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Open Thread 77.25

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

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1,214 Responses to Open Thread 77.25

  1. Deiseach says:

    Pasting this from the new thread, where (as I’ve been advised) it’s too culture-war to belong.

    This was triggered by a comment of bintchaos about reading Unsong (sic), and it occurred to me that using UNSONG is a good example of what the Sad Puppies idea was originally about (I’m not going to talk about the Rabids, since I have no contact on that side).

    UNSONG is a work that is very open to criticism of the kind Tor Books personnel indulged in, when it was rowing in on which of their authors were on the side of the angels in the whole Puppy saga.

    I get to read a lot of “But representation is easy, so if you’re not doing it, you must have an ulterior motive!” stuff when discussing fiction of the kind I prefer to read, so you lucky people get to share the kind of critiques I commonly see (I’m particularly thinking of a Chinese-American blogger who first said “there’s no reason not to include Asian characters in your fiction”, then spent about three pages on proper Chinese naming, how they would know if you took the easy way out of copying a name from a Chinese text so as to be sure of getting it right, and repeated at length how they would jump up and down on your bones if you made any one of the myriad mistakes a Westerner could make in naming a character, you should go out and pay a Chinese person to check your character’s names for you if you were going to write a Chinese character – even in fanfiction – and if you didn’t this showed that (a) you didn’t care about getting it right (b) you wanted POC to work for free for your entitled white ass, but yeah it was easy to include Chinese characters with Chinese names and if you didn’t, it was all down to racism):

    (a) The main romance in UNSONG is boring and heteronormative: cis het white straight people being cutesy. No inter-racial couples, no LGBT couples, no trans people. Conventional, safe, easy, and erasure of/denial of representation to those not fitting into the ‘normal’ socially-mandated bracket of romance and sexuality

    (b) The ‘heroes’ are all white. POC are villains (Malia Ngo, Dylan Alvarez) or are stuffed into the Magical Negro trope: Uncle Vihaan is the houseboy and even the Comet King just mopes about ineffectually after his failure to overthrow Hell and it’s his white wife Robin who provides the needed motivation for the eventual success of his mission, which relies on others (such as the narrator’s girlfriend, Ana, who has been driving the second side of the plot) to succeed

    (c) The trope of ’emotional woman who only wants love and to be validated by a man’ is in full flow – see Sarah

    (d) Saturation of Judaeo-Christian Western values; the ‘God’ of the UNSONG universe is the monotheistic God of American Christianity (and to a lesser extent, Judaism); it cannot even be referenced as Abrahamic faiths since Islam is ignored. Instead we get Jewish traditions and a Jewish world-system, backed up by Christian supporting characters such as Father Ellis and the Universalist Unitarians. The Comet King and Vihaan’s Hindu heritage and beliefs get no mention or impact on events at all, and we are to presuppose that that faith system is false by the rules of this universe

    (e) Everyone is able-bodied and neurodivergence, if mentioned at all, is in an appealing, convenient form as applies to the narrator (“oh I’m not ‘normal’, I have much too high an IQ to fit in with the mundanes and get on in the ordinary world”). Manic Pixie Dream Girl is narrowly averted with the girlfriend

    (f) Speaking of the girlfriend, this relationship is problematic for more than the cis-normative, heteronormative elements. The narrator is the classic Nice Guy who, despite several protestations of disinterest by Ana and indeed clear statements that she is not interested in him as a boyfriend and won’t go on a date with him, still regards her as the object of his romantic intentions and as attainable if he only persists in ignoring her clear ‘no’ and wears her down to accept a romantic relationship with him on his terms

    In sum: the lack of disabled, non-cis het, non-white, non-male as central character, non-Western centric characters and background to the universe is a shocking lack of representation and diversity, and fits in quite well with this reviewer’s summation of the whole Sad Puppies and the Hugos affair:

    The rightwing lobby are gunning for books to win the sci-fi awards that match their ideological project. They really don’t care about writing well…mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative. Unhappy with sci-fi’s growing diversity…At this point, we must be reminded that these are amazing times for science fiction and fantasy storytelling. … And the hack writers and sloppy sentences championed by the Sad Puppies deserve no place in that picture; for their politics, yes, but also their sheer shoddiness.

    You might say that UNSONG is more concerned with the story and theme than in checking off “is there a bi-racial wheelchair-using neurodivergent trans woman main character in a same-gender relationship?” on the list, but that is bad if you want to be a writer of SFF in these brave new days of diversity and representation!

    • The Nybbler says:

      The stuff from the anti-Puppy people is pure Narrative (in particular, “They really don’t care about writing well…mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative.”) There isn’t much point in addressing it on a factual level. And even Baen authors have been engaging in checkboxism to some extent recently; this does not make the anti-Puppy crowd like them any more. It’s not about the writing, either; it’s about the political views expressed firstly in the books, and secondly by the authors. The checkboxes are just a stick to beat them with, and often enough they do so when it doesn’t apply.

      For instance, I don’t think you’ll find anyone on the anti-Puppy side who likes the series started with “A Desert Called Peace”, despite the fact that it’s ostensibly about a nation full of people of color (Panama, essentially) resisting the forces of a colonialist Europe analog. (It also has many of the flaws the Puppies find in the anti-Puppy books, like being preachy message fiction)

      • random832 says:

        despite the fact that it’s ostensibly about a nation full of people of color (Panama, essentially) resisting the forces of a colonialist Europe analog.

        I can’t even imagine how the descriptions you just gave, and the descriptions in the following official summary, could possibly map to the same entities:

        They should have picked their enemies more carefully.

        Five centuries from now, on a remarkably Earthlike planet that is mankind’s sole colony in space, religious fanatics called the “Salafi Ikhwan” have murdered the uncle of former colonel Patrick Hennessey. That was their first mistake, because uncle was rich and Hennessey was rather a good colonel. But they also murdered Hennessey’s wife, Linda, and their three small children, and that was their worst mistake for she was the only restraint Hennessey had ever accepted.

        From the pile of rubble and the pillar of fire that mark the last resting place of Linda Hennessey and her children arises a new warrior—Carrera, scourge of the Salafis. He will forge an army of ruthless fanatics from the decrepit remains of failed state’s military. He will wage war across half a world. He will find those who killed his family. He will destroy them, and those who support them, utterly, completely, without restraint or remorse.

        Only when he is finished will there be peace: the peace of an empty wind as it blows across a desert strewn with the bones of Carrera’s enemies.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Carrera forms a militia (The Legion) in Balboa (Panama), and uses that to wage war against the Muslims (Salafis). He eventually uses the militia to take over Balboa (in all but name) from its corrupt Tauran(European)-influenced government, and the Taurans attempt to re-assert their control.

          The description for _Come and Take Them_ includes that part:

          http://www.baen.com/come-and-take-them.html

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I read the description, but I have not read this book.

            Are you trying to say it’s the same kind of thing the Puppies complain about? That it’s just a war story, but with lasers, similar to how the anti-Puppy books are just stories about social justice stuff like gay romance, but they’re gays romancing in space?

          • Nornagest says:

            it’s just a war story, but with lasers

            That was my main issue with the Honor Harrington books. They’re competently written as far as that goes, but after the first couple I had a hard time justifying them to myself when I could raid my dad’s library for Patrick O’Brien, get basically the same content, and actually learn something about Napoleonic-era naval warfare rather than a weird sci-fi pastiche of it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’m just saying that it pushes all the right buttons in terms of representation and even anti-colonialism. But since its politics are Wrong, the anti-Puppies hate it anyway; the representation stuff is an excuse, not a reason. It’s not about representation of PoC or LGBT (which Kratman also includes) or anything like that; it’s about politics.

            (I will grant that the politics apparently promoted in the books is rather disgusting, but that’s not the point.).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nornagest

            Patrick O’Brien

            I’ve been wanting to read those ever since seeing Master and Commander. Do you recommend them?

            @The Nybbler

            In what way are the politics wrong from the anti-Puppy side? Anti-colonialism, and the bad guys are religious extremists…what makes it “problematic?”

          • bean says:

            I’ve been wanting to read those ever since seeing Master and Commander. Do you recommend them?

            I’ve read the first three. They’re pretty good, if you like naval warfare in that era. (Not enough steel to be quite up my alley.) I’d suggest giving them a try.

            In what way are the politics wrong from the anti-Puppy side? Anti-colonialism, and the bad guys are religious extremists…what makes it “problematic?”

            The fact that the author is the next thing to a neo-Nazi, and the religious extremists are thinly-disguised Muslims.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve been wanting to read those ever since seeing Master and Commander. Do you recommend them?

            I do, yeah. Strong writing, entertaining naval battles, historically accurate as far as I can tell as a non-specialist in the period.

            Master and Commander the movie amalgamates aspects of the first three or so books, but after that you’ll start getting into fresh territory. You don’t really start getting to know Maturin (the ship’s doctor) until book 4 or 5, and he’s a favorite character for a lot of fans of the series, so if you decide to give it a go and aren’t immediately turned off I’d suggest going at least that far.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Carrera is intensely nationalist (never mind that Balboa is only his adopted nation). Also militaristic, authoritarian, and brutal as a matter of policy. (if you’re thinking “fascist”, yes.) He commits and excuses war crimes (even by the standards he himself lays out in some of the earlier books) including torture and the abuse and murder of prisoners. While he has both homosexual and female soldiers, as I recall he has disdain for both — the latter for their fighting ability and the former for being homosexual.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Conrad Honcho,

            In what way are the politics wrong from the anti-Puppy side? Anti-colonialism, and the bad guys are religious extremists…what makes it “problematic?”

            They’re the wrong kind of religious extremists.

            The kind of religious extremists who blow themselves up along with a bunch of children are misunderstood victims of society who need to be protected and cherished. The kind of religious extremists who don’t want to bake gay cakes, on the other hand, are implacable monsters who must be defeated at any cost.

            Clearly the author has gotten things backwards.

            The fact that the author is the next thing to a neo-Nazi, and the religious extremists are thinly-disguised Muslims.

            Case in point. Salafism is a religion of peace.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ah, I see. Now I kind of want to read a story about brutally fascistic homosexuals determined to murder and torture political dissidents who won’t bake them gay wedding cakes in space.

          • Do you recommend them?

            One of them has, on the back, the following blurb (by memory so not verbatim):

            “C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books have given great pleasure to many people, myself among them. These are so much better that it is almost unfair to compare them.” Mary Renault.

            That’s the blurb I would want if I had written in that genre.

            They are very good.

      • bean says:

        That might have something to do with Kratman being completely insane. Exhibit A is Watch on the Rhine, which is more than just ‘Problematic’.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think it’s done in the theme of Those Modern Pathologies. You can deconstruct just about anything to make it “problematic,” and Deiseach does so with a work we’ve probably all read by an author I assume we all like (as both human being and author).

        That said, Deiseach should have commented on Sarah literally being an object owned by the protagonist. That’s pretty darn problematic right there.

    • Brad says:

      You might say that UNSONG is more concerned with the story and theme than in checking off “is there a bi-racial wheelchair-using neurodivergent trans woman main character in a same-gender relationship?” on the list, but that is bad if you want to be a writer of SFF in these brave new days of diversity and representation!

      I never really got deeply into the puppy thing, but I did read some of the early posts by Larry Correia. Maybe it was later revised, but at least early on he wasn’t solely or maybe even mainly focused on this kind of representation / anti-representation or other culture war stuff. Rather, he was arguing, basically, that it was unfair that pulpy science fiction didn’t get Hugos.

      That I can’t get behind at all. I think awards and publishers should push the industry towards publishing better written novels. Things like better dialog, stronger prose in general, multidimensional characters, copy edited books (including ebooks), plot arcs that aren’t jarring, and no unintentional continuity or consistency problems. These should be the bread and butter of any novelist, not just the concern of the so-called literary fiction genre.

      • Nornagest says:

        Maybe you think of pulp as a different thing than I do, but by my lights there’s pulp SF out there that meets all your criteria. Charles Stross seems to be the only guy that gets Hugo nominations for it in the modern day (although you could argue for John Scalzi too).

        • Brad says:

          I meant pulp in the cheap, mass produced, and aimed at the lowest common denominator sense. Not the collection of tropes and themes that grew out of the early days of pulp sci-fi magazines. There’s no reason those tropes and themes can’t be present in an arbitrarily high quality novel.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s no reason those tropes and themes can’t be present in an arbitrarily high quality novel.

            They are. Seveneves. Skin Game. The Martian. The Expanse series. But if your standards are both arbitrary and subjective, there’s always an excuse to shut them out, and tell anyone who complains that their prose isn’t “strong” enough.

            Seriously, are you going to tell me that the dialog, prose, character dimensionality, etc, in “Skin Game” were so abysmally bad that “No Award” was legitimately preferable?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I meant pulp in the cheap, mass produced, and aimed at the lowest common denominator sense. Not the collection of tropes and themes that grew out of the early days of pulp sci-fi magazines. There’s no reason those tropes and themes can’t be present in an arbitrarily high quality novel.

            That was a large part of Correia’s point. You managed to miss that?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I might be projecting my own bugbears onto the debate, but I remember there also being a big issue where stories with excellent science fiction world-building were being sidelined in favor of magical realist character pieces with token science fiction elements.

        In SF&F characters and plot are ultimately vehicles so that the audience can experience alien worlds. It’s hard to argue that JRR Tolkien or Frank Herbert were masters of conveying emotion but they were unmatched when it came to realizing fantastic universes. And you don’t need to write a door-stopper to do that: I’ve read short stories which present more compelling worlds than most full-length novels.

        A “better written novel” which abandons that core might be a good read but it’s not science fiction. It’s an aping of science fiction.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Either that, or if you’re going to do politics in your sci-fi, at least use it to explore different options. Was Heinlein a fascist (Starship Troopers), a commie (Stranger in a Strange Land), or a libertarian (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)? No, he was a really creative guy imaging lots of different ways to live. Well, for misogynists, anyway 😉

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Agreed.

            It’s not even about some abstract sense of political balance but just about verisimilitude. If you can’t convincingly depict both sides of a conflict you should throw your manuscript into the fire then go pick a new conflict where you can. Cardboard villains are distracting and obnoxious.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Yes, the best villains are sympathetic. And not sympathetic in the “oh, he was bullied as a child and that’s why he’s mean now” way, but in the “I completely get where this guy is coming from and in his place might do the same thing” way. For instance, Magneto in the X-Men comics.

        • Brad says:

          I have mixed feelings about what you are saying in terms of world-building vs everything else. I go back and forth.

          But the issue I’m pointing to is at a lower level. I don’t think anyone can claim that The Lord of the Rings trilogy was poorly written and showed that JRR Tolkien hadn’t mastered the craft of writing. He spent more than a decade on them and brought to bear on them his immense knowledge of languages, western mythology, and epic poetry. People get PhD’s analyzing it.

          Here’s a couple of paragraphs from Larry’s original Sad Puppy post:

          Monster Hunter Legion is eligible… I’m just pointing that out. The fact that I write unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy handed message fic annoys the literati to no end. When I got nominated for the Campbell, the literati message-fic crowd had a conniption fit. A European snob reviewer actually wrote “If Larry Correia wins the Campbell, it will END WRITING FOREVER.” (I’ve since won the prestigious Audie and got nominated for the Julia Verlanger for best fantasy novel IN FRANCE, and all writing still hasn’t been ended, so I must still need a Hugo nomination).

          $60! Sure, Correia, I love sticking it to the man, and having Monster Hunter Legion get nominated for best novel would make literati snob’s heads explode, but I don’t know if exploding English professor’s heads is worth sixty whole dollars! That would buy several pounds of little chocolate doughnuts or half a box of 9mm!

          I don’t think it makes sense to put the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford on the same side of the balance as the guy who wrote this.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I have never read anything by Larry Correia and probably never will. Now he’s almost certainly not a peer of Tolkien’s but that’s not a terribly fair comparison.

            Comparing a titan of the genre to some schmuck is never good form unless the schmuck invites the comparison. Most any litfic writer would look like a bug compared to Joyce but we don’t go around trashing them for it. We trash them for being boring and pretentious instead.

            I don’t know what an apples-to-apples comparison for Correia would be. As I said I’ve never read anything of his. But it’s not Tolkien.

          • Brad says:

            Not to engage in some pointless back and forth over who said what, but you brought up Tolkien. I was responding to that.

            As it relates to this discussion, the point I was trying to make is that that the awards should go to the Tolkiens, if any are around, or if not then the closest you can find. Not to the literary equivalent of the popcorn disaster flicks.

            If we are debating between the master craftsman that painstakingly, frame by frame, built a visually stunning martial arts masterpiece or a moving character driven movie with a screenplay by a top contemporary playwright, then we are debating on the right level. We might not come to an agreement, but either way it comes out is really okay.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I agree completely with the following.

            As it relates to this discussion, the point I was trying to make is that that the awards should go to the Tolkiens, if any are around, or if not then the closest you can find. Not to the literary equivalent of the popcorn disaster flicks.

            My point wasn’t that ‘Thud and Blunder’ wasn’t getting the respect it deserves, so much that the LitFic snobs who set themselves up in opposition to it also tend to see world-building as a waste of time.

            You can easily find New Wave types trashing Tolkien and the rest of the SF&F pantheon with the same sort of criticisms which they employ against pulp writers. The characterization is weak, the plot is escapist and the message is conservative.

            I don’t care if someone wants to write boring literary or message fiction: I can just ignore it and read better works. But I don’t have that option when those authors try to prevent the fiction I do like from being published at all.

          • rlms says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            Why is criticising boring literary fiction valid, but criticising the fiction you like “trying to prevent it from being published at all”? I’m not aware of anyone proposing Tolkien be banned for not being literary and left-wing enough. I’m also not aware of anyone doing more plausible things like proposing boycotts of Tolkien’s publishers.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @rlms,

            Mostly just seeing the writing on the wall. These guys have an MO and it’s not new.

            Yesterday it was blocking awards, today it’s censors sensitivity readers at publishing houses, tomorrow it’s outright bans.

            It’s fine to vocally not enjoy a genre. It’s fine to enter a genre community. But if you enter a genre community that you vocally don’t enjoy it’s also fine to question your motives.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal —

            You’re talking like you’ve seen this before. Where?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Why is criticising boring literary fiction valid, but criticising the fiction you like “trying to prevent it from being published at all”? I’m not aware of anyone proposing Tolkien be banned for not being literary and left-wing enough. I’m also not aware of anyone doing more plausible things like proposing boycotts of Tolkien’s publishers.

            I’d say it is a problem if the same people are the ones in charge of handing out the awards of said type of fiction

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Come to think of it, there’s probably a place for a literary award based on the sole criterion “How much fun will you have reading this book?” I wouldn’t favor repurposing an existing award, though.

          • rlms says:

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous
            Sure, “it” is an object-level problem if people handing out awards give them to books you don’t like. It’s not “trying to prevent them from being published”, except in the vague sense that the market responds to demand.

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            “tomorrow it’s outright bans”?
            Because Stalin got his start making snobbish comments about sci-fi?

          • Matt M says:

            Come to think of it, there’s probably a place for a literary award based on the sole criterion “How much fun will you have reading this book?” I wouldn’t favor repurposing an existing award, though.

            The award for writing books like this is piles of money.

          • Brad says:

            Yes, exactly. Which is why I never got that part of the puppy argument. If you are going to point at sales and say that should drive awards then there’s no point in awards in the first place. You can have the Benjamin Franklin award.

          • You’re talking like you’ve seen this before. Where?

            I’m not Nabil and I haven’t read any of Correia’s books so don’t know whether he is a good writer with unfashionable politics or a poor writer with unfashionable politics.

            But one obvious past case is Kipling. He was a brilliant short story writer, wrote one very fine novel and produced a large volume of poetry that people read for the pleasure of it, not because they are assigned to read it. But generations of people were told that he wasn’t worth reading because he was an imperialist (true), racist (false), … . That did little harm to Kipling but deprived a lot of potential readers of a lot of good reading.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @RLMS
            Did you miss the part about “These authors have no place in the future of the genre we are creating. For their politics, yes, but also…” in the quote Herbert offered before the thread was moved?

            You can “but also” all you like about supposed lack of technical craft and literary merit. The takeaway there is “These authors have no place in the future of the genre we are creating because of their politics”. And the people championing those views include senior editorial staff at multiple SFF publishing houses.

            Honestly, while I agree with most of the Sad Puppies’ underlying points, I think the entire effort was misguided and poorly thought out from the get-go. At root I tend to agree most with Eric Flint’s take on the whole affair, excepting that I don’t think nearly so much of “literary” traits and in fact think that in many cases they make a book worse, not better.

            At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to accept that the Hugo stopped being representative of the voice of SFF fandom decades ago in large part because “SFF Fandom” has grown explosively, and that’s a win. Attempting to wrest control from the clique that controls it is going to be decried as hostile entryism and trigger all kinds of tribalistic responses and is doomed to failure or at best a pyrrhic victory.

            When I got into SFF as a kid I looked for Hugo awards as a guide to my reading habits. I learned I could no longer do so for Hugos awarded after some hard to define point in the mid 90s, so I stopped caring about or paying attention to the Hugos. ]

            They now represent a very specific subset of fandom (and no, not even SFF -readers-), and that’s ok. That information just needs to get out there and penetrate.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            I have no dog in this fight; I don’t read enough sci-fi to have strong opinions about what kind I would like produce and how I would like it to be viewed. My point is that Nabil ad Dajjal’s idea that people are “trying to prevent [sci-fi they like] from being published at all” is silly. Despite their claims to the contrary, the chance of government bans on pulp sci-fi (or whatever is being discussed) is approximately zero. Publishing houses/award committees not behaving how you want isn’t censorship, it’s normal and healthy functioning of the market in response to consumer demand.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Publishing houses/award committees not behaving how you want isn’t censorship, it’s normal and healthy functioning of the market in response to consumer demand.

            so normally there would be a bit where we wrangled about whether or not publishing houses are acting in favor of the market or in favor of their ideological interests

            but hold the phone: award committees? The market? What? I mean, I guess there is some oblique interest, but let’s be real here: what is the pressing market demand on award committees?

            oh yeah, and to Trofim:

            I agree with this to an extent. Problem is, it also seems like a lot of the time social justicians take over prestigious institutions and use them for a while. Eventually word gets out, but it’s a real pain in the ass and I understand people who want to fight it.

            Honestly, what annoys me the most is that Puppies are just called “Racist, sexist” and so forth. It does feel like in certain spaces dialogue becomes impossible for these reasons.

          • bintchaos says:

            @AnonYEmous
            Did you even read a word I said about the sad puppies hijacking the awards with ballot stacking?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @RLMS
            The “you” was misplaced there, and was aimed at the person I was quoting. I would’ve said “One can talk about lack of literary merit and technical prowess…” but that sounds awfully stuffy.

            and the funny thing is that one of the common complaints actually IS that the big publishers are so ideologically hidebound that they are neglecting a large volume of potential customers and SFF fans, fans that are increasingly turning to indie/non-traditional publishers precisely because the old guard gatekeepers would rather burn printed genre fiction down than let in more than a token few of the “wrong sort” of authors.

            I’m not sure they’re entirely correct, but that’s the claim.

          • Matt M says:

            but let’s be real here: what is the pressing market demand on award committees?

            If the Oscar for Best Picture is awarded to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the award, and everyone associated with it loses prestige (which is all that really matters for awards, I suppose).

            That’s obviously an extreme case, but I do think that there’s at least a LITTLE bit of a motivation for award committees to not award solely on the basis of politics…

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Did you even read a word I said about the sad puppies hijacking the awards with ballot stacking?

            I specifically didn’t reply to that comment after considering doing so

            Seriously, why did you respond to me in this thread?

          • bintchaos says:

            @AnonYEmous
            Because you are mounting an Ann Coulter defense– she once famously said that some abortion clinic terrorist was driven to do murder because liberals wouldn’t listen to conservatives on abortion.
            The puppies used dirty tricks to hijack the noms.
            This is the problem– theres no compromise, its Sinner v Sinner TfT– dems are LEARNING conservative game moves. But Sinner v Sinner is a CAT game– no one wins.
            That is empirical truth. There are no “alternative facts” here.
            I asked a conservative friend what conservatives want from liberals in a climate discussion. He said, we want respect even when we are wrong.
            How do I respect someone that rejects science and empirical evidence?
            Its too much work.
            And it accomplishes nothing.

          • Aapje says:

            In general, I think that it is better to create your own alternatives if you don’t like what exists. So the Puppies could simply have created their Puppies Award.

            On the other hand, one of the main MOs of SJ is to hijack established words, organizations, awards, etc. This exploits the assumption by people that things are still mostly the same today as they were in the past, creates a chaotic environment that can be exploited through power plays, etc. It can be argued that fighting this by counter power plays is beneficial, as it reduces the value of doing this and makes it clear to people that the appropriation has happened, so they become aware that they have to update their beliefs.

            @bintchaos

            I asked a conservative friend what conservatives want from liberals in a climate discussion. He said, we want respect even when we are wrong.
            How do I respect someone that rejects science and empirical evidence?

            One way is not to do what you just did: take a topic where a small majority of conservatives and a decent minority of progressives reject the scientific consensus and treat this as a strict dichotomy, where all progressives are right on all the science and all conservatives are wrong on all the science.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @AnonYEmous

            The importance of the Hugo is pretty much sentimental; many of the current (adult) readers and writers of SF grew up reading yesterday’s Hugo winners, and for a long time it was _THE_ fan award. Now… well, it’s unlikely something with the politics of _The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress_ could get an award, and especially not if the author was the same as the author of _Starship Troopers_ (which also won).

            @Matt M

            Not sure if you’re referring to Monster Hunter Nation when you suggest “Mall Cop” getting an Oscar. It wouldn’t be completely unfair. But they have already done the equivalent: the 2013 Hugo for Best Novel went to Scalzi’s _Redshirts_.

            But the biggest blow to the Hugo’s credibility isn’t _Redshirts_ or “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”. It’s the no-awarding of Toni Weisskopf, longtime editor at Baen.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            He said, we want respect even when we are wrong.

            Let’s leave aside, for the moment, that the disrespectful attitude I see coming from left-leaners causes them to miss that they are the ones who are wrong. What’s wrong with giving someone respect, even if they’re wrong?

            it accomplishes nothing.

            I can’t recall what the psychological effect for this is called, but it’s known that disagreeing with someone can strengthen their belief in something, especially if their ego feels threatened. And it’s obvious why: if you tell someone that he’s an idiot if he believes X, then if he changes his mind he’s obviously an idiot and will have lost status. On the other hand, if you tell him that you don’t care and to think it over, he might actually do that.

            In other words:

            How do I respect someone that rejects science and empirical evidence? Its too much work.

            Yeah, convincing people is a lot of work. If you don’t want to enact that labor, fine. But let’s be real: this is what you’re doing. And you’re being a jerk to boot.

            And to Nybbler: I guess. But like Aapje said, they do this shit all the time. To be fair, I hear the puppies have mostly given up and focused on Dragoncon, which also has more than enough voters to resist any type of ~~slatery~~.

          • bintchaos says:

            I can’t respect science denialism.
            It’s not possible.
            I thought that in my cohort of IQ and educational attainment science and reality would prevail.
            Why isnt that happening?
            alsotoo: What is the technical definition of a jerk? someone that is interested in real world solutions to real world problems?
            And its called backfire effect— Brendan Nyhan only observed this in conservatives.

          • bintchaos says:

            Alsoalsotoo:
            In an Iterated TfT respect gets you nothing as payoff.
            Ditto moral suasion.

          • bean says:

            I can’t respect science denialism.
            It’s not possible.
            I thought that in my cohort of IQ and educational attainment science and reality would prevail.
            Why isnt that happening?

            There is a class of issues where there is enough evidence on both sides to make strong cases, without one side being obviously correct. We often call these ‘political’. I suppose you’ve just never run into smart people who are on the other side of one of these before. Learn that you don’t have a perfect grasp of reality, either, and apply charity to the other side.
            (Related thought. It seems a lot harder to grow up in a conservative bubble and be the kind of person who winds up here than it is for someone in a liberal bubble. Bintchaos is the latest in a long line of people from liberal bubbles who have no idea how to deal with intelligent conservatives, because they didn’t know such creatures existed. I’m not trying to score political points here, and we definitely have liberals who are unbubbled. I’ve met quite a few people from conservative bubbles, but they don’t wind up here.)

          • bintchaos says:

            Forgive my french (et je parle trés bien la français) but that is BS.
            There simply isnt evidence on both sides. not for science denaliasm, not for creationism, not for market competitivity in either academe or scifi in the 21st century.
            I’ve “run into” plenty of “smart people” (dr hsu is first on my list).

            Bintchaos is the latest in a long line of people from liberal bubbles who have no idea how to deal with intelligent conservatives, because they didn’t know such creatures existed.

            Dude! I’m from a conservative bubble. Guns, dogs and a graduated set of Welsh ponies growing up (sectionA to SectionC). My ancestry is land holders and factory owners. I’ve ridden with the Hunt.
            So dont mansplain me on conservatism.
            Or Islam…or socio-physics or EGT.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I can’t respect science denialism.
            It’s not possible.

            What is the technical definition of a jerk? someone that is interested in real world solutions to real world problems?

            But given that you have acknowledged that the backfire effect functions with conservatives… it sure seems like you aren’t interested in the real-world solution to the problem of science denialism that you brought up. And again, this is fine. But you can’t claim to not be a jerk on this basis. You’re not getting anything out of this and you’re being a jerk about it too.

            Alsoalsotoo:
            In an Iterated TfT respect gets you nothing as payoff.
            Ditto moral suasion.

            I don’t know all of the technical game theory terms, but I understand the concept very well. So let me tell you something very clearly: this is exactly what the other side says. They argue persuasively that only one side abides by certain standards; Hillary Clinton was friends with a KKK member and can be found making off-color racial jokes, but she is fine, whereas Trump is a racist supernazi. Obama was caught on a hot mic asking Putin to cooperate until he got re-elected, whereas Trump is a servant of Putin and thus should be impeached. Do I really need to go on? So you can’t really pin the blame on one political side and call it a day. Maybe if you showed a bit more respect you’d get a bit more in return.

          • bintchaos says:

            They argue persuasively that only one side abides by certain standards; Hillary Clinton was friends with a KKK member and can be found making off-color racial jokes, but she is fine, whereas Trump is a racist supernazi. Obama was caught on a hot mic asking Putin to cooperate until he got re-elected, whereas Trump is a servant of Putin and thus should be impeached.

            Trump should be impeached simply because he’s incompetent.
            But you are arguing that its just TfT.
            You guys are smart enough to know the truth.
            But saying that loses you the Game.

          • bean says:

            There simply isnt evidence on both sides. not for science denaliasm, not for creationism, not for market competitivity in either academe or scifi in the 21st century.
            I’ve “run into” plenty of “smart people” (dr hsu is first on my list).

            I figured it wouldn’t work, but I had to try. To put it in simpler terms, the answer to your questions about lack of evidence is that the evidence is there, but you don’t see it.

            Dude! I’m from a conservative bubble. Guns, dogs and a graduated set of Welsh ponies growing up (sectionA to SectionC). My ancestry is land holders and factory owners. I’ve ridden with the Hunt.

            Assuming this is true, then I guess it’s convert’s zeal. I will say that you don’t understand conservatism, regardless of what your ancestors may have owned.
            (Also, if the email links are the reason you’re embedding replies, then stop using them. Open a browser window, and use the reply button to the relevant bottom-1 comment. It’s a really annoying violation of board norms, and it’s not TOR’s fault.)

          • Matt C says:

            > I thought that in my cohort of IQ and educational attainment science and reality would prevail.
            > Why isnt that happening?

            Seconding the suggestion that SSC may not be the forum you’re looking for.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bintchaos:
            I’m not sure how much you processed the relative leanings of commenters here, but I am decidedly and firmly in the left/liberal camp. I am only prefacing so you understand that I am not trying to dissuade you from whether your general beliefs are correct. I think we are likely to be broadly in agreement in most issues.

            So, that said, in order to persuade conservative commenters here, you have to lay off anything that looks either a)ad-hominem, or b) hyperbolic. Both of these things are like opening a can of tuna in a field full of cats. It’ll be a dog-eat-dog world and you’ll be wearing milk-bone underwear.

            No, these rules don’t so much apply the other way ’round. The liberal commenters are less interested in gang tackling a bad argument. I don’t know why.

            You are, I assume, familiar with the concept that the smarter and more educated you are, the easier it is to rationalize away evidence that contradicts your beliefs? You should expect to encounter this (and be challenge by this as well). You should also expect lots of nit-picking at arguments, partially because people here are interested in fine-grain nuance, and partially because they like to win arguments.

            But please do stick around, if you can. I think you have a valuable voice to add here.

          • where a small majority of conservatives and a decent minority of progressives reject the scientific consensus and treat this as a strict dichotomy, where all progressives are right on all the science and all conservatives are wrong on all the science.

            At a slight tangent … . I think there is a scientific consensus for the claim that global temperature is trending up and humans are a large part of the cause. I don’t think there is a scientific consensus for the claim that continuation of this trend will have catastrophic consequences and that the problem therefor requires immediate and strong action to slow warming–only a PR attempt to pretend that such a consensus exists.

            I don’t know which of the two claims you are referring to. Some critics of the current orthodoxy reject the existence of AGW but others, and I think the more significant, are lukewarmers, believe in anthropogenic warming but not catastrophic warming.

          • There simply isnt evidence on both sides. not for science denaliasm, not for creationism, not for market competitivity in either academe or scifi in the 21st century.

            There can’t be evidence for science denialism, by definition–but you are assuming that you know what science says. In climate arguments, people who deny that there is good evidence for AGW are denying science. So are people who deny that CO2 fertilization is real and important. People who deny that hotter summers can be expected to increase mortality are denying science–and so are people who deny that milder winters can be expected to decrease mortality. I wasted a good deal of time in FB climate arguments in the past, and I didn’t observe that one side was consistently more knowledgeable on the science than the other. As best I could tell, almost nobody on either side understood the mechanism of the greenhouse effect, although lots of people thought they did.

            I don’t know how you define market competitivity in academe, but I note that Chicago has dominated the economics Nobel prizes. It isn’t because the Swedes are great fans of pro-market economic views.

            As for sf, Heinlein and Tolkien both seem to stand up pretty well.

          • bintchaos says:

            I don’t know how you define market competitivity in academe, but I note that Chicago has dominated the economics Nobel prizes. It isn’t because the Swedes are great fans of pro-market economic views.

            By market competitivity I mean the brutal marketplace of ideas on college campuses, not economics… What millenial or GenXer is going to embrace the Benedict Option, Isolationism, abstinance birth control, standing on the tracks of history hollering stop, or souless rapacious unregulated capitalism?

            As for sf, Heinlein and Tolkien both seem to stand up pretty well.

            I was told that LoTR was an indictment of the industrial revolution and Heinlein explored many forms of government. Much like KSR– have you read the Mars trilogy or The Year of Rice and Salt?

            As best I could tell, almost nobody on either side understood the mechanism of the greenhouse effect

            Again, tossing out the whole debate because of a single flaw. Misdirection. Dr. Hsu has a good piece on uncertainty and model tonality in the climate debate. But again, its just debating the methodology of the analysis, not the data. It did make me kindof queasy to see how how eager Dr. Hsu was to find a reason to dispute established climate science– I was embarrassed for him.

          • By market competitivity I mean the brutal marketplace of ideas on college campuses, not economics…

            You aren’t going to find many economists on college campuses willing to defend the old understanding of the Phillips Curve, under which governments could trade off inflation against unemployment forever. Or fixed exchange rates. Or central planning/five year plans as the way to develop poor countries.

            All of those were pretty much orthodoxy in the sixties, and the criticism of them came from people generally identified as on the right of the profession.

            Margaret Mead’s version of Samoa hasn’t been completely rejected, but it’s seen as much more dubious than it was forty years ago, to take a different field.

            There is still some effort outside of the academic world to reject the massive evidence that intelligence is to a significant degree heritable, but I don’t think many serious people in the field would support that position.

            Or in other words, there are a fair number of areas of academia where the position that was in the past identified with the right has on the whole won out over that identified with the left. Doubtless one could find other cases where the reverse has happened.

            Are you talking about the views of college students rather than professors? About the political views of professors rather than their professional views? I don’t think the politics of English faculties, which I gather are pretty solidly left, tell us much about what ideas won out in the academic world.

            (then quoting me)

            As for sf, Heinlein and Tolkien both seem to stand up pretty well.

            And responding:

            I was told that LoTR was an indictment of the industrial revolution and Heinlein explored many forms of government

            .

            Attacks on the industrial revolution were generally the work of conservatives. Heinlein explored lots of things, but his viewpoint is more nearly conservative than liberal in modern terms–it’s hard to imagine him taking seriously much of the current social justice orthodoxy.

            Does your “I was told that” mean that you haven’t read Tolkien? Heinlein?

            Much like KSR– have you read the Mars trilogy or The Year of Rice and Salt?

            No. Neither. Of modern authors I like Bujold, Cherryh, Melissa Scott, Vinge except when he gets too dark for my taste, Niven, some Le Guin, … .

          • bintchaos says:

            Oh I absolutely believe IQ is heritable… I also believe in red/blue brain biochemistry theory. I think heredity of IQ is currently where the left panders to their base and its isomorphic with the right pandering on climate science. But dems arent very good at pandering yet.
            Of course I have read all of Heinlein, all of Tolkien, all of Asimov, all of KSR, all of Morgan, all of Cixin, all of Stephenson, all of Gibson, etc. I have been a voracious consumer of Scifi since I was four.
            You are still thinking of the brutal marketplace of ideas as strictly economics… its all of culture.
            Music, literature, film, academe.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Matt C: Seconding the suggestion that SSC may not be the forum you’re looking for.

            It may not be the forum bintchaos is looking for, but I think this is the forum bintchaos needs.

            Reiterating what bean said, in another way: I think most of what you perceive as science denialism on SSC isn’t science denialism. And you yourself might be suffering from evidence denialism. I urge you to revisit.

            @HeelBearCub: The liberal commenters are less interested in gang tackling a bad argument. I don’t know why.

            The conservative arguments I think of as especially tackle-worthy include things like political arguments based solely on Christianity, or a specific type of uninformed racism (i.e. not TBC-type stuff), and don’t ever get made here. If they came, they’d likely get banned anyway.

            Somewhat less tackle-worthy are arguments for protectionism. Those tend to get push back from even right-leaning libertarians here.

            I’m not in the left / liberal camp, though, so I suspect my set difference from yours includes some notable cases. I could guess at some: ancap; certain anti-terrorism arguments; voter ID. But why guess? You’re right here. What are the arguments you see as conservative, tackle-worthy, and here? I think I could stand to see some weak points I hadn’t noticed before, if there are any.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @DavidFriedman: I think there is a scientific consensus for the claim that global temperature is trending up and humans are a large part of the cause.

            What makes you think there’s consensus for the latter? Last I checked, there was consensus that humans are on net contributing, but no consensus on the, um, degree. But this was years ago. How large is “large”?

            wrt KSR: The Years of Rice and Salt bored me, except as an interesting writing experiment. The Mars Trilogy, OTOH, got me very excited whenever the future tech projects came up.

          • bintchaos says:

            That is very interesting– apparently your brain just skipped over the bulk of KSR’s thought experiments with diffferent forms of government in both books.
            Which tribe are you in?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That is very interesting- apparently your brain just skipped over the bulk of KSR’s thought experiments with diffferent forms of government in both books.

            Mostly because he barely got into any of it. It was a light froth on both stories, never getting into ground-level detail before being sidetracked into descriptions of how much Nergal liked running or the fanciful accounts of three personalities being reincarnated throughout history.

            Which tribe are you in?

            The tribe of people that believes you are overly fixated on tribes.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I completely agree with your second paragraph. Add on that science fiction or fantasy should form the basis of the what makes the story interesting.

        Rather, he was arguing, basically, that it was unfair that pulpy science fiction didn’t get Hugos.

        I thought the issue was that novels that were just as bad (or worse) but had left-wing politics got (allegedly) undeserved rewards. So write a mediocre war story in space! and get (perhaps justifiably) ignored, but write a mediocre story about gay rights in space! and get undeserved awards. This turns the awards system into just another avenue for pushing politics instead of having much to do with science fiction or fantasy.

        I don’t know to what extent arguments on either side have merit, but I thought that was the complaint. Personally I don’t consult the Hugos in picking out books I’d like to read since they’ve never given an award to Alastair Reynolds.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          but write a mediocre story about gay rights in space! and get undeserved awards

          This kind of thing is self-correcting.

          Novelty wins awards but novelty is self-correcting.

    • siduri says:

      I think what you’re trying to do is frame an argument like this: “the Puppies’ enemies would hate Unsong because it is too traditional, but we all know Unsong is good, therefore the Puppies were right all along!”

      Firstly, I don’t think this is true. I count myself among those opposed to the Puppies and I love Unsong. From my perspective the Puppies have been angry about books like Ancillary Justice winning prestigious awards because they believe the only reason this is happening is favoritism due to liberal politics. But have you read the Imperial Radch trilogy? It’s fantastic, and it is as much “traditional” sci fi as anything else–it’s just that the specific tradition it inherits flows through Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffery rather than Heinlein and Niven. Women using sci fi to explore constructions of gender has been a Thing for a long long time, and I think these books are winning awards not because they represent some kind of newfangled political correctness, but because there’s a large number of readers who honestly love them. (The Imperial Radch trilogy also works very well on the level of just being a ripping good space yarn.)

      Secondly, you have to really stretch to describe a story about such a diverse cast of weirdos as Unsong as somehow belonging to the tradition of square-jawed, straight-shootin’ starship captains that the Puppies are nostalgic for. I think each of your arguments is forced to distort the text rather severely. I mean:

      a) The main romance is an asexual polyamorous one, that’s kind of the opposite of “boring and heteronormative.”

      b) You’re conspicuously not talking about Sohu, probably because it would be impossible to maintain that there are no nonwhite heroes if you acknowledge her centrality in the narrative.

      c) The number of female characters in the narrative who have drives and goals other than a man is staggering. Erica, Ana, Robin, Malia, Sohu etc. The list goes on and on. All of these characters are presented as *people*, different from each other, each with their own agendas.

      d) I’ll give you this one: the story with a premise of “kabbalah works” is, in fact, working within a specifically Jewish tradition, yes. I would be really startled if the Puppies found Jewish-centered works to be less objectionable than books working within other kinds of non-Christian traditions, though.

      e) Flatly untrue. Uriel is very specifically neurodivergent and in fact this is a major plot point.

      f) This one is less obviously untrue than the others; I think you *could* make a good-faith reading of Aaron as having some Nice Guy elements, although I would argue that we see him transcending those qualities and learning to accept Ana’s asexuality without trying to change her, and furthermore I would argue that this arc is a genuinely heroic one for him.

      So yeah–I would expect that if Unsong won a Hugo, the puppies would throw a fit about how CLEARLY it only did so because of the PC elements, the pandering to women and minorities, the anti-Christian bias etc. And I think the majority of SFF fans actually really like the books they are nominating for awards, and are not doing so merely to satisfy a checklist as you suggest.

      • From my perspective the Puppies have been angry about books like Ancillary Justice winning prestigious awards because they believe the only reason this is happening is favoritism due to liberal politics.

        Have the puppies actually made that objection to that particular series? I thought they were pretty good books.

        Could someone who followed the dispute point me at a list of books that the Puppies approved or disapproved of? If some were ones I had read it would help make sense of the whole business.

        • bintchaos says:

          I’m a voting member and I can tell you what went down.
          The nomination ballot is chosen in the spring– the Sad Puppies mounted an internet campaign to get conservatives to sign up to be voting members, and then stacked the nominations for the categories in favor of conservative authors (where there were conservative authors in that category). Some of the categories turned out just fine, like Cixin Liu’s (a chinese scifi author) 3Body Problem won, one of my all time favorites ( highly recommend it). In categories where there were only nominations of conservative authors, the committee allowed a vote of No Award to get around the puppies dirty tricks, because you cant just write-in names. No Award won several categories.
          This is an example of typical conservative ethos of believing they are deliberately disenfranchised from culture and literature by a liberal conspiracy when actually their product is just not competitive in the 21st century. It seems to be how the Trump presidency is playing out– the only thing that matters is identity.
          A lot of people like George R R Martin were angry about this. He said the sad puppies should have their own awards. He said (like some other commenter pointed out) if your writing is good, you get rewarded with piles of cash.
          Like Dr. S pointed out in the Eternal Struggle this just drove conservative scifi authors off into their own little coven where there is some truly awful sci-fi being written.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          A very, very partial list.

          The works most often disapproved of:

          “If You Were A Dinosaur My Love”
          “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”
          Ancillary Justice (yes, it’s generally disapproved of)

          Works/Authors Approved of (asterisks indicate they were pushed specifically as Hugo noms rather than simply thought good fiction):

          Eric Flint Et Al’s Ring Of Fire alt-history/SF series (starting with 1632)
          Jim Butcher (Skin Game* was nominated)
          The Chaplain’s War by Brad Torgerson
          Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos
          Lois McMaster Bujold
          Larry Correia (obviously)
          “The Classics” – Pournelle, Niven, Anderson, Heinlein

          Works both sides of the debate seem to agree on:

          Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
          Some classic SF (e.g. The Left Hand Of Darkness)

          • Thanks. Amusing that the Ring of Fire books are included, Eric Flint being a socialist.

            But a patriotic American socialist. Did the other side visibly disapprove of those books?

            Same question for Bujold. If the “ins” (or whatever the proper term is for the opponents of the Puppies) tried to keep her from getting Hugos, that would be pretty strong evidence against them.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            One of the points made by the “sad puppies” side of the argument was specifically that “good storytelling” and entertaining, interesting ideas are more important than checking the appropriate check boxes for the tastemakers and gatekeepers on both a “literary” and ideological basis.

            Given that, why would it be surprising or amusing that they can list off left-wing authors whose work they still enjoy?

            Mind you, both sides accused the other of really just wanting to push THEIR specific political message. There was a whole drawn out side argument between various people over articles like this leading to snarky and somewhat crass responses like this, followed by deployment of counter-snark, and so forth and so on.

            You could try and summarize it as “non-literary space opera and military SF fans versus literary SF fans”, but that would be inaccurate, and it rapidly descended into the great Internet/American Culture War.

          • John Schilling says:

            Same question for Bujold. If the “ins” (or whatever the proper term is for the opponents of the Puppies) tried to keep her from getting Hugos, that would be pretty strong evidence against them.

            Bujold appears to be semi-retired, having written only two books in the four-year period the Puppies have existed, both minor codas to the Vorkosigan series. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was nominated but did not win, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen was not even nominated. Not enough data for statistical significance.

            She did have a best-novella nominee, but not winner, in 2016.

          • siduri says:

            I think Bujold should go under “works both sides of the debate seem to agree on.” She’s widely loved in the anti-Puppy circles I tend to run in. I haven’t read her books myself (been meaning to get around to them for a while) but I see Miles Vorkosigan memes pop up on my (SJW-leaning) Tumblr feed all the time.

            And in general, the anti-Puppy side doesn’t vocally disapprove of any authors other than Vox Day and Orson Scott Card. I’ve read all of Jim Butcher’s Dresden saga, for example, and enjoyed them quite a bit. I don’t think anybody’s anti-Bujold or anti-Butcher.

            However–I guess I have to admit that I think Butcher’s writing is more workmanlike than impressive in a literary sense, that after 19 books or however many he’s got in the series so far the ground is fairly well-worn, and that basically those books are more like beach reads or quick comfort reads than something I would pick up in order to have my mind blown and horizons expanded. I think the Hugo-award crowd tends to be drawn to dazzling prose and subjects that are fresh or groundbreaking in some way. So there is definitely a split along those lines, between the fans who want to reward scintillating prose and fresh ideas, and the fans who want to reward ‘workmanlike’ SF that reminds them of the books they grew up with and loved. (Hopefully that is a way of phrasing it that passes the reverse Turing test?)

            But speaking of the reverse Turing test, all this stuff about prioritizing good storytelling over some kind of PC checklist–that’s a Puppy shibboleth, yes, but it doesn’t resemble reality from my side. Nobody keeps a checklist. We’re all fans and we vote for the books we like. We’re voting for “good storytelling” too–it’s just that they can’t believe we actually like the books we say we like.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The worst I’ve seen from the Sad Puppies about _Ancillary Justice_ (which I haven’t read) is that it was just a relatively ordinary space opera which only received attention because of it’s annoying pronoun gimmick (which apparently consists of using ‘he’ and ‘she’ interchangably and inconsistently, btu again, I haven’t read it).

          I think Vox Day (Rabid Puppy One) had worse to say, but he’s Vox Day.

          • siduri says:

            I have read it and I think this summary does not do it justice at all. My review:

            “Ancillary Justice has a ship’s AI as its narrator. Although actually it’s a bit more complicated than that, because the AI is housed in a human body—a tribute exacted by a conquering interstellar empire from one of its colonized peoples—and there’s strong hints that some of that person’s erased mind still influences the AI. It’s a fantastically nuanced portrayal, at once believably alien and heartbreakingly human. There’s also plenty of action and space-intrigue and murder and skulduggery, which makes the book fun, but it’s the quiet moments when the AI struggles to parse human gender cues, or carries on a subtly catty conversation with a space station, that make it special.”

            I do think your summary of the Puppies’ objection–that AJ “only received attention because of it’s annoying pronoun gimmick” is an accurate characterization of their views. However, where I think the Puppies fail is in an inability to correctly model the kind of reader (like myself) who enjoyed AJ very very much, for a lot of reasons, of which the gender stuff was a relatively small part. I think most of the people who nominated and voted for AJ for a Hugo are like me, and genuinely liked the book very much–as a book, not as a political statement. Furthermore, I think most of the Hugo winning books are genuinely liked in this way by the people who vote for them.

          • For what it is worth, I read the Ancillary series and liked it. I found the pronoun business mildly irritating, but much else definitely good.

            The description of the Puppies’ response sounds to me like the natural but mistaken view of someone who didn’t much enjoy the books and was puzzled as to why other people did.

          • bintchaos says:

            The very best AI is “ship” in Aurora.

            “We think now that love is a kind of giving of attention.”
            ― ship
            Kim Stanley Robinson, Aurora

          • siduri says:

            David Friedman:

            For what it is worth, I read the Ancillary series and liked it. I found the pronoun business mildly irritating, but much else definitely good.

            The description of the Puppies’ response sounds to me like the natural but mistaken view of someone who didn’t much enjoy the books and was puzzled as to why other people did.

            I almost totally agree. My only point of departure would be that I found the pronoun business refreshing and thought-provoking overall, but only mildly so–and since you say you found it only mildly irritating, I imagine we’re really pretty close on this particular aesthetic axis.

            I nearly didn’t answer at all, since my response could be rounded to “Yup!” or “I agree!” but. Then I thought that maybe there was some value in verifying that the discussion we had led to convergence of views?

            As a relative newbie to the comment section (even though I’m a long time lurker) I’d appreciate your perspective on whether “Oh yeah I basically agree” is seen as a comment worth posting, following a short/mild discussion. Thanks!

          • As a relative newbie to the comment section (even though I’m a long time lurker) I’d appreciate your perspective on whether “Oh yeah I basically agree” is seen as a comment worth posting, following a short/mild discussion. Thanks!

            If the context is such that people, especially participants, are likely to see the situation as an argument, it’s worth making clear that it isn’t. Otherwise probably not.

          • John Schilling says:

            For what it is worth, I read the Ancillary series and liked it. I found the pronoun business mildly irritating, but much else definitely good.

            The description of the Puppies’ response sounds to me like the natural but mistaken view of someone who didn’t much enjoy the books and was puzzled as to why other people did.

            People can enjoy the same book for different reasons. And when I see things like this and this, I’m not the least bit puzzled by why these people liked Ancillary Justice. There is certainly a substantial bloc that likes the book explicitly for reasons of gender politics, whether internal to the story or in the real world of Feminist SF Authors Winning! the! Hugo!

            Bigger picture, when I check my notes I find that with the exception of Sad/Rabid puppy nominees, exactly zero novels either written by a white male author or featuring a white male protagonist have been nominated for a Hugo in the past three years. If this were reversed, almost nobody on either side of the culture war would consider it acceptable – and it hasn’t been reversed, there hasn’t been three straight years of all-white-guy Hugos even on just the authorial front, since 1962.

            Tell me this is because the voters are choosing the best stories, with “dialog, stronger prose in general, multidimensional characters”, etc, and every single time picking a female or minority author writing about a female or minority protagonist. I dare you.

          • siduri says:

            Bigger picture, when I check my notes I find that with the exception of Sad/Rabid puppy nominees, exactly zero novels either written by a white male author or featuring a white male protagonist have been nominated for a Hugo in the past three years.

            That’s because the Puppy slates have included the books by such authors that probably would have been nominated anyway. Stephenson and Gaiman both racked up Hugo nominations, and Hugo wins, before the Puppies were a thing at all. They would have been nominated last year too, Puppies or no.

            In the three years before Correia started lobbying to influence the ballot (in 2013), the Best Novel nominees included Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Charles Wilson, Ian McDonald, George R.R. Martin, and James S.A. Corey. There obviously was no conspiracy to keep white guys off the ballot, and there still isn’t–it’s just that now the Puppies claim credit for every one that gets on.

          • John Schilling says:

            Stephenson and Gaiman both racked up Hugo nominations, and Hugo wins, before the Puppies were a thing at all. They would have been nominated last year too, Puppies or no.

            Gaiman wasn’t nominated for Best Novel last year. Neil Gaiman hasn’t been nominated for Best Novel since 2009, and neither the Sad nor Rabid puppies have suggested he should be. Because he mostly isn’t a novelist.

            Meanwhile, both the Sad and Rabid puppies gave the Hugos a pass this year. And…

            There obviously was no conspiracy to keep white guys off the ballot, and there still isn’t–it’s just that now the Puppies claim credit for every one that gets on.

            Which ones are those? Which are the “white guy” novelists that the Puppies are trying to wrongly claim credit getting on the ballot this year?

            And if the white guys who did make the list during the Puppy era were people who would have made the list anyway, then why were they all no-awarded in 2015? You’re really going to argue that e.g. Jim Butcher’s Skin Game is a novel the rest of the “Worldcon Community” would have nominated on their own, that the Puppies are falsely trying to claim credit for, and that the same community then decided the same book was wholly non-Hugo-worthy?

            “Conspiracy” is a loaded term, but there’s at minimum a hell of an echo chamber at work here. And you may be right that Neal Stephenson could have eked out a nomination for Seveneves, but everything else you’ve said is either wrong or nonresponsive.

          • bintchaos says:

            I told you.
            What the awards committee objected to was the hijacking and the internet campaign to stack ballots– the dirty tricks part. Thats where the No Awards went.
            So if they wanted Skin Game to win, the puppies shot themselves in the foot by cheating to force it.
            Didnt SSC have something on cheater-detection and the prisoners dilemma?
            And is there a post you could direct me to on what muggle-realism is?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Skin Game is the 15th book in the series, so it’s not really a good example. At this point if folk think Dresden Files needs awards, Butcher should just get some sort of lifetime achievement award like they do with the Oscars.

            (Disclaimer: I haven’t read that far yet, if it’s the series capstone this argument becomes less true. No spoilers please.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Skin Game is the 15th book in the series, so it’s not really a good example.

            If the claim is that the Puppies are falsely claiming credit for every white-guy novel that made the list, and that is Siduri’s claim, then Skin Game absolutely is a good counterexample. It’s a book that was nominated for the Best Novel Hugo, that the non-Puppy voters unambiguously indicated they thought was unworthy of that award. The Puppies are not wrong when they take credit for getting that one at least on the ballot, and the rest of the community doesn’t get to point to it and say “See, we’re not hateful bigots, we voted for at least one token white guy!”

            ETA: Lois Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was the 15th novel in the Vorkosigan saga, and was nominated for the Hugo two years before Skin Game. So there’s no particular bias against bignumth novel of a series. I’d consider the two of roughly equal quality, but A: de gustibus etc and B: Bujold has the stronger reputation.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Lois Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was the 15th novel in the Vorkosigan saga, and was nominated for the Hugo two years before Skin Game. So there’s no particular bias against bignumth novel of a series.

            Ah, was not aware. That’s what I get for assuming 🙂

          • siduri says:

            Gaiman wasn’t nominated for Best Novel last year.

            No, he was nominated for–and won–Best Graphic Story. He was on a Puppy slate but he absolutely would have been nominated even without that, as he has been nominated (and won) in lots of categories many times before.

            Which ones are those? Which are the “white guy” novelists that the Puppies are trying to wrongly claim credit getting on the ballot this year?

            Are you aware that you’re changing the goalposts here? You originally said “with the exception of Sad/Rabid puppy nominees, exactly zero novels either written by a white male author or featuring a white male protagonist have been nominated for a Hugo in the past three years.” I pointed out that a number of those white male authors on the Puppy slate, such as Stephenson and Gaiman, were shoo-ins anyway and it’s wrong to pretend that the anti-Puppys would have tried to block them. So now you’re trying to shift the argument to this year.

            It’s true, there are no white males on the Best Novel ballot this year. But if you look at the past ten years of Best Novel nominees, you see Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross, Michael Chabon, Michael F. Flynn, Peter Watts, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Charles Wilson, Ian McDonald, George R.R. Martin, James S.A. Corey, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neal Stephenson–and that’s leaving out the ones that I agree probably wouldn’t be there without Puppy lobbying (Anderson, Butcher, Correia, and Jordan/Sanderson).

            Again, there is obviously no systematic attempt to exclude white men. In fact, analysis of the ballots shows that without the Puppy slate in 2015, instead of Butcher and Anderson the Hugo voters would have nominated…two other white men! (Specifically John Scalzi and Robert Jackson Bennett).

          • siduri says:

            And if you look at the 2016 Hugo statistics (page 18 for the nomination statistics), firstly: Stephenson was nominated more often than any of the other finalists, so I continue to maintain that he would’ve still been on the ballot without Puppy slates. But if you erase every work on the list of nominations that was backed by the Puppies, then instead of Stephenson, Butcher and Naomi Novik the voters would have nominated Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (who is a white male), Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, and The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickenson (another white male). So the overall representation of white men would have been the same without any Puppy involvement at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are you aware that you’re changing the goalposts here? You originally said “with the exception of Sad/Rabid puppy nominees, exactly zero novels either written by a white male author or featuring a white male protagonist have been nominated for a Hugo in the past three years.”

            That is what I said, that is what I have continued to defend, and that continues to be actually true.

            I pointed out that a number of those white male authors on the Puppy slate, such as Stephenson and Gaiman, were shoo-ins anyway

            Which doesn’t contradict what said, because I said nothing about whether or not a novelist would or would not have been nominated without the Puppies’ support. It might be relevant, if you were to build on it, but it isn’t “changing the goalposts”.

            Also, in colloquial English, “a number of…” means a number substantially greater than one. Neal Stephenson is one novelist who had one novel nominated for the Hugo in 2016. Neil Gaiman has not had any novels nominated for the Hugo in any year since 2009.

            But on the subject of changing goalposts: When I talk about what has happened to the Best Novel Hugo in the past three years, and you bring up things that happened six years ago and ten years ago and last year in a different award, you are changing the goalposts. If you’re going to do that, you need to acknowledge that it is you who are moving the goalposts, and make a case for why.

            Or you can just burn any presumption of trust or good faith you might have brought to the table here. We’re done.

          • siduri says:

            Which doesn’t contradict what said, because I said nothing about whether or not a novelist would or would not have been nominated without the Puppies’ support. It might be relevant, if you were to build on it, but it isn’t “changing the goalposts”.

            The part that’s changing the goalposts was going from a three year span to a one year span, I said that very clearly, and you selectively quoted in order to pretend that you were addressing the issue when you weren’t.

            If the question is whether non-puppy voters have a systemic bias against white men, then it’s absolutely relevant to look at the years immediately before Puppies began to push their slates, AND to look at the statistics showing who would have been nominated without those slates. Again, you’re not engaging with any of this, because only by taking a very very blinkered view of the Hugo slates can you pretend that any such bias exists.

            Or you can just burn any presumption of trust or good faith you might have brought to the table here. We’re done.

            Yeah, I think so.

          • Aapje says:

            @siduri

            If the question is whether non-puppy voters have a systemic bias against white men

            You can have a systemic bias in multiple ways:
            1. completely excluding white men from consideration
            2. completely excluding white men from the most prestigious category or categories, only letting them win less prestigious categories
            3. Judging books written by or featuring protagonists that are white males more harshly for all categories.
            4. Judging books written by or featuring protagonists that are white males more harshly for the most prestigious category or categories
            5. A mix of 3 and 4, where the more prestigious the category, the more the bias

            You seem to believe that one can only argue about possibility 1*.

            Given Schilling’s insistence on focusing on the Best Novel category, this strongly suggests that he believes in possibility 2, 4 or 5.

            * This is a bit weird, since you say that you frequent at least one SJW space and SJ people regularly argue that some counterexamples are not convincing evidence against systemic bias. See ‘tokenism,’ for example.

          • siduri says:

            You seem to believe that one can only argue about possibility 1*.

            Honestly not sure how you drew that impression? I largely accepted Schilling’s focus on the Best Novel category. Everything I said above about analysis of the ballots before the Puppy slates and subtracting the Puppy slates was focused on Best Novel.

            The only time I widened the focus from Best Novel was to talk about winning white male authors who the Puppies claim credit for slate-wide, and only because Neil Gaiman is such an egregious example of someone who obviously would have won anyway. Literally everything else I’ve said has been entirely focused on the Best Novel category.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          John C. Wright is also very unpopular with the anti-puppies.

    • bintchaos says:

      You are overthinking this again…I was very impressed by Arlie Hochschild’s book, and so I wanted to try to scale my own empathy wall, but instead of low-information Tea Party supporters in Louisiana, conservatives in my own cohort of IQ and educational attainment. I thought because of Dr. S [spot on] Eternal Struggle post, and because of UNSONG that SSC might be a place to do that.
      I read UNSONG in a week, and loved it. It showed such flexibility and subtlety of mind, such command of myth and legend and human frailty, and gorgeous prose, compelling love stories, and the intriguing mysteries of Kaballah, deism, theodicity and Judaism. It would be cool to incorporate Islam, but that would be another book– its not necessary.
      Sadly I dont seem to have either the toolset or the skillset to accomplish my goals. Its really irritating to have David Friedman reject my entire argument because of one perceived flaw– asymmetrical polarization is a documented phenomenon. I’m not a moby or a troll…but I am aspergers positive.
      And I cant quite convey how discouraging it is to have Islam mansplained to me by aged white xian males who cant read fusha and haven’t studied tafsir.
      But all data is good data! Jon Haidt’s thesis is verified (though I still think the heterodox academy is useless.)
      And my thesis is verified, which Haidt would disagree with.
      We are not the same– there are not universal human values, universal human rights, or universal mores and taboos. Its EGT(Maynard-Smith evolutionary game theory) all the way down.

      And one more thing for Dr. S– pandering is not persuasion. Especially in the polarized environment of the 21st century. No one is doing the conservative base any favors by pretending what is happening wont change everything. Culture isnt like the steering wheel of a car where you can wrest control of it and drive it down your preferred path.
      One must be stealthy and subtle…like the brilliant Sauds who have cleverly got Trump to take their side in a 30 year old GCC slap-fight with Qatar while subversively colonizing Indonesia with Wahhabist schools and mosques under the radar.
      I want “conservatives” to take responsibility. Trump is a disaster, and pretending he’s not to curry favor with your base is slavish pandering– its your responsibility to educate your base.
      Quit ducking.

      • Nornagest says:

        Half this forum is on the spectrum, and yet those of us who aren’t generally manage to communicate with that half. You’re not going to win any sympathy points by dropping an Asperger diagnosis.

        • bintchaos says:

          I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m just saying empathy is especially hard for aspies.

      • Its really irritating to have David Friedman reject my entire argument because of one perceived flaw– asymmetrical polarization is a documented phenomenon.

        I’m not rejecting asymmetrical polarization–I don’t know if it is true or not. What I pointed out was that you had made two claims that could be shown to be flatly false by looking at the page you linked to in making them. That doesn’t tell us whether your views are correct but it does suggest that you are either dishonest or delusional–a rejection of you, not of asymmetrical polarization. The fact that you made no effort to either support or retract your two claims (about the Pew report and about which way the median of the red curve was shifting when) suggests that whatever you care about, it isn’t whether what you say is true.

        And I cant quite convey how discouraging it is to have Islam mansplained to me by aged white xian males who cant read fusha and haven’t studied tafsir.

        It’s possible that you have expert knowledge of Islam, but you haven’t demonstrated it. Confusing the Salaf with the Sahaba in a post that started with “I’m sorry, but this commentariat is woefully ignorant about Islam” didn’t help.

        Nor did, in the same post, “Islam is in the position that the catholic church was in once upon a time, when excommunication was literally a sentence of hell,” which made it sound as though you thought someone in Sunni Islam had the power to excommunicate people.

        • bintchaos says:

          I gave you a link on asymmetrical polarization from Brookings.
          This is a typical conservative tactic– find some flaw in the initial argument, pounce and then refuse to acknowledge any further points. Often used in discussions of climate science.
          Much like your point about excommunication where I was really talking about salvation by works, refuting your claim that Islam says “man becomes corrupt”, explaining the idea of dikhr (remembrance) and rejection of original sin and establishment of fitrah, that all children are born muslim.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            bint, there are two ways this goes

            one is you grow politically and as a person

            the second is you keep railing against “conservatism”. I’ll just use my handy-dandy SSC extension and put you on ignore, but I bet you’ll either leave voluntarily or catch a banhammer.

            your choice. But I’m letting you know right now, if you take the second options I’m putting you on ignore, and I think other people will do similar stuff. If I wanted to have basic arguments with political partisans, I’d do it somewhere that mattered.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Pardon, but does “growing as a person” mean I have to accept conservative butt-hurt poutrage conspiracy theories?
            Or would that be classed as “growing politically”?

            It means you have to be open to them. So can you handle that?

          • I gave you a link on asymmetrical polarization from Brookings.
            This is a typical conservative tactic– find some flaw in the initial argument, pounce and then refuse to acknowledge any further points.

            You wrote: “Pew says the Right has moved farther right. ”

            Several of us followed your link and discovered that the page you linked to did not say what you had just claimed it said. That isn’t a flaw, it’s a falsehood.

            You wrote: “Watch the animation in the linked article– starting in 1994 the red median moves dramatically to the right.”

            Several of us watched the animation and observed that from 1994 to 2004 the red median was moving dramatically to the left. Again, not a flaw but a falsehood.

            After you offer two falsehoods in defense of your claim, people loose interest in paying attention to your further arguments. And you don’t even bother to either concede that what you said was false or offer some defense of it.

            where I was really talking about salvation by works, refuting your claim that Islam says “man becomes corrupt”

            Where did I make the claim that Islam says “man becomes corrupt”? Like me, you have access to the thread, so if I said that you should be able to quote me doing so.

            If you were “really talking about salvation by works,” what was the point of the reference to excommunication? Do you think there is some authority in Sunni Islam with the power to excommunicate people and so send them to hell?

            You are claiming expertise in Islam. What is your view of Uthman? Al-Ma’mun? Was Schact’s view of the hadith correct? Hallaq’s view of the Islamic court system and what happened to it? Was the Gate of Ijtihad ever shut, and if so when?

          • bintchaos says:

            @David Friedman

            What is your view of Uthman? Al-Ma’mun? Was Schact’s view of the hadith correct? Hallaq’s view of the Islamic court system and what happened to it? Was the Gate of Ijtihad ever shut, and if so when?

            What is this, witchtesting? An inquisition? A minha just for me?
            It seems all these questions are suspiciously Orientalist in nature. Always about the Ijtihad and the Western fantasy of “defanging Islam”. Have you read Said?
            I have studied Ibn Taymiyya extensively, and since IANAIS (I am not an islamic scholar) I’m guided by his tafsir. Taymiyya said Uthman only cared about money. I’m uninterested in Schact or Hallaq. The Mu’tazhila are dead as the dodo, and all the blowhards of the West can’t breathe life back into that corpse.
            The other dimension of my understanding of Islam is as a recursive self-similar error-correcting code, an information theory paradigm, fascinating computational linguistics study, and (most critically) as a JMS Culturally Stable Strategy.

            I get the impression that you are very anti-pathetic to my interpretation of Islam. Not sure if its because you believe I’m a liberal snowflake or a muslim at this point. Whatever.
            This is what I mean by by its just too much work.
            I give up, I cant scale the empathy wall.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Bintchaos

            No, at no point did you link Brookings. You linked a Washington Post article that quoted someone from Brookings. The Washington Post article in turn cites Poole and Rosenthal’s DW-NOMINATE data.

            Something that has been covered in depth here before.

          • Nornagest says:

            If you really want to understand conservatism, deleting phrases like “conservative butt-hurt poutrage conspiracy theories” from your vocabulary would make an excellent start. It won’t give you any greater understanding, but it would go a long way towards establishing good faith. Assuming, of course, that you’re arguing in good faith.

            If you’re finding that hard, this may not be the forum for you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you’re finding that hard, this may not be the forum for you.

            Generally speaking? Sure.

            But, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of examples.

          • bintchaos says:

            This operates everywhere to some extent.
            https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/874624927541993473
            Degen also: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/874628741389058050
            I guess I understand this… But its extremely frustrating when the Red Tribe just rationalizes things like the Sad Puppies hijacking the Hugo nominations or employing the Ann Coulter defense to justify it.

          • Nornagest says:

            A while back there was a thread where conservatives gave their best one-line defense of their ideas. Well, I’m not really conservative (though I’m pretty sure I’m more conservative than you), so mine is less a defense of conservatism and more a defense of… let’s call it “political humility”.

            Here it is: if you see someone buying into a different narrative, that means their narrative fits their facts better than yours. I’m not talking “alternative facts” or anything like that, and I’m not saying that all narratives are equal. I’m just saying that everyone sees a different slice of the real world, the one that doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it. Sometimes that slice ends up pointing towards ideas you don’t like. And when it does, going on about how they’re denying reality will just piss them off; they know all about reality, it’s right there in front of them, and it’s why they’re doing what they’re doing.

            And yeah, it’s possible that they were lied to or tricked or deluded themselves somehow. But there’s a lot of narratives out there, and a lot of them are carried by people smarter than you. (That’s not an insult. They’re smarter than me too.) What’s the chance that you just happened to get the honest one?

          • bintchaos says:

            OMG you dont understand what I’m saying at all.
            I believe that the upper tail of IQ and g among conservatives is just full-frontal pandering to the low- information base.
            Not going to end well.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hey, I tried. And now I think I’m done trying.

          • bintchaos says:

            mine either.
            look at it simply as an energy transfer.
            not cost-viable.

          • @David Friedman

            What is your view of Uthman? Al-Ma’mun? Was Schact’s view of the hadith correct? Hallaq’s view of the Islamic court system and what happened to it? Was the Gate of Ijtihad ever shut, and if so when?

            What is this, witchtesting? An inquisition? A minha just for me?

            It’s an attempt to find out if you actually are knowledgeable about and interested in Islam or just faking it, by trying to get your views on some interesting issues. With luck I hoped it might also set off an interesting conversation, but probably not.

            Taymiyya said Uthman only cared about money.

            Near the end, Muawiya tried to persuade his uncle to come to Syria, where he had the people well tamed. Uthman’s reply was that he was unwilling to leave the city where the Prophet died. You know what happened. He wasn’t a believer in the mode of his two predecessors, but money for himself and his kin wasn’t all of it.

            I’m uninterested in Schact or Hallaq.

            Schact argued for a claim that, if true, undercuts the basis of fiqh. I would expect anyone interested in the subject to be interested in the claim, whether to agree or disagree.

            The Mu’tazhila are dead as the dodo, and all the blowhards of the West can’t breathe life back into that corpse.

            al-Ma’mun is dead too, but still a very interesting figure.

            I get the impression that you are very anti-pathetic to my interpretation of Islam. Not sure if its because you believe I’m a liberal snowflake or a muslim at this point.

            I can’t tell what your interpretation of Islam is or even whether you have one or just like strings of profound sounding words. I admire some past Muslims, have even written a sonnet in tribute to Umar. My concern isn’t with whether you are a Muslim or a liberal snowflake but whether you are a fake.

          • bintchaos says:

            Schact argued for a claim that, if true, undercuts the basis of fiqh. I would expect anyone interested in the subject to be interested in the claim, whether to agree or disagree

            Why? He’s an infidel, not an islamic scholar, and irrelevent.
            He is trying to use reason alone.

          • I believe that the upper tail of IQ and g among conservatives is just full-frontal pandering to the low- information base.

            This claim has a testable implication. If what Eugene Volokh and Bryan Caplan and I and Thomas Sowell and Charles Murray–you seem to include libertarians with conservatives–are doing is pandering to the low-information base, we ought to be agreeing with them on almost all of Trump’s positions and thinking up clever arguments to defend those positions.

            We should, for instance, be arguing for immigration restrictions and trade barriers.

            Is that what we are doing?

          • bintchaos says:

            Instead of explaining to the conservative base that Trump is a disaster and why he is a disaster, conservative intellectuals have run away from him like scalded cats. Intellectuals are fully aware that Trump is deathpoison for the GOP brand going forward. Students are really protesting Trump– Murray is just a reachable proxy.
            There are no clever (or even unclever for that matter) arguments to defend Trump’s positions.
            Saying you are against Trump but still a “conservative” is just pandering.

          • Saying you are against Trump but still a “conservative” is just pandering.

            Trump gets to define “conservative,” despite not being one?

            You appear to concede that the people you view as conservative intellectuals oppose some positions currently popular with the conservative base. That is inconsistent with your claim that they are pandering to it. Are you now defining “pandering to the conservative base” as holding conservative views, whether or not the base agrees with them? As failing to join the left in attacking Trump?

            The antiwar left was pretty quiet during Obama’s terms. Was the failure to attack him for drone strikes and the like pandering to the Democratic base?

          • bintchaos says:

            Trump is the titular head of the GOP.
            If you don’t openly fight him, and you didnt crit him in the run-up to the election, you are pandering.

            Trump gets to define “conservative,” despite not being one?


            Yes, Trump defines conservative.
            But the only thing that he said to his base that was true is: “I am your last hope”.

          • siduri says:

            Pardon, but does “growing as a person” mean I have to accept conservative butt-hurt poutrage conspiracy theories?
            Or would that be classed as “growing politically”?

            Bintchaos, I didn’t report you and I am actually on your side as far as tribal affiliations go, but this kind of comment is actively hurting our team. At least on SSC, as soon as you throw in a gutter insult like “butt-hurt” it means that you’ve already lost and are well on your way to a ban.

            Please listen to the commentators who are telling you to talk less and lurk more. For what it’s worth, I lurked for a year before I recently started posting. And again, I bet we broadly agree on object-level beliefs, but the SCC commentariat is not like other forums and the way you’re going about things here is counterproductive.

          • bintchaos says:

            @siduri
            I lost my temper. I apologize.
            Tribalism trumps even IQ, g and educational attainment.
            I get it.
            Thats the lesson I learned here.
            But what on earth makes you think I’m “on your team”?
            I’m on Team Reality and Team Science.
            More like “A plague on both your houses”.
            It’s just that one house is so much more extreme in asymmetrical polarization. And I understand the schtick here…its not like I haven’t heard it from my professors and philosophers and public intellectuals my whole life.
            “We are all one”.
            Instead of exploring why the two tribes are different you want to pretend theres no difference. Got it. Its your only hope for reconciliation.
            But meanwhile the House is on fire and its likely to burn to the ground.

          • rahien.din says:

            what on earth makes you think I’m “on your team”?

            Our interests are best served if we define “our team” as “team discipline,” regardless of tribe color. That’s what makes this place go. If you don’t yet have any discipline, you should find a different team.

            (Would someone post a link to that ignore-a-user SSC extension? Could become useful in similar circumstances.)

            butt-hurt poutrage conspiracy theories

            For someone who doesn’t seem to like Ann Coulter much, you do a great pastiche of her snide bitch act.

          • bintchaos says:

            Our interests are best served if we define “our team” as “team discipline,” regardless of tribe color. That’s what makes this place go. If you don’t yet have any discipline, you should find a different team.

            But thats the core of my problem isnt it?
            If my brain biochemistry inclines me to be on Team Explorer– I will privilege intellectual curiosity over discipline. If I privileged discipline and loyalty over empathy and intellectual curiosity I would be expressing the Team Soldier side of the Cooperation Complexity Paradigm.
            And because of my aspergers I’m empathy deficient so I cant scale the empathy wall.

            For someone who doesn’t seem to like Ann Coulter much, you do a great pastiche of her snide bitch act.


            Yes, because I’m exactly like Ann Coulter.
            Both-sides-do-it-ism.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yes, because I’m exactly like Ann Coulter.
            Both-sides-do-it-ism.

            “No, see, it’s okay when *I* do it because I criticize the other side for doing it more”

          • bintchaos says:

            The other side DOES do it more– thats what asymmetrical polarization means.
            But that’s not an approved SSC position.
            Case in point– commenters can crit the bejus out of Barack Obama– but crits of Trump arent allowed, even implicitly.
            Get dismissed as Trump-booing.
            I get it– SSC puts its thumb on the scale for conservatives in hopes of creating a middle ground.

          • Brad says:

            @bintchaos

            But thats not an approved SSC position.

            That’s true it isn’t. You are allowed to strawman and make evidence free attacks on ‘the Left’, ‘SJWs’, and ‘feminists’, but you can only critique steel-manned right wing positions.

            This is unfortunate, but you aren’t going to change it by doing what you are doing. Heck, I’m probably not going to change it by doing what I’m doing either. But at least I’m trying to get the discourse leveled up instead of leveled down.

          • bintchaos says:

            Like I explained…it was a socio-lab experiment.
            I arrogantly thought I could be the Arlie Hoschild of the “high-information” conservatives (as opposed to the low-information Tea Party base). I can’t–but its a personal failing, because I can’t do empathy as well as I should be able to because of my brain biochemistry.
            OTOH my CCP model is validated so thats a bonus.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s true it isn’t. You are allowed to strawman and make evidence free attacks on ‘the Left’, ‘SJWs’, and ‘feminists’, but you can only critique steel-manned right wing positions.

            Except that here she is, critiqueing non-steelmanned right wing positions, and her words appear on my screen just fine. She’s getting pushback, yes. But then, here you are, pushing back against the people who strawman and make evidence free attacks on ‘the Left’ et al, even though they aren’t really doing that in this thread.

          • bintchaos says:

            About half my comments dont make it through the censor filter.
            I’m still learning.

            That’s true it isn’t. You are allowed to strawman and make evidence free attacks on ‘the Left’, ‘SJWs’, and ‘feminists’, but you can only critique steel-manned right wing positions.


            Its almost like Scott is handicapping isnt it? Must mean he recognizes differing ability in the two tribes. 😉

          • Brad says:

            Its almost like Scott is handicapping isnt it?

            No, John Schilling is right as far as that goes. Allowed was the wrong word for me to use. Scott doesn’t enforce such a rule. Rather you’ll get endless dogpilled in the one case and maybe occasionally called out by me or HBC in the other.

          • CatCube says:

            @bintchaos

            Instead of explaining to the conservative base that Trump is a disaster and why he is a disaster, conservative intellectuals have run away from him like scalded cats.

            I guess I’m curious how people at National Review fit into your worldview. They ran an issue against Trump’s nomination prior to the final nomination votes. They currently run stories that would appear to be exactly what you say they should–why the President is bad on this or that issue. Of course, they also have authors (Dennis Prager) writing apologies for Trump, though with pushback from other authors.

            The only author I follow with any regularity is Jonah Goldberg, and he routinely gets shit from Trumpkins for not making excuses for everything the President does, and gets shit from the Left for saying that not everything the President does is bad.

          • bintchaos says:

            In the primaries the GOP establishment hated Trump, but was too terrified of the base to tell them why. Trump is now the GOP brand — what NRO does is the same thing the GOP congress does– plausible deniability for when the pendulum swings back, but absolute support for policy while in power. Decry Trump as awful-awful in public but lockstep compliance off the screen.
            Typical radar chaff for the base: “Trump is just learning” from Paul Ryan. “The Deep State (Intelligence Community) is conspiring against him.” Really Trump is a disaster but conservatives will stick to him like glue until they begin to lose elections. Loyalty and rejecting science and reality are a successful part of conservative fitness landscape…for now.

            I’m not so worried about US…the founders built a lot of protections against demogogues and tyrants into our system.
            Trump is having a lot of trouble doing things he wants to do domestically. I’m not one of those “the sky is falling” snowflakes.
            But his ignorance and vanity render him easily manipulated and tricked by America’s most dire and implacable enemies. I wonder about his IQ…we had a stupid president in GW Bush who also had unscrupulous advisors and he may have set events in motion that will destroy the planet. OTOH Reagan had full blown Alzheimers the last 2-3 years of his presidency but he had excellent advisors. Trump doesnt seem to have many advisors at all, and doesnt listen to them anyways.
            Trust, Russia and KSA are not our friends.

          • CatCube says:

            @bintchaos

            In the primaries the GOP establishment hated Trump, but was too terrified of the base to tell them why.

            So what are you asking for, if not this?

            Trump is now the GOP brand — what NRO does is the same thing the GOP congress does– plausible deniability for when the pendulum swings back, but absolute support for policy while in power.

            Got it. If they call out the President, it’s just a smokescreen. Have you entertained the idea that maybe if they call him out for one thing, then endorse his doing something else, that maybe they just don’t agree with the former but agree with the latter?

            You’re suffering from the same brain defect as the people who demand obeisance to Trump, that everybody is in one of exactly two camps. Just because somebody doesn’t run around frothing at the mouth about everything the President does doesn’t imply that they support him in everything.

          • bintchaos says:

            If you support Trump in one thing, you support him in everything…you cant support his domestic agenda without supporting his foreign agenda.
            This isnt just confirmation bias talking.
            The system is WAI…by that I mean the genius of the Founders will mostly protect Americans from him.
            But while Trump is working his way through our system he may very well blow up the rest of the world.
            The republicans are exhibiting the same moral cowardice and lack of forethought that got us into this situation.

          • random832 says:

            Got it. If they call out the President, it’s just a smokescreen. Have you entertained the idea that maybe if they call him out for one thing, then endorse his doing something else, that maybe they just don’t agree with the former but agree with the latter?

            The problem is when they call him out for one thing and then don’t back that up with action against the same things. For example, supposedly Rubio could have blocked Tillerson’s confirmation.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If you support Trump in one thing, you support him in everything…you cant support his domestic agenda without supporting his foreign agenda.

            [citation needed]

          • If you support Trump in one thing, you support him in everything…

            Nonsense.

            I support his withdrawal from Paris–I’ve been criticizing the CAGW position for years. There are probably other things he did I approve of–I’m seeing mostly positive responses to his judicial nominees.

            I oppose his positions on trade and immigration. Probably other things as well, but I haven’t been paying attention to the details of his policies and those are the big ones.

            I can’t figure out what his foreign policy is and have no reason to assume it is worse than Hillary’s would have been. I didn’t vote for either of them.

            Have you denounced Noam Chomsky for his writing on Cambodia yet? If not, applying your “if you don’t denounce it you are supporting it” approach to you, you are obviously a supporter of the Khmer Rouge.

          • bintchaos says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Silence is consent…as far I as know Chomsky didnt run for president, isnt president now, and has no power.
            You didnt vote to keep Trump out either….was it because you thought he couldnt win?
            Did you vote?

          • Silence is consent…as far I as know Chomsky didnt run for president, isnt president now, and has no power.

            Chomsky is a prominent intellectual figure. If silence is consent, then your silence about his misdeeds is consent to them.

            Did you vote?

            Yes. For Gary Johnson.

            Who is president doesn’t depend on who I consent to. It didn’t depend on who I voted for either.

            Is your position “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of problem?” I attempt to solve quite a lot of problems and have been doing so for a long time, but I have no interest in being drafted into other people’s crusades.

          • bintchaos says:

            @davidfriedman
            srsly…I’m now going get a strawman lecture from someone who threw his vote away in a petulant protest on a guy that couldn’t qualify to be a high school geography teacher?
            mirable dictu…

          • “someone who threw his vote away”

            A randomly placed vote in a presidential election has perhaps one chance in ten million of altering the outcome. And I’m in California, where the odds are a whole lot worse.

            You may be an adherent of the local secular religion according to which voting is a virtuous act and each voter is, in some mystical sense, choosing the winner. I’m not. Neither Hillary nor Trump was someone I wanted to have voted for, so I didn’t.

          • bintchaos says:

            Then why vote at all?
            I don’t understand.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos

            You’ve seen the by-county election map, right? The country is a vast sea of red with tiny but dense pockets of blue in the urban centers. Given that the sea of red is populated solely with the stupid and the evil, how do you make it through your day? Surrounded by that much malice and ignorance? It must take an awful toll on you.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @bintchaos

            Are you aware that there are people out there who think the two-party system is bullshit and would like to see it cracked open? (Or is that stance just going to get more trollish harrumphing about Trump apologism and obvious innumeracy because Dr Doe solved politics ages ago?)

            More concretely, if the Libertarians got 5% of the popular vote, they’d get additional funding for the next election. So the chances of one’s vote making a difference (for the intermediate objective) go way up, especially when you consider that it doesn’t have to go through the EC.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad Honco
            I’m sorry, but I thought I was clear on this– how much I admired Arlie Hoschild’s book and wanted to try to emulate it. I actually have more empathy for the low-information base than I do for conservative/libertarian commenters here.
            The base is being scammed and heartlessly exploited by their leadership.
            And just redraw that map by population to understand the popular vote.
            Or redraw it by the scholastic poll results to see the future.
            @Gobbobble
            A presidential system pretty much mandates a two party system. So to go to a parliamentary system would necessitate changing the Constitution. I think that the GOP should do that while they have control, it would ensure them a place at the table in a multi-party system going forward. But that won’t happen.
            And I thought it was 10%, and that isnt the reason Friedman voted for Johnson.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos

            I’m a Red Tribe commenter on SSC, I’ve had my IQ tested at 155 and have an advanced degree in electrical engineering.

            So I’m clearly not the low-information base. Just to be clear, I’m evil, aware of my evil, and crafting lies for the low-information base?

            In your worldview, why am I doing this? Did I choose to be evil, or was I born this way? Am I profiting in some way from spreading my evil lies? Is there any way I can become less evil, like you?

    • herbert herberson says:

      Making the reply I would have made to your reply:

      Sure, the steelman version of the Sad Puppies is “a SF/F story should have science fiction or fantasy elements as an integral part and not bolted-on or as a veneer.” But, the steel-man anti-puppy side is “Yes, we agree with that, but we still think your cliche-ridden pulp is crap.” The entire argument comes down to de gustibus non est disputandum… and given that I just found out that the author of the excellent Broken Earth series I just finished devouring the second book of is a black woman and prominent anti-puppy, I know where my gustibus is esting.

      Also, side note, I think flogging The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere has officially entered the realm of cliche. It’s just a short story, who cares.

  2. johan_larson says:

    Foxtrot Alpha has a gloomy article about the US Navy.

    The Navy has been in a long budgetary downward spiral since the Cold War ended. Back then, the Navy had just over 500 ships. Since then the fleet has dropped to 275 ships. And the number of ships that are available to deploy in a combat ready status has dropped to embarrassing lows, putting into question its ability to perform its central missions without further straining material and crews. Shipboard maintenance has been backlogged and ships that should be out to sea are instead sitting pierside, making the 275-ship number much, much smaller in an operational sense.

    http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-u-s-navy-is-screwed-1795662679

    One of the things the author worries about is whether the US shipbuilding industry is up to the task of producing ships at a faster clip. But really, must these ships be produced domestically? There are at least two nations (Japan and South Korea) that have plenty of shipbuilding expertise, and are the closest of allies of the USA.

    • Matt M says:

      Why is this a problem? Don’t we have like 10x the amount of ships of the next biggest Navy (China)?

      • johan_larson says:

        The USN aims rather higher than the Chinese navy. It is sized for influence in every ocean of the world, including the Indian Ocean, which is literally on the other side of the world. I don’t think any other nation tries to do that; the Chinese don’t turn up much in the Atlantic, and the French and British fleets aren’t usually found in the Pacific. But the Americans are everywhere all the time.

        • Matt M says:

          So we could also just, like, stop doing that.

          • bean says:

            And then we could see the nice global order we have today disappear. Ultimately, global trade, and thus global prosperity, rests on free use of the sea. And the sea is kept free because threatening it results in a visit from large gray ships operated by the US Navy. Sea power is as important today as it has ever been.

          • Matt M says:

            Who has a sufficiently sized navy to “threaten global trade” that does not benefit from global trade at least as much as we do?

            You think China is going to go out there and start sinking our merchant ships? Give me a break.

          • John Schilling says:

            Whose merchant ships, again? The United States basically doesn’t have any.

            And China isn’t going to sink e.g. Panamanian merchant ships either, because why would they want to? Panamanian merchant ships will stop when they are told to stop for inspection by e.g. the Chinese coast guard cutter at the Straits of Malacca. Ships headed for China carrying goods China wants go on their way, ships headed for Taiwan get turned back, ships headed for Vietnam get to pay a fee that makes trade with Vietnam marginally uncompetitive with Chinese trade in any market where China wants to compete with Vietnam. Nobody gets sunk. China has already shown that it knows how to play this game without sinking anybody’s ships.

            More generally, lots of nations benefit from “global trade”, but nobody benefits as much from global free trade as they would from global trade where they get to impose a carefully-chosen set of restrictions.

          • bean says:

            @Matt M
            Have you ever heard of the tanker war? Or the pirates off Somalia? In a choke point, anyone with a boat and a couple of RPGs can threaten global trade.

          • Matt M says:

            Somali pirates don’t really serve the interests of China either, and, if left to their own devices, I imagine they’d be a little more enthusiastic about eliminating the problem than we have been…

          • bean says:

            Somali pirates don’t really serve the interests of China either, and, if left to their own devices, I imagine they’d be a little more enthusiastic about eliminating the problem than we have been…

            This is true even today. Merchant ships request Chinese escort when they can get it, because their ROE is a lot less strict than ours.

            But you asked who had a navy that could threaten global trade and didn’t benefit from it. The answer to that is anyone with a small boat and an RPG who lives near an important choke point. (John did a perfectly good job answering your other prong. One of the main jobs of the gun on a destroyer is firing shots across the bow. No, I am not kidding.)
            And proposing the Chinese as the solution to the pirate problem on a global scale does put as at their mercy when they’re ‘too busy’ to get rid of a nest that we’d like dealt with, or when they start charging for escort past Somalia. Global economic and naval power have always tracked each other quite closely, and I am not certain enough of the direction of that correlation to be comfortable cutting the latter.

            Edit:
            If you don’t believe me, look at what happened the last two times the US made deep cuts to its navy. We learned a valuable lesson, and I don’t want us to forget again.

          • Matt M says:

            Bean,

            I don’t pretend to know much about naval history.

            I was trying to make a larger point that people see China having the most powerful military beneath ours and automatically assume adversarial intent. That if we cut back, they will suddenly take over and start pushing us around for no good reason.

            Except China is just as dependent on us as we are on them, perhaps even moreso. The idea that a Navy 5x the size of theirs is necessary or otherwise they’d threaten our trade is ludicrous. Half our trade goes to them, and if they stop getting it, they’re fucked. Our interests and theirs are pretty much in alignment everywhere except Japan, Korea, and some insignificant rocks in the South China sea.

          • bean says:

            I was trying to make a larger point that people see China having the most powerful military beneath ours and automatically assume adversarial intent. That if we cut back, they will suddenly take over and start pushing us around for no good reason.

            They will start pushing us around because it benefits them to be top dog internationally. Countries are basically psychopathic, unless someone unqualified is in charge. (Wilson springs to mind here.)

            Except China is just as dependent on us as we are on them, perhaps even moreso. The idea that a Navy 5x the size of theirs is necessary or otherwise they’d threaten our trade is ludicrous. Half our trade goes to them, and if they stop getting it, they’re fucked. Our interests and theirs are pretty much in alignment everywhere except Japan, Korea, and some insignificant rocks in the South China sea.

            And what about Taiwan and Vietnam? John isn’t wrong about what they could do if they had the ability, and I’m not at all sure that we’d hit back hard enough economically for it to not be worth it to them. Plan for capabilities, not for intentions is the good general rule. Obviously, the plans for the war with the UK are the result of training exercises, but I’m not confident enough of the Chinese to go that far.
            As for relative naval size, I’d give the Chinese about half our fleet on the whole. Yes, we’re far ahead of them in terms of carriers and SSNs, but land-based air and conventional submarines are reasonably good substitutes when you’re close to your own shore, and most plausible scenarios are going to be fought in the western Pacific. And unlike, say, the Grand Fleet, we have to cover the whole world.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve read various comments on the internet along the lines that US aircraft carriers would do very poorly against a first-tier enemy (China or Russia). But my ignorance of this topic is extreme enough that I don’t even know where to begin getting a sense of whether this claim is right. At least a couple participants here are actual experts in something related to the right field, so I’d be interested in hearing what they have to say.

          • bean says:

            I’ve read various comments on the internet along the lines that US aircraft carriers would do very poorly against a first-tier enemy (China or Russia).

            We won’t know until the balloon goes up, but my opinion is that it’s not nearly as bad as you’ve heard. One of the great bugaboos is the DF-21 AShBM, which has never been the subject of a full-up test. The SM-3 that we have on many of our escorts has been tested many times, and seems to work pretty well. I expect that while the DF-21s are busy blowing merchant ships out of the water, the SM-3s will shoot down the few that manage to find real targets. Hard on the merchies, but that’s life.
            On swarm attacks in general, we’re a lot less vulnerable than we were in, say, the early 80s. A modern AEGIS ship has something like an order of magnitude more defense capability than what we had back then. Basically, the cost of an attack on a carrier group that could swamp the defenses is to the point where it’s no longer cheap, and our opponent is likely to run out of attack forces before we run out of carriers.

          • John Schilling says:

            As bean points out, there are some uncertainties due to limited peacetime testing, but the best bet is that any missile fired at a US Navy carrier battle group is simply going to be shot out of the sky. But, any major power is going to have more stand-off ordnance in its arsenal than there are defensive missiles available in a carrier battle group. In the short term, a CVBG will likely survive by being a small, mobile target in a large ocean, never being pinned down long enough for the enemy to concentrate its full force against. In the long run, it’s going to have to pull back to rearm – and it can’t afford to ever go close inshore, less than 2-300 km, against a major power.

            And on the other side of the equation, the major powers have air defenses of their own, maybe not as sophisticated as Aegis but anchored to unsinkable bedrock. Four squadrons of F-18s and a couple hundred cruise missiles aren’t going to e.g. destroy the Chinese Air Force on the ground, they aren’t going to control the skies over China or even just the China sea. At best, they are going to deny the Chinese control of those skies and seas and damage a few select targets.

            If we can keep a couple of aircraft carriers constantly deployed in theater, that means denying China the sea and air supremacy they would need to e.g. invade Taiwan, and make any war more trouble than it’s worth. If all we can do is cause trouble for a month or so before we have to pull back, that’s not so credible a deterrent.

            Same deal for Russia, a hypothetical aggressive EU or restored Ottoman Empire or whatever else we might face over the next twenty years. Because bean is right that it can take a generation to (re)build a Navy. Or to build a new world order to replace Pax Americana.

      • Nornagest says:

        Depends where you draw the line, but the answer’s so qualified that it’s basically no. We have a lot more ships, but that’s largely because we do a lot of power projection and that takes a lot of support vessels; in terms of combatant vessels, and especially in terms of combatant vessels in a given theater, the margins are smaller. Japan has 34 destroyers to our 62, for example, and theirs aren’t nearly as spread out.

        (Interestingly, I found when confirming this that India operates half as many amphibious warfare ships as we do — but three times as many as the UK, which is next on the list. I wonder what they’re planning to do with them.)

        • Sandy says:

          India has Pakistan to its east and China to its west, so at the very least they feel the need to dominate the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal for their own protection.

        • bean says:

          India operates 1 ex-US LPD and 8 LSTs. The USN operates 9 LHDs/LHAs, 10 LPDs, and 12 LSDs. Being really generous, they have an equivalent to 4 of our ships. (All of the US ships can land troops from over the horizon. The LSTs have to beach themselves to unload.) I think you may have stumbled across an article which counted India’s landing craft (as their wiki article does). They have 10, and my latest copy of Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet (the 2013 edition, as the latest one is still too expensive) says we have 118.
          India’s amphibious force is fairly typical for a power of its size, but nothing special.

          As for the Japanese, you’d need to count the 22 cruisers we have when measuring us against them. There’s not that much distinction these days. Also, a lot of their destroyers are actually what everyone else (except the USN pre-1975) would call frigates, smaller than the Burkes and without air defense capabilities. We don’t really have any comparable ships in commission today, although the LCSs aren’t too far off given how ASW is done now.
          Basically, understanding relative naval strengths is really hard.

      • John Schilling says:

        The United States Navy has fewer ships than the Chinese Navy, though to be fair most of China’s are small coast-defense craft. If you count only large oceangoing combatants of frigate size or above, and modern submarines, it comes to 173 for the United States and 130 for China. The United States does have roughly 5:1 superiority in aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, and 8:1 in large amphibious ships, but that is changing.

        The United States also has obligations in about twice as many oceans as China. You imagine that these obligations can be abandoned without consequence, but it would be a very expensive and irreversible gamble to test that theory.

        • Matt M says:

          Oh I’m sure there would be consequences.

          Most of them probably good. 🙂

        • MNH says:

          >it would be a very expensive and irreversible gamble to test that theory.

          What, in your opinion, are the most possible and most dangerous negative outcomes that could result from this?

          • John Schilling says:

            Among other things, freedom of the seas is a recent European conceit that the rest of the world has mixed feelings about and that only the US and UK defend in any materially significant way. So take the US Navy out of the equation, and the South China Sea may become a part of China, for Chinese shipping only unless perhaps a suitable tariff or transit fee is paid. Likewise various other seas, e.g. the Persian Gulf w/re Persia, according to the relative power of the navies in question. And possibly wars if the power of those navies is in question.

            If you’re the sort of person for whom “globalism” and “free trade” are naughty words on account of white working-class unemployment, you may find this to be a welcome prospect.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ John Schilling

            The logical conclusion of everything that you have written is that the US should abandon some specific sections f the ocean so that China (insert geo-political force here) will expand into and thus dilute its effective naval strength.

          • John Schilling says:

            China (and other geopolitical actors) are intelligent agents, not ideal gases expanding into any volume opened to them.

          • baconbacon says:

            China (and other geopolitical actors) are intelligent agents, not ideal gases expanding into any volume opened to them.

            So the threat is that China both will and won’t expand their naval influence?

          • John Schilling says:

            China will expand its naval influences into places where this will benefit China, often at the expense of the United States and its allies.

            China will not be rendered unable to do this by expending its naval influence into useless places simply because we say “look, we’ve left this place unguarded so you can send all your ships there – oops, looks like you don’t have any ships left for the places that matter”.

            If the latter is not what you meant by “abandon specific sections … dilute its effective naval strength”, you need to explain that part better.

    • baconbacon says:

      You can modify this type of article to fit 1936.

      Standing army/navy is mostly meaningless in large scale conflict once it is large and advanced enough to stall out an invasion while you ramp up. You can twist this into a justification for Israel to have a massive standing military, but for the US this is all about status.

      • bean says:

        This is just not true, and it wasn’t in 1936, either. The US was the only country which managed to get any meaningful quantity of ships above the scale of destroyers or really austere carriers into service that were started after the war broke out. The British managed to get a total of 10 cruisers laid down after September 1st 1939 into commission, only 4 of which were laid down in 1940 or later (and could thus be considered properly war-built, as these things take time to spin up). There was not a single battleship laid down after its nation’s entry into the war which saw service.
        Even a Burke is much more like a cruiser or a battleship than a WW2 destroyer, and the US doesn’t have the industrial capability to do what we did back then. This is utter nonsense. We need the navy ready to go in peacetime, because mobilization isn’t really possible any more, even if we ignore nuclear weapons.

        • baconbacon says:

          The British managed to get a total of 10 cruisers laid down after September 1st 1939 into commission, only 4 of which were laid down in 1940 or later (and could thus be considered properly war-built, as these things take time to spin up)

          This is because you are using the literal outbreak of war as the cut off. The US started its war ramp up in 36/37, the British had 5 battleships building in 1939, they weren’t random, Germany annexes Austria in 1938, and there was a 5 year build up to that.

          No, you cannot literally wait until the Luftwaffe are strafing your airfields before starting the ramp up, but it is rarely the case that you don’t have tons of advanced warning.

          The Birtish also didn’t prioritize ship building during WW2 because it very quickly became an air war, and the Germans were challenging them at sea constantly. They did however manage to build ~130,000 aircraft during the war, which was where they put their ramp up efforts.

          nd the US doesn’t have the industrial capability to do what we did back then.

          In terms of absolute production this is nonsense, industrial capacity in the US now wildly outstrips industrial capacity during the 30s. In terms of capacity relative to the rest of the world this is also probably not true, but a much stronger case could be built for it.

          Beyond that capacity right now has a lot to do with the Navy having spent 200-400 billion a year for a few decades trying to staff, maintain and upgrade a massive fleet.

          There was not a single battleship laid down after its nation’s entry into the war which saw service.

          Because battleships were mostly a waste once WW2 broke out, not because they couldn’t be built. Being able to produce what the war actually calls for a is a feature of the system, you don’t have to allocate resources to antiquated (but massively expensive and culturally significant) war machines.

          WW2 was mostly an aircraft, aircraft carrier and tank war, saying no one built new battleships during isn’t an argument against the ramp up.

          because mobilization isn’t really possible any more

          This is a ridiculous assertion.

          • bean says:

            This is because you are using the literal outbreak of war as the cut off. The US started its war ramp up in 36/37, the British had 5 battleships building in 1939, they weren’t random, Germany annexes Austria in 1938, and there was a 5 year build up to that.

            It was an example. Navies have spent the past 70 years hunting for mobilization designs, to be built during wartime. They’ve failed. And during that time, the minimum cost for a good surface combatant has been rising. In WW2, it was high enough that major surface combatants were by and large not started after the war broke out. The US is sort of the exception, but even then, most of the effort was carried by ships started before the war.
            Re the 5 British battleships, that was all they had the capacity to build, due to limits on heavy gun mounting production. Vanguard was added because she didn’t tax those resources. There are similar limits on US production today.
            (Also, the naval buildup started in 1936/1937 for a specific reason. Take a look some time at what various navies were planning to build to. It wasn’t obvious that the war would break out when it did, and their plans changed quite a bit.)

            The Birtish also didn’t prioritize ship building during WW2 because it very quickly became an air war, and the Germans were challenging them at sea constantly. They did however manage to build ~130,000 aircraft during the war, which was where they put their ramp up efforts.

            Uhh…. U-boats? The Japanese? The Med? You still don’t have a good grasp of WW2 history.

            In terms of absolute production this is nonsense, industrial capacity in the US now wildly outstrips industrial capacity during the 30s. In terms of capacity relative to the rest of the world this is also probably not true, but a much stronger case could be built for it.

            One of the main limitations on the US production of destroyer escorts was the ability to cut gears for their propulsion systems. The British were heavily limited by gun mountings. This isn’t a strategy game, and countries don’t just have one stat for ‘industry’. I have some idea of where these bottlenecks are and how much effort it would take to break them. Shipyards are more complex than they used to be, and we can’t expand them at will.

            Beyond that capacity right now has a lot to do with the Navy having spent 200-400 billion a year for a few decades trying to staff, maintain and upgrade a massive fleet.

            One of the lessons of the Washington Naval Treaty is that not building a fleet means that it’s a lot harder to build one when you need to. Seriously, the mobilization argument has been thrashed out for decades, and it’s not going to get any more valid today.

            Because battleships were mostly a waste once WW2 broke out, not because they couldn’t be built. Being able to produce what the war actually calls for a is a feature of the system, you don’t have to allocate resources to antiquated (but massively expensive and culturally significant) war machines.

            It’s not even worth my time to rebut this, at least not to you. If anyone else actually believes this, and isn’t dissuaded by my other writings, I’ll be more than happy to explain why it is wrong.

            WW2 was mostly an aircraft, aircraft carrier and tank war, saying no one built new battleships during isn’t an argument against the ramp up.

            So you’re saying that they sacrificed battleships for carriers? Then tell me, how many full fleet carriers (not light or escort carriers) laid down by nations other than the US after the nation in question entered the war actually saw service?
            (The answer is 3 in Japan, 1 in Britain, but in the later case, it was a November 1939 ship.)

            This is a ridiculous assertion.

            So how quickly can we build carriers? How much slack is there in the production system? What about AEGIS? Or gas turbines, or sonars, or any number of other systems? And how long do you expect a war with China to last before it goes nuclear?

          • Nornagest says:

            In terms of absolute production this is nonsense, industrial capacity in the US now wildly outstrips industrial capacity during the 30s.

            This is probably true in an abstract sense, but there are capabilities we had then that we don’t have now. In 1939 we had something like a dozen naval shipyards; now we have five. In terms of commercial shipyards the difference is even starker; there is essentially no production of large cargo ships in the US now, although we still produce a fair number of small and medium-sized craft, mostly for the oil industry.

            (To be fair, a lot of the shipyards making PSVs and ferries could make WWII-era freighters, which were smaller and less specialized than modern container ships.)

        • Deiseach says:

          We need the navy ready to go in peacetime

          Better to have them, and not need them, than need them, and not have them?

          • bean says:

            To quote the conclusion of the British report on the vulnerability of capital ships to air attack, ‘If their [air power advocates] theories turn out well founded, we have wasted money; if ill founded, we would, in putting them to the test, have lost the Empire.’

    • CatCube says:

      Well, Japan and South Korea are US allies because of security guarantees we provide due in large part to the US Navy. If the thought is that we can let our Navy shrink and our shipbuilding capabilities rot because well, we can just purchase them from South Korea when the balloon goes up, we may find that South Korea is a Chinese client by then.

    • bean says:

      Foxtrot Alpha has, of late, managed the trick of being even less accurate than is typical of the news media about military/naval affairs. Do we need to increase the aboard-ship maintenance budgets? Yes. Do we need to get the lead out of our shipbuilding? Yes. But we can do that. I believe our limiting rate in carrier infrastructure is about 1/3 years, and we’re at 1/5 years now. (And the cost per ship will go down if we do that.) Eyeballing, our rate on the DDG-51s is about 4/year, which we seem to be getting back up to after the disaster that was the Zumwalts. The LCS is looking like it might turn out to be useful in the next version.
      I’ve actually been aboard two USN ships in the past year, one for about 10 hours. They didn’t mach what I’ve heard of the late 70s, when it was really bad. I’ve heard the same from others who should know.

      • Garrett says:

        What happened with the Zumwalts and the LCSs? As far as I can tell, we sunk a huge amount of money into them and then decided to stop making them. Why? WTF?

        • bean says:

          We decided to stop making the Zumwalts because they didn’t work, and weren’t likely to. Think of the usual criticisms of DoD procurement, and assume they’re actually true, and you have a pretty good idea of what the Zumwalt program was like. The LCS is still around, but they’re calling the next batch frigates, concentrating on ASW, and making them slower. This is a good thing, although not as good as if they’d been built that way from the start. The LCS-2 in particular has fantastic helicopter facilities, and the helicopter is arguably the primary weapon of ships in that size range.
          That program has been very quiet for the past year or so, which could be very good or very bad. I’m not sure which way to bet.

        • John Schilling says:

          The first round of Littoral Combat Ships incorporated a fundamentally conflicted set of requirements that doomed it from the start. There are two schools of thought on how to win naval battles in littoral environments. One is to have small, fast, stealthy, semi-expendable ships like this (or small submarines) for doing hit-and-run attacks amidst the islands and inlets and shallow waters. Works better for a small navy defending its own coast than for US-style expeditionary warfare, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us to have some craft like that ourselves.

          The other is that, as bean says, the helicopter is the primary offensive weapon of the modern surface combatant and all those small/fast/stealthy boats better be more than semi-expendable because they are all going to be hunted down and sunk by missile-armed helicopters. This is a style of warfare the USN is pretty good at.

          But because the advocates couldn’t make up their mind, and because US defense budgets will only stretch to cover one new system in a class per generation, the LCS was given the absolute and explicit requirements of A: a 40-knot maximum speed and B: full helicopter support facilities. Along with the implicit requirement that it be small and cheap enough that nobody laugh too loudly when you say it’s still good for hit-and-run raids along the enemy coasts, etc. A small, cheap 40-knot helipad is such a blatant contradiction in terms that when we demanded such a thing, that’s all we got. Less critical requirements like “can sink enemy warships in battle”, “can withstand high seas without breaking up”, and even “can operate in normal seas for more than a few days without breaking down”, got lost along the way. Also, it wasn’t at all cheap.

          If the next batch turn into decent helicopter frigates, fine, we’ve got an opening for a decent helicopter frigate now that the Perrys are going away.

          The Zumwalts, by comparison, were a collection of good ideas that ought to have worked well together but, as bean notes, brought out the worst in the modern defense contracting process. Not even Captain James Kirk could make that ship work, and unfortunately the Navy doesn’t seem to have an engineering officer named Montgomery Scott.

          • CatCube says:

            Sounds like the movie “The Pentagon Wars” about the development of the Bradley. The basic premise of the movie was that nobody could swat the Good Idea Fairy fluttering around an whispering into peoples’ ears.

          • bean says:

            Sounds like the movie “The Pentagon Wars” about the development of the Bradley. The basic premise of the movie was that nobody could swat the Good Idea Fairy fluttering around an whispering into peoples’ ears.

            Pretty much. The movie gets the Bradly entirely wrong, which is typical. The Zumwalt seems like it might have happened because people took media depictions of the Pentagon procurement process as a guide. In reality, it has to do with a serious change in the way we do warship design, as a warship’s tasks are more complicated and harder to measure than those of airplanes or tanks. Probably. The Burkes slipped in just under the wire on some new DoD processes, and I can’t shake the suspicion of a causal link.

            John’s description of the LCS is pretty good, but it doesn’t quite capture the nuttiness of the era, when there was a proposed small carrier that physically wasn’t big enough to carry the proposed complement of airplanes. The advocates ignored the fact that they would have to stack airplanes on top of each other, and just kept repeating ‘VTOL’.

          • Nornagest says:

            The movie gets the Bradly entirely wrong…

            I haven’t seen the movie since… probably 2000 or so, but what does it get wrong about the Bradley?

            I mean, besides the fact that it described an utter boondoggle and the platform ended up performing tolerably well in two (three?) wars.

          • bean says:

            I mean, besides the fact that it described an utter boondoggle and the platform ended up performing tolerably well in two (three?) wars.

            This, pretty much. The Bradly is widely misunderstood, because it looks a lot like a tank, but isn’t one. This was apparently not obvious back in the 80s and early 90s. The general public does not understand Pentagon procurement, and any result they turn out will be terrible. The ‘reformers’ almost saddled us with a bunch of useless junk. The F-16 was originally supposed to be a simple daytime dogfighter before the professionals managed to make it useful.

  3. Mark says:

    I know the that I have a sense of status and my place within a hierarchy. I’ve experienced the feeling that someone is higher status than me, and I’ve had the impression that someone is lower status than me.

    I’ve never had that feeling with anyone who I’ve spent a large amount of time with, and built a personal relationship with, however. The holder of status/stigma is never fully human.
    When I spend a large amount of time with someone, their status goes out of the window, and it has to be a case of either friendly equality, or conflict.
    I might have to treat them in a certain way to get what I want from them, but I don’t feel any internalised sense of inferiority (as I might if I had just met someone who seemed particularly impressive.) I often feel a sense of unjustified superiority, but I try not to let it show.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to treat a close companion as “lower status” and I wouldn’t tolerate being treated in such a way.

    Does anyone else share this experience? Do you have a sense of “status” existing among your close friends, coworkers, and families?

    If not, and we evolved in small groups of family and close allies, it suggests to me that status seeking is unlikely to be a good explanation for evolved human behaviour.

    [My thinking is that the desire to cooperate must be stronger than the urge to compete for status, and that if status seeking is central to our behaviour, it says more about the culture with which we are cooperating.
    Perhaps the tribes of my ancestors were especially egalitarian.]

    • carvenvisage says:

      disclaimer, I feel like this might be poorly worded in parts, because my thinking on the topic is not that clear.

      _

      I think status is a pretty weird frame to look at things through, and specifically a security oriented habit appropriate only to security oriented situations.

      If you’re friends with someone, you don’t need to be aware of who would be more likely to win in a social confrontation, because ‘Social war’ isn’t a perpetually live (even if unlikely) option between friends. You, being a human, prefer not to view your friends as threats, so if you’re somewhat lucky (but not so lucky that you feel you can afford to do this all the time), when around friends that ‘status assignment’ process can switch off.

      On the other side of it, if you’re already in a conflict with someone, well, everyone knows you can’t just back out of it, right? The whole reason status is something you(r mind) (feel(s) you) have to keep track of, is because people are allowed to attack random other people, but in that kind of equilibrium folk wisdom says its more important to be a poor target than to avoid individual problems, which may not be a problem anyway. Threat again comes out of the picture because your only option is to hold your ground.

      (It’s basically the same problem as prisons small, -when someone attacks someone else, there isn’t a strong(/precise) enough immune response to automatically attack the attacker.)

      _

      I might be overselling the security angle. It could also be that humans are raised in super controlled environments where the only thing that seems ‘real’ or natural to them is the social hierarchy, and then this heuristic is vastly overapplied not because people are at-risk/risk-averse, but because it’s habit/what they’re interested in.

      • carvenvisage says:

        *it could also be other things, didn’t mean to phrase the alternative explanation I gave like it’s the only one.

      • Mark says:

        Yes, I wonder if the direct experience of status is simply the fear felt when confronted by a powerful group of outsiders?

        There is definitely something there, something “status-y”. We will adopt submissive body language, and agree to their demands. The reaction is certainly different when the threat is offered by a person, as opposed to a natural phenomena or animal.

        But, I think the key thing here is “powerful group”. In historical experience, there hasn’t really been that much opportunity for individual behaviour to affect status, or individual power.

        Perhaps intra-group egalitarianism is one solution to the problem of social stability, and the status of the group as a whole wins more reproductive rewards than our status within it.

        Once dealing with an out-group, however, submission can work as a strategy, because they might just go away.

    • Well... says:

      I’ve never had that feeling with anyone who I’ve spent a large amount of time with, and built a personal relationship with, however.

      Nice to say, but: Do you have any close long-time friends who would normally be of a very different status anyway?

      I have several such friends and in-laws, and I still feel the status difference even after decades of closeness. I just don’t let it get in the way.

      • If status is defined in terms of conventional categories, I have had a number of SCA friends who would be of a very different status. They didn’t feel to me like lower status.

        The same is true in the other direction of a friend, via a political context, who is much richer than I am.

        • To expand on my comment.

          I put it in terms of conventional categories of status, by which I meant things such as education and income. Within the SCA, and I expect within many other groups, there is a different sort of status, status within the group. Differences there are consistent with friendship.

          To take one clear case, SCA knights often have squires. The squire is probably a friend of the knight, but it is a relation of clearly unequal status.

      • Mark says:

        I think so. Maybe?

        I have friends who earn a lot more money than me, I have blood relations who are in prestigious occupations (and I most certainly am not), and I have in-laws who are successful business people.

        • Well... says:

          I didn’t mean status in terms of money, I meant more in terms of culture/cultural heritage. Sort of the Charles Murray “Coming Apart” sense.

          So, if you’re educated, white, some species of “rationalist”, come from some kind of middle-class background, etc., do you have friends who are black and from the hood, friends who smoke cigarettes and talk with a Southern accent, friends who are refugees from the 3rd world, friends who are devoutly Christian and rural, etc. Could also include friends who are ultra-rich or really famous and see/experience/access the world in ways that are unfathomable to you because of their wealth and status. (I.e. NOT the “millionaire next door” type.)

      • Tibor says:

        I suspect that if there is a “dividing line” is not so much wealth as it is education. But not even that is true, it is more about intelligence which obviously correlates with education but not perfectly. I think that intelligence is not what people usually mean by status though.

        As for me, one of my closest friends doesn’t have a university degree*, an ex-girlfriend who I’m still very close friends is a trained cosmetician so she did not even have a maturity diploma** when we were dating and only did something like that at a not very good school when she was 26. Her current husband is a lawyer who earns quite a lot of money even though a lot of his friends are basically patrons of one local pub, a lot of whom are sort of “losers” in that they haven’t accomplished most anything and their hobbies mostly consist of going to the pub and to various concerts (I feel like these particular guys are stuck in their early 20s although some of them are in their early 40s now). I don’t know how it is in the US, or even the UK which seems to be more “ordered” in terms of social classes, but at least where I’m from money or even education is not a big barrier. Of course, if you’re smart you’ll less likely to be friends with someone who’s completely stupid. But they don’t have to necessarily be as smart as you or you don’t have to be as smart as them. There are a lot of things other than IQ which influence whether I find someone (un)interesting, and IQ itself is not usually what people recognize as status either (it is usually either money or how “esteemed” your profession is).

        *although he has a sort of what would probably be translated to English as “specialist college” or something, in optometrics. The point is that it is shorter than a proper university and not research-based at all. It is typically a school that prepares people to some kind of a “lower-level” specialist job like being a dentist assistant, optometrist, lab assistant or something like that.

        **this diploma is a common thing in many European countries, it is a requirement if you want to study at a university and it is usually what you get at all high schools (high school for me ends at the age of 18 more or less) which don’t train a specific skill exclusively. So typically a baker, a hairdresser, a cosmetician, etc. won’t have one (although sometimes they have an option to study 1 year longer and get it), but most people will.

        P.S.: I just remember I went to high school with a girl who’s brother is a billionaire and in fact nobody even knew about it for quite a long time. She had friends who one would probably consider “working class”.

    • rlms says:

      I don’t think “general status” is granular enough that there are noticeable differences in it between me and people I know well, as that category doesn’t include any incredibly successful or unsuccessful people. But in terms of specific status systems (social status in particular strata, academic status, etc.) there are definite differences.

    • Tibor says:

      How many close friends have you got? I think that even in a medium-large band of hunter-gatherers (say 30-40 people), there will be people who aren’t your close friends. You can still treat each other like equals with a close friend while being considered of different status by others. You might feel there is no “status between” you and your friend but women might feel otherwise and clearly prefer you over your friend or the other way around, that does not mean that the higher status friend is going to treat the other as somehow below him. Similarly with other contexts (where your relative positions on the ladder might be reversed). As long as everyone is not close friends with everyone in your hunter-gatherer band, status will still remain a motivation.

    • Brad says:

      I’m not one of the people that goes for status explains everything. I think it is a real phenonon but not as important as some in the rationalist and rational-adjacent world claim. With that said, I do think status matters even with close friend and family.

      Among people that I know since childhood or young adulthood, including siblings, cousins, high school, and college friends, relationships have changed between me and them as well as between them and them based in part on standard markers of life progress and success or lack thereof. The most successful of my friends from college in terms of career gets treated differently relatively speaking than he did in college. Not to some extreme extent (see first paragraph) but in a noticeable way.

    • Matt C says:

      I see status distinctions in basically all my personal relationships. Somebody tends to lead, and others to follow. This isn’t set in stone, it can vary with context, but there’s usually a noticeable tendency.

      I don’t see anything bad about this. It’s nice to have a friend you can count on for support and advice, and it’s nice in a different way to be the guy who offers it.

      You seem to be defining status differences as something explicit and dramatic, where Bob is directly bossing Joe around and Joe just puts up with it. But a status difference can be as simple as one of them usually being the one to ask the other where they feel like getting lunch today.

      • Tibor says:

        But a status difference can be as simple as one of them usually being the one to ask the other where they feel like getting lunch today.

        This does not have to necessarily be a question of status. If you want to hang out with me and I want to hang out with you but I want it more since I enjoy your company a bit more (or more often) than you do mine, then it is likely me who will have to be active. I don’t think it makes too much sense to call this status.

        • Matt M says:

          What? This is EXACTLY what status is!

          • rlms says:

            I think there’s a difference. If you are generally more popular than me and therefore your company is in high demand, you are higher status. But another situation that fits Tibor’s description is if we are equally popular in general, but there are differences in how much we enjoy each other’s company specifically. Status doesn’t come into it there.

          • Matt C says:

            Seems we have different understandings of what “status” should mean.

            You and Tibor seem to be on the same page–that if we’re just looking at the interaction between two people as a pair, the idea of “status” doesn’t really apply. Status only refers to social standing/ranking within a larger group.

            So you’ve probably heard the expression, “in love, there is always one who kisses, and one who offers the cheek”.

            To me this is a status difference, in and of itself. You would say the expression is describing something else–not status, or at least not necessarily status. Am I right?

          • rlms says:

            @Matt C
            Yes, I would see that as a different issue. You could view it as status within a group of two, but the group there is so small that most of the ideas about status don’t apply. You can’t really compete or signal status in that context, because there is only one other actor.

          • Matt C says:

            We mostly understand each other, then. Kind of interesting that status “obviously” means one thing to me and (I think) Matt M, and clearly something different to you and Tibor.

            I think many of the ideas about status do apply between two people. Who is more likely to defer to the other, who most wants to smooth over conflict, who is more often seeking approval or assistance from the other.

            And you do have competition and signaling in a two person context. For example my son is constantly playing little one-upsmanship games with his sister, and sometimes with his parents. My brother and I do the same thing with each other. It’s playful, but I still want to come out on top when we get into it.

  4. The discussion of Hungrian genius is pretty dead now, so I thought I would add a bit here. I just got back from a couple of days in Budapest. According to the people there, most of the Jews in Budapest survived the Nazis, although the same was not true elsewhere in Hungary.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Maybe 60% in Budapest, 20% elsewhere, both countryside and territories annexed during the war.

    • John Schilling says:

      Interesting. Any thoughts/evidence/explanations as to why? I’d expect the cities to have better records of who the Jews are and where they live, more clearly-defined “Jewish Neighborhoods” to search or isolate, and fewer hiding places that aren’t already on the “owned by a Jew so search here” list.

      • I don’t know the reason, but my speculation is that the Budapest Jews were relatively high status people with lots of non-Jewish friends, including ones in the city administration. Also, the urban non-Jewish population may have been less antisemitic than the rural.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Interesting point about records. Maybe outside the cities you don’t need records? Just roll up to some shtetl and kill everyone there? On the other hand I don’t know that Hungary even had shtetls.

        My overall impression is that Holocaust administration was so chaotic that you expect anamolies. For example, wasn’t the Romania survival rate was surprisingly good given, how enthusiastic the locals were, partly because the government was too rapacious to elevate principled extermination over plunder?

  5. I have another question on the UK elections. It seems that the Scottish National Party had huge losses. What’s up with that? I thought Brexit was supposed to bring out the secessionist in all Scots, so they could go join the EU themselves. Has this meme been way overblown, or are the losses of the SNP totally orthogonal to secessionist Scotland? Do secessionists vote for parties other than the SNP?

    Spoken in total ignorance from the other side of the Atlantic.

    • cassander says:

      My understanding, which is very limited, is that labor and the SNP tend to compete over seats, so labour doing better comes at a direct cost to the SNP. Why labour did better, I couldn’t say.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      The result of the previous independence referendum was pretty close. The SNP were pushing for another independence referendum, and it seems like folks were fed up with that, so went for the unionist parties instead. There’s also a feeling that the SNP aren’t doing a whole lot else except push for Scottish independence, which is a problem for even folks who’d quite like it but also would like a decently governed country in the meantime.

      I’m quite surprised at how well the conservatives did in Scotland. I wasn’t expecting that. From 1 seat to 13 isn’t bad going – Labour went from 1 to 7, and historically Labour have done much better in Scotland.

    • rlms says:

      A large part of the losses were to the Conservatives, which was unexpected as they have never done well in Scotland. The only explanation I can think of is that there were a large number of Scots who *really* didn’t want another referendum. The smaller SNP losses to Labour were more like regression to the mean; the SNP had previously taken an unusually large number of seats from them. I think it’s less that secessionists chose Labour over the SNP, and more like left-wing non-secessionists (or those who’d supported secession on the basis it would allow them to enact left-wing policies) who’d previously supported the SNP went back to Labour.

      • Rosemary7391 says:

        The swing towards more conservative candidates was also reflected in the local elections last month – areas which no one ever thought would be conservative suddenly returned conservative councillors. I wonder if it’s down to the Scottish Conservative leadership? They’ve definitely done well making noise about being an opposition to the SNP and another independence referendum, and Ruth Davidson seems to come across well.

    • See YouGov on secessionists voting for parties other than the SNP. (In short: there do seem to be quite a few of them who stated an intention to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat. But that doesn’t explain the Conservative gains.)

      • 1soru1 says:

        There are a lot of people who prefer the Conservatives on economic grounds, but were persuaded by the SNP argument for independence on cultural grounds. Other parties call them ‘Tartan Tories’.

        But the proviso was always that the economics worked out as affordable; this is ultimately why the referendum narrowly voted to remain.

        After Brexit, independence basically looks like economic suicide. With England outside the EU, you would need a non-symbolic border with it. Presumably not a literal wall, but passports, inspections, queues, paperwork, maybe even tariffs. Also, they didn’t like the mostly-leftist policies of the SNP in office.

        So ‘Tartan Tory’ voters returned to their natural home. This was helped by a good campaign from the local Scottish leadership. For the middle class, this largely completing the detoxifying of the Conservative brand that Cameron started.

  6. I have heard on this blog and elsewhere that SSC is a rationalist blog, and is read by rationalist readers. Maybe, but what does that mean? Don’t most people in the world consider themselves to be rational?

    In wikipedia they seem to contrast rationalism with empiricism. Thus rationalists give more precedence to apriori thought than to experience. I am certainly not in that camp, and I don’t think this blog is either.

    Maybe it as defined by LessWrong? Does that mean we need to believe in scary AI’s, effective altruism, and the various other things advocated by the sequences to be rationalists? (I haven’t actually read them, and am not particularly interested. But I’ve heard about them here. Maybe I have them mixed up). That may define Scott’s thinking somewhat, but I doubt if it is true of a majority of his readers.

    Is there a relatively brief definition of rationalism that covers the blog and most of its readers? I think there is somewhat of common mindset here, but I’m not sure what it is.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s the Less Wrong sense, but not necessarily including AI and EA and all that jazz — more what I think of as the core content, which has mainly to do with heuristics and biases and the value of Bayesian statistics. (Though I think Eliezer somewhat overbills the latter in the sequences.) Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is a good popular survey of much of the same content, if you’re allergic to Eliezer or just don’t want to read half a million words.

      It’s not the mainstream philosophy sense. I’ve often felt Less Wrong made a mistake picking that name, for that reason — in the rational/empirical dichotomy, LW rationalism is definitely more empirical than rational.

    • rlms says:

      Rationalist as in “SSC is rationalist” (saying “internet rationalist” is less ambiguous, but still has potential for confusion with RationalWiki) means “part of the LessWrong diaspora”. It’s a bit more complicated than that since nowadays there are some rationalist things that are more than one step removed from LessWrong, but the basic definition certainly applies here. I don’t think AI safety, EA, being a disciple of Big Yud etc. are necessary conditions for being an internet rationalist, indeed I don’t think there are any necessary conditions. But contrarianism and being vaguely interested in heuristics and biases are pretty common.

    • Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is a good popular survey of much of the same content, if you’re allergic to Eliezer or just don’t want to read half a million words.

      I am definitely allergic to reading 1/2 million words. It turns out I just finished Thinking Fast and Slow, but I don’t understand how that tells me what rationalism is. He gives a lot of examples to show how people are not rational in particular ways, but I don’t see what that has to do with SSC.

      rlms comment on contrarianism and heuristics and biases sounds interesting. I don’t know that I see such things in SSC, but I buy into all three of them personally. So maybe those are characteristics that I like but don’t notice, just because they seem the natural thing to do.

      • Reasoner says:

        If you don’t want to read the entirety of the sequences, maybe try one of the Less Wrong archive guides here. The guides highlight posts that are especially good. The sequences are of very uneven quality IMO, so I recommend this approach.

    • biblicalsausage says:

      Well, this might not be a comprehensive definition of the whole “rationalist” phenomenon, but here’s how I think about it. The definition contains instructions — feel free to disregard it if you don’t want to do the reading.

      I’d say, Google “Yudkowsky sequences” and read two or three short sections more or less at random. Whether or not you agree with exactly what is being said in those sections, ask yourself if you think that discussing the kinds of ideas in the sequences is a good use of time, and whether you find yourself thinking about how to beat cognitive biases in forming your own opinions on a regular basis.

      If your answer is “yes” then you probably overlap significantly with the kind of people who would characterize the “rationalist” community. If the whole thing looks foreign to you, you might not. Not all the people who use the term “rationalist” agree on all this stuff, and not all the people who might be identified with the “rationalist” trend necessarily call themselves that, but it’s sort of a useful rule of thumb.

      Maybe another rule of thumb might be Bayes Theorem. If it strikes you as a useful approximation of how thinking words — heck, if you’ve even heard or thought about it before — you are probably rationalist or rationalist-adjacent in the way those terms typically get used. An interest — whether positive or negative — in applying utilitarianism to real-world problems and/or some kind of an interest in the effective altruism movement might also be an indicator.

      It’s a bit of a fuzzy term, just like “feminist,” “libertarian,” “alt-right,” “foodie,” or “nerd” might be. They all point at a general phenomenon that’s happening in the social word, but you won’t necessarily find sharp definitions that clearly delineate who is in and who is out.

    • Protagoras says:

      Rationalism as opposed to empiricism is a way of understanding early modern philosophy which is extremely oversimplified but not entirely unilluminating, and it is less pejorative than Kant’s terminology for the historical split (dogmatists vs. skeptics). But it becomes more misleading the further you get from the particular early modern philosophers who inspired it, and as others in the thread have noted the modern rationalist movement has nothing to do with that terminology (if you had to try to categorize it, the Less Wrong types and the people around here are actually closer to the empiricist side, but it’s better not to try to apply those categories so far outside their original targets). It might be better to describe the movement as philosophical, except that for the most part that seems to have turned into meaning people who spout whatever ideas come into their heads rather than people who think seriously about things and try to get them right (to the considerable irritation of philosophers like myself, but language is what it is). Scientific would also be a good candidate, but that would be likely to be taken to imply a level of professionalism and specialization which is not intended. It’s got a lot in common with skepticism in the modern sense, rejecting the supernatural and quackery in various forms, but there’s more to it than that. So rationalism has become the term for people who are kind of philosophical, kind of scientific, and have some skeptical leanings, in various combinations.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have heard on this blog and elsewhere that SSC is a rationalist blog, and is read by rationalist readers. Maybe, but what does that mean? Don’t most people in the world consider themselves to be rational?

      I think SSC has been somewhat diluted, at least when it comes to “rationalist readers”, by the likes of me (who am very much not a rationalist). I can’t speak for everyone else but I do think SSC has attracted a broader audience than Less Wrong, which then has an effect in what we like to discuss in the comments, what we pick out of Scott’s posts and links posts to comment on, etc.

      As to what commonalty we have, I’d say we like a wide range of interests, we have a leaning towards the sciences (though some of us wave the flag for the arts), we like facts and factually-based debates, we like debates/arguments/discussions/exchanges of views/convincing others to change minds and opinions by laying out a reasoned argument that hangs together and is backed up by sourced facts, we try not to wander off into the weeds of “but that makes me feel bad and you are a bad person for making me feel bad and you are wrong and should shut up!” (our degree of success in avoiding that, you can judge for yourself).

      As to the definition of a “rationalist”, I am not going to try to square that circle 🙂

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      This terminological confusion is one reason I have objected to the term “rationalism” as descriptor of LW in the past and still object to it.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Thus rationalists give more precedence to apriori thought than to experience. I am certainly not in that camp, and I don’t think this blog is either.

      I think Scott’s blog is unusually rationalist in exactly this sense. He seems to have a lot of faith in reason/logic, and an affinnity for them. He has written a lot of critiques of bad science, i.e. just going out and looking at stuff without thinking things through, as well as long pieces on topics where gathering data is impossible, and I think even written directly on the subject of using a dumb proxy when the actual variable is hard to measure.

      I’d say he sits near the middle of that spectrum, and that nowadays that’s actually really far to the “rationalist” side.

    • Don’t most people in the world consider themselves to be rational?

      Most people consider themselves above average drivers. Ome of the basics of rationalism is that you try to check that sort of claim.

      • random832 says:

        “Average” commonly refers to the mean (in so far as ‘driving skill’ can be reduced to a single variable in the first place – though if it can’t it makes it even harder anyway to reason about the median), not the median, and “most are above the mean” can certainly be true of a non-normal distribution.

        • rlms says:

          On the contrary, it makes more sense to interpret as meaning the median here. You can only calculate the mean of “driving skill” if you can map it to some numeric value, but you can work out the median as long as you can order people by driving skill (even if you can’t make statements like “x is twice as good at driving as y”).

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The other thing you’d need to calculate the mean of driving skill is an unbiased set of observations. I believe people are most likely to notice the skill level of other drivers when it’s bad.

  7. johan_larson says:

    What I’m looking for is simple: quality current news, available online, mostly text, nothing fancy. I’m willing to pay for it, but I want no ads at all.

    Does such a thing even exist?

  8. Brad says:

    I just got an email from goodreads letting me know there’s a new Neal Stephenson book coming out next week — The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Co-written with Nicole Galland. I never heard of her. The publisher’s description makes it sound interesting, but the ARC reviews are mixed. It doesn’t matter I was going to buy it no matter what.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32075463-the-rise-and-fall-of-d-o-d-o

    • bintchaos says:

      Oh yeah me too.
      Stephenson in REAMDE was so prescient– and he does have empathy for conservatives. I’m remembering his treatment of the survivalist family in that book, but Anathem, Snowcrash, Cryptonomicon and Diamond Age shaped my world view way more.

    • Nornagest says:

      Don’t know anything about this one in particular, but a good rule of thumb when dealing with co-authored sci-fi books is to assume it was actually written by the less famous of the pair, with the more famous contributing editing, ideas, and maybe a few scenes. (There are exceptions — Good Omens, for example — but they’re rare.)

      Might still be good, in other words, but I wouldn’t expect it to read like a Neal Stephenson book.

      • Brad says:

        Yep. I read the Mongolian invasion books, and didn’t love them, but hope springs eternal.

  9. Well... says:

    In the last 6 months I’ve noticed a number of e-magazine articles (in UX trade magazines anyway) arguing that people who use instant cash checking/payday lending services instead of traditional banking are actually doing the smarter thing given their situation. Maybe similar articles have appeared in publications geared toward economics that SSC readers have come across.

    I want to agree with those articles, but the more I think about it, the more they seem obviously wrong and based on contortions designed to fit some “I’m the friend of the disadvantaged” posture.

    Am I missing something?

    • rlms says:

      Scott posted a link to an article about that in this links thread.

    • random832 says:

      I thought the argument was generally that they don’t have access to traditional banking (at least not at the quality and price that leads middle class people to assume that “of course” they would be using instead if the evil payday lenders weren’t exploiting them) and therefore that regulating these things out of existence will leave them no access to financial services at all, rather than that using them is somehow “smarter”.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think most of the people who use payday lenders have “access” to financial services in that the mainstream banks won’t kick them out the door if they ask to open an account. They’ll just charge middle-class fees, topped with nigh-usurious penalties if they don’t approximate middle-class financial practice, and this isn’t actually a good deal for those customers.

        The people at the very bottom, literally couldn’t open a normal bank account if their life depended on it, so there’s some of that as well.

      • Matt M says:

        Access to “traditional banking” =/ access to short term cash loans.

        Payday loan customers can mostly open checking accounts, sure. But most banks simply aren’t in the business of giving short-term low-amount loans to people with terrible credit. As has already been mentioned elsewhere, the closest thing most traditional banks can offer to a payday loan is a checking account that you have the ability to overdraft… which they then hit you with fees that compare similarly to the interest the payday lender would have charged you anyway.

        I don’t have a link handy but I remember reading an article suggesting this is exactly what happened when the military banned payday lenders from loaning to servicemembers. Checking account overdrafts skyrocketed. And of course, everyone’s solution is “let’s ban checking account overdraft fees too, surely that will solve the problem!”

        • Brad says:

          The best parallel to payday lending is not a checking account, it’s a credit card with some room to spare.

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like most people regularly dependent on payday loans and/or overdrafts are probably already maxed out on whatever credit cards they are able to get, but I’ll admit to not having researched that.

          • Brad says:

            I’d agree with that. My point was if you want to know why people use payday lenders don’t ask if the can get checking accounts, ask if they can get more credit card credit. If the answer is no, which we agree it probably is, ask why not.

            For that last part, I think there’s a limit on what level of interest a cc can charge, though I’m not sure where it comes from.

          • Loquat says:

            In the USA, as far as I can tell, there’s no national limit on credit-card interest rates. Some states may have usury laws on the books, but the Supreme Court held in 1978 that those don’t apply to issuers headquartered out-of-state, which is why so many credit card companies are based in South Dakota and Delaware which basically have no interest rate cap.

            Now, in practice you won’t actually see very many credit cards with interest rates above 40% APR because competition, but there are a few, mainly aimed at people who wouldn’t be able to get a credit card otherwise because they have such bad credit. But more importantly, they also tend to have low credit limits, generally under $500, and high fees that go towards the account balance – i.e. a card offered with a 60% APR and a $300 credit limit might also come with $75 in initial fees so that the effective credit limit is $225 until you’ve paid those fees. Plus since the fees are part of your regular balance, you have to pay interest on them if you don’t pay them in full right away.

            So if that’s the only form of credit card credit you can get more of, a payday loan isn’t necessarily a worse deal.

        • John Schilling says:

          Access to “traditional banking” =/ access to short term cash loans.

          It kind of does; they’re just called “overdrafts”. And if that’s where you’re headed, yes, the nearest payday lender will charge you much less than BoA will end up costing you.

          But not needing to do that sort of thing very often is part of what I meant by “middle-class financial practice”.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ve seen this, too, and it sets off my “viral marketing campaign” detector.

      Similarly, there’s a new story about how everyone hates Uber, or Uber is run by awful people, or Uber is doomed to fail seemingly every other week. Now I have no love for Uber, I think the “sharing economy” is a scam and is not “innovation” but an indication of a dying economy eating itself. Still, if someone is going through your garbage, interviewing your postman, all your ex-girlfriends and your third grade teacher to publish every awful thing you’ve ever done, it could all be God’s honest truth but there’s still somebody out to get you.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yeah, I’m suspecting propaganda in the Payday Loans category as well. As for Uber, at least Sarah Lacy (Pando) is out to get them. Seems like Google is as well.

        • Deiseach says:

          Seems like Google is as well.

          I was going to pooh-pooh that but then I seem to remember some fuss about a former Google(was it? could be some other company, too lazy to look it up) engineer who worked on their self-driving cars going to Uber to work on their self-driving cars.

          So taking out the competition for self-driving cars does make sense, and would give Google an incentive to go after Uber, so this is not an unreasonable assumption to make.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Google leaked the fact that their former head of search — Amit Singhal, who had recently been made head of the self-driving car division at Uber — had been investigated for a sexual harassment claim that was found to be credible, and was about to be fired when he resigned. And Google was apparently perfectly OK with this leak. Most companies, and Google is no exception, are serious about HR confidentiality. As far as I know, no other personnel actions have leaked directly from Google HR. So I conclude that the leak was either done to hurt Singhal, or to hurt Uber; the timing points to Uber.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, the constant drumbeat of things like “look at these sexual harassment charges!” strikes me as a well coordinated attack. Especially when not coupled with any reasonable comparison or frame of reference. A few anecdotes about employees behaving badly doesn’t impress me. I assume every company has a few employees behaving badly. Even Lyft. Why are there ten billion articles about sexual harassment at Uber and zero about sexual harassment at Lyft. Am I legitimately supposed to believe Lyft has solved sexual harassment in the workplace and has none of it? If so, why doesn’t anyone write an article about that?

      • albatross11 says:

        Interesting–I was wondering about the same thing. A dozen damning stories and scandals all came out at once–I assume this was a coordinated PR campaign, but an alternative is that once the first stuff came out, all the other people who wanted to bash Uber and were waiting for their moment saw it.

        • baconbacon says:

          The other alternative is that simply by growing quickly they hit a point where they were having enough negative interactions with people that they started to feel like a trend.

        • John Schilling says:

          all the other people who wanted to bash Uber and were waiting for their moment saw it.

          This is probably the case, but note that “all the other people who wanted to bash Uber” includes an unknown and possibly significant number of people who wanted to bash Uber because they actually were sexually harassed at Uber but didn’t think anyone would take them seriously if they complained.

          See also, e.g., Bill Cosby date rape accusations.

          • albatross11 says:

            Sure, I didn’t say they didn’t have good reasons for bashing Uber. (I haven’t followed this stuff enough to know one way or the other, though it sounds like Uber would be a pretty awful place to work.)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        For your consideration: Trump-Style Tactics Finally Stopped Working For Uber

        Indeed, it is hard to think of a figure from the last five years who has been as successful as Kalanick, save one of course — President Donald Trump. Indeed, Trump and Uber represent the pinnacle of this decade’s American success. They are our defining brands, and their core values of reflexive aggression and casual dishonesty are the decade’s defining values, seven years in.

        Uber has sought to steer clear of Trump, but their values are so close that the brands are utterly intertwined in the public imagination.

        Has anyone considered Trump and Uber “utterly intertwined in the public imagination?”

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Buzzfeed link

          Well there’s your problem.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well that’s kind of my point. How did this article come to be? It’s like someone said “we have to keep hammering Uber! What’s something Buzzfeed readers hate?” “Trump?” “Great, write a Buzzfeed article about how Uber and Trump are the same, and bad, and failing!”

            Uber and Trump have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and they don’t establish that in any way in the article. How did this article come to be?

          • rlms says:

            In shocking news, people sometimes write silly things on the internet. Thankfully this phenomenon is confined to one side of the political spectrum.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Thankfully this phenomenon is confined to one side of the political spectrum.

            Am I missing where that was implied somewhere? Buzzfeed is infamous for being low-effort clickbait, it’s not like I’m ragging on Vox or something else that’s lefty-but-actually-reputable.

          • bean says:

            Am I missing where that was implied somewhere? Buzzfeed is infamous for being low-effort clickbait, it’s not like I’m ragging on Vox or something else that’s lefty-but-actually-reputable.

            What you’re missing is sarcasm.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m aware of the sarcasm. Unclear what brought it on.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            In shocking news, people sometimes write silly things on the internet. Thankfully this phenomenon is confined to one side of the political spectrum.

            I’m not talking about the Trump part, I’m talking about the Uber bashing. You could replace “Trump” with something else Buzzfeeders don’t like, like perhaps “head lice” or “North Korea.”

            I have never liked Uber, yet I’m surprised by the torrent of negative Uber news I’ve seen in the last 6-8 months.

            Epistemic status: “Tinfoil hat.” Somebody is conducting a negative PR blitz against Uber so when the regulatory authorities eventually dismantle them, no one will care.

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Sorry, my sarcasm was aimed at Conrad Honcho (under the assumption that their answer to their rhetorical question involves the phrase “left-wing media” or similar).

            @Conrad Honcho
            To respond more substantively: I’m taking it as a given that Buzzfeeders don’t like Uber, and they have done the common thing of arbitrarily linking two things they don’t like (I withdraw my sarcastic comment which was made presuming you shared this assumption). There are multiple plausible explanations for this Buzzfeed’s enmity: Kalanick sounds generally obnoxious and there are many criticisms of the company to choose from.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            Sorry, my sarcasm was aimed at Conrad Honcho (under the assumption that their answer to their rhetorical question involves the phrase “left-wing media” or similar).

            No, my tinfoil hat suspicion is not “left-wing media” but “paid PR campaign.” I think Buzzfeed is pairing Uber with Trump because they assume the Buzzfeed readership doesn’t like Trump. I wouldn’t be shocked if elsewhere in the blogosphere articles are being written about how Uber is part of the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, at least one person apparently does.

          Your average Buzzfeed article is best parsed as six hundred words of negative affect wrapped around a chewy core of smug, though, so I don’t think there’s anything to this.

        • The Nybbler says:

          As Journolist, the Ants, and the DNC debacle taught us, if something looks like more than a coincidence in “journalism”, it’s probably more than a coincidence.

    • skef says:

      The point these articles make doesn’t seem to be wrong, but they do tend to put a strange slant on the situation.

      Modern finance, increasing wealth disparity, and low interest rates have largely eliminated the need to aggregate retail banking deposits in order to fund, or example, mortgages or small businesses. Some of the money gets used that way, but it’s not what makes retail banking profitable. And “front-door” competition has reduced or eliminated up-front or regular fees. Banks now mostly make profits on irregular fees — going below minimum deposits, overdrafts, etc. It’s mostly psychology now: customers can feel up front that they’re getting something for fee, and the fees are structured around unpredictable circumstances and common cognitive mistakes.

      That approach doesn’t work as well with poor customers. It’s not that the check-cashing places aren’t scammy, it’s that the banks have structured their account products so that they don’t make sense for poor people. Different financial and psychological conditions call for different fee structures.

      The factor that these recent articles do tend to omit is the advocacy for reviving postal banking, which is common in other countries. Those advocates have been making largely the same arguments, so the “surprise” expressed about these recent papers is probably disingenuous.

      • random832 says:

        Banks now mostly make profits on irregular fees — going below minimum deposits, overdrafts, etc.

        One thing that I’ve never understood is why overdraft fees – especially on cards, which can be declined, so the bank doesn’t have to pay the shop – aren’t considered equally or more exploitative as anything a payday lender does.

        EDIT: Plugging the numbers into an APR calculator, a $30 fee for a $10 overdraft that is covered by a deposit 7.5 days later is a 14,600% APR.

        • Deiseach says:

          why overdraft fees – especially on cards, which can be declined, so the bank doesn’t have to pay the shop – aren’t considered equally or more exploitative as anything a payday lender does

          Well, you worked out the calculation for yourself, but yes – if you look at the small print and work out what the APR is on credit card charges, they compare very similarly with the rates charged by Mr Legbreaker and Associates 🙂

          Banks rather depend on customers not reading the small print when they’ve been dazzled by the large, flashing print of “0% APR when you change your balance to us!”

          • random832 says:

            Well, the APR on a fixed fee ultimately depends on the amount of the loan, and $10 was chosen to be deliberately unfavorable (the 7.5 days was chosen to be the average amount of time until someone’s next paycheck if they get paid twice a month, which is actually favorable because most likely most overdrafts are likely in the last few days) but probably typical, especially if someone doesn’t know they’re overdrawn, and gets hit with the fee per transaction.

            In a discussion elsewhere, it was pointed out to me that one of the exploitative things payday lenders do is refuse to allow partial payment (i.e. if you borrowed $200 and only have $180 now, you cannot reduce your loan amount at all, only pay a fee to extend it).

          • Loquat says:

            one of the exploitative things payday lenders do is refuse to allow partial payment (i.e. if you borrowed $200 and only have $180 now, you cannot reduce your loan amount at all, only pay a fee to extend it)

            Do they not allow you to take out a second, smaller loan and then use that loan money plus your cash on hand to repay? I.E. if you borrowed $200 and can only pay $180, but they won’t take less than the full $200, why not just take another loan of $20 and now you have $200 to pay the larger loan?

      • baconbacon says:

        Modern finance, increasing wealth disparity, and low interest rates

        The only thing that matters for a bank is the spread*. 4% interest rates or 8% interest rates aren’t inherently more profitable one way or the other, it is the difference between loan rates and deposit rates where they make their money.

        * The direction that interest rates are going also matters.

    • baconbacon says:

      Am I missing something?

      Think about it like a bank. The traditional view of banking is that you lend them money, and they lend it out and they make money on the spread which is the difference between the two. Say it takes an hours worth of time to open up a bank account (face time, filing paperwork etc), and that costs the bank $50 on average with everything included (free checks, insurance, physical location, utilities). If you keep an average of $2,000 in your account it will probably take the bank 1-2 years to make that money back lending it out. If you keep $200 in your account it will take 10-20 years for them just to cover the initial costs with recurring costs.

      Banks don’t want huge numbers of people with $200 or less in their account, if you say “I can’t believe you charged me a $30 fee for a $10 overdraft, I am taking my business elsewhere” the bank’s reaction is mostly ‘good, fine, we don’t care’ (unless you have a long history with solid numbers at the bank in which case a manager will often waive the fee knowing its likely a one time thing).

      A system that is designed to work for people with $X in their account isn’t going to be optimal for people with $10X in their account (and yes people who keep $100,000+ in accounts get different treatment at banks than people with $1k-$10k).

      • The Nybbler says:

        (and yes people who keep $100,000+ in accounts get different treatment at banks than people with $1k-$10k).

        Mostly in that they try to sell high-fee low-yield investment products to the people with a lot of money in their accounts.

  10. johan_larson says:

    I’m trying to reconcile two facts that point in opposite directions without quite being contradictory. Both concern private schools.

    On the one hand, wealthy people often send their children to (pricy) private schools, hoping for a superior education. On the other hand, when voucher plans are set up to money to poorer folks to send their children to private schools, studies generally find their scholastic results don’t change.

    So what’s going on?
    – private schools are no better, so the fancy folks spending money on private schools are throwing it away
    – it’s the amount of money being spent that matters, not whether the schools are public or private
    – poor people are bad at shopping for education
    – expensive private schools do a better job, but mostly because they allow their students access to a better peer group
    (and more…)

    Any ideas?

    • random832 says:

      studies generally find their scholastic results don’t change.

      How is this measured? If it’s based on grades, maybe the private schools also have tougher grades, which “cancels out” the benefits in the terms that the study can measure? If it’s based on standardized test scores, maybe the private schools provide a better education but are also less likely to engage in “teach to the test” tactics, so they don’t provide better test scores. Maybe the fancy private schools are better specifically at teaching the kind of skills someone who is from a wealthy family will need later in life, without being better at general education

      All of these theories predict that the children of wealthy families *also* won’t have notably better “scholastic results”, as measured however the study measures it, than those who go to public school. Is this measured by any study?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Consider that scholastic results are usually measured by tests, whereas some of the benefit of a private school education is that it impresses people. Considering universities, the perceived gap between the best in a country and the twenty-fifth best in a country is greater than the actual gap, by and large.

    • baconbacon says:

      studies generally find their scholastic results don’t change.

      It is actually fairly simple, scholastic results are only a modest portion of why parents send their kids to school. Take religious private schools, children there have the same scholastic production, but also get the bonus religious instruction that some parents want. Other times it is athletics, discipline, artistic or music programs, safety etc.

      The same grades/SAT results + extra curricular activities > just grades/SAT results, which is why parent satisfaction is much higher for private schools than public.

      • albatross11 says:

        The way I understand it[1], private schools do better in academic terms overall, and I think that’s usually true for charter and magnet schools. But they are also selective about which kids they let in and which kids they kick out. When you account for the quality of students coming in, I think the academic advantage (in terms of test scores) goes away either mostly or entirely[2].

        This is easy to see for magnet schools–you get in by having good grades and high test scores. Almost any school is going to look great on the basis of *those* kids’ performance. (Where I live, the public schools usually put magnet schools inside schools with big problems, to raise the average test scores.)

        Private schools typically have some academic requirements for admission, but not as high as a magnet school. But they also have parents who care enough about education to spend their own money on schooling, which means they’re likely to lean on their kids to do homework and stay out of trouble. And private schools can expel a disruptive kid much more easily than public schools, so where a public school has a kid who disrupts every class he’s in for four years, a private school has a kid who does that for one semester.

        A lot of middle-class parents put their kids in private schools for reasons that don’t show up so much in test scores. For example, if the local public schools are bad (either bad academically or bad in terms of violence or gang problems), you probably don’t want to send your kids there. Maybe your kid will do okay in life despite four years getting terrorized by thugs at Gangland High, or four years wasting time in classrooms where the teachers have lost control in Ineffectual High–after all, smart kids with good work ethics do pretty well most of the time. But why subject them to that crap if you don’t have to?

        Also, if you’re Catholic, a Catholic school is going to raise your kids with something like your values. If you think a lot of popular culture is a sewer[3], that can be worth a lot. Having classmates who care about grades and school and mostly stay out of trouble is worth a lot, too–it probably helps your kids stay out of trouble.

        [1] At least one regular commenter here, Freddie De Boer, is an expert in this stuff who writes a blog that’s very much worth reading on the subject. Hopefully he’ll tell me what I’m getting wrong.

        [2] I haven’t tried to dig into the statistics used to do these comparisons, and there are definitely ways to get this wrong, but I’m assuming these results are relatively solid. It’s of a piece with a bunch of other evidence that it’s hard to have a big impact on measurable stuff like test scores of kids, once you’re somewhere close to standard best practices.

        [3] It is.

    • Well... says:

      Your last reason sounds like the most plausible. Also, kids going to expensive private schools are more likely to come home to…

      – a nanny or tutor or very involved parent who helps them with their schoolwork.
      – a house full of very educated adults, where the adults’ very educated friends sometimes visit as well, providing a mostly universally well-educated cast of IRL role models and authority figures.
      – a house full of books, smart stuff on the TV/other screens, magazines aimed at the highly educated, and a generally more enthusiastic attitude toward learning, discipline, and being knowledgeable.
      – parents who, in addition to carefully selecting their children’s peer group through school choice, also carefully select it through other relationships and activities, both structured and unstructured.
      – Etc.

      Plus, part of what parents are paying for is the much lower odds their kid will be stabbed or beaten up over drug money or something like that.

      Education outcomes definitely aren’t about money spent–not directly. 8th-graders 130 years ago graduated from one-room schoolhouses knowing way more than many of today’s freshly-minted bachelor’s degree-holders.

      • albatross11 says:

        What fraction of people went to 8th grade 130 years ago, relative to today?

        • Well... says:

          I’m not sure. Maybe you’ll have better luck at this link than I did: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93442.pdf

          I’d imagine the answer is “a smaller fraction, relative to today” but is it small enough so that that alone accounts for the difference in performance (meaning the hoards of dummies simply weren’t in school dragging the curriculum down)? I doubt it.

    • rlms says:

      Do you have links to any studies that show the second fact?

    • Nornagest says:

      For the average student, all conventional and most unconventional education is probably mostly equivalent in terms of knowledge retained. That doesn’t mean it’s socially equivalent, though: going to an expensive private school has social benefits for the kids in that it allows them to hang out with rich children and probably a few exceptionally smart scholarship students (so approximately point 4), and it has social benefits for the parents in that it allows them to hang out with rich or smart parents at parent-teacher functions (and to brag about what they’re spending on their kids and how nice a school they’re sending them to).

      Also, exceptional students might actually benefit from the extra resources available to them at expensive private schools. There aren’t very many exceptional students (so this won’t show up cleanly in most statistics), but there are a lot of parents who’d like to think their kids are exceptional.

    • 1soru1 says:

      – studies generally find their scholastic results don’t change.

      Contradicted by:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/special-report-working-class-pupils-went-to-private-schools-under-margaret-thatcher-s-abolished-8857345.html

      http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/open-access-independent-evaluation/

      Note that here we are talking about sending selected kids to expensive schools that justify their fees to parents by results. The result of taking a pre-existing school and simply adding shareholders may vary.

      • johan_larson says:

        Here’s a couple of links to articles that support my claim that school vouchers don’t improve student learning (generally proxied by test scores.) They’re not formal studies themselves, but they link to them.

        http://news.stanford.edu/2017/02/28/vouchers-not-improve-student-achievement-stanford-researcher-finds/

        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html?_r=0

        It seems voucher plans are at least not a quick, simple win. And that’s kind of surprising, at least to this conservative/libertarian. People should be able to do better managing money for their benefit than bureaucrats, right? And if they don’t, that’s a) weird, and b) interesting.

        • Well... says:

          I think any underwriter would quickly tell you the average person is totally lousy at managing his money.

        • 1soru1 says:

          None of the theoretical arguments about markets actually apply to education on any timescale short enough to actually act on the information buying the product gets you.

          So it is purely a matter of pre-judgement, and who makes it. Professionals can do many things better than amateurs; distinguishing between a good school and a well-marketed school may well be one of them.

          • albatross11 says:

            One thing you definitely can do as a parent is tell that your kid is doing badly in a given school. I’ve done this with 2/3 of my kids, once moving a kid between Catholic schools, once moving a kid from a Catholic school to a public school, both successfully in terms of the kid in question being apparently much happier.

            This isn’t necessarily about it being a bad school, either. Sometimes, things just aren’t working out, and a change of scenery is in order. This works if the parents have choices, and doesn’t work if the parents have to buy a new house and maybe find a new job to move their kid to a different school.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      The wealthy aren’t buying a better education, they’re buying into a restricted peer group for their children. There’s much less peer selection effect when the requirement the entry requirement is some paperwork rather than a relatively expensive tuition.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’ll join in with those saying that it’s paying for a better peer group, with a side order of credentialism for the most elite schools with recognizable names.

      This doesn’t just apply to private schools. Stuyvesant and the other NYC magnet schools are public schools but, crucially, they’re still very selective. Selectivity is what’s important, because neither schools which select based on the student’s abilities nor those which select on the parent’s willingness to pay (whether for tuition or for housing) are likely to be full of budding criminals and lowlifes.

      As someone who’s been through public school and dealt with that, it’s a very pretty important criterion.

    • currentlyinthelab says:

      I wonder if people underestimate just how bad things can be in lots of public schools. There are a lot of parents who do absolutely no research on the schools in the nearby school district, who just don’t care enough about their childs future besides effectively feeding them and sending them to the nearest legally required school. That alone probably makes the networking events for parents themselves decent.

      What well said “Plus, part of what parents are paying for is the much lower odds their kid will be stabbed or beaten up over drug money or something like that.” is entirely true in multiple parts of this country.

      Or, things in some public schools can go horribly wrong(and I mostly don’t blame the teachers in these cases) that simply probably won’t in private schools due to similar reasons. Some students in public schools (some of those were the officailly “gifted” AP students due to test scores) in my area growing up had stores of parents basically not feeding and dressing them when younger, and often they lived just a block away or two from the school. I’m not sure that would happen in a school that had some minimum amount of time and effort and paperwork to require students to go in.

      (I am *highly* suspicious of studies that say parenting dosen’t matter, and I wonder how much is explained by the fact bad parents lie, or we don’t include peer-to-peer events that actually can be partially chosen by parents, that just end up lost in effect sizes due to difficulty of definitions of words)

      Most scholastic results commonly mentioned in the media and magazines are extremely loaded in terms of IQ. In fact, you could even call many basic reading comprenhension tests and basic pre-algebra tests IQ tests, which after a minimal amount of training don’t improve much. (though, to be fair, I absolutely include the quadratic formula and sphere volume into the “crystallized” component of capability)

      There is a lot of useful material lost by obsessing over math and reading scores, but unfortunately so much of the rest of useful knowledge is lost in such debates. Its not surprising that “scores” don’t go up in these, when you’re using the exact same sort of questions that IQ tests use.

      • Deiseach says:

        I am *highly* suspicious of studies that say parenting dosen’t matter, and I wonder how much is explained by the fact bad parents lie, or we don’t include peer-to-peer events that actually can be partially chosen by parents, that just end up lost in effect sizes due to difficulty of definitions of words

        I tend to take it (and I don’t know if this is true or not) that these kinds of studies don’t look at abusive parenting because “duh, if your parents starve and beat you, of course that is going to have a bad effect”, so instead they look at “okay, so we have sixty kids from families where they have a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and clothes to wear. Now we’ll examine academic grades/some other factor, and see if parental influence has any effect there”, and then conclude that there’s pretty much no effect whether Bill has a father who plays the trombone and wants Bill to learn to play it or not, the real effect is if Bill’s schoolmates will mock him and bully him for playing the trombone so that affects if Bill wants to learn to play it or not. Therefore peers not parents have a greater influence on the growing child.

        • currentlyinthelab says:

          Why I am extra suspicious of the little-parenting effect there is that ultimately, parents do have some control over the peer effect and after-school effect, which churches, recommended after school events, cautious and socially aware picking of schools.

          By forgetting that a certain amount of the “peer-to-peer” interactions are a partial function of parental effort, that greatly minimizes possible spotting of parental effect.

          A certain amount of pruning over the entirety of possible peer-to-peer interactions are due to parental effort, the problem is that’s simply really difficult to spot and put on studies of these.

          Stated one way, the set of probabilistic peer-to-peer interactions are a partial function of parental choices in this society, leaving this debate of how effective parents can be to be a debate on the language and what is allowed to be subsets of other effects. And if one doesn’t admit that, then one will find a much smaller parental effect then one should.

          Hell, acne is a good example today. A non-sporty teenager with cystic acne isn’t going to have a great time. A socially intelligent and well, financially well off parent can prevent the worst of that with dermatologist visits(that the teenager has no way of affording on their own), thus greatly changing lots of peer to peer interactions.

          But how the hell do you untangle the mess of genetics(acne prone, non acne prone), parent effect(parent with the foresight that yes, this should be delt with and teen X should not go alone) or peer to peer effect(popularity, dating, even likelihood of being elected to student office or club leadership positions, which then gives college scholarships, etc). I mean, a parent who forces a youth with bad teeth and cystic acne to go to the dentist and dermatologist very much changed how high school will go. Its a large interlinked web, with how to neatly distinguish what is what impossible.

          I think alot of this low parenting effect is just some impossible mess to distinguish in basic questionnaires on these twin-adoption studies, where all these fuzzy categories of parental decisions are not being included. So this becomes a facet of Wittgensteins observations that just how we define words, and have words linked to other words totally change the conclusions of a study.

        • 1soru1 says:

          The rate of filicide is non-zero; pretty sure killing your child has a long-term measurable effect.

      • Deiseach says:

        Its not surprising that “scores” don’t go up in these, when you’re using the exact same sort of questions that IQ tests use.

        Now that I’ve picked myself up off the floor and stopped laughing, yeah that IQ test must be pretty poor. The 30 minute adult version gave me this result:

        You scored a 34, which puts you in the 95th percentile. According to the WAIS, your IQ is 127.

        Considering I guesstimated the “what number comes next in this sequence?” questions and I know I got one of the word questions wrong, this result is not exactly rock-solid 🙂

        • currentlyinthelab says:

          Oh, perhaps I picked a bad example as an IQ test. Some of those are more *coachable* then the makers would like to admit.

          My underlying point still stands. For certain tests of reading comprehension and basic abstraction of addition principals in algebra, after simply *some* amount of training(which both public and private schools have incentives to train for)they become very highly g loaded activity, to the point where we might as well wonder why private schools don’t improve basic physical reaction times.

      • John Schilling says:

        I suspect much, and possibly most, of it is that the gold standard for studying this sort of thing are twin studies. So you’re talking about identical twins, adopted in infancy (because otherwise early environment is impossibly cofounded) and in good health (because ditto congenital disorders). And the economics of adoption in most of the western world for most of recent history is that there are more people who want to adopt healthy infants than there are healthy infants to go around, so they all go to the most stable and least impoverished families. Which mostly excludes the “interesting” parenting styles and effects we might otherwise like to study.

        Would, e.g., Laszlo Polgar have been able to requisition three matched sets of Hungarian orphans for his field test, if he’d admitted what he planned to do with them?

        At the other end, yes, I expect the scientific community would very much like to study what various forms of abuse actually do to children, rather than just assume “it’s real bad” – but not as much as adoption agencies want to not send children to be raised in abusive environments if they can help it.

    • Private schools often offer scholarships , and have a motivation to do so: it bumps up the averages, but not in a way that means paying customers are going to get better results for their kids.

  11. siduri says:

    This article is very culture-war-y, but I’m posting it for kabbalistic purposes as will shortly become clear: A Physics Expert Had Her Own Theories Mansplained Onstage—Until One Person Stood Up

    Nominative determinism in action: the person in the audience who cried out “Let her speak!” is named Marilee Talkington.

    • baconbacon says:

      I think my life would improve if I could stop reading terrible articles to confirm my negative opinions based on the descriptions.

      At the least I would have more free time.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve been gradually acquiring the ability to not click on various sorts of links which are likely to make my life that little bit worse.

        I think it helps to remember how annoying, infuriating, or unprofitable various sorts of articles feel.

        • johan_larson says:

          Nancy Lebovitz, as I live and breathe! I remember you from rec.arts.sf.written, back in the day. Wow, that must have been twenty years ago, now. How have you been?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Reasonably well– good physical health, need to do more with the button business but it’s still running, miss trn more than I can say.

            How are you doing?

          • johan_larson says:

            Replying here to Nancy, rather than to her posting directly. (No reply link.)

            I am OK, thanks. Closer to twenty years out of school now, I’m working as a software developer in Toronto. Middle age is looming.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            This site has limited nesting– that’s why there was no reply link. Like I said, I miss trn.

            Have you read anything good lately? I’m currently rereading _Fourth Mansions_ for Laffcon— a one-day semi-academic gathering of Lafferty fans.

          • johan_larson says:

            The best things I’ve read recently are some LA detective novels by Michael Connelly. Not particularly hard-boiled, but really great for local color. I’m on The Black Box right now; that’s the eighteenth in the series, or so.

            The best video I’ve watched recently is a six-hour documentary series called Emperor of All Maladies, about the history of cancer research and treatment. Gripping stuff. You can find it on YouTube. Watch it! Watch it!

          • Reasoner says:

            Is this how friendly everyone was with each other back in the early days of the Internet? (Sorry if I’m interrupting)

          • LHN says:

            @Reasoner: Usenet gave the world terms like “troll” and “flame war”, so it wasn’t as utopian as all that. But rec.arts.sf-lovers/rec.arts.sf.written was a generally well-behaved newsgroup as such things went. (And we had the lost technology of the killfile with which to disengage if desired.)

            I’m not sure that SSC is actually much worse in tone on average than r.a.sf.w was. But back then it was possible to manage to keep things relatively civilized without a moderator or the ability to ban users.

            (Mostly. In principle, the organization providing access to the net could take it away. But that was pretty vanishingly rare. Many universities were barely aware that they were providing net access in the first place.)

            Beyond that, Nancy Lebovitz has always been a watchword for reasonableness. (There are names from those days that would likely be greeted with less enthusiasm, or at least more caution.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Killfiles suck. With ban-mediated moderation, each problem user wastes one moderator’s time for thirty seconds; with killfile-mediated moderation, each problem user wastes O(n) users’ time for thirty seconds where N is the size of the forum.

            Given that the number of problem users also scales as O(n), you start to see the problem. They can be useful for the cases where feuds develop or where a handful of people are intolerably annoying to each other for some reason, but they’re nothing to base a moderation system on.

          • johan_larson says:

            @ Nornagest

            Killfiles suck. With ban-mediated moderation, each problem user wastes one moderator’s time for thirty seconds; with killfile-mediated moderation, each problem user wastes O(n) users’ time for thirty seconds where N is the size of the forum.

            True, killfiles are inefficient for solving the problem of posters who piss of nearly everyone. But not all posters annoy everyone. Some of them only annoy some people, so selectivity and choice are useful.

            For example, if John Scalzi were a frequent poster here, I would probably killfile him because I tire of his relentlessly smug advocacy of Orthodox American Liberalism. But I wouldn’t be surprised if others, considerably to my left, considered him one of the best parts of this board, and they sat there clapping and cheering, “Say it again! Say it again! Preach the Word, brother!”

          • LHN says:

            Exactly, johan_larson. There are any number of people on the net whom I wouldn’t even wish to be generally silenced, but whom I’d be happier to never hear from again.

            Killfiles are also vastly more flexible than per-user bans or blocks. I’m on numerous social media fora where the same people produce a) interesting observations about pop culture and b) endless repetitive political screeds. The simple ability to have a killfile that contained words like “Trump, Clinton, alt-right, SJW”, etc. combined with certain poster names would make Facebook, G+, and the like much more pleasant.

            (Twitter does seem to have introduced something like that, though not nearly as powerful as what trn had a generation ago.)

            Likewise, the ability to kill by thread or subject heading. “These people are all individually interesting, but this particular discussion/topic has long since gone off past what I’m interested in.”

            None of those things lend themselves to moderation even in theory. I don’t want a group that ejects people or discussions based on my whims. (Bans are certainly justified, but the bar is much, much higher than plonking.) I just want to be able to choose to stop seeing it myself.

          • Zodiac says:

            First time I’m hearing about killfiles. I really wonder if this principle could lower tribalization/polarization.

          • albatross11 says:

            The golden age of newsgroups was also a time when only people at universities, research labs, or a few high-tech companies had access to the net. That did two things:

            a. It selected for a somewhat higher class of participant (in the social class sense, also in terms of education) who often had technical interests.

            b. It meant that sufficiently abusive behavior could get you real-world consequences–like losing your university computer account.

            But there was one more, probably more important difference. Successful systems attract parasites. Usenet wasn’t big enough to be a great food source for parasites, and the parasites mostly hadn’t had a chance to adapt to it. When they did, killfiles and cancel-Moose quickly stopped working.

          • Nornagest says:

            I really wonder if this principle could lower tribalization/polarization.

            Forgive the incredulity, but… you have a mechanism that works by selectively kicking people out of your information bubble, and you’re wondering if it’ll lower polarization?

          • Zodiac says:

            If I understand correctly you filter out the information but not the person (or did sleep deprivation trick me?).
            I think that can make a difference. Right now a lot of what is going on is that you often completely shut out the other person once you find out that they supported the wrong party or liked the wrong post or something.
            Maybe you’re not so quick to condemn other people once you find out about their political beliefs when you had other interactions before about unrelated topics.

          • Nornagest says:

            If I understand correctly you filter out the information but not the person (or did sleep deprivation trick me?).

            The prototypical example of a killfile is one that blocks all posts from a particular user, so I assumed that that’s what you were talking about. More sophisticated versions can be used to block e.g. posts from a given user that contain the word “Trump”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Classic usenet killfiles allow two bubbles to overlap in the same space, with the people who want to interact with the “other”, and are worth interacting with, doing so. Everybody else sees only their bubble.

            Not clear that this is an improvement over one space, one bubble. Among other things, it’s hard for newcomers to orient themselves, and they may find it a hostile environment regardless of their perspective.

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      Watched the video, and I would say that Talkington perhaps read too much into the situation. I don’t know. In any case, the moderator seemed very gracious and immediately shut up when she called out of the audience.

      A clarification to the article, Hubeny was not explaining “her own theories.” None of the ensuing discussion touched on anything particular to Hubeny’s research. The moderator was just repeating some very standard stuff. So it was not as if she was having her ideas explained back to her or anything.

      (In fact it’s odd that they invited her to the panel at all, as AdS/CFT has nothing to do with inflation, what the discussion was ostensibly about. The cynic in me thinks that they needed a female on the panel and when they couldn’t get a cosmologist they just shrugged their shoulders and thought, “String theory, close enough!” That’s the real indignity Hubeny was dealing with, having her topic just shoehorned in.)

      • siduri says:

        I skipped to the part of the exchange directly before Talkington interjected, and I did find it very awkward to listen to the moderator asking her a question and then, just as she began to answer, talking over her in order to give his own answer instead.

        To what degree this is gendered is, of course, difficult to tell. Apparently Holt has gotten the feedback before that as a moderator he talks too much, so this is pretty characteristic for him, but it seems like an area in which he should strive to improve. I don’t believe he had any deliberate animus but I do think the gender dynamics make it quite possible for a voluble man to unintentionally end up interrupting a woman more often than he would interrupt another man, and when she’s the only woman on the panel this becomes more uncomfortable for the audience.

        The applause from the audience would indicate to me that they really did want Hubeny to get a chance to speak. I agree that the entire panel, including the moderator, handled the interjection well–laughing and then comfortably returning to the subject, with Hubeny given space to answer the question.

        Holt apologized afterwards, quite graciously according to Talkington herself, and Hubeny wrote a rather lovely comment on Talkington’s post where she said that she had not felt marginalized: “You may be amazed to hear it, but during this panel session I genuinely did not feel affronted or discriminated by the moderator’s behavior. It seemed more amusing to see him try posing a question in a way that at the same time tried answering it. It’s true that this made the question a bit of a moving target for me (and therefore harder to address coherently), but I don’t a-priori assume that the incident was rooted in sexism. Maybe I’m too naive, but I simply gave him the benefit of doubt that he was so excited by the newly-learned idea of the duality that he couldn’t resist, and that the same might have occurred had the panelist been a male instead of me. So it didn’t bother me.

        “In fact, even though in my entire academic career I was in an environment where women were in striking minority (and as a student often the only woman in the class), I never felt discriminated against or thwarted in my calling. The feeling was rather one of camaraderie: the challenges to unravel the deepest mysteries of the universe, the thrill in understanding another tiny bit of this grand puzzle, and the sheer wonder at how beautifully the physics hangs together, put us all in the same boat, so to speak. In retrospect I think I was fortunate in being amongst like-minded physicists who were not only great but gracious and earnest in their love of science. But when I eventually did start coming across others who were not of the same caliber, they somehow seemed insignificant.”

        So basically, the entire story would have had a happy ending where the issue in the panel moderation was corrected midstream, everyone involved behaved well, and everyone was happy with each other afterwards. (Except of course that now it’s on Internet everyone will start behaving horribly. I predict there will be a campaign to get Holt fired from his job, and I further predict that both Talkington and Hubeny will receive rape and/or death threats.)

        But–Talkington! Nominative determinism! I really just thought it was a humorous coinci… I mean, the thing that never happens because nothing is ever one of those.

  12. biblicalsausage says:

    Content warning: biblical depictions of rape, mass killing, fire and brimstone.

    Turn in your Bibles to the Book of Genesis, chapters 18 and 19.

    God has been hearing bad things about Sodom and Gomorrah, and he decides to come down and lead an investigation to find out if the rumors are true.

    Two angels go to Sodom, and are talked into staying the night by a hospitable fellow named Lot. They have finished dinner, but before they get to bed a mob assembles, calling for the guests to be brought out, in order to rape them. Lot, unwilling to see his guests treated this way, offers instead his two daughters for the crowd to have their way with.

    Fortunately, the angels intervene before this can transpire, by striking everyone blind. The blinded would-be assailants, unable to take a very strong hint, continue in their quest to rape the angels. They want to break down the door, but they can’t find it, and eventually they tire out and quit. The angels conclude that, yes, things are pretty bad in Sodom, and it would be completely appropriate for the whole place to be set on fire and destroyed.

    God rains down fire and brimstone, burning down the whole area, but not before warning Lot of his intentions. He tells Lot to run to the hills, but Lot is scared of the mountains, and requests permission to run to a little nearby town instead.

    But Lot, traumatized after the massive destruction, which in an odd twist happens to include his wife being turned into a pile of salt, then finds himself afraid of staying in the city. So, in a strange ironic twist, he runs away from the town and flees to go live in a cave in the hills, where he was supposed to run off to in the first place.

    For reasons that the narrator does not explain, his two daughters who live with him in the cave become convinced that their father is the last man living on earth. Concerned that he is getting old, and afraid that they will never manage to have children, they come up with the plan of having a child by him.

    While Lot is perfectly willing, as a gesture of hospitality, to toss his daughters to a mob of rapists, this idea is apparently one he would not have consented to. So the daughter liquor him up until he passes out, and then they use him to impregnate themselves.

    In a strange ironic twist, the episode begins with Lot nearly getting his daughters raped, and ends with his daughters raping him. It would call it “poetic justice”, but there’s nothing poetic about it.

    Is this reading modern concerns about consent and intoxication into an ancient text, or does the narrative actually work the way I’m reading it?

    • hlynkacg says:

      I disagree that it’s not poetic.

      • biblicalsausage says:

        I doubt we have a substantive disagreement there. The whole episode leaves a bad enough taste in my that I felt weird about the term “poetic justice.” But if the passage is saying that I think it’s saying, then it is poetic in a way: it’s cleverly arranged; it doesn’t hit you over the head by making the connection explicit. It just runs you through its story, detail by detail, waiting to see if you pick it up or not.

        I bet I read that story (and most of the Hebrew Bible — I’m not obsessively re-reading Gen 19 specifically) about a half-dozen times before it the symmetry of it struck me.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I take the story as an insult to the neighbors of the tribe of Israel. Lot is not a progenitor of the Israelites, he’s the nephew of Abraham, so first cousin to Isaac, and Lot’s inbred kids are Jacob’s (Israel’s) second cousins. They are Moab, meaning “From my father,” ancestor of the Moabites, and Ammon, meaning “The son of my kin,” ancestor of the Ammonites.

      The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is therefore a just-so story of why the Moabites and Ammonites are so screwed up: they’re the inbred rape-babies of a morally confused drunk.

      • biblicalsausage says:

        I agree on the insulting nature of the names. I think the “just-so-ness” can be confirmed by the way that the narrator has to reach a bit to make the etymologies work. The narrow has to convince you that “Ammon” is derive from “Ammi” and that “Moab” is derived from “Me-ab.”

        But does this mean that the rape angle isn’t also deliberately included in the story?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Sure, I don’t think anyone comes off well in this story, so I assume that’s intentional. It was recorded by the Israelites, who were frequently at war/in conflict with the Moabites and the Ammonites. If I’m writing the back story for the tribe my tribe is at war with, it’s not going to be full of heroism and grace, but cowardice, stupidity and lecherousness.

    • J Mann says:

      It’s worth reading the stories of Abraham and Isaac offering their wives for their own safety together with this one. I always imagine Abimelech as hilariously exasperated the second time he (or he and his father) almost sleep with one of the biblical martriachs based on her husband’s false representation that they’re not married. “What is it with you and your father, Isaac – If you guys are just that kinky, I’m not going to judge, but you need to disclose!”

      Alan Deshowitz writes about some possible interpretations of the Lot story in The Genesis of Justice. Some possible observations:

      1) That at the time, violations of sexual consent were seen as preferable to loss of life – Lot’s daughters are offered to save the lives of the angels, and they rape Lot to preserve the future of humanity. Deshowitz also compares Ham, who gazes on Noah (and possibly attempts more, depending on which commentators you read) without a necessity defense and is cursed, with Lot’s daughters who are not cursed.

      2) That readers of the time wouldn’t expect patriarchs to respect women’s autonomy. In this respect, I guess Lot’s rape could be seen as poetic comeuppance.

      • Well... says:

        I think it’s been said here(?) before, but hospitality was a much bigger thing in that time period and region, and daughters were valued much less than they are today in the West.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’ve interpreted the story as Lot’s attempt to shame the people of Sodom; if they really don’t consider the violation of hospitality (and whatever they wanted to do to the visitors, which might have been beating them up and robbing them or worse) to be faults or crimes, surely even they cannot be so shameless and hardened that they will sexually violate the virgin daughters of one of their townspeople. It’s an attempt to shock the Sodomites into realising what they’re doing – compare it with Jesus writing on the ground when the Scribes and Pharisees bring the woman taken in adultery to Him for a decision.

        Imagine, let’s say, a respectable white citizen in a small Southern town gives shelter to three black men and outside the door a lynch mob is calling for him to let them have the men. Imagine the man saying “No, I can’t do that, but if you really want to hang someone, here are my two sons instead”.

        Would we be talking about “And this story shows how Southern white men valued their sons much less than we do today!” or “Southern white men valued their social standing so much, they preferred to sacrifice their own children rather than oppose their neighbours” in this case, or would the moral be hitting us over the head about “oh yeah – maybe lynching people is not a good thing?”

        You can talk about “the patriarchy” all you want and how “it/they” would not have valued daughters or women as much as men, but I do think even back then, the hearers of the story would have thought “Wow, this was a terrible thing to offer. If this is the lesser of two evils, then how much more terrible must the crimes of the Sodomites have been!” and this justifies the destruction of Sodom as righteous punishment.

        • bean says:

          I was reading this recently, and noticed something. Lot claimed here that his daughters were virgins, but they were both actually married. He tried to get his sons-in-law to come with him, but they refused. Or maybe marriage customs then were different.

          • John Schilling says:

            My RSV offers in 19:14 “Sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters”, which suggests “sons-in-law” is a clumsy translation of a status that encompasses betrothal as well as marriage.

            Would also explain the refusal to accompany Lot & company; they thought they were marrying into a prosperous urban family but they hadn’t committed and now the crazy old coot expects everyone to run off and be goatherders or whatever.

          • Soy Lecithin says:

            I’d assumed that in addition to his two virgin daughters he had married daughters. The married daughters would have staid with their husbands that refused to leave. After re-reading it, however, I’m not so sure, as the elder of the two is referred to as the “firstborn.” Presumably the firstborn would have been married off first and neither of Lot’s virgin daughters would be his firstborn.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            At least as I’m reading the story, the daughters aren’t married. They’re engaged. And the men, as far as I understand the biblical concept of “engaged” are committed — an engagement was legally binding and would require a formal divorce to undo — but the weddings haven’t occurred.

            So I think it’s plausible that they could have been virgins.

          • For what it’s worth, Jewish marriage law involved two steps. The first was a binding betrothal–getting out of it involved the same consequences as getting out of marriage. The second step was consummation.

        • biblicalsausage says:

          @Deiseach,

          Leaving aside the question of just how ingrained patriarchy is in the Bible, I do think the text is pretty clear about what the mob wants to do to the visitors. They wanted to rape them.

          The verb translated in KJV as “know them” (Hebrew yada) is a standard biblical verb for having sex with someone. Then Lot confirms that they have sex on their minds by offering his virgin daughters as a substitute. Then Judges 19:22-24 has a parallel story with almost the same elements. A man and his concubine are staying the night with a host, and the men of Gibeah form a mob around the house. They demand to yada the visiting man, and the man of the house tells them instead to take his own virgin daughter and the (less virginal) concubine. The concubine is raped and killed.

          I’d find it hard to read both stories as attempted robberies gone bad.

          • Deiseach says:

            I was going for an alternate explanation out of (a) hermeneutics where the sin of Sodom is described as “inhospitality”, which seems a very euphemistic way to describe rape if that is what is intended (b) being a big scaredy-cat who wanted to avoid the whole “identifying same-gender sexuality with rape is so horrible and homophobic!” distraction. Unlikely we’d get diverted onto that path here, but it might happen and I didn’t feel like fighting Culture Wars right now. See the “homophobic Christians don’t even know what the real sin of Sodom was, but I – a gay Christian – will enlighten you all” article right here for the kind of discussion I just don’t have the spoons right now to get into.

            As to point (a), in another part of Scripture this is how it is described:

            Ezekiel 16:49-50

            49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

            And I am a little wary/tired of the easy interpretation of “it’s the sexist misogynistic literal patriarchy way of devaluing women that lets Lot offer his daughters to be raped in order to protect strangers – who are men and therefore the only ones of real value”.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            Fair enough. I think I see your thought process a little more clearly.

            If it helps any, I posted this with zero intention of anyone arguing about homosexuality. I’ve got my own opinions about the Bible and gays, and have zero desire to debate that with strangers on the internet. Though I really should have given some thought to the possibility that it would come up.

            My questions was strictly concerned with Lot and his daughters, and my questions was: does the text implicitly treat the incident with a blacked-out Lot as a rape, by setting the up the narrative to compare it to Lot’s offer to the mob? Getting a good answer to that would tell us something interesting about how at least one Hebrew-speaking biblical author looked at sexual ethics.

            Discussing whether or not the Bible is okay with gay people is a much less interesting question. All the relevant arguments have already been made ad nauseam. I would have nothing to add on that question.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s worth reading the stories of Abraham and Isaac offering their wives for their own safety together with this one.

        Given that later in the history of the people of Israel King David does deliberately send off Uriah to be killed, in order to marry Bathsheba with whom he has been sleeping and who is now pregnant by him, I imagine there was precedent back in the days of the patriarchs for “oh crap, Important Powerful King fancies my wife, he’s not going to take ‘oh she’s married? guess I can’t sleep with her then!’ as an answer, and his solution may be to make my wife a widow” thinking on behalf of men with beautiful wives and slightly shaky status as “are we insiders or outsiders?” in foreign lands.

        • John Schilling says:

          “I know that you are a woman beautiful to behold;
          and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live.
          Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”
          Abraham to Sarah, Gen. 12:11-13, RSV

          So that’s fairly explicit in at least some translations. My problem is with the next bit:

          “But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.”

          What the hell, God? Or God’s translators, as the case may be. The Pharaoh may not have known what was going on, but You knew he was acting in good faith, and it was Your agent who deceived him and set him up for this. So why the plagues, and on the Pharaoh’s entire house for that matter?

          And IIRC that’s not the only time that story played out in the Old Testament. By the time all this got written down, someone certainly had a jones for God setting up non-Israelites for an undeserved smiting.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yeah, I always thought it was odd that when the pharaoh acted against Moses and his people, God punished not the pharaoh, not his court, not his armies, not even his entire extended family, but the entire country that he ruled, including all sorts of innocent subjects of the god-king.

            The God the Torah was Not a Nice Man.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            “And IIRC that’s not the only time that story played out in the Old Testament.”

            That story played out three times: Abraham and Pharaoh, Abraham and Abimelech, Isaac and Abimelech.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife–sister_narratives_in_the_Book_of_Genesis

          • biblicalsausage says:

            It’s also interesting to do the chronological math. If you work through the various chronological details in Genesis, Sarah is between 65 and 76 years old the time she gets seized by Pharaoh for being such a hottie. And she’s 99 and post-menopausal when Abimelech decides he wants some of that.

          • Jiro says:

            Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife?

            Taking a random person for your wife against her consent is rape. This amounts to Pharaoh saying “why did you trick me into thinking she was someone I wanted to rape instead of someone I didn’t”? That’s not really a defense of Pharaoh at all.

            Yeah, I always thought it was odd that when the pharaoh acted against Moses and his people, God punished…the entire country that he ruled

            I suggest, not with complete seriousness, but with a real point to make: When humans fight wars, there are civilian casualties. Even if you don’t directly shoot civilians, there’s always someone who starved in a blockade, or who was made an orphan because their father was an enemy soldier, etc.

            God doesn’t want the level of civilian casualties in his divine war to be be zero, because if it was, humans would start to think that normal wars have to have zero civilian casualties too. God, in other words, doesn’t want to set an unrealistic example.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            “Taking a random person for your wife against her consent is rape.”

            That’s true as far as it goes. But given that we’ve been given zero information in the narrative about Sarah’s mental or verbal response to these episodes, other than Abimelech’s claim that she pretended to be Abraham’s sister, I’m going to reserve judgment on whether Abimelech is a (would-be) rapist in this scenario. Heck, the narrative says he didn’t touch her.

            As for the use of the word “took,” that’s pretty much bog-standard marriage terminology in Hebrew. Think, “Do you, Jack, take Jill to be your lawfully wedding wife?”

            Now, whether the Bible tacitly endorses some forms of rape is another question. But when it comes to Sarah specifically, I don’t see it.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s true as far as it goes.

            I believe that by the standards of pre-Rabbinic Judaism, it was taking a random person for your wife against her fathers’ or husband’s consent that counted as rape, but as you note it’s not clear exactly how those negotiations went down for any of the parties concerned.

            But is there a more tactful way to turn down a proposal or proposition than a truthful “sorry, I’d love to but I’m already married”? If Abraham is saying that is out of the question because he fears the Pharaoh is going to get all jealous and murdery, neither he nor Sarah are likely to be offering any of the lesser excuses to turn down a marriage proposal from the most eligible man in Egypt.

            So, yeah, the idea that the same people who wrote Leviticus and Deuteronomy were also secretly having God deliver a plague-smiting upon the relatives of someone who may or may not have violated a moral code that wouldn’t be invented for another thousand years or so, strikes me as unlikely. And still ethically questionable even if all the unknowns break in God’s favor.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @johan_larson

            Yeah, I always thought it was odd that when the pharaoh acted against Moses and his people, God punished not the pharaoh, not his court, not his armies, not even his entire extended family, but the entire country that he ruled, including all sorts of innocent subjects of the god-king.

            I don’t remember who told me this interpretation when I wondered about the same thing (the innocent subjects being punished): if you wield power of the king, you’d better know the responsibility that comes with it, because if you make mistake, it’s your subjects who will suffer. Which is sort of true: how often the politicians who mismanage the affairs of their country have personally bear the consequences?

            Only the ones who deserve it being punished … that would be too unbelievably unrealistic.

          • Deiseach says:

            So why the plagues, and on the Pharaoh’s entire house for that matter?

            I think this is the way older religions (and not just religions) thought about things: intention did not come into account, what counted was actions and indeed perceptions of actions.

            If you look at Rama and Sita, Ram is the ideal man, and he puts his wife (a) through a test of her chastity by fire because she has been living under the control of another man (well, demon) for some years – never mind that she was kidnapped by force and threatened with death and nobody seriously believes she was this king’s lover, it has to be done in order to fit in with social custom (b) then when she passes this test and they return from exile to his kingdom and she is pregnant with twin sons, he then sends her off into exile because (some of) the people think by taking her back after she had lived with another man, now the women of the kingdom will be willing to commit adultery and expect to be forgiven by his and her example.

            Or look at the story of Oedipus – a plague hits Thebes and they have to find out who killed the old king – never mind that this plague happens years after the death and not in the immediate aftermath, it turns out that everyone has been acting unwittingly and in ignorance. That makes no difference to the Furies, though: the laws (both the legal code and the laws of filial obedience and not committing incest) have been broken, and punishment must ensue.

            God punished not the pharaoh, not his court, not his armies, not even his entire extended family, but the entire country that he ruled, including all sorts of innocent subjects of the god-king

            The king represents the people and the land not just in a metaphorical but in a very concrete way in these schools of thought; any wrong doing by the king has repercussions beyond his own person. Any fault or flaw in the king results in the same for the land: plagues, bad harvests, scarcity, etc. In Irish law even a blemish on the face was enough to disqualify someone for the position of chieftain or king, and one of the powers wielded by poets was the ability to raise a blister on the face of a person by the power of their satire on that person.

            From Prionsais Mac Cana’s 1970 “Celtic Mythology“:

            The qualities of a rightful king (which in Irish are comprised under the term fir flaithemhan, literally ‘truth of the ruler’) are reflected in the condition of his kingdom. They ensure peace and equity, security of the kingdom’s borders, and material prosperity: the trees bend low with the weight of their fruit, the rivers and the sea teem with abundance of fish, and the earth brings forth rich harvests. Conversely, a king who is blemished in his conduct and character or in his person will bring about corresponding privations: for this reason Bres was deposed, since he was completely lacking in the princely virtue of liberality, and Nuadhu was obliged to abdicate once he lost his arm in battle. Cautionary instances were numerous and familiar, such as that of the usurper Cairbre Caitchenn, during whose reign there used to be but one grain on each corn-stalk and one acorn on each oak, and the rivers were without fish and the cattle without milk. In Welsh the same notion is at the origin of the sudden desolation of Dyfed in the Welsh tale of Manawydan, and in the Grail legend it recurs still more explicitly in the waste land which results from the maiming of the Fisher King.

            At least in the case of Pharaoh, we should take into account the fear of Abraham that if Pharaoh wanted Sarah, the easy way for him was to have Abraham killed. This at least indicates the possibility that Pharaoh (or other important men of the kingdom) were willing to commit murder for the sake of lust; so if this was indeed something Pharaoh was willing to entertain, he’s not completely innocent.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Deiseach

            Very interesting about the Irish, thank you.

            I also read the Old Testament God to New Testament God as a transition from man’s understanding of morality as a collective endeavor to an individual one. In the Old Testament your tribe is pushed for their sins, or the sins of their members. In the New Testament, when you die, God judges your soul, not your government’s soul.

            Gal 2:16

            [yet] who know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

            Gal 2:21

            I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

            ETA: And just to throw in some culture war fodder (but I think you and I are generally on the same side, so take it more like commiseration?), this is why I roll my eyes at leftists who pull the “you’re a Christian? Then you should vote for my massive government programs to help people because Jesus said to help people” schtick. No, the call to charity is individual, not collective. Jesus commanded you to care for the sick and needy, not to vote to force somebody else to care for the poor while you go about your business, washing your hands of the situation because “problem solved.” Also, we learned throughout the Old Testament that institutions of man can never do the work of the divine, and will always fail to human corruptibility (see Babel, and all the times Israel got smote for turning their backs on God). Hence, collective attempts at virtue are counterproductive and doomed to failure.

    • Well... says:

      In my experience any given interpretation of a Bible story should be checked against the following questions: (not an exhaustive list, just what came to me at this time; there are likely others)

      – Is the interpretation consistent with your interpretations of other parts of the Bible, or do you have to change your understanding from one part of the Bible to the next in order to have it make sense?
      – (related to above) Does the interpretation lead to absurd or impossible conclusions?
      – Does the interpretation take into account the context in which the Bible was received?
      – Do you have the facts of the story right? E.g. have you checked the accuracy of your translation? Do you understand the wider situation of the characters and setting in which the story takes place, etc?

      • biblicalsausage says:

        As far as I know the way I’m reading it is consistent with the rest of the Bible, although I’m not sure why inconsistencies between different passages would rule out either interpretation, unless the reader is committed to all the passages being entirely correct on everything.

        I don’t think my reading leads to any absurd conclusions, unless it is simply too much to think that the author of Genesis 19 would have read the actions of Lot’s daughters toward him as analogous to his actions toward them earlier.

        As for the context in which the Bible was recieved — the culture of the area and whatnot — that’s a hard one. Most of our written material on the culture of Judah/Israel/Canaan from that period is the Bible. So we wind up in a hermeneutical circle — we check our interpretations of Bible passages against what we know of the culture, but we generate our understanding of the relevant culture from the Bible. It’s not all completely circular — some surrounding peoples did leave some written records, but it’s circular enough that biblical scholars have a heck of a time sorting a lot of stuff out.

        As to the translation, I read it in Hebrew, and I’ve read all of Genesis through 2 Kings that way. But as to whether I’m understanding all the passages rightly, then I do fall back on a lot of previous interpretive work, and it’s always possible I’m confused about something.

  13. Kevin C. says:

    Can I say that I’d like to see more like this around: “Yes, Ashkenazi Jews (Including Gal Gadot) Are People of Color” (by Dani Ishai Behan, hosted as a “third party contribution” at The Times of Israel blogs)?

    Yet the “anti-racist” left, whose relationship with the Jewish community can best be described as “troubled”, could not help but demonstrate its glaring blind spot where Jewish origins and Jewish suffering are concerned. This is something the broader Jewish community has known about for years.

    Correspondingly, the reactions on Twitter were what I expected: a melange of curiosity and enriched perspective offset by heaps of seething outrage animated either by ignorance or deep-seated anti-Semitism — usually both. Jews are a historically persecuted and displaced Middle Eastern ethnicity indigenous to Israel, as well as one of the oldest and most continuous victims of European colonialism. However, the “anti-racist” left is generally hostile to Jews (particularly Ashkenazim aka Jews who wound up in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of colonialism) identifying as Middle Eastern, as a people of color, or even as a minority at all. Most of the tweets that I read only seemed to prove my point.

    Now let us take a look at the history and heritage of Ashkenazi Jews. An indigenous people of the Middle East, Ashkenazi Jews were driven out of their homeland by European (and later Arab) colonists and taken as slaves to Europe where they were consistently regarded as savages, periodically massacred, and excluded from society on the grounds that they are a foreign, non-Christian, and non-European (or in the words of our European oppressors: Oriental/Asiatic) presence on European soil.

    • BBA says:

      Yeah, no. As far as the racial categories go in the countries where nearly all Ashkenazim live, we’re white. Trying to wrap ourselves in the language of socjus is never going to work.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Trying to wrap ourselves in the language of socjus is never going to work.

        Of course not. When you can match any other group but descendants of chattel slaves, atrocity for atrocity (and that’s BEFORE playing the Hitler card), and yet still are doing not worse but better than white people in nearly all the things SJWs care about, you’re a big glaring counterexample to their theory which must be hidden somehow.

        • BBA says:

          Be fair. Most of those atrocities were on another continent and besides, the wench is dead and their impact is lessened by distance and time. Selection effects matter too. Compare the 100-year run of the descendants of chattel slaves on top of Liberian society against their cousins who remained in America.

          Also, Jews have always been white in America. Consider Judah Benjamin, etc.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          this is why asians are only oppressed when it comes time to talk about movie underrepresentation or maybe certain types of cultural appropriation

          also to above BBA comment: if italians and the irish weren’t always white in america, were Jews? Or are we talking post-whitening? Which is fine, that was long ago enough to merit an “always”, but just wondering.

          • Sandy says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            I believe Italians and the Irish were always white in America, in the sense that was the racial category on the census they were expected to write down, they just weren’t considered part of “respectable white society” — read “Anglo-Saxon Protestant”. I remember, as part of an administrative law course, reading transcripts of Congressional debates from the 1880’s regarding restrictions on migrant labor not just from Italy and Ireland, but also from Poland, Hungary and Croatia, and the anti-immigrant sentiment was also in large part an anti-Catholic sentiment.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            hmm

            having googled, it seems like they were “accepted as white” but still highly discriminated against. Well, that’s another story and I’m no storyteller, so you win for now.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Yeah, no. As far as the racial categories go in the countries where nearly all Ashkenazim live, we’re white. Trying to wrap ourselves in the language of socjus is never going to work

        having reached this conclusion myself but partially seen it be reversed because social justicians have started gaining respect for –antisemitism– i would like to put forward that i wouldn’t like it to either

        then again your previous postings would indicate the same desire, so there it is.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Indigenous to Israel? Don’t you need to be there since pre-history to be considered indigenous?

      • John Schilling says:

        Define “history”. I don’t think there are any written records of anyone living in Israel prior to King David and his people, though I may have missed something. There were certainly people living there before the Israelites, but if all we know of them is from archaeology and late transcription of preliterate mythology, does that count as “since pre-history”?

        • The Nybbler says:

          My complaint is that there are written records showing the Israelites came from somewhere else (if you count Exodus, at least), not that there were other indigenes (though there probably were)

    • J Mann says:

      I don’t understand the whole thing, but typically when some college student is yelled at for denying his white privilege, he’s Jewish, so it seems like whoever makes these rules is pretty clear that Ashkenazi are on the wrong side.

      It’s not super clear why Spaniards are POC, but Greeks aren’t,* but I think most lefties see Askenazi as on the side of the line that should be punished, not rewarded.

      * I read the other day that Armenians get to be POC, or at least the Kardashians do, so the line is moving closer to Southern and Eastern Europe, FWIW.

      • rlms says:

        “Most lefties” don’t make moral judgements based on weird racial distinctions.

        • J Mann says:

          You’re right, that was unfair and unkind, and I apologize for the generalization. I should have said “racial justice advocates” or something like that.

          Generally, though, it’s true that you don’t seem to be able to earn POC status just by showing that a group has been oppressed.

          Every so often there’s a piece mocking some guy for claiming he doesn’t have white privilege, and said privileged guy of the day is very often of Askenazi descent.

        • Anon. says:

          moral judgements based on weird racial distinctions

          Isn’t that exactly what disparate impact and affirmative action are?

          • rlms says:

            No. Those are to do with the practical implications of racial distinctions; how people on different sides of them experience different consequences. Choosing where to draw the lines for those policies is done based on facts. This means the distinctions are vaguely logical (for some value of logic). In comparison, in theological discussions about which groups have “privilege” you can draw lines anywhere you want. People take advantage of this to make the weird distinctions I referred to.

    • Art Vandelay says:

      It’s really hard to argue that Jews are currently oppressed in the US or other Western countries.

      The problems with the left and antisemitism is that if the way SJWs identify oppression were correct, then there would pretty much have to be some Jewish conspiracy going on. Probably the main indicators they look at when arguing for oppression are money, political influence, and media representation. When they find that [insert oppressed group here] scores lower than cis-gendered, straight, white males it is, to them, clear and irrefutable evidence of injustice, evidence of a white-supremacist, heteronormative, patriarchal system.

      Pointing out that things might be slightly more complicated than that is just trying to maintain systems of oppression.

      Now, if you look at the Jewish population in the US or the UK, you will find that they do better than even White Males ™ on these indicators (if we measure representation and influence per capita rather than overall). In a sense they are the whitest of the white males. They also have a much longer and more awful history of being horrifically oppressed than any other ethnic group. The left has no idea what to think about any of this and partly because of blind spots caused by their own ideology, and partly through a very high level of sensitivity to perceived anti-antisemitism on the left, nobody talks about it. I suspect most don’t acknowledge the existence of this problem even to themselves.

      • dndnrsn says:

        You’re ignoring that, at the same time, Jews are still a large target of hate crimes relative to their % of the population. There certainly have been times in history before that the Jews in a given place have been doing quite well, and then all of a sudden the majority turns on them – for rational reasons, they aren’t going to think “gee, statistically we are well-educated, well-represented in prestigious positions, educationally successful, so we can kick back and relax.”

        Additionally, the situation on the left is complicated by Israel. While liberals mostly don’t have a big problem with Israel, a lot of leftists regard it as a prototypical oppression. Sometimes anti-Israel rhetoric basically sounds like anti-Semitic conspiracy theories with the serial numbers filed off.

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect a lot of the problem here is models developed for one situation and applied to a very different one. For example, Americans interested in racial conflict and oppression tend to have models of those things based mostly on the ugly history between blacks and whites in the US. When those models get applied to other conflicts (white/Asian, white/hispanic, gentile/Jewish) the models have a lot of screwy assumptions built in.

        You can see that with affirmative action programs, too–designed originally to address this centuries-long campaign of kicking blacks around, they were quickly applied to hispanics, and immigrant blacks whose families have endured zero oppression at the hands of Americans, and women who had their own *completely different* pattern of being kicked around and excluded from power and wealth that has almost nothing to do with how blacks were mistreated.

    • Brad says:

      I’d say that this is an unfortunate side effect of globalization. With the internet Israel can sometimes feel close to the United States, but that’s a false feeling. The issues at play in the United States are not by and large the issues at play in Israel. More than once I’ve seen an Israeli comment about what they think is *really* going on in American college campuses and just get the groups, motivations, and resentments all wrong. Which is annoying enough, but if the Israeli in question claims to speak for the Jews generally, it is intolerable.

      You see something similar when Europeans try to map American race relation discourse directly onto whatever local demographics are present in their own countries. And I’m sure it also happens vice-versa.

      • Deiseach says:

        And I’m sure it also happens vice-versa.

        Definitely vice versa. I’ve seen commentary about a TV show talking about an inter-racial couple, where the characters in question are an Italian-American (played by a Jewish actor) and a Cuban-American (played by a Cuban-American actress), and the characters to me both read “white*” (the actress looks like she’d fit more into this category) so I’m going “wha’?”

        There’s a Chilean-British actor who has mentioned in interviews that it’s hard breaking into America, as there he is considered a “brown” actor, and so doesn’t get offered the same range of roles:

        In America, I am brown; I’m ‘of colour’, so I would be offered Latin roles, and I’ve fought against that. I don’t want to be put in a category, to be just offered the same sort of thing. For me, it’s all about different roles, telling the stories of the great writers.

        *So to me she looks a little “Hispanic” but that makes me think “Spanish”, not “Ah, South American, Person Of Colour!”

    • Deiseach says:

      An indigenous people of the Middle East, Ashkenazi Jews were driven out of their homeland by European (and later Arab) colonists and taken as slaves to Europe

      I suppose for certain values of “European colonists” yes, Titus son of the Emperor Vespasian was one. Or do we mean later in history than the Siege and Sack of Jerusalem?

      I know Wikipedia is considered unreliable, so how about a quote from a website using Nicholas de Lange’s 1985 “Atlas of the Jewish World” as a source?

      Germany was known in medieval Hebrew by the biblical name of Ashkenaz, and its Jews came to be called Ashkenazim. The expulsions and persecutions had not succeeded in ending Jewish life completely, but material and cultural conditions were poor. Excluded from the cities, the Jews tended to be dispersed in small towns and villages. There was a steady stream of emigration eastwards to Poland, where from the 13th century Jews had been attracted by grants of special privileges. This movement became even more pronounced during the upheavals of the Reformation.

      Not really seeing a lot of “dragged off in CHAINS to be SLAVES” there, but I am open to correction.

    • Björn says:

      The article is a stupid attempt in applying post-colonial theory on Jews. This can be seen in the author’s use of concepts like “Orientalism” and “People of Color”, and also in his general focus on colonialism, like when he claims the Jews where driven from their land and enslaved. But one has to keep in mind that post-colonial theory is about the colonialism of the imperialist countries in the 18th and 19th century, and how this influenced society in the 20th and 21st century.

      So applying this theory to what the Romans did to Israel is highly questionable. This can be easily seen, because when the Jews are victims of Roman colonialism, then so are all other people who lived Mediterranean Sea 2000 years ago. Also, claiming any moral result for today from events that happened so long ago is nonsense.

      His other arguments are very weird as well, he picks bits from the history of discrimination of Jewish people that vary greatly(spanish inquisition, antisemitism in the Enlightenment, in other articles he wrote also the holocaust) and hammers them into his thesis that the Jews are victims of Roman, European and Arabian colonialism.

      I read some of his other articles on his timesofisrael.com-blog, and they all read like he learned some vocabulary from post-colonial theory/social-justice-people, but does not really unterstand it. It also seems to be quite important form him that the Jews are THE TRUE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE of Israel and not anyone else, especially not the palestinians(http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/cultural-appropriation-you-say/ for example). This is an idiotic and dangerous thought in it’s own right, but if drenched in post-colonial terminology it becomes even more insidious.

      • The Nybbler says:

        But one has to keep in mind that post-colonial theory is about the colonialism of the imperialist countries in the 18th and 19th century, and how this influenced society in the 20th and 21st century.

        Which is to say, the theory can only be applied where it was originally applied, and nowhere else. That’s… very convenient.

        • Björn says:

          I don’t think that theories should only be applied where they where originally applied, but if applied anywhere else, one should be cautious and argue why the results will still be correct. In the case of post-colonial theory, I think that you can not find something that is comparable to colonialism anywhere else in history.

          Through technological advantages like industrialization and advanced naval technologies, the western powers were able to become much more powerful that the rest of the world. At the same time, there was a first wave of globalization when it became possible to maintain a global empire, so the colonial powers divided the whole world between them. This enabled the colonial powers to force their culture onto the rest of the world, and also mold the political structures there as they wanted.

        • Deiseach says:

          Which is to say, the theory can only be applied where it was originally applied, and nowhere else. That’s… very convenient.

          The English: imperalist colonisers or post-colonial people?

          Because if we applied the post-colonial theory outside of 18th-20th century context, the Romans colonised a large part of Britain. Hence, the native inhabitants were a colonised people, with the creation of an artificial elite (the Romano-British) mediating between the less assimilated natives and the foreign occupation/government. This can be compared to the situation in the Raj and you can draw what parallels you like to post-Roman withdrawal Britain and the fate of the Romano-British with post-Independence India and the fate of the Anglo-Indians (whether you want to include or exclude ‘memsahibs’ and babus as both part of that designation).

          Skip forward a millenium or so, and after a heck of a lot of immigration/invasion and admixture, we now have a new collection of inhabitants going by the collective designation of the British, and they in their turn are now imperial colonials and one of the set of villains for post-colonial theory.

          Do you intend to argue that discussing the British in the context of post-colonial theory should not be confined to, or commonly taken as referring to, “the colonialism of the imperialist countries in the 18th and 19th centuries”, since otherwise this would be suspiciously convenient for the purpose of unspecified political views?

          • The Nybbler says:

            What I’m saying is that a theory — and this is my hard sciences prejudice coming through, I suppose — which applies only to exactly one particular instance and explains everything about it isn’t so much a theory as a just-so story. It’s very convenient for the proponents of the theory, because you can’t say “Look, your theory says colonialism should have all these bad effects, but here’s this other case in history where there was colonialism without these bad effects”. It’s perfectly reasonable to respond to that with “Oh, your cases are different because A,B, and C”. But to say that “Oh, this theory only applies at this particular point in history and its lessons can be applied to no other” is very suspicious.

          • Brad says:

            The Celtic people the Romans conquered weren’t indigenous either, or at least their culture wasn’t. The Stonehenge builders were of the beaker culture that came before the Celtic invasion / migration / cultural diffusion from mainland Europe.

            I tend to think the concept of indigenous isn’t particularly useful outside of the western hemisphere, Australia, and Oceania.

          • At a considerable tangent sparked by your example …

            Rudyard Kipling is commonly viewed as both a British nationalist and an Imperialist. But his work includes stories and at least one poem set in Roman Britain, evidence that his imperialism is not based on a theory of racial superiority.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            The ancestors of the American Indians probably weren’t the first group of humans to live in America either.

  14. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    I’m a bit late to the party but I was hoping someone else might help with another off-the-wall physics question.

    I only recently became aware of something called metallic hydrogen. As far as I understand it, in metallic hydrogen the protons are suspended in a sea of electrons analogously to metal kernels. It’s much denser than hydrogen gas, is a superconductor, and probably isn’t metastable at room temperature. Apparently it would make very good rocket fuel (specific impulse of ~1700s) provided that you could store it at a pressure lower than what’s found at the center of a gas giant or brown dwarf.

    The piece of information that I’d like to know, and which I think this article (PDF warning) may contain, is whether or not metallic hydrogen or hydrogen isotopes has any relevance to fusion power. Some internet randos seem to think so but that means very little, and I lack the physics expertise to interpret the literature properly.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      OK so I did some more digging:

      It looks like there’s a really incestuous clique of Japanese physicists, really mostly just Setsuo Ichimaru and Hikaru Kitamura, who published a ton of papers in the late nineties to mid aughts on so-called pycnonuclear or “solid” fusion. The idea is that adiabatic compression of metallic hydrogen at extremely low temperatures (around 10 K) will cause fusion to occur. The name pycnonuclear is a play on thermonuclear, where the prefix pycno- refers to density.

      This seems very shady and none of their stuff seems to have been published in a high end journal or even cited much outside of their own clique. Some of it isn’t even in English, there are a few Japanese-only articles in there. So it’s probably BS.

  15. rlms says:

    My predictions for the UK election (posting here in case I get them all right).
    Written a few weeks ago, and I haven’t changed the couple I got right at time of posting, I promise! In light of the Conservatives campaigning very poorly, Labour being reasonable, and the polls being against the Lib Dems, I think I will likely be wrong in the direction of a smaller Conservative majority, more Labour and fewer SNP seats (maybe 335 Conservative, 230 Labour, 20 LD, 40 SNP).

    • rlms says:

      For anyone who’s not following it, the UK election looks to be going pretty crazy. In an unprecedented set of events, the male populist outsider (known for his friendly attitude towards Russia) is doing unexpectedly well against the female neoliberal favourite (known for her friendly attitude towards the Saudis).

      • the male populist outsider (known for his friendly attitude towards Russia) i

        #

        IRA, rather.

        • rlms says:

          He’s also pretty dovish towards Russia, claiming that Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine was “not unprovoked” by Nato.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Otherwise known as living in the real world.

          • rlms says:

            Doesn’t mean it’s not friendly in comparison to the average for politicians.

          • So it had nothing at all to do with NATO? Or is the problem saying that?

          • rlms says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z
            I wasn’t intending to claim his beliefs were wrong, merely that they were non-mainstream in the direction of Trump.

            As it happens, I do think it is silly to suggest (as Corbyn has) that Nato policy is a cause of Russia’s adventures in Ukraine, or that Russia are just helping people in Ukraine exercise their right “to seek a federal structure or independence“. You can make a realpolitik case that the costs of standing against Russian expansion outweigh the benefits (and I’d be inclined to agree with it in many ways) but people like Corbyn lean towards ignoring the costs altogether.

      • Tibor says:

        The characterization is not quite accurate. Corbyn is not really a friend of Russia. He has connections and sympathies for the IRA and Sinn Féin, he is an admirer of Hugo Chávez and leftist authoritarians in general and there are some signs he might also be antisemitic, even thought it is mostly dressed up as a “critique of Israel, Zionism and bankers, nothing to do with antisemitism at all!” He is a horrible person. Despite May’s efforts to make a fool of herself completely, he thankfully did not win.

        On the other hand, May as a far cry from neoliberalism. Or, I don’t know, this is kind of a word that everyone uses to describe anyone they don’t like. But let’s say that Margaret Thatcher is what neoliberalism means in the UK. Then May could not be further from it while still calling herself a Tory. She is a proponent of the nanny state first and foremost and has nothing against the increasing role of the state. She is still conservative, but mostly socially. Not a great choice either, but compared to Corbyn, well, she’s still ok.

        • rlms says:

          I’m not fan of Corbyn, but while there are lots of photos of him with probable anti-semites I’m pretty confident he isn’t anti-semitic at all.

          I meant May was neoliberal in the sense of being part of the general “centrist” political consensus that controlled (up until Trump) most of the West. Like most prominent Tories, she isn’t really socially conservative, and she definitely falls within the neoliberal (in this sense) consensus economically with an attitude that is largely “keep things more or less the same”.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            worth noting is that the daily stormer endorsed him

            and then put out an article explaining “no really, we’re serious about this” and laying out why

            not going to link the daily stormer but, if you want you can go find it. It seemed pretty genuine.

    • Salem says:

      I don’t think we will even get to a majority let alone 335. A disaster for the country, and surely the beginning of the end for Theresa May. Who, incidentally, is no neoliberal. She will limp on for a few months but she is done for. God damn you George Osborne for stepping down. You saved the country once, now we need you to save it again.

      • rlms says:

        Indeed, it’s starting look like it will be 300-320. I think this further than the beginning of the end for May; I can’t see her lasting longer than a couple of days.

        • Salem says:

          She called for a period of stability. I assume that means she plans to start handling the Brexit negotiations, on the tacit agreement that she stands down in a few months. But if, like Ted Heath, she’s obstinate enough to think she can stay on, then yeah, she’s gone pronto.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        George Osborne? You mean the man who failed to meet, often spectacularly, pretty much every major economic target he set himself?

        • Salem says:

          Osborne slashed the deficit and cut taxes*, in a coalition or with a wafer-thin majority where every backbencher could try to hold him to ransom for more their pet spending projects. He bore down on public sector wage settlements despite the howls of the unions. He oversaw a dynamic economy with fast growth and more than 2.5 million jobs created in when our major trading partner was languishing in torpor. He’s a historic Chancellor, up there with Gladstone and Howe. The fact that he wanted to do even better is greatly to his credit, not a stick to beat him with.

          *Or rather, tax rates. Government income went up.

    • rlms says:

      Current evidence suggests I have uncanny predicting ability in the narrow field of Northern Irish elections that don’t involve the SDLP.

    • Protagoras says:

      As it is now clear that the conservatives are short of a majority, a question from an outsider. I presume the LibDems are not stupid enough to join a coalition with the Conservatives again, and of course SNP is more sympathetic to Labor and I can’t see Sinn Fein joining a coalition or the Conservatives being willing to be in a coalition with them (if they even have enough seats to make the difference). But DUP is a conservative party, with enough votes to put the Conservatives over the top. Probably it is obvious to anyone who knows anything about the DUP or UK politics, but why wouldn’t a Conservative-DUP coalition be the obvious outcome? Is DUP too toxic for the Conservatives to partner with them? Is the DUP too uncooperative to partner with anyone? Or is there something else going on that I’m missing?

      • Salem says:

        A Conservative/DUP agreement is a likely outcome, you are not wrong. But it doesn’t have to be a coalition, it could be a minority government with a supply agreement.

      • Sinn Fein

        Sinn Fein don’t even take their seats.

        But DUP is a conservative party, with enough votes to put the Conservatives over the top. Probably it is obvious to anyone who knows anything about the DUP or UK politics, but why wouldn’t a Conservative-DUP coalition be the obvious outcome?

        Likely. It’s happened before, it was pretty grim and it was followed by a huge swing to Labour (first Blair govt).

      • Art Vandelay says:

        Word now is that May and the DUP have reached an agreement. As TheAncientGeek suggests this does not bode well for the Conservatives.

        • gbdub says:

          This is one of the weird things to me about multi-party parliamentary democracy.

          By “defeating” May, largely because Labour and LibDems gained ground, the U.K. will now end up with a more right wing government?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Same thing happens in two party systems, via different mechanisms (party primary plus swing districts)

            It’s the swing districts that really show this. Lose your centrist members and the farthest from the center member has more power.

          • Deiseach says:

            By “defeating” May, largely because Labour and LibDems gained ground, the U.K. will now end up with a more right wing government?

            Yes. The Tories lost their majority and are now reliant on another party coming in with them to reach or exceed the 326 seats needed to be the majority. They only have 318 seats and lost 12 that they previously held.

            Labour, which improved its share of MPs and seats in the House of Commons, still did not do well enough to be able to form a government with any form of coalition – the numbers don’t add up (unless every single non-Tory MP and party goes into that coalition, which ain’t gonna happen).

            The Lib Dems who got badly burned being the minority party in the last coalition government, this time round pledged not to form a coalition with the Tories, so their 12 seats are not available.

            The DUP is the only party willing to go in with the Tories, and their 10 seats give the Tories 328, which is enough to form a government. And so there will be a price to pay for their support. And because it’s the DUP who are the more Unionist of the Unionist parties in the North, they are inclined to be more right-wing, and more conservative, on many topics so they may push policy more in that direction – or will at least support the more right-wing policies expected under a Tory government headed by Theresa May.

            Theresa May ‘lost’ because (a) she called an election unnecessarily (b) instead of getting the mandate for “strong and stable” government negotiating Brexit, they were rejected (c) they lost seats and lost their majority so can’t be a single-party government (d) they are now reliant on the support of a tiny party that will expect concessions (e) Labour, instead of being crushed under Corbyn as everyone expected, and instead of Corbyn getting kicked out due to a bad result, now gained seats and Corbyn is in a stronger position to deal with any heaves or leadership challenges. Even the Lib Dems have recovered a little from the bad odour they were in, having been the “yes, master, whatever you say, master” minority to Cameron’s majority party in the last coalition.

            I don’t know if this example maps onto the situation as well but imagine Hillary Clinton had won the election, there was a Democrat majority in Congress, and going into the midterms in 2018, the expectation was that the Democrats would comfortably beat the Republicans to solidify the result of Hillary’s victory – but it turns out that having President Hillary call for everyone to get out there and vote Democrat resulted in huge losses for the Democrats and a resurgence in the Republicans in Congress and state governorships, as well as third party candidates actually getting somewhere for a change? (I know this doesn’t map exactly because you have to have your 2018 elections and Theresa May didn’t have to call an election, but it’s the nearest I can think of in a two-party system).

          • rlms says:

            The right-wing DUP will have disproportionately more power than when they didn’t have any formal arrangement with the Conservatives, but there still aren’t many of them (it’s not a proper coalition like the last one, where the Lib Dems formed quite a large proportion of the government). However, the right-wing parties still have fewer seats, which means it is more difficult for them to pass bills (the number of defectors needed to stop a bill is smaller). That’s one sense the Conservatives have lost. The other sense is that they’ve done far worse than expected. Everyone was assuming the Conservatives were going to gain a load of seats. If you’d said they wouldn’t get a majority a few weeks ago, people would’ve laughed.

        • Deiseach says:

          Not going to be great for Northern Ireland either, and our lot in the Republic are watching nervously. Preliminary skimming over the results, it looks like the moderates in the North got hammered in the elections, leaving the DUP (very Unionist) and Sinn Féin (very not) as the winners. Our lot are anxious because post-election and new government, will it be a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, what about the border (return to a hard border between the North and the Republic or not? the border is important for us as a lot of trading is done (a) with Britain so goods travel to the North and from there to ‘the mainland’ (b) apparently a lot of goods for the Continent also travel the same route, and that’s not taking into account the business etc. done on both sides of the border, people living on one side and working on the other, and so forth) and what will the DUP attitude be?

          I can’t get a good read on this because one lot of commentators say the DUP want a hard border and will insist on a hard Brexit and another lot say no, the DUP (or Arlene Foster as leader, who has just herself recently ridden out the after-effects of a scandal) want or will appreciate the value of a soft Brexit and soft border.

          And then there’s the question of the increased polarisation, as shown by the election results, and the effects this might have on the peace process. Recently it was looking like the continuity splinters of the IRA were starting to give up and fold but this result may instead invigorate them: we tried your way, Sinn Féin, (peaceful political struggle) and look what it’s got us, back to the armed struggle now is the only way!

          The DUP being “kingmakers” in a coalition (or even not that, a voting arrangement) with the Tories means that in return for their support, they will be looking for concessions. Which means that they will be operating a system of patronage in Northern Ireland (and the price to be paid probably won’t be great for Britain either as the money for those concessions or the results of those concessions has to be borne somehow).

          Northern Ireland as a statelet is not capable of surviving independently, it’s very dependent on GB and EU money to keep going. If hard Brexit, EU funding is going to dry up, and kinda-sorta austerity Great Britain, which already wants to scale back on spending on the North, is not going to be able to/not willing to take up the slack. They don’t come through with the money, the DUP pulls out of the coalition/agreement, the government collapses, back to square one with elections and if Labour pull something off even better this time and can cobble together a government of their own, maybe a second referendum on Brexit?

          The EU is not at all happy with the “first you want in, then you hold a referendum and your guy loses and has to go, his replacement says okay we’re going, she calls an election, maybe in six months’ time she won’t be in power anymore and you guys will now want back in” goings-on.

          So it’s all looking very “What the hell is going on, nobody knows” right now for all sides.

    • Why do you think May did so little personal campaigning? My prevailing theories are:

      1. She was trying to be presidential and above politics.

      2. Her handlers told here she has negative charisma.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        I suspect she knew herself that she is extremely un-charismatic, she’s never been a campaigner. I’m quite convinced by the argument that Cameron made her Home Secretary as a sop to the right-wing of the Tory party but specifically chose someone rather mediocre so they wouldn’t be a threat to him and his mates. Somehow she emerged from the post-referendum infighting in charge of the party, and the Tory media wrote endless paeans to her magnificence. The Tory election campaign was always going to be largely based around trying to limit the damage caused to the image that had been created that would inevitably come from too much exposure to what she is actually like in reality.

        • Hmmm. the Maybot was sounding pretty uncharismatic AND pretty presidential (refusing to admit that she even has any so-called opponents) in her screech after visiting Her Maj.

        • Deiseach says:

          Somehow she emerged from the post-referendum infighting in charge of the party

          Which was magnificent and (sadly?) did not signify the end of the Tories (at least not just yet); I still chortle over Michael Gove’s spectacularly back-firing back-stabbing of BoJo which then ended up not with Gove and La Vine as Leader and Leaderene, Prime Minister-in-waiting (and husband), but lost it all, while Boris got the job of Foreign Secretary. A plot twist (or series of them) that would be written off as too contrived for “House of Cards”.

          I note that Gove has managed to retain his seat as MP for Surrey Heath in yesterday’s election, so something is going right for him.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      My question: Why are so many commentators so sure that this will necessitate a second election soon? My understanding of parliamentary systems is that party discipline is very tight compared to the US, so even if the margin is small, won’t they still win every relevant vote anyway as long as the DUP is on board? I can understand that deaths and by-elections might chip away at it but there’s no way to predict when people will die or resign.

      • Nornagest says:

        I am certainly not an expert on British politics, but my understanding is that elections are conventionally called there whenever a major piece of the governing coalition’s agenda fails. That doesn’t happen as much as it does in the US because of said party discipline, but it does happen, and it’s more likely to happen when the coalition’s margins are weak or its internal relations are strained.

        • Brad says:

          I think the rule in the Westminster system is that if an appropriations (which they call supply) bill fails then the government automatically falls. Otherwise it takes a motion of no confidence.

          • Salem says:

            That used to be the rule until the Fixed Term Parliaments act was passed. Now it takes a specific no confidence motion. We could get into a situation where supply fails or a Brexit deal is rejected, but the government can’t call an election either. We’d be totally stuck – potentially for years.

          • random832 says:

            They can’t just make a new government with the same parliament? Possibly picking compromise centrist candidates for each cabinet position separately if it comes to that?

          • Salem says:

            They could in theory make a new government but it’s unlikely. The current arrangement is the only way anyone can get a majority, unless the Lib Dems are willing to ally with the Conservatives again.

      • Salem says:

        Party discipline is tight but not absolute. Every government will have a handful of serial rebels, plus principled defections on critical issues. And this government is going to have to negotiate Brexit, which will have to anger someone. If the Fixed Term Parliaments Act had not been passed, we would absolutely be heading for another election. As it is, we need one, but may not get one.

      • Deiseach says:

        won’t they still win every relevant vote anyway as long as the DUP is on board?

        “As long as the DUP is on board” is the important part here. If the DUP decides to withdraw support for whatever reason, then the coalition fails.

        In 1992 in the Republic, Fianna Fáil managed to cobble together a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. It only lasted a year when, due to a series of ongoing scandals from the previous administration, the PDs withdrew their support, voted a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach (prime minister), the government collapsed and a general election had to be called.

        Being the majority party with a minority party propping you up is comfortable when you have a large enough cushion and the minority party is desperate for power (as in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of David Cameron). You can get the minority party to do a lot of your dirty work for you, or at least shift the blame onto them in the public perception.

        Being the majority party dependent on the support of a minority party is bad when they’re the tail wagging the dog and can hold over your head the threat of walking out and forcing the collapse of government (and a new election) anytime they feel they’re not being treated right or getting their due.

        Why are so many commentators so sure that this will necessitate a second election soon?

        Because it’s an unstable arrangement. The DUP has only 10 seats and it represents Northern Ireland, so it has little to lose if it pulls out of government any time it feels slighted (unlike the Lib Dems who were a much larger party – the merger of the sad remains of the once-mighty Liberal Party and the Social Democrats – and who had aspirations to be the power they had (partly) been before, and were a nationwide (in Great Britain) party, so they had a lot to lose if the coalition collapsed due to them).

        This means that to last, the Tories have to keep giving in to them, and if the giving in is too much or too blatant, it’s going to cause resentment and give the other parties a great chance to move a motion of no confidence to try and bring the government down. And it can’t last because it’s so unstable – all 10 DUP MPs have to vote in total agreement to support the Tories, and if only one or two decide to be mavericks on a particular cause, then they can hamstring policy. All this in the middle of trying to negotiate and implement Brexit.

        For the Tories, this is like trying to unicycle across a tightrope while the tightrope is on fire and burning through in front of them.

        Another election re-throws the dice and may bring either a better Tory result or enough seats for Labour to form a government themselves (either alone or in coalition).

        • The Nybbler says:

          Seems to me the Tory’s best strategy now is to lay the groundwork for a better election result (I have no idea how) and keep saying “Nice doggie” to the DUP until they think they can win.

          • Deiseach says:

            I can’t think of any way the Tories can lay a better groundwork in the short term, and the DUP are well aware that the Tories will be telling them “nice doggie”, so the occasional snarl and baring of teeth will remind them that to keep the happy tail wagging, they need to provide the treats 🙂

  16. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.metafilter.com/167493/Distinguishing-character-assassination-from-accountability

    There are getting to be more people on the left who see problems with call-out culture.

    The link has links to much more history on the subject than I knew existed. I don’t know whether there’s the ability to make it clear that opposition to oppression needs to not be oppressive itself, but I’m feeling more hopeful than I have since 2009.

    • gbdub says:

      The last quote in there from Noah Smith is an excellent one:

      “…for centuries, humans have tended to have small, strongly tied inner social circles and larger, more weakly tied outer circles. We tend to respond strongly to any vocal criticism within the inner circle. But social media has thrown this concentric pattern of social circles into disarray, by making the inner circle just as “strong” as the outer one in some ways. So criticism from someone in the outer circle now often carries the social weight and destructive power that only the inner circle should really have.”

      The problem with “call-out” culture in the social media age is that the response is often wildly disproportionate, but in a totally unpredictable way. Well, that and that it encourages people to one-up each other in their outward displays of righteous indignation.

      The badness of an action gets judged not on the merits, but on the only very loosely correlated magnitude of the resulting Twitter shitstorm.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I think I’ve made similar points to that quote here before, that social media has expanded the powers of shaming taboo-violations and dissent from that “inner circle” to the “global village”, and if Brin is at all right about the inevitable triumph of surveilance technologies over privacy, it will get worse. Because, while the more optimistic predict that people will eventually start pushing online networks back into the “outer circle” (ignoring Twitter mobs and ending the effectiveness of http://racistsgettingfired.tumblr.com), I expect that the likely outcome is the continuation of this trend to make the (formerly) mythical “permanent record” we were warned of in school into a real, life-long thing with serious and permanent effects. Relevant from The New York Times: “The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers“.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Puts on fake Karl Marx beard.

      The problem with callout culture isn’t that it hurts people’s feelings. People on the internet hurt each other’s feelings all the time. It sucks but you can roll with it.

      It’s a lot harder to roll with being fired, especially when the first page of search results of your name is filled with stories about the controversy around you. You almost certainly don’t own your car or your house, and the way divorce works in our country you won’t be able to keep your family together either. Those are quantifiable material injuries: you have literally been impoverished.

      Removes beard.

      But yeah, seriously. The problem isn’t that people will call you mean names on the internet. The problem is that they will say magic words like “racist” “sexist” or “homophobe” which make it legally risky to continue to employ you.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “The problem with callout culture isn’t that it hurts people’s feelings. People on the internet hurt each other’s feelings all the time. It sucks but you can roll with it.”

        Sometimes callout culture hurts people’s feelings so much they get something like PTSD from it.

        You may be thick-skinned enough to handle a full barrage, or you may be kidding yourself. See So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Ok, that’s a fair cop, I downplayed the psychological harm of public shaming and ostracism. That is a big deal.

          But my point still stands: however bad the psychological harm is, this isn’t just about psychological harm. It also about a very literal threat to your livelihood. And if you weren’t depressed or traumatized before losing your livelihood, you can bet that you will be afterwards.

          Framing it purely in terms of feelings buries the lede.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thanks for acknowledging the psychological harm.

            It’s a little complex– the earlier phases of callout culture (see the Joanna Russ piece about “trashing”) didn’t have the same threat to livelihood that the current callout culture does.

          • albatross11 says:

            I imagine the impact depends a lot on whether it’s a lot of people from some outgroup you don’t like calling you names, or people from your ingroup calling you names, with the potential of being cast out from your community.

  17. Conrad Honcho says:

    Consider Pat Buchanan’s recent article, Is Afghanistan a Lost Cause? regarding the resurgence and perhaps dominance of the Taliban in Afghanistan. I was particularly shaken by this quote:

    The Taliban hold more territory and are active in more provinces than they have been since being driven from power in 2001. And Afghan forces are suffering casualties at the highest rate of the war.

    1) Do you agree with Pat’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan?

    2) Is a secular, pro-US government possible in Afghanistan, regardless of US military involvement?

    3) If not, what are the implications of losing the war in Afghanistan?

    • bintchaos says:

      1) Terrorism and islamic insurgencies are antifragile. That means the tools employed to destroy the target actually wind up growing it instead.
      2) never.
      3) Afghanistan is well known as the Graveyard of Empires. We should just leave and let Afghanistan reach equilibrium in situ.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What ramifications would the US leaving Afghanistan have for American foreign policy in the Islamic world? Taliban takes over, massacres people who sided with the US, potential opposition to the US taking refugees, wouldn’t the message to the rest of the Islamic world be “side with the US and you get necked?”

        • albatross11 says:

          And on the other side, is it workable for us to have a more-or-less permanent occupation and low-level war going on in Afghanistan?

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’d say we have four options in Afghanistan:

      1. Crackdown on the population in a way on a scale not seen since World War 2, whether directly or indirectly by supporting a dictator who is willing to do so.

      2. Up the number of troops significantly and credibly commit that we are going to stay there for the long haul.

      3. Limp along with the current number of troops or maybe even slightly higher and hope we can at least keep some parts of the government alive

      4. Cut our losses and give up

      I don’t think Americans have the political stomach for 1 and 2. 3 is probably the most likely option for now.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I’m not sure we have the political stomach for 4, either. Only the most strident isolationists would agree to say “well, too bad that didn’t work out, good luck with the Taliban, later!” I am a pretty strident isolationist and that doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t seem to sit well with Pat, either, and he’s one of the people who made me an isolationist with his book “A Republic, Not an Empire” 20 years ago.

      • John Schilling says:

        5. Concentrate on making the cities into civilized places under liberal pro-American governments, while maintaining persistent surveillance elsewhere and periodically breaking up any concentrations of anti-American power.

        We could abandon the cities as well, but the cities can be defended and governed and the air bases we use for the surveillance and bombing must be defended, so two birds, one stone.

        • bintchaos says:

          @John Schilling
          Three words:
          Operation Frequent Wind. You really dont want to be besieged liberal islands in a sea of angry peasants who will gladly embed insurgents and terrorists who will kill you and your hajiis allies anyway they can.
          Given that conservatism is hyper-focused on the past, I think there are many lessons to be learned from US VietNam experience. Its very frustrating to me that US keeps doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.
          For example US originally sponsored Ho Chi Minh as an insurgent to plague the french, much like patronage of Osama bin Laden to frag the Russians.
          And Crossover Point– do you guys know Crossover Point? That was the theoretical sweet spot where US had killed enough VC so they gave up. There is no Crossover Point for IS or the next islamic insurgency or the Taliban. There is a near infinite resupply of proto-jihadists in Muslim Asia and MENA and sub-saharan africa… and US policies just make more and more of them.

          @Conrad Honcho
          Don’t you think the local populations know you get necked by now? US sponsors local minority groups to oppress the Sunni majority. But there are so many more sunni muslims (deobandi sufi muslims in Taliban case) because of TRF and demographicshift. Think about what happened to those poor dumb Sons of Anbar in the “Anbar Awakening”.
          US can’t win the A-stan fight– better to drawdown gracefully than be forced out in rooftop choppers under fire.
          If you want to read a book about ‘Nam then read Nick Turse Kill Anything that Moves. Its entirely composed of FOIA requests. Someday there will be a similar book about OIF and OEF.
          Maybe I will write it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Operation Frequent Wind. You really dont want to be besieged liberal islands in a sea of angry peasants who will gladly embed insurgents and terrorists

            You need to stop learning military history from fifty-year-old leftist propaganda. “Operation Frequent Wind” had nothing to do with angry peasants, insurgents, and/or terrorists. Rather, it was the North Vietnamese Army, a quarter of a million regulars with a thousand tubes of artillery and three hundred main battle tanks, which the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force were explicitly prohibited from engaging in combat by land, sea, or air, that forced the evacuation of Saigon.

            This is rather different from my proposal.

          • bintchaos says:

            But didnt the ARVN collapse just exactly like the Iraqi army?
            Someone told me that Mosul 2014 was just Da Nang redux.
            Thanx but nothanx.
            I’ll get my ‘Nam history from Nick Turse and my evo theory of games from John Maynard-Smith.
            My reference to Op Frequent Wind was the helo evac of Saigon as it fell. My point is US cant win an iterated game against embedded terrorists/guerillas– they have infinite resource resupply. Didn’t Kissinger say something about that?
            The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.

          • albatross11 says:

            How long do you imagine keeping US troops and a low-level war/whack-a-mole operation going in Afghanistan? Should I plan for my hypothetical grandkids to enlist to help in our continued occupation in Afghanistan?

          • John Schilling says:

            The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.

            There were no guerillas in Vietnam in 1975, you chaotic bint. Not enough to matter, at any rate. The ones that mattered, all died in 1968. And they died because they were baited into the suicidally foolish move of attacking securely-held cities.

            In 1975, there was a war between two regular armies, and a nonbelligerent nation evacuating its civilians before the final onslaught. That’s what usually happens when two armies clash; 1975 was just the first time it could happen with helicopters and TV cameras.

            @albatross: In two generations, your hypothetical grandkids may be able to take contract jobs as drone operators. It probably won’t pay very well, but they can work from home and monetize their leet gaming skills. But most of the work will probably be in more recent conflict zones than Afghanistan.

          • bintchaos says:

            ??
            Not what Kissinger said lol.
            Why did US burn hooches and villes and bomb rice paddies if not to deny support to embedded guerillas?
            It was stated policy.
            And US still lost. On tv.
            dinky-dau.
            https://twitter.com/ye_wenjie3/status/873196167370297344

          • John Schilling says:

            bint: You may be confusing 1965 and 1975. In 1975, it had been three years since the United States bombed anything in Vietnam, and then it was mostly bombing missile batteries, airfields, railroads, power plants, and other heavy logistics targets supporting the regular army that was waging war against the US and its allies.

          • CatCube says:

            @bintchaos

            The ARVN didn’t collapse under guerilla warfare, it collapsed under a massive conventional invasion by a regular Army. This regular North Vietnamese Army had tried to conduct a conventional invasion in 1968 and got crushed by American forces.

            The US pulled out due to a guerilla campaign, but it didn’t “collapse” in the way you’re implying. US forces made an orderly withdrawal after a political decision to abandon South Vietnam to its fate (resulting in the mass murder of those who had supported us). The evacuation of the embassy was pulling out the very last of the US civilians and troops, who were not engaged in combat operations, and as many Vietnamese civilians in danger of being murdered by the Communist regime as possible before Saigon fell to regular forces.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @CatCube

            Additionally, with American support, South Vietnamese troops had managed to halt a Northern offensive in 1972.

          • bintchaos says:

            I apologize for not being clear on what I meant.
            I meant to support 4.) withdraw as the optimal solution.
            In VietNam US employed the Crossover Point as doctrine– the theoretical tipping point where US had killed enough VC that they gave up.
            That point was unobtainable in Nam, and even moreso in MENA, sub-sahara, SE Asia today because of demographic shift and the youth bulge in ME and Africa.
            I didn’t mean to refight VietNam even as a socio-physics experiment in conservative attributes.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        This could be the pundit’s fallacy, but I think 4 would be fine. What percentage of Americans even know that the US military is still active in Afghanistan? Further, this isn’t like Vietnam, where the whole purpose was sending a message of resolve – the main goal was simply revenge, and we did that.

    • Protagoras says:

      The misguided war on drugs seems to play a role. Opium is one of the few ways for the desperately poor farmers of Afghanistan to get by, the Taliban lets them grow it, and the U.S. doesn’t. Obviously, the farmers are going to keep growing it as long as it remains profitable, and that’s going to keep funding the Taliban and guaranteeing it a lot of popular support as long as they’re the ones who permit that.

      • cassander says:

        I always said that you could turn Afghanistan into Kuwait by giving them a global monopoly on the production of legal heroin.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          How much would heroin be worth if it were legal?

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s a good question. I figure it would be taxed into space similarly to alcohol and tobacco. Since some forms don’t require any particularly technologically advanced tools or processing, I figure the price for commercial units would be close to the named substances.

          • skef says:

            It would certainly be worth something, but this split would be rather strange.

            The primary psychoactive compound in opium poppies is morphine, and most morphine is still produced from farming poppies. Obviously, morphine is a common pharmaceutical, albeit a controlled one. Heroin is the preferred street drug because it’s very easy to turn morphine into heroin and the latter is twice as potent. Heroin is schedule-I (in the U.S.) mostly for messaging reasons.

            So designating one country as the supply of legal heroin, while leaving the morphine infrastructure as it is, would be weird.

          • gbdub says:

            Heroin? I don’t know, but legal opiates are a huge industry.

          • Brad says:

            I believe Tasmania in Australia is currently the largest grower of legal poppies. Don’t think they are exactly experiencing Kuwait levels of wealth over there.

      • John Schilling says:

        Opium is one of the few ways for the desperately poor farmers of Afghanistan to get by, the Taliban lets them grow it

        “From late 2000 and the year that followed, the Taliban enforced a ban on poppy farming via threats, forced eradication, and the public punishment of transgressors. The result was a 99% reduction in the area of opium poppy farming in Taliban-controlled areas”
        G. Farrel and J. Thorne, 2004

        I don’t know what the situation is in the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan now, but then there aren’t any areas of Afghanistan where Taliban control is uncontested and if there are places where the Taliban are leaving opium farmers in peace that may just be on account of not having the bandwith to deal with them this year. Which is presumably the case in some non-Taliban-controlled areas as well.

        But the last time anyone let the Taliban have nigh-uncontested control of Afghanistan, they turned out to be the most hard-core drug warriors this side of maybe Singapore, and the worst nightmare the poor hard-working opium farmers of Afghanistan ever had. The US occupation reopened that trade, and that route to prosperity for at least some Afghanis.

        • Protagoras says:

          2000-2001 was an aberration, partly motivated by the Taliban seeking good relations with the U.S. at the time. Apart from that they have not been anti-opium, and if you look at more recent years their gains have coincided with an increase in Afghan opium production.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      A secular, pro-US government would be possible in Afghanistan if we had zero moral compunctions and our population had an infinite tolerance for expensive, bloody wars. So possible, but not in the sense anyone reasonable would want.

      • 1soru1 says:

        ‘secular’, ‘pro-us’, ‘democratic’, ‘government’. Pick one, or two if you want to spend enough blood and treasure.

        You probably can’t afford 3, and definitely can’t afford 4.

        • bintchaos says:

          3 is impossible.
          As Bush found out in his hilariously tragically wrong superwrong Democracy Promotion Doctrine–
          when muslims are democratically empowered to vote, they vote for Islam. Muslims like Islam.
          1, 2, and 4 won’t work because of bordering islamic populations.
          There isnt enough blood and treasure in the world to force that.

          • 1soru1 says:

            3 is pretty much the easiest one, providing you don’t attempt #1 and #2. Unlike earlier eras, democracy is now the default form of government in the world. Anything else needs active foreign support.

            Thing is, a democratic government follows it’s own decisions; those are not going to be to go out on a limb for the US, or impose contemporary liberal Christian morality on its populace.

            The US spends nothing to ‘prop up’ e.g. Iranian democracy; in return, you get crowds chanting ‘Great Satan’ and homosexuals being hanged.

            The US spends does spend billions propping up the Saudi monarchy, in return you get photo-ops and various bribes and a few concessions on human rights.

          • bintchaos says:

            Beg pardon.
            But aren’t Iran and KSA theocracies?

          • 1soru1 says:

            Iran does have theocratic elements in its democracy, e.g. the Assembly of Experts have to pass a religious exam.

            SA is a straight monarchy – the clerics work for the King, just like they did for Henry VIII.

          • bintchaos says:

            Depends on how you define democracy doesnt it?
            I think think the consensual rule of law of a citizenry determines that– either government by the laws of God (shariah) or government by the laws of man (secular law).

          • 1soru1 says:

            Every functional democracy has non-democratic elements; a constitution, a monarch, an imperial power, a religious hierarchy. Social theories like Marxism get press-ganged into this role sometimes; it’s not one they have been noticeably successful at.

            As far as I can see, subjectively the _nature_ of the non-democratic element matters a lot to the locals. But objectively it’s the _proportion_ that matters.

  18. Jaskologist says:

    Question for those on the (American) left.

    Over on the right, we like to complain about “failure theater” a lot, where Republicans will pretend to oppose a given left-wing initiative or piece of legislation, but do so in such a way as to not actually succeed in stopping it.

    What sorts of failure theater do the Democrats engage in?

    • bintchaos says:

      We are just beginning to get into Sinner v Sinner TfT.
      Ask us later.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        wat

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m still not seeing the relevance. Are you asserting that lefties would never do failure theatre but now that the righties are that they’ll have to start?

          • bintchaos says:

            exactly.
            gold star.
            The Founders set up a Nash equilibrium, but in 2008 the congressional GOP began playing zero-sum TfT
            Sinner v Saint means the Saints always lose.
            But Sinner v Sinner is a CAT game.
            No one wins.
            Dems are just learning to play right now. That is why screaming “but dems are the party of free speech” isnt going to get Murray or Coulter an auditorium on campus.

          • CatCube says:

            Too bad you weren’t here when Jill was; you two could argue about whether the Evil Republicans destroyed civil discourse in 1994 or 2008.

            No, sir, the Democrats had no hand in the Bork hearings.

          • bintchaos says:

            @catcube
            Interesting.
            Mid 90s is when polarization really started to take hold.

    • gph says:

      Perhaps opposition to war/military actions. It plays really well to the liberal base, but ultimately I think most democratic politicians are fully on board with most of our foreign policy and military interventions.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        When Obama was elected I honestly thought “at least he’ll close gitmo and we’ll stop bombing people’s weddings in the middle east.” Nope.

        • Jordan D. says:

          What’s interesting is that I think gph’s example here was definitively true in 2008, but after all the years of continued actions in the ME we’ve sort of stopped having a true anti-war party. The Democrats used to be pretty anti-war when Bush was in office, but while they lost their taste for pacifism under Obama, the Republican party never picked it up.

          I’m interested to see if the Democrats suddenly take up the banner again under Trump or if interminable endless war has drowned that for good.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m interested to see if the Democrats suddenly take up the banner again under Trump or if interminable endless war has drowned that for good.

            When he lobbed missiles at Assad’s airbase, Trump supporters were more angry at him than anyone else. If Trump starts a war he’d never win re-election. I think his only interest is in finishing up the ones we have. Unfortunately, that may be impossible. ISIS can be defeated. But the Taliban in Afghanistan is as strong as ever. The only hope on that front, I believe, is starving them out of resources. Perhaps Trump’s detente in Saudi Arabia will pay off, but who knows.

        • cassander says:

          If the Obama administration taught us anything, it’s how hard it is for US presidents to do nothing. Doing nothing takes resolve.

    • Brad says:

      It’s not quite the same, but Democrats constantly pretend that their gun control plans have any chance when they know damn well they don’t. Every legislator is at least an amateur whip, they know what’s plausible and what isn’t.

      • gbdub says:

        That was going to be my example. And it’s probably a good call on their part – any compromise measure wouldn’t appease their base, and probably wouldn’t work anyway, with the net result of just giving more ammo to the now riled up pro-gun side.

        Not sure how you break that incentive chain.

      • Protagoras says:

        Well, they do pass some gun control laws. And they don’t generally pretend that they’re planning to implement the kind of laws that might actually have an impact (UK level of restrictions, say). Mostly they just pretend that the laws they actually try to pass and sometimes pass successfully, like their slightly fussier background checks and attacks on strangely defined “assault weapons,” will actually do something. Of course, pretending that sure to be ineffective policies will actually help is common on both sides. And I’m sounding like a libertarian. I guess this is one of the issues where I tend to lean that way.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Single payer healthcare seems like a good candidate.

      • BBA says:

        This, more than any other example, shows how “failure theater” gets to be a thing. Because single payer either costs a ton of money, forcing huge tax increases, or it means a massive loss of money for the entire medical industry, from big pharma all the way down to your local pediatrician’s office. This is hard to explain in a soundbite, so the pols either have to lie and claim it’s doable and then shrug when it fails to pass, or just quietly bury the issue.

        Sure, this repeated failure to pass a policy the base loves gets them mad at the party elite, but the base isn’t actually a majority of the electorate. There are in fact lots of people who don’t want single-payer, just like there are lots of people who don’t want [insert right-wing policy here], and they’re enough to swing an election.

    • cassander says:

      The exact same thing, with republican bills?

      Or if you mean a different sort of theater, the apoplectic reaction (“they’re slashing budgets”) to even minor reductions in spending. And not even to actual reductions, to even the suggestion that spending might grow more slowly this year than last year.

      The current kerfuffle in Kansas is a great demonstration of this, tax cuts were never more than 5% of the state’s budget, where the actual deficits were only a couple percent, and where spending rose continually, but I’ve seen dozens of people talking about how Kansas proves that slashing taxes and spending doesn’t work, talking about the state as if it had descended into mad max style chaos.

  19. bintchaos says:

    I wonder if the SCC commentariat tribe has opinions on Comey’s testimony, given that we are all watching it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Only going by what I heard on the news, but:

      (a) I think he’s getting his retaliation in first

      (b) I think he’s basking, just the tiniest bit, in his new-found adulation as Hero Of The Republic. Makes a big turn-around from the days when people were calling for his immediate resignation, sacking and/or head on a plate for making a political mountain out of the nothingburger molehill of Hillary’s private e-mail server, and that there was no place for the head of the FBI to be making politically-tinged or politically-influential decisions 🙂

      I have no idea if there’s a real pig in that poke, but it’s going to be great fun in the media.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Rorschach test. If you think Trump is an evil mafia type, then “I hope you can let this go” is a threat. If you think Trump is a good guy who doesn’t want to see his good guy friend Flynn unfairly harangued, then “I hope you can let this go” is innocuous.

      Nothing will change.

      • CatCube says:

        The FBI will routinely jam people up for relatively innocuous statements. Here is Popehat on how the Feds can goad a business partner into giving you a call regarding an investigation, come over to talk to you and at best get evidence of a misdemeanor, then slyly ask you if you talked to anybody else about this. If you say “no” they’ve just converted your misdemeanor into a felony.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          1) How is that relevant to Comey’s testimony?

          2) Do you think Trump is going to be impeached based on Comey’s testimony? What’s your confidence in your prediction?

          ETA: Caveat. Some may believe Trump is impeachable, but will not be impeached because Republicans control the legislature. So perhaps consider a version of question 2 with “is going to be” replaced with “could be.”

          • CatCube says:

            Sorry, I didn’t actually say what my point was: that people get in severe legal trouble for “misunderstood” statements to the FBI pretty frequently.

            I agree that Trump’s statements to Comey have an innocuous explanation, and that Trump is so unthinking in his words that it’s very plausible that he meant the innocuous meaning. However, it’s hardly unprecedented for the FBI to treat these kinds of words uncharitably, and people other than the President go to jail for the FBI’s uncharitable interpretations all the time.

            I doubt that Trump is going to be impeached based on Comey’s testimony. If Trump would get with the program regarding how the system he’s in charge of works, stop gabbling dumb stuff on Twitter and get to governing, we wouldn’t be dealing with this nonsense. It’s frustrating.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the media, the Democrats (and many Republicans) would be pursuing these investigations regardless of anything Trump does or doesn’t do. The process is the punishment.

          • Matt M says:

            I think the media, the Democrats (and many Republicans) would be pursuing these investigations regardless of anything Trump does or doesn’t do. The process is the punishment.

            This.

            Trump will be impeached if and when there are enough votes to impeach him (which itself is probably a factor of polling for battleground congressional seats in 2018 elections), no sooner and no later. It will have very little to do with the availability or legitimacy of accusations against him.

          • CatCube says:

            Well, no I don’t think they’d be pursuing these investigations. These investigations are only possible because the President is not a good politician.

            I grant that there would be other, much weaker, investigations if he was able to avoid colorable accusations of conflicts of interest and manage a consistent fucking messaging strategy; but then we’d be spending most of our time talking about his infrastructure plan this week (just two more days in infrastructure week!) and much less about Democratic whining about Trump personally.

      • albatross11 says:

        However, one thing that Trump has demonstrated time and again, before and after reaching the presidency, is that he doesn’t much worry about the aspect of being in a position of great power that means that when you thoughtlessly remark “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” the next day the Church has a new martyr.

        When you have a lot of power, your words have impact. When you’re the president and you tell your FBI director “I hope you can let this go,” it has a very different kind of impact than if you’re the FBI director’s neighbor or even colleague.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Unlike the media, and lots of others I see, you correctly described Henry II’s words as “thoughtless.” I could be wrong, but I never got the impression Henry was speaking in some kind of code to his men.

          The media (and Comey) seem to interpret it as code. Which again is the Rorschach test. If you think Trump had ill intentions then you interpret his words as ill intended. I find this unlikely, though, since Trump is not known for his subtle verbal cues. If Trump wanted Comey to do his will, and had him alone, I’m pretty sure he would have bought him some furniture and grabbed him by the pussy.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I didn’t watch it, read articles about it. Looks to me like it will probably lower Trump’s approval rating slightly, but not much more.

      Possibly there would be something more explosive in the classified briefing sections, but not super likely.

      The special prosecutor might be a different story, but that’s a pretty long way from resolution I think.

    • gbdub says:

      So far (getting this second hand, can’t watch myself) we’ve got Trump doing 4 bad things:
      1) Asking Comey to “let the Flynn investigation go, if he can”
      2) Asking Comey to say publicly what he had told Trump privately, namely that Trump himself was not under investigation
      3) Expecting Comey to be “loyal”
      4) Actually firing Comey (although the investigation continues without him)

      On the other hand we’ve got the Obama/Hillary camp doing some bad stuff too:
      1) Comey claims the Lynch/Clinton tarmac meeting pushed him to go public on the Hillary investigation
      2) Lynch asked Comey to call the Hillary investigation a “matter”, not an “investigation”.

      And you’ve got Comey himself doing a bad thing:
      1) Leaking his memo to a friend with the intent of it then being leaked to the media (which it obviously was).

      I think only Comey’s action is definitively criminal. As far as troubling, Lynch’s actions and Trump’s strike me as similarly bad. There’s also the question of who was doing all the leaking and unmasking of Trump officials… this testimony seems to make it more plausible that Comey was complicit in at least some of that.

      • Brad says:

        What crime to you think Comey committed. AFAICT the memo didn’t contain classified information. Leaking unclassified but not authorized to be released information may be ground to be fired, but I don’t think prosecuted. Maybe something to do with physically keeping the memos after being fired?

        • gbdub says:

          I was operating under the impression that the memo was of a sufficiently sensitive classification that leaking would be illegal, not merely administratively punishable.

          But I could certainly be mistaken.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m sure Comey was careful not to include anything classified in a memo he leaked which obviously came from him. He was the director of the FBI, so you have to assume he knows something about what is and isn’t illegal, and also about what kinds of things a serious investigation would be able to discover.

            He’s a private citizen who is disclosing to the press the experience he had as a member of the administration, which is 100% legal and perfectly legitimate to do. I don’t see how this is any different from someone who is fired by the president then writing a tell-all book that makes the president look bad. As long as he doesn’t release classified material, there’s no problem.

            Presumably, Comey felt some personal obligation not to leak this kind of information before he was fired, but presumably didn’t feel much obligation afterwards.

          • gbdub says:

            But did he create the memo as private citizen Comey, saving notes for his memoirs, or as FBI director Comey?

            If the latter, it’s still an official document, and leaking it probably at least violates his employment agreement.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not exactly sure what the legal framework is. On the one hand, my original thought was that if the memo was drafted on the clock then belongs to the employer and couldn’t be kept after employment. But then I remembered that high government officials often leave their ‘papers’ to educational institutions. I vaguely recall that Richard Nixon sued to assert ownership over his and won. So now I’m not sure.

            In any event that would only apply to the actual memo itself. The memories are Comey’s own and so long as passing them on doesn’t violate some other duty — whether under the classification rules, an NDA, or similar — then he is free to share them with whomever he likes.

            Even in the case where keeping the memo was technically a violation of, say, the fidiciary duty owned to an employer, we are way down in the peccadillo weeds. Only if the information itself couldn’t be released, like if it was classified, are we looking at serious wrongdoing.

          • CatCube says:

            @gbdub

            Comey no longer has an employment agreement, which is something that the President should have considered before firing him.

            If the document was classified or had FOUO information, there might be something there. However, if it has none of that and was written by Comey for Comey’s own records (especially as a CYA document) it’s Comey’s to do with what he will.

            Plenty of people have left government service to write tell-all books. As long as they’re not taking the Government dime, there isn’t and shouldn’t be a problem with that.

          • bintchaos says:

            All Trump had to do was invoke executive privilege.
            Thus Comey’s reference to Trump’s failure to do that in his testimony.
            Its he said, he said…but only one of the sayers gave testimony under oath.
            so far.

      • Deiseach says:

        3) Expecting Comey to be “loyal”

        I don’t find that one particularly bad. It’s not a great request, but since Trump is still apparently operating from a business mindset – where he’s the boss – and not a political one, it’s natural enough that he would expect loyalty from an ’employee’. Isn’t inculcating loyalty to the firm one of the modern tools of management? And behind the idea of confidentiality agreements and not going to work for a competitor until a certain period has lapsed after you’ve left a company? Apparently it is even required in Quebec law!

        Yeah, it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) work like that in state organisations, where it’s not personal loyalty but loyalty to the office and to the nation that over-rides everything. But equally I can imagine an Aaron Sorkin-written episode of “The West Wing” where Jed Bartlett makes a great, impassioned speech taking down a spineless, disloyal low-level civil servant (who maybe leaked what looked like bad publicity to the press or tried to fabricate a scandal about one of Jed’s Big Initiatives) about how he doesn’t require them to be loyal to him or even like him, but he’s The President and they have to respect the office and be loyal to that etc. etc. etc. oh man this is gonna win another Emmy for sure and have all the TV reviewers passing out in spasms of ecstasy as they write their reviews.

    • Jordan D. says:

      Comey actually offered a few more opinions than I expected. I was surprised to see him answer that he believed he’d been fired over Russia, instead of just saying that he didn’t know. I was especially surprised to see him admit that he’d asked a friend to leak something* since it would have been very easy for him to just not talk about that at all. Possibly he feels that frankness is a better thing than ordinary political coyness?

      Anyway he did a pretty good job keeping his composure and responding appropriately, although the questions were a lot more civil than political inquests like this usually are. I’m gonna give him an 8/10.

      *Although nothing that strikes me as obviously classified or illegal to leak

    • hlynkacg says:

      A Earthly Knight said on the sub, There isn’t much new information for any one who’s been following the saga closely. I’d say the biggest revelation is that Comey himself authorized the leaking some of the Flynn memos in the hopes that congress would appoint a special prosecutor.

      Edit: Overall, I’d say his testimony did some minor damage to the Trump administration but nowhere near the amount damage his opposition seems to have expected. If anything I’d say the real looser in this is the FBI (as an institution) as it’s pretty clear that they were playing politics in the 2016 election.

      • bintchaos says:

        Comey leaked the content of one memo.
        He said he deliberately made his memos unclassified. Unless you have a Tempest car you can’t create a classified memo on your laptop in your car. There are strict protocols for creating and storing classified material.
        I can kinda guess at what went down behind the doors.
        Trump is in serious trouble and he deserves it. Do you think the US spook community welcomed him blabbing intel shared by our allies Israel and the UK to russian randos?
        Plus his actions in Riyadh have made a giant headache for the Pentagon…we dont even know how bad it will get yet …could be the WWIII kickoff.
        You guys are against WWIII, right?

        In my opinion the Founders built this country’s constitution well enough that Trump’s poor impulse control and demogogic tendencies can’t do much damage. But the Trump/Kushner plan for MENA is just crazy dangerous and extremely risky. It frankly terrifies me.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        wrt damage: I think the real question is whether this gives the Republicans an excuse to impeach him. Pence would be far better for all conservative goals. Meanwhile, the last election showed that conservatives are deeply concerned about corruption and propriety in office. So they could probably get rid of Trump and strengthen their standing with the base.

        • bintchaos says:

          Lol, the GOP doesnt have the nads.
          Empirical proof is how the elites behaved during the primary.
          They know Trump is guaranteed hateful deathpoison for conservative recruitment going forward, but they are pants-wetting terrified of their own base.

          • albatross11 says:

            To be fair, they have good reason to be afraid of their base, given how they’ve governed when they’ve had power.

    • onyomi says:

      I never watched any of the testimony as I don’t pay close attention to the day-to-day of politics. I do, however, periodically check news aggregator sites like Realclearpolitics just to get a sample of opinion on the issues du jour.

      I like RCP because it generally picks a variety of articles covering the ideological spectrum. On any given day they are usually linking NYT, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NY Post, American Conservative, Reason, etc. for a pretty good cross-section of mainstreamish editorial opinion.

      The coverage of the Comey issue has struck me in that it seems to have really hit a new high of polarization. It no longer feels like two different sides are providing different spins on their reporting of the same game. It feels like they’ve been watching two entirely different games. It would be like, in the past, Chicago newspaper reports on 4-3 Mets v. Cubs game by saying “Heartbreaker for the Cubs” while the NY paper headline is “Mets score upset final-inning victory!”

      Now it’s like you have the same game and the Chicago paper is like “Cubs lose by only one point despite rampant cheating by the NYMets, the most unethical team in the history of baseball” while the NY newspaper reports “Mets dominate Cubs, once again proving they are the greatest team ever assembled.”

      Like, it used to be the liberal papers would say “Reagan’s new tax plan an insult to the poor” while the conservative papers would say “Reagan’s new tax plan promises to boost growth, create jobs.”

      Now it’s like you have two different papers reporting on the same testimony, one headline is “Comey’s Testimony Reveals his Duplicity, Completely Vindicates Trump” while the other headlines, about the same testimony is “Comey’s Damning Indictment of the Most Corrupt Administration in History set to Sink Trump Admin by 2018.”

      It feels like they aren’t even watching the same events anymore.

      • 1soru1 says:

        > It feels like they aren’t even watching the same events anymore.

        Occam’s razor says only one side has changed; the question is which. And that is something you can’t find out by reading both sides. You need to compare the report to the reality.

        Take some event or situation you have first-hand, personal knowledge of, or some trusted way of getting detailed data. Read reports from the two sides; which one is summarizing, simplifying or perhaps exaggerating. And which one is flat-out making stuff up?

        Obviously I have a view, but I don’t feel i need to push it here; most people who do that honestly will, I feel, come to a conclusion I can live with.

        • bintchaos says:

          Occam’s razor says only one side has changed; the question is which.

          Pew says the Right has moved farther right. If my hypothesis is correct, this is the only possible response to the GOP base’s belief that they have been deliberately disenfranchised from academe, culture, and the economy.
          My thesis is that what the GOP is really responding to is eroding relative fitness of conservative ideology in the age of the internet, positive correlation of educational attainment with liberal ideology, and decreasing relative population parity under demographic shift, eg white majority shrinkage.
          This is a problem for the GOP going forward, since 21st century jobs will increasingly require more and more education while the predominantly HS only, predominantly white population ages and dies off.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            So your link doesn’t say what you say it does. Am I missing something? Well, fairly doubtful, especially when you consider the current left climate of “impeach, single-payer, socialism now”. Pretty sure those words cover the three main bases, and represent significant shifts leftward.

            Meanwhile, non-conservative ideology has done pretty shit, all told. It’s just that the mainstream made fun of Bush and didn’t dare do so for Obama. Ben Rhodes managed to create a literal media echo chamber to push the Iran deal; not exactly something Trump can pull off. And as for claims of population shift causing permanent doom for one party…heard those before, they haven’t come true yet. Besides, if anything we’re likely to see less people in college as the 21st century rolls on, given that most of the people who go now derive little benefit from it.

            So which side has changed? Well, consider for a moment which side has been promising that Trump will be impeached – and which side wants him to be impeached, as well. Now, if this hearing really removed all chance of impeachment – and it basically does – how can the media report this? If they do, there goes all of the angry anti-trump base, and there goes all of the clicks. And also, there go their dreams. And so it goes.

            Anyways, Bint, I’ll give you this warning: the GOP currently controls both houses of Congress, the Presidency, a large number of state and other local governments, and soon the Supreme Court too. Looks like reality…might have a conservative bias 😉

          • bintchaos says:

            ??
            Watch the animation in the linked article– starting in 1994 the red median moves dramatically to the right. Data ends in 2014– it will be interesting to see an animation of 1994 to 2018 soon.
            I have read a lot of other articles that mark the shift of the red median to the right with the rise of the Tea Party.
            Would you like to read one of those?
            My hypothesis is that the animation will show another push to the right, dating from Trump’s nomination/election event when the base went all in for him.

          • I have read a lot of other articles that mark the shift of the red median to the right with the rise of the Tea Party.
            Would you like to read one of those?

            No.

            You linked to a particular article from Pew. Nowhere in it did it say what you claimed it did. Of its six points, only one (3) described a pattern as being stronger on the right, and even for that the pattern existed on the left as well.

            Nowhere in the text was there support for “Pew says the Right has moved farther right,” which was your claim.

            Watch the animation in the linked article– starting in 1994 the red median moves dramatically to the right.

            Watch the animation. The red median is moving left until about 2004.

            Anyone who believes that bintchaos is both honest and in touch with reality should check that–it’s a pretty striking contrast to her claim.

          • bintchaos says:

            Sorry, guess I foolishly assumed people would watch the animation– carries the most information content.
            (shrug)
            But this is in itself an example of polarization and ideological hardened networks.
            There is probably nothing I can say. To me that is the most awful part of this…the idea that all data has inherent bias.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Having read your claim and re-watched the animation a couple of times…I don’t see that at all. What I do see is both medians moving left, then a fairly strong rightward shift for the Republicans cancelling the earlier shift and slightly overshooting the original position, then two opposite shifts with the democrats going slightly farther. Or in other words:

            To me that is the most awful part of this…the idea that all data has inherent bias.

            No, all interpretations of data carry partisan bias. Case in point: both of us saw the same data and see different things. One of us is wrong. How do you know it’s not you?

          • bintchaos says:

            No, I mean when conservatives reject the raw data– like climate science data.
            There’s many timeline studies that show when conservatives have moved right in greater numbers– its called asymmetrical polarization.

            Political scientists have known for years that political polarization is largely a one-sided phenomenon: in recent decades the Republican Party has moved to the right much faster than Democrats have moved to the left. As Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution has described it, “Republicans have become a radical insurgency—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition.”

            What causes polarization?
            I mean what do SSC commenters think causes polarization?
            I have my own opinions but I’m interested in SSC opinions.

          • Sorry, guess I foolishly assumed people would watch the animation– carries the most information content.

            I watched the animation. The red median is moving left until about 2004–strikingly inconsistent with your claim that “starting in 1994 the red median moves dramatically to the right.”

            I cannot see why you would deliberately lie about something so easily checked, so either I am somehow misinterpreting your posts or you are delusional.

          • bintchaos says:

            I didnt say that…I said polarization started in 1994– the data covers 1994 to 2014.
            The move to the right starts ~2007 with the rise of the Tea Party. I bet if we collect data for 2015-2018 Trump’s election will cause the blue median to move left.
            You can google asymmetrical polarization– its a thing.
            Isnt this a perfect example of rejection of data perceived as outgroup?
            If I’m labelled a leftist here no conservative is going to accept anything I say. Not about polarization, not about Serenity, not about Qatar, not about climate science.

          • What causes polarization?

            Interesting question.

            One element is that elite schools are a political monoculture. As best I can tell from my observations and the observations of my children, the usual attitude is that a fairly extreme version of left wing orthodoxy is obviously true and anyone who disagrees is stupid and/or evil. That not only causes polarization on the left, it causes it on the right, because people are unlikely to listen to the arguments of those who regard them as stupid or evil.

            I don’t know what the evidence is on left polarization vs right polarization. I note, however, that in the most recent election a major candidate for the Democratic nomination was a self-described socialist. In the Republican race the winner was a non-ideological demagogue. It looked to me as though the polarization on the right consisted not of people on the right holding strongly conservative positions but of people on the right strongly rejecting the left.

          • bintchaos says:

            “people on the right strongly rejecting the left.”

            This is probably true.
            Do you think liberal institutional monoculture has any relationship to selection for IQ in students and professors?
            You are saying– correct me if I am wrong– conservatives feel disenfranchized from elite schools, universities, and colleges?

          • bean says:

            @bintchaos
            Stop putting your replies in the middle of the thread. It’s rude, unless you’re doing it purely as a technical exercise, which you aren’t.

          • bintchaos says:

            I’m not doing it on purpose– I use Tor & a VPN (slows transmission), and it happens when someone replies while I’m still typing.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m starting to feel like I’m being trolled.

          • CatCube says:

            @bintchaos

            It makes no sense to talk about raw data as something to be “rejected.” My favorite quote on data: “Knowledge is NOT power! Knowledge is like coal. Dirty, black lumps of lifeless facts and figures. To harness the power of knowledge, you need to apply the fires of intelligence and imagination!”

            Data requires analysis to be meaningful.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Nornagest

            I’m starting to feel like I’m being trolled.

            Well…I’m starting to feel like Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.

            Elizabeth Shaw: This place isn’t what we thought it was. They aren’t what we thought they were. I was wrong. We were so wrong.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I was wrong. We were so wrong.

            i mean, yes, but not like you mean it

            which brings up the question: are you ready to accept that you’re wrong like you actually are? Or does this signal a retreat into the bubble? Guess I don’t mind either way.

          • bintchaos says:

            @AnonYEmous
            That is very disingenuous.
            I’m wrong about who I thought you were (meaning the collective SSC you), just like poor Dr. Shaw was so terribly wrong about the Engineers.
            My fault–I had a sample of N= 1, meaning I read Unsong and the Eternal Struggle, and the comments on those threads.
            I am right about complexity science, math, Islam, socio-physics, IQ, demographics, educational attainment, and Serenity.
            I thought I wanted to understand conservatism better.
            Its too much work.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve heard that before… oh yeah, Jill/Moon said the same thing. And this is playing out a lot like that did, come to think of it.

            Kind of a shame.

          • Deiseach says:

            Jill/Moon said the same thing

            Jill may have been away with the fairies when it came to politics, but she was sincere about it and genuinely believed what she was saying.

            bintchaos is giving off a different odour to me, and I don’t believe they are arguing in good faith, representing themself honestly, or doing anything more than attempting to gadfly a perceived Wretched Hive of Right-Wing Conservative Scum And Villainy (viz. the SSC commentariat) into showing our true colours by goading us into frothing fits of denunciation of the left and blurting out how we personally grind the faces of the poor and quaff the tears of widows and orphans.

            Whether that is simply for teh lulz or part of a trickster-style assumed persona, I have no idea.

            I’d prefer if bintchaos were to come clean, since in the odd comment or two where they drop the text-speak affectation, they are perfectly capable of using clear and correct English to communicate a point, and I think we’d all get on a lot better if they were up-front about what they think is going on here at the SSC, what their politics/views are, and why they think we need to get woke by them.

          • Deiseach says:

            My fault–I had a sample of N= 1, meaning I read Unsong and the Eternal Struggle, and the comments on those threads.

            Given that UNSONG is a work of fiction that explores kabbalah, mysticism, the Western Esoteric Tradition, theodicy, the Problem of Evil, some pop culture, some nerd/geek wish fulfilment fantasy, alternate history, the poetry of William Blake and a ton of dreadful whale puns, as well as a lot of other stuff I’m leaving out, what the hell conclusion are you drawing from that which gives you to think “Ah yes, a typical example of the average conservative Red Tribe American population on here”?

          • I didnt say that…I said polarization started in 1994– the data covers 1994 to 2014.
            The move to the right starts ~2007 with the rise of the Tea Party.

            You wrote:

            Watch the animation in the linked article– starting in 1994 the red median moves dramatically to the right.

            If I’m labelled a leftist here no conservative is going to accept anything I say

            It has nothing to do with your being a leftist. You gave a link to a page talking about polarization and described it as “Pew says the Right has moved farther right.” That wasn’t what it said, as several of us discovered by following the link and reading it.

            You claimed that “starting in 1994 the red median moves dramatically to the right.”

            Starting in 1994, the red median moved left until about 2004.

            If you say things that are demonstrably false, people who notice it are not going to accept what you say. Whether you are left, right, or center.

          • Do you think liberal institutional monoculture has any relationship to selection for IQ in students and professors?

            Unlikely. Holding with great confidence the same beliefs as those around you while being almost entirely ignorant of the arguments against those beliefs is not evidence of high IQ. I’ve spent my entire life in the academic world and that seems to be the usual pattern, going back to 1964 when I was a Harvard undergraduate.

            It isn’t evidence of low IQ either. It’s pretty much the normal behavior of people in a social environment with a strong orthodoxy.

            You are saying– correct me if I am wrong– conservatives feel disenfranchized from elite schools, universities, and colleges?

            No. I am saying that they feel as though the culture represented by those schools is both ignorant and dismissive of their views.

            Going back to your question about the causes of polarization. Part of it might be the reduction in the power of the major media due to the rise of the Internet. If all an intelligent conservative has available to read is the NYT and Scientific American, he might conclude that his views really are wrong, or at least are not shared by many other intelligent people. If he has the option of reading a wider range of opinion, such as the Volokh conspiracy, a blog started by someone who graduated from UCLA at 15, he discovers that there are lots of other smart people with views inconsistent with the current orthodoxy. Some are conservatives, some libertarians, but almost all have a low opinion of the set of positions that almost everyone at Oberlin either believes in, pretends to believe in, or keeps silent about.

            I can imagine the same thing happening on the left, as reflected in the willingness of a lot of Democrats to support a candidate who self-identified as a socialist.

            But that’s only a guess–I don’t have a theory of the causes of polarization that I am confident of.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’m wrong about who I thought you were (meaning the collective SSC you), just like poor Dr. Shaw was so terribly wrong about the Engineers.

            Yes, that is what you were saying

            But I was turning it around by explaining that you were in fact wrong, but in a different way. I mean:

            I am right about complexity science, math, Islam, socio-physics, IQ, demographics, educational attainment, and Serenity.

            Serenity? socio-physics? demographics? IQ? I mean, if you declare yourself to be right, who am I to argue…

            I thought I wanted to understand conservatism better.
            Its too much work.

            Doubtless. But if you don’t want to understand something, I’d refrain from making broad statements about it. Or you could stick around and learn a couple of things. Your choice.

          • I’d prefer if bintchaos were to come clean

            Your theory is different from mine, perhaps because I am more naive. When someone makes factual claims that are flatly false, a fact observable in the link that is supposed to support them, I assume delusion, not dishonesty.

        • Brad says:

          I’m sure it is productive to argue about what the simplest explanation is, but I would have thought it would be a change in the market for news that hits all media outlets rather than a change in the mindset of one or other side of the ideological aisle.

          Just now on Bloomberg radio I heard a long retired news anchor (sorry didn’t catch which one) talking about how the news changed when studios decided that news programs were supposed to make money instead of be loss leaders.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Just now on Bloomberg radio I heard a long retired news anchor (sorry didn’t catch which one) talking about how the news changed when studios decided that news programs were supposed to make money instead of be loss leaders.

            I’ve also heard Freddie’s theory that labor unions used to be much stronger in newsrooms, letting journalists do their thing. And there’s probably also something to polarization of journalists more generally as well, as well as their concentration in certain areas.

        • Nornagest says:

          Occam’s razor says we should favor theories that have fewer moving parts, but that doesn’t imply that it’s all one side’s fault. There’s still plenty of stuff that affects both sides of the aisle.

      • Matt M says:

        It feels like they aren’t even watching the same events anymore.

        They don’t need to watch the events at all. Both sides know what their readers/viewers want to hear. And it isn’t “the truth but slightly spun in favor of my side,” it’s “blatant propaganda for my side.” The market for “unbiased news” is two old dudes smoking pipes in a country club in Boston somewhere. Everyone else wants exactly what we’re getting…

        • bintchaos says:

          You should at least pay attention to Foreign Policy. Like Trump’s disastrous Qatar tweets.
          That should be one thing both sides can agree on– Saudi Arabia is not our friend.
          While publicly declaiming sponsoring terror, KSA is working diligently to flip Indonesia into strict wahhabism. Its really a brilliant invasive strategy in cultural transmission– religion as a transmission vector.

  20. albatross11 says:

    This is what I really hope will happen w.r.t. muggle realism sorts of discussions in the next few years. Heritability of intelligence and personality, certainly explaining differences between individuals and maybe explaining some differences between racial or other large identifiable groups, seems pretty solid. So we need people to the left of Charles Murray and Steve Sailer to think through what this means for policy, and to come to some decent conclusions.

    And the moral points she makes in her article seem to me to be correct and really important: Differences in peoples’ abilities, whether from genes or environment or other stuff, are important for figuring out who should go to medical school and who should try to become a plumber instead, but they don’t have any *moral* significance. People with higher IQs and better educations are *NOT* more valuable in moral terms, and I don’t see a lot of obvious reason to think they behave in more moral ways overall.

    Right now, a lot of our society seems set up to take the people at the bottom and grind them in the gears of the system, either to raise money (as with policing for a profit and charging money for jail time and such) or just because nobody really cares what happens to the losers (homeless people sleeping on storm grates). This screws over plenty of people with normal intelligence, but it really clobbers the folks at the bottom of the intelligence and education and social class ladder. I think one part of the explanation for this comes down to the cognitive stratification Murray talked about in _The Bell Curve_ and more recently, in _Coming Apart_. In some other world where we *hadn’t* turned Murray into a pariah and talked about what a wicked book _TBC_ was without bothering to read it, maybe we would have started thinking coherently about how to address this.

    • Matt M says:

      People with higher IQs and better educations are *NOT* more valuable in moral terms, and I don’t see a lot of obvious reason to think they behave in more moral ways overall.

      If a doctor and a plumber are the last two passengers on a crashing airplane and one parachute remains, how do you decide who gets it?

      1. Give it to the doctor, because he is clearly more valuable to society in economic terms (which we will use as a stand in for morality)
      2. Attempt to apply some sort of moral test to see which person is “better” in strictly moral terms? (how much did they give to charity last year? have they ever committed a crime?)
      3. They are completely equal in every way, flip a coin

      Legit curious to hear people’s answers here.

      • Vermillion says:

        I don’t trust myself as a perfect judge of either economic or moral worth so I would go with coin flip.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        1 would have the best immediate consequences and create decent incentives. 2, if implemented perfectly, would create the best incentives for people to be good in the ways they can control. I think the main rational motivation for 3 is that implementations of 1 and 2 can go very wrong.

      • lvlln says:

        I would answer 3, for about the same reason as Vermillion. I’d add that I disagree with the part of 3 that says: “They are completely equal in every way.” Obviously, a doctor and a plumber are not completely equal in every way. But their right to stay alive are. I reject the notion that someone’s right to stay alive has any relationship with how much value they provide to others or anything of the sort (e.g. the fact that a doctor is more likely to increase quality of life or length of life of more people than the plumber has exactly zero impact on who I believe deserves more to stay alive). And that’s mainly because I don’t trust anyone or any group of people to make that call.

        • Matt M says:

          Just to be clear, the obvious reducto ad absurdum of this position is something like, if the two passengers are Hitler and Mother Teresa, do you still flip the coin? Or are you now willing to trust your own judgment?

          • lvlln says:

            Well, substituting someone I actually respect as a moral figure for Mother Teresa – Ayaan Hirsi Ali perhaps? – yes, I still flip a coin. Both Hitler and Hirsi Ali have exactly equal rights to stay alive. I find the notion of someone deciding that their own judgment is suddenly valid or trustworthy just because they judge a case to be extreme to be morally repugnant and obviously abusable. If we go along with such exceptions, then it just incentivizes people to honestly believe that every case is an extreme case, and therefore their own judgments are valid in every case.

            It’s akin to the phenomenon of “free speech is OK, but hate speech is just too extreme” followed by “arguing against against a law that would force you to address everyone by their preferred pronouns is hate speech.”

          • Jiro says:

            I find the notion of someone deciding that their own judgment is suddenly valid or trustworthy just because they judge a case to be extreme to be morally repugnant and obviously abusable.

            I do not. My judgment is bad, but it’s not completely 100% terrible. The error bars on my judgment are not large enough that I’m going to make a mistake when comparing Hitler and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

            If we go along with such exceptions, then it just incentivizes people to honestly believe that every case is an extreme case, and therefore their own judgments are valid in every case.

            I don’t see a way around this. We have to let humans make some judgments. Nobody says “if we allow people to kill each other in self-defense, that incentivizes people to think every killing is in self-defense”. Or “if we allow proportional response, that incentivizes people to think every response is proportional”. Or “if we allow people to not pay tips to restaurants for poor service, that incentivizes people to think that all service is poor”.

          • Matt M says:

            To completely derail this conversation even further…

            What do you find objectionable about Mother Teresa?

          • lvlln says:

            @Jiro

            My judgment is bad, but it’s not completely 100% terrible. The error bars on my judgment are not large enough that I’m going to make a mistake when comparing Hitler and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

            I don’t think any individual is qualified to make an accurate judgment on the size of the error bars of their own judgment.

            I don’t see a way around this. We have to let humans make some judgments. Nobody says “if we allow people to kill each other in self-defense, that incentivizes people to think every killing is in self-defense”. Or “if we allow proportional response, that incentivizes people to think every response is proportional”. Or “if we allow people to not pay tips to restaurants for poor service, that incentivizes people to think that all service is poor”.

            For those specific examples, I think we outsource the judgment call to others; an (theoretically) impartial judge & jury determine if a killing was self-defense. Likewise with proportional response. For tips, we rely on social shaming, though I’m actually very much pro-outlawing tipping, in part due to the failures of the mechanism of social shaming that have been on display in the past few years.

            In general, I don’t think any individual can be trusted on their judgment. I think free speech and democracy are the band-aids that help to alleviate this problem – we need to constantly discuss with others who have completely different perspectives, in order to get to the least-worst judgment possible in any given situation. And there’s still no guarantee that we’re making the right call. It’s just a constant process by which we struggle to get it the least wrong together.

            @Matt M

            What do you find objectionable about Mother Teresa?

            Mainly, I don’t know enough about her to judge if she was particularly good or particularly bad. I’ve heard things about her here and there that paint her in both positive and negative lights, and as such I don’t really respect her as a moral figure, not any more than I would any random person.

          • Deiseach says:

            The error bars on my judgment are not large enough that I’m going to make a mistake when comparing Hitler and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

            But what if this sinking lifeboat situation happens before Hitler is Hitler? All you know then is that you have an Austrian amateur artist and a Somalian-Dutch-American writer in the boat, and you need to judge which of them “deserves” to live.

            The old-fashioned “women and children first” attitude would lead you to pick Ayaan Hirsi Ali simply because she’s a woman, but absent that, how can you choose? And that’s our “doctor and plumber” quandary, not “plainly evil and wicked genocidal dictator versus feminist heroine”.

          • lvlln says:

            @Deiseach

            Matt M was specifically invoking a reductio ad absurdum situation that took the original doctor vs. plumber situation to the extreme, presumably in order to ascertain if I would bite the bullet. Which I did. So I understood Jiro to be talking specifically about that extreme case wrt trusting that his judgment error bars are bounded below some threshold, not the original more general case where it would be more murky.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I mean, the example sort of fails here because there are tons of doctors, so even if the doctor is “more valuable”, his marginal contribution is really small. I guess you could replace the doctor with a famous scientist or something.

      • gbdub says:

        If I’m in a position to decide, I’m probably on the plane, so I’m taking the ‘chute myself and getting the hell out of there.

      • albatross11 says:

        Most of life isn’t very much like choosing the last spot in the lifeboat. Nor do I think we can actually come to an agreed-upon ranking of value of humans, since those values are both subjective and multidimensional. (Does it matter than Dr Smith is a bachelor and Plumber Smith is a father of three? Depends who you ask.)

        As a matter of setting policy, I am very much opposed to trying to decide on a ranking of which people are more or less valuable–I don’t believe we are likely to get good policy out of that in almost any situation.

      • rahien.din says:

        3b. They fight.

        In the future, I would do a better job with parachute inventory and preflight checklists. (And technically, clean water and effective sanitation have been more important to humanity’s health and advancement than most of medicine.)

        Also, I would be extremely suspicious of any system/algorithm created by smart people that purports to establish that smart people are definitively more valuable than their countrymen in moral terms.

        • gph says:

          Love this answer. Why get a third person involved to make a decision when you have two direct agents that can settle it through natural law.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        You know, the good answer is an easy one.

        The morally more righteous one — in particular, if any of the two is more righteous enough for it to count on any measurable scale — will volunteer to give the parachute. And because this act makes them the righteous one, we should not overrule their final decision.

        The survivor will recount the tale, and inspires the other members of the society towards more virtuous behavior in general and in similarly dire situations in particular.

        If neither of them are willing to settle for the noble sacrifice, toss a coin. It would still be remarkable if the one who loses also accepts the result. The tale will affirm the norm of trust in the society.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Beat me to it.

        • Matt M says:

          And because this act makes them the righteous one, we should not overrule their final decision.

          Dang. I was hoping for a King Solomon style “The one who volunteers to die has proven himself morally superior, and thus is given the parachute” ending.

          • random832 says:

            The problem is that the scenario falls apart if there is a third person aboard the plane empowered to give them the parachute (Because who says he gets a parachute?). Only examples that work for the possible behavior of two people – possibly with no-one else watching – can be true results of the scenario.

            I would be wondering if there is any way to rig things so that one person can use the main chute and one can use the backup chute from the same pack. But that scenario can be eliminated by making it more than twice as many people as parachute packs – you don’t get to put the trolley on a track with no-one tied to it.

        • Nornagest says:

          Good answer.

        • rahien.din says:

          The norm-promoting effects are counterbalanced by rewarding selfishness, IE, if you really want to survive in dire situations, your best bet is to manipulate the other person into acting virtuously.

          In which case, we are back to my strategy of 3b. they fight (!). Except that this fight is not overt and physical, but instead is covert and mental/emotional, which favors high-IQ persons.

          Insofar as these norm-promoting and behavior-rewarding effects have these impacts on society (which as you say could be “in general” and not limited to “similarly dire situations”), the conclusion of your strategy is a world in which smart people can survive or win by manipulating others into virtuous self-sacrifice.

          Ultimately that is erosive of widespread virtue, and will tend to segregate morality from intelligence.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think you understand. Manipulating people into acting virtuously is the freaking point. The idea that morality and intelligence are (or ought to be) intrinsic to one another is a distinctly modern, specifically WEIRD notion.

          • rahien.din says:

            I don’t think you understand. Manipulating people into acting virtuously is the freaking point.

            I do understand. nimim.k.m.’s hope is that this strategy would manipulate most people in society into acting virtuously. I try to show that it won’t work that way.

            A person is more likely to give up the parachute if they believe in the norm and want to perpetuate it. They can come to that state either genuinely, or due to some manipulation by their opponent. It follows that a person is more likely to get the parachute and survive if they manipulate their opponent into perpetuating the virtue-norm.

            This is an exploitable system. I agree that morality and intelligence are not intrinsic to one another. Selfish intelligent people will try to manipulate their opponents out of their parachutes, every time.

            Think of four people, representing combinations of binary values: high(H) vs low(L) IQ, and virtuous(V) vs selfish(S). Imagine the following interactions :

            HV vs LV : 50% chance of survival for either person
            HV vs LS : HV dies
            HV vs HV : 50% chance of survival for either person
            HV vs HS : HV dies
            HS vs LV : LV dies
            HS vs LS : LS dies
            HS vs HS : 50% chance of survival for either person
            LV vs LS : LV dies
            LV vs LV : 50% chance of survival for either person
            LS vs LS : 50% chance of survival for either person

            Selfishness and high IQ definitely increase the chance of survival. Now hopefully there are not enough crashing planes for this system to affect society. But, if this is to constitute a norm, then likely these will be rules that society plays by. Meaning, over the long term, they will have significant effects. Successive iterations show that the overall prevalence of virtue decreases, and P(selfishness|high-IQ) increases.

            So this system/norm would do the opposite of what it purports. It would overall decrease virtue, and it would result in high-IQ people being more selfish.

          • hlynkacg says:

            All you’re saying is that the winning move in a one-off prisoners is always to defect. We know that and that’s precisely why we all agree before-hand to punish defectors. Yes people who are both highly intelligent and selfish are corrosive to society and that’s why “too clever by half” is an insult.

            Assuming an even distribution of H L V and S and assuming that all dilemmas are one-offs you’d be right. But “the system” does not exist in a vacuum and the whole point of having norms is to skew the distribution by ensuring that no dilemmas are one-offs.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            If one of them is smart enough to think about exploiting the system under the time constraint, it stands to reason that it would be their moral duty to act with magnanimity, because they do realize the wider implications. If they don’t, well. Who said that the justice prevails and the good win, despite that everyone involved knows — we know — what the good and just would be?

            As Nybbler said downthread, “morally righteous behavior is for suckers.”

            This is why virtue is called a virtue, not “business as usual”. Honorable and virtuous behavior is exceptional, though admired when it happens. We still retell the Plato’s tale how Socrates chose die with style instead of running out of Athens like a coward, because most people would not be inclined to do that. The story about a son of the god, half a god himself, thus the most powerful being in the existence, who decided to die painfully so that we could be better off turned out to be amazingly popular.

            However, the wider context are not falling airplanes (that do not usually come with parachutes anyway), but our actions in our everyday lives. Which kind society do you want to believe in? Your responsibility to act to maintain it scale with your capabilities. Looking at state of the world, where the morally unscrupulous win at business and politics, and societies with high trust and low corruption are rare, it looks like an unfruitful task. On the other hand, nobody said that moral right would be easy or that it pays off. On the contrary, the usual culturally shared notion is that it’s hard, and in the end, you are the dead sucker.

            I don’t probably win at morality, either. But I do notice that the platform we are having this discussion is by blog a person whose most famous posts are eloquent ramblings in favor of trust, society, niceness, and other community norms and lamentations against the everyday mundane evil arising from the lack of coordination. Or maybe it’s the one about cactus people.

          • Aapje says:

            @nimim.k.m.

            This is why virtue is called a virtue, not “business as usual”. Honorable and virtuous behavior is exceptional, though admired when it happens.

            I strongly disagree. Honorable and virtuous behavior happens all the time, but because it is a social norm we don’t admire it very strongly as it is required of everyone. What we do is punish people who don’t do it.

            Nobody pats you on the back for not running a red light when it is safe to do so. It is a virtuous act that upholds the Schelling fence, but we don’t treat it as being virtuous, because we don’t people to see it as going beyond what they ought to do. In some other countries, it is normal to run red lights and those people act with less virtue.

            We only strongly admire people who act with honor and virtue beyond the normal standard we demand of people and/or people who act this way in extreme situations where the cost is very high.

          • rahien.din says:

            hlynkacg,

            All you’re saying is that the winning move in a one-off prisoners is always to defect.

            I don’t think this is a prisoner’s dilemma. The whole dilemma of the prisoners is that cooperate/cooperate maximizes payoff, but that they have no good way to get there from the default position of defect/defect, as they are prevented from communicating.

            In contrast, in this system, cooperate/cooperate and defect/defect have identical payoffs. Moreover, the players can communicate. This is like two prisoners in the same cell before questioning, trying to talk each other into taking the fall, when the outcome for mutual cooperation and mutual defection is, identically, a prolonged stalemate.

            Moreover, in this system, we deliberately do not punish defectors. The norm can only be promulgated (and the system can only succeed) to the degree that survivors/winners are believed, when they extol the virtue of their dead/defeated opponent.

            nimim.k.m.,

            Which kind society do you want to believe in? Do you really believe that virtue is for suckers?

            [Appeal to authority/venue/emotion]

            I am criticizing a system that, widely applied, would weaponize virtue in the hands of evil intelligent people. This system will destroy virtue by creating the “virtue is for suckers” game and therefore it is bad.

          • Civilis says:

            Ultimately, you can’t directly determine how virtuous someone is, you have to have some proxy marker you can use instead, like the amount of time or money given to charity.

            In a system where status is tied to virtue, the correct move for someone that wants high status is to use the most commonly used markers for virtue. We even have a phrase for this: “virtue signalling” (the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue).

            I am criticizing a system that, widely applied, would weaponize virtue in the hands of evil intelligent people. This system will destroy virtue by creating the “virtue is for suckers” game and therefore it is bad.

            People with the combination of intelligence, common sense, drive, and social skills to determine and achieve the set of markers that best signals status will always be of high status in society. A system where virtue is accorded status is better than one that relies on something like power for status, because often the markers for virtue are something you want almost as much as virtue itself. It’s still good to have intelligent evil people donating money to charitable causes to look good. You still run into problems once people stop auditing how virtuous those ‘charitable causes’ are.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You’re wrong about cooperate/cooperate and defect/defect having identical payoffs. The cooperate/cooperate scenario is what nimim.k.m. described above. The survivor will recount the tale, and inspire the other members of society towards more virtuous behavior. This does not happen in the defect/defect scenario.

            Furthermore, where are you getting the idea that we deliberately do not punish defectors? Punishing defectors is what makes a social norm a norm. I would have thought this was obvious but it seems that it needs to be explicitly stated; Good != Nice.

          • Civilis says:

            You’re wrong about cooperate/cooperate and defect/defect having identical payoffs. The cooperate/cooperate scenario is what nimim.k.m. described above. The survivor will recount the tale, and inspire the other members of society towards more virtuous behavior. This does not happen in the defect/defect scenario.

            Doesn’t the survivor in a defect/defect case have an incentive to claim that the case was actually cooperate/cooperate? If I’m a habitual defector, I want as many people to be cooperators as possible.

            If I’m selfish and able to pass as virtuous, I still want as many people around me to be virtuous as possible, so long as I can still pass as virtuous (given it’s not a binary, as long as I can still have enough markers to give me the status advantage I seek).

          • rahien.din says:

            hlynkacg,

            The cooperate/cooperate scenario is what nimim.k.m. described above. The survivor will recount the tale, and inspire the other members of society towards more virtuous behavior. This does not happen in the defect/defect scenario.

            Civilis beat me to it.

            where are you getting the idea that we deliberately do not punish defectors?

            Honestly, I wondered why you hadn’t gotten this idea, until I realized there are multiple definitions of “defector.”

            The first is the overt parachute-snatcher who refuses even to display virtue. Sure, those people get punished in accordance with how norms are usually policed. (As Civilis points out, I don’t think those people event exist.)

            The second is the evil winner, who manipulates their victim into ceding the parachute.

            In a tactical sense, those people are going to be really hard to identify. They will look exactly like non-evil winners. In order to even devise a norm-policing strategy, we would have to start by assuming that a meaningful proportion of winners are evil, and that in and of itself weakens the norm.

            In a strategic sense, even if evil winners are punished for their defections, this has the effect of weakening the norm. People will see that a significant proportion of winners are evil, and that will make them more likely to believe that their future opponents are evil. Widespread belief in the norm will be eroded if people think that many do not follow it and in fact use the norm only to manipulate.

            So, sure, we would punish those who fail to display virtue, if anyone is so stupid. But if we would adhere to this strategy, it is counterproductive to punish the evil winners.


            ETA : forgot the link to Civilis’ post

          • bintchaos says:

            Great discussion thread, gratitude.
            Have any SSC commenters read Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid?
            Complexity science is redefining evo theory of cooperation, fitness selection, altruism etc. with the addition of Cooperation Competition Paradigm.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Aapje

            Thank you for making that comment, I fell a bit optimistic about humanity again.

            @others, regarding the “evil intelligent people” defecting:

            I don’t think one could design a foolproof system where evil, sufficiently intelligent (so that they can hide their tracks) people do not win. I tend to believe that there’s is no other option than to do your best to propagate the message that being evil is dishonorable and you should feel bad about it even if you nobody catches you (especially when it comes to raising kids and teaching them to act ethically when they are adults). Punish the defectors that are caught. And on the flip side of the coin, admire the virtuous publicly.

            Apropos, I’d like to make a recommendation to everyone interested in this discussion, that is, to see Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon if you ever have an opportunity.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The survivor will recount the tale, and inspires the other members of the society towards more virtuous behavior in general and in similarly dire situations in particular.

          What, wait? Seems to me that

          1) If the survivor felt shame at this turn of events, the survivor probably would not recount the story accurately.

          2) If the survivor did not feel shame, the lesson given would be “righteousness is for dead suckers”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Rather you are alive because the people around you were righteousness. A smart individual will thus seek righteous company/encourage righteousness in those around them.

            A less smart individual will conclude “righteousness is for dead suckers” but be smart enough to keep their damn mouth shut.

            A truly stupid individual will say as much, and be shocked, shocked when the so-called righteous decide to throw them overboard.

          • Randy M says:

            What if the survivor felt gratitude or admiration? “I was not strong enough to give the parachute to Joe Plumber; rather he insisted I take it. I hope someday to get a chance to pay forward his kindness.”
            (I agree with “let them work it out among themselves” in terms of the best way to fight the hypothetical, but that seems to be dodging the question.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Rather you are alive because the people around you were righteousness. A smart individual will thus seek righteous company/encourage righteousness in those around them.

            The smart individual will be encouraged to encourage this sort of self-sacrificing righteousness in those around him, but selfish “villainy” in those he cares about most. This is a great racket providing the “righteous” don’t catch on, but I don’t think I’d call it righteous.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This is a great racket providing the “righteous” don’t catch on,

            That’s a big proviso.

        • Randy M says:

          Can someone convince me that the most moral act, from the point of view of someone trapped in the plane, is to offer the parachute to the other man? I was initially quite sympathetic to this answer, but thinking about it more, I wonder.
          It is certainly altruistic, but it ignores the fact that I have duties on the ground, and handing over the parachute, no strings attached, seems to ignore these (you can determine the intent on that pun yourself).
          I wouldn’t consider this analogous to a situation where a soldier jumps on a grenade to save the lives of his friends–trading his one life for several others. Nor for a situation where I risk my life by charging a gunman–taking a greater risk for death for another’s sake.
          I’m also not endorsing “fight it out” or “grab it a and run.” And I guess if the hypothetical is designed to require a slit second decision, shoving it at the other guy is optimal. But if we have a moment or two to have a conversation, I’m going to make my case before offering it freely, and I think I would take it if offered unless the other guy has a very compelling case.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I was answering a question “is any of them morally better enough to deserve the parachute more than the other one”. In most cases, that’s impossible to judge. But in this hypothetical, either of them can make the decision to be a better person, at least in one regard, in a way that it counts.

            I’m also outright rejecting the banal utilitarian option of evaluating which one of the two would provide more material value to the society. Also, it is not an actionable policy, because in the hypothetical, you are not there to decide who gets the parachute: the passengers have to resolve it amongst themselves with only the information they themselves bring to the table.

            And if they both try to argue their case before decision, can they trust each other to tell the truth about their conditions? (Any time spent also opens to door for manipulation by an “evil winner”, and is possibly fatal to both depending on how long time they have in this scenario.)

            Ideally, you would want to live in the world where people are willing to offer the parachute willingly and without prompt, because it nicely solves these kind of problematic ethical situations, where there isn’t really an option that is good and fair and just to everyone concerned. That’s why offered the “throw a coin and accept a result” as an another option.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Better answer: punch out the other guy, steal the parachute, then tell everyone how wonderful and righteous he was for gifting it to you.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If I was God, I would probably choose 1. But realistically, I would probably choose 3. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and tell them that they have to die because their marginal contribution to society doesn’t quite cut it.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s easier to look them in the eye and say they have to die because a freaking coin landed on the side with Abe Lincoln on it?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Yes, actually. Randomness is seen as more fair than trying to objectively weigh people’s varying qualities. By definition, it doesn’t involve favoritism. Call it a quirk of human psychology but people prefer no bias to possible bias, even if the latter could potentially have better consequences.

          • Matt M says:

            . Randomness is seen as more fair than trying to objectively weigh people’s varying qualities.

            Seen as, yes. Actually is, no.

            At some point don’t we have to step up and say “Random chance is stupid, yes, I may make the wrong decision and it sucks that I’m in this situation, but I trust my own judgment better than the flip of a freaking coin?”

          • Wrong Species says:

            How do you go about weighing people’s good vs bad qualities in any kind of objective manner? Maybe the doctor is a terrible person while the janitor is a saint. You can’t judge someone’s worth just by looking at their occupation. If it was completely lopsided to one person being better in almost every conceivable manner, I would probably go ahead and choose but when you have so little knowledge of them or one isn’t clearly superior to the other, you might as well just flip a coin. How do you know you can trust yourself to make the right decision? It’s not like you’ve been in this situation before. Maybe there is a 60% chance you make the right decision in which case you should do so. But maybe it’s a 40% chance, in which case you shouldn’t. Faced with uncertainty, a 50% chance is not a bad compromise.

          • How do you go about weighing people’s good vs bad qualities in any kind of objective manner?

            Just round of moral standing to instrumental worth…

      • baconbacon says:

        Let the two of them decide between them since it is their lives at stake.

      • John Schilling says:

        (Does it matter than Dr Smith is a bachelor and Plumber Smith is a father of three? Depends who you ask.)

        Dr. Smith? The Dr. Smith?

        Him, we throw out of the plane without a parachute, even if there are plenty of parachutes. And if there’s any danger of the plane crashing, it’s because you didn’t throw out Dr. Smith soon enough.

      • The Nybbler says:

        To heck with both of them, I’m taking the parachute myself.

      • Well... says:

        4. Who raised better kids.

      • 1soru1 says:

        My preferred solution is not to crash the airplane.

        This is not just snark, the only plausible situation that leads to a dilemma like that is one deliberately engineered to create it. A plane that crashes with one parachute and time to discuss who should get it is being remote controlled by a pulp villain.

        The analogy to contemporary economics is obvious, right?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Great question! I would do (1) if no one will ever hear about it, otherwise (3). (1) leads to the fall of civilization if people come to expect it, but in a one-off it is better.

        (Analagously, if you are the US president and the USSR has just sent enough nukes to irradiate the entire first world, the correct response is to not retaliate. But 5 minutes earlier, when the USSR was threatening to irradiate the first world, the correct response is to publicly do whatever you can to commit future you to retaliation)

      • J Mann says:

        If it’s an infrequent event, flip a coin in the interests of equality. Probably if it’s a frequent event too.

        If I were a better economist, I might have the doctor pay for the parachute. Simplest way would be to pay before the flight for the parachute in the event of a crash, so that parachute-wanters could subsidize lower prices for parachute-not-wanters. Presumably, if a lot of people wanted to pay the cost of having an extra parachute on the plane, the airlines would start including more. (I might regulate maximum cost if I thought that the airlines were able to generate artificial scarcity).

      • Cadie says:

        4. Without other significant information or a volunteer, I’d give the parachute to the doctor because they’re more likely to survive. They almost certainly know more about the human body and how to keep one alive than the plumber. This matters if they land somewhere where they aren’t found very quickly. Either one or both might already have injuries from whatever is making the plane crash – even mild-seeming head injuries can turn into something nasty. And landing even with a parachute can cause injury. The doctor can better anticipate this and deal with it, catching warning signs of trouble faster and doing what they can with what they have to keep the damage to a minimum.

        My choice, though not the reasoning, would change if there was a good reason to think the plumber had a better shot at surviving mild to moderate injuries and waiting for / finding help. Such as s/he is 30 and in robust shape vs. a very frail 75-year-old doctor. We really want to avoid the scenario of both of them dying, and since it’s highly unlikely the one left behind will survive the crash, it makes sense to give the parachute to the one who would fare better after landing.

    • Randy M says:

      People with higher IQs and better educations are *NOT* more valuable in moral terms

      I think this is actually the position that Murray and Sailer hold.

      I don’t see a lot of obvious reason to think they behave in more moral ways overall.

      Theoretically no, but higher IQ does seem linked to conscientiousness and time preference. I don’t think it does to any extent which would enable prejudging guilt on the basis of race or class, of course.

      maybe we would have started thinking coherently about how to address this.

      This in fact is the theme of Sailer’s recent articles although he doesn’t really get around to any specific policy proscriptions.

      • Ha Sailer ever come out with a clear manifesto? he seems vaguely right-wing, but vaguely.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Didn’t he come out with a clearly expressed view of the need for white political solidarity and supremacy? It’s not exactly a manifesto of what to do with that power, but it is a statement of principles of a sort.

          • Randy M says:

            @HBC Where?

            As far was Sailer’s manifesto, this might qualify.

          • bintchaos says:

            You can read Sailer’s theories at the Unz Review– what Dr. Alexander would describe as a nest of witches ( from the Eternal Struggle). Derbyshire is a contributor there too.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:

            I can’t immediately find the post/article I am thinking of but
            take this VDARE post about