppy water – every time your oar slices through a wave it directly slows the boat down and also screws up your synchronization with the rest of the crew. And in general it makes bladework more difficult.

        There’s also skill involved both at the individual level and at the crew level. Certainly strength and endurance matter more, relative to skill, than in sports like say basketball, but you can’t just throw strong people in a boat and expect them to go fast.

        If you’re looking for a measure of rower strength and endurance you probably want to look at indoor rowing times. There’s no weather, and skill matters much less (a strong athlete with little experience *can* sit down on a rowing machine and do well). In 2016 the winning man did 2000 meters in 5:45 and the winning woman did the same distance in 6:43. For men, 6:43 is the kind of time a good high-schooler can do.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The problem there, though, is that body weight has little or no effect on erg (indoor rowing) times, so heavier people do go faster. The difference between men and women is still there if you look at on-water events in similar conditions.

          For instance, at the 2015 World Championships (I picked that year as 2016 was weird because Olympics), the finals of the men’s and women’s eights were held 45 minutes apart so conditions were probably near-identical. The winning men’s crew took 5:36, the winning women’s crew took 6:06.

          The difference seen in the Boat Races was almost entirely due to weather conditions. Conditions this year were near-perfect, while last year they were so bad that the Cambridge women’s crew almost sank (the men’s crews, being larger and heavier and rowing in larger boats, dealt with them better but were still slowed down). You can see a huge amount of variation in the winning time, in fact one larger than the difference you’d expect to see between women’s and men’s crews.

          A final interesting data point are the lightweight men. They are on average lighter than top-level women’s rowers (though probably with a higher percentage of muscle as they’ve had to cut weight to compete), but their times are closer to those of the much larger open-weight men. At the same 2015 championships, the winning lightweight men’s eight took 5:39 to complete the course.

          And, again, on the erg which doesn’t take into account the rower’s weight, the difference between lightweight and open-weight men is much greater. The open-weight men’s 2k record is 5:37, the lightweight is 5:57, the open-weight women’s record is 6:25 (and held by someone who is significantly heavier than the limit for lightweight men).

    • gbdub says:

      For all it’s physicality, football is a very technical and complex sport,
      particularly at the quarterback position. Having a pro for a dad and coach is probably good enough to have you excel at the high school level with even average athleticism.

      If you have that level of coaching AND get the right physical tools (which are certainly heritable), you have a mich better than average shot at being a star.

      • Matt M says:

        But the question is – why wouldn’t this be true for politics as well?

        Consider: Jeb and George W had a pro for a dad and a coach, which should probably be good enough to get them to the state legislature or wherever. If you have that level of coaching AND the right social tools (which are probably heritable), you have a much better than average shot at being a presidential candidate.

        • gbdub says:

          To be clear, I do agree – and with Bush you’re right, name alone (and the connections that go with it) would be more than enough to get him elected somewhere.

          So I guess I was saying that sports may be more “merit” based, but “famous dad” has a role in making you more meritable even from an objective standard.

          It doesn’t get you all the way though – it’s fairly common to see a kid with a famous name be an excellent player through high school due to their superior technique and football smarts, but then be a career backup in college because they just never get big/strong/fast enough, and now all their competitors are well coached too.

          I wonder how well that applies to sports less technical and with less specialization than football – is there a basketball equivalent to the Mannings or Harbaughs? Not to say that there’s no place in the NBA for “technicians” or role players, but the athletic floor for stardom seems higher, and the variety of successful body types is smaller.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not a huge basketball guy, but I believe Isiah Thomas’ son is considered a pretty good and significant player in the NBA right now.

            Edit: Hockey also has famously old examples such as Bobby and Bret Hull, current examples such as Zach Parise (whose father was an NHL player), and a whole lot of high-profile rookies this year who are the sons of former players.

          • gbdub says:

            I forgot about hockey, which you’re right has some great examples of family dynasties. Hockey though is enough of a niche sport that having a relative that played is going to have a significant impact on whether you get involved in the sport in the first place, so it probably skews toward dynasties.

            I suspect that the NBA is more likely to be picking from the whole population of potentially excellent basketball players (at least in the US), while there are probably a lot of athletes that could be great hockey players but never put in skates or never have access to a rink (if this were not true, you’d expect the NHL to be less white and less Canadian).

          • Eltargrim says:

            @gbdub: I do believe I have a patriotic duty to check you into the boards at this point. Niche? Peh.

            I think you’re 100% on point as to your conclusion, though. Hockey has substantial pre-selection as to who plays, strongly biased towards Canadians. I think it’s even worse than a geographic bias, though. Even when there’s easily accessible rinks and roads, proper ice hockey has a huge capital expenditure in every age range. Furthermore, the pressure to start seriously practicing hockey starts early, with training camps available for the sufficiently hopeful, skilled, and wealthy.

            So instead of selecting for basically anyone who can get time with a ball, you’re now selecting for people in a winter climate with significant wealth. That’s going to skew white, and it’s going to have a middle-class floor. With that much selection pressure, it’s not at all surprising to get dynasties.

          • gbdub says:

            Hey I love hockey and wish it was more popular. But there’s no getting around that it’s dwarfed by football and basketball.

            So maybe hockey is analogous to politics: the cost of entry is so high that most of the non-connected or non-serious don’t even try. Everybody shoots hoops on the playground – there’s a good chance the best will get noticed by somebody and end up on a team. Neither hockey nor politics really has equivalent casual participation.

          • Iain says:

            The reigning two-time MVP of the NBA is the son of a former NBA player, and his brother also plays. Here’s a Wikipedia list of other second-generation NBA players.

            (That said, the equivalent NHL list is more impressive, so the broader point stands. The Sutters, for example, have no NBA equivalent.)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “I wonder how well that applies to sports less technical and with less specialization than football”

            Sumo is technical, but very unspecialized.

            Wakanohana III and Takanohana II were both Yokozunae (Sumo’s highest rank), sons of an Ozeki (Sumo’s second highest rank), and nephews of another Yokozuna.

            To put this in perspective, at any moment there are 600+ sumo wrestlers. There have now been 32 Yokozuna promotions since the formation of the Yokozuna deliberation council (to pick them) in 1950. The odds of becoming a Yokozuna are less than 1/100.

            The current waning Dai-Yokozuna (Hakuho, a badass with the most tournament championships of any wrestler) is himself the son of a 6-times Mongolian wrestling champion (placing him fourth place in the all-time list).

  18. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Test. Am I benned?

  19. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    What is the motivation behind a relatively isolated deployment of chemical weapons, like the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack? I’d get the idea behind gassing all the rebel towns, but why one of them? I know there have been other attacks, but it doesn’t seem like enough to be a significant part of an overall strategy.

    Was there someone in the town that Assad really wanted dead? Or is it to try to make people afraid of supporting rebels? Or maybe it’s a trial for the possibility of a mass deployment?

    • Protagoras says:

      There is very little that weakens a regime more than being perceived as a pawn of foreign powers, and regimes will go to great lengths and do many things that look very stupid by any other standard in order to avoid creating that perception. So if I had to guess, probably the biggest motivation is to try to signal that Assad doesn’t care about world opinion. Since he actually does care about world opinion, doing it on a large scale would go too far, but he hopes that given the most recent shifts in the winds he can get away with the small demonstration.

    • John Schilling says:

      Given the small scale of the attack and the general chaos of the war, I wouldn’t rule out someone finding a pallet of poorly-labeled shells in a forgotten bunker and asking nothing more than “do they fit my howitzer”? We saw that happen with e.g. insurgents in Iraq, with leftover chemical weapons from the 1980s, so while it may not be the most likely explanation it is worth trying to pin it down before e.g. bombing a bunch of Russians.

      • it is worth trying to pin it down before e.g. bombing a bunch of Russians.

        Too late now. Our impulsive president has acted.

        • One Name May Hide Another says:

          I’m hoping he didn’t actually bomb a bunch of Russians. At least Pentagon stated Russian forces were notified in advance…

        • Leit says:

          There’s a fair contingent of SSC readers who like to talk about how they don’t see criticisms of Trump nearly so much as defenses, so let’s give them some confirmation fodder; I’d like to hear a cogent explanation of what the hell that idiot is thinking.

          Seriously, and apparently firing off his volley during a dinner with the Chinese president? That’s some Ernst Stavro Blofeld level subtlety, there.

          • Randy M says:

            Can’t help you there.

          • Civilis says:

            As the token somewhat neo-con, I can at least try to put together a defense. Personally, I’m thinking the strike was a hasty, potentially bad idea, but I can see the other side here, especially as one of the foreign policy beliefs I hold is “normalizing the use of chemical weapons is a very, very, very bad idea”. I haven’t given this much thought, but my gut instinct is I’d rather have Iran with a nuclear arsenal than chemical weapons use normalized.

            As in any case, there are a lot of factors to be considered: what the public thinks happened, what the US intelligence community thinks happened, what actually happened, the relationship between the US and the Assad regime, between the US and Russia, between the US and the Syrian rebels, between the US political parties, between the presidency and the US military and intelligence community, etc. There’s also a lot we don’t know, most importantly what the US intelligence community thinks happened and what Trump told Putin before the strike. For this discussion, I’m assuming the US intelligence community is certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the attack happened as described. (I’ve seen a lot of amateur ‘experts’ commenting that the attack was fake; none of the reasons sound convincing. It could be a very well done fake, but I presume the real experts have better reasons than I do.)

            These are the things the US wants, not in weighted order:
            1. Peace in the Middle East.
            2. Freedom and democracy for all.
            3. Minimize cost and risk to US.
            All of those are good. All of those come at a risk to other things on that list. We can rephrase them as:
            1. No pictures of dead kids in the news.
            2. No stories about horrible oppression in the news.
            3. No pictures of US flag draped coffins in the news.
            Letting the chemical attack stand endangers directly the first two goals from a conservative perspective (and, as someone that believes chemical weapons are bad, in the long term encouraging their development endangers the third). Measures short of military action have had no effect on stopping Assad from using a chemical attack, therefore a military response was necessary. The minimum military response that should deter Assad would be to destroy something with more value to Assad than the terror advantage he gets from using the chemical weapons. Making the attack without hesitating shows that the US isn’t a slave to fickle public opinion, and strongly suggests we’re willing to repeat the process.

            At this point, best case scenario is: Trump called Putin, said something like “we know Assad did this, I have to draw the line. This time, we’re just wrecking an airfield, and not one with any Russian presence. Assad needs to know that if he uses chemical weapons, the cost won’t be worth whatever benefits he gets. Keep him reigned in and we won’t need to repeat the lesson.” Putin replies with something like “I don’t like this, but I’m not going to war over it. Just know I’m going to raise a stink in public to preserve my relations with Assad.” So far, what we’ve seen is not inconsistent with this scenario.

          • gbdub says:

            Does Assad use his Air Force for anything other than terrorizing civilians? It seems like Russians are hitting all the military targets and Syrians are mostly dropping barrel bimbos and now nerve gas.

            So from that perspective, a focused strike on an asset Assad is mostly using for anti-civilian warfare might make sense. There are some obvious parallels to the no-fly zone enforcement strikes Clinton launched in the 90s, although at least in that case our relationship with Saddam was more clear (we dislike you and would rather you dead, but we’ll mostly leave you alone if you stay in line).

            And of course Hillary explicitly endorsed a similar policy (targeted strikes against Assad’s air assets) mere hours before the Tomahawks started landing.

            So I suspect this is less “cowboy Trump” than a policy certain Washington/military advisors have supported for a while and were just looking for an excuse to implement (and weren’t allowed to under Obama, but would have been under Clinton).

            Not sure if that counts as a defense but it’s the best I can do.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @leit

            I’d like to hear a cogent explanation of what the hell that idiot is thinking.

            Not my analysis, but the right-leaning quarters I frequent seem to be converging on two possibilities on this. In both, they note, like gbdub and Trofim_Lysenko in this thread, that this looks like “a return to form”, with Trump caving to “a policy certain Washington/military advisors have supported for a while and were just looking for an excuse to implement”, and which is similar to policies Mrs. Clinton endorsed. The main divergence in the theories is why.

            The first theory is basically that this is another bit of “3d chess”, whereby he makes this concession to his internal enemies (in a way which also pushes people on the “let’s not fight Russia” bandwagon, as FacelessCraven notes), so as to draw out those enemies into the open, by making them think they’ve won, so that their names can be put on a list for future action — theories for said action ranging from ‘publicly disgracing them all for lying’ by revealing the gas attacks to be a false-flag, to ‘”helicopter rides” in the inevitable Caesarist autocoup by Trump, inevitable because it’s a matter of literal survival for Trump, because if the Left ever retakes power, the entire Trump family will end up like the Romanovs: literally slaughtered down to the last child by murderous Leftists.’

            The second theory is that Trump cares about, and is trying to seek, increased status/esteem from the New York elites (wanting “to be loved and praised on the news networks and SNL”), and, failing to grasp the existential nature of the struggle in Sovietized Washington politics, he is ‘c**king out to enemies who will not be appeased by anything short of his literal destruction, that he is “looking for love and praise in the wrong places, as the Romanovs did”, meaning that he and his family will certainly end up like the Romanovs: literally slaughtered down to the last child by murderous Leftists.’

          • Matt M says:

            Another theory I’ve heard is that this is the logical outcome of an internal power struggle, wherein the Bannon camp (which has fallen out of favor) favored non-intervention, while the Kirschner camp (who gains influence at Bannon’s expense) supports it.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons then bombing the airbase was not an idiotic move. It was a measured sign of strength. If Assad wasn’t responsible then we just bombed an airfield for no reason.

          • Iain says:

            Unpack “measured sign of strength”. What does it mean? Who is the intended recipient of this sign? What is your envisioned endgame in Syria? What happens if Assad uses chemical weapons again? Does the US bomb another airbase? What happens if Russia objects?

            At the end of the day, Assad is still one of Russia’s most important clients, and they are not going to allow him to be overthrown without a fight. Independently (and deeply unfortunately), Assad may also be the least bad realistic option for Syrian leadership.

            Whether or not something counts as an “idiotic move” depends heavily on what it is intended to accomplish. Signaling strength is pointless unless it is being done in pursuit of a goal. What do you think the goal is here? Does this airstrike align itself with that goal?

            There is this weird unstated assumption in foreign policy discussion that if the US can simply demonstrate its strength forcefully enough, a bunch of foreign actors will magically fall into line. This does make it easy to come up with an opinion without having to do the boring work of evaluating the options and incentives of the various relevant actors, but the downside of being consistently wrong. I’d like to think we can do better.

          • Civilis says:

            There is this weird unstated assumption in foreign policy discussion that if the US can simply demonstrate its strength forcefully enough, a bunch of foreign actors will magically fall into line.

            It’s odd, as I’ve never seen anything that looks like this assumption in play. If anything, the assumption seems to be that the United States has the state equivalent of attention deficit disorder, and will eventually get bored or frustrated and go away if you stall long enough.

            It could be that these are two sides of the same coin, with the side you describe as thinking “the US is strong enough to do anything if we would just not get bored”. You have a point that we need to take that into consideration when debating the use of strength. The problem is that your position sounds too much like “we’re never going to succeed, so why try to use our strength for anything?”

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s odd, as I’ve never seen anything that looks like this assumption in play.

            I’ve seen something like twenty years of this assumption in play w/re North Korea, losing every time. Each new administration says, “North Korea better get rid of the nukes, Or Else. China better make North Korea get rid of the nukes, Or Else. This time it’s different. This time, we’re going to have a New Approach. This time, listen to our Strong Language when we say that they are not going to get away with the crap they got away with under the wimpy old president. We are Mighty and we are Resolute and so China and North Korea will do what we say because this time they know that we mean it, Or Else”.

            Same damn thing, every time. We don’t get bored and frustrated and go away, neither do we actually do anything except posture and demonstrate our strength.

          • Civilis says:

            I think we’re at different definitions of strength. Strength is power, the ability to do something. Political power is the ability to make change. By definition, posturing and strong language aren’t demonstrating your strength. Many species of animals, when threatened, will do something to make themselves look big and make loud, threatening noises; that’s the animal equivalent of posturing and strong language. It doesn’t actually make them strong. We’re big and have muscles, but when someone opposes us, our gut reaction is to spend a lot of time puffing ourselves up and making threatening noises.

            North Korea is a small animal with an incredibly hard shell. We’re not strong enough to crack it, even with our size. And the North Koreans know this; they know we’re bluffing. You pointed out why in an earlier thread. They know all we can do is posture. But Iran’s shell is weaker than North Korea’s, and Assad’s shell is weaker than Iran’s, yet since all we do is posture, it doesn’t matter that they might be less intractable problems than North Korea.

            [Edited to add:] Not being omniscient, I don’t know that attacking Assad was the right thing to do, and I’m glad I’m not making the decision. I just find myself annoyed at people complaining about solving things with strength is destined to fail when we both never really use it and so much of what else we try fails. I’m more concerned that the US keeps giving up and so the default solution has been ‘never try anything’ coupled with a crippling guilt afterwards that we should have done something.

          • John Schilling says:

            Strength is power, the ability to do something. Political power is the ability to make change. By definition, posturing and strong language aren’t demonstrating your strength.

            And ordering someone to launch a bunch of cruise missiles is “strength”? What is the “change” that that makes?

            It kills a few dozen to a few hundred Syrian soliders. Beyond that, cruise missile strikes don’t change anything. They really don’t. There are military interventions that do change things, but they involve far more than cruise missiles. The cruise missiles kill some people blow up some stuff the real enemy can do without, and don’t ever stop him from doing more of whatever it was that pissed you off enough to launch cruise missiles.

            As a “demonstration of strength”, what is the difference you see between flying a B-1 over Korea and saying “no more nukes, Or Else!”, and launching cruise missiles at Syria and saying “no more nerve gas, Or Else!”, really? The latter kills some people, is all. It’s still posturing.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John Schilling

            Surely bombing the airfield where the (alleged) planes responsible for the gas attack came from is a more credible threat than military excercises? North Korea knows that these military exercises don’t mean we’re going to attack so they don’t mean anything. But directly attacking Syria sends a clear message: stop using chemical weapons or there will be serious consequences. The fact that we’re willing to kill over it is incredibly important. I don’t know why you think otherwise.

          • Civilis says:

            As a “demonstration of strength”, what is the difference you see between flying a B-1 over Korea and saying “no more nukes, Or Else!”, and launching cruise missiles at Syria and saying “no more nerve gas, Or Else!”, really? The latter kills some people, is all. It’s still posturing.

            We don’t know yet if Assad’s still willing to use chemical weapons. If he doesn’t use more, then we’ve won. If we’re willing to put more into it than he is, it’s not posturing. It’s our choice whether or not we have the willpower to carry through with our promise. (It is admittedly complicated now by Russia’s involvement, but that depends on what Russia wants, which is not identical to what Assad wants.)

            At this point, the US government has almost no credibility in it’s threats or promises. Because of that, our ability to change things (our political power) is low. Changing that is going to require keeping our promises and carrying out our threats. Saying “we’ve never carried out our threats in the past, why start now?” is kicking the can down the road.

            The fact that we’re willing to kill over it is incredibly important. I don’t know why you think otherwise.

            We’ve been willing to kill before and have ended up blinking. As long as Assad believes his power is safe, he’s got no direct pressure to blink. That we’re willing to kill a few airmen means nothing. My hope is that making using chemical weapons more expensive than advantageous makes it a losing move to do it again, but so far we’re not a threat to Assad. He’s already gotten the fear generated by his use of the weapons, he could decide to back down, as there’s seemingly no military advantage to using them beyond the terror effect. Backing down might let him get away with merely bombing the civilians with an ‘at least I’m not gassing them’.

          • John Schilling says:

            Surely bombing the airfield where the (alleged) planes responsible for the gas attack came from is a more credible threat than military excercises? […] directly attacking Syria sends a clear message: stop using chemical weapons or there will be serious consequences.

            The way directly bombing Al Qaeda bases in Afganistan sent a clear message: stop launching terrorist attacks against the United States or there will be serious consequences? Oops.

            The way directly bombing WMD facilities in Iraq sent the clear message, “Give unrestricted access to UN inspectors, or there will be serious consequences”? Yeah, right.

            The way directly bombing terrorist sites in Yemen sent a clear message: stop launching terrorist attacks against the United States or there will be serious consequences? Wait, wait, I’ve heard this one before.

            The fact that we’re willing to kill over it is incredibly important. I don’t know why you think otherwise.

            Because the willingness of politicians to kill little people far away, when there is no risk to them, isn’t important. It is pretty much a given once you know someone is a politician. And the sort of killing done by cruise missiles, unless it is a decapitation or SEAD strike, is always and only the killing of little people that the leaders on both sides don’t care about, done with minimum risk even if that means minimum effects.

            We could have launched a cruise missile strike to kill Bashar al Assad, or at least tried. As always, we didn’t. Killing world leaders is dangerous. Killing little people is safe.

            And cruise missile strikes, as actually practiced in the real world, are a demonstration of weakness, not of strength. They demonstrate that you aren’t willing to do the things that could make a difference.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The thing is Assad doesn’t even need to use chemical weapons. They’re completely superfluous. If the United States is going to bomb him every time he uses them, what’s the point? We don’t need to overthrow him to show we are serious. It’s not necessarily one or the other.

            If Assad uses a chemical attack after this I’ll my eat words. But I don’t think that will happen. We’ll see.

          • John Schilling says:

            If Assad uses a chemical attack after this I’ll my eat words. But I don’t think that will happen. We’ll see.

            Assad overtly used chemical weapons about once every three years before we did the cruise missile things; I wouldn’t be surprised if his behavior on that front remains unchanged. Or maybe the Russians will tell him to knock it off already, and he’ll hut up the Russians for some cluster bombs to use instead.

            Get back to me in three years or so and we’ll compare notes. In the meantime, Trump will be claiming victory and ordinary Syrians will be dying by the thousands.

          • 1soru1 says:

            The point about chemical weapons is they are WWI technology, so can be manufactured locally much easier than any other form of WMD. Which means, now Assad is in a stronger position in the war, much less need for Russian support. He can probably see himself buying weapons for cash rather than promises, or even going the full North Korea and having a domestic arms industry capable of oppressing the populace that mans it.

            Trump just reminded him why Russian support is still necessary; it is possible he even did it on his own initiative.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          While impulsive, and a hard 180 from his comments supporting Obama’s decision to back down from his “red line” talk and threat against Assad, this is more of a return to form than a wild departure as far as US policy goes. We have a bipartisan fondness for bombing raids and cruise missile strikes, though with a few exceptions like the Balkans and the attacks supporting and enforcing the No-Fly Zones in Iraq they have mostly been in retaliation for -American- casualties.

          What’s interesting to me is that if anything this is the sort of military response I would expect if we had Hilary Clinton in office, though perhaps not so quick on the trigger, and that goes back to my core assessment of Trump:

          -He is mercurial, and undependable. This is pretty much exactly in the line of Obama/Clinton interventionist foreign policy, not his “America First” talk, just executed more brashly.

          -He’s still got more in common with the Democrat’s establishment views than most people give him credit for, and this strengthens my belief that the conservatives who voted for him are going to start feeling more and more buyer’s remorse over the next four years.

          For my personal on this, it’s much like Wrong Species’, though I think there’s something to be said for erring on the side of punitive measures when someone ostensibly submits to inspection and destruction of their chemical weapons and then turns out to use them a few years later. John Schilling’s point about an unlikely but possible accident IS possible (we ran into that in our AOR in Iraq in 2003, though we were never sure if it was an accident or not)…but I think largely irrelevant. In this context, “oops” doesn’t cut it.

          That said, I sure as hell hope that this is not as impulsive and hasty as it is being spun in the media and that there was sufficient intelligence preparation to:

          A) be reasonably certain what happened with the chemical attacks.

          B) be confident of the effectiveness of the airstrike.

          C) avoid killing Russian personnel even -without- warning them, because:

          D) I cannot imagine Russia NOT taking that warning and immediately passing it on to Syria. That being the case, I’m curious to see if we did anything more than give some hardened hangars a new sun roof and crater a couple runways…

          • Iain says:

            He’s still got more in common with the Democrat’s establishment views than most people give him credit for, and this strengthens my belief that the conservatives who voted for him are going to start feeling more and more buyer’s remorse over the next four years.

            The word “Democrat” is unnecessary here. As you say, there is a bipartisan establishment fondness for “solving” problems with missiles. Clinton would have done the same thing, but Obama might not have, given his previous willingness to back down from his poorly considered “red line” rhetoric. I think most of the Republican candidates would have been the same, with Rand Paul as the likely exception. This is not an issue limited to one side of the aisle.

            (I also think anybody who truly believed that Donald Trump would be restrained in his use of military force as president was either not paying enough attention or willfully blind.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Iain, to be clear I was saying that his actions on this specific question (which, while bipartisan, is also notably closer to Hilary’s own stated position and away from recent Republican rhetoric if not from their past conduct under Reagan and the Bushes), reinforces my belief that he will follow policies closer to the Democratic Party establishment in other areas (with the possible exception of immigration and I’m not even sure there, long term).

          • Iain says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko: I disagree on both counts.

            First, I question your assertion that the Republicans haven’t been equally eager to bomb Syria. For example, look at anything that has ever come out of John McCain’s mouth. (One recent example. That article also cites Lindsey Graham and Mac Thornberry, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in case you were going to argue that McCain was an exception.)

            Second, I don’t see any logical connection between bombing Syria and any domestic policy issue. It seems pretty obvious at this point that Trump does not have strong policy opinions (or even knowledge), and tends to go along with what the people around him suggest. That’s why he supported Paul Ryan’s Obamacare repeal plan, despite its glaring contradictions with pretty much everything Trump ever said on the campaign trail about health care. What makes you think he is suddenly going to start listening to Democrats?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Iain

            I’ve noted that there are GOP voices who have switched back to being hawkish on Syria now that Obama is out, but they were pretty consistently opposed (and so was Trump, for that matter) from 2013-16 and while I’m happy to chalk some of that up to “I’m against whatever the Democats are for”, I think that there is a good sized contingent now who have become a bit more skeptical of interventions where there isn’t a clear gain for the US. It’s more than just the hold-outs like Rand Paul.

            Now, I actually agree with your assessment that Trump doesn’t have much in the way of policy chops, and is going to be led in at least some policy areas by his advisors. However, I DO think that he has more in common culturally and socially with Establishment Democrats than some of his critics (and almost all of his supporters) believe, and I think that those commonalities are going to influence him as well. I don’t think it’s so much a case of “listening to Democrats” in policy meetings so much as the decades and decades he spent surrounded by, friendly with, and listening to Democrats prior to his political career. I’ve never believed the man had many (if any) political principles, but cultural environment affects how you think and how you frame your beliefs and actions, and despite his supposed newfound populism I think that if you scratch the surface he has a lot more in common with a Kerry, Clinton, or Kennedy than even a McCain, much less a Bush.

            That said, I will admit that the 2015-16 election cycle has burnt me out pretty badly, and as a result I have not been following the inside baseball political news nearly as closely as I used to. That being the case, it’s possible that my mental map of the respective establishments is out of date. The performance of the Libertarian Party this year and the enthusiastic backing of Trump by the GOP have pretty much convinced me that “all is lost” (to steal a line from Kevin C., I think it was) for my personal political principles.

          • Iain says:

            In case you are still reading, Trofim_Lysenko: 538 has been tracking the responses of the Senate. Looking at those numbers, it’s hard to make the case that bombing Syria is a Democratic stance. There were exactly three Republican senators who did not support the strikes; to a rough approximation, it really is “just the hold-outs like Rand Paul”. (I give Rand Paul quite a bit of credit for this, by the way.)

            I continue to believe that claims of meaningful cultural affinity between Trump and Democrats are in desperate need of evidence less than a decade old.

      • John Schilling says:

        Back when it wasn’t clear that Trump was going to be the next POTUS and our host argued that maybe we should consider as an issue the bit where Trump was more likely to start a nuclear war, I offered the dissenting opinion that while Trump was more likely to start a nuclear war with North Korea (which would be bad), Hillary was more likely to start a nuclear war with Russia (which would be much much worse).

        OK, so, uh, I might have been wrong about that? My bad.

        Trump’s new Syria policy strikes me as either pointless or dangerous. It looks like we didn’t actually bomb any Russians, but we did annoy them. If it stops here, there’s little chance of a big war, but there’s also little chance of anything but a few sound bites of Trump Looking Strong And Decisive. Zero chance of Assad stepping down or being deposed because of this, or of the civil war ending or diminishing in its lethality. Which, if anyone notices, makes Trump look maybe not so strong or dangerous after all.

        If, on the other hand, we continue along the current path, that does greatly increase the odds of Americans and Russians shooting at one another. Russia has already announced an expansion of its air defense network in Syria, and the Syrians for their part will likely put their more contentious assets and operations under those air defenses and/or in close proximity to Russian meat shields. At least I haven’t heard anyone calling for a no-fly zone, yet.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @John Schilling – “Trump’s new Syria policy strikes me as either pointless or dangerous. It looks like we didn’t actually bomb any Russians, but we did annoy them. If it stops here, there’s little chance of a big war, but there’s also little chance of anything but a few sound bites of Trump Looking Strong And Decisive.”

          I disagree. There’s also a 100% chance of the press and public discovering that pissing off Russia is a bad thing and we shouldn’t do it, which seemed a well-nigh impossible achievement as recently as two days ago. In the counterfactual world where Trump doesn’t order a missile strike, what do the headlines look like today? Something something Putin’s puppet does nothing while kids are gassed, would be my guess.

          Overwhelming strike against a single target. Done with missiles rather than airstrikes, so no US assets at risk, so much less of a chance of our units getting sucked into an escalation due to enemy action. Fairly minimal casualties on the other end, no Russians killed. Putin is making angry noises, but hasn’t actually taken any offensive action back. I would certainly prefer no missile strikes, but the panic going on now is pretty hilarious given the rhetoric we were getting a few months ago.

          [EDIT] – I predict no further escalation, this all blows over, and we end up on better terms with Russia than we had before the strikes within, say, three months.

          Meanwhile, I welcome all the shiny new faces to the “let’s not fight Russia” bandwagon.

          • Matt M says:

            Meanwhile, I welcome all the shiny new faces to the “let’s not fight Russia” bandwagon.

            This is definitely the silver lining here. The Allied Anti-Trump Forces (the left & the neocons) are now forced to shift from “The best way to oppose Trump is to demand war with Russia!” to “The best way to oppose Trump is to denounce war with Russia!” This, at the very least, should be a positive outcome – minus the risk that Trump now adopts the “I should go to war with Russia” position solely to spite his enemies.

          • John Schilling says:

            I disagree. There’s also a 100% chance of the press and public also discovering that pissing off Russia is a bad thing

            [EDIT] – I predict no further escalation, this all blows over, and we end up on better terms with Russia than we had before the strikes

            How can you predict both of these things at the same time, and keep a straight face?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “How can you predict both of these things at the same time, and keep a straight face?”

            Because the first isn’t really a prediction, it’s me observing Hillary supporters now talking about the need for caution.

            As for the later, to quote you elsewhere in the OT:

            It kills a few dozen to a few hundred Syrian soliders. Beyond that, cruise missile strikes don’t change anything. They really don’t. There are military interventions that do change things, but they involve far more than cruise missiles.

            As you noted, no calls for a No-Fly Zone as of yet, which to me means we’re still net-positive long term.

            What’s your prediction on the outcome?

          • John Schilling says:

            As you noted, no calls for a No-Fly Zone as of yet, which to me means we’re still net-positive long term.

            Oh, well.

            What’s your prediction on the outcome?

            I still expect there will be no real escalation, and this will be forgotten in a month or two as more immediately newsworthy events overtake it. The Russians will offer no more than harsh language and an expanded military presence in Syria, and insofar as we won’t be bombing Syria any more that won’t be a problem.

            So, no “discovering that pissing off the Russians is a bad thing”, because it’s not a bad thing as long as you only do it in an ultimately inconsequential matter.

          • Deiseach says:

            Meanwhile, I welcome all the shiny new faces to the “let’s not fight Russia” bandwagon.

            Yes, that part did make me grump. All the “Hillary would stand up to Putin, Trump is a Russian puppet” commentary now swinging right round to “this is hasty, unconsidered action, this is Trump being his usual distractable toddler self, who wants to risk all-out conflict with Russia?”

            So do you want Trump to stand up to Russia or be nice to Russia? Please make up your mind.

            If it stops here, there’s little chance of a big war, but there’s also little chance of anything but a few sound bites of Trump Looking Strong And Decisive

            Honestly? I (cynically) think that’s all most Western politicians care about – what effect the action will have on their home bases, their constituency, their own country. Obama, Clinton, Trump, Bush, the French, the Germans, whoever – ordering drone/missile/air strikes makes me look Tough and Decisive and Doing Something, so what if it leaves Syria/Iraq/Libya in a hell of a state because we’re not following through?

          • cassander says:

            @Deiseach

            Honestly? I (cynically) think that’s all most Western politicians care about – what effect the action will have on their home bases, their constituency, their own country. Obama, Clinton, Trump, Bush, the French, the Germans, whoever – ordering drone/missile/air strikes makes me look Tough and Decisive and Doing Something, so what if it leaves Syria/Iraq/Libya in a hell of a state because we’re not following through?

            It’s important to remember that american foreign policy is not about other countries. It’s about how our actions make americans feel about themselves. Perhaps other countries are like this as well, but I tend to assume that this trait is uniquely (in degree, at least) American because our status as global hegemon means no one can tell us no. Reality is never injected into foreign policy perceptions, so the debate is all about what we should do, never what we actually can do.

            This affects the way other countries see our foreign policy. I remember one statement by an, IIRC, french diplomat to the effect of “Countries often do stupid things, but they usually do them in simple ways so everyone else realizes that they’re just being stupid. The trouble with you Americans only seem to do stupid things in complicated ways which leave the rest of us scratching our heads and wondering what we’re missing.” Those other countries are assuming, implicitly, that there’s some deep calculation behind american moves, 11 dimensional geo-political chess when 9 times out of 10 we’re just responding to domestic political pressure.

            On the character of that domestic political pressure, american foreign policy debates are both extremely partisan and utterly devoid of consistent ideology. Obama can say “the 80s called, they want their foreign policy back” in 2012 and the left will cheer, and “the russians are evil bastards stealing our elections and trying to take over the world” in 2016 and the left will cheer. And the right is no better. Bush can campaigns against national building in 2000, and for the largest nation building project in history in 2004, both to right wing applause.

            No matter what the sitting president does, his party will, largely, be for it and the opposition party will be against it. The reasoning for their support/opposition will be in tribally coded language, but the response is almost entirely unthinking. There are a political actors that are philosophically consistent (John McCain supports all wars, regardless of party or circumstance) and more commentators that are such, but they usually have virtually no effect on the public debate. As someone who works professionally in foreign policy and is a public expert on the subject, I find this intellectually maddening.

          • DavidS says:

            @Deiseach: it seems to me that Obama threatened where he wouldn’t follow through, which is rarely sensible, but trump implied he wouldn’t intervene and then did which is kinda worse. If you’re willing to use american power against Assad if he does bad things, then for deterrence to work you need to make that clear.

            Main impression from this is unpredictably which I guess is both an advantage and a disadvantage diplomatically? Obviously fairly terrible democratically but that’s another issue

          • cassander says:

            @DavidS says:

            it seems to me that Obama threatened where he wouldn’t follow through, which is rarely sensible, but trump implied he wouldn’t intervene and then did which is kinda worse. If you’re willing to use american power against Assad if he does bad things, then for deterrence to work you need to make that clear.

            Threatening and folding is almost universally considered a very bad move in international affairs because it undermines all your future threats, even if you’re serious. “credibility” is much talked about, and sort of a buzzword (there’s a fantastic line in the show the brink when the defense secretary, after blowing up the wrong person, says to the president “Even knowing we were going to miss, I would still recommend we do the strike again. It shows resolve!”) but there is a real thing there, and it matters, and obama was bad about preserving it.

            By contrast, acting without telegraphing you’re going to act is not universally derided. While the basic rule of international affairs is “draw bright clear lines that you can plausibly enforce, then try to enforce them.” there are universally acknowledged problems with that approach. Drawing a bright clear line gives your opponents incentives to tiptoe up to its edge, reach across it, then say “I’m not crossing the line” (a suprising amount of geo-politics is strikingly reminiscent of children quarrelling in the back seat of a car on a long drive). A little bit of ambiguity can be a good thing, as it allows you more room to respond to actions you consider provocative without seeming to go against your own word. The trouble with ambiguity is that creating space for yourself to act also creates space for your enemies.

          • John Schilling says:

            I tend to assume that this trait is uniquely American because our status as global hegemon means no one can tell us no.

            Oh, there’s plenty of people who can tell us “no”, and get away with it for decades. There’s nobody who can make us say “yes”, which might be what you are getting at, but it isn’t quite the same thing.

            I remember one statement by an, IIRC, french diplomat to the effect of “Countries often do stupid things, but they usually do them in simple ways so everyone else realizes that they’re just being stupid. The trouble with you Americans only seem to do stupid things in complicated ways which leave the rest of us scratching our heads and wondering what we’re missing.”

            Gamal Nasser, actually.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not sure why you think “foreign policy is mostly about domestic politics” is uniquely American. Focusing on external enemies to distract patriots from domestic struggles is as old as states.

            Much of Putin’s foreign policy makes sense primarily as an effort to stir domestic nostalgia for the USSR, when people cared about us, man. Certainly Iran’s “death to America” and Kim’s “turn Seoul into a lake of fire” are meant primarily for a domestic audience.

            Certainly the USA’s status as a hegemon (but a reluctant, fickle one) lends a unique flavor, but “all politics is local” is a cliche for a reason.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            Oh, there’s plenty of people who can tell us “no”, and get away with it for decades. There’s nobody who can make us say “yes”, which might be what you are getting at, but it isn’t quite the same thing.

            that’s fair. What I mean was more “people who can tell us no, you can’t do that.” The Saddams of the world can refuse to do what we ask, but if we decide to stop asking and invade, there’s not really anyone that can stop us.

            Gamal Nasser, actually.

            Do you have a source for that? I’m not doubting you, I’d just love to have it handy.

            @gbdub says:

            I’m not sure why you think “foreign policy is mostly about domestic politics” is uniquely American. Focusing on external enemies to distract patriots from domestic struggles is as old as states.

            True, but the capabilities of most states are limited by circumstance, and voters are not entirely ignorant. You might be able to win an american election by promising to annex canada, it’s a lot harder to a Canadian election by promising to annex the US, because Canadian voters are at least dimly aware of the military disparity. This is not to say that voters never support for impossible foreign policy goals in other countries, they do all the time, it’s just that the list of impossible foreign policy goals is a lot longer.

            Much of Putin’s foreign policy makes sense primarily as an effort to stir domestic nostalgia for the USSR, when people cared about us, man. Certainly Iran’s “death to America” and Kim’s “turn Seoul into a lake of fire” are meant primarily for a domestic audience.

            Sure, but Russia isn’t invading syria with 150k troops and spending a trillion dollars rebuilding the place.

            Certainly the USA’s status as a hegemon (but a reluctant, fickle one) lends a unique flavor, but “all politics is local” is a cliche for a reason.

            To sum it up, I’d say “people are as parochial as they are allowed to be by circumstance.” The more powerful your country is, the more your foreign policy is about your own internal dynamics.

          • Matt M says:

            Oh, there’s plenty of people who can tell us “no”, and get away with it for decades.

            Aside from North Korea, is there anyone who has told us “No” multiple times and NOT ended up being executed in the town square?

            Edit: Castro I guess as well.

        • Wrong Species says:

          The missile strike wasn’t about deposing Assad, it was about chemical weapons. If they aren’t used again throughout the war, that’s a victory for Trump. If they are and he backs down then that’s a loss. It also takes the media off of everything else about Trump. Politically, it looks like a savvy move but we’ll see.

    • Wrong Species says:

      It really is bizarre. So many wars have been started over fake incidents that you think people would wise up at some point. Maybe Assad did do it but it would have been nice to have stronger evidence before blowing up an airfield. Still, assuming that this is a one-off, it’s not the worst response.

  20. In the 1910s and 1920s, the US switched from horsedrawn to motorized transportation. This solved the horse dung accumulation problem in New York and other cities. Livery stables, which used to line the streets around downtown areas, were no longer necessary. The cost of moving people and goods within cities was drastically reduced.

    What I didn’t think about, until today: all those horses needed to be fed. By some estimates, as much as 25% of all U.S. farmland was devoted to growing horse feed. When all that agricultural capacity was freed up in the 1920s, there was more human food, which was good for eaters (cheaper and more varied food available, less hunger), and bad for individual farmers (lower prices for crops).

    My father, a professor of American history, used to tell me that the 1920s were a time of economic boom, but farmers weren’t doing well. Now I understand that better.

    Also, at the same time, agriculture was increasingly mechanized, making a lot of farm labor unnecessary. All over the country, people were leaving rural areas and moving to cities.

    The farm bloc, though declining, was still politically potent. Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928 on a platform of (among other things) helping the farmers. He proposed imposing tariffs on agricultural imports. That came out of Congress as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which imposed high tariffs on manufactured goods as well as farm products. Other countries (including Canada) enacted retaliatory trade barriers; international trade dwindled, and the economy steadily got worse.

    Hoover, Smoot, and Hawley, all Republicans, were defeated in 1932; the new Roosevelt administration sought and obtained institutional reforms to allow negotiated reduction of tariffs.

    • S_J says:

      Interesting. The transition from feeding horses with hay to feeding cars with petroleum had a huge impact on the farming economy.

      So did the switch from animal-powered farming to mechanized farming*.

      The usual pop-history narrative of Hoover focuses more on things like the market crash in 1929.

      Most critics who mention that Smoot-Hawley lengthened the Depression are also critics of many of Roosevelt’s new government agencies and administrations of the 1930s.

      However, I’ve never seen a detailed description of the transition from the Smoot-Hawley Act to the Bretton Woods agreement (of 1944) and the later General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

      How much did the Roosevelt administration use their new reform to change tariffs? Did they do it immediately, or do it on a piecemeal basis over the next decade?

      ——————————–
      * Random aside: there’s a story from my family-history, during my great-grandfather’s time. One of the men of the family took a year of tech school to learn how to operate a tractor-plus-harvester-plus-thresher. This machine was cutting-edge. The big challenge to running it was that it was steam-powered.

      The equipment he trained on went out of favor quickly, as diesel-powered equipment was much cheaper to buy and easier to run/maintain.

  21. Anon. says:

    Can someone explain the US’s Syria policy? Why the obsession with removing Assad? Nobody is putting it in this way, but you guys are sort of on the same side as Al Qaeda/ISIS. That’s a bit weird, yeah? (It was particularly weird when the Aleppo thing was going on.) I saw someone argue that if you remove Assad, then people won’t join terrorist groups in order to oppose him, which is a bizarre argument.

    What’s the endgame here, an Iraq-style invasion to “impose democracy”? Assad falls, and all the different groups lay down their arms and vote peacefully? The Kurds win the whole thing and rule the country successfully?

    • Anonymous says:

      Wild guess: It’s probably about oil money. Somehow, Assad is making it harder for the US to maintain its petrodollar-backed supremacy. So they want him gone.

      • cassander says:

        This is definitely wrong. On many levels. Syria doesn’t have a lot of oil, petro dollar conspiracies are crazy, and even if they weren’t, assad has no ability to alter that because he doesn’t have much oil. And syria has been a russian client for decades, they weren’t in the business of propping up the US dollar.

        • One Name May Hide Another says:

          I believe the oil theory here is not about Syria’s natural resources, but about the Saudi oil and Qatari natural gas:

          Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency, though government-run, is providing remarkably clear and reliable diagrammatic descriptions of the current status of the U.S – and – fundamentalist – Sunni, versus Russia – and – Shia – and – NON – fundamentalist – Sunni, sides, in the current oil-and-gas war in the Middle East, for control over territory in Syria, for construction of oil-and-gas pipelines through Syria supplying fuel into the world’s largest energy-market: Europe. Russia is now the dominant supplier of both oil and gas, but its ally Iran is a Shiite gas-powerhouse that wants to share the market there, and Russia has no objection.

          Qatar is a Sunni gas-powerhouse and wants to become the main supplier of gas there, and Saudi Arabia is a Sunni oil-powerhouse, which wants to become the major supplier of oil, but Saudi oil and Qatari gas would be pipelined through secular-controlled (Assad’s) Syria, and this is why the U.S. and its fundamentalist-Sunni allies, the Sauds, and Qataris, are using Al Qaeda and other jihadists to conquer enough of a strip through Syria so that U.S. companies such as Halliburton will be able safely to place pipelines there, to be marketed in Europe by U.S. firms such as Exxon. Iran also wants to pipeline its gas through Syria, and this is one reason why Iran is defending Syria’s government, against the U.S.-Saudi-Qatari-jihadist invasion, which is trying to overthrow and replace Assad.

          • CatCube says:

            Are they seriously entertaining the idea that the intended endstate of the US is to attempt to build a pipeline through a fucking Al-Qaeda controlled area?!

            It’s nice to know that other countries can be as rock stupid about the politics of the US as US citizens about other countries. You’d have to be rock stupid to believe that either side of that alleged deal would be amenable to this.

          • Deiseach says:

            Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency, though government-run

            Annnnnd that’s your explanation right there. This isn’t clear, reliable commentary, this is saying what the president wants them to say (or else).

            That’s Turkey’s take and I don’t think Erdogan is particularly reliable as an unbiased commentator right now (or indeed ever). I have my suspicions he wants to revive Turkey as the Strong Man of the Balkans and is taking advantage of the EU’s reluctance to allow Turkey to sign up as “See? See? The Westerners are agin’ us! We can only rely on ourselves and to that end it is necessary that we position ourselves as influential in this geo-political area!”

          • cassander says:

            If you’re trying to run a pipeline all the way to europe, why not just run the pipeline through Mosul and eastern turkey? If you’re just trying to get to the mediterranean, why not Egypt? Sure, neither is quite as good an option as Syria, but either seems both easier and cheaper than fighting a war over Syria.

    • herbert herberson says:

      The end goal is a partitioned state. Sunni-dominated Saudi-client in the south/inland, Kurdish state in the northeast, Shia/Alawite rump state on the northeast/coast. Divide and conquer, hope the Kurds are sufficiently scared of Turkey to be compliant to the U.S. (which, should Erdogan stay in power and continue on the path he is on, could end up working in both directions), and place a geographical barrier between Hizballah and the Shia/Alawites that are friendly to them.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Plus, on the less nefarious side, the argument could be made that in the long run these more ethnically homogenous states would probably be a lot more stable and democratizable (as long as they don’t fight one another)

      • Anon. says:

        And who is supposed to defeat AQ/ISIS in order to make this partitioned state solution actually happen?

        • herbert herberson says:

          The Kurds and the Iraqis (with US air support) will (continue to) defeat ISIS. The rebels, including AQ, would control the Sunni state

      • cassander says:

        Whose goal do you think that is? Because that’s definitely not the goal of american policy.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Trump has been trying to move away from that policy for the reasons you stated. He still bombed that airfield but it doesn’t mean he’s going to overthrow Assad.

    • J Mann says:

      My mostly uninformed impression is that it was two groups in alignment:

      1) The US has a romantic attachment to revolutionaries everywhere. Some people are more attached to leftist revolutionaries, some to rightist ones, but the “freedom fighter” is a powerful figure of admiration to people like, say, John McCain or your average Che fan.

      2) The Obama administration, and particularly his adviser Samantha Power, seems to have had the belief that prior administration’s willingness to put up with a Quadafi/Assad/Mubarak/Hussein/etc on the theory that the alternative might be worse was morally corrupt, and that by taking stands against people like Quadafi and Assad, we were putting ourselves on the right side of history.

      Both groups 1 and 2 might be right in specific cases, and certainly Assad seems to be responsible for a lot of atrocities.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I feel like something got garbled in your point 2. Obama’s predecessor certainly didn’t put up with Hussein.

        • J Mann says:

          I meant over contemporary US history – I was thinking of Brzezinski and Reagan seeing Hussein as a necessary evil in the fight against against Iranian revolution.

          And I should have added:

          (3) US foreign policy tends to accept the 20th century rule that wars are more humane if you take some elements, like chemical weapons, off the table, so it’s easier for a president to sell military action to congress or the people when it’s seen as retaliation for chemical weapons use, nuclear development, etc.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Well, it’s changed a lot. Obama started out mostly backing Assad in 2011, flipped to criticism and sanctions within the first few months as the regime’s tactics became more bloody-handed, and then to flat-out supporting factions of rebels in 2013.

      That said, saying “you guys are sort of on the same side as ISIS” is a bit misleading given that at that point ISIS wasn’t really around yet in its current form (You had ISI, the successor to AQI, funding and sending volunteers to form Al-Nusra), and it still looked like there were viable “moderate rebels” as the sound bite goes.

      When you put it that way, you’re reducing what is at -minimum- a 3-way fight (if not a 4+ way one) to a two-sided battle.

      Now, by early 2015 that plan (back the moderates to overthrow Assad and institute a better government) was pretty obviously hopeless with the Free Syrian Army being pretty much defunct and the meteoric rise of ISIS. So at this point I’d say Herbert is pretty much right, though I wouldn’t be particularly happy about that Sunni state he mentions since if it comes into existence I think it’s going to be less about the Saudi government and more about the Muslim Brotherhood. I don’t think Israel would be too happy with that chunk of Syria governed by a group that sees Hamas as fellow travellers.

      I’m not one of those who thinks that MB is just an extension of Saudi government influence. Elements within Saudi Arabia up to and including within the government support the MB, sure, but I am not so confident they really exercise much control.

    • Matt M says:

      Nobody is putting it in this way, but you guys are sort of on the same side as Al Qaeda/ISIS.

      What are you talking about? Tons of people have been putting it exactly that way, for years – mainly as a right-wing/libertarian criticism of Obama’s foreign policy.

      • Anon. says:

        Huh. I never saw any of it, my impression of the right-wing (except for Trump (until today)) was that they were hawkish and anti-Assad.

        • Civilis says:

          This is historically one of those horrible three-way fights (may even be a four way fight), made more horrible because it’s hard to tell the difference between the anti-Assad rebels and ISIS.

          In general, the right wants ISIS to lose. The neo-cons want Assad to lose as well in the name of freedom and democracy and human rights and no dead kids on TV, the more isolationist are willing to put up with Assad to get rid of ISIS (and would rather have Assad fighting ISIS than US boots on the ground).

        • Matt M says:

          They are hawkish and anti-whatever the left is doing.

          So when Obama was saying “Assad must go” their response was “BUT WAIT THE ALTERNATIVE IS AL QUEADA”

    • Civilis says:

      The end game is likely, Assad wins, but he does so with fewer pictures of dead kids on the evening news. I’m starting to worry that so much of contemporary politics seems to be ‘what looks best on the evening news’?

      The reason we want Assad removed is that Assad is a dictator. In an ideal world, we’d have every country with Western style human rights and some form of representative democracy, even if somewhat corrupt. Since we’re not in an ideal world, dictators are a necessary evil, but our instinct is that if we can push a country from dictatorship to representative democracy, even sham representative democracy, we want to try to do so.

      The increasingly-pushed-to-the-right side of me wants to say that dictators aren’t an ethnic group, so we can show them killing people without setting off any ‘culture war’ nonsense.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’ll take a secular dictator over an Islamist democracy any day.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          And I’ll take the opposite any day.

          Of course the details do matter. It is particular clear to me that a democratic Islamic regime in Syria would be better than Assad, although that isn’t really an option. And there are some Islamic “democracies” that aren’t really. I think the short lived democracy in Egypt really was a democracy, but perhaps the critics were right that it was destined to devolve into an Islamic tyranny.

        • rlms says:

          Feel free to elect one wherever you live then.

    • cassander says:

      There is no end game. Syrian policy is motivated by multiple political instincts with no actual coherent plan. Dictators are Bad, so we’re against Assad. Isis is bad, so we’re against them. Chemical weapons are bad, so we’re against the people that use them. “We have to do something,” but we don’t want a new Iraq, so we bomb rather than invade. That these impulses are mutually incompatible is simply ignored. There are only two possibilities. Either A, no one has sat down and decided what the US actually wants to accomplish in the region, then worked out which of those goals should be prioritized and how, e.g. ISIS is a bigger deal than Assad, so we’re going to stop funding Assad’s enemies and let them help us fight ISIS. Or B, if they have, they’ve decided that they’re too politically costly to achieve, and so have simply resorted to doing whatever is politically easiest at the time.

      Either way, it’s unconscionable.

      • Civilis says:

        I’m up with you until the last line.

        Who is it unconscionable for?

        Is it up to Joe Voter to both have a specific end state in the Middle East in mind and know how he wants to accomplish it?

        Or if it’s not Joe Voter’s fault that no political party / ideology has come up with a persuasive argument for their ideology that’s supposed to capture a majority of the apathetic public, is it the fault of the politicians and intellectuals that they can’t persuade the public that their values are the right ones?

        We wanted a diverse, pluralistic society where everyone is free to come up with their own way, and one of the costs of that is that the public opinion is tossed around like a kite in a tornado.

        • cassander says:

          It’s unconscionable for policy makers. they’re sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives through sheer intellectual laziness, ignorance, or unwillingness to lose a news cycle. That result might be inevitable, but that doesn’t make it less unconscionable.

        • gbdub says:

          If there is no end game that doesn’t involve Assad holding on, and realistically there isn’t since he has firm Russian backing and even if he didn’t we aren’t willing to commit to the Iraq level undertaking to actually get rid of him, then all we are doing is prolonging a particularly nasty war and the associated humanitarian crisis. (Assad himself is a humanitarian crisis of a lower magnitude, but there seem to be no better realistic options)

          To the degree we have any coherence at all it seems to be “take pot shots at ISIS while we can, and try to rein in Assad’s worst impulses”.

          But honestly at this point the best course is probably just throw up our hands, tell them all to go to hell, and build a big refugee settlement in the desert somewhere until the hot war dies down.

          • Civilis says:

            It may be a tough choice between ‘shorter, nastier war’ and ‘longer, less nasty war’, but it’s still a choice.

            The problem is that officially throwing out the taboo on chemical weapons is going to effect every war and insurrection from here on out. Letting Assad get away with it might come with the cost of many more humanitarian crises being that much worse due to the use of chemical weapons. We have at least some leverage to restrain Assad, who wants to stay alive. Once those weapons inevitably end up in the hand of groups like ISIS that don’t have that restraint, it’s much more likely that they’ll get used.

            But honestly at this point the best course is probably just throw up our hands, tell them all to go to hell, and build a big refugee settlement in the desert somewhere until the hot war dies down.

            I’d honestly be fine with that, provided we can set a line where we have to get involved (and stick with it until it’s clear that the line won’t be crossed again) and stick to it. There will be such a line, even if it’s not written. I had thought that the use of chemical weapons was such a line. That also means letting everyone act as horribly as they want until the line gets crossed and not falling victim to propaganda.

          • cassander says:

            But honestly at this point the best course is probably just throw up our hands, tell them all to go to hell, and build a big refugee settlement in the desert somewhere until the hot war dies down.

            I’m not sure that “go to town on isis while ignoring Assad and how that will let him win as much as possible.” is a bad option. Or, at least, a not particularly terrible option given the alternatives.

          • Matt M says:

            If you’re a politician, it’s a bad option because it inevitably ends up in someone like this writing books about how you aided and abetted genocide.

        • Reading this rather depressing discussion, I’m struck by the parallelism between the behavior of voters and of governments.

          Whom you vote for has almost no effect on who gets elected, what you believe about global warming or evolution has almost no effect on what happens in the world, but those things have a substantial effect on you via your interaction with the people around you. If you support the candidate all your friends and neighbors support, you get along better with them. Similarly if you hold the views the people who matter to you hold.

          Whether what the U.S. does in Syria has good or bad effects on the Syrians matters a lot to them but has very little effect on those controlling U.S. policy. How what the U.S. does in Syria looks to rationally ignorant American voters, media figures, et. al., on the other hand, can have a large effect on those controlling U.S. policy, since they are either elected or appointed by people who are elected.

          So American voters rationally support bad domestic policy and American policy makers rationally support bad foreign policy.

          Welcome to the dark side of rationality.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Whom you vote for has almost no effect on who gets elected

            Couldn’t this fact entirely explain why the social cost is so high? Especially in a scenario where the favored policies are so polarized between the parties.

          • quanta413 says:

            Couldn’t this fact entirely explain why the social cost is so high? Especially in a scenario where the favored policies are so polarized between the parties.

            I am not sure that follows; I may be misunderstanding. Isn’t it more of a separate thing? If you had a lot of effect on policy and your neighbors disagreed with you on policy, it seems like they ought to hate you even more.

            Either way, the problem of voting seems like a pretty severe public goods problem. Whereas as a group it’d be better if policy was better and everyone was informed and voted in a way that (BIG UNJUSTIFIED STEP HERE) presumably slowly led to “better” policy on average; in practice, the cost to the individual of dissent can be high and their own expected benefit of their influence on policy is nil, so they should just hold the views of their ingroup and vote like their ingroup.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:
            It’s a “commons” problem.

            The apparent harm of me taking this extra fish is almost nil, so why not? But if everyone does it, the fishery dies. So punishments for over-fishing are more severe than the direct harm.

            So, given the apparent harm of not voting is very small, but the cost of actually losing an election is much higher, we might expect the “punishment” for not voting to be disproportionate.

    • rlms says:

      There is are two very loose alliances: US-Israel-Sunni (Saudis, Syrian rebels are the relevant ones here) and Russia-Shia/Arab nationalist (Iran, Assad, Saddam). There are obvious lots of complicating details: the US is only allied with ISIS in an extremely weak enemy-of-enemy-is-friend way. But from the perspective of US foreign policy, the fact they have actually tried to put their “Death to the West” rhetoric into practice is only one factor to consider. They also have to bear in mind that attacking ISIS too much entails supporting Assad, which upsets the Saudis and plays into Russian hands.

  22. Jugemu says:

    Sometimes I wish I had my own audience I could post my half-formed (perhaps drunken) thoughts at. Then again maybe I don’t deserve one. In that vein here’s two random thoughts, without the full explanation:

    1. Graphical programming environments are only ever going to work well for things that are inherently 2D (GUIs, spreadsheets, charts, circuits).

    2. Legend of the Galactic Heroes has two main themes: a. Autocracy and Democracy both have their respective strengths and weaknesses and one is not clearly superior to the other. b. Most things men do are ultimately for women. The latter is neglected in the discourse (re LOGH at least and maybe in general despite the red pill crowd).

    • Well... says:

      When you say graphical programming environments, you just mean programming on a flat screen right? Not literally graphical programming (Scratch, etc.)…?

      • Montfort says:

        I think he means literal graphical programming. Programming on a flat screen works pretty great for 3D things.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Do you sometimes experience a feeling of profound amazement at the level of luxury we live in?

    I mean, I get to eat every day, and to eat pretty much whatever I want. I have all the intellectual and visual entertainment I could ever want. Same with clothing. In all likelihood, none of my children will die of preventable diseases in their infancy. My home is as warm as I want it to be, and there is running, potable water accessible at all times. Access to a worldwide network of fast travel is available at walking distance from approximately any location I choose to be in. I get to do a job that is neither physically demanding nor dangerous to life and limb. If I should lose it, I will be indefinitely supported anyway, at a standard indistinguishable from the current one. If I happen to fall ill, it will likely be from a variety of maladies related to overindulgence and lack of exercise.

    (According to the civil authorities of where I live, I fall below the poverty line – about half of that value – based on my expenses.)

    • bzium says:

      I try to cultivate the habit of noticing positive aspects of my life that I would normally take for granted and whenever I do this, achievements of civilization jump out as one of the most obvious things to notice. I have to consciously decide to do this, though. It doesn’t happen spontaneously.

    • Loquat says:

      I have a vegetable garden, but only because I enjoy gardening. If my harvest is poor or nonexistent, I’ll be annoyed, but we won’t go hungry or have financial problems. I can easily buy a wide variety of fresh food year-round, with no need to spend significant amounts of time in the fall preserving food for the winter. That would not be true if our income were lower, though – our social safety net in the USA is a bit more stingy than yours, I’m guessing somewhere in Europe?

      • Anonymous says:

        That would not be true if our income were lower, though – our social safety net in the USA is a bit more stingy than yours, I’m guessing somewhere in Europe?

        Yup. Though OTOH, I’ve never been good at extracting money from the welfare departments. All I got was a jobseeker’s course once. I know people, among them a friend, who fleece them for everything they can. I guess I theoretically could do that, but to do that I would have to become despicable, to internalize being a dishonest parasite. So it really doesn’t apply to me much.

        Can’t say I haven’t *tried* to get money out of welfare services, several times, but once you get into the mindset of being a hardy, industrious, can-do person – it just feels like selling your soul to Satan for twenty silver pieces. I just had the good fortune that Satan passed on the offer.

    • Deiseach says:

      there is running, potable water accessible at all times

      This! This is a huge thing! As someone whose early childhood was in a house where every single drop of water had to be fetched by hand from a pump in a field a couple of hundred yards away, and carried home in buckets, and whose later childhood had running cold water thanks to a bunch of the local farmers getting together for group water scheme (but no running hot water), and no indoor lavatory until my parents were able to afford to build on an extension thanks to selling a small plot of land – this is something I am constantly grateful for. Even when I don’t think about it for a while, then sometimes it dawns on me: “Hey, if I want a drink of water, I can just turn on a tap. And if I want hot water, the same thing!”

      Really is amazing 🙂

    • neciampater says:

      I’m under the poverty line, pissed at paying a few hundred dollars in taxes this year, and perpetually thankful that I’m one of the wealthiest persons in the world. I’m chuffed to see your compadraic comment.

    • Zorgon says:

      Agreed. Although I’m similar to Deiseach in that it’s primarily about contrast – I spent the first six years of my life in a house with an outside toilet, and food during my childhood consisted of “what was going cheap at the market this week”. I didn’t get any access to a computer until I was 11, despite developing an intense connection to them as a concept after reading books about programming, and as a result I’m one of the now-rare class of people who have ever written programs on paper without having a computer to process them.

      Later, my wife and I lived on an absolute shoestring for about 2 years after University due to severe financial difficulties (the aforementioned safety net failing us quite severely). We had a set menu, constructed each week on what was on offer at the supermarket during that week’s shopping trip, no transport, and no entertainment besides broadcast TV. We barely remained housed and until recently still suffered to some extent from debts incurred due to emergencies during that period.

      That was last decade. So I suspect this has a lot more to do with the specific circumstances of the people in question than anything, at least within a given lifetime.

    • IrishDude says:

      Your post reminds me of this nice bit from Louis C.K. on how everything is amazing and no one is happy.

  24. Mark says:

    I really like ‘Inside No. 9’

    I hadn’t watched any of their stuff for years, and just happened to catch the Christmas special last year, ‘The Devil of Christmas’. Reminded me of Papa Lazarou – I found myself really on edge, despite the tongue in cheek presentation, and I then ended up watching a load of the shows on netflix.

    Their shows seem to have this pretty unique tone that makes the schlocky material somehow legitimately scary/ disturbing/ good.

    • DavidS says:

      Riddle of the sphinx was great. Others for me varies from OK to good. Also the one with the shoe i found more emotionally unpleasant than I was aiming for but not their fault.

      All of it seems very well written/acted ans generally clever

  25. Deiseach says:

    FiveThirtyEight gave us the odds to win today (Liverpool 51% – Stoke 24%, draw 25%) so naturally up to a couple of minutes ago, Stoke were leading 1-0 🙂

    Luckily, Kloppo subbed on Phil Coutinho and he equalised for us.

    EDIT: And it’s now 1-2 in Liverpool’s favour in the second half, FiveThirtyEight’s honour could be upheld yet!

    • neciampater says:

      Having religiously watched Serie A for years, I cannot see the EPL as anything but chickens running around without their heads.

      That Tottenham stadium looks cool! And set to host NFL games.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, everyone is building new stadia! I’m still not used to Arsenal playing in the Emirates Stadium, never mind what the new name will be after the sponsorship deal runs out, replacing Highbury, Manchester City moved into the Etihad after leaving Maine Road (though ti be fair, that was more taking advantage of the already built athletics arena) and now Spurs are allegedly going to ditch the traditional White Hart Lane moniker for sponsorship money?

        At least Liverpool are sticking with redeveloping rather than building a new stadium from scratch – This Is Anfield will always be more iconic than “This Is [Insert Your Brand Logo Here]” 🙂

        • Matt M says:

          Forgive my ignorant American understanding of Eurosport, but I was under the impression that Liverpool management also tended to use this as an excuse to why they weren’t more competitive.

          Something like “We could be as good as Man City too if you darn traditional fans would just let us build an expensive new stadium rather than clinging to your precious relics of the past!”

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s Liverpool, we’re never going to be able to compete with the oligarch’s money in this decade.

            One part of me knows that sentimentality butters no parsnips and if you want to play, you need to pay. The other part, though, wonders what’s the point if you dump all the history and heritage (hasn’t helped Arsenal get where they wanted, for example).

            Worst case scenario would be junking everything, pissing off the fans, and then still failing to get anywhere even when buying in talent with the new money available.

            Besides, now that Jose Mourino is in charge at Manchester United, I can once again enjoy guilt-free their (relative) decline; they’re currently in fifth spot on the league table while Liverpool are in third (and boy, a couple of years back, I’d have signed in blood if you’d offered me a deal that they’d be in the top three instead of mid-table).

  26. Deiseach says:

    For once, not a headline from an American newspaper: 14 year old skips school to buy machine gun.

    Ah, yes – the ever recurring problem of truancy!