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Open Thread 84.75

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

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1,009 Responses to Open Thread 84.75

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m inclined to think that HFA’s approach of arguing with Nazism isn’t a bad idea. The mainstream has done pretty well by making Nazism socially unacceptable, but as is clear, there are people who are willing to be socially acceptable, and it’s possible that arguing with them will do some good.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I meant to say ” there are people who are willing to be socially unacceptable”.

    • HFARationalist says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz I think there is a nice solution to the problem of antisemitism, namely transforming Europeans into another elite trader group. May all the high-IQ and/or nuclear armed tribes be dominant trader groups. The more the merrier. Then we can hear less complaints about how evil trader groups are.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Everyone can’t be elite trader groups. They can become more competent at trade, but being elite means being superior.

  2. willachandler says:

    The NFL enjoys the ludicrously illogical yet Congress-protected status of a non-profit institution. Does Trump not know … or does he simply not care?

    Practically speaking, NFL owners now face a forced choice between: (1) the right-to-suppress free speech, versus (2) retaining the NFL’s privileged nonprofit status … and it’s plain which choice is preferred by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

    This will free-up the NFL to responsibly tackle the very tough medical and workplace issues that are associated to football-induced chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

    Hard-boiled alt.paleoconservatives ardently hope that these football-related inconvenient truths and tough moral choices will simply disappear … but they won’t.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Practically speaking, Trump made a statement at a rally and that’s probably about as far as it goes.

    • willachandler says:

      Now Trump has doubled-down on Stephen Curry and the Warriors.

      Hopefully, someone is adjusting grandpa’s medication, and in the meantime, hiding both the car keys and the nuclear football?

      While the President does have unilateral authority as commander-in-chief to order that nuclear weapons be used for any reason at any time, the actual procedures and technical systems in place for authorizing the execution of a launch order requires a secondary confirmation under a two-man rule, as the President’s order is subject to secondary confirmation by the Secretary of Defense.

      If the Secretary of Defense does not concur, then the President may in his sole discretion fire the Secretary.

      Not to worry … General Turgidson and his staff have assured us that such a sequence of events is impossible.

    • BBA says:

      The NFL surrendered its tax exemption two years ago. Although the specific reference to “professional football leagues” in 501(c)(6) is ludicrous, a general tax exemption for a nonprofit association of for-profit entities isn’t so silly. The American Bar Association and the American Medical Association, for instance, also have 501(c)(6) status, even though the law firms and doctors’ offices that make them up are profitable businesses.

      Most people don’t seem to get the distinction between charities and nonprofits – every charity is a nonprofit but not every nonprofit is a charity. The major difference for tax purposes is that donations to 501(c)(3) charities are deductible, while donations to the other [looks it up] 27 categories of nonprofits under 501(c) are not.

      Now go away and pick up sticks.

      • willachandler says:

        It’s a pleasure to remind SSC readers of the extensive legal privileges and economic protections that are granted to the NFL by the still-in-force Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961.

        As for the tough legal and moral issues that are associated to free-speech suppression and CTE — not to mention the horrendously fearsome issues that are associated to nuclear dotard-football (yikes!) — these issues remain very much in play, don’t they?

  3. Deiseach says:

    Our President, at the opening four days ago of the National Ploughing Championships (yes, he is that small).

    Fancy swopping him for yours? I don’t know which of us, if any, would benefit from the exchange – Trump would have way less actual power as Uachtarán na h-Éireann so perhaps confining him to a symbolic role where he can tweet away to his heart’s content and go around opening things and making speeches without this having any real effect on the governance of Ireland would render him harmless, but by the same token giving Michael D. actual ability to have a real effect on the world might not go so well (who knows?); he was solidly on the left for the majority of his career in academia and politics, though he’s moved centre-wards in the latter phase. Imagine if Bernie Sanders had won the election is the nearest match, I suppose:

    Stature aside, the notion of Michael D as an adorable elfin figure you could put in your pocket is wide of the mark. No politician achieves 38 years in public service — as councillor, senator, TD and government minister — on benign socialism and poetic vision alone.

    Song written about him when he was appointed to the Cabinet in 1993 as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. End chorus lyrics:

    Michael D lectured me in Sociology, I was in UCG for the degree
    For social policy, global equality, he was the king of the Arts Faculty

    Extra warning: he’s a published poet, so there would be the danger of the annual State of the Union Address having him recite reams of “the pome what I wrote” 😀 Text of poem he wrote in 2014 “influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict”:

    President Higgins has published four books of poetry to date: The Betrayal in 1990, The Season of Fire in 1993, An Arid Season in 2004 and New and Selected Poems in 2011.

    The Prophets are Weeping

    To those on the road it is reported that

    The Prophets are weeping,

    At the abuse

    Of their words,

    Scattered to sow an evil seed.

    Rumour has it that,

    The Prophets are weeping,

    At their texts distorted,

    The death and destruction,

    Imposed in their name.

    The sun burns down,

    On the children who are crying,

    On the long journeys repeated,

    Their questions not answered.

    Mothers and Fathers hide their faces,

    Unable to explain,

    Why they must endlessly,

    No end in sight,

    Move for shelter,

    for food, for safety, for hope.

    The Prophets are weeping,

    For the words that have been stolen,

    From texts that once offered,

    To reveal in ancient times,

    A shared space,

    Of love and care,

    Above all for the stranger.

    M.D.H. 2014

  4. HFARationalist says:

    Why there is almost certainly no world Jewish conspiracy (or why we should not privilege the WJC hypothesis)

    To properly refute the hypothesis that a world Jewish conspiracy (WJC) exists we first need to define it as a concept. What is WJC? WJC is the hypothesis that most Jews act together in a secret conspiracy to do something harmful to non-Jews.

    Just like other hypotheses about reality we should be able to examine the effects of WJC if such a thing is actually real. Just like we can see videos of President Trump or join Freemasonry we should be able to experience effects of WJC if it exists as any significant movement that to a great extant controls the world.

    One consequence of the WJC hypothesis is that ordinary Jews should almost always be safe. However we have never observed this effect at all. During WWII Jews seemed unable to either get the allies to bomb concentration camps or getting the Eichmann-Brand deal done. If WJC were actually a thing this would have never happened. There are Jewish lobbyists but there wasn’t and likely still isn’t any Jewish control over either America or Britain. Even after WWII there is no evidence of a successful WJC scheme either. Israel is the only nation that actually takes care of Jews, sometimes by evacuating foreign Jews into Israel. If WJC were a thing then instead of evacuating foreign Jews they would have been invading antisemitic nations probably by non-Jewish proxies instead. We haven’t observed that either. The Israel lobby is a real thing but pro-America anti-Jewish states have never been overthrown for hating Jews.

    My conclusion is that based on currently available evidence there is no such thing as a world Jewish conspiracy or it is a pretty unsuccessful one. The problem here is that of ability, not that of intent. Even if we assume that all Jews are as evil as what Julius Streicher described which itself is a ridiculous hypothesis that doesn’t matter because the ability to actually deliver such harm isn’t there. The so-called “Jewish yoke” does not even exist why it was so easy for massacres of Jews to happen in East Europe. We can easily explain Ashkenazi Jewish success by their high IQ, good culture and high levels of solidarity without resorting to the WJC hypothesis. I fail to see how Jewish success is something of a different kind rather than degree and flavor from the success of other high-IQ groups or trader minorities.

    Many conspiracy theories are about privileging hypotheses. If your privileged hypothesis is that the earth is likely to be a cube you might look for whatever evidence that might support it and then confirm your belief that the earth is a cube.

    • Nornagest says:

      Do you have some kind of compulsion to write on topics that’re massively inflammatory but not really very controversial?

      • HFARationalist says:

        Not really. What I did was merely rationally analyzing and then rejecting what most people reject based on morality and emotions. WJC is a hypothesis that claimed to be a fact that some people actually believes. As a result I believe we need a fact-based response to it.

        There are people on Radix Journal and other websites even some people here who actually believe that the WJC hypothesis is factually accurate. I disagree because it is not supported by evidence, hence belief in WJC is irrational. Belief in WJC is as irrational as belief that Queen Elizabeth isn’t actually a human or the belief that Belgium does not exist.

        My view on Ashkenazi Jews is that they have high IQ, do a lot of science, have many great philosophers and business people. Hence they are great. As a result antisemitism which includes hatred of Ashkenazi Jews is not just evil but also detrimental to human progress. Anyone who believes in scientific progress should not be antisemitic regardless of what their other ideas are.

        As for the so-called Jewish conspiracy I think it came from fundamentalists and jealous people who made it up. There is just no such thing.

        • Nornagest says:

          What I did was merely rationally analyzing and then rejecting what most people reject based on morality and emotions.

          Here’s a secret: morality and emotions work pretty well, at least when you’re not dealing with partisan politics. They’re not infallible — sometimes the right thing is counterintuitive or emotionally icky, and sometimes conventional morality ends up prescribing something that was a good idea in the past and isn’t now for technological or other contingent reasons. But you’re rarely gonna go so wrong with them that you end up seriously hurting people, which is 80% of what we normies care about.

          I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that you keep picking inflammatory topics to “rationally analyze”. But leaving that aside, when you do, you’re rolling the dice, and the dice are loaded. Most of the time it won’t pay off, because the heuristics you’re bucking against work well most of the time (if they didn’t, they would have died out and been replaced). And it alienates people — it’s evidence that you’re just trying to wind people up or prove your edginess, which makes things harder for you in that one time in ten or fifty or a hundred that it can pay off.

          My advice? Save it for when you’ve got something surprising.

        • Deiseach says:

          Look, by picking a topic like this and going “By rational analysis, I have discovered that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are hooey”, you’re about as innovative as going “By rational analysis, I have discovered that grass is indeed green” and then asking for praise and petting because you used “rational analysis” and not icky ol’ common human “morality and emotions” used by dumb ordinary folk who only went by the experiential evidence of their eyes and couldn’t describe the value in angstroms of the wavelength of light reflected back from the vegetation that seems to our limited senses to make up the colour ‘green’.

          You’re not convincing anybody of your great new approach to social problems, you’re coming off as stating the bleedin’ obvious and wanting (though you keep claiming you don’t care for anybody else’s opinion, good bad or indifferent) recognition and applause for being a daring thinker miles ahead of the pack of stupid ordinary people.

          As for the so-called Jewish conspiracy I think it came from fundamentalists and jealous people who made it up.

          Also, if you really do want to come across as a rigorous thinker, then please define terms like “fundamentalist” which have definite, historically-limited time period, meanings associated and don’t use the label in the same fashion that a newspaper article that also disapproves of “fundamentalists” would do. That does not make your claims to be a rational thinker particularly convincing when you’re slapdash with terms like that. And you do realise your “jealous people who made it up” conclusion is no more than to say “mean people are mean about people they don’t like”, a bromide that ordinary, irrational, non-analytical persons have already known for themselves?

        • HFARationalist says:

          @Nornagest Really thanks! May I ask what kind of signals I didn’t mean were sent out to neurotypicals?

          Does my thread contain untruths? Probably not. At least I did try to avoid them.

          Does my thread contain antisemitism? Nope. Instead I refuted it and made it intellectually less appealing. What I really hoped to achieve is to get completely amoral people and psychopaths to abandon the WJC hypothesis because it does make no sense. Such people exist and I usually overestimate the amount of them. That’s why I usually intentionally refrain from appealing to morality. Furthermore I’m afraid that the more moral/emotional arguments we use to defend what facts can defend the more factually incorrect our statements may look like to some including myself because to us it signals lack of confidence in the actual factual accuracy of the hypothesis. The more extreme moral and emotional responses I see if a fact-related statement is challenged the more I doubt the accuracy of the statement.

          Why are people still uncomfortable with it? Is it because I simply mentioned something awful even if I refuted it along a novel approach? I can understand that. For example the Holocaust was really awful. Merely mentioning it even if no Holocaust denial is involved makes people feel bad. An article refuting Holocaust denial can still make people feel awful because it still get people to think about the Holocaust.

          Maybe merely talking about something really stressful in a completely dispassionate way sends some really awful signal about me even when it is clear that I’m against both Holocaust denial and the WJC hypothesis. It does signal that I have almost no empathy at all even though we autists aren’t really without any empathy. Instead we just do not like to express empathy.

          • Jiro says:

            Maybe merely talking about something really stressful in a completely dispassionate way sends some really awful signal about me even when it is clear that I’m against both Holocaust denial and the WJC hypothesis.

            Generally, people who support those things don’t support them mainly because they want to be rational but have missed some of the arguments. They support them because of other reasons and the “arguments” are only excuses.

            Objecting to them “rationally” signals that you believe that they are being rational (though maybe mistaken) and that you believe their arguments are plausible enough to be worth refuting. They’re not, and they aren’t.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          This relates to something I’ve been wondering about. Prejudice against middleman minorities is pretty standard, but so far as I know, anti-semitism is the only one which includes wild conspiracy theories.

          Any ideas about why this is so?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Prior to the 1900s were there any other middleman minorities which completely or predominantly occupied multiple middleman occupations (or even completely occupied one middleman occupation)?

            And how much power did these other occupations have over world affairs (ie. the way moneylending and reporting* do)?

            * – It’s unobvious to me that Jewish people ever predominated in journalism, but the stereotype exists for whatever reason).

          • HFARationalist says:

            Because of religion? Christianity and Islam are responsible for some really weird antisemitic conspiracy theories.

            Most people do not realize that (ancient) Judaism at its worst is just like Christianity and Islam and it does not get worse than these two.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            and it does not get worse than these two.

            In terms of literal human sacrifice, yes it did. Those religions generally aren’t around anymore, and Christianity, at least, has greatly moderated its human sacrifice impulses since the inquisitorial zenith.

    • Mark says:

      If you want to persuade neurotypicals of something, give them a bad argument against it.

      I think the reason why I object to what you’ve written is that I kind of vaguely disagree with it in places, but I’m not really too sure what I’m going to get out of stating my disagreements.

      Anyway, I’ll do so:

      I don’t think your definition of WJC is broad enough. It’s like saying – “The Trump Russian conspiracy is the theory that the majority of people who work for the Trump organisation are directly involved in a secret conspiracy to take over America for the Russians.”

      There might be some small minority of people who believe that, but you’ve already turned off the majority of conspiracy theorists from your argument by using this definition.

      we should be able to experience effects of WJC if it exists as any significant movement that to a great extant controls the world.

      There are (widely accepted) things that are viewed as evidence of a Jewish conspiracy. Jewish prominence in finance, media.

      One of the major beliefs for conspiracy theorists is that the holocaust didn’t happen – a true WJC theorist would argue that the holocaust didn’t happen, which kinda makes your WW2 arguments fall flat.
      I think your post war arguments fall flat for everyone because “If WJC were a thing then instead of evacuating foreign Jews they would have been invading antisemitic nations probably by non-Jewish proxies instead.” is just something you’ve made up. Why does the WJC have to take this form?
      ——

      Anyway – about “privileging” hypotheses. There is nothing wrong with privileging hypotheses – it’s called being interested in something – and there is also actually an excellently rational reason to do so. It’s about threat.
      If elites do not have our interests at heart, it’s a serious problem. And it’s a real problem that has been repeated again and again throughout history. Society can and will crush us. What are we going to do about it?

      If Jewish people form a significant elite within our society, I’m somewhat glad that there are people who are privileging the WJC hypothesis. Because if Jewish people are evil, it’s a serious problem.

      What we want to avoid is privileging the conclusion.

      So, basically, I think conspiracy theorists are like the low-rent AI scare-mongers. But, I actually think that the question of how we can control society is more fundamental and important that the question of how we can control AI – so… I don’t know. I would like them to have at it. Their impulse is sensible, I think.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I don’t think your definition of WJC is broad enough. It’s like saying – “The Trump Russian conspiracy is the theory that the majority of people who work for the Trump organisation are directly involved in a secret conspiracy to take over America for the Russians.”

        There might be some small minority of people who believe that, but you’ve already turned off the majority of conspiracy theorists from your argument by using this definition.

        The problem here is that my definition of WJC is more relevant to trustworthiness of ordinary Jews compared to the broader one. I believe ordinary Jews aren’t actually beneficiaries of whatever conspiracy that actually exists, nor are they participants in the conspiracies. Mr. Goldstein next door probably has no idea what the hell is going on in the Illuminati, nor does he conspire with the Illuminati against you and me. A conspiracy by a very small elite group of Jews without knowledge or participation of ordinary Jews that favors themselves but not ordinary Jews couldn’t be legitimately called a Jewish conspiracy, only a conspiracy by a small group of people who are Jewish.

        There are (widely accepted) things that are viewed as evidence of a Jewish conspiracy. Jewish prominence in finance, media.

        I don’t deny that there is Jewish prominence in media and finance. However it does not require WJC. Instead mere Jewish cognitive strength compared to non-Jews is sufficient to explain this phenomena. There is also Chinese domination in economies of Southeast Asia. There is Indian economic domination of Caribbean islands containing mostly Indians and blacks as well as in East Africa. There is also Lebanese domination in economies of West Africa. There is white domination in economies of Latin America and Southern Africa. Are these all consequences of conspiracies? Or are these mostly genetic and cultural factors at play? We can’t simply use WJC as a hypothesis when it comes to Jews, colonialism as a hypothesis when it comes to whites, Confucianism as a hypothesis when it comes to Northeast Asians and then refuse to explain anything when it comes to Indians and Lebanese. However IQ and culture can explain all these phenomena without the need to resort to ad hoc theories.

        One of the major beliefs for conspiracy theorists is that the holocaust didn’t happen – a true WJC theorist would argue that the holocaust didn’t happen, which kinda makes your WW2 arguments fall flat.

        Whether the Holocaust defined as intentional Nazi murder of Jews happened or not does not matter if Jews under Nazi rule died due to malnutrition and diseases instead of shooting and gassing. What matters is that Jews were much more likely to die under Nazis for whatever reason than under someone else. I believe gas chambers are real. However they aren’t necessary to make an environment sufficiently dangerous for Jews that they want to leave. If WJC is a real thing they would have intervened to save as many Jews as possible. My bet is that “Jewish power” is just economic due to IQ instead of having a legitimate military component. Its political power is restricted to Israel itself and lobbying. However when a real war begins in the nation where lobbying happens it won’t be useful at all because Jews usually can only donate to non-Jewish politicians but can not actually replace them or force them to do anything.

        I think your post war arguments fall flat for everyone because “If WJC were a thing then instead of evacuating foreign Jews they would have been invading antisemitic nations probably by non-Jewish proxies instead.” is just something you’ve made up. Why does the WJC have to take this form?

        Evacuating all Jews from certain nations to Israel isn’t going to help WJC as what I defined in the long run. When Jews left Muslim nations in the Middle East they left their businesses and influences behind as well. Due to the fact that Jews tend to not do PR very well Jewish influence outside Israel and America is probably almost zero. America isn’t really going to help if another Holocaust happens and America itself is in a war anyway. So the only place where Jewish power legitimately exists and is partly stable is Israel. Israel does not have many true friends in the world. It also has no puppets.

        Anyway – about “privileging” hypotheses. There is nothing wrong with privileging hypotheses – it’s called being interested in something – and there is also actually an excellently rational reason to do so. It’s about threat.

        This isn’t necessarily rational but I do agree that it is legit. I worried about global genocidal race wars for the same reasons, namely I don’t want to be caught in one.

        If elites do not have our interests at heart, it’s a serious problem. And it’s a real problem that has been repeated again and again throughout history. Society can and will crush us. What are we going to do about it?

        The main problem here is that..elites never had our interests at heart. Be it monarchy, one-party dictatorship, elected officials, whatever. Elites only care about themselves in general. Whether they are Jewish is irrelevant. Jewish elites throw non-Jews under the bus. Jewish elites throw other Jews under the bus. Non-Jewish elites throw Jews under the bus. Non-Jewish elites throw other non-Jews under the bus.

        If Jewish people form a significant elite within our society, I’m somewhat glad that there are people who are privileging the WJC hypothesis. Because if Jewish people are evil, it’s a serious problem.

        It doesn’t matter whether Jews are evil. What matters is that Jews are sufficiently rational and hence their behaviors can be managed by regulation which I believe is correct. Northeast Asians aren’t the most moral people on this planet but they manage to be the least violent ones through disincentives and rationality. This is good enough. Jews are smart. Hence I don’t worry about Jewish crimes. If certain Jews or members of other high-IQ group behave in a way harmful to the rest of humanity we can enact and enforce regulations. We can also warn them that things won’t be good for them if they don’t back off and they will back off. No morality in their minds is necessary to ensure moral actions. Who I really worry about are those who don’t negotiate (i.e. extremists) or do a poor job in optimizing their self-interests. We can’t talk any sense into these people. If we can use education to eliminate that class through improvement then the earth will be a wonderful place.

        What we want to avoid is privileging the conclusion.

        I agree.

        So, basically, I think conspiracy theorists are like the low-rent AI scare-mongers. But, I actually think that the question of how we can control society is more fundamental and important that the question of how we can control AI – so… I don’t know. I would like them to have at it. Their impulse is sensible, I think.

        I don’t think we can control a society at all. Elites do it. I think Menci.us Mol.dbug is right that democracy is impossible. I agree. However monarchism isn’t going to help us either because monarchs aren’t the nicest people on this planet either.

        • Mark says:

          The problem here is that my definition of WJC is more relevant to trustworthiness of ordinary Jews compared to the broader one

          Disagree.

          The elite WJC could be evidence for Jews being untrustworthy in general. Depends how likely you think elite conspiracies are.

          Instead mere Jewish cognitive strength compared to non-Jews is sufficient to explain this phenomena.

          I’d like to see someone doing some work on the British middle class. Average IQ of children of middle class is 113. Working class 96. There is definitely a social element, seems to be an intellectual element too. Were the British public schools the equivalent of the Hungarian academies?
          Turing vs. Neumann.

          If the Jewish are a fairly normal subset of the European middle class, can their dominance over European middle class be explained by intelligence alone?

          It’s probably a bit reductive to say it’s all about IQ or all social – probs a bit of both – so you do have to take specific circumstances into account (sorry).

          If WJC is a real thing they would have intervened to save as many Jews as possible.

          I think it’s the likelihood and relevance of your assumptions that I disagree with here. I don’t know. I don’t really want to go down some mad conspiracy theory rabbit hole – yes, what you’re saying is true – I’m just not too sure how many people are actually making the arguments that you are providing counter-points too. I can imagine that these would be powerful arguments if you lived in an anti-semitic society, in the Middle East or something.

          Elites only care about themselves in general

          Question is where the “them” ends. I think this is the motivation for identity political determination of elites rather than broader focus on equality – important thing is for each group having someone to look out for them at the top table – but if we take this identity political view, Jews are badly overrepresented. Only hope for elite Jews is if they are more broadly human than Jewish – identity politics bad for Jews.
          “Meritocracy” bad for everyone not an elite – makes elites identify only with other elites.

          I think that your “don’t piss off the masses too much, or they kill you” control method, combined with self-interested elite almost guarantees an elite conspiracy against the masses – the only question is whether Jewish identity is stronger than elite.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One argument against WJC is that Israel doesn’t have oil.

        It’s at least plausible that Israel is better off without oil, but I’m willing to bet that if mere power would have been enough for Israel to have oil fields, they’d have gotten oil fields. Easy wealth is very tempting.

        • HFARationalist says:

          I agree. It’s not that Israel can not seize any oil fields though. The problem is international outage.

          Why can’t WJC censor all the information about wars involving Israel? Oh wait there is no WJC, just some Jews owning some but not all of the newspapers..Furthermore there exists Facebook and Google, both Jewish-owned but neither really censors anything to support Jews. If you type something antisemitic into Google you get it. “Jewgle” never really censors search results to hide everything Jews don’t like. If WJC were real Google and Facebook should have censored their sites as much as Nishimura censors anti-Japanese speech on 4chan. Even real Jewish businesses don’t always try to remove antisemitism, let alone non-Jewish sites such as Twitter.

  5. DavidS says:

    Is it possible, without regulator’s connivance, to monopolise cab transport?

    I ask because in London they’ve just refused to renew Uber’s license and while the official reason given is to do with safety concerns it’s kicked off lots of debate about Uber more generally. Apparently they’re making massive losses now to get market share*, and that they’re cheap ‘while disrupting’ and then jack up prices.

    What I don’t see though is how Uber can really destroy their competition in the strong sense. Surely cab driving is one of the most fluid industries you can imagine. If Uber charge £6 for a fare compared to other cabs’ £8, those cabs go out of business and then it hikes prices up to £12, what stops other people just starting to offer cab services again?

    It seems to me that rather than trying for monopoly this looks like the classic ‘come for the free stuff, stay for the service/convenience’ things you get with e.g. Spotify, various online newspapers, Netflix etc. being free for awhile so you get hooked. In this model, when Uber goes up o £12, lots of people keep using it because it’s much easier than minicabs but those who care more about price switch back. Not clear to me who loses or that it’s market-cornering behaviour. But then I don’t live in one of these “Uber phase 2” areas: any insights on theory or practice?

    *also some people saying this is a bunch of tech-people gambling on driverless cars working and being well placed to do well if it does. They say this incredibly disapprovingly, but it seems to mean ‘rich people in Silicon valley are paying half my cab fare now because they think in the near future it might make them well placed for a massively life-improving business innovation’. I can live with this.

    • shakeddown says:

      A different monopolizing option is to become common enough that cities disinvest from bus lines.

      Something somewhat-shady I’ve heard Uber does is jack up prices for frequent users. I’m not sure they actually do – I started getting high prices when I was using it a lot, but maybe they were just higher in Colorado Springs.

    • rlms says:

      I agree. Additionally, Lyft and other smaller Uber-likes prevent them getting a monopoly. This whole thing is why I think we’re in another tech bubble. Uber is the successful startup that people try to emulate, but as far as I can tell, their “success” in the sense of having a lot of customers doesn’t mean anything as they’re running at a loss with no clear way to get in the black. Sure, they might actually succeed if they invent driverless cars, but so might Google or anyone else in the field. They shouldn’t be looked on any more favourably than any other generic driverless car startup. And if the best startup isn’t actually all that great, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of them.

    • Deiseach says:

      ‘rich people in Silicon valley are paying half my cab fare now because they think in the near future it might make them well placed for a massively life-improving business innovation that will make them even richer’

      I doubt the rich people are signed on for ‘we will continue to subsidise in perpetuity a loss-making enterprise merely because it provides a social service’, otherwise they’d be investing in bus routes. This is not a moral judgement, the purpose of investment is to make a profitable return after all, but they are also not doing it for the good of their health. And while they may make a profitable return in the end, that does not say that the innovation will uniformly be wonderful for the little people once the higher fares kick in when the dominant market share is established and subsidies cease.

      • DavidS says:

        I agree they’re not being charitable. But my good is not orthogonal to theirs and I don’t see how the little people will lose out – precisely because I dont see how you can dominate a market that’s so easy to enter (except if uber get regulatory protection like black cabs do now).

      • SamChevre says:

        This comment is common, but I think wrong: Uber is loss-making, but the ride-selling part of the business is profitable in established markets and doesn’t seem to have unreasonable losses in entering new markets. The fact that another division of Uber is trying to invent driverless cars seems to me irrelevant. (So in my cost accounting, the driverless car business is the part that the investors are subsidizing.)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          How do you know that it is profitable in established markets?

          I find it unconvincing when Yves Smith asserts the opposite, but if one could extract the truth, I think she’d have it.

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t believe “they’ll disrupt the market and jack up prices” is the “true rejection” of the Uber critics.

      • Does anyone have a substantial real world example of the predatory pricing story happening? Firms may sell below cost in order to get people to try their product so as to break into a market, but where is there a case of a firm driving out the competition by selling below cost and then holding price well above what had been the competitors’ cost for a substantial period of time?

        For the most famous alleged case, read John S. McGee, “Predatory Price Cutting: The Standard Oil (NJ) Case,” Journal of Law and Economics, vol. 2 (October 1958).

        • rlms says:

          If there aren’t any, someone should probably tell Uber so they can change their business plan.

          • Brad says:

            Amazon appears to be a little further along towards the second half of the plan than uber. It’ll be interesting to see if they can pull it off.

          • onyomi says:

            If the fear is that Uber is planning to pull an Amazon, then the London transportation consumer should be quaking in his boots as Uber prepares to make transportation incredibly convenient and widespread for ridiculously low prices all in furtherance of a nefarious plan to one day jack up prices that never quite materializes (and, in fact, would not work, imo: I use Amazon all the time, but only because the prices are so good; if they raised them significantly there are other places I could start ordering books and clothes from).

            I think this plan, even when/where it exists, never successfully proceeds to phase 2. Which is not to say Amazon isn’t/won’t ever be profitable, but that it’s profits are only ever going to be “high volume/low margin” and never proceed to “high margin.” As soon as they tried, competition could easily arise. And it’s not even like all the infrastructure Amazon has built (distribution centers, etc.) can only be used by Amazon. If they go bankrupt, Amazon 2.0 can buy it off them.

        • John Schilling says:

          Does anyone have a substantial real world example of the predatory pricing story happening?

          General Dynamics and later Lockheed-Martin used to do a pretty good job of making sure there was no market for planes like the F-20, Lavi, F-2, etc, by making sure the F-16 was always available at a price that would drive competing Western manufacturers out of business. But they had some help from the US government in that, and from Cold War politics isolating a large segment of the market from competition by e.g. MiG, so not a pure example of predatory pricing.

          But then, nobody who is going to play the predatory-pricing game is going to turn around and say, “…and we’ll steer clear of any other sleazy practices in the meantime, so the economists will have a pure example to study”.

          • bean says:

            In fairness, I’m not sure if that’s a great example. When they took the F-16 to the export market, the engineering was already paid for, and they had a big production run going. I don’t find it particularly hard to believe that their unit cost was the lowest. Northrop had to pay for all of their own engineering. Also, where’s the line between predatory pricing and ‘sell the printer at a loss, make the profit on the toner’? And there’s always the F/A-18 if the Lawn Dart gets too pricey.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          but where is there a case of a firm driving out the competition by selling below cost and then holding price well above what had been the competitors’ cost

          Isn’t this the strawman objection to competition laws? The question is: What would prices (and quality) have eventually been if both competitors had remained in the market and had been competing on affordable prices?

          I was quite irritated when Gen9 folded (and was bought out by Ginkgo Bioworks), leaving IDT/SGI/Twist/LifeTech as the only alternatives. The product Gen9 delivered was superior enough to the competition in pure quality that I still would have been very happy buying their product at prices equivalent to their still-in-business competition. If they hadn’t tried to undersell their competition so much that they went under they’d still be around and thriving, and it would have encouraged their competition to come out with better products even more than the current competitive environment does.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that it should be illegal for A to undercut the prices of B because A might go bankrupt? That’s not what people usually call “competition laws.” That’s what people usually call cartelism or corporatism.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            No, the bankruptcy of Gen9 subverted the usual way this plays out. Any bankruptcy of real competitors from competition (including the usual bankruptcy of B) is the loss.

        • Jiro says:

          Define “cost”. Internet Explorer was given away for low price (free) in the sense that it didn’t cost anything additional, but of course it’s bundled with Windows, which people pay for.In a way, it’s below competitors’ cost and above competitors’ cost at the same time.

  6. BBA says:

    As mentioned, I’ve been reading up on the history of fandom. Of course, there have been fans of fiction as long as there’s been fiction itself, but fandom as an ongoing community really began 90 years ago in the letter column of Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories.

    Gernsback was originally interested in what we now call electronics. His early magazines, Modern Electrics and The Electrical Experimenter, primarily carried articles about the developing field of “radio”, but Gernsback also published a few fictional stories in them. In 1926 Gernsback established a fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, the first ever devoted to the genre of what Gernsback initially called “scientifiction” but eventually gave the more pronounceable name of science fiction. Of course, the genre existed beforehand, dating back to Shelley and Verne and Wells, and some place its origins even earlier. All-genre pulp magazines like Argosy had published “planetary romances” by the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the pioneering fantasy/horror pulp Weird Tales had debuted in 1922, but Gernsback was the first to define science fiction as something distinct. He thought of it as entertainment with an educational purpose, to bring young readers to learn about and appreciate science.

    Like many magazines before and since, Amazing published letters to the editor. In 1927 one fan wrote in asking if there was interest in starting a club to discuss science, and gave his return address so others could contact him. This is what started the ball rolling on fandom. By 1929 there were several clubs and the first fanzines were being dittoed and mailed out – and Gernsback’s company had gone bankrupt under mysterious circumstances. Amazing and the electronics magazines were taken over by another publisher. Undaunted, Gernsback started a new company and another science-fiction pulp, Wonder Stories, came out to compete with Amazing just a month later. Wonder also hosted lively discussions among fans in its letter column, and in 1933 Gernsback hired Wonder‘s new editor, Charles Hornig, based on his work on a fanzine. (Hornig was only 17 years old at the time!)

    Gernsback and Hornig wanted to help fandom spread (and thereby get more readers of Wonder) and thus in the May 1934 issue, the Science Fiction League was announced. Fans were encouraged to join the League, communicate with each other by mail, and form local chapters to meet in person. A regular column in Wonder would offer correspondence from members and news of local chapters’ meetings and discussions. Organized fandom rapidly grew, and several dozen local chapters of the League sprung up, where nerdy teenage boys could trade issues of Amazing and Astounding and Wonder and argue with each other on the merits of one author versus another.

    It didn’t take long for fandom to turn against its creator, and no creator deserved to be turned against more than Hugo Gernsback. He may have been a pioneer of the tech press and founder of the genre of science fiction, but he was also notorious for paying his writers late, or on installment, or not at all. Meanwhile, “Hugo the Rat” took home a six-figure salary while his young editor made do on $20 a week. When one fan, Don Wollheim, complained in a fanzine that Gernsback never paid him for a story he’d successfully submitted to Wonder, Gernsback expelled him and his supporters from the SFL in retaliation. In response the expelled fans revived one of the older correspondence-based fan clubs, the preposterously named International Scientific Association, and started contacting SFL chapters to spread the word of Gernsback’s bad behavior. Between unhappy fans, unhappy writers, Gernsback looting his company for all it was worth, and the poor business climate of the Depression, Wonder was on the verge of failing. In 1936 Gernsback sold it to Thrilling Publications and got out of the science fiction scene, pretty much for good. (He continued publishing the electronics magazines, one of which stayed in business until 2002. And in 1953, buoyed by a recent appearance at Worldcon as Guest of Honor, Gernsback introduced his third SF magazine, Science-Fiction Plus. But by then the Golden Age revolution had occurred, and the pulp-style stories in SFP were seen as an outdated 1930s throwback. It folded within a year.)

    In retrospect, it’s a bit strange that the Hugo Awards are named after a man who wrote very little science fiction, cheated the writers who contributed to his magazine, and basically abandoned the genre before it got good. But by now it’s too entrenched to change. Besides which, Gernsback may have been a crook, but as far as I know he wasn’t a bigoted crook, so it’s unlikely the Worldcon crowd would care enough to bother changing the name.

    • Jugemu says:

      Interesting.

    • quaelegit says:

      This is really neat, thank you for writing!

      Are you planning to continue this series through time? I’d be excited to see what you have to say about fandom in the Golden Age of Sci Fi and later.

      (and/or just posting about what the Golden Age was or what it meant? Your post has made me realize that I have heard the term a lot but never really understood what it means. I’m currently reading the Wikipedia article, which has given me the short answer — John C. Campbell — but I’m finding it fascinating and would love to see a discussion from people who know more :P)

      (Also, relevantly, the first section of the wiki article is titled “From Gernsback to Campbell”)

      • BBA says:

        I’m building up to a post on the “Exclusion Act” at the first Worldcon. There are probably two or three more of these coming. Next time, I’ll write about the “first convention ever held” – both of them.

        In truth, I haven’t read nearly as much written SF as I’d like. I’m mainly a fan of the stuff on screen, a Trekkie and a MSTie and so on. The sense I get is that the Golden Age is typified by Asimov-style exploration of the possibilities and drawbacks of technology, with a fundamentally optimistic view. This contrasts with the later New Wave, which was pessimistic on technology and more focused on the personal and societal impact, and the earlier pulp era, which was mostly cliched (even then!) space opera. But again, these are second-hand stereotypes, I haven’t read enough of the stuff to judge for myself.

        I’m focusing on written SF because that’s where fandom was, and all fandoms of everything else spring from its example. At the first Worldcon, one of the speakers commented that fans of mystery, romance, etc. had never held conventions. Now there may be a con for every genre on earth. Likewise with zines, which SF fans pioneered decades before the punk/feminist/etc. scenes made them their own. And, obviously, it’s the forerunner of the stuff I’m into too.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m not sure how well defined golden age sf is– the standard joke is that the golden age of sf is twelve.

          In a general sort of way, the golden age ended with the New Wave, which brought in literary experimentation from the twenties, pessimism, and explicit sex. It also brought in more explicit violence, but I haven’t run into anyone else who wants to discuss that.

          People underestimate pessimistic sf in the golden age sf, possibly because most of it is short stories. Hot damn, The Luckiest Man in Denv by Kornbluth is available online. It may be of interest to rationalists because it underlines the importance of *what* people are competing about. A lot of the pessimism comes from Pohl and Kornbluth– some of it’s satirical.

          There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury.

  7. dodrian says:

    I’ve created a LaTeX Resume Template which I think looks clean and readable from a human perspective (I received positive feedback from a friend in HR), but when I last used it (1.5 years ago) those automatic resume parsers that many employers use tended to trip up over it, meaning I needed to copy and paste a lot to fix when reviewing data.

    Has anyone got any suggestions for creating a format that looks nice to humans and is machine readable? Or am I better off creating one of each, one for uploading and one for emails? (If hiring managers have a scraped-text format, do they ever look at the original that was uploaded?)

    • Nornagest says:

      I think in every interview I’ve ever done, the hiring manager has shown up with a printout of the resume I sent them (rather than a parsed version). So they look at it eventually, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll get you past the slush pile.

      • dodrian says:

        That’s a good point, I’ve also always seen mine at interviews. So I guess I do need one that does both.

    • johan_larson says:

      Last time I was interviewing, I had to wrestle with a lot of candidate management software suites. Some of them insisted I enter various bits of data in textboxes and others tried to turn input files of various format (.doc, .pdf) into plain text with crappy results.

      I suggest you make a bottom-of-the-barrel seven-bit ASCII formatted-with-spaces .txt file that looks OK and use that.

      If anyone gives you grief about it tell them you have strong views on document retention and digital decay, and your planning horizon is a century into the future. Then segue into your work with the Long Now Foundation…

      • dodrian says:

        When applying for a computing jobs I think a well formatted pdf shows general technical competency and makes a good first impression.

        But yeah, I want to preserve my sanity when applying and help any hr staff using the same system on the backend.

        • johan_larson says:

          If you’re inclined to split the difference, you can find various pdf-to-txt converters online, and with a bit of experimentation you should be able to come up with a pdf file that both looks OK viewed directly and produces sane results when converted to text. To make that work, you’ll probably need to use fairly minimal formatting.

  8. Montfort says:

    What do you mean by this? is it supposed to be a reply to another comment?

  9. rlms says:

    Prompted by the discussion above about the gender life expectancy gap, I decided to do a very basic analysis of the issue using this data.

    Methodology: assume that mortality rates don’t change over time, don’t adjust for demographics, assume that deaths within each age range are uniformly distributed and that the 80+ range stops at 104 (I said it was very basic); calculate life expectancy with given data, change data, recalculate. So my results should be taken with a large amount of salt; nevertheless I think they are still probably qualitatively fairly accurate.

    Results: initial life expectancy gap was 5.2 years. Changing the data so that men who committed suicide instead died when 80+ increased male life expectancy by 1 year. Changing heart disease death rate for men between 35 and 79 to match the female one (assuming the men who made up the difference died when 80+) increased it by 2.5. Eyeballing, I imagine that matching the male liver disease rate to the female one would cause a roughly ~1 year increase. Even if we adjusted the male suicide rate properly rather than setting it to zero, it would still likely cause an increase of several months as it is so much greater than the female one. Adjusting car accidents, homicides, and accidental poisonings would each cause several month increases. So overall, I think the life expectancy gap is probably somewhere between 50:50 and 80:20 disease:suicide/drugs/murder/car accidents — moderately less skewed towards disease than I anticipated but not wildly different. Notable factors that weren’t relevant: workplace accidents (too few to matter), and lung cancer (equality has pretty much been achieved here). If anyone has a proper analysis along these lines I would like to see it!

    • Douglas Knight says:

      assume that mortality rates don’t change over time

      That’s the definition of “life expectancy.”

      • Nornagest says:

        I think it means per age cohort. That is, if you’re X% likely to die at age 80 in 1999, assume that you’re also X% likely to die at age 80 in 2000. It’s significant because if you’re comparing people that died of suicide at age 20 in 2000 to people that died of heart disease at age 80, the analysis gets really complicated if you don’t have firm numbers for how long the former would have lived.

        This is not actually true, but the figures don’t change very quickly either.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yes, that is the definition of “life expectancy.” In fact, that people born in 2000 have that chance of dying in 2080.

          • rlms says:

            Is it? What’s the term for the expected value of a person’s age at death then? I would have thought that you would call that value life expectancy regardless of the assumptions used to measure it.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I have never seen someone compute that based on projected death rates. Probably because it doesn’t have a name. I have, occassionally, seen people project the population statistic called life expectancy based on projections of death rates. One reason to do this is that the life expectancy in 2020 is a summary of projections, all of which are 3 year projections. Whereas, the expected life of a person who is 70 today is integrated over projections of an increasingly uncertain future.

            Added: Maybe I should have emphasized the past. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone discuss the expected lifespan of someone born in 1917. One reason to talk about life expectancy in 1917 is that they can do it while knowing only about that period. Another is that it is easy to compare to the life expectancy in 2017, without predicting the future. But the life expectancy in 1918 is very misleading.

          • rlms says:

            Makes sense, thanks.

    • JayT says:

      In the US there are about 4,000-5,000 workplace deaths every year, of which something like 95% are men, so it wouldn’t be irrelevant. However, looking at the stats, it seems like adding it in could introduce double counting, since the most common workplace deaths are traffic accidents, and the fourth most common cause is violence, so it might end up being irrelevant after all. In 2015 there were 2067 workplace deaths that didn’t involve violence or auto accidents. I’m not sure if that would be enough to make much of a difference.
      https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0014.pdf

      This site looks like it would be a pretty good resource for digging deeper into this topic.
      http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa-cause-of-death-by-age-and-gender
      I’d be curious to see a detailed report on this, though I don’t see myself ever getting around to it.

      • rlms says:

        I don’t think those figures would have much of an effect: even the upper limit of of 5,000 only corresponds to roughly the number of male suicides of one age range in the UK, and removing individual age ranges of male suicides didn’t have much of an effect in my model.

    • CatCube says:

      I guess it’s not clear to me what you’re doing. Are you adjusting the data found in the UK’s life tables, by reducing age-specific mortality rate at a particular age and seeing what the new life expectancy at age whatever is?

      Edit: That life table shows a life expectancy at birth of males to be 79.09 years, and for females to be 82.82, a fair bit closer than your 5.2 initial assumption.

      • rlms says:

        I’m estimating the life expectancy from yearly numbers of deaths (divided per cause) from the data I linked, i.e. if the data showed that 3 80-year-olds and 2 50-year-olds died last year, I would estimate life expectancy to be (3*80 + 2*50)/5 = 68. The inaccuracy comes from the fact that the actual data isn’t that precise, so I’m assuming that 100 people dying between the ages of 40 and 50 is equivalent to 100 people dying at 45 (when actually they would be more towards the higher end of the range), and from the fact that I have to just make up an estimate for the average of the 80+ range.

        Given this model, I then use it as follows (using suicide as an example):
        Calculate how what proportion of men who survive to 35 commit suicide before they are 50.
        Calculate the same figure for women.
        Change the value for suicide deaths for 35-49 year old men to be the rate for women * the number of men that age. That decreases that value, increase the value for 80+ men dying of e.g. heart disease by the same amount to compensate.
        Recalculate life expectancy and compare with the old value.

    • CatCube says:

      I don’t know enough about the UK’s life table data system to download and work with it, but I pulled a bunch of data from the US’s Centers for Disease Control website here: https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html Given that you had started with 2013 data, I continued to do the same.

      I built a life table for ages 0-85 (85 and over being the last bucket). I didn’t get it to match the actual tables found here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr66/nvsr66_03.pdf but my overall, male, and female life expectancy at birth numbers are about 0.1 year off from them. For some reason I just cannot chase out, I’m overestimating the Probability of Dying Before next Birthday (qx) for males centered around 9 years of age, and consistently underestimating for both sexes later in life. I didn’t do the population smoothing adjustments, so maybe that had a bigger effect than I thought, or maybe I have a methodological error. I haven’t dug out my actuarial textbook from 15 years ago (though I should, because I need it for work) to read up on that calculation in more detail. Everything after the probability of dying before next birthday should be good, because if I steal the CDC’s qx numbers, I can generate the rest of the CDC’s table.

      I broke out the deaths per year into three buckets for each male and female: Accident, Suicide, Assault, and All Other Causes. The accident, suicide, and assault numbers were easily found on the CDC WONDER site, and they’re often held out as “male problems” so this was a reasonably quick data set to get to look at this.

      I then looked at what happened to life expectancy at birth if I made the male accident, suicide, and assault numbers match the female ones after a certain age, and left all other causes constant. I picked the ages to do this by eye. For suicide, the first major year with suicides was 9 years old, so I made them match after that. (And for your “Jesus H. Christ” moment of the day, in 2013 there was a 6-year-old who committed suicide.) For accidents, I picked 15 years old because there was a major uptick then and that’s about when teenagers really start getting out on their own away from adult supervision and are probably starting to really be responsible for the accidents befalling themselves. For assault, I picked 14 years old, because the number occurring basically start doubling for each year of age then.

      Here were the results, for life expectancy at birth:
      All Male Female
      CDC 78.8 76.4 81.2 (This line is the actual CDC numbers for reference)
      Mine 78.9 76.5 81.3 (Mine, which should theoretically match the CDC)
      Accident 79.2 77.1 (+0.6) (Adjusting male accident numbers to match female)
      Suicide 79.1 76.8 (+0.34) (Ditto)
      Assault 79.0 76.7 (+0.19) (Ditto)
      All 79.5 77.6 (+1.14) (Adjusting all three at the same time)
      (Edit: Sorry, I forgot it strips out extra whitespace. The first number is for the whole population, the second male, and third female. Since the female numbers didn’t change for the adjusted, I left them out.)

      I might revisit this, especially to figure out what I’m missing on generating the life tables. If anybody else is interested (or might be able to tell me what my error could be), I can look at posting the Excel file. Since it’s Saturday evening, I might also repost this tomorrow.

  10. Well... says:

    What’s a good tool to web a bibliography or reading list? Ideally it should…

    – Support the division of content into categories
    – Be easy to share a shortlink to it
    – Be easy to update as needed
    – Be free and easy to set up

    I was going to create a dedicated page on one of my WordPress sites, but I wanted to see if anyone knew of a better way.

    • blame says:

      If you already have a WordPress site, it probably doesn’t get easier than that.

      Depending on how large you expect your bibliography to be, you might take a look at something like dokuwiki.

    • quaelegit says:

      I use Goodreads to keep track of what I’ve read. It has all of these features except possibly built in shortlinking (I haven’t checked).

  11. rosamatthias says:

    Hi, Scott! This article about how “information bottlenecks” may explain the success of deep learning reminded me closely of your posts on predictive processing.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2017/09/the_most_empowering_tool_for_hurricane_recovery.html?wpisrc=burger_bar

    The importance of data transparency after disasters– covers data from government, problems with vendors to government making data hard to get (vendor lock-in), and data gathering and dissemination by the public.

  13. Deiseach says:

    Happy Equinox, everyone! It is officially Autumn, and I think (I hope) my mood will be improving, as this is my favourite season of the year. The other morning was lovely and foggy, and the leaves have changed colour, the berries are starting to appear on the trees, and I can’t wait for October and that particular hue of golden autumnal sunshine.

    This being Ireland, naturally we are also getting lashing rain and howling gales, but in between the rain showers the sky is blue, the sun is bright yet cool, and all in all very seasonable!

    • andrewflicker says:

      It’s quite different here in Phoenix- no leaves changing colors, and certainly no fog- but it’s still quite a wonderful season. We’ll start getting those beautiful, clear, lower-80s days that are the dreamy summer days of other locales!

      Well… eventually. Google is still telling me 97F ten days out from now.

    • quaelegit says:

      Thank you! Happy equinox to you also!

      I just moved from California to Dallas, so I’m looking forward to experiencing this season people seem to like so much. (Kidding
      .. mostly.)

    • shakeddown says:

      Happy Autumn. I’m not sure what it means in San Francisco, but it seems pretty nice.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Happy Equinox, everyone!

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoy my hard work. ヽ(´ー`)ノ

  14. onyomi says:

    I stumbled across this video on “26 Reasons Post-Millennium Movies Suck” and was pleasantly surprised by how well-argued it was, and not just a cranky “kids these days” rant (content warning: some culture-war-ish stuff near the end).

    What I found especially interesting about this video was that I think many of the issues he raises, not just the obvious culture war-y ones (media now seeks to enforce more ideological conformity, yet also there are way more outlets for would-be artists to directly express non-conformist opinions), are interesting to think about for reasons other than just their effects on film.

    Example: nowadays high quality filming equipment is ludicrously cheap compared to the past. This seems like it should make Hollywood films cheaper to make, yet they keep getting more and more expensive. This, the speaker argues, is because they feel a need to always be one step ahead of whatever the little guy can do, meaning they chase after a super-polished visual style which is not only very expensive to achieve, but also actually harms realistic grit.

    That is, there seems to be something of the dreaded “cost disease,” and, as everywhere, it may be a result of well, bureaucratic infiltration of everything. Another example he cites is movies filmed and assembled before the soundtrack is written and composers asked to basically just imitate the style of pre-existing placeholder tracks, with the result that really distinctive film soundtracks seem to get fewer and fewer.

    I think this also relates to the whole “Kickstarter” phenomenon, where a small group of dedicated fans can basically make something everybody actually likes for way less money than the focus-group, committee-approved products…

    Anyway, there’s so much going on here I have trouble touching on it all, but interested in reflections on the issues he raises, be they directly related to declining movie quality or bigger societal issues.

    • Well... says:

      I’m just talking out the side of my neck here, but I wonder if part of the Hollywood budget inflation is caused by celebrity actors charging more. It’s surprising how much of a Hollywood movie budget goes to the actors. (This is because “who’s in it” is usually the most important question most people ask when considering whether to see a movie.)

      Anyway, can you summarize the 26 arguments for those of us who don’t want to watch, or don’t have a contiguous block of time in which to watch, an hour long video?

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t think that’s it. Actors don’t really sell the movie. Look at all the box office bombs this summer(at least domestically). And I think it’s probably even less important these days compared to Rotten Tomatoes or whether it’s a comic book movie.

        • Well... says:

          Celebrity actors don’t guarantee a box office return, but lack of celebrity actors is a pretty good predictor of a lack of box office return.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          Actors don’t really sell the movie.

          … in the US.

          In the non-US market, things are different.

          “What stars are in it?” is one of the top two selling points that will get a non-US viewer in a non-US market to pop for a movie ticket, a DVD buy, or a DVD or stream rental of a Hollywood movie.

          The other selling point is split between is “how exciting are SFX?”, “how gritty or glamorous are the sets?”, and “is there the appearance of an actor or locale from my country?”

          No, I don’t understand it either. I don’t think Hollywood does either, but they understand that’s true, and it it is what is keeping them afloat.

      • onyomi says:

        Like I said, it’s really hard to summarize, and I think a list would not do justice to his arguments, but here is a quick and dirty attempt:

        1. Lack of economic pacing (and movies too long)
        2. Over-editing (too many cuts)
        3. OCD cinematography (everything super shiny and pretty, no grit or ambiguity)
        4. Over-choreographed action
        5. Less distinctive musical scores
        6. Directors and writers more tightly controlled by studios, roles kept separate; movies lack a unitary creative voice, feel created by committee
        9. Unsuitable casting
        11. Inexplicably stupid protagonists
        12. Mumbled dialogue
        13. Need for more and more spectacle
        14. Meaningless “Blank canvas” art movies (nothing going on as substitute for “depth”; artist leaves too much up to audience as if ambiguity=depth)
        15. Writing e-mails and text messages doesn’t work well in film, but modern life is full of it. Reality of everyone constantly connected also makes it harder to put characters in believable danger, because when trapped in the haunted house you have to come up with some reason all their cell phones broke
        16. Dialogue is all exposition; other than Tarantino, characters rarely talk about things other than the plot.
        17. Illegal downloading and internet discussion pirates and spoils movies so fast studio feel need to make back money really fast, take fewer risks (also, interesting point about books and movies: there’s almost no such thing as hiding secrets in films and books because fan theories are so easy to disseminate: consider poor GRR Martin: virtually ANY crazy plot development he might think of is probably already somebody’s fan theory)
        18. Forced ideological conformity (example, military not gonna lend you some tanks if you’re filming Apocalypse Now since they don’t like the message?)
        20. Brand-based marketing: movie set up for purpose of sequels; everything is the start of a new franchise, not a complete work of its own (addition of my own: I’m sick of so many “origins” stories).
        21. Fake reviews
        22. Studios have to compete with little guys who have access to surprisingly good equipment for surprisingly little compared to past
        23. General push through news media to push particular narratives; results in movies needing to push ideological causes
        24. People seeing bad movies just so they can trash them?
        25. Redundancy of art in face of mass communication (art no longer the easiest way to speak truth to power)
        26. Every up and coming director wants to be “the next Tarantino” without thinking clearly about why; might be better for them to do their own thing than to just be an inferior Tarantino

        Anyway, fast and dirty and note I’m not saying I endorse all the above myself; just my attempt to summarize.

        • Well... says:

          I think you did a good job. I feel like from that list I can envision how an informed person might go into further depth.

          All of it makes sense, although a handful of the reasons don’t seem obviously like they couldn’t have been just as true 40 years ago.

          Interesting to think about.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Thanks for the list.

          It seems to me that the complaints are about excessive visual polish combined with just not bothering about anything else. Plot, music, dialogue, and story are all sloppy.

          Most of it sounds like Moloch goes to the movies– mindless optimization leading to destruction of value.

          I’m not sure that young directors wanting to be the next Tarantino is necessarily a problem– imitation is part of how people learn, and it’s probably not reasonable to expect new directors to have words for what they’re aiming at. Instead, if they turn out to be good, they’ll learn a lot about what they care about after they’ve been making movies for a while.

      • CatCube says:

        I note the description had a link to an article, though I don’t think it’s a direct transcript: http://www.collativelearning.com/Why%20movies%20so%20bad.html

    • Wrong Species says:

      Example: nowadays high quality filming equipment is ludicrously cheap compared to the past. This seems like it should make Hollywood films cheaper to make, yet they keep getting more and more expensive. This, the speaker argues, is because they feel a need to always be one step ahead of whatever the little guy can do, meaning they chase after a super-polished visual style which is not only very expensive to achieve, but also actually harms realistic grit.

      I think the explanation there is simply the power of the movie theater compared to network tv. Netflix went and disrupted the whole model but movies haven’t really had anyone do that. Movies are still made and released, for the most part, the same way that they always have. That causes stagnation. But I think we’re seeing the beginnings of disruption. Netflix is trying to make their own movies that completely bypass the old system. Amazon still releases movies in theaters but they significantly shorten the time and then add it to Prime. I think there’s good reason to be hopeful for the future of the industry.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Another example he cites is movies filmed and assembled before the soundtrack is written and composers asked to basically just imitate the style of pre-existing placeholder tracks, with the result that really distinctive film soundtracks seem to get fewer and fewer.

      Every Frame a Painting has a video of examples of this as a supplement to their argument that Marvel movies, in particular, don’t have memorable soundtracks. But Dan Golding argues that temp music is really old and that the most famous film scores are rip-offs. What’s new is Hans Zimmer style music that doesn’t have a melody. It is designed so that individual bars can be cut out, so that it can be edited along with the film. But this comes at the expense of melody, and thus the ability to sing it, which may be the key of memorability.

      • Wrong Species says:

        What doesn’t make sense about Golding’s argument is that Zimmer’s music is memorable, even if not “hummable”. Many people could easily tell you what soundtrack this comes from. Interstellar had that organ music and the Dark Knight had the Joker soundtrack.

        • onyomi says:

          He may overstate the case, as I think a lot of these are just broad generalizations, but I think there is a general trend toward fewer really distinctive soundtracks. I think his example of Danny Elfman music is a good one: my gothy side loves Danny Elfman music, but I can’t deny it all kind of sounds a bit similar.

          How many really memorable themes like Psycho, Jaws, or the Exorcist can you name from the past 10 or 15 years? Seems fewer to me.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t doubt that songs are less memorable. Harry Potter might be the last theme that pretty much any person can hum from memory. I just don’t know about his argument. Like Douglass Knight says, maybe he’s just better at making memorable music without a melody compared to his imitators.

          • rlms says:

            One possible factor is survivorship bias: you don’t remember the non-memorable themes from the 15 years between Psycho and Jaws. I think the music from Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings and Pirates Of The Caribbean is about as memorable as the three you list, so maybe there hasn’t been much of a change.

            Another plausible explanation is that John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, E.T., Harry Potter) is responsible for most really memorable film music, and he hasn’t done as much work in the last 15 years.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Psycho and Jaws are special cases: both of them have scenes dedicated to building tension, and the music is a major component of those scenes. Those scenes are central parts of the movie.

            Other types of movies don’t have that. An action scene will have music, but the focus will be on all the punching. The closest thing I can think of is the Trinity bullet-time sound, which I do remember.

          • Nornagest says:

            Kill Bill immediately comes to mind, as far as action themes go. It leans on its soundtrack almost as much as The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly did. Although some of its best tracks did come from old samurai movies.

            If we bend the window a bit, the opera scene from The Fifth Element is highly memorable.

            Mad Max: Fury Road. Every scene with the Doof Warrior.

            Going back to title themes, “Lux Aeterna”, the Requiem for a Dream theme, is very good. And everyone knows the Game of Thrones theme.

          • Wrong Species says:

            On HellolilyTv, Lilly gives a reason for Marvel movie music being less well known that is more mundane: marketing. The Avengers movie actually has a pretty good theme. Anyone who has seen the movie will recall it being used when Captain America first goes on the aircraft carrier and when the Avengers assemble for their final battle. But since the theme wasn’t used in the trailers for the movie, it’s less well known. Near the end of the video, she goes through and shows many memorable themes and their uses in trailers. This actually makes a lot of sense. When people think of Inception, the first thing they think of is not the main theme but the sound and music used in the trailer. I never saw Clash of the Titans but I do know at some point that Liam Neeson says “Release the Kraken!”.

            I think this does miss something. The theme for Darth Vader wasn’t used in the trailers and yet it’s very memorable. Psycho is nearly 60 years old. There are very few people who have seen the marketing from back then. In fact, people today are much more likely to recognize the music from Psycho than the movie itself. So while the memorability of the music itself is important and so is the marketing, the overarching reason is whether it has spread in popular culture for whatever reason. This can be because of the trailer or it can be because its use as a parody. In modern times, it could become an internet meme. But if you really want a theme to become popular, it should be used outside of the movie itself.

          • onyomi says:

            @Nornagest

            The best parts of the Kill Bill soundtrack, such as “Don’t let me be Misunderstood” were not original, though they were memorable.

            I do think the Fifth Element is a good example.

            Mad Max: Fury Road was great, but also very exceptional: without hyperbole, I think it’s probably the best action film made in the past ten years, including almost all elements (interestingly, this reviewer talks a lot about Mad Max, and though he prefers Road Warrior, he still gives a fair amount of credit to Fury Road for a “millennial” movie).

            The opening theme for GoT is, indeed, great, though I think opening themes are a bit different, if still very important. It may be, however, that now some of the creativity that once went into movies is now going into TV. Shows like GoT are also becoming a kind of “feeder” or “testing ground,” I think, for movies, which is good, because the need to cast big names is one of the things I find most annoying about Hollywood.

          • Nornagest says:

            It may be, however, that now some of the creativity that once went into movies is now going into TV.

            I’d buy that. Critics talk a lot about us being in a golden age of TV right now, and I don’t hear that for movies.

            I wonder why, though. A lot of the stuff that attracts blame for recent movies being bland and uninspiring (proliferation of CGI, expense of effects and modern cinematography, the basic economics of hiring actors and crew) are true for both. Are the differences in format and business model big enough to let one stagnate while the other thrives. when the opposite was true thirty years ago?

            Well, yes, obviously. But I’m having trouble coming up with a plausible mechanism,

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It depends on what question you’re asking. I don’t know what Ager means, but Zhou starts by asking people to hum Marvel music. It’s not just that they can’t hum it, but asking the question seems to lead them to believe that they can’t remember it at all. This may not be the whole of memorability, but it’s not nothing. Of course, he doesn’t ask them about Inception, so we don’t know what they would say to that.

          Also, Zimmer has always been more distinctive than his imitators.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      I read the article and didn’t watch much of the video, but man, his list of “great movies from the 80s” is… well, it’s something. Tron, Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds all make the list of movies whose quality isn’t present in modern films. A Bug’s Life (widely considered among the worse Pixar films), There’s Something About Mary and American Beauty rep from the 90s. And these are just the movies I’ve seen that I have disagreements with him about – there’s probably many others on there that I would dislike, but haven’t seen.

      Any “the old times were better” rant needs to address survivorship bias and he just fails to do that here. When he gives examples (rare!), he compares mediocre contemporary movies to great older films. But his core complaint is about the lack of exceptional films. Don’t tell me why you hated some random modern James Bond movie. Tell me why you didn’t like There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men. If you liked Porky’s, why didn’t you like Knocked Up or Superbad? The movies on my list are all from 2007 by the way, a year where there apparently weren’t any good movies released.

      Not everything is going to be great. Most movies released in a given year are bad. If he’s going to talk about how there are no great movies released anymore, he should at least address the movies that other people think are great.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ll be watching the video later, but have a theory first.

      The problem with CGI movies isn’t so much lack of grit as lack of focus. They’re so concerned with supplying enough varied spectacle that they don’t allow enough time to absorb any particular thing they’re showing.

      I’ve heard that another factor is aiming for the international market, which means that dialogue is neglected in favor of spectacle and fights.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Eh… false.

      But I do think movies haven’t improved as much as television has.

      Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty, F is for Family, just from the “animated” genre of the last few years, are three absolutely amazing shows. (Give Bojack four episodes, if you haven’t already. It took that long for me to decide I didn’t hate it, at least.)

      Big-name actors have, in the last decade or so, started doing shows; they used to be where actors made a name so they could do movies, although of course there have been a few exceptions. I think a large part of this is that quality has improved to the point where they are no longer likely to harm their brand/reputation by participating.

      Movies, on the other hand, have stagnated to a significant extent – it isn’t that the average movie of today is worse than the average movie of yesterday, but that they are no longer improving as quickly, and whereas you could previously get away with rehashing old territory with improved writing, graphics, etc., now they are rehashing old territory without notable improvements. And most of the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked, so each iterative improvement, and each novelty, requires more work every year – and the novelty gets riskier, as we move further and further away from obviously good ideas.

      Shows, on the other hand, can piggyback on progress already made in film, and provide novelty to older technology (in the broad sense, writing has its own technologies, some.of which are tropes) by providing continuity.

      ETA:

      And complexity. That is an important facet that I think is going to gradually strangle film. A show can encapsulate far more complexity than a film can, just on the merit of it’s timeframe. Film has an upper limit on complexity before it becomes too dense for common consumption.

    • Urstoff says:

      Didn’t watch the video, but I thought the basic wisdom was that international markets are the cause of a lot of major blockbusters being terrible. Story is less important than location and special effects for those markets. Have a major IP with a scene in China and you’ll make a billion dollars (see: The Transformers Movies).

      • hlynkacg says:

        Not terrible, but I do think that the obsession with focus groups and international markets results in a sort of “jack of all trades, master of none” effect. It’s very hard to alter a film to appeal to one group without diluting it’s appeal to others.

    • hyperboloid says:

      @onyomi

      This seems like it should make Hollywood films cheaper to make, yet they keep getting more and more expensive

      Given the kind of accounting practices that are common in the film industry, I’m not sure how much Hollywood budgets have actually increased.

      Think about it like this. Say I want to start a company that manufactures widgets. I go find some investors, and raise money to buy a factory, and all the widget making machines, and widget raw materials I need. I then give myself the job of CEO, and hire those investors to work in my factory, and pay them outrageously above market rate wages. When it comes time to file my taxes, I subtract the “cost” of my salary, and the salaries of my investors, from the gross income earned by selling widgets, and declare that I lost money.

      I think the best definition of cost is simply “the item in a ledger which you aim to minimize”; profit is just the opposite. In the ordinary way of thinking, the budget for making an individual widget should be the sum of all costs that go into it’s production. But in my hypothetical example much of the labor “cost”, is something I’m trying to maximize, so that I, and my investors can get paid with out us reporting a profit on our taxes.

      If a bunch of people and make deal to produce a movie, and then pay themselves, and production companies they own huge sums before any actual filming is done, It is far from clear how we should calculate the “budget” of the film.

      • Deiseach says:

        Given the kind of accounting practices that are common in the film industry, I’m not sure how much Hollywood budgets have actually increased.

        Yeah, once I discovered that there were Hollywood accounting practices that turned “we spent X million, we made Y million back, but that turned into a loss somehow” – and yet in very few cases did heads roll, unless they genuinely made a loss, I don’t believe any “our budget is X+Y million for this movie because we have to spend that much”.

        I think special effects heavy movies are more and more expensive every year (or three years) because they really do have to put all the money up on the screen, but at the same time, I don’t believe the producers involved are counting their pennies because once they’ve blown the budget on SFX and actors’ fees, there’s nothing left over (isn’t the lesson that actors A-list stars learn to “go for a share of the gross, not for a flat fee up front” precisely because of these kind of accountancy practices? Big Blockbuster Smash Hit will make a fortune, way more than you got paid, so only suckers sign on for a fee?)

        • Loquat says:

          “go for a share of the gross, not for a flat fee up front”

          I don’t know how disfavored a flat fee on its own is, but the thing you REALLY want to avoid is a share of the net profit. There was supposedly a fight between the author of Forrest Gump and the studio which made the movie because he was supposed to get a flat fee plus a percent of net profits, but due to Hollywood accounting the movie was still officially in the red well after it had become a major hit. Tom Hanks, of course, had contracted for a share of the gross.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Responding in a different direction: By genre, what are the best movies of all time?

      Why do we regard Psycho as one of the best psychological horror movies? If somebody made Psycho today, would it enjoy the same status? How much better would the movie have to be to become “great” today?

      What about Gone With The Wind?

      Are we certain we aren’t giving out a particularly finite form of credit – novelty – that is increasingly difficult to capitalize upon?

      Because personally? I find older movies to be generally inferior. They’re clumsy, rigid, and inexperienced – the author complains about expositional dialogue, but overlooks the rigid Voice of Authority/high elf that fills older works (hint: while we may imagine the past as a foreign country, it wasn’t that foreign). That isn’t to say that older films are without merit – exploration is indeed hard, and they produced the technologies more modern works build upon – but it is a lot like arguing that modern hardware architects are inferior to the hardware architects we had in the 90s because processors aren’t advancing as fast. The work of building something better gets harder with every improvement.

      None of those “great” movies would be considered great today – they’d be seen as derivative. Granted, that’s because they were created then, and laid the groundwork for future films – but that is precisely the problem, groundwork can only get laid once.

      • Nornagest says:

        Greatness in most contexts is about artistic influence as much as pure technical quality. Take the Matrix movies as a recent example — the first one was immediately recognized as a landmark, it was doing stuff that no one else had done and it pulled it off well enough to spawn a horde of imitators. Its sequels followed almost exactly the same formula, but were generally considered inferior — why? Because they didn’t break any new ground, theme-wise or in technical terms.

        Terminator 2 still holds up quite well as an action movie. But if it was released today, it’d be a good, not a great, one.

        • onyomi says:

          Terminator 2 still holds up quite well as an action movie. But if it was released today, it’d be a good, not a great, one.

          If this is true, I’d say it’s only because audiences today have bad judgment… the action in Terminator 2 is still way better than that in most movies released today (the CG, of course, was less developed, but still holds up remarkably well)… of course, you’re talking to a guy who thinks most action movies, especially recently, are terrible.

          This feels to me sort of like saying, “if you released Super Mario Bros. 3 today everyone would say it had terrible graphics!” Sure, it would have terrible graphics by today’s standards, but would still be a better game than 95% of those released this year.

          In related news, one of the most popular Sonic games in a long time is basically a fan-made throwback.

          • beleester says:

            Even if it looked like Crysis, Super Mario Bros 3 would be compared to Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros, etc. and promptly dismissed as “Another bloody Mario game. Except with less stuff.”

            World might still hold up – it’s got enough mechanics that they’re still being combined in novel ways in 2017. But SM3 wouldn’t.

            Also, any game that has a limited number of lives in 2017, outside of a very, very tiny set of use cases, needs to be taken out and shot. It’s a holdover from the arcade days where they needed to wring every last quarter out of you, and nowadays it’s just fake longevity. It baffles me that Sonic refuses to budge on this.

          • onyomi says:

            “Another bloody Mario game. Except with less stuff.”

            Which is why everyone dismissed Sonic Mania?

          • Nornagest says:

            This feels to me sort of like saying, “if you released Super Mario Bros. 3 today everyone would say it had terrible graphics!”

            No, I’m saying if Super Mario 3 was released today rather than in 1990, and if it wasn’t breaking any of the ground it did originally (let us presume that some other game released in 1990 made the contributions to the format that it had), then it’d come off as a competent but kinda derivative platformer.

            People do still release the equivalent of 8-bit platformers — Steam has been driving something of a renaissance for the format — and they generally get judged on the quality and originality of the gameplay rather than the graphics. No one would ever accuse Cave Story of being graphically overwhelming, but the reception to it was still highly positive.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            and they generally get judged on the quality and originality of the gameplay rather than the graphics.

            Once again I am justified in my enjoyment of mono 56-bit mp3s originally ripped back in the late 90s. 🙂

        • Anatoly says:

          Alternative explanation: unlike the original, the follow-up Matrix movies were terrible, terrible stories (world turned into a mess of confusing bolted-on special-effects vehicles; nobody ever cared about the Merovingian; no coherent storyline, no romantic tension, no single team…)

      • onyomi says:

        To me this sounds a bit like saying “it’s not fair to judge today’s scientists and inventors against those of the past… so many things have been discovered and invented already!” Of course, there is such a thing as a “low-hanging fruit” effect, and maybe some of that has been picked with the film medium. But the general problem with saying so is that today’s creators also have bigger shoulders to stand on. Generally, if creativity seems lagging, I think there are a lot of other places to look first before “well, we already kind of did all the cool stuff.”

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Generally, if creativity seems lagging, I think there are a lot of other places to look first before “well, we already kind of did all the cool stuff.”

          1) Funding
          2) Funding
          3) Funding
          4) First-to-publish mania
          5) Credentialism

          • onyomi says:

            Re. “funding, funding, funding,” I’m highly skeptical, given all the innovations and discoveries of the 19th c. which went on with a minuscule level of funding by today’s standards.

          • bean says:

            I’m highly skeptical, given all the innovations and discoveries of the 19th c. which went on with a minuscule level of funding by today’s standards.

            Low-hanging fruit. Look at physics. Used to, you could advance the frontiers of human knowledge with the equipment found in a typical high school lab. These days, we use the high school lab to demonstrate those discoveries to high schoolers, and we need really big, really expensive apparatus to discover new things.

          • rlms says:

            19th century discoveries in physics were not only low-hanging fruit in terms of the equipment needed for them, but also in terms of the maths required — Wikipedia claims that Faraday’s mathematical abilities “did not extend as far as trigonometry and were limited to the simplest algebra”.

          • John Schilling says:

            These days […] we need really big, really expensive apparatus to discover new things.

            “Really big, really expensive apparatus”, is a sliding scale. We sequenced the first human genome with really big, really expensive apparatus at a cost of about three billion dollars. Within a decade, we’d developed the tools to do so for about three million dollars, and by 2023 I expect we will be able to do it for three thousand(*).

            You can usually make scientific discoveries a generation or so before their time if you are willing to throw gigabucks at them, and we have for 2-3 generations chosen to do that. It does not follow that there are scientific discoveries that must cost gigabucks.

            The value of scientific discoveries a generation before their time depends on the discovery and the context. Turns out we didn’t need atom bombs to stop the Nazis, but if we had, the Manhattan project would have been entirely worth it. But in the general case, if it takes gigabucks worth of equipment to produce a minimal signal in the lab, that doesn’t bode well for practical applications. And the Apollo project, as we have discussed before, probably set useful human space flight back a generation.

            * The version you can get done for $3000 today is an incomplete sequencing based on reference to the 2003 original and subsequent work; a full ab initio sequencing will always cost more but AIUI not orders of magnitude more.

          • Nornagest says:

            And the Apollo project, as we have discussed before, probably set useful human space flight back a generation.

            Can you point me to that discussion? I must have missed it.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            We sequenced the first human genome with really big, really expensive apparatus at a cost of about three billion dollars. Within a decade, we’d developed the tools to do so for about three million dollars, and by 2023 I expect we will be able to do it for three thousand(*).

            isn’t that partly a result of originally spending all that money and effort, though? Are you sure it would’ve been that cheap without the initial push?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            onyomi says:

            Re. “funding, funding, funding,” I’m highly skeptical, given all the innovations and discoveries of the 19th c. which went on with a minuscule level of funding by today’s standards.

            Back then it was easy for a bonafide scientist to get funding, now it’s hard. The relative level of funding needed is much less important than the ability to actually get that funding for an interesting project.

            AnonYEmous says:

            isn’t that partly a result of originally spending all that money and effort, though? Are you sure it would’ve been that cheap without the initial push?

            Generally agreed, though money could have been saved by scaling down the human genome project. The other question is what such a scaling down, or waiting a generation or two, would mean in opportunity costs.

          • willachandler says:

            As technologies approach fundamental limits imposed by thermodynamics and/or information theory, progress slows or stops. The present situation is:

            MATURE TECHNOLOGIES
            • Aircraft efficiency
            • Turbine efficiency
            • Rocket effiency
            • Nuclear power-plant efficiency
            • Desalination energy-efficiency
            • Photovoltaic conversion-efficiency
            • Integrated circuit size/speed/power
            • Error correction algorithms

            APPRECIABLE HEADROOM (factors of ~100)
            • computer storage
            • gene sequencing
            • photovoltaic manufacturing cost
            • thermoelectric conversion-efficiency

            VAST HEADROOM (factors of >10^4)
            • microscopy/medical imaging
            • dynamical simulations
               (both quantum and classical)
            • neural network algorithms
            • regenerative medicine

            It’s unsurprising that this month’s Scientific American features full-page ads for “vast headroom” companies COMSOL multiphysics software, but not for “mature technology” companies like Boeing, Airbus, IBM (etc.)

        • beleester says:

          The stuff that stands on the shoulders of giants is going to get criticized for not being original. So I think the low-hanging fruit effect is much stronger in fiction because there’s so much demand for originality. If you do a movie with bullet time, even if you did bullet time twice as well as the Matrix did it, you’ll just be “a Matrix rip-off.” So if you’re judging solely on creativity, there’s not much advantage to standing on someone else’s shoulders.

  15. JayT says:

    What does everyone think of the Equifax hack? Gross negligence? Bad break? Something in between? I work for a fairly large IT company, and I know how hard it can be to get patches pushed through to production, but at the same time it seems like they should have noticed that they were compromised sooner than two and a half months after it started.

    • Brad says:

      Gross negligence. If they had been spear-phished or hit with a zero day, I would have understood. But they are a big fat target with billions in annual revenue. They needed to have enough competence not to have lost everything to an unpatched system.

      • Deiseach says:

        Isn’t that what usually happens, though? Companies (and not just private businesses, government bodies are just as bad or even worse) have an attitude of “we probably should be doing this thing, but it’ll be expensive and disruptive, and we haven’t been hit by anything bad yet, so we just put the thing on the shelf and carry on the same old way”.

        And then inevitably and eventually they do get hit by something bad.

        • Brad says:

          Part of the problem is that there’s a divide in the security world between “enterprise” and “tech”.

          The enterprise guys are overwhelmingly ex-gov, often ex-mil, love their certifications and audit reports. They don’t pay especially well, considering security techs pretty interchangeable with anyone else in IT. The tech security guys are much more likely to be ex-black hats. They don’t care about certs or checking audit boxes. They can get paid very very well if they are good at what they do.

          Governments are especially bad examples of the enterprise attitude. They often require clearance, have these obtuse hiring criteria, and pay crap. There are a few corners that have really top notch people (e.g. certain parts of the NSA). I assume those guys are motivated by patriotism.

          The only really big companies I know that aren’t tech but have similar security cultures are some of the big banks.

  16. Mark says:

    Lots of people say that men are less likely to breed than women. That ‘half of all men didn’t leave offspring’. This comes up a lot and is used as an explanation for all kinds of social phenomena.

    But according to this article , in Australia, 13% of men aged 45-59 were childless, compared to 10% of women.

    It mentions African foragers and Papua New Guineans – again at worst there is a 15% rate of childlessness amongst men, with some of the societies having more like a 3% childlessness rate for men.

    Is there any contemporary evidence for a massive difference in male vs. female reproductive success rates?

    Wilder, J. A, (2004) ‘Genetic Evidence for Unequal Effective Population Sizes of Human Females and Males’, the original paper that gives this genetic evidence for more women leaving offspring than men, compares mitochondrial DNA to Y chromosome and finds that the common female ancestor lived longer ago than the common male ancestor, indicating a higher “effective female population size.”
    They state that this can’t be explained by “differential natural selection”, but then later in the paper give the example of Genghis Khan:

    The practice of polygyny, in both the traditional sense and via ‘‘effective polygyny’’ (whereby males tend to father children with more females than females do with males—a common practice in many contemporary western cultures [Low 2000]), would tend to increase the variance in reproductive success among males, thereby lowering their Ne relative to females. This effect will have an influence on the Ne of the NRY, even when practiced sporadically, but can have extraordinary consequences if male mating success is inherited patrilineally. An example of this phenomenon was recently described in central Asia, where Y chromo- somes likely to be descendents of Genghis Khan and his male relatives can be found at exceptionally high fre- quencies (Zerjal et al. 2003), indicating a vastly dispro- portionate contribution of male members of this family to the contemporary gene pool.

    But surely the conquests of the Mongolian horde is exactly an example of differential natural selection – men killed, women raped.

    Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And hear the lamentations of their women.

    Is the following a possible model of human reproduction: men and women reproduce at similar rates, and then occasionally there is a big war, and if you lose, all of the men in the society get killed, and all of the women get raped. That would mean that the y-dna of defeated males would disappear, but they would still have descendants through the female line.

    Anyway, the reason why I have a bee in my bonnet about this is because I think it plays into a liberal narrative of individual competition, when really social cohesion and competition between societies is more important.

    • Nornagest says:

      I get the impression that the people pushing the 50% figure have a model that includes an unusually high incidence of, uh, paternal irregularities.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      “13% of men aged 45-59 were childless, compared to 10% of women.” – this was to be fully expected: a lot more monogamy and a lot less premature male death than in older times.

      “It mentions African foragers and Papua New Guineans – again at worst there is a 15% rate of childlessness amongst men, with some of the societies having more like a 3% childlessness rate for men.” – 2 things: first, hoe cultures have a tendency to increase the rate of married men in polygyny by marrying (old) men and “women” of different generations; second, does any of that count childless men because they *died*?

  17. SSC Meetup in San Jose this Sunday:

    Just a reminder for Bay Area folk. There will be a meetup at our house Sunday, 9/24, starting at 2:00. 3806 Williams Rd, San Jose.

  18. waltonmath says:

    Someone recently pointed out that translating Superintelligence and Smarter Than Us into Chinese would be very high value. Does anyone here know how we might find a translator and fund such a project?

  19. dndnrsn says:

    An article in the Atlantic about girls significantly outperforming boys in school in the Middle East.

    It focuses on two possible explanations: one, that girls (being more tightly controlled by their families) spend more time indoors studying, two, that a common feature of the single-sex schools which are the norm is that the girls’ schools have better (female) teachers than the male teachers boys’ schools have.

    Any other explanations people want to posit? I thought it was interesting because the gap was pretty much for everything, including for subjects where the gap goes the other way in western countries.

    • The Nybbler says:

      As the article points out, girls do better than boys in school almost everywhere. It’s almost like sitting quietly in class and doing homework is just something girls are naturally better at.

      The Middle East, with the other confounders the article mentions, probably isn’t the best example to use when looking at the overall phenomenon.

      • Thegnskald says:

        IIRC, the performance gap largely disappears under male teachers in the US, but that was from a source of uncertain integrity.

    • Deiseach says:

      A study from 2009 (and it seems more work in 2016) seemed to find that girls do better in single-sex schools, for whatever reason; boys seem to be a distraction (whether it’s that girls ‘dumb down’ their academic performance so as not to be unattractive to boys – “men seldom make passes/at girls who wear glasses” where “glasses” equals “bluestocking” – at the period when they start wanting to date, as one explanation put forward had it, or for other reasons).

      • Baeraad says:

        Uncharitably, I wonder if the boys might not be a distraction simply because they keep running around and shouting a lot. I mean, back when I was in school, the boys were certainly distracting me a lot more than the girls were, and not in the fun way.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I’m a middle school teacher, and the boys in my classes are much more disruptive than the girls. The girls who are unfocused tend to be focused on each other, distracting only themselves. The unfocused boys, on the other hand, can derail the entire class.

  20. Deiseach says:

    I would like to say how much I appreciate Scott being choosy about what he’s willing to do or get involved in when it comes to the “SSC brand”, as it were.

    I signed up to something that I can’t even remember what it was now (probably one of those online quizzes about “Are you secretly a psychopath?” where they want an email address to spam the life out of you send you your results) and now I keep getting regular emails from or on behalf of Dr Judith Somebody or other trying to entice me to buy her books/enrol on her online course/consume the extruded product, citizen. (She is an M.D. They mention this PROMINENTLY all the time, all over the place. AN ACTUAL M.D. SO YOU CAN TRUST US, THIS IS NOT SOME SNAKE OIL SALESMAN!)

    And I can’t help imagining someone with what started out as a wide, confident, open smile (the kind of smile their course and self-help books and seminars will teach you to smile in order to be successful, popular, active in social benefits to humanity and rich, healthy, and beating off the smitten members of your preferred gender(s) with a stick) that has now become a fixed rictus grin, the glimmer of trapped panic in their eyes as they constantly beseech “Buy my book… sign up to my course… pay to attend my seminars… ask me for the survival tips…please… please… love me save me buy my stuff it’s all I have to give now, now that I’ve turned myself into a commodity… the market is cold and unforgiving so help me, help me, love me, save me!”

    Well. Maybe not. But the constant huckstering from Real Doctor Person does rather reek of desperation to me. I really hope we never get “Dr Scott’s Ten Top Tips For Flourishing” disseminated via increasingly shrill email marketing 🙂

    • dndnrsn says:

      So you’re saying all the “BUY P4PERCLIEPS LOEWST PRICES N0WWW!!!!” emails aren’t coming from here?

      • Deiseach says:

        No, come on, we all recognise the validity, necessity and plain good sense of acquiring the maximum amount of paperclips possible both on an individual and collective level. I’m not talking about informative and accurate emails of that nature 🙂

      • Randy M says:

        You got that too? Mine had a typo, though, it said “BE P4PERCLIEPS LOEWST PRICES N0WWW!!!!”

  21. HFARationalist says:

    The essence of National Socialism

    Here is how I consider to be the real doctrines of German National Socialism.

    The question here is how to maximize interests of ethnic Germans? Well ethnic Germans had really good culture and high IQ. In fact probably the only group better than them were Ashkenazi Jews. However Ashkenazis had a huge weakness, namely they did not have any military power and were a small group. If Germans compete fairly with Ashkenazi Jews it would only leads to natural Ashkenazi domination due to the Ashkenazi IQ. Hence to achieve German ethnic domination of the world they must get rid of Ashkenazi Jews. They could manage to do so because Ashkenazis did not have enough weapons to resist. That’s what the Holocaust was really about, unfair competition using population size and weapons. It is a typical approach the majority takes when it desires to depose a cognitively dominant minority that only dominates the economy.

    Now there is also a question of expansion in the East. What was Generalplan Ost really about? I believe it is about ethnic expansion. There are indeed no fixed borders and nobody is really entitled to living anywhere, at least not in a Hobbesian anarchy. National Socialism is about returning the world to a Hobbesian anarchy devoid of morals at least when it comes to ethnic relations. Since the borders of Germany were not determined anyway it was of course advantageous to seek more land. Extermination of natives was a part of the plan because this is the only way other than forced assimilation to ensure that nobody would try to reclaim conquered land from Germany, ever. Nobody cares about dead ethnic groups. Forced assimilation was just impossible in Poland because Germans already tried in the past and Poles remained Poles, hence the attempted almost complete extermination of Poles. National Socialists probably genuinely believed that Slavs were literally genetically inferior due to their poverty and as a result assimilation of Slavs into Germans could possibly be dysgenic.

    What do you guys think? The most frightening part of National Socialism is that it makes sense. I agree that it contained some stupid woo as well but it is morality-free. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Have you read Wages of Destruction? It’s kind of pointless talking about what Nazi Germany was trying to do otherwise, to be honest.

    • HFARationalist says:

      From the responses to the same topic on Reddit I have observed two facts.

      First of all most people really like virtue signalling. Almost everyone wants to be as far away as possible from eliminationists, even posts that just try to rationally analyze eliminationism. Everyone including ethnic nationalists are against anyone who does anything to make it sound less demonic, including merely providing a plausible explanation for eliminationism.

      Secondly I have a strong anti-emotion bias. I didn’t realize that before but I usually completely ignore feelings as possible causes of human behaviors and instead believe that everything is almost entirely about interest maximization. This seems to be incorrect. Even I sometimes do stuff such as buying apple cidar because I feel like it though I probably listen to my emotions less than most people. According to my bias any human behavior has to have a rational cause which is usually individual self-interest. Genocides are human activities. Hence they have to be due to self-interest instead of hatred. Well this line of reasoning is flawed.

      • Aapje says:

        I believe that Hitler had a really strong sensitivity to the emotion of disgust. He wanted appealing art (and banned unappealing art), appealing people, was a germaphobe, was repelled by sex, was a vegetarian, anti-smoking (very uncommon at that time) and a teetotaler.

        I think that this was a major reason why he could not just be content with just removing Jews from positions of power, but wanted them gone entirely.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Check the functionalism vs intentionalism Wikipedia link I put up below. It’s far from clear how the process of murdering Jews began – whether it was planned from the start (intentionalism) or whether it was a snowballing combination of messages from above and decisions by functionaries at various levels (functionalism).

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I meant gone entirely from Germany, in contrast to accepting them in an inferior position within society, like happened to black people in South-Africa and the US. It seems pretty clear to me that this was the goal from early on.

            It seems likely that the tactics that were used at first to get rid of the Jews were to abuse them so they would emigrate voluntarily (in 1939, more than half of the German Jews had emigrated). Then during the war as the borders closed, this became impossible. Shortly before the war, Hitler had decided on killing the mentally ill and when the war started, this program seems to have quickly adopted less rigorous standards, including mere Jewishness being sufficient to qualify. Then as this became normalized, it became separated from the euthanasia rationalization and the decision was made to go all out. I presume that the capture of large areas containing many Jews played a big role in this.

            PS. Hitler and Nazi ideologue Rosenberg were both inspired by Paul de Lagarde who already in 1887 wrote:

            One would have to have a heart of steel to not feel sympathy for the poor Germans and, by the same token, to not hate the Jews, to not hate and despise those who – out of humanity! – advocate for the Jews or are too cowardly to crush these vermin. Trichinella and bacilli would not be negotiated with, trichinella and bacilli would also not be nurtured, they would be destroyed as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

            PS2. I assume that as in all politics, there were hardliners and more moderate Nazis and the policies that were adopted were not necessarily those that the hardliners desired, but those that were politically feasible. It seems very plausible to me that Hitler always considered extermination a good measure, but thought that the Germans wouldn’t accept it. But then the euthanasia program allowed him to start doing it covertly and then he expanded that step by step until he got to Auschwitz.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            I presume that the capture of large areas containing many Jews played a big role in this.

            Read Kershaw. German Jews were a minority of Jews murdered in the Holocaust; Polish Jews were half or more. Kershaw’s interpretation of events and what sources exist is that mass murder by shooting and by death camps emerged from the death squads operating behind the lines in the USSR and the large Polish Jewish population – especially once the Germans realized they wouldn’t be able to deport Jews east, the USSR not collapsing as predicted.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            The conditions at the front also allowed the Nazi’s to go very far, as it is normal that many people die near the front. However, this was deemed too inefficient and then they switched from executions to methods developed by the euthanasia program.

            For example, the use of gas to murder was developed as part of Aktion T4. Furthermore, the SS officers responsible for Aktion T4, including Christian Wirth, Franz Stangl, and Irmfried Eberl, were all given key roles in the final solution.

    • . says:

      The most frightening part of National Socialism is that it makes sense.

      Wait, what part of this is supposed to make sense? Yes, if you start from the premise “only consider collective interests of the German ethnic group”[1] the rest is plausible[2]. But this is just paperclip maximization. Paperclip maximization ‘makes sense’ in the sense that you can understand the behavior of a paperclip maximizer, but not in the stronger sense of being an effective way of accomplishing a desirable goal.

      [1] Note that this is different from “only consider the preferences of ethnic Germans”[3].

      [2] But it did backfire. That could just be an accident, but it might also be a shit strategy. After all, if the Nazi strategy were effective on its own terms, why haven’t all ethnic groups evolved the Nazi strategy?

      [3] Which isn’t very compelling either, but at least isn’t paperclip-tier

      • HFARationalist says:

        Yeah I know. I’m already facing a witchhunt on Reddit. Hell I need to be more careful about neurotypicals’ need to have moralizing.

        I assume here is how neurotypicals think.

        1.This new guy, HFARationalist talked about Nazis in a way that does not demonize them which is similar to how introductory Neo-Nazi propaganda talks about Neo-Nazis.
        2.Statistically speaking most people who actually rationalize Nazi horrors are Neo-Nazi apologists who are at least as far-rightist as Andrew Anglin.
        3.Hence this HFA dude is very likely to be a Neo-Nazi.

        1 and 2 are correct. 3 is not.

      • Nornagest says:

        I keep telling HFAR that people subscribing to extremist ideologies don’t magically become paperclip maximizers, but it doesn’t seem to have taken.

    • BBA says:

      For some reason, every thread you participate in reminds me of this.

      Not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing. And probably not conducive to productive discussion.

      • Matt M says:

        Am I allowed to say it’s a bad thing? Not kind, but true. Borderline on necessary?

        • HFARationalist says:

          @BBA and Matt M I’m actually willing to accept constructive criticism. 🙂

          Why is this true though? How to change that?

          • dndnrsn says:

            If you want actual constructive criticism, in good faith, and I am assuming you are acting in good faith: you seem to look at everything, think “what if this was designed by Clippy” and then sort of proceed from there.

            In this case: national socialism was not a coherent, sane, rational attempt to optimize for anything. It was a messy, often incoherent, certainly not rational ideology, in the service of some terribly mistaken and some outright monstrous ideas, making a gamble that was at best a coinflip (“can Germany win the war quickly enough to claim the resources it needs to win the war” – if Germany doesn’t knock the USSR out of the war by 1942 at the latest, game over). Most of the “credit” for however close this came to succeeding can be given to the tactical leadership skills of the German army, which was a Prussian thing the Nazis had nothing to do with. The end result of all of this was a horrible war that killed tens of millions of people, history’s worst genocide, and Germany getting pounded into rubble and divided between the conquerors.

            You can’t understand Nazi Germany until you realize what a mess it was.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @dndnrsn Really thanks!

            Here is a new rationalist joke. Nothing is like Clippy except for actual maximizing AI and HFARationalist. 😉

          • Aapje says:

            The Nazi’s also were in completely denial why they lost WW I, claiming that they were actually superior and would have won if they hadn’t been stabbed in the back by a Jewish Communist cabal. This led directly to the hubris of believing that they could win WW II by cleansing their country from backstabbers.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Aapje In that sense the Nazi theory of the causation of German WWI defeat has been tested and.falsified.

            Factually incorrect theory. Where the hell is the Jewish conspiracy when Jews couldn’t even force their “puppet regimes” to bomb concentration camps or send trucks to Germany to save many Hungarian Jews?

          • Mary says:

            The stab in the back theory also led them to adopt tactics that helped lose WWII. Less pressure on German women — particularly soldiers’ wives — to take war jobs, and the use of foreign slave labor instead. The efforts to export war inflation by issuing the soldiers’ wages in local currency and even sending soldiers from the East to other occupied territories to spend their wages. The Hunger Plan to keep German civilians fed.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Mary, Wages of Destruction disagrees. To take the most specific of your points, a greater proportion of German women were in the labor force than was the case for the English for most of the war. The English just about caught up near the end; it seems the Germans didn’t see as great an increase in women in the workforce because they’d had more to start with so they had less room to increase in that area. And the other points you mention had reasons behind them other than misunderstanding of the WWI record.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I’m starting to get an impression that you should read more, especially well-sourced boring long books that you’d might find on the reading list of reputable university student and meticulously chronicle everything that happened in Germany from 1918 to 1945 and detail of the history of NSDAP doctrine and opinions of high-ranking Nazi politicians.

      Your claims about essence of Nazism being about “high IQ of ethnic Germans” is profoundly ahistorical. There really isn’t much secrets or confusion about what Generalplan Ost was about, or what the Nazi doctrine was about. (There was a memeplex of certain ideas based on lots of traditional hatred of Jews and also loony then-modern (that was quite loony even then) “science” about “races” on the one hand; on the other, to some extent every high-ranking Nazi official did what they liked, and especially after the rise of Nazis to political power, the doctrine was quite much subject to the whims of the leader.)

      Arendt’s Eichmann book has been already reviewed by Scott.
      Unfortunately I can’t recommend many English-language books on the top of my head (because I don’t remember titles that specifically are about WW2 but more about the Nazi ideology rather than the minutiae of the military operations of the WW2), but I recall that William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was a fairly comprehensive book (if not something every historian fully agrees with on all accounts). AskHistorians subreddit wiki has some lists, though mainly on holocaust

      What do you guys think? The most frightening part of National Socialism is that it makes sense.

      Every ideology starts to make some sense if you buy the premises they are formed upon.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Really thanks! I do like reading these “boring” long books (i.e. non-fiction). I have Wages of Destruction now and I like it. I will get The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Long, unemotional, clinical analysis is exactly what I enjoy. There is no need to repeat “they were evil!!!!!” because it is something I already accept and wish to block out temporarily when it comes to factual analysis.

        I agree that antisemitism is a real thing I find completely absurd that is at least partly emotional.

      • dndnrsn says:

        You want long, possibly boring books? I got long, possibly boring books.

        Ian Kershaw’s biography of Hitler – two volumes, both doorstops, but I think there’s a condensed single-volume version – is very good, and covers a lot of stuff relating to the Nazi state in general. More specifically on the Holocaust, Kershaw’s book Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution is a collection of essays on the topic. He’s got a particular position in the “functionalism vs intentionalism” debate, but I think his position is quite convincing.

        I recently read Longerich’s biography of Goebbels and found it interesting, if a bit repetitive – it could have been a hundred or two hundred pages shorter. It gives some interesting perspective into the Nazi party before it came into power, and into the last days in the bunker. Goebbels’ diaries – which were not unfillted, as he had a book deal in play, and so was writing with an eye to his own reputation – are still some of the only firsthand accounts we have of some of these things.

        Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning is worth reading, although it’s pretty grim stuff. It’s about a reserve police unit – mostly men too old to be front line soldiers – who were used as a death squad in the USSR. It’s an in-depth look at some very ugly stuff, and it gives a look into one of the more terrifying elements of Nazi Germany (and other monstrous dictatorships): a lot of people who in other circumstances would be entirely unexceptional will do terrible things to other people if told to. (A lot of the Milgram/Stanford Prison Experiment stuff has supposedly been debunked, but I think based on the historical example of the Holocaust, the original conclusions are basically correct)

        Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny is a biography of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, who was put in charge of (some, not all) war production, and managed to escape the noose at Nuremberg (he should have been hanged, all things considered). It meanders all over the place, and is longer than it should be – like with Kershaw’s Hitler biography, it becomes a history of the Nazi state to some extent. Speer was an intelligent (tested at 128 at Nuremberg, I believe) but to some degree underachieving upper-middle class guy who became a Nazi, ended up in charge of a system of slave labour, talked himself out of being executed, and after he got out of prison sort of simultaneously attempted to express guilt and exonerate himself from guilt. Doubly interesting because, reading it, you can see how Sereny both recognizes that he was a morally terrible man, but was also charmed by him, as evidently various other people he encountered were.

        Nazi Germany is, in my view, the purest example of human evil in all of history.

        • cassander says:

          Nazi Germany is, in my view, the purest example of human evil in all of history.

          How would you argue that it was worse than Mao’s china, Stalin’s USSR, or or Pol Pot’s Cambodia?

          • dndnrsn says:

            A combination of scale, background, and the sheer level of intent. Mao’s death toll seems more the result of some really, really bad decisions than any other factor – just straight up incompetence (Mao’s defenders will cite a number of 15 million dead of starvation and disease in the Great Leap Forward famine). Stalin is a close second, in my books, but his most serious death toll was a combination of bad luck, incompetence, and malice. The Khmer Rouge was intensely evil, and killed a significant chunk of Cambodia’s population, but they came to power in the middle of things already being bad.

            Hitler came to power in a country where the worst thing going on was the Depression, and within six years started a war that killed something like 30 million people, including a genocide that wiped out more than 90% of the Jews in some countries. The Nazis played the hand they were dealt in the most murderous way possible – Germany could have just sat back and focused on trade and been the mercantile types Germany today has more or less become – that’s not what happened.

          • cassander says:

            A combination of scale, background, and the sheer level of intent. Mao’s death toll seems more the result of some really, really bad decisions than any other factor – just straight up incompetence (Mao’s defenders will cite a number of 15 million dead of starvation and disease in the Great Leap Forward famine). Stalin is a close second, in my books, but his most serious death toll was a combination of bad luck, incompetence, and malice.

            This is pure nonsense. It wasn’t incompetence that caused Stalin to requisition grain at gun point from peasants, to take even the seed grain, and to refuse international offers of food aid once people started starving. Those people forcibly were deprived of food until they were dead, and they were murdered no less than i the millions of soviet POWs the germans rounded up into camps and starved in WW2. They were killed for the exact same reason, the state prefered them to die than to give them food.

            Hitler came to power in a country where the worst thing going on was the Depression, and within six years started a war that killed something like 30 million people, including a genocide that wiped out more than 90% of the Jews in some countries.

            That war started when hitler and stalin conspired to divide up poland. they both bear the blame.

            The Nazis played the hand they were dealt in the most murderous way possible – Germany could have just sat back and focused on trade and been the mercantile types Germany today has more or less become – that’s not what happened.

            so could stalin. Russia was the fastest industrializing country in the world in 1913. he, and the other bolsheviks, chose to start one of the most destructive civil wars in history, chose to adopt an insane economic system that led to the deaths of tens of millions, and chose to execute millions more for imagined crimes when their insane planes didn’t bear fruits.

            Both nazism and communism had essentially the same plan from the get go, build a road to earthly paradise out of the corpses of the undesirables. The vision of heaven was different, but their methods were identical, and identically monstrous.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is pure nonsense. It wasn’t incompetence that caused Stalin to requisition grain at gun point from peasants, to take even the seed grain, and to refuse international offers of food aid once people started starving. Those people forcibly were deprived of food until they were dead, and they were murdered no less than i the millions of soviet POWs the germans rounded up into camps and starved in WW2. They were killed for the exact same reason, the state prefered them to die than to give them food.

            I did say malice was a part of it. Stalin and his cronies had this crazy idea that there was a vast Polish/Ukrainian conspiracy, and used the famine as a way to try and wipe out this nonexistent conspiracy. Stalin is a close second for worst of all time.

            That war started when hitler and stalin conspired to divide up poland. they both bear the blame.

            Again, I’m not defending Stalin. But in 1941, when Germany invaded the USSR, most of the people who would die in Europe in WWII were still alive, Jews included.

            so could stalin. Russia was the fastest industrializing country in the world in 1913. he, and the other bolsheviks, chose to start one of the most destructive civil wars in history, chose to adopt an insane economic system that led to the deaths of tens of millions, and chose to execute millions more for imagined crimes when their insane planes didn’t bear fruits.

            The revolution and the Bolsheviks didn’t show up out of nowhere – WWI and the incompetence of the Czarist government were a prerequisite for the Bolshevik seizure of power.

            Both nazism and communism had essentially the same plan from the get go, build a road to earthly paradise out of the corpses of the undesirables. The vision of heaven was different, but their methods were identical, and identically monstrous.

            The Nazi state and the Stalinist state were quite different. It was only late in the war that the Nazis started turning on the ingroup. The Nazis sought from the get-go to fuel their economy through plunder and slavery, while under Stalin failures of the system continually saw the ante upped and huge numbers of people murdered or purged for no reason other than paranoia.

            It’s not Stalinist apologism to consider the Nazis worse, any more than it’s pro-Jeffrey Dahmer to think John Wayne Gacy was a worse individual.

          • quaelegit says:

            Re: dndnrsn on Mao.

            I’m reading “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang right now, and it makes the cultural revolution out to be entirely malice. Mao was unhappy that he had lost power in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward famine, so he stirred up internal strife to turn on the very people who had been serving him faithfully for years and fixing his screwups (while still giving him all the credit).

            Yeah the death toll was smaller than the atrocities you guys are discussing, but this seems really evil to me.

            (However I haven’t read anything else on 20th centruy China so if there’s a more standard interpretation or other books that I should look into, let me know)

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            I did say malice was a part of it. Stalin and his cronies had this crazy idea that there was a vast Polish/Ukrainian conspiracy, and used the famine as a way to try and wipe out this nonexistent conspiracy. Stalin is a close second for worst of all time.

            And hitler had a crazy idea about a jewish conspiracy and used the holocaust to wipe it out. Their actions are identical, and the scale is fairly similar.

            That war started when hitler and stalin conspired to divide up poland. they both bear the blame.

            Again, I’m not defending Stalin. But in 1941, when Germany invaded the USSR, most of the people who would die in Europe in WWII were still alive, Jews included.

            I fail to see what bearing that has on anything.

            The revolution and the Bolsheviks didn’t show up out of nowhere – WWI and the incompetence of the Czarist government were a prerequisite for the Bolshevik seizure of power.

            The incompetence of the Czarist regime is usually greatly overstated, but even if it weren’t, what bearing does that have on anything? and how is it any different than the ineptitude of the weimar regime creating space for hitler?

            Both nazism and communism had essentially the same plan from the get go, build a road to earthly paradise out of the corpses of the undesirables. The vision of heaven was different, but their methods were identical, and identically monstrous.

            The Nazi state and the Stalinist state were quite different. It was only late in the war that the Nazis started turning on the ingroup.
            The Nazis sought from the get-go to fuel their economy through plunder and slavery, while under Stalin failures of the system continually saw the ante upped and huge numbers of people murdered or purged for no reason other than paranoia.

            Well, one, I dispute that. the ingroup, for the bolsheviks, was workers and poor peasants. they started plundering and or liquidating their rivals almost immediately after taking power.

            It’s not Stalinist apologism to consider the Nazis worse, any more than it’s pro-Jeffrey Dahmer to think John Wayne Gacy was a worse individual.

            I think it’s objectively false to do so. There’s nothing hitler did that stalin didn’t do first, and usually on a greater scale.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That war started when hitler and stalin conspired to divide up poland. they both bear the blame.

            Except that the bloodiest phase of the war, in the East, was started entirely by Hitler invading the USSR.

            I fail to see what bearing that has on anything.

            That the German invasion of the USSR led to tens of millions of deaths, both war dead (including POWs and civilians starved to death) and the Holocaust (in which the war in the East was a key factor, at least if you adopt the view that Kershaw, etc do).

            The incompetence of the Czarist regime is usually greatly overstated, but even if it weren’t, what bearing does that have on anything? and how is it any different than the ineptitude of the weimar regime creating space for hitler?

            Different scale. The Bolsheviks seized power following a catastrophic war. Weimar Germany was not in anywhere near as dire straits as Russia in 1917 – Hitler took power in peacetime in a system that was in trouble, but not collapsing. The major failure of the Weimar regime was to enforce the laws uniformly. Had Germany in general behaved like the Berlin authorities did, the Nazis would have had a much harder time growing their power.

            Well, one, I dispute that. the ingroup, for the bolsheviks, was workers and poor peasants. they started plundering and or liquidating their rivals almost immediately after taking power.

            But the most celebrated purges – which were not the bulk of the deaths, but were historically very significant – were of people who were loyal, or whose worst crime was making some offhand comment against the regime. A party member in good standing in Nazi Germany in 1933 was way more likely to be alive 10 years later than a party member in good standing in the USSR.

            I think it’s objectively false to do so. There’s nothing hitler did that stalin didn’t do first, and usually on a greater scale.

            The numbers are disputable. It’s not hard to come up with numbers where Hitler and Stalin killed equal numbers, or Hitler killed more.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Except that the bloodiest phase of the war, in the East, was started entirely by Hitler invading the USSR.

            which was only possible due to the victory in the west, which itself was only possible due to the soviet alliance.

            Different scale. The Bolsheviks seized power following a catastrophic war. Weimar Germany was not in anywhere near as dire straits as Russia in 1917 – Hitler took power in peacetime in a system that was in trouble, but not collapsing. The major failure of the Weimar regime was to enforce the laws uniformly. Had Germany in general behaved like the Berlin authorities did, the Nazis would have had a much harder time growing their power.

            hitler tried to take power in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic war and failed. he tried again several years later and succeeded. But I fail to see how it would have been less evil had the Kapp Putsch succeeded.

            But the most celebrated purges – which were not the bulk of the deaths, but were historically very significant – were of people who were loyal, or whose worst crime was making some offhand comment against the regime. A party member in good standing in Nazi Germany in 1933 was way more likely to be alive 10 years later than a party member in good standing in the USSR.

            Ok, but that doesn’t answer the question of so what? How does a wider victim profile make stalin less evil?

            The numbers are disputable. It’s not hard to come up with numbers where Hitler and Stalin killed equal numbers, or Hitler killed more

            Only with very creative accounting.

          • John Schilling says:

            Except that the bloodiest phase of the war, in the East, was started entirely by Hitler invading the USSR.

            Casualty figures in the True East are kind of fuzzy, but it is about as likely that the bloodiest phase of the war was started entirely by Tojo and company invading China.

            But if we’re discounting them because, I gather, they aren’t European or White or whatnot, then yes, the bloodiest part of the war began when the two Evil Dictators who had planned to conquer the (European) world between them had a falling-out. It seems kind of perverse to suggest that the one who first defected from that plan is the Extra Super Evil one, and the one who stayed the course on the joint world conquest plan for as long as possible was the Lesser Evil deserving of a postwar semi-rehabilitation. Just what sort of behavior are we trying to encourage here?

            Possibly this is just down to two individual personalities, but if Communism encourages devoted commitment to Evil whereas Fascism encourages Evil with opportunistic double-crosses of one’s partners in crime, I’m going to go with Communism as the greater evil. Plus, you know, Mao kind of tilts the scales.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            which was only possible due to the victory in the west, which itself was only possible due to the soviet alliance.

            OK, good point. But again – close #2 is still high on the “most evil” list.

            hitler tried to take power in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic war and failed. he tried again several years later and succeeded. But I fail to see how it would have been less evil had the Kapp Putsch succeeded.

            Are you confusing the Kapp Putsch and the Beer Hall Putsch? The latter was in 1923, which was some time after the war.

            Ok, but that doesn’t answer the question of so what? How does a wider victim profile make stalin less evil?

            Merely establishes that they didn’t have the same methods.

            Only with very creative accounting.

            Snyder’s numbers – which don’t count war dead, and which have Hitler a few million ahead of Stalin – are hardly Soviet apologist. I’ve seen Snyder accused by a communist of being a sympathizer with Ukrainian fascists.

            @John Schilling

            Casualty figures in the True East are kind of fuzzy, but it is about as likely that the bloodiest phase of the war was started entirely by Tojo and company invading China.

            But if we’re discounting them because, I gather, they aren’t European or White or whatnot,

            We’re not discounting them, but the war in the Pacific was more separate from the war in Europe and North Africa than often portrayed, and we were discussing the former. If we consider the Pacific theatre, deaths on the Chinese front might exceed Soviet deaths, but they might not. The Japanese of the 30s-45 certainly are on the Most Evil list.

            then yes, the bloodiest part of the war began when the two Evil Dictators who had planned to conquer the (European) world between them had a falling-out. It seems kind of perverse to suggest that the one who first defected from that plan is the Extra Super Evil one, and the one who stayed the course on the joint world conquest plan for as long as possible was the Lesser Evil deserving of a postwar semi-rehabilitation. Just what sort of behavior are we trying to encourage here?

            Hitler appears to have intended to invade the USSR from day one; the idea that Germany must drive east was one of the more consistent Nazi beliefs. It’s unlikely that either of them really planned to rule the galaxy as father and son divide up Europe between them.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One more thing about Nazism– it wasn’t just about anti-Semitism and expanding German territory. The Holocaust included killing Roma, institutionalized people, homosexuals….

        I suggest Nazism was at least as much about a fantasy of purification as it was about practical goals to advance ethnic Germans.

        Also, it might have made sense to expand the definition of ethnic Germans to include German Jews and make an alliance. Why not?

        I’m not sure about practical advice for you. It might make sense to take what people actually want seriously instead of focusing on how it would be better if people were drastically different.

    • All I Do Is Win says:

      If Germans compete fairly with Ashkenazi Jews it would only leads to natural Ashkenazi domination due to the Ashkenazi IQ.

      I think you have this completely wrong. There’s actually no problem with Ashkenazi IQ being more intelligent on average relative to Germans because as you noted the Jewish population was so tiny. As a simple example, if Harvard admittance was strictly on the basis of IQ, there would only be one Jew for every 63 “others” in the world today. That’s not a world-changing advantage for Jews.

      In my opinion, the real reason that Jews were targeted by Nazis is because according to German cultural norms, Jews are “defectors” (in the game-theoretic sense) from the German culture Nazis wanted to promote. In short: Jews didn’t compete fairly.

      This understanding follows from a fundamental cultural difference in how individual moral actions are decided by Germans and Jews.

      For a typical German (who is Protestant Christian, much to Hitler’s annoyance), you can summarize individual moral choices by the pithy statement “What would Jesus do?” This implies a commitment to personal virtue and Christian virtues in particular, a desire to treat all people (including, and actually, especially Jews) as Jesus would, etc. It is extremely high-trust, anti-tribal, and treats everybody as individuals as far as possible. (It basically cannot conceive of Jewish-style moral reasoning and acts as if it doesn’t exist.)

      Individual Jewish moral choices, on the other hand, are governed by the pithy statement “Is this good for the Jews?” This implies a legalistic, almost aggressively tactical moral decision framework, a strong commitment to tribal loyalty, with basically no adherence to what Christians would consider to be virtuous at the personal level. In a Jewish moral framework, the same action in one situation could be praiseworthy if it’s good for Jews, and vile if it’s not.

      Christian morality explicitly doesn’t work like that. Like, at all—it’s strictly not a situational morality most of the time. It’s strongly focused on doing what’s right in a Christian sense, as opposed to “what works (or helps) my in-group” today. Christians are always supposed to do what’s “right”, even if it hurts them. To Jews, this is madness!

      If you put these two moral decision frameworks in the same geographic area, with the same set of laws, the Germans will exhibit what we now call “pathological altruism” towards Jews. That is, Germans will apply in-group preference to both Jews and Germans equally, even though the Jews are playing by a different set of rules (favoring Jews over Germans and basically acting in ways that in Christian virtue would be summarized as “cunning”). In a game-theoretic sense, the Jews defect on the Germans because, by their own cultural standards, that is the “moral” thing to do.

      To be clear to all readers, I see nothing wrong with the Jewish conception of virtue (and no reason to chose one over the other per se). It is, however, completely incompatible with those two groups living together if you want fair results (or in Hitler’s case, Germans to win). You cannot have just one group defecting!

      Once Hitler came to the realization that, when it came to the Jews, the game was rigged (beyond getting irrationally mad at the Jews for “betraying” Germans and Germany merely by acting according to their own cultural ideals), he was left with two obvious policy options:

      1. Keep the Jews in Germany and alter German culture to “defect” in the same way Jews do. Basically, have Germans do something like “Is this good for the Germans?” while trying to eradicate the influence of Protestant Christianity.

      2. Expel Jews from Germany and retain typical German culture and morality.

      Hitler, obviously, chose the second option.

      • Jiro says:

        Individual Jewish moral choices, on the other hand, are governed by the pithy statement “Is this good for the Jews?”

        This is nonsensical.

      • quaelegit says:

        By the 1920s and 30s, Jews had been working towards greater integration with surrounding gentile society for over a century (as had gentile rulers. I’m no expert on this, but I think it was more successful in Germany than further east. True, there was also Jewish Nationalism and Zionism, but those were controversial among Jews and a minority position until at least the 1920s, and they gained support largely due to increase in cultural and legal antisemitism in Europe at the same time (not just Nazis — also in Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire, and I think in Western Europe also but not sure).

        So I don’t buy this model of “Christian Germans were welcoming with open arms while Jews were defecting”.

        And anyways, why is everyone here trying to find a rational argument for Hitler’s beliefs? What’s wrong with the usual story that he was an angry young man wanted a scapegoat and used the traditional one? Throughout history, angry young men have been FAR more common than rationalists.

        • All I Do Is Win says:

          So I don’t buy this model of “Christian Germans were welcoming with open arms while Jews were defecting”.

          Neither do I. (I guess I wasn’t clear.)

          I’m sensing that you are associating defection (in the game-theoretic sense) with “Jewish Nationalism and Zionism.” I don’t think Jewish success in pre-Nazi Germany had anything to do with a desire for a Jewish state (assuming such a desire did exist and was widespread). At any rate, Hitler seemed to believe Jewish success was almost entirely behavioral—Jews succeeded because they behaved differently from Germans, in ways that he believed hurt Germans and Germany (and were therefore immoral).

          Hitler was wrong, of course: there’s nothing superior or virtuous about German culture, or inferior or immoral about Jewish culture (and vice versa). They’re just different (and seemingly incompatible cultures in a game-theoretic sense, due to Germans (not Jews!) behaving in a pathologically altruistic manner).

          Anyway, I think my game-theoretic defection theory explains Jewish success in pre-Nazi Germany significantly better than the OPs “small IQ differences” theory. There just aren’t enough Jews in pre-Nazi Germany (or indeed, worldwide) to explain Jewish success based on small IQ differences. I think Jewish culture has way more to do with it, particularly when embedded in a pathologically altruistic Christian culture.

          Basically, Hitler blamed the Jews for German failings.

          And anyways, why is everyone here trying to find a rational argument for Hitler’s beliefs? What’s wrong with the usual story that he was an angry young man wanted a scapegoat and used the traditional one? Throughout history, angry young men have been FAR more common than rationalists.

          I don’t think anyone is claiming Hitler was a “rationalist” (so, strawman), but it’s equally stupid IMO to act like he was just an “angry young man” who had no reason for what he did, or why he believed what he believed. You don’t become Hitler by being stupid.

          My biggest frustration with demonizing Hitler is that, perversely, it makes Nazi ideas more palatable when naive people encounter them. If all you know about Hitler is that he “hated the Jews for no reason”, you’ll be very surprised to learn that’s false and begin to question everything else you’ve been taught. I think the rise of the alt-right and similar movements is, in part, a reaction to the suppression of the “reasons” for why Hitler behaved the way that he did towards Jews (and others), and what his positive goals were for Nazi Germany. Even Hitler wasn’t “literally Hitler”, and that’s causing serious problems for some young people, particularly young disaffected men on the right.

          It’s entirely possible to grant every premise Hitler held (though there’s no need, many things he believed are demonstrably false) and still believe that German supremacy is stupid and immoral, genocide is wrong, the Jews were used as a scapegoat, etc. Those things that Hitler is rightly hated for don’t follow automatically from the facts of pre-Nazi Germany! It ultimately hurts both Jews and non-Jews to suppress the facts and reasons behind the rise of Nazi Germany (especially the positive reasons), or pretend that Hitler was just an “angry young man” with no rational ideas whatsoever.

          (And yes, I realize that facts about Hilter are not literally suppressed. There are many, many books on the topic. But at the cultural level? It’s effectively suppressed. Saying “Hey, Hitler had some good ideas” is cultural suicide, even though probably everyone here is in favor of anti-smoking campaigns, universal health care, support animal cruelty laws, and think there’s nothing wrong with vegans, and perhaps a lot right…, etc.)

  22. Thegnskald says:

    A movie review! Which waited until the culture war-acceptable thread for potential culture war reasons.

    Specifically, mother!, which is, to begin, while not the absolute worst movie I have ever seen, still among the worst. It is sort of a reverse The Fountain, which, to describe briefly, is a story that begins with a large fantastical element and a small mundane element, before ultimately resolving into something mundane and poignant. (I merely disliked The Fountain, because by the end, I was left with the impression that two thirds of the movie were unnecessary, and worse, it was the most interesting two thirds of the movie.) mother!, on the other hand, begins with a small fantastical element and a large mundane element, and slowly progresses into a farcical circus.

    That ends the part of the review without spoilers: Farcical circus. It’s not even an entertaining farcical circus, mind, it’s just a lot of nonsense going on.

    Now, for the spoilers:

    Jurernf Gur Sbhagnva vf zrgncube erfbyivat vagb abeznyvgl, zbgure! vf abeznyvgl qvffbyivat vagb zrgncube, naq abg tbbq zrgncube, rvgure. Gur fgenvtugsbejneq rkcynangvba bs riragf vf gung jr’er ybbxvat ng Uryy, naq Gur Cbrg (abar bs gur punenpgref unir anzrf, ol gur jnl) vf n Oynxr-vasyhraprq Fngna jub jnagf gb or ybirq – gur qverpgbe’f pbzzragnel, ba gur bgure unaq, fhttrfgf Gur Cbrg vf Tbq, naq gur jubyr guvat vf n ovoyvpny zrgncube.

    Vs vg vf n ovoyvpny zrgncube, pregnva riragf erfbyir fbzrjung arngyl, ohg gur ragver zbivr qvffbyirf vagb “Unir lbh npghnyyl ernq gur Ovoyr, be qvq lbh fxvz Pyvss’f Abgrf naq zvff gur vzcbegnag ovgf?

    Fb, n dhvpx fxrgpu bs gur cybg bs gur zbivr: Vg ortvaf jvgu n jbzna (Rnegu) va n sver pelvat, n unaq cynpvat n zntvp pelfgny va n ubyqre juvpu nccneragyl erfgberf n ohearq-bhg ubhfr, naq gura jr phg gb n jbzna (gur fnzr jbzna? uneq gb fnl) fvggvat hc va orq. Fur’f erfgbevat n ubhfr jvgu ure uhfonaq (Gur Cbrg/Tbq), jub vf fhssrevat sebz jevgre’f oybpx, jura n fgenatre fubjf hc (Nqnz). Gb fnir gvzr guebhtu gur erfg bs guvf fhzznel: Tbq nyjnlf, nyjnlf orunirf sevraqyl gbjneqf rirelobql, ertneqyrff bs ubj greevoyr gurl ner orunivat, naq vf crecrghnyyl qvfzvffvir bs rirel pbaprea Rnegu unf nobhg gur jubyr guvat.

    Zbivat ba, Rnegu fubjf varkcyvpnoyr ubfgvyvgl gbjneqf Nqnz, varkcyvpnoyr fghss unccraf (Nqnz vf znqr fhqqrayl zbegny, naq trgf n jbhaq va uvf fvqr, abg arprffnevyl va gung beqre), n jbzna fubjf hc (Rir), Rir naq Rnegu qba’g trg nybat naq Rir vafvahngrf Tbq qbrfa’g ernyyl ybir Rnegu, Rir oernxf gur zntvp pelfgny, Rnegu jnagf gurz gb yrnir, Nqnz naq Rir’f gjb fbaf fubj hc fhqqrayl naq fgneg svtugvat nobhg vaurevgnapr, bar bs gur fbaf xvyyf gur bgure, naq gur oybbq bs gur qrnq bar pnhfrf zber varkcyvpnoyr fghss gb unccra, vapyhqvat gur erirnyvat bs n Purxubi’f Ebbz.

    Fb sne fb tbbq. Gurer ner bqq fglyvfgvp pubvprf, fhpu nf gur snpg gung gur pnzren eneryl yrnirf Rnegu’f snpr, naq gurer’f n cvpgher bs Tbq-nf-gur-Qrivy va bar fprar, naq gurer ner n srj fprarf juvpu qba’g znxr zhpu frafr lrg, ohg vg srryf yvxr vg’f tbvat fbzrjurer vagrerfgvat. Gur ovoyvpny zrgncube pernxf n yvggyr ovg, ohg zbfg crbcyr unira’g abgvprq vg lrg naljnlf, naq ng guvf cbvag V’ir pbzr gb gur pbapyhfvba Gur Cbrg vf n Oynxrna qrivy, naq gur jubyr zbivr vf gnxvat cynpr va Uryy – ohg bhgfvqr zl vagrecergngvbaf bs riragf ng gung cbvag, Tbq, Nqnz, naq Rir gnxr Nory gb gur ubfcvgny, yrnivat Rnegu nybar naq fgerffrq, naq Pnva fubjf hc, naq abar bs gung npghnyyl svgf vagb gur zrgncube va nal ernfbanoyr jnl, ohg jungrire. Naljnlf, ng gur raq bs guvf frpgvba bs gur zbivr, Tbq naq Rnegu ner nybar ntnva.

    Fxvccvat n ovg bs abafrafr, Tbq guebjf n shareny cnegl sbe Nory nsgre n ohapu bs enaqbz crbcyr vapyhqvat Nqnz naq Rir fubj hc, naq rirelobql vf varkcyvpnoyl greevoyr gb rirelobql ryfr (rkprcg Tbq, naq vapyhqvat Rnegu). Tbq vf nfxrq gb znxr n fcrrpu, naq gryyf n jrveq – cbrz? – gung rirelobql svaqf varkcyvpnoyl qrrc naq zrnavatshy. Gura gjb thrfgf, npgvat rira zber varkcyvpnoyl greevoyr guna hfhny, oernx cneg bs gur ubhfr, naq svanyyl rirelobql vf znqr gb yrnir. Tbq naq Rnegu unir frk, Rnegu varkcyvpnoyl xabjf fur’f certanag gur arkg zbeavat, naq Tbq’f jevgref oybpx vf oebxra naq ur jevgrf n arj cbrz. Gurer’f fbzr zber varkcyvpnoyrarff – Rnegu ernqf vg, svaqf vg qrrcyl zrnavatshy, naq gura fhqqrayl Tbq trgf n cubar pnyy sebz Gur Choyvfure, naq Rnegu vf hcfrg gung fbzrobql ryfr ernq gur cbrz (orsber ure? ol gur jnl, gur zbivr qbrfa’g unir nal erfcrpg sbe gvzr, qba’g rkcrpg zrnavatshy senzrf bs ersrerapr sbe gvzr cnffvat). Gur Cbrz, ol gur jnl, vf fhccbfrq gb or gur Ovoyr be fbzrguvat.

    Fxvccvat bire n ovg zber varkcyvpnoyr abafrafr, jr trg gb gur snepvpny pvephf cneg bs gur svyz, va juvpu znffvir pebjqf fubj hc rntre gb zrrg gur nhgube bs gur arj Cbrz/Ovoyr, vagreehcgvat Tbq naq Rnegu’f qvaare, fgneg qrfgeblvat gur ubhfr naq fgrnyvat guvatf naq orunivat varkcyvpnoyl greevoyl sbe ab erny ernfba, cbyvpr fubj hc, gur zvyvgnel fubjf hc, gur ubhfr gheaf vagb n jnembar va juvpu Gur Choyvfure fgnegf zheqrevat enaqbz crbcyr naq n ohapu bs crbcyr ner fubirq va n pntr naq gurer vf trareny znlurz juvpu Rnegu fcraqf n tbbq ovg bs gvzr ehaavat njnl sebz, gura fhqqrayl fur unf n onol, ybpxvat urefrys naq Tbq vagb n ebbz va gur cebprff. (Bu lrf, naq jr oevrsyl frr gur fvatyr tbbq crefba va gur ragver zbivr, n fbyqvre jub fcraqf nyy bs svir frpbaqf gelvat gb cebgrpg Rnegu orsber trggvat irel cerqvpgnoyl fubg va gur snpr.)

    Fb, gur onol vf Wrfhf. Arirezvaq Vzznphyngr Pbaprcgvba, arirezvaq ubj Znel svgf vagb gur zrgncube. Jr unir Wrfhf.

    Fb, Tbq unq orra pbafgnagyl qvfzvffvir bs Rnegu’f cebgrfgf naq pbapreaf bire jung vf tbvat ba naq ubj gur pebjqf ner qrfgeblvat rirelguvat naq xvyyvat rnpu bgure, fb fur cerqvpgnoyl jba’g yrg uvz unir gur arjobea vasnag. Gura fur snyyf nfyrrc, Tbq gnxrf Wrfhf, tvirf Wrfhf gb gur pebjq, naq gurer vf gur zbfg snepvpnyyl pvephf-yvxr fprar va gur zbivr, ng gur raq bs juvpu Wrfhf vf qrnq naq gur pebjq vf rngvat gur qrnq onol.

    Rnegu unf n cflpubgvp oernx naq fgnegf zheqrevat crbcyr, gura gur pebjq gheaf ba ure naq fgnegf orngvat ure, nyy gur juvyr Tbq vf pnyyvat sbe rirelobql gb sbetvir rirelobql ryfr. Ncneg sebz gur ynfg ovg, gur ovoyvpny zrgncube pbyyncfrf ntnva urer, naq qbrfa’g ernyyl erpbire; Wrfhf fgnlf qrnq, Rnegu tbrf gb gur Purxubi’f Ebbz naq gnxrf na nkr gb n obvyre gnax, naq oheaf gur ubhfr qbja, Tbq gnxrf ure “ybir” (ure urneg) bhg bs ure purfg, juvpu gheaf vagb n zntvp pelfgny, oevatvat hf shyy pvepyr gb gur ortvaavat bs gur svyz.

    Unir V hfrq gur jbeq “varkcyvpnoyr” rabhtu? Jung nobhg gur cuenfr “snepvpny pvephf”?

    Gur zbivr vf vaperqvoyl hafngvfslvat, n incvq frevrf bs cbbeyl-pbafgehpgrq zrgncubef juvpu fhofgvghgr pbashfvba sbe cebshaqvgl – hayrff lbh xabj jung gur zbivr vf nobhg tbvat vagb vg, lbh jvyy fcraq gur ragver zbivr jbaqrevat jul gur uryy rirelobql vf orunivat gur jnl gurl ner, orpnhfr vg znxrf ab frafr va pbagrkg. V guvax vg’f fhccbfrq gb or na raivebazragnyvfg zrffntr nobhg ubj greevoyl jr gerng gur cynarg, jenccrq hc va na vafhygvatyl-cbbe haqrefgnaqvat bs Puevfgvna zlgubybtl, ohg vs gung’f gur bowrpgvir, jul vf gur naguebzbecuvmrq ercerfragngvba bs Rnegu fb biregyl ubfgvyr gbjneqf uhznavgl, ercerfragrq jvguva gur vagreany ybtvp bs gur zbivr nf wrnybhfl bs Tbq’f ybir?

    Now, you might say, isn’t this a thought-provoking movie, doesn’t it succeed as that?

    Yes, it is thought-provoking, but in the way all incredibly bad movies are thought-provoking – I’m not left pondering anything except how anybody participating in the farcical circus of this movie didn’t speak up. It’s a monument to nothing, except perhaps the director’s ego – I’ve certainly spent some time wondering about his state of mind.

    So long story short, unless you like being delightfully angry about nothing, or you are the sort of person who likes to feel superior to other people for “getting” things that others don’t, don’t bother watching this movie. Mind, I don’t even think this movie would be good for the sort of person who likes to feel superior on the basis of “getting” inexplicable art – because the farcical circus elements make the movie too ridiculous to take seriously as art. Indeed, I’m left with the impression the director deliberately made the movie less accessible to artistic sorts by including some peurile elements in the farcical circus – not the mention whole Ovoyvpny zrgncube thing. On the whole, I’m left with an impression that an intense effort was made to produce a movie that nobody would like.

    • J Mann says:

      The National Review published a take on mother! that’s pretty funny. Their critic starts out with one or two vicious Anthony Lewis style jabs per paragraph, but by 2/3 of the way through the review, his anger is so high that the review devolves into a non-stop stream of insults and catty witticisms. (Most of them are good, but if you removed any 3, you’d have a better review.)

      Among the high points:

      -“a Biblically-infused version of torture porn”;

      – “The first half of the movie plays like the world’s longest Saturday Night Live sketch about unwelcome houseguests, but Aronofsky is just warming up.”;

      – “To call it ‘Better Homes and Gardens meets Apocalypse Now, with a soupçon of Rosemary’s Baby’ would probably make it sound much more fun than it actually is. To experience the final half-hour is to understand what it must feel like to be a clump of broccoli in a Cuisinart.”

      • Thegnskald says:

        Eh. The author of that seems to think it is a satirical take on Christianity, which is, in view of the actual movie, praise, because it suggests the movie actually makes sense in that light. It doesn’t; that would have created something like a consistent thematic element to the whole affair.

        Mind, grotesque parody of some Christian practice (particularly Catholic) is there, but it represents a tiny piece, and is just more inexplicable noise in a film already heavy with inexplicable noise.

        • Anon. says:

          I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I find it amusing that some critics are panning it for being too obvious, while others are panning it for being too obtuse.

          • J Mann says:

            Based on Wikipedia, it sounds like it could be both. It sounds more like poetry written by a high school sophomore than anything.

            Tbq naq Tnvn yvir va n ubhfr. Gur puvyqera bs Nqnz qrfcbvy gur ubhfr naq Tnvn naq gurve puvyq. Gura sbe fbzr ernfba, Tbq naq Tnvn fnpevsvpr Tnvn, juvpu frgf gurz onpx gb gur ortvaavat bs n fgnoyr gvzr ybbc. Gur raq. (Be vf vg gur ortvaavat . . . . bbbbbu).

            It sounds kind of obvious and pointless, unless there’s something else to it.

            Speaking of biblical allegory, I sort of liked the one in the beginning of The Passage series of super-literary vampire thrillers.

          • Deiseach says:

            Eh. Sounds like exactly the kind of arty pop-Gnosticism which back in 2005 produced a long advertisement in the guise of a short movie for Prada launching a new perfume revolving around the Thunder, Perfect Mind Gnostic monologue poem.

            This movie sounds precisely as deep/shallow as that.

        • J Mann says:

          I should perhaps disclose that I only read movie reviews for the witty putdowns.

    • Randy M says:

      I still hate Rot13.

      The Fountain

      Ah, I remember that movie. I saw a trailer and said, “Hey, this looks like an cool fantasy movie. Let’s just go see it without reading reviews or spoilers.
      It was… something less than coherent, from what I recall. I think a lot of it was a dream or something? With the right mindset I might have enjoyed it, but it was far from what I was looking forward to.

      • Thegnskald says:

        It coheres, to a point, but mostly it comes across as a fantasy wrapper on a tropishly standard drama.

        The Four Diamonds is a much better implementation of the core concept.

      • johnjohn says:

        I went into The Fountain with the only expectation that i’d probably enjoy it.
        I found it very coherent. A third of the movie is fantasy, representing the story that the woman is writing.
        It’s a pretty fantastic exploration of fear of death and the yearning for immortality imo.

        I can see why someone would find that it’s up its own arse, but it connected with me pretty strongly

    • Deiseach says:

      Catholic nit-picking, and this is not to pick on you specifically, Thegnskald, since this is how the term is used in popular culture and I know I’m fighting a losing battle, but:

      The Immaculate Conception is not the same as the Virgin Birth. Two different dogmas (and yes, technically the Virgin Birth is also an Immaculate Conception but that has nothing to do with the means whereby Jesus was born). The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not formally defined until 1953 and kicked up a lot of dust.

      • hyperboloid says:

        To clarify for people to lazy to click on the link, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is the doctrine that the virgin Mary was conceived free from original sin.

        and yes, technically the Virgin Birth is also an Immaculate Conception but that has nothing to do with the means whereby Jesus was born

        Deiseach, I think you’ll find that our lord was begotten, and incarnated, but not conceived. You have officially been out Catholiced.

        *mic drop*

        • Deiseach says:

          *rolls up sleeves*

          Oh, you wanna theologise with me? Okay, pal!

          By the Hypostatic Union, Christ has two natures, human and divine; as a human, He has a soul, and that soul is – as you remark – without the stain of Original Sin (hence the Immaculate Conception). Thus far we agree on the dogma. To address your veering towards heresy, let us delve into the agreed Christology.

          Our Lord was True God and True Man, a man like us in all things but sin. He obtained His human nature from His mother. To be begotten and born as a human necessities conception on the part of the mother (otherwise this is not being born as a human is born, and I am not even going to dignify by addressing the arguments by some Calvinists or those inclined in that direction that treat Mary as nothing more than a human incubator who had no say in the Incarnation and absolutely nothing to do with the child once He was born). Since we have sorted out the various Christological heresies about the human nature of Christ – He was not a human ‘adopted’ by God at the time of the baptism by John the Baptist, He was not masquerading in a flesh suit, and the rest of them – we have the result that He was born of the Virgin Mary as it states in the Nicene Creed:

          who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

          And as stated in the Athanasian Creed:

          For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance of His Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

          And the Apostles’ Creed:

          I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
          He was conceived by [the power of] the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

          The doctrine of the Theotokos upholds this; the answer to Nestorianism is not that Mary was the mother of the ‘human’ Jesus but the Second Person of the Trinity was separate, a kind of passenger in the mortal vessel, but that she bore the God-Man of both natures (see the Hypostatic Union mentioned above). Indeed, it is noticeable that attacks on doctrines to do with the Blessed Virgin eventually lead, even if starting in the avouched spirit of defending the right doctrine of the divinity of Christ, end up eventually in the “and Jesus was Just This Guy, you know?” territory.

          Now if all this has not convinced you, hyperboloid, all that is left to me to say is what are you, some kind of Docetist? 😉

          • Randy M says:

            Mary as nothing more than a human incubator who had no say in the Incarnation

            Is it Catholic teaching that Mary was consulted on the birth of Christ? I suppose it is possible that if Mary had argued otherwise, God would have changed his mind, but the angel’s message in Luke, for instance, when Mary is first being informed, does not sound remotely conditional, all “wills” and “shalts” and all.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Catholic position is that, as the beginning of the Fall happened through the free choice and act of Eve, so the beginning of the work of redemption had to come through the free choice and act of the second Eve (Mary, as Christ is the New Adam). That’s why the stress on her first questioning the message of the angel (“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?””) and then agreeing: “Be it done unto me according to thy word”. The idea is that she could have said no and refused out of humility or fear, but because her will was perfectly adapted to the will of God, she accepted her part (and it mirrors the scene in Gethsemane where Christ says “Yet not my will but thine be done”).

            The Reformed types I mentioned, who were arguing about (what they perceived as) Mariolatry, really did treat the whole matter as “some woman had to be the physical mother, Mary was told it was gonna happen no ‘if, ands or buts’, she had no choice, and as soon as the kid was born that was the end of her importance, small as it was. She certainly had no influence on him afterwards (even though he lived thirty years with Mary and Joseph in quiet before his public ministry)”. I know they were reacting to the kind of superstitious folk-religion treatment of Mary and what they saw as Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) turning her into a Fourth Person of the Trinity, but the dismissive attitude where they were falling over themselves to deny any shred of honour could legitimately be paid to her did come across as gratingly “human incubator” (“Mary? Who dat? Never heard of her!”) and indeed anti-woman (“she only had a baby like every woman is supposed to do! No big deal!”)

            Dude, it’s the Incarnation, that’s a freakin’ huge deal! Made me want to box their ears and force them to listen to the Magnificat (I guess they must skip that part of the Gospel of Luke?)

            Also, I think they’re uncomfortable with the single most important and greatest (purely) human being in Christianity being a woman. Mary is greater than Paul, which I think rustles their jimmies 🙂

            But that’s why Calvinism can come across as prioritising spirit over matter, and in danger of wandering into the Manichaean maze.

        • Jiro says:

          The Catholic position is that, as the beginning of the Fall happened through the free choice and act of Eve, so the beginning of the work of redemption had to come through the free choice and act of the second Eve

          I find such things bizarre. First of all, God is supposed to be omnipotent; to say that God has to do A in order to accomplish B seems strange. Perhaps God can’t do things that are logically impossible, but this doesn’t seem to be logically impossible.

          Second, it seems to imagine God as having something like OCD. It’s like saying that since I spun around three times and tapped the wall before going to the store, I need to spin around three times and tap the floor before coming back. In order to come back, I only actually need to start walking. The idea that I “must” do something else first isn’t really true; it’s just a hangup I have. In order for God to redeem someone, he just needs to wave his godly hands and redeem them. Having a second Eve is not a necessary step in the process unless God has a hangup about repeating things that happened before, just like I hypothetically “need” to spin around before coming home because I did it when going out.

          (And God isn’t casting a magic spell, either. He’s not subject to the law of similarity.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Now we’re getting into the vexed question of free will, what model of the Atonement applies, and the rest of it.

            And pardon me saying this, Jiro, but I don’t think any answer will satisfy you; you don’t believe in deities and your image of one is as you have described: *poof* and all that they want is done, what need for anything other? This is going to sound like ducking out because I don’t have a good answer, but mainly it’s because I’ve had and seen this argument so many times before, I’m not interested in hashing it out one more time.

            The very compressed answer here is “human actions matter” and “God permitted humans to co-operate with our salvation as we had damned ourselves by our own choices”. Why did God do it that way? Dunno. He could indeed, as you say, have incarnated as a fully-grown human instead of being born like an ordinary human baby; He could have skipped the entire incarnation completely. This is how He did it, so He must have had a reason, and all our theologising is trying to work out what kind of reason that could have been 🙂

          • J Mann says:

            Jiro,

            One important clarification is what you mean by omnipotent.

            One possibility is that God is omnipotent but logically bounded. In other words, he can’t make both P and not P simultaneously true. (He can’t make my dog simultaneously exist and not exist, He can’t simultaneous make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it and at the same time be able to lift it, at least not without semantic tricks better suited to Harry Dresden and the fae). If so, then he’s omnipotent but logically bounded, in which case there might be single pathways that are the best case for His goals.

            The other possibility is that God is omnipotent and not logically bounded. This situation resolves too, although not in a way that is particularly satisfying to mortal minds. Since God can do anything, whether or not it is logically possible, He can just make this pathway the best, kindest, most loving outcome. You’re right that He could do something else, but by definition, that would now be worse.

      • PedroS says:

        typo: 1854 instead of 1953

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah! You’re right! I got confused with the doctrine of the Assumption which wasn’t promulgated officially as dogma until 1950 (what the heck was I thinking of 1953?)

          Yes, you are correct and I am an idiot 🙂 In honour of the doctrine of the Assumption and risking eternal damnation for possible heresy, here’s a short animation about the Vatican Space Program (ahem).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            (what the heck was I thinking of 1953?)

            The digits in 1854 and 1953 both sum to 18. As a compulsive digit-summer I’m impressed! 😀

    • Well... says:

      Here’s my experience with Darren Aronofsky:

      Watched Pi. Wow, amazing, one of the best movies I’ve seen. Still holds up.

      Let’s see what else he makes! OK, Requiem for a Dream, let’s see…

      *10 minutes into RFAD* This movie SUUUUCKS.

      *RFAD credits roll* This movie is so bad. So, so bad.

      *Weeks, months, years later* You know, the more I think about RFAD, the more I find about it that sucks.

      More Darren Aronofsky movies are coming out? Screw that guy. He made RFAD. I’ll skip it.

      Alright, fine, you twisted my arm, wife. I’ll watch The Wrestler with you.

      *Wrestler credits roll* Wow, that was really good. Maybe Darren Aronofsky’s come to his senses again.

      Oh, he’s making a movie about Noah’s ark. Let’s check out a trailer…

      *23 seconds into trailer* Oh for the love of God. That’s it, I’m done.

      And that’s why I hadn’t even heard about Mother! until just now. Not interested.

      • Deiseach says:

        The Noah movie was – well, let’s say sui generis. An old-fashioned Cecil B. DeMille style Biblical epic flipped on its head, that treated Noah as a psychotic purity-obsessed eco-freak killer (I’d say anti-natalist but he never got that coherent) and decided to film the entire thing in a palette of mud-colours. Naturally everybody is in the wrong because we can’t have heroes and villains (too simplistic) so let’s have all villains instead (oh the sophistication!)

        I suppose it does hint at what is to come in Mother! because of the whole Gaia and God linking and Humanity raping (literally and metaphorically) Mother Earth and bringing about destruction but boy, what a mess. Though some critics liked it, so there you go.

        • Jaskologist says:

          There’s a very interesting article claiming that Noah was really a Gnostic movie.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Anyone who’s interested in occultism and weird beliefs should definitely read Jaskologist’s link.

          • Deiseach says:

            Makes sense; I think you have to strain a bit to see Noah as a movie based on conventional theology (apart from the stylistic choices) but as pop-Gnosticism? No problem!

            Which makes the lead character in Mother! probably Sophia, not Gaia – fallen and separated, mother of the material, needing to be redeemed and to return to the light, incarnated in or represented by Mary of Magdala, the prostitute:

            Sophia was the original female principal, the Goddess. She came first and she came alone. And so soon as She discovered Herself to be separated from Source, Sophia grew fearful and full of anguish. She felt she’d been exiled. She was certain She was lost in this lower, lesser, place…a “copy” of Pleroma. Plato thought this copy benign, but the Gnostics thought it hellish. Wandering through the world of matter created by her own dreadful fear and confusion, Sophia was subject to all the pain and horror the world of matter can and does supply…and all those she met treated her shamefully—most especially males. She became in both meanings of the term, a “fallen woman.”

            Thus the fear, confusion, anguish, anger and mistreatment of the female character; the benign but silent male character who lets all this happen; the cleansing by fire and return of the light embedded or trapped in the material body as shown by the heart/magic crystal.

  23. Baeraad says:

    This is one of the threads where it’s okay to talk about the Nerd Culture War, right? Because I’ve got something to say about that that I’ve been wanting to get off my chest, and this is one of the few places where I think there’s even a reasonable chance of finding a few sympathetic ears for it (this being, as it were, Nerd Culture War Switzerland). Here it is:

    I frickin’ hate the Nerd Culture War.

    I mean the entire thing. I mean both sides. If I hate one side more than the other, it’s whichever one I’ve spent the most time listening to lately. Because other than that, it’s really a wash.

    As a thin-skinned, over-sensitive, bleeding-heart liberal with a strong belief in the benevolence of faceless authority, I should be a natural fit for Team Sanitise The Internet And Make Media Morally Educational. I should. If not for the fact that that team is full of flaming hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach. Being a thin-skinned, over-sensitive, bleeding-heart straight white man is a recipe for constant misery over on the left. Oh, and the kind of authority you get over there seems less faceless (by which I mean, if I’m being less sarcastic, “measured, impartial and systematic”) and more like a bunch of cults of personality where everyone cheers for the biggest bully around.

    Fine, so I’ll join Team Let’s Scream The Most Horrible Thing We Can Think Of As Loudly As We Can And Then Cackle About How Rad We Are, right? That’s where us nerds go when the cool kids decide we’re not fit to hang with them anymore, after all. Except as it turns out, while being sensitive and thin-skinned is surprisingly par for the course among the self-proclaimed manly-men in that crowd, the whole “bleeding heart” and “liberal” thing keeps tripping me up. Because as it turns out, all those years when I kept claiming that I wanted economic justice and solid support for women and minorities to achieve equality, I was actually sincere and not just saying that to fit in.

    (case in point: I don’t care that it’s an earnings gap and not a wage gap, it’s still a gap, and it’s still unfair! Yes, the fact that feminists keep implying-but-not-quite-saying-outright that it’s caused by nothing but the vilest misogyny rather than being a complicated problem that will require complicated solutions is annoying and dishonest. But every time I hear some smug MRA saying “it’s not a wage gap, it’s an earnings gap!” as if that was automatically the end of the discussion, I feel like slamming my head into the wall)

    And while I guess it’s nice to have it confirmed that my convictions run deeper than mere conformism, hanging out with people with whom you thoroughly disagree on every single point except for the fact that contemporary feminism sucks… well, it gets really old really fast. Especially since, though I hate contemporary feminism to a degree that I frequently worry is unhealthy and irrational, most people on Team Shitlord seem to be miles ahead of me in that department (“FEMINISM IS CANCER!!!!!”), which is frankly disturbing.

    Oh, and the biggest bullies are in charge on that side, too. And being called a “beta faggot cuck” by some unwashed man-child while all his fans cheer him on feels depressingly similar to being called a “basement-dwelling virgin neckbeard” by some dyed-haired hipster while all her fans cheer her on. Almost completely identical, in fact.

    And yeah, I do think it sucks that one side can squeze out some crocodile tears and instantly get all the public sympathy even while being guilty of exactly the same nasty, petty, vindictive behaviour as the other side. But there’s a limit to how much I can bring myself to support the small, weak bastard just because he isn’t the big, strong bastard.

    I’m starting to think that the best thing that can happen is if the governments and corporations just take over the Internet completely, remove all possibility for anonymity and suppress all speech that isn’t bland and inoffensive and support the status quo. And that’s sad, because that goes against everything I’ve tried to stand for in my life, but at this point it’s just the only hope I can still see. Better foreign tyranny than this endless, hopeless, relentless civil war.

    ETA: You may, if you wish, note which side I spent the most vitriol on and from that deduce which side I’ve been spending time around lately. Trust me, if I’d been hanging around leftists lately, they’d been the ones to get the rant, and rightists the ones to get the paragraph.

    • James says:

      Nothing to add, but good post. I sympathise.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I am left with the impression that what you really want is a group who agrees with you about everything, given that you seem to devote equal time to beliefs as behavior, which is nominally what your post is about.

      Which isn’t to say that is what you want, but rather to suggest that spending time, in a post about bad behavior, complaining about other people’s beliefs isn’t the best way to build an alliance against that bad behavior.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        It doesn’t read that way to me, because the complaints about the two sides aren’t symmetrical.

        Like Scott, he seems to be mostly on board with SJ identity politics but wishes that he would actually be treated like a valuable ally rather than a punching bag. You’ll notice he doesn’t complain about SJ meanness per se but specifically when that meanness is directed inward towards straight white ‘allies’ like himself.

        With the Alt Right, he objects to their beliefs and he objects to meanness they direct outward towards opponents. When he talks about the insults from the Alt Right being equal in ferocity to those coming from SJWs, that’s very telling because he was never part of the Alt Right. He’s being attacked as hard for disagreeing with their philosophy as his former friends attacked him for agreeing with SJ.

        • Nornagest says:

          It looks to me more like he went somewhere like /r/KotakuInAction and expected it to be all about resisting Social Justice bullying tactics while remaining neutral to positive to mainstream liberal attitudes. Which would have been pretty much true until about a year ago. There’s still a lot of political diversity in those spaces, but partisan memes infected every damn thing during the election and they don’t have the antibodies to alt-right memery that they do to SJ.

        • Baeraad says:

          I fully admit that my complaints are assymetrical. I agree with the left on principle, disagree with the right on principle, and disagree with the meanness of both sides. That’s more disagreement direct rightwards than leftwards – even aside from the fact that, as I said, I’ve been more exposed to the right than the left recently and therefore feel angrier and rantier towards them.

          However, I would like to state for the record that I’m sickened by the meanness the left shows even towards people I myself don’t like. I’ve even found myself defending Donald Trump sometimes, because even though I hate everything he stands for, even he doesn’t deserve the sheer amount of vitriol he’s getting.

          • James says:

            Agh, God, yes, I hate being forced to defend Trump. God knows he’s the worst.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            He dishes it out, including downward.

            Those who dish are literally asking for everything in return, especially when they dish downward.

            That’s the way the insult fest works. And it works equally for anyone who enters it, regardless of their politics.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            … forget Trump’s time as a politician. His entire life is defection; what (other than eternal suffering) bad fate could he possibly not deserve? (Which doesn’t mean his most devoted critics haven’t been *nuts* of late.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      “A pox on both your houses” only works if you’ve got a third place to go. I’m one of those “things wearing human suits known as techies”, to pick one of those wonderful SJW-or-Stormfront phrases, and I chose a side not because I wanted to, but because the alternative was being completely overrun without a fight.

      • Civilis says:

        I tried to keep politics and hobbies separate, so I was worried I was running into confirmation bias when I started feeling that the people I considered political opponents were dragging politics into all of my hobbies. Yes, I vaguely remember the ‘satanic panic’ of the 80s when the moral scolds were theoretically on my side (and I was sneering at them because even as a kid I could see how little they knew). And, yes, there are still a**holes on both sides that I can’t stand.

        I can deal with a**holes because I know there’s no way to get rid of them, but I can choose to not interact with them. They’ll always be with us. What I can’t tolerate is people that insist that making something I like noticeably worse to suit their political interests is a good thing, especially when they aren’t a**holes, and I run into the same group of people doing it in every hobby I enjoy (or enjoyed, in some cases, which makes it worse). The moral scolds of the 80s didn’t pretend to do it for the sake of the hobby. All it took to drive them off was a quick ‘no, this game doesn’t actually summon demons’ paragraph and some time and they went away.

        One thing I find helps: I run a small group in a MMO, and my rule is ‘no politics’. Even if I agree with what is being said, as soon as the real world enters into it, I use the same ‘no politics’ line to shut it down. This isn’t 100% foolproof, but it helps a lot.

    • Brad says:

      Opt-out. Yes, this is an option. No, it doesn’t mean joining a monastery and swearing off technology.

      I can’t promise you’ll never see anything culture war related, but you don’t need to spend a lot of time online or offline around people that say things like “beta faggot cuck” or “basement-dwelling virgin neckbeard”. That is very much a choice, and I suggest making a different one.

      • quanta413 says:

        What Brad said. The best choice is to just let the culture go where it will while avoiding all that stuff. As long as you avoid political groups, people are usually well-behaved in person.

        Although I do also suggest spending less time online if you spend more than an hour or so a day online doing something besides work or watching netflix (facebook and twitter count as bad places to go if you aren’t careful).

        • Baeraad says:

          I do try my best to avoid the loud and angry parts of the web. The problem is, even if I streer clear of everything political, I still like discussions about fiction – books, movies, video games – and those seem to manage to turn political even when the work being discussed isn’t.

          Funnily enough, the best place I’ve found to read and comment on fiction while not being bombarded with dogmatic rage? TV Tropes. Apparently the one thing that can trump the nerd tendency to take sides and defend them to the death is the nerd tendency to spot common trends and assign cutesy names to them. :p Well, whatever works…

          • Deiseach says:

            I still like discussions about fiction – books, movies, video games – and those seem to manage to turn political even when the work being discussed isn’t.

            Oh, preach it, brother! The times I’ve had to bite my tongue when a discussion in fandom veered off into the weeds – if I never see the phrase “representation matters” again in the rest of my life, I’ll die happy.

            The only semi-spiteful entertainment to be derived by sitting back and saying nothing there is when one side starts attacking the other for being insufficiently pure, zealous, or wanting the wrong kind of representation.

            As for the rest of it, I think the only thing you can do is find a side that is least objectionable/closest to your own views and opinions, and associate with that in the full knowledge that it will be, as they say, “problematic” about some things. I know about finding out “hey, you lot are supposed to be the good guys, what the heck is this?” and being disillusioned, but if you can’t/won’t/don’t want to strike out into the wilderness on your own and be a party of one, flawed community is about as good as the choice gets.

    • Randy M says:

      it’s still a gap, and it’s still unfair!

      Not if it is a trade-off that comes as a predictable result of deliberate choices individually made. I could increase my earnings by taking a second job, but I do not. Is this unfair?

      • Peffern says:

        Is it possible for anyone to have discussion / rant / lament on the state of meta-level discussion without immediately devolving into object-level discussion?

        Okay, that was overly snarky. But the replies to this comment are really not the right place for this. Make a new thread if you really want to get it into it but I’m guessing nobody wants to go down this road again.

        • Randy M says:

          Is it possible for anyone to have discussion / rant / lament on the state of meta-level discussion without immediately devolving into object-level discussion?

          Not if that person includes examples.
          (I never get this complaint, anyway. It’s like a lawyer saying “Why do we keep coming back to the reliability of the evidence? Can’t we just have a discussion about whether my client is guilty?”)

          Make a new thread if you really want to get it into it but I’m guessing nobody wants to go down this road again.

          Given the emphatic assertion of the opening thread, I would wager the opposite, but it might have been some sort of rhetorical trap. However, smuggling in side points and getting offended when they are addressed would be quite bad manners.

          • . says:

            Strongly agree, even if that person doesn’t include examples. Pure meta-discussion tends to devolve into word games and people talking past each other.

        • shakeddown says:

          So long as people keep this argument in this subtree, that’s fine. Anyone who wants to stay on the original topic can just minimize it. That’s the beauty of the comment tree structure.

      • Baeraad says:

        Not if it is a trade-off that comes as a predictable result of deliberate choices individually made.

        That depends on your definition of fairness. Liberals think it’s fair if everyone gets the same amount, conservatives think it’s fair if everyone gets what they earn. Okay. Both views seem to have the support of sane moral intuition, making it fundamentally a personal decision which one you choose to adhere to.

        But I, personally, hold to the liberal view and not the conservative one. Fair enough – no pun intended?

        • Aapje says:

          Liberals think it’s fair if everyone gets the same amount, conservatives think it’s fair if everyone gets what they earn.

          I think you need to distinguish between the group-level and the individual here.

          Group-level equality of outcome is desired by many, but certainly not all liberals. Many others just want more equality than the market naturally provides.

          Individual equality of outcome is more of a communist belief. It can’t be achieved within capitalism since the price mechanism functions through inequality.

          One of the main differences I see in the gender debate is that feminists usually demand equality of outcome between the genders, while non- and anti-feminists usually believe in or allow for the possibility that the genders are biologically different, so equality of outcome can then be unfair (as the needs and/or abilities are different). So they often favor fixing unequal treatment and then accepting the outcomes, while many feminists favor creating equal outcomes and accept unequal treatment to achieve that outcome. I think that the latter approach is extremely dangerous for various reasons.

          The debate is very weird, however, in that the non- and anti-feminists often argue that men and women behave more similarly than feminists are usually willing to accept. So you have the seeming paradox that the people who reject biological gender differences are often unwilling to accept scientific evidence that shows men and women behaving very similarly, while the people who allow for biological differences work hard to show them how similar men and women act in some ways. Funny in a sad way.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Someone commented here a while ago that feminists are becoming the gender-conservative side of the equation, because at a certain point (when equalization of opportunity and equalization of outcome diverge), a pro-woman stance, as opposed to an egalitarian stance, stops being disruptive – treating women as a special class in need of special protections is a very traditional view.

            The more I have thought about this, the more I see a fundamental element of truth to it.

        • Randy M says:

          That depends on your definition of fairness.

          True, if you put illogical spins on language, you can believe anything.

          If you don’t consider all the pros and cons of the choices contributing to income, and only look at the income axis in isolation, you aren’t having a different, equally valid definition of fairness, you are being a moron. You can’t look at two cars and say its not fair for one to cost more than the other without considering that one has 200,000 miles on it and the other is fresh off the assembly line.
          Similarly, there is no reason I should have as much money as someone who chooses to work longer hours; I am in essence spending part of my income to have more free time.

          Is the world fair? Hell no. Can you take one aggregate metric and conclude unfairness due to a difference? Also no.

          Now, here’s some charity: I interpreted “It’s still a gap, and it’s still unfair.” as “It’s still a gap, and therefore it’s still unfair.” If you meant it as “It’s still a gap, and I’ve looked into all the proposed explanations and it doesn’t seem like these choices are being made freely for reasons I don’t want to get into and it’s still unfair” then that’s not necessarily being a moron, I’d have to see your work to know.

          • Baeraad says:

            You may spare me your charity and just call me a moron a few more times. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this.

            If you want a rough model for how I think things should, ideally, work, then try this on for size: “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

            And yes, that is a very difficult principle to make work in practice (as we have noticed…), and no, I don’t have a road map for getting there, let alone one for getting there humanely. But if you don’t even think that that would, in theory, be quite nice – and again, I am under no illusion that a lot of people do or ever will – then there is just no room for meaningful debate here.

          • But if you don’t even think that that would, in theory, be quite nice

            I thought the argument was about fairness, not niceness. I can see an argument for the claim that a system where someone who was very productive had to work hard (from each according to his ability) to provide things for someone who badly needed them (to each according to his need) would be nice or that it would maximize utility. But how is it fair?

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You never got a choice to have a certain set of genes; nor did you get to choose your parents, place of birth, etc. So IMO it’s fair to have a moral obligation from those who ‘won’ at that lottery for those that ‘lost.’

            Of course, in practice you can’t really test for all these things and/or objectively calculate how much they put you ahead accurately, so in practice it tends to boil down to putting the obligation on those who do well.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          “Liberals think it’s fair if everyone gets the same amount” – I’m a *Socialist* and I don’t.

          • Rick Hull says:

            Interesting. How does one value the contribution of, say, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? I think that if you removed their compensation in the form of ownership and its benefits — by somehow outlawing the corporate form or private property? — they would end up with synthetic ownership (e.g. outsized salary and performance bonuses), and society would likely experience a deadweight loss with the synthetic chicanery.

          • Baeraad says:

            Yes, and there are libertarians who support base income, too. Everyone’s position is slightly different. Acknowledged.

            But I’m actually kind of surprised that the fact that fairness means different things to different people is in dispute here, because otherwise, I’ve only ever seen conservatives (or conservative-sympathetic liberals) point that out to refute arguments that conservatives support unfairness, which is something that liberals otherwise treat as an established fact. I mean, is it actually news to anyone that a lot of people really do want that dreaded “equality of outcome”?

    • Aapje says:

      @Baeraad

      case in point: I don’t care that it’s an earnings gap and not a wage gap, it’s still a gap, and it’s still unfair! […] But every time I hear some smug MRA saying “it’s not a wage gap, it’s an earnings gap!” as if that was automatically the end of the discussion, I feel like slamming my head into the wall)

      Most of the gap is provably not gender discrimination by employers because statistical analysis shows that the higher pay is linked to choices that employees make (like working more hours). A woman who makes the same choice as a man to work a certain number of hours, gets just as much extra pay as the man gets for working those extra hours. Furthermore, the earnings gap pattern is such (no gap at young ages, a big gap when people get children), that it’s highly likely that the unexplained gap is also not gender discrimination by employers, but choices that are not measurable neatly.

      When I’ve brought this up to feminists, they usually retreat to the claim that society forces women into choices that result in them having less pay. However, we see that people don’t maximize their pay at the expense of all else and more specifically, we see that men increase their hours worked after becoming a father, as a clear sacrifice to be a better provider (if it wasn’t a sacrifice, they would have done that before). Basic gender roles analysis suggests that both men and women are pushed into behavior that deviates from what they would do without gendered pressure.

      My claim is that focusing on earnings is in itself sexist, because it implicitly only recognizes the pressure on women as being able to result in negative outcomes, but fails to recognize how pressure on men (to work more, do dangerous jobs, etc) can also result in negative outcomes for men. I also consider it extremism to only consider one side of the coin when there are both upsides and downsides.

      Personally I consider an anti-feminist egalitarian position to be the closest to the scientific truth and fairness for both genders, as I think that mainstream feminism opposes good science and fairness.

      I agree with you that there is a lot of anger and abuse on both ‘sides’ (there are actually more than 2, feminists and anti-feminists come in many flavors) and respectful debate is rare. However, there are a few places where it does happen and I would suggest you seek those out, rather than spend your time in places where many people ‘vent’ in very hostile ways.

      • . says:

        Your position seems perfectly consistent with what OP wrote. In fact you are doing a good job of demonstrating why “it’s not a wage gap, it’s an earnings gap!” is indeed not the end of the discussion.

        I speculate that your only difference is that you are emitting different nest odors (“anti-feminist”, “smug MRA”, etc.)

        • Aapje says:

          Sure, but I do understand why some people start dropping ‘truth bombs’ when they encounter the same argument that they perceive as obviously flawed again and again. It’s probably very ineffective at changing people’s minds, but from a psychological point of view I can understand it.

          I’ve seen both feminists and MRAs do it, so it’s not peculiar to a side, except the human side.

          • Baeraad says:

            You know, I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing – at least not by much. The discussion you brought up is the one I’d like to see more of. Part of the reason why I’m so angry about this is that I’m actually extremely interested in gender identity, gendered expectations and gender equality (and what it should look like in view of the first two).

          • John Nerst says:

            To me, Baeraad seems frustrated that others act like refuting the bailey is enough to refute the motte too.

            The counter would be that you wouldn’t have to refute the bailey and could instead discuss the motte if the bailey wasn’t pushed all the time.

            But it is pushed all the time (often by implication) because the motte, while truer, carries far less moral force.

          • The Nybbler says:

            IMO, the issue is that OP claims that the motte — that there is indeed an earnings gap has some sort of moral significance — “it’s still unfair”. Everyone agrees there’s a raw earnings gap, but not everyone agrees that’s unfair. To close both the raw and controlled earnings gap at the same time would require that men and women act exactly the same, and that’s not going to happen.

          • John Schilling says:

            To close both the raw and controlled earnings gap at the same time would require that men and women act exactly the same, and that’s not going to happen.

            If women work and get paid for forty hours a week and then devote another forty to a rich and fulfilling family life, while men work and get paid for forty hours a week and then spend another forty at MRA meetings griping about how the Matriarchy made it illegal for them to work more than forty hours a week like they want, then both the raw and controlled earnings gap have been closed but men and women are not acting exactly the same.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Act the same with respect to employment, not with what they do in their off time. But just making everyone work 40 hours wouldn’t do it; men would still gravitate to jobs that pay more per unit time. Men and women would have to work the same (or somehow equivalent) jobs for the same time.

            You could envision a scenario where e.g. the men tended to work high-paying dangerous jobs for short hours whereas women tended to work low-paying safer jobs for long hours in such a way that both raw earnings and controlled earnings worked out to the same numbers for men and women. But that wouldn’t satisfy; those currently complaining about the gap would note that women made less per hour, and come up with an “hourly earnings” gap.

          • Aapje says:

            Act the same with respect to employment, not with what they do in their off time.

            And more men than women would devote part of their ‘off time’ to work, which would be noticed by the employers who would give them more money.

            You can gradually change this, but there will be forces pushing back for a long time.

    • Peffern says:

      I feel this and I sympathize. I have nothing unfortunately to add other than sympathy, but I hope it’s worth something.

    • I don’t care that it’s an earnings gap and not a wage gap, it’s still a gap, and it’s still unfair!

      Do you feel the same way about the life expectancy gap, and if not why?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Acts of nature aren’t unfair, unless they were foreseeably made worse through someone else’s decision (where “someone else” can be an individual or an aggregate).

        Even women envy the lifespan of those biological males castrated as children (and likely also those who are 5-alpha reductase deficient).

        • Gobbobobble says:

          unless they were foreseeably made worse through someone else’s decision (where “someone else” can be an individual or an aggregate).

          Like on-the-job injuries up-to-and-including warfare? The ceiling may be glass but the floor is papered over.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            War sure as heck isn’t fair at all.

            It ceases being fair once the contest becomes lethal, and has real consequences attached to doing it or not doing it.

            I don’t understand your idiom.

        • Both the income gap and the life expectancy gap are produced by the combination of facts of nature and people’s decisions. The income gap seems to be largely a result of decisions by the people in question, not by others–choice of field to work in, decision to have children, and the like. And those decisions are in part due to facts of nature–women can bear and nurse children, men can’t. It may also be a result of a different distribution of characteristics that effect one’s economic value to others.

          Do you count as “made worse through someone else’s decisions” the decision not to act to reduce the gap? If men chose to donate one percent of their income to women that would slightly reduce the income gap. If women chose to subsidize health care for men at the expense of their own health care or to go into dangerous professions now dominated by men, that would slightly reduce the life expectancy gap.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Do you count as “made worse through someone else’s decisions” the decision not to act to reduce the gap?

            Yes, though in terms of blame apportionment it’s down on the list, below those who exploit the gap (e.g. those who would fail to hire or promote women prior to, and some even after, equal employment laws were passed).

            The novel Ethan of Athos mentioned elsewhere in this thread deals with this issue in an unusual way (“social duty credits” are needed to purchase the right to have a child).

            If men chose to donate one percent of their income to women that would slightly reduce the income gap.

            That would just create a charity gap. The issue can be, and thus would need to be, addressed closer to the source.

            This can go too far for my comfort (I’m not a communist redistributionist). Ideally I’d like to see effort rewarded proportional to the effort, even for those whose greatest effort results in a well-swept floor. And opportunity provided equally for the stork and the fox. I recognize that this isn’t going to happen outside of a Star Trek like world change.

            or to go into dangerous professions now dominated by men, that would slightly reduce the life expectancy gap.

            This is fine by me, but I don’t have the attitude preventing this (many men are opposed to it as well, so it’s not just the women who would have to adapt).

            In the end this sort of redistribution just evens the number of haves and have-nots betweens the sexes, but obviously does nothing to even the stakes between those who risk their lives and those who don’t. So it’s still far less than ideal.

            I’m in favor of robots and remote control for these sorts of jobs. Hopefully we’ll get there in a couple of decades; we’re already there for some of the jobs.
            —–
            I find the OPs point of view contrary to mine in that it so highly focuses on classes of people, but we each have our own innate mental biases which cannot easily be thought around.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            The primary reason why fewer women are promoted nowadays seems to be that women on average are far less willing to take the offered promotion or seek promotions, because:
            1. women tend to be considerably less willing to take risks on average
            2. women doubt their capabilities more (1 plays a role here, as well)
            3. women tend to favor the upsides of top jobs less (high pay, status) and disfavor the downsides more (high working hours, lack of flexibility, lots of travel)

            I’ve seen a situation where the person who sought to fill a Secretary of State position was explicitly being sexist in favor of women, by approaching only women, rather than ignoring gender and approaching the best candidates. He complained that the women he approached were drastically more likely to turn down the offer than the men that he approached for other Secretary of State positions (where he did use a more gender neutral hiring process).

            I also don’t understand how not hiring a woman who is better qualified can be considered ‘exploiting the gap’, because if she is truly a better candidate, then picking a worse male candidate over a better female candidate harms the company/institution that does the hiring. If more capable women are kept out of positions by discrimination against them, then a company could gain an advantage by hiring those women over less capable. So exploiting such a bias would be to hire these women, not to not hire them.

            Ideally I’d like to see effort rewarded proportional to the effort, even for those whose greatest effort results in a well-swept floor

            That won’t close the gap, because women clearly start making less effort on average once they get children. So the gendered earnings gap will persist and quite possibly even grow if you switch to that method, which will then just cause a huge culture war over how you define and measure ‘effort.’

            I’m in favor of robots and remote control for these sorts of jobs. Hopefully we’ll get there in a couple of decades; we’re already there for some of the jobs.

            I hope so too, but I also think it is a bit of a cop out to merely hope for a Deus Ex Machina that will magically fix everything with no downsides. We don’t live in a Utopia, we live in the now and we should improve with what we have, not just throw up our hands and declare: tomorrow we’ll have the technology that will fix everything.

            Ultimately, a large reason for why people prefer to have men suffer over women is that they are more tolerant of male suffering. Furthermore, the expectation on men tends to be that they try really hard to handle their problems themselves, without asking for help of any kind (practical, emotional, etc). This has many other effects beyond workplace safety issues.

            Many MRAs see this as the main issue with the male gender role, for which they tend to use the term ‘male disposability.’

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Aapje

            African American women desire promotion more than white women, in the US at least. So it might be worth looking at what pressures and opportunities are being applied to get the various subgroups of women to have these preferences.
            (I read a better link yesterday on my work computer, but can’t find it)

            I also don’t understand how not hiring a woman who is better qualified can be considered ‘exploiting the gap’,

            It wasn’t about not hiring her per se, but about not hiring her or paying her equally.

            Arguments have been made in favor of caste systems in that it keeps highly competent people at lower levels in the system where high competence is still needed.

            If a person’s sense of world-rightness is served by keeping women subordinate, then they are exploiting the gap for something other than monetary profit for their company. If keeping women out of managerial jobs heightens their own odds of rising up more notches in the hiring chain, then they are exploiting the gap for personal profit (ie. in largish companies most hiring managers are middle managers, and all hiring managers know that promotion is unsynced between people, so that the person they hire today could theoretically be their boss tomorrow).

            That won’t close the gap, because women clearly start making less effort on average once they get children.

            The gap, per se, isn’t my hobby horse. That said, having children is itself an effort which many corporations and some nations reward to an extent (the extra health care allotment for children in health care plans is itself a monetary reward that the childless don’t receive – I don’t think we should just look at paycheck when counting wages).

            So the gendered earnings gap will persist and quite possibly even grow if you switch to that method

            Yes, various ideals of mine are mutually conflicting and not necessarily subordinate to each other.

            We don’t live in a Utopia, we live in the now and we should improve with what we have,

            I completely agree; I don’t ‘work’ for a utopia, I merely have a set of preferences that I would like to see eventually be reached. Any increase in general quality of life experience is a plus.

            Ultimately, a large reason for why people prefer to have men suffer over women is that they are more tolerant of male suffering.

            I know.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            African American women desire promotion more than white women

            African-American women are single mothers way more often, so that means that they less often benefit from a male provider, so it makes sense that they would make decisions more like men.

            That said, having children is itself an effort which many corporations and some nations reward to an extent

            Corporations are willing to pay a certain amount in compensation and if they pay more in secondary benefits, they pay less in salary. This is also why purely looking at salary per hour is deceptive and probably exaggerates the actual gender gap (as women probably get more secondary benefits on average).

            IMO, this is probably one major reason why male & female professions develop. Some compensation packages are more attractive to men and some to women. Once a gender disparity develops, employers tend to adapt their standard compensation package to match what most of their current employers want. If this is more attractive to women, more women like the deal and fewer men (and vice versa).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Good points, agreed.

            I’d likely be in favor of allowing the candidate to choose among multiple compensation packages (or even be allowed to cobble together their own through a D&D-like points system), though the immediate and future benefits and detriments of each would have to be incredibly clearly spelled out.

      • Baeraad says:

        Yes, and if you have any reasonable ideas for closing it, I’m all ears.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Larger, more diverse control groups for medical interventions.

          Non-European groups in the US are disproportionately not included in research studies. In medicine this is especially important.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Equitable legal protections would be a start.

          As one example that gets some press among the MRA crowd, HPV vaccines are required to be covered by insurance for women, but not men. (Massachusetts did expand this to men, but nationally it is still only mandatory for women)

          We could also, at a social level, encourage women to go into more dangerous lines of work, to bring workplace fatalities to parity.

          And we could provide better social support to abused and battered men.

          And we could expand workplace discrimination laws to protect me against disproportionate physical labor (the “Can you get this heavy box off this top shelf for me” phenomenon), which contributes to disproportionate injury rates.

          We could provide greater gender balances of targets in entertainment, as the tendency to show men as more valid targets of killing can’t possibly help their wildly disproportionate murder rate.

          On those lines, we could make a greater effort to make me aware of, and help them mitigate the risk of, personal violence, as men suffer most of the violence in society.

          Really, the only thing there is a shortage of is a will to solve the problem, or, more frequently, the ability to even notice the problem.

        • lvlln says:

          How about prioritizing men over women when it comes to allocating medical resources? I don’t know exactly how it would work in practice, but perhaps in triage situations, a man’s medical file automatically gets reviewed again if the first pass determines he should be put behind a woman in line. Obviously it would be unreasonable to have it so that men automatically cut the line in front of any women who were already in line, but perhaps by offering a second review, it would cause, on the margins, more men to receive medical care more quickly, which might help to raise their average life expectancy.

          Also, maybe there should be (corporate sponsored? Government funded?) health programs that are exclusively available to men. Not just for health issues unique to men, but any health issues that may lead to lower lifespans. These programs could be in the form of things like education materials or guidance counseling. Obviously such programs would be helpful to everyone, but since the issue is the gap and women are already on the positive end of that gap, closing the gap would mean providing exclusive or asymmetric benefits to men.

          Not sure how effective these would be or how unreasonable people would find them, but I think they aren’t dissimilar to mainstream efforts to close the earnings gap.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          In the same vein as the more snarky comments to your question:

          Make more of men’s labor uncompensated. “Men’s work”.

          Such as making all fire stations volunteer.

        • rlms says:

          I know that the idea of biodiversity among humans is controversial, but there is clear scientific evidence that a significant part of the life expectancy gap is genetic. So politically correct affirmative action programmes that aim to achieve parity are doomed to failure!

          Less snarkily, I expect that the most effective interventions would be targeting men with campaigns to discourage lifestyle choices that cause heart disease, and encouraging men to seek medical treatment more frequently. Many of Thegnskald’s suggestions might be good ideas for other reasons, but given that suicide, murder and workplace accidents only account for a small proportion of deaths I doubt that they would change the expectancy gap much (I’m going to analyse the stats here to check this). But providing HPV vaccines to straight men (or similar policies based on the notion of equality) would be foolish: they aren’t provided because that isn’t cost effective; allocating money that is or could be spent on other male healthcare to them would increase male mortality.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I have seen studies which suggest HPV vaccinations are more cost effective for women, but even these concede that they are still cost effective for men, even given the case of prevalent vaccinations of women.

            But these are based on cost effectiveness evaluations of vaccinating women, which themselves assume herd immunity for men in their cost effectiveness calculations. In truth, vaccinating either gender would work to provide the same kind of herd immunity, and in a world in which not everybody gets vaccinated, it is worth vaccinating everybody who will be, until we don’t have to vaccinated anybody.

            Worse, there is an implicit assumption going on there that if we don’t vaccinate men, the money will instead be spent on other healthcare for men. Is there any reason to believe this is actually the case? In this universe, women account for a slight majority of healthcare spending (56% to 44%). The more intuitive result would be that, assuming it got spent on healthcare 44% of it would be spent on men.

          • JayT says:

            Suicide, murder, and workplace accidents may be a small portion of the overall deaths, but they are a very large portion of deaths for young people. People dying young make a bigger difference in life expectancy rates than people that die at 75 instead of 78 because of disease. Of these things that affect your people the most, about 80% of the victims are men. Add in traffic fatalities, where men are more than twice as likely to die, and I’d wager that most of the difference in life expectancy between men and women is due to these causes of death.

            I’d like to run the numbers, but I don’t have the time right now.

          • rlms says:

            What do you mean by “cost effective”? If spending an amount of money on HPV vaccinations for men had more health benefits than spending the same amount on another form of healthcare (that’s what I understand “cost effective” to mean) then the NHS would presumably be doing that. They are not, and I think NICE are fairly trustworthy, so I conclude that vaccinating men is not cost effective.

            Your “intuitive result” is a fully general argument in favour of any kind of gender-specific healthcare. Either you’re confused, there’s some reason why replacing e.g. oncology with male-oncology and female-oncology would double efficiency, or you think that the people who allocate healthcare spending are irrational (such that in a world where saving a male life with HPV vaccinations cost $100 and saving it with non-gendered healthcare would cost $60, the best strategy would be to disguise the non-gendered healthcare as HPV vaccinations and perform more of it, because the allocators wouldn’t let you just perform non-gendered care).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            JayT, I don’t know, but I do know that the sex gap was reduced from 7 years to 5 years over the past 50 years, mostly due to lung cancer, not a disease of youth.

          • Thegnskald says:

            [edited for niceness]
            rlms –

            Cost effective, provides more value than it costs.

            I don’t see much point in engaging in your argument as far as the NHS goes. I have actually looked into the studies of cost effectiveness; you admit you have not, and in lieu of that, offer up a tenuous chain of assertions. But at a guess, I would suggest the NHS is evaluating the cost effectiveness only in terms of costs to the NHS, and isn’t considering QALYs in its considerations.

            As for your math, allow me to spell it out: Assume, for a moment, we are already vaccinating men, and are debating stopping in favor of just vaccinating women. Let’s say we are spending $100 a year on vaccinations – clearly that is the wrong figure and the wrong currency, bear with me for a moment, it simplifies the math and I am on an American keyboard. If we stop, we free up $100 to spend on other things – presumptively, healthcare.

            Now, the NHS doesn’t have a “Men’s health” budget, as far as I am aware, so this $100 goes into the general budget. Given that $44 out of every $100 is spent on men’s healthcare, you thus free up only $44 to improve men’s health; the remaining $56 goes towards improving women’s health, exacerbating the discrepancies.

            (Actually, it is going to be even worse than this, because some of that money will be spent treating men’s HPV and HPV-related cancers.)

          • CatCube says:

            @Thegnskeld

            No, the NHS does explicitly consider QALY in its decisionmaking. Anything under £20,000 per QALY is “generally…cost effective.” Up to £30,000 is a definite maybe.

            (I recall this fact because Megan McArdle was called a liar on a news show when talking about how NHS will turn down treatments that don’t pass a certain cost/benefit threshold. Her British interlocutor was very unhappy to have somebody saying that money was a factor in health care decisions.)

          • rlms says:

            @Thegnskald
            “But at a guess, I would suggest the NHS is evaluating the cost effectiveness only in terms of costs to the NHS, and isn’t considering QALYs in its considerations.”
            Evaluating treatment value in terms of £/QALY is precisely what NICE does! That you thought the exact opposite suggests you do not understand what cost effectiveness is.

          • Thegnskald says:

            CatCube –

            Then I do not understand what they are doing.

            https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)32580-4/pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjIrvGRxLnWAhXFOiYKHSV4BXUQFghLMAY&usg=AFQjCNHtJcDMOHaNz4wfzwTCtxVoQHom_Q

            Alternatively, just pull up some of the research. (Make sure it subtracts out the saved costs of treating related illnesses. This basic step is missing from about half the studies I have looked at, and skews the QALY cost dramatically upward)

            rlms –

            I am not engaging with you any further.

          • rlms says:

            @Jay T
            I did a very rudimentary analysis below. Conclusion: heart and liver disease differences are responsible for the majority of the gap, but not by a huge margin (I estimate it’s 60:40 or 70:30 or thereabouts). The smaller portion is made up by differences in suicide, homicide, traffic accidents and drug overdoses (suicide being moderately more important than the others). Workplace accidents aren’t frequent enough to matter (at least in the UK).

          • lvlln says:

            I know that the idea of biodiversity among humans is controversial, but there is clear scientific evidence that a significant part of the life expectancy gap is genetic. So politically correct affirmative action programmes that aim to achieve parity are doomed to failure!

            Less snarkily,

            Does this need to be snarky? I think it’s an excellent and helpful point to make in any discussion about the fairness of and strategies to get rid of the life expectancy gap. That is to say, if there is clear scientific evidence that a significant part of the life expectancy gap is genetic, then it definitely does follow that politically correct affirmative action programs – which, by definition, don’t address the genetic portion of the source of the gap, however big that might be – that aim to achieve parity are doomed to failure. This is extremely useful information! It tells us that if our goal truly is to eliminate that gap, then our efforts shouldn’t be limited to politically correct affirmative action programs and should significantly include some programs that aren’t politically correct AA. For instance, genetic engineering. Or perhaps some social engineering so that men on average tend to behave more healthily than women on average (because if they behaved equally healthily, we know that the genetic factor implies that the men’s life expectancy will still be less than women’s). This would have to involve greater encouragement or resources to men compared to women when it comes to healthcare – perhaps even reducing the amount provided to women, depending on the resource constraints.

            That’s all under the assumption that reducing that gap to zero is the goal we want to achieve. It’s possible that the scientific evidence that shows a significant genetic cause of the gap would cause us to question whether setting such a goal is implied by our values and preferences, but that’s a separate discussion.

          • rlms says:

            I think it’s possible to queer the snarky-helpful binary!

            The impact of genetics on life expectancy is interesting and complicated for two reasons. Firstly, it depends on medical technology. Back when medicine was less developed, the genes that make women disproportionately likely to get pregnant caused the life expectancy gap to be the other way round. Those genes still exist, but in modern developed countries they have a reduced impact. Secondly, one of the major ways genes have an impact is in causing gender differences in dangerous behaviour. I won’t speculate about the extent to which genetic differences are responsible for men being disproportionately likely to kill themselves and others, overdose on drugs, and drive riskily, but I’m pretty sure that the effect size isn’t zero.

    • shakeddown says:

      I sympathize. If you look hard enough you can find places that actually are reasonable (I’ve managed to purge my subreddits to keep to mostly reasonable discussions, but it’s impossible to go on r/all for any length of time without seeing something that’s just blatant cyberbullying in the guise of “fighting for justice”).

      • Baeraad says:

        I do try. It’s why I hang out here, actually. I’m not enough of a techie to fit in especially well here either, but at least here there seems to be no particular group of people that it’s mandatory to hate.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      “strong belief in the benevolence of faceless authority” – wow, even a SJW wouldn’t consciously form that expression (despite it applying to them).

      “I was actually sincere and not just saying that to fit in.” – so were a bunch of the people on the small weak bastard side; at some point they concluded “they hate me, so fuck them”.

      I too would prefer if the gap didn’t exist. But it’s a result of choices: would you prefer to a) deny choosing, b) make them so that they choose the same as men, or c) “fix” the market so that the diverging choices pay the same (when one of the common male choices is just “work *more*”) ? If you care: I’m undecided between b) (understanding that precisely the same people would attack us for offering this actual solution) and accepting the status quo. All this gets “funnier” if you accept that women tend to not want men who earn precisely the same as them (I consider it plausible, have no reason for now to prioritize finding for sure; possibly, what counts more than the money in itself is not wanting men who *choose identically to them*).

      At least some of the people saying “beta faggot cuck” *may* have some sort of competence, and maybe even want you to transcend what **they** view as your sorry state. You can actually learn things from Jack Donovan.

      “remove all possibility for anonymity and suppress all speech that isn’t bland and inoffensive and support the status quo” – are you out of your mind? Besides the “Enlightenment values” argument which I’m sure you needn’t hear from me, there’s: you’re a *white straight nerd*, your existence is offensive, everything you say is subversive!

      Excepting the very most cerebral members (e.g. Anatoly Karlin, Jack Donovan), I’ve no sympathy for the alt.Boeotians either*, and they aren’t on my side. Neither are the SJWs- sadder for (certainly not just) me because I may owe to previous feminism’s weakening of gender roles my behavior (nothing weirder than “nerd” here – well, possibly Asperger’s, diagnosed cousin and all) being … well, not more rejected than it was. Who might be?

      *: if Sailer happens to be reading this – I like your work enough that I pay for it, but you pay attention to ball games, for Gnon’s sake!

      #thingsimayregretwriting

      • Randy M says:

        alt.Boeotians

        This is either a) understated ironic usage, b) Sidles-isms spreading, or c) an entirely coherent and wildly divergent post from a new Sidles account.

        I’m going with moderate charity, assuming (a), and taking a mild chuckle.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Given that I *like* a number of Sidles posts, I was chuckling and b-ing.

          • Nornagest says:

            Out of all the Sidlesisms you could pick, why did you pick that one? It’s concentrated cringe.

          • Randy M says:

            Not to mention syntactically ostentatious (as opposed to my dictionally ostentatious formulation herein).

          • aNeopuritan says:

            It was the only one that occurred to me *as* I wrote that comment. With what I wrote, did I miss an opportunity for one you’d consider better?

            (There may be a future in which I recommend something from the US Marines reading list.)

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            It’s the funniest sounding.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not even sure how to pronounce it. Is it “alt dot Boetians” or “alt point Boetians”?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m pretty sure it’s a riff on Usenet naming conventions (which he apparently mistakes as being related somehow to the alt-right), so it’d be alt-dot.

          • rlms says:

            Wait, you (plural) would pronounce the dot? I guess it makes sense by analogy to URLs, but I would never have considered doing so.

          • Randy M says:

            Mr RLMS sensibly inquires,
            Wait, you (plural) would pronounce the dot? I guess it makes sense by analogy to URLs, but I would never have considered doing so.

            I was riffing off of what WHTA said about it being funny to pronounce, the expectation being that the unusual word Boetians was the funny part, my punchline implied that the even more unusual-to-pronounce punctuation was what I assumed he found funny to pronounce.
            In truth I don’t pronounce it but as the period without a space following it syntax is otherwise unfamiliar in English it draws attention to itself in a slightly irritating way.

      • Baeraad says:

        wow, even a SJW wouldn’t consciously form that expression (despite it applying to them).

        Well, I’m honest about what I want. The alternative to faceless authority is authority with a face, and an authority with a face almost always turns out to be a bully. I’d rather take the risk of having my life upset by a rounding error in a machine somewhere than constantly be at the mercy about whether the person currently on top personally likes me or not. I mean, neither situation is ideal, but I strongly prefer one over the other.

        so were a bunch of the people on the small weak bastard side; at some point they concluded “they hate me, so fuck them”.

        I’m aware, and I even sympathise to an extent, because at times I’ve been flirting with that kind of nihilism too. The problem is, once you go down that road, you’re objectively not the good guy anymore, just one out of two different bad guys. And there is only so long I can side with one bad guy against the other because he didn’t start out bad.

        would you prefer to a) deny choosing, b) make them so that they choose the same as men, or c) “fix” the market so that the diverging choices pay the same (when one of the common male choices is just “work *more*”) ?

        I’ll go with c), and if the men don’t like it, then they are free to work less. In fact, they should. Men working themselves into an early grave isn’t good for anyone, except possibly their employers.

        At least some of the people saying “beta faggot cuck” *may* have some sort of competence,

        I very much doubt that. I’ve met plenty of real manly-men, and while they are odious in their own ways, they also tend to be magnanimous to anyone who doesn’t threaten their position. Why not? Their self-esteem is through the roof – they can afford to be patronisingly nice. Whereas if someone is screaming abuse at others online, I rightly assume that he’s an insecure little shit who needs to make himself feel big by putting others down.

        and maybe even want you to transcend what **they** view as your sorry state.

        Yeah, except I like my sorry state. It’s an excellent state that I personally feel that more people should aspire to. The meek will never inherit the Earth, I’m not so naive that I think that’s ever going to happen, but I do think they damn well should.

        And anyway, feminists claim to be “offering constructive criticism” because they “believe that I can be better,” too. Six of one, half of a dozen of the other.

        are you out of your mind?

        Possibly, actually. Or at least I’m certifiably depressed at the moment. That probably interferes with my thinking and makes me more prone to just giving up than I would otherwise be. So take what I say in the light of that, I guess?

        Besides the “Enlightenment values” argument which I’m sure you needn’t hear from me, there’s: you’re a *white straight nerd*, your existence is offensive, everything you say is subversive!

        To the feminists, yes – but the thing is, if Big Brother really descends and takes over everything, do you honestly think that he’s going to keep siding with the people who are always complaining about how the hallowed world of business has anything wrong with it whatsoever? Oh no, those feminists will get to celebrate for all of five minutes, and then they’ll be gagged along with the rest of us!

        Which is not happy scenario, but at least it will be the same for everyone, rather than one group getting to be as abusive as they want and another group having to walk on eggshells. Right now, that’s feeling like the best I can hope for.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Well, I’m honest about what I want. The alternative to faceless authority is authority with a face, and an authority with a face almost always turns out to be a bully.

          I felt like from your earlier post you were talking more about an authority without an ego, instead of “without a face”. And I think that’s a much better thing to support, especially insofar as faceless bureaucrats…well, still have faces, you just don’t see them. You can easily end up getting bullied by them same as any other power-hungry leader.

          I’ll go with c), and if the men don’t like it, then they are free to work less. In fact, they should. Men working themselves into an early grave isn’t good for anyone, except possibly their employers.

          this is basically why saying “it’s an earnings gap” instantly closes the discussion; if your fix to ‘discrimination against women’ is just ‘discriminate against men instead’, you’ve already lost. And as far as I can tell, the very few men who do work themselves into an early grave enjoy it, which brings us to the issue of the pleasure gap, the convenience gap, et cetera. Which really brings up the point: how do you fix those? If I went to college 4 years to get my job and you didn’t, should we still be paid the same? What if my job is disproportionately male and yours is disproportionately female? Do you just declare that my job shouldn’t require 4 years of college? What if it does? Or do you just make all the women go to college for four years? Actually, more women than men do that anyways, but that still seems pretty wacky.

          the literal best-case scenario here is either a massive communistic apparatus, which seems totally unnecessary considering, or…the free market. People act on their own desires and derive the utility they want. If they want a low-stress and easy job with lower pay, fine. If they want the opposite, fine. Is anyone actually hurt by this?

          also as to your top-level comment: feminism is cancer first and foremost because its labeling of dissent as misogyny makes it very difficult to argue with feminists and change their mind or even change my own.

        • The Nybbler says:

          And there is only so long I can side with one bad guy against the other because he didn’t start out bad.

          You weren’t on his side before he turned anyway, so what’s the loss?

    • BBA says:

      Co-signed.

      Speaking as a coastal privileged elitist cishet white Jewish male, I find it almost refreshing to be in everyone’s outgroup. Makes it difficult to get anyone to listen to me, but then I’ve never been much for talking.

      • Baeraad says:

        Heh. That’s my problem right there, to be sure. My big mouth keeps opening even when I know damn well that it’s better for me if it stays closed. 😉

  24. purplepeople says:

    How come Trump hasn’t said anything pre-election level stupid in a while? I’m rather disappointed.

    • ManyCookies says:

      He’s been noticeably lower key for a bit. Could be the lack of major political fights (he didn’t stick his neck out for DACA), could be lack of Russia stuff, could be John Kelly.

      • JayT says:

        I think it’s pretty much 100% John Kelly’s doing. Pretty much the minute he took over the White House has acted far more predictably.

        • ManyCookies says:

          He’s certainly helping, though it’s also possible he started at the beginning of a natural lull. The next big political fight (perhaps the healthcare bill?) will be a good test for ‘his’ White House.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      With large national disasters and the threat of North Korea, he’s in his realm.

      People of his personality type have a tendency to be riled-up by small disasters (and may throw hissy-fits about them), but see large disasters as a challenge and try to rise up to the occasion.

      And what ManyCookies said.

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t know who this leading expert is or if he’s talking through his hat, but he claims Trump and Kim understand one another, so all the huffing and puffing is not likely to end in a fiery rain of nuclear death from above:

        “We today with this new leader have this new and paradoxical situation where we have elements of internal reform that combine with totalitarianism,” said Mr Godement. “There is some hope that the North Korean leadership will at one point adhere to the idea of regional stability but we’re not yet there.”

        US president Donald Trump demonstrating flexibility and pragmatism could have a positive impact, but finding a deal is going to take a lot of preparation and dialogue.

        “Paradoxically the two characters [Kim and Trump] are ripe for talk, because I think they can understand each other, but the situation is really difficult,” he said.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’ve never heard of François Godement, and a quick google suggests his area of expertise is China rather than Korea, so I suspect this is just speculation on his part.

          I’d be pleased to hear that there were secret talks going on between the Trump administration and the Kim regime. Those two have found themselves in a place where, by doing nothing but bloviating and flying an occasional bomber or missile through international airspace, they can each declare victory in a way that their base will accept. And I expect they will muddle their way to doing pretty much that for at least the next 4-8 years, albeit in a clumsy and uncoordinated manner.

          But the actual occurrence of secret talks, is much smaller than that of circumstances where secret talks would be an obvious and useful way to find a peaceful solution to a crisis or confrontation. And the historical track record for world leaders successfully decoding “we don’t really mean that; here’s the deal we’re offering” subtext from messages whose literal text includes things like “totally destroy North Korea”, is not entirely encouraging.

          Godement’s final point, though, is dead on. Kim Jong-Un requires nothing less than an assurance that the Kim Dynasty will continue to rule North Korea, and we absolutely can’t give him that.

          • Iain says:

            Kim Jong-Un requires nothing less than an assurance that the Kim Dynasty will continue to rule North Korea, and we absolutely can’t give him that.

            Serious question: why not? At this point, the best realistic outcome seems to be an agreement that if Kim Jong Un promises to behave himself in ways X, Y, and Z, and not use nukes unless the security of his regime is threatened, the rest of the world promises not to threaten the security of his regime. This is obviously not a perfect outcome, but I don’t see a route to any better one that doesn’t require time travel.

          • He is saying “can understand each other,” which I take not as “do understand each other” but as “each has a personality type that the other can understand, possibly because they are similar.”

          • Matt M says:

            At this point, the best realistic outcome seems to be an agreement that if Kim Jong Un promises to behave himself in ways X, Y, and Z, and not use nukes unless the security of his regime is threatened, the rest of the world promises not to threaten the security of his regime.

            This may be true, but the political optics of an American President guaranteeing the safety and stability of one of the most brutal and oppressive states on Earth is pretty darn bad.

            American politicians care more about winning their next election than about making it 10% less likely North Korea nukes Japan. Therefore, they won’t do this…

          • John Schilling says:

            At this point, the best realistic outcome seems to be an agreement that if Kim Jong Un promises to behave himself in ways X, Y, and Z, and not use nukes unless the security of his regime is threatened, the rest of the world promises not to threaten the security of his regime.

            Kim requires an assurance, not a promise. Promises don’t actually assure anyone unless they are credible. And in this area, ours aren’t.

            The United States, and the rest of the world, promised not to threaten the security of the Gaddafi regime if he stopped with the nukes and the terrorism (and ratted out his partners in those crimes), and he did and we provided cruise missiles and F-16s and diplomatic cheerleading for the people who murdered his sons and then anally raped him to death with a bayonet. We made a somewhat lesser promise to Iran, and now our president says he wants to tear up the deal not because the Iranians are cheating (they don’t appear to be), but because he thinks it was a bad deal for his predecessor to have signed. We’re Americans. We love killing us some grade-A Evil Dictator. After literally generations of pointless stupid wars with morally ambiguous dictators on both sides, the chance to go after one of the unambiguous ones takes us back to the heady days of World War II when we were the Good Guys and Hitler et al were the Bad Guys, etc, obligatory Babylon 5 reference.

            We’re not going to pass up the opportunity, if it is presented to us with a price tag that doesn’t include a smoking radioactive crater in San Diego. Even the French were up for a piece of Gaddafi. We’ve proven that we don’t feel morally bound by promises made to Evil Dictators. And we’ve made it perfectly clear where we think the North Korean regime falls on the “Evil Dictator” scale.

            He deserves it. There is no diplomatic language by which we can credibly promise that we’re not going to do it, not since 2011. No magic formula that says “this time we really mean it”, even if we do really mean it this time. All we can do is keep on not actually killing him, one day at a time, and hope that eventually we all muddle through. Or we can kill him, and hope his missiles don’t work.

          • cassander says:

            @ian

            Serious question: why not? At this point, the best realistic outcome seems to be an agreement that if Kim Jong Un promises to behave himself in ways X, Y, and Z, and not use nukes unless the security of his regime is threatened, the rest of the world promises not to threaten the security of his regime. This is obviously not a perfect outcome, but I don’t see a route to any better one that doesn’t require time travel.

            If you were him, would you believe us? Because I wouldn’t. Let’s say we strike that deal, and in a few years, pro-democracy* protests break out in Pyongyang, Tienanmen Square style, and Kim sends in the tanks, Tienanmen Square style. Does America sit back and say “well we signed a treaty, so it’s all kosher” or do we get all moralistic? If you’re uncertain, ask Gadaffi, Mubarak, Assad what we’d do.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Or we can kill him, and hope his missiles don’t work.

            Or we can kill him, and note that pretty much everywhere his missiles are likely to hit are strongholds of the party opposite of that of the current President.

          • and note that pretty much everywhere his missiles are likely to hit are strongholds of the party opposite of that of the current President.

            At the moment, the main places his missiles are likely to hit are in South Korea and Japan, neither of which is a stronghold of either American political party. I don’t think even Hawaii is in range of any missiles yet demonstrated.

            So on your argument, Trump should wait a few years until North Korea can target California and kill Kim Jong-Un then.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think even Hawaii is in range of any missiles yet demonstrated.

            That would have been true six months ago, but NK recently tested the Hwasong-14, which likely has enough range to reach the West Coast. By some estimates, New York might be in the cards.

            There’s also the KN-11, which has a much shorter effective range but happens to be submarine-launched.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hawaii is within the demonstrated range of the KN-20 (aka Hwasong-14) intercontinental ballistic missile. So are San Diego and e.g. Palo Alto, though there are questions about the reentry vehicle’s reliability at that range. Washington and Shreveport are safe, for now. And they’ve upped their game to ~200 kiloton thermonuclear warheads.

            Also, Kim Jong-Un basically just promised to do a live-fire demonstration over the Pacific to shut up the bafflingly persistent “Those ignorant commie peons can’t really nuke us” crowd.

            We now return you to your no longer entirely hypothetical discussion of the 2020 electoral impact of a Trump-Kim dick-measuring contest ending with the nuclear destruction of Honolulu and San Diego along with Guam, Okinawa, Busan, Yokohama, Tokyo, Seoul, Pyongyang, etc.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling:

            I agree that we can’t signal perfect reliability to Kim Jong Un. But we can certainly do better than the status quo. Trump’s Iran showboating is massively counterproductive, for one. I furthermore find it hard to believe that there is no public statement that the US could make with internal propaganda value to Kim Jong Un. We can’t give him everything he wants, but he can’t give us everything we want, either. That doesn’t mean a deal can’t or shouldn’t be made.

            And Trump needs to shut up. Tweeting insults back and forth is the most embarrassing way to trigger a nuclear war, and 2017 should feel embarrassed that it seems plausible.

          • . says:

            Could the tweeting insults back and forth be 18-dimensional chess? NK needs to be reassured that their existing deterrent is enough. This could be done by ramping up the rhetoric and then doing nothing. America-watchers in NK will see that American pundits are freaked out about provoking NK. This will be particularly convincing if the US president seems very aggressive but is unable to act.

          • John Schilling says:

            America-watchers in NK will see that American pundits are freaked out about provoking NK.

            Why would anyone in North Korea care what American pundits think? American pundits aren’t threatening to destroy North Korea, and couldn’t do so if they wanted do. Donald Trump is, and can, and American pundits can’t stop him.

  25. rlms says:

    What’s wrong with white nationalism? Nothing! People from the Basque country, Quebec, Padania, Scotland etc. are largely white, and no-one hates them for being nationalist. The problem with generic white nationalism (as opposed to specific white people nationalism) is that generic white people don’t have a common culture to promote. Interesting consequence: there is nothing inherently wrong with Southern nationalism. My totally uninformed opinion is that a popular non-racist-dominated Southern nationalist movement could be a healthy addition to the American political ecosystem. Is such a thing possible, or is Southern nationalism inseparable from complaints that the Confederacy did nothing wrong?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Lots of people hate the Basque and Quebecois nationalists.

      The problem with generic white nationalism (as opposed to specific white people nationalism) is that generic white people don’t have a common culture to promote.

      Sure we do. McMansions (aspirationally, anyway) with white picket fences, two cars in the garage, Wonder bread, steak and potatoes, Autotune pop music, etc.

      • rlms says:

        “Lots of people hate the Basque and Quebecois nationalists.”
        They are hated by opposing nationalists, not anti-nationalists.

        “Sure we do. McMansions (aspirationally, anyway) with white picket fences, two cars in the garage, Wonder bread, steak and potatoes, Autotune pop music, etc.”
        Those things definitely aren’t common culture of all white people, and I don’t even think they’re shared by a majority of white Americans, or particularly exclusive to white people. In any case, I think you’d struggle to build a nationalist movement around them.

        • Aapje says:

          Take your pick: https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

          I also think that it is silly to claim that white Americans have too much diversity and not enough exclusivity for nationalism to work. The way that people made nationalism work in the past was by creating more commonality, not just by depending on the commonality that existed.

          • rlms says:

            That’s an even worse list! “Bob Marley”? “The World Cup”?

            “The way that people made nationalism work in the past was by creating more commonality, not just by depending on the commonality that existed.”
            Examples? Some empires probably count as successful, diverse and nationalist, but I don’t think their nationalism is widely approved of. “White nationalism can work, after all just look at the USSR” is not a convincing argument.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The “völkisch movement” of united Germany.

          • Civilis says:

            I also think that it is silly to claim that white Americans have too much diversity and not enough exclusivity for nationalism to work.

            For a group (such as a nation) to stick together, certain things are more important to have in common than others. It doesn’t really matter if you share a cuisine; sharing values is a lot more important. Skin color is a very poor proxy for shared values. National origin, when there is a well defined nation, is a much better proxy for shared values, especially as it often includes geographic proximity, language, and religion as well. It also helps to have an outgroup to define yourself against… the Quebecois can define themselves as ‘not-English-Canadians’.

            It’s possible to create a nation… both Germany and Italy are relative late-comers as far as European nations go. The American south has a somewhat-defined geographic border, and enough people with things in common: ‘language’ (the southern English vernacular), religion (the evangelical strains of Christianity) and values (distinctly more red than much of the rest of America) that it could be isolatable enough to form a conceptual nation (though with a high percentage of people that don’t fit).

            As someone on the right, I believe that what’s holding America together is only the common values and traditions, and those are rapidly being eroded away by tribal infighting. There isn’t enough solidarity to form a coherent nation from any ethnic group across America as a whole, and attempts to do so are doomed to break the whole enterprise up.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            France is another example of a nation which looks (and probably is) unified), but was created by overriding local cultures.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            A group can rally around an ideal, like ‘The American Dream’ or ‘The Melting Pot.’ Note that it is secondary if the group actually does better on that ideal than other groups, as long as believing in the ideal creates common subgoals (whether those common subgoals are effective at reaching the larger goal is unimportant to group unity as long as people believe it does). For example, a good case can be made that in some ways ‘The American Dream’ exists less in the US than in other nations, yet plenty of people still see it as an ideal to reach for.

            A group can rally around shared respect/deference of a person, institution or subgroup. For instance, Nelson Mandela, The Royal Family/King/Queen, a church, the UCLA, etc.

            A group can rally around certain rituals. Examples are The Pledge of Allegiance, remembrances of events that impacted the group (like a war or slavery or World Cup win or whatever), watching the Superbowl, Halloween, etc.

            A group can rally around beliefs of unique properties of the group, like ‘We are the most entrepreneurial.’

            A group can rally around a shared world view, like when the Mongols believed that God had mandated them to rule all peoples and kill all those who refused to submit.

            A group can rally around a shared enemy or enemy construct, like Nazi Germany, Communism, secularism, pollution, etc.

            These are some that I can come up with. Of course, there is a lot of overlap as well. A common way to create this group cohesion on a national level (= nationalism) is through education, for instance by creating a curriculum with a certain narrative or more overtly, by having rituals such as The Pledge of Allegiance. That is an example of people seeking to increase nationalism intentionally. Getting people to say extremist statements tends to create dissonance, which people can resolve by making their own beliefs more extremist.

            Anyway, the reason why people intentionally seek to increase group unity is because they desire for the group to cooperate. So how it usually works is that some people first identify a threat or goal that requires large scale cooperation and then seek to push those who don’t feel that way or feel less strongly about it to adopt it (more strongly).

            If you look at white supremacy today and historically, it has rallied around both commonality between white people and the threat to them by the negro/non-whites/jews. They also created group rituals like burning crosses, wearing hoods, etc.

            Today there is proudly proclaimed racism against white people by a substantial part of the elite/population, as well as (probably false) projections of whites becoming a minority in the US in a few decades. However, White Americans clearly don’t fear blacks/Mexicans/Jews as much as in the past, as is evident by how the right tends to focus on Muslims as the real threat (despite them not migrating to the US in substantial numbers or otherwise being a major danger).

            My analysis is that strong group unity typically develops more out of fear than desire to achieve something positive. IMO, the reason why white nationalism is small is the lack of a perception by enough people of a strong threat specifically against whites. As I argued above, the shared culture can be built. Furthermore, humans are good at stereotyping, so it really not necessary for culture to be exclusive or common to all whites for it to be perceived as white culture. For example, fried chicken and watermelons are stereotypically considered part of African-American culture, even though white people eat KFC and black people currently eat fewer watermelons than white people.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Civilis: the Quebécois can define themselves positively just fine – as “speakers of French – far enough from France that being a different country happens for purely practical reasons”, as “speakers of the Quebécois language”, as a Parisian might say, or simply as “people who say ‘tabernacle’ when pissed off”. Also, there’s not many Italians yet: according to the War Nerd, “we [Turinese] don’t hate the immigrants, we hate the Milanese” (some *great* prospect for Padania, that).

            Nancy: which countries do you think weren’t formed that way (with the exception of those where the non-dominant populations were just killed) ?

    • HFARationalist says:

      There is nothing wrong with White Nationalism just like there is nothing wrong with Japanese Nationalism. Both are perfectly healthy unless violence is involved.

      What people should actually worry about is nationalism going violent and unchecked ethnic expansionism along the lines of Nazis.

      One of the main reasons why people such as Hitler and Mao could be that destructive is that they could understand the world from an amoral, naturalistic point of view many of us share. Being able to see the world without the kool-aids of tradition or confusing normative statements with factual ones is certainly good for those who are capable of doing so. However that’s just like the root account on Linux. If you let bad people have access to the root account there will be a lot of destruction.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @rlms

      [Quebecois separatists] are hated by opposing nationalists, not anti-nationalists.

      I doubt that the primary forces that worked against Quebecois nationalism (not as much of a thing as it was 20 years or so ago; now the Quebecois-“separatist” parties mostly focus on lobbying for Quebec’s interests within Canada) were “nationalist” in a recognizable sense. Thinking Canada should stick together is not “Canadian nationalism” (Tim Hortons commercials and any time we beat the US at hockey are Canadian nationalism) and within Quebec, minority groups who did not want to be a part of an independent Quebec (not just Anglos, either; the Quebecois have a reputation for being more xenophobic than white Canadians on average) played a big role – the separatists blamed “money and the ethnic vote” after one failed referendum.

      White nationalism is bad – really bad – because it only exists in places where “white” exists as a coherent grouping, and that only exists in places where there’s enough people who aren’t white that shit would go really bad if there was a white nationalist movement with any power. The US is only about, what, 2/3 white at the most inclusive definition of the word? What happens to the other 1/3?

      If there’s Freedonian nationalism in Freedonia, and Freedonia is overwhelmingly majority Freedonian, Freedonian nationalism is bad if it’s expansionistic (either “we must liberate Freedonian minorities living in Sylvania! Greater Freedonia NOW!” or “we must conquer non-Freedonian barbarians to provide living space for Freedonians!”) or if it has a special hate-on for small minority groups (let’s say there’s 1% of Bordurians in Freedonia, and the Freedonian Nationalist Party blames them for all the problems). However, if 1/4 of the Freedonian population is Sylvanians, Freedonian nationalism is bad news, because that is a minority large enough that Freedonian nationalism and the interests of the Sylvanian minority will inevitably clash, and Freedonian nationalism will likely lead to ethnic cleansing against Sylvanians and/or war with Sylvania.

      If you were to say to the Freedonians “hey, you and the Sylvanians are both white; the FNP is a white nationalist party” they would probably try to cut your throat for saying they are like the hated Sylvanians. However, let’s say Freedonians and Sylvanians emigrate to the US, and after however many generations they will just be generic white Americans, and their ethnic tensions will only return when their respective parades cross paths, or when Freedonia and Sylvania play each other at the World Cup. If they become ethnic nationalists in the US in this scenario, it will be as white nationalists, which is bad, because if Freedonian nationalism with a 1/4 Sylvanian minority would be bad, American white nationalism with a 1/3 non-white population who is obviously worse.

      • rlms says:

        “Thinking Canada should stick together is not “Canadian nationalism” (Tim Hortons commercials and any time we beat the US at hockey are Canadian nationalism) and within Quebec, minority groups who did not want to be a part of an independent Quebec (not just Anglos, either; the Quebecois have a reputation for being more xenophobic than white Canadians on average) played a big role – the separatists blamed “money and the ethnic vote” after one failed referendum.”

        I’m not saying that you can’t oppose nationalist movements without being a nationalist yourself: it’s certainly possible to oppose nationalism on principle, or oppose specific movements on pragmatic grounds. But the (probably very small group of) people who hate e.g. Quebec separatism in the same way that most people hate white nationalism don’t have those motivations; they are nationalists themselves.

        “If there’s Freedonian nationalism in Freedonia, and Freedonia is overwhelmingly majority Freedonian, Freedonian nationalism is bad if it’s expansionistic…”
        Maybe, but that’s not the distinction I’m considering. I’m saying that groups without a clearly-defined culture to rally round can’t have good nationalist movements (“good” meaning both morally good and successful). Many groups that do have a clearly-demarcated culture don’t have good (in either/both senses) nationalist movements; in fact I think most nationalist movements are both based on common culture and morally bad. But they have to be considered on a case-by-case basis (your comment gives principles for doing so). In comparison, I think you can immediately dismiss white nationalism (or short people nationalism, pan-African nationalism etc.) without considering the specifics.

        • Randy M says:

          But the (probably very small group of) people who hate e.g. Quebec separatism in the same way that most people hate white nationalism don’t have those motivations; they are nationalists themselves.

          In your taxonomy, it seems nationalism is equivalent to imperialism.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I would wager that the people who really hate Quebecois separatism are minorities in Quebec. They don’t want their communities to be sovereign, they’re worried that they’ll be in trouble without the rest of Canada as a counterweight.

          And I don’t think it’s the lack of a common culture that makes white nationalism so bad: it’s that it only exists in places where it would be absolutely ruinous.

          • quanta413 says:

            And I don’t think it’s the lack of a common culture that makes white nationalism so bad: it’s that it only exists in places where it would be absolutely ruinous.

            Do the governments of Hungary/Poland/etc. count as white nationalist? Because some U.S. media sources seem to rag on them a lot for being roughly as homogeneous and racist as the Japanese.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Hungarian nationalists are Hungarian nationalists, Polish nationalists are Polish nationalists, etc. A Polish nationalist would not be happy if white people from somewhere else became a larger and larger % of the Polish population. They tend to get more upset about immigrants who aren’t white, for various reasons, or the prospects of those immigrants. But “white nationalism” is something that only really exists in places where there’s no dominant white ethnic/national group (eg, in Canada once upon a time the Anglos, actual English and English descended people, were dominant; this is no longer the case and has not been for some time) and there’s significant numbers of people who aren’t white, or the prospect thereof, for “white” to be defined against.

            That white nationalism can only exist in places where there is a significant population of people who aren’t white means that it would inevitably (instead of possibly or probably, as the case may be with different ethnic nationalist examples) lead to really, really bad shit is why is it so bad.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            You define white nationalism far more strictly than most. However, at what point would you accept white as being as valid an ethnic group as Anglo-Saxon? Given that Anglo-Saxons descended from the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes were later conquered by the Normans and now have a modern monarchy descended from a much later group of continental Saxons. And they all speak a bastard language descended from a mixture of ancient Western German, Norse, and Norman.

            It seems to me that the main defining difference between white and Anglo-Saxon is mostly a matter of time and a slight expansion of geography. And the idea that Hungarian nationalism would suddenly become morally worse if Hungary was 30% migrants (it’s not clear to me whether you believe this, but it seems implied) is maybe sort of true from a consequentialist point of view but seems more wrong to me than right. From a different moral point of view, all ethnic nationalism is equally bad because there’s less and less guaranteeing different ethnic groups stay apart from each other anymore except the willingness of one group to keep another out usually backed by violent force. And as you point out, as soon as multiple ethnicities are together, any form of ethnic nationalism is morally terrible.

            I might agree with your point of view if Richard Spencer had actually been more harmful to his ethnic outgroup than Victor Orban, but I’m not convinced this is actually the case. White nationalists may talk crazier than Hungarian nationalists (I don’t know; I don’t speak Hungarian), but they are mostly powerless and marginalized whereas Hungarian nationalists control the Hungarian government and are pretty hostile towards their outgroups in Hungary.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            “White” is a socially determined category, not a coherent ethnic group. Once upon a time, at least in some places, only Anglo-Saxons were white – consider Benjamin Franklin on the subject:

            Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

            Groups that were not considered white, or not wholly white, have come to be considered white. There are probably people who right now would not be called white who in 10 or 20 or 50 years might be.

            And, yes, my reasoning on this is in large part consequentialist – the Syldavian Nationalist Party saying that Syldavia, which is 100% Syldavian Orthodox Syldavians (literally nobody present internally to be an outgroup on ethnic or religious lines), should remain Syldavian, while not promoting any external expansion or anything, is light years away from white nationalists in the US promoting the expulsion of 1/3 of the population, or something of that nature. On a moral level, the Syldavians have a stronger claim to Syldavia than white people do to the US, and someone who is the descendant of slaves brought to the US in year x surely has a claim equal to that of someone descended from English or other Europeans who came to the US in year x, and a stronger claim than someone of European background who came to the US in year x+1, 10, 100, etc. But I think the consequentialist argument is stronger, because the statement “brutal civil wars are bad” is easier to argue than to get into what it means to have a “claim” to land, can people have a claim to land, etc.

            You are correct that Richard Spencer is less harmful to his outgroup than Orban is because he has less power. Orban is shitty for his outgroups – the Hungarian nationalists are not just “nobody from outside can come in” but are actively being nasty to people present in Hungary already – primarily Roma, as I understand it (3% and change of the population) – and I have noted that one factor that comes into determining how nasty a given ethnic nationalism is, is whether or not there’s an already existing outgroup minority they will be shitty to. Hungarian nationalism is bad because there are outgroup minorities in Hungary that Hungarian nationalism beats up on. But if Richard Spencer had as much political power in the US as Orban has in Hungary, I think he would do more damage, because Hungary is at least 85% ethnic Hungarian (over 10% of Hungarians didn’t say their background, and I don’t know how that breaks down), whereas the United States is only something like 2/3 white.

            If white nationalism in the US gets enough power to do what it wants, the consequences for the US and the people in it would be terrible, which is why I think white nationalism is really, really bad and dangerous. Richard Spencer talks about “peaceful ethnic cleansing” but that’s an oxymoron – it is extremely easy to find examples of ethnic cleansing that caused or happened during terrible violence, and extremely hard to find examples not like that. Whether he’s a liar or deluded is an open question. But white nationalism as a mainstream political movement in the US has the potential to kill millions or tens of millions of people and wreck the country, in addition to being grotesquely immoral, in that it would involve the deportation, murder, etc of people who have a stronger claim by people who have a weaker claim (eg, anyone in the US descended from slaves has a stronger claim to the place than a lot of white nationalists).

          • I could be wrong, but I suspect the Franklin quote was not intended seriously. At least, I found another quote from him that is inconsistent with it:

            ” In Europe, if the French, who are White People, should injure the Dutch, are they to revenge it on the English, because they too are White People?”

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            “White” is a socially determined category, not a coherent ethnic group.

            The modern sense of white is generally pretty clearly European with some fuzziness at the edges like any social category. The grouping of Anglo-Saxons is also a socially determined category that is a rough classification scheme applied to a more complicated biological reality. Scots just across the border from England are not easily genetically distinguishable from the English on the other side. Anglo-Saxons in other words, are partly a distinct group because they think they are. You have not refuted that the difference is much more than “a matter of time and a slight expansion of geography” as I already claimed. Although I exaggerate about the geographic expansion being slight. I went from one island in size to about the size of China. But China is considered pretty homogeneous despite the existence of non-Han minorities (comparable to Hungary in % from main ethnic group).

            Groups that were not considered white, or not wholly white, have come to be considered white. There are probably people who right now would not be called white who in 10 or 20 or 50 years might be.

            I think it’s about 50/50 that people could go in either direction given recent U.S. social conditions. Many people with ancestors from the middle east would count as white on the old census and could visually and culturally be confused with some sort of European-descended person by most people in the U.S. There is a push to add a new category of “North Africa and Middle East” to the census which indicates some people prefer not to be grouped as white if they can avoid it. I look like a Western European, and 3/4 grandparents are descended from there but I don’t feel any meaningful attachment to “white”.

            Anyways, on to the second thread of things.

            If white nationalism in the US gets enough power to do what it wants, the consequences for the US and the people in it would be terrible, which is why I think white nationalism is really, really bad and dangerous…

            Why are the hypothetical terrors of white nationalism or Hungarian nationalism restricted to current political units and demographics? In the next few decades, Richard Spencer developing a following of millions in the U.S. seems roughly as likely as Hungary having an influx of migrants that push the Hungarian population down to 70% of the total. I agree that Richard Spencer’s theories are morally reprehensible, but I don’t think I’d find a nativist European nationalist’s theories any less so.

            Your argument is sort of consequentialist but I don’t think it’s very consistent because we’re still in mostly hypothetical consequentialism. Where certain unlikely hypotheticals seem privileged over others. I think the two most meaningful differences are (1) white nationalism is weak in the U.S. and mostly disliked even by white people whereas Hungarian nationalism is pretty strong and (2) the U.S. has a much larger population so it is fair to consider equally likely events to be roughly 40x worse or better from a utilitarian point of view.

            On a moral level, the Syldavians have a stronger claim to Syldavia than white people do to the US, and someone who is the descendant of slaves brought to the US in year x surely has a claim equal to that of someone descended from English or other Europeans who came to the US in year x, and a stronger claim than someone of European background who came to the US in year x+1, 10, 100, etc.

            I disagree that any ethnic group really has a moral claim to some particular territory. They may have a legal claim of course. But I don’t see Syldavia’s legal claim as any stronger than the U.S. as a whole although I agree it is infinitely stronger than the claims of whites in the U.S who want to eject blacks from the U.S. If someone’s parents snuck into Syldavia and had children who lived there their 20 years I wouldn’t view the children as having less moral claim to live there than a child whose parents who were Syldavians for 10 generations. I think the U.S. birthright citizenship was one of the half-accidental good choices that politicians occasionally make. They thought they were solving the issue of assigning citizenship to freed slaves and actually made a good choice about other things too.

            Pragmatically speaking though, I don’t expect many other people outside the U.S. (and often even inside the U.S.) to buy into moral arguments for the “citizen if you are born here” schtick so I probably should work on how to argue for it better.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            dndnrsn:

            Thanks for the Franklin quote. I wonder if it influenced Twain’s Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.

            After some more talk about this, I says: “Sandy, I notice that I hardly ever see a white angel; where I run across one white angel, I strike as many as a hundred million copper-colored ones—people that can’t speak English. How is that?”

            “Well, you will find it the same in any State or Territory of the American corner of heaven you choose to go to. I have shot along, a whole week on a stretch, and gone millions and millions of miles, through perfect swarms of angels, without ever seeing a single white one, or hearing a word I could understand. You see, America was occupied a billion years and more, by Injuns and Aztecs, and that sort of folks, before a white man ever set his foot in it. During the first three hundred years after Columbus’s discovery, there wasn’t ever more than one good lecture audience of white people, all put together, in America—I mean the whole thing, British Possessions and all; in the beginning of our century there were only 6,000,000 or 7,000,000—say seven; 12,000,000 or 14,000,000 in 1825; say 23,000,000 in 1850; 40,000,000 in 1875. Our death-rate has always been 20 in 1000 per annum. Well, 140,000 died the first year of the century; 280,000 the twenty-fifth year; 500,000 the fiftieth year; about a million the seventy-fifth year. Now I am going to be liberal about this thing, and consider that fifty million whites have died in America from the beginning up to to-day—make it sixty, if you want to; make it a hundred million—it’s no difference about a few millions one way or t’other. Well, now, you can see, yourself, that when you come to spread a little dab of people like that over these hundreds of billions of miles of American territory here in heaven, it is like scattering a ten-cent box of homoeopathic pills over the Great Sahara and expecting to find them again. You can’t expect us to amount to anything in heaven, and we don’t—now that is the simple fact, and we have got to do the best we can with it. The learned men from other planets and other systems come here and hang around a while, when they are touring around the Kingdom, and then go back to their own section of heaven and write a book of travels, and they give America about five lines in it. And what do they say about us? They say this wilderness is populated with a scattering few hundred thousand billions of red angels, with now and then a curiously complected diseased one. You see, they think we whites and the occasional n***** are Injuns that have been bleached out or blackened by some leprous disease or other—for some peculiarly rascally sin, mind you. It is a mighty sour pill for us all, my friend—even the modestest of us, let alone the other kind, that think they are going to be received like a long-lost government bond, and hug Abraham into the bargain. I haven’t asked you any of the particulars, Captain, but I judge it goes without saying—if my experience is worth anything—that there wasn’t much of a hooraw made over you when you arrived—now was there?”

          • dndnrsn says:

            The modern sense of white is generally pretty clearly European with some fuzziness at the edges like any social category. The grouping of Anglo-Saxons is also a socially determined category that is a rough classification scheme applied to a more complicated biological reality. Scots just across the border from England are not easily genetically distinguishable from the English on the other side. Anglo-Saxons in other words, are partly a distinct group because they think they are. You have not refuted that the difference is much more than “a matter of time and a slight expansion of geography” as I already claimed. Although I exaggerate about the geographic expansion being slight. I went from one island in size to about the size of China. But China is considered pretty homogeneous despite the existence of non-Han minorities (comparable to Hungary in % from main ethnic group).

            My point is that “white” is more expandable – easier to increase who is covered, easier to add people – than “Syldavian.” Similarly, were I to get married to another Canadian and move to the UK and have kids, those kids would be British. But I don’t think they’d be Scottish, Welsh, English, etc.

            Why are the hypothetical terrors of white nationalism or Hungarian nationalism restricted to current political units and demographics? In the next few decades, Richard Spencer developing a following of millions in the U.S. seems roughly as likely as Hungary having an influx of migrants that push the Hungarian population down to 70% of the total. I agree that Richard Spencer’s theories are morally reprehensible, but I don’t think I’d find a nativist European nationalist’s theories any less so.

            I think there’s a difference between their claims. I can imagine an inoffensive ethnic nationalist in Europe, Asia, Africa, etc far more easily than an inoffensive one in North America. But if we differ on the moral notion of having a claim to a place, I suppose that’s irreconcilable.

            Your argument is sort of consequentialist but I don’t think it’s very consistent because we’re still in mostly hypothetical consequentialism. Where certain unlikely hypotheticals seem privileged over others. I think the two most meaningful differences are (1) white nationalism is weak in the U.S. and mostly disliked even by white people whereas Hungarian nationalism is pretty strong and (2) the U.S. has a much larger population so it is fair to consider equally likely events to be roughly 40x worse or better from a utilitarian point of view.

            My argument is kind of messy, but most consistent moral philosophies tend to have some glaring hole. I do think hypotheticals are fair, though. If Hungarian nationalists went full horrible, even controlling for population (and I think it’s fair to consider absolute rather than relative badness) they would do less horrible stuff than white nationalists in the US who gained power and went full horrible.

            I disagree that any ethnic group really has a moral claim to some particular territory. They may have a legal claim of course. But I don’t see Syldavia’s legal claim as any stronger than the U.S. as a whole although I agree it is infinitely stronger than the claims of whites in the U.S who want to eject blacks from the U.S. If someone’s parents snuck into Syldavia and had children who lived there their 20 years I wouldn’t view the children as having less moral claim to live there than a child whose parents who were Syldavians for 10 generations. I think the U.S. birthright citizenship was one of the half-accidental good choices that politicians occasionally make. They thought they were solving the issue of assigning citizenship to freed slaves and actually made a good choice about other things too.

            There’s an enormous practical difference between most of the countries of the Americas (plus Australia and NZ) and Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. The screwing over, ethnic cleansing, destruction by disease, interbreeding, etc – differs depending where you’re talking about – of the indigenous peoples (who I do think have a stronger claim than anyone else, and deserve some kind of consideration for this) means the cultural context is completely different. It is easier to become (that is, to be thought of) Canadian, American, Brazilian, etc than Flemish, Ethiopian, or Japanese.

            Pragmatically speaking though, I don’t expect many other people outside the U.S. (and often even inside the U.S.) to buy into moral arguments for the “citizen if you are born here” schtick so I probably should work on how to argue for it better.

            I think the practical arguments are better, because there’s just going to be basic differences in any moral argument – you think my kids would have as much claim to Syldavia as a Syldavian there since it was conquered by King Whoever – I don’t. While we agree on the moral argument with regard to Canada, the US, etc, I think practical arguments are stronger. For Canada, the US, etc, I certainly support birthright citizenship – it’s the best practical choice, and it’s the best moral choice.

          • I can imagine an inoffensive ethnic nationalist in Europe, Asia, Africa, etc far more easily than an inoffensive one in North America.

            I’m curious why. Over the past fifty years, ethnic nationalist in Africa have killed several million people–two or three million Ibos in the Nigerian Civil War, a million or so Hutu and Tutsi in Ruanda and Burundi, smaller numbers elsewhere. American ethnic nationalists have killed something well under a hundred people.

      • Obelix says:

        dndnrsn:

        I doubt that the primary forces that worked against Quebecois nationalism (not as much of a thing as it was 20 years or so ago; now the Quebecois-“separatist” parties mostly focus on lobbying for Quebec’s interests within Canada) were “nationalist” in a recognizable sense. Thinking Canada should stick together is not “Canadian nationalism” (Tim Hortons commercials and any time we beat the US at hockey are Canadian nationalism) and within Quebec, minority groups who did not want to be a part of an independent Quebec (not just Anglos, either; the Quebecois have a reputation for being more xenophobic than white Canadians on average) played a big role – the separatists blamed “money and the ethnic vote” after one failed referendum.

        I know this comment is a few days old and this thread isn’t current anymore so my comment might not be read, but as a Quebecer, I must say that I find Canadians to be fiercely nationalistic, all while insisting that their nationalism is in fact anything but. Saying “Canada is the greatest country in the world, because it’s so diverse and encourages diversity” is a nationalist claim. And even moreso if this diversity is intended to service some grand project of Canadian identity. rlms is very correct that groups opposing Quebec nationalism (for example) are for the most part competing nationalists, whose vision of the Canadian nation for one reason or another doesn’t jibe with some Quebec nationalistic projects.

        It’s quite clear to me that the Canadian national project doesn’t very much allow for other nationalisms to exist within it, and you exemplify this tendency, by suggesting (without clearly claiming it as your own opinion it is true) that “the Quebecois have a reputation for being more xenophobic than white Canadians on average” and that minorities in Quebec somehow feel the need to be protected from Quebec by Canada. That’s also of course Canadian nationalism.

        • and that minorities in Quebec somehow feel the need to be protected from Quebec by Canada. That’s also of course Canadian nationalism.

          But is it true? I’m thinking in particular of the First Nations. My impression was that they had gotten generally more favorable treatment outside Quebec than inside and were generally opposed to Quebec separatism.

          Was I mistaken?

          • Obelix says:

            DavidFriedman:

            My impression was that they had gotten generally more favorable treatment outside Quebec than inside and were generally opposed to Quebec separatism.

            Actually, Natives in Quebec have among the best living conditions of Natives in Canada. Now this is in part because Natives in Quebec are a smaller part of the population and live further from population centres than, say, in the Prairies. So there’s less opportunity for conflicts between whites and Natives (and when Natives do live close to population centres, like the Mohawks, conflicts do happen). But at the same time the Quebec government has typically followed a “nation-to-nation” dialogue with Native populations, which has had fairly good results, for example with the Paix des Braves and the granting of greater autonomy to Inuit in Nunavik. (Inuit are of course not First Nations but you get the point.)

            As to whether First Nations support Quebec independence, that’s another question. Quebec independence is an idea flowing from Quebec nationalism, and while Quebec nationalism is not as ethnic and exclusive as some would say, First Nations are almost by construction outside the Quebec nation by virtue of being part of separate nations. So it’s literally “not for them”, and it’s not likely to improve their conditions compared with being part of a Quebec which is part of Canada. (At the same time it wouldn’t make them worse.) I would say that for the most part Natives do not favour Quebec independence, but their opinions on the matter tend to follow which second language their community uses in addition to their native language. If this language is English, they are less likely to be favourable to Quebec independence or Quebec nationalism in general than if this language is French.

            Also remember that Quebec nationalism doesn’t necessarily mean independence. There are many ideas that can be described as “Quebec nationalist” but don’t need to involve actual independence.

    • . says:

      A few reasons why race is an even worse organizing principle than nationality:
      0) We’re already organized around nation rather than race, and it would be costly to switch
      1) It is easier to change your nation than your race, so a world organized around nation is less repressive than one organized around race
      2) Until machine translation becomes reliable we’ll inevitably fragment along linguistic lines and language maps onto nation pretty well, so we might as well accept it.

      What does this suggest about Southern nationalism?
      0) Splitting the US would be costly, and more costly than splitting off Catalonia since there is no analogue of the EU. But it is not nearly as costly as making all the Blacks south of the Mason-Dixon line move to Liberia or all the Whites move to Sintashta.
      1) It is very easy to code-switch between Southern and Yankee, so Southern nationalism is unlikely to become repressive or particularly exclusive
      2) Since the north and south share a language, fragmentation is not inevitable and there’s no reason why we should sit there and take it, unless one likes the proliferation of group identities for some reason.

      I conclude that Southern nationalism is way better than white nationalism. It seems better than Basque nationalism in some ways and worse in others.

  26. Aapje says:

    I found this rather interesting article on how journalists tend to call it bias when an algorithm provides correct predictions that fail to reflect the reality the authors wish existed.

    This is different from how the statistical definition of bias, which is the extent to which an prediction fails to be (consistently) incorrect.

    • Well... says:

      Yes, that was an interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

    • John Nerst says:

      It’s not that strange. I mean, “bias”, like many other words, is used in two different senses that sometimes coincide and sometimes not. In this case “deviation from accuracy” and “deviation from evenness/equality/representativity”. It’s probably just a half-(un)intentional conflation of a very common kind.

      Words are like fingers, in a way. Those experiments where people have two fingers taped together and subsequently lose the ability to control them individually happens with words too: if you use one word to mean several things you lose the ability to tell those things apart.

      • Kevin C. says:

        if you use one word to mean several things you lose the ability to tell those things apart.

        Hence the need for the Rectification of Names.

  27. Anonymous says:

    What’s the case for/against the Flynn effect? I hear say that it’s borne out by the data, but I’m skeptical that our recent ancestors were on average “developmentally challenged”.

    • The case for is the evidence Flynn offers of the results of tests over time.

      The evidence against is that we know there were some extraordinarily smart people in the distant past, which shouldn’t be the case if the whole distribution shifted as fast as Flynn’s data exist, and that things written a century or two back don’t seem to be describing a world where most people were barely above what we would consider retarded.

      • Well... says:

        I thought the Flynn effect only claimed that people had started getting smarter recently (i.e. in the past 150 years or so). So, average IQ was 100 for a long time (say, from 200K years ago until the mid 19th century) but then began gradually rising (perhaps due to better environmental factors and nutrition).

        • Flynn only has data for the past century or so, but there is no obvious reason why whatever caused the effect should have only appeared at the point when we start having adequate data. The number suggest a rise of about thirty points over a century. By modern standards, that puts the average a hundred years ago at about the boundary between “mild retardation” and “Borderline Intellectual Functioning.” If you extrapolate a little farther back, it means that the median individual was what we consider retarded.

      • BBA says:

        If the “intelligence” of the population at large hasn’t dramatically shifted, then Flynn’s evidence is telling us that IQ tests aren’t strictly measuring “intelligence.”

        Alternatively, it means that environmental effects (childhood nutrition, lead poisoning) have a strong effect on intelligence and g is not predominantly genetic, since on average a child will be more intelligent than both parents.

        Either way, it makes me suspect the Horrible Banned Discourse is not based on logical conclusions dispassionately drawn from the whole of current scientific knowledge.

        • Anonymous says:

          Either way, it makes me suspect the Horrible Banned Discourse is not based on logical conclusions dispassionately drawn from the whole of current scientific knowledge.

          Of course it’s not. It’s the null hypothesis.

          • hyperboloid says:

            If we’re talking about human bongo depravity (or whatever the accepted name for Bell Curve style racialism is these days) then no, it’s not.

            In inferential statistics the null hypothesis is the theory that differences between two sets of observations is caused not by an underlying difference in the phenomena being studied, but by some confounding factor, often random chance.

            How to go about choosing a null hypothesis is a highly controversial subject, and a lot of very bad science has been done by calculating P-values against random chance alone, and not considering more plausible alternative hypotheses, for instance flaws in the experimental procedure.

            The racialist view is that ethnic differences in IQ scores are due to underlining population differences in the frequency of genes that contribute to intelligence. The most prominent anti-racialist view is that the difference are cultural in origin.

            Racialists are trying to infer from psychometric scores the existence of a genetic phenomenon that has not been directly observed. Anti-racialists argue that cultural differences account for the variations.

            Due to the Flynn effect, the difference between the IQ of white Americans in 1940, and the IQ of white Americans in 2017 is greater then the difference between whites and blacks today. This shows us that there are at least some large differences between groups that can not possibly be accounted for by genetic variation.

            If we are going to pick a null hypothesis, it seems better to go with the more parsimonious view that there is one cause for group differences rather than two.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m choosing Muggle Realism as the null hypothesis, because AFAIK, there’s no reason to believe that evolution stops at the neck, where genes do substantially affect just about every other aspect of human life (or that race is a “social construct”). Like the The Nybbler notes (but from the other side), it’s not that I don’t believe that various other factors (culture, oppression, nutrition, parasites, etc) have an effect – it’s that I believe that if you control for those, genes do play a significant role.

          • hyperboloid says:

            there’s no reason to believe that evolution stops at the neck

            That is a terrible argument.

            The human population is genetically diverse, and, for genetic reasons, some phenotypic traits vary between subpopulations, but even you have to acknowledge that some traits don’t.

            There is no reason to believe that evolution stops at the eyeballs either. And indeed there are likely strong genetic factors that affect differences in visual acuity between individuals. Furthermore, for reasons to do with nutrition, and access to medical care, It’s very likely that once you adjust for age Europeans have better eye sight than Africans.

            Nevertheless, I have never heard anyone claim that whites have genetically superior vision.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @byperboloid

            But we would expect to see the rates of various eye problems to be different from race to race, even if we don’t have an off-hand guess on who has the better eyes. And a quick google indicates that race is indeed a factor.

            (Hispanics have the most astigmatism, non-Hispanic whites have the most farsightedness, for the curious.)

          • Anonymous says:

            @hyperboloid

            Nevertheless, I have never heard anyone claim that whites have genetically superior vision.

            I think you and I have different definitions of what constitutes Muggle Realism. I’m arguing from the position that human subpopulations have different genetic make-up, and these genetic differences have significant effects on their behaviours and life outcomes. The only controversial part of which that this applies to intelligence; nobody I’ve heard of claims that running speed, or height, is in no generalizable way genetic with regards to related human subpopulations.

            Your idea appears to be that Muggle Realism constitutes just an assertion that whites are intellectually superior on a genetic basis.

            Am I wrong in assensing your definition?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Human bio-uniformity opponents don’t deny that malnutrition and lead poisoning affect intelligence. The claim is that once you’ve taken care of such gross damage, after that, intelligence is predominantly genetic.

          I think they underestimate these confounders in many cases (particularly when talking about African intelligence), but they don’t deny they exist.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      The Flynn effect is just an increase in measured test scores. The evidence for it is just the results of many, many IQ measurements people have made over time and is overwhelming. The claim that our recent ancestors were “developmentally challenged on average” is not part of the claim that the Flynn effect exists – it’s just one very naive interpretation of what the Flynn effect shows.

    • Anon. says:

      There was a good post on Flynn on the subreddit.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think part of the Flynn effect has to do with standardised testing and the extension of compulsory education and hence literacy. People who left school at 14 with a scrappy education are never going to do so well on a written test as people who have grown up taking tests from kindergarten onwards, no matter how smart they may actually be.

      I’m not saying that explains all of it, but I do think it has a part to play in the “people now do way better on verbal and mathematical written problems than people fifty or more years ago, how come moderns are so much smarter than their grandparents?” question.

      • hyperboloid says:

        The Flynn effect continued long after compulsory education, and therefore literacy, were almost universal in the US.

        There are IQ tests that can bee given to illiterate people, raven’s progressive matrices for example. Wikipedia tells me it was first published in 1938, and the first Stanford–Binet test was created in 1905. In 1910 native born whites had a three percent illiteracy rate, by 1940 it was one percent. I don’t know a lot about the history of psychometric testing, but I’m not sure there is even enough data to estimate the average IQ before widespread literacy.

        • Deiseach says:

          Historic literacy rates are an interesting question; as you say, how do we establish average IQ before tests were even invented? And if we’re only measuring “data from tests since 1905 onwards”, then I do still think that methods of testing, familiarity with test taking, who gets tested (college undergraduates versus twelve year olds) and the like does have an effect on scores.

          According to a graph on this site, the mean literacy/illiteracy level in the USA was vastly stratified by race; in 1870 the illiterate percentage of the white population was 11.5% while for “black and other” it was 79.9%:

          The following visualization shows illiteracy rates by race for the period 1870-1979. As we can see, in order to reach near universal levels of literacy, the US had to close the race gap. This was eventually achieved around 1980.

          And as for closing the literacy gaps globally, there is this:

          We can also see that younger generations are progressively better educated than older generations. And it is particularly promising that this intergenerational change is happening especially quickly in the least educated regions of our world: notice how the slopes of the lines in the least educated countries become progressively steeper.

          For things like Raven’s Matrices which are supposed to be culturally neutral and all the rest of it, I still think there is a ‘trick’ to solving the problems as they scale up in difficulty; they’re not immediately intuitive, and if you’ve been educated in test-taking and the kinds of problems that crop up as mathematical exercises, I think this would be of help to you in solving the “what pattern comes next?” for the harder ones. It may not bump your scores up by a lot, but even a small increase will seem like “people are getting smarter”.

          It may well be true that people are getting smarter, but this does not mean that our ancestors were all drooling idiots! Going from a median IQ of 100 to 105 is an achievement and may well be down to better nutrition, health care, education and so on. I see that the Flynn Effect is talking about apparent huge leaps ahead; if we take the “average rate of increase seems to be about three IQ points per decade in the United States, as scaled by the Wechsler tests” then from 1950 to 2010, the average IQ should have gone from 100 to 118 which does seem like one hell of a leap.

          But is it? First, how much has the population increased between 1950 to 2010? (That is, merely by having more people, it’s likely that naturally there are more smart people around and before you tell me yeah but that also means more stupid people, it’s not generally the stupid people who get IQ tested unless it’s for a medical diagnosis; ordinary IQ tests are for the reasonably smart). Second, how many more people are taking IQ tests? Third, as I said, maybe increased literacy and education and simply becoming accustomed to taking tests all the time for everything in your entire school career does help bump up scores. And how have the tests changed over time? The earlier tests seem to be very easy by modern standards, but let’s look at that – maybe the earlier tests were very easy, so getting a high score on them in the first quarter of the 21st century isn’t that big an achievement after all! Since there’s been a lot of development in IQ testing over time, and the first Weschler was for kids, maybe the problems were set at a lower level than we’d assume age-appropriate.

          tl;dr – I think it’s “something from column A and something from column B” to explain the effect. People are probably getting smarter when we’re talking about the average over populations due to better healthcare, nutrition, education and the rest of it, and some of it may be down to the early tests were on a small population and weren’t as refined as the modern tests. It’s probably tricky to work out how hard to make the questions such that they’re not extremely difficult for the majority to answer, and I have a feeling early tests probably erred on the side of being easier rather than harder.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Off the top of my head from what I recall years ago:

          The Flynn effect shows up most strongly in those tests with a greater fluid intelligence loading.

          This makes sense as exposure to more scenarios would exercise and prompt use of fluid intelligence (it may have taken a hoi polloi too much time to even start using their fluid capacities way back in the day to notch a score on a timed test, and practically all tests are effectively timed – you rarely have multiple days to take them).

          For everything else there’s crystallized intelligence, which effectively hasn’t budged (when measured via verbally loaded tests).

  28. anonymousskimmer says:

    @rlms
    Your comment scraping analysis has me under libertarian with 6. What is this supposed to indicate? I missed whenever you described it.

    (Question reposted and slightly edited from 84.5)

    • rlms says:

      (Answer reposted)
      See here. I filtered through the comments containing political terms and found one that made me classify you as a libertarian. The 6 means that the first 5 comments I saw weren’t conclusive.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Danke

        Left-libertarians (Nancy Lebovitz and someone else I can’t remember) were classed as libertarian.

  29. anonymousskimmer says:

    @DavidFriedman and @Matt M

    Continuing the discussion on the Political Compass globalization question.

    DavidFriedman’s last post on this topic, which quotes me replying to Mark V Anderson:

    why not just answer “moderately or strongly disagree” if you see that prioritizing profit-seeking as superior to prioritizing humanity when it comes to actually helping humanity in the long term?

    Because if you believe that you believe that prioritizing profit seeking is the way to prioritize humanity, hence the question makes no sense.

    The original question wasn’t about profit seeking, it was about corporate profits, which is a far more limited subset of profit seeking.

    So you’re saying, for people who believe this, that all transnational agreements (and laws pertaining to borders) which deal with movement of humans, information, goods, money, shipping, fishing, pollution, etc… across borders should prioritize corporate profits regardless of what else is negotiated away or left off the table in favor of prioritizing corporate profits, because only prioritizing corporate profits can maximize the benefit to humanity as a whole.

    I might be straw-manning this position, I really am unsure, so feel free to set me straight. But if not, I’m sorry, but this seems like a dangerous monomania.

    @Matt M
    You wrote:

    I think the point is that some people (myself included) would tell you that the best way a corporation can “serve the interests of humanity” is by maximizing profits. That the two issues are not contradictory and are, in fact, one and the same.

    You misread the proposition (and I may be partly to blame for removing the focus of the conversation from globalization). This isn’t about how corporations can benefit humanity, but whether Economic Globalization should prioritize humanity or corporate profits.

    • So you’re saying, for people who believe this, that all transnational agreements (and laws pertaining to borders) which deal with movement of humans, information, goods, money, shipping, fishing, pollution, etc… across borders should prioritize corporate profits regardless of what else is negotiated away or left off the table in favor of prioritizing corporate profits, because only prioritizing corporate profits can maximize the benefit to humanity as a whole.

      If you interpret it that broadly, nobody at all is in favor of prioritizing corporate profits. The question asked:

      “If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations. ”

      It doesn’t say “should all laws governments make primarily serve humanity rather than … .”

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        So what’s the tradeoff then?

        When are the non-corporate interests of humanity served over those of trans-national corporations in international negotiations pertaining to the non-governmental movements of things associated with the inputs, outputs, and mechanisms of trans-national corporations (e.g. humans, information, goods, money, shipping, fishing, pollution, etc…)? And are these non-corporate interests few enough, or subordinate enough, that the trans-national corporation interests should generally be preferred?

    • Matt M says:

      This isn’t about how corporations can benefit humanity, but whether Economic Globalization should prioritize humanity or corporate profits.

      But I feel like this falls to the same criticism I leveled before… the OR implies that humanity and corporate profits are opposite and contradictory ends. They are not. As an anarcho-capitalist, I struggle to think of an action a government might take that would dramatically lower corporate profits while simultaneously benefiting humanity.

      The government instantly deciding to nationalize or confiscate all the wealth of corporations and CEOs and distribute it to the poor would not, in my opinion, be a benefit to humanity on net.

      • rlms says:

        What’s government got to do with it? Imagine a situation where a corporation has a choice between pursuing one strategy (say, running a marketing campaign that will make gullible people buy more than widgets than they really need) with expected profit X, and pursuing a second strategy (say, developing a new widget to sell that will help orphans) with expected profit Y < X. The first strategy prioritises profits, the second prioritises humanity.

        • Matt M says:

          I reject the premise that expensive marketing can magically convince people to buy things they “don’t need.”

          Or that selling products to orphans at lower-than-optimal prices benefits humanity (at the very least, this would create shortages).

          Profits are a direct measurement and reflection of the value you are adding to society as a whole.

          • rlms says:

            If marketing can’t convince people to buy things they don’t need, then any time marketing leads to people buying more things (something I assume has happened, given that marketing exists) those people must have been buying suboptimally low amounts of things. Why should that be the case?

            I’m not saying that products are being sold to orphans at lower-than-optimal prices. The hypothetical is that the company has decided to develop debilitating-orphan-disease-curing widgets which they will then sell to orphans at whatever price maximises their profits (resulting in total profit Y), rather than spending that development money on something else like a marketing campaign, or developing mildly-unpleasant-billionaire-disease-curing widgets (resulting in total profit X > Y).

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Why wouldn’t both things happen?

            I mean, if you know how to build the orphan-healing raygun, and it’s profitable, but you’re out of money to build it, why wouldn’t you get a loan? Or sell the patent? Or do one of a million other things that would lead to the efficient distribution of resources? Modern capitalism is pretty good at not leaving this kind of money on the table.

            I can imagine circumstances where an opportunity cost leaves a good-for-humanity, profitable technology on the table, but only if it’s “only just barely, narrowly, uncertainly profitable.”

          • Witness says:

            @Matt M
            I have a child. Also, I used to be one. I know for certain that marketing can convince people to buy stuff they don’t need. There’s nothing magical about it.

            @rlms
            That said, we know that information doesn’t flow instantly. If I have a new (good) product, of course nobody knows that they are currently buying a suboptimally low amount of it. Marketing’s goal in this case is basically to communicate the new information.

          • Matt M says:

            I have a child. Also, I used to be one. I know for certain that marketing can convince people to buy stuff they don’t need. There’s nothing magical about it.

            “Need” is a meaningless, subjective, term. Expensive marketing campaigns do not guarantee profitability. See: New Coke.

          • rlms says:

            No-one’s claiming that marketing always works. We’re just disputing your assertion that it *never* works (as in persuades people to buy more than they should).

          • Matt M says:

            By who’s definition of should?

            Perhaps it persuades them to buy the correct amount, and that without it, they would have bought far too little?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            How can one buy “far too little” if “need” is a meaningless term?

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            One obvious case of people buying more than they should is when someone buys something and later says “Oh no! I shouldn’t have bought that much!” (although I don’t think that’s the only case).

            “Perhaps it persuades them to buy the correct amount, and that without it, they would have bought far too little?”
            See my original comment in this thread.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I struggle to think of an action a government might take that would dramatically lower corporate profits while simultaneously benefiting humanity.

        Really? How about baning slavery, or child pornography, or enforcing laws against harvesting the organs of the homeless?

        • Nornagest says:

          Slavery at least would benefit particular corporations, those involved in the slave trade, but probably harm the economy overall by shrinking consumer demand (slaves have no disposable income and their masters have little incentive to provide them with more than the essentials). Depending on whether you think people would be more or less productive as slaves (I’ve heard arguments both ways, though I lean towards “less” except in the case of simple manual labor), it might be possible to make up the difference on the export market, but that’d fall apart if other countries followed suit.

          Similar, but less clear, arguments might apply to the others. The bottom line is that live, free, and healthy people buy more stuff overall than dead, unfree, or sick ones, and that profits are determined not by how much you can make but by who’s buying and at what margins.

          • hyperboloid says:

            {slavery would}probably harm the economy overall by shrinking consumer demand (slaves have no disposable income and their masters have little incentive to provide them with more than the essentials).

            This is a pretty clear example of the broken window fallacy.

            Consider a hypothetical example; A man employs a woman as a maid. One day he acquires enough money to buy a slave, and so he fires the maid. Now without the maid drawing a salary, she has no money to spend, therefore you might ask: what about the profits of all the companies that manufactured the goods she bought?

            Well, her salary came from her former employer, our newly minted slave master, who has saved himself the difference between the salary necessary to support her lifestyle, and the sum necessary to pay for the upkeep of his slave. He will presumably spend this money on goods or services provided by someone, and they will profit instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            The broken window fallacy occurs when destroying some resource increases demand for it but creates a hidden opportunity cost. This is not an example.

            If some members of the population become slaves that otherwise weren’t, that means some proportion of their demand for goods goes away. Let’s say for the sake of argument that their production stays the same (in reality it might not, as described above): nonetheless the value of the goods they produce has gone down, because less people have the ability to buy it. Observing that their owners now have more money to play with doesn’t get you out of the woods, because we can’t expect their demand for goods to go up proportional to their income: empirically, rich people do not spend as much of their money on consumption as poor people.

            It’s more analogous to taxation than anything else.

          • hyperboloid says:

            rich people spend proportionally less of their income on goods and services than poor people do.

            True, but the difference is usually invested in some productive enterprise, for instance the stock market. So our slave owner, instead of purchasing the twenty five thousand dollars a year worth of housing, food, and clothes, that the maid did; spends five thousand on his slave, and invests twenty thousand in some company that uses it to buy capital goods, or invest in R&D, or something else that will increase their profit.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but probably harm the economy overall by shrinking consumer demand

            It doesn’t matter if the economy is harmed overall as long as “the interests of trans-national corporations” are served.

          • Nornagest says:

            Even if it goes into the stock market, the companies being invested in are still selling into a smaller economy.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @hyperboloid

            spends five thousand on his slave, and invests twenty thousand in some company that uses it to buy capital goods, or invest in R&D, or something else that will increase their profit.

            Realistically they’d be spending something less than $20,000 on investments and the remainder on wasteful speculation and gambling (genuinely wasteful, not just long-shots), or even wasteful propaganda. This middle is something that poorer people tend not to do. What the long-run averages are between real investment, bubble-speculation, and propaganda are is a question I would be interested in an answer to.

          • Jaskologist says:

            One of the major economic drags of slavery comes not from reducing the slave’s demand, but his output. A man who is working for himself works smarter and harder. A man who works under the lash works just enough to not get lashed (and requires the lasher to spend their resources to watch him much more closely).

            (This is also a major reason communist economies were so poor, communism being a reinvention of slavery in a lot of ways.)

            There may be an uncomfortable edge case here, though: debt slavery. Somebody far into debt is almost definitionally not economically productive, so it’s possible that putting their work under “different management” would be a net gain for the economy.

        • Matt M says:

          Really? How about baning slavery, or child pornography, or enforcing laws against harvesting the organs of the homeless?

          Prohibition doesn’t actually work.

          In any case, I’ll concede that this may be correct, in a “letter of the law, but not spirit” sort of way. Yes, by making certain activities illegal, it essentially guarantees that the profits from illicitly providing them will flow to people who are not organized in the corporate form.

          But whether or not “humanity” benefits when you have to start paying Al Capone because you can’t pay Budweiser anymore is certainly up for debate.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “Mark H. Moore, professor of criminal justice at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government” disagrees with you back in 1989: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/16/opinion/actually-prohibition-was-a-success.html

            Second, alcohol consumption declined dramatically during Prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.

            Arrests for public drunkennness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s only half the story.

            The other half is that people like drinking. By not allowing them to do it, you diminish their enjoyment of life. It is not clear that this is a net gain for “humanity as a whole” even if you can point to statistics about death due to liver failure or whatever.

          • rlms says:

            “But whether or not “humanity” benefits when you have to start paying Al Capone because you can’t pay Budweiser anymore is certainly up for debate.”
            Are you saying that slavery, child pornography and organ harvesting should be legal?

          • Skivverus says:

            @Matt M

            Pretty sure the standard interventionist response there is “people’s actions are not perfectly calibrated to their self-interest (or our societal-interest); many of these miscalibrations are predictable, and so can be corrected for via societal mechanisms, e.g., education, jail, traditions, etc”.

          • Matt M says:

            Are you saying that slavery, child pornography and organ harvesting should be legal?

            “Legal” has little meaning in an AnCap framework. I certainly think those things should be highly socially discouraged.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Matt M

            The question wasn’t whether alcohol prohibition was good. It’s about whether it works at achieving its goal of reduced alcohol consumption. Assuming that the statistics are right, that means that it certainly did work.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Matt M

            If prostitution was legalized tomorrow, what exactly do you think would happen to the market? If prohibition doesn’t “work” then we shouldn’t see any increase in its rate. But if we do, then it clearly did work.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, this is one of these mad liberal memes – it really makes no sense.

            A few years ago you had David Cameron telling us that “punishment doesn’t work” – I mean, you really do have to assume complete irrationality for that to be true, don’t you?

            At the same time as we’re assuming complete irrationality (when discussing practicality), we also have to assume complete rationality – people know and do exactly what is best for them (when discussing morality).
            Well, of course they don’t – people do what society tells them to do. I’m not wearing trousers because I’ve decided I prefer the feeling to that of wearing a dress – I’ve never worn a dress.

          • hyperboloid says:

            For prohibition to work the law must be aligned with the moral sense of the average citizen. I suspect the prohibition of alcohol in Saudi Arabia is quite successful at reducing consumption by those Saudis still inclined to drink; unless of course there is some hejazi Al-capone I have never heard of. Similarly the prohibition of slavery in the United States has been fantastically successful at reducing slavery.

            And, unless I’m underestimating the American heterosexual male, If child pornography were legal there would be a great increase in commercially produced porn featuring twelve, and thirteen year old girls.

          • JayT says:

            Does anyone know if prohibition lowered the amount of money spent on alcohol along with the amount of consumption? Or did consumption just go down because it became too expensive to drink that the old rate?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @JayT:

            I have heard the claim that alcohol consumption was on a long decline that substantially predated Prohibition per se (and was plausibly attributed to moral suasion from the temperence movement), and that while the decline kept up during Prohibition for a while, it eventually bottomed out during Prohibition and was on the rise again before repeal.

            I heard this claim too long ago to be able to attribute it, and am too tired today to Google around. So take it as “the unsourced mad ramblings of some asshole on the internet.”

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The only numbers I’ve seen are from Rorabaugh. graph table

          • Wrong Species says:

            For prohibition to work the law must be aligned with the moral sense of the average citizen.

            So did southerners all collectively decide that slavery was immoral in 1865? No, they disbanded it because of force. Prohibitions works when people fear the consequences more than they get utility of the thing in question.

          • John Schilling says:

            Prohibitions works when people fear the consequences more than they get utility of the thing in question.

            The moral sense of the average citizen limits the consequences that can be imposed. It can get bloody interesting if there are no “average” citizens because the place they ought to be is the gap in a bimodal distribution, but you’re not going to be throwing people in jail for drinking moonshine or executing them for making the stuff in the 1930s USA.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John Schilling

            That is true but there is a difference between the question of what kind of laws can get passed in a democratic society and whether punishment works. Kim Jong Un can set pretty much any prohibition he likes that works against the common person and it’s going to be effective because they don’t want to get thrown in a labor camp. Once you get away from North Korea, autocrats still have a lot of power to pass bills unpopular with the common people as long as someone is willing to carry it out.

        • Protagoras says:

          You think there are vast profits corporations could make in child pornography which they’re only not earning because it’s illegal?

          • Aapje says:

            I think it matters greatly whether we are talking merely about pedophilic pornography or also underage, but post-pubescent pornography.

          • hyperboloid says:

            The popularity of so called “Lolitta”, or “barely legal” porn would seem to argue for that proposition.

    • This isn’t about how corporations can benefit humanity, but whether Economic Globalization should prioritize humanity or corporate profits.

      This is equivalent to asking a leftist the question: “Should the government regulate the economy more, or should we favor a more healthy economy.”

      I assume most leftists would say that is an unfair question, because it assumes that government regulation makes the economy less healthy. And I agree that it would be unfair to those who don’t agree that government regulation causes a less healthy economy. In the same way, your question above assumes that corporate profits don’t prioritize humanity. My personal opinion is that rising corporate profits usually do correlate to a higher level of humanity. So your question makes no sense to me.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I misquoted the original proposition. It referred solely to transnational corporations. And it didn’t refer to their profits, but to their “interests”.

        If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.

        I understand and empathize with your point, as it is the kind of mental hopscotching I have to go through when answering the 5 propositions of the libertarian quiz that I believe are totally biased.

        Ultimately we have to stop saying that the Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, Globalists, Nationalists, etc… aren’t making any sense and recognize what kind of moral force lies behind their talking points. And we can’t do it by demanding that they rephrase their propaganda to our liking. Only then can we come to enough of a mutual understanding to agree to disagree, or possibly even agree to agree. 🙂

        As to your hypothetical proposition: I’d answer that the government should regulate the economy more, even though I’d prefer to answer far more nuancedly. I recognize in which general stadium my bias lies, and am okay with picking a proposition from left field over a proposition which is outside my general ballpark.

  30. cassander says:

    In keeping with the now established tradition of discussing Sci-Fi shows, my personal favorite, Babylon 5!

    To this day, B5 remains one of the most ambitious shows ever put on television. Officially, it was a 5 year story all planned out in advance, a novel told on television. Unofficially, it wasn’t exactly that, but to a remarkable degree it managed deliver on this promises. Checkovs set up in the first episodes are fired years later, secrets and mysteries are established, revealed, and have consequences. Other than game of thrones, I can’t think of any show that has set out to tell as ambitious a story, and game of thrones had source material to work from.

    There are many flawed elements of babylon 5. It is almost entirely written by a single person, J Michael Straczynski, which means a very clear voice shines through, for good or ill. When it’s bad, it’s quite bad, but when it’s good, it knocks it out of the park.

    Particular mention must be made of Peter Jurassic’s masterful portrayal of Londo Mollari. Jurassic has a masterful ability to give JMS’s worst dialogue exactly the right touch to sell it. Londo Himself is one of my favorite characters in all of fiction. He goes on an amazing, and tragic journey that is foretold in the first episodes but manages to be fascinating all the way through. And this a political journey despite JMS not having a particularly deep understanding of politics.

    The show was ahead of its time by at least a decade, and even well into the age of prestige television, almost no one is attempting to do what B5 did on TNT in the mid-90s. It’s a damned shame. Any other fans around?

    • JayT says:

      I was a big Babylon 5 fan when it was running, but I didn’t have cable at the time, so I couldn’t watch season 5. I never have gone back and rewatched it. I should do that some day, though I wonder how well it would hold up for me.

      • cassander says:

        the special effects do not hold up. At all. They weren’t great then (some of the, for lack of a better word, fight choreography was quite good, but there’s a limit to how good mid-90s computer effects could be), and they’ve actually gotten worse over time, as many files were lost and so the transfer to DVD had to use video quality.

        The main story arcs, though, they still hold up, and that’s the magic of the show.

    • keranih says:

      B5 well deserves the praise it gets. It has its struggle points, but – for the record – it had me here, at the end of episode 5, season 1. I yelled at the screen a lot, periodically, afterwards, but B5 is dang good stuff.

      (Battlestar Galactica is still my fav space opera, but I remain willing to be won back by either Farscape or Firefly.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      It basically brought space opera to television, back before it was cool to have long story arcs. Plus, the overarching plot was really good. Much more importantly, it was coherent; he clearly had an idea of where he wanted the story to go (unlike BSG. Watching BSG was like when you’re all excited to eat a delicious pizza and then discover that there’s pineapple on top of it.)

      Season 1 is painful to rewatch, but that’s true of a lot of shows. The special effects are dated. But the story is really good, and it was landmark series, and all scifi fans should watch it. And I agree that Londo is a superb character.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I loved it when I watched it in the 90s, have been a little afraid to go back and look again for fear it doesn’t hold up.

      Season 5 was disappointing (at least at the time), though.

      • Jaskologist says:

        You have to think of Season 5 as a bonus season. They didn’t know they would get renewed until the last minute, so they had to finish the story in Season 4 (which ended up feeling a little rushed, but he still pretty much pulled it off).

        Now you’ve all got me wanting some more shows in that universe. It’s a shame none of the spin-offs lasted.

        • Protagoras says:

          I guess I wouldn’t mind exploring that universe more, but what I’d really like to see myself is more equally ambitious shows exploring new universes of their own.

    • John Schilling says:

      Checkovs set up in the first episodes are fired years later

      Be fair. Chekov doesn’t show up until the sixth episode.

      But it is one of the minor testaments to that show’s greatness, that a handful of appearances as a supporting character in B5 has almost completely erased the connection between Walter Koenig and Pavel Chekov in my mind. As long as he doesn’t do the accent, at least.

    • Witness says:

      “Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.”

      “Not many fishes left in the sea, not many fishes – just Londo and me!”

      “One of you will be emperor after the other is dead.”

      “I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?”

      “Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. It failed. But in the year of the Shadow War, it became something greater: our last, best hope for victory.”

    • John Schilling says:

      Any other fans around?

      Well, I co-moderated the usenet newsgroup, and I consulted with the visual effects company to help improve the technical accuracy, does that count?

      The visual effects, FWIW were immeasurably better than classic Trek or classic Dr. Who; the only problem is that they were good enough to make us expect that they should have been better still. And they were at the state of the art for CGI work in the early 1990s; unfortunately that was the tail end of the era when truly first-rate visual effects still required the sort of model work that PTEN couldn’t afford. Also unfortunate, the original masters were lost during one of the corporate shuffles, so it would be prohibitively expensive at present to redo it to modern standards.

      The storytelling was as good as anything I’ve seen on television, at least for the first three seasons. Which are the only ones I own on DVD; it’s a superb three-act story and a flawed five-act one due to the hasty replotting of the fourth season.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon-5 was one of the highlights of that entire series, largely because JMS himself was a frequent poster there. Before that, he was plugging the series on r.a.s.t, and I learned of B5 precisely because of his posts. And I was ready for an SF TV show that didn’t make what I considered silly mistakes, such as aliens all speaking perfect English and being humans with Bumps of the Week. And transporters and holodecks and the rest of the plot-breaking inconsistent tech. JMS had grown up on this and a boatload of book SF; it was clear from his posts that he knew his shit, and so I knew this series would deserve a watch.

        There were missteps – Zima, the “alien zoo”, and some trite dialogue in so many places – but meanwhile, we were all seeing behind the scenes stuff courtesy of JMS’s posts. Remember, this was back before the Web was a thing. No Reddit AMAs, no tweets, no constant stream of online articles; and then here was this TV series whose producer / head writer was interacting with his freaking fanbase while the show was on the air. He was even a Usenet veteran; he understood the newsreader software as well as any of the rest of us did, and would reply to questions, quote comments, respond to criticism, all of it (within reason).

        I also learned he could keep a secret like nobody’s damn business, thanks to the whole situation with Sinclair / Sheridan and more importantly, O’Hare. I may tell that story later, if someone else doesn’t beat me to it.

    • Deiseach says:

      I liked the first season a lot, even given that it was finding its feet. I know Straczynski had to do some re-writing and shuffling around when the character of Sinclair was replaced by Sheridan, but he stitched up the seams remarkably well and they hardly ever show.

      I much preferred the character of Sinclair to Sheridan, by the way; I really disliked the All-American Hero aspect and how many wives can one guy have on the go, anyway? Introducing his replacement who just so happens to be his former missus? While his other former missus is away with the Shadows and turns up inconveniently Not Dead when they’ve all been sure she was an ex-parrot thus making her a not-so-former missus and maybe he’s now a bigamist? And his new missus is the Big Cheese in intergalactic diplomatic circles? The later seasons were a bit over-extended and the sub-plot with the Walking Hairproducts Advertisements rogue Telepaths could have been a lot shorter – or even dropped – with no problems.

      But it was a really good series and despite a few crappy episodes (forgivable, every show has them sooner or later) I have fond memories of it, and the ending was good.

      • cassander says:

        Spoilers, because I’m not going to bother rot-13-ing a 20 year old show.

        Sinclair was definitely a more interesting character than Sheridan, but I don’t see how the story works out as well with him leading the army of light. He has to go back and become valen before the resolution of the great war and the minbari civil war, otherwise he’d know the vorlons aren’t the good guys, so someone else would need to step in.

        • John Schilling says:

          JMS has never laid out exactly how the story would have unfolded if Michael O’Hare had been able to stay with the show, but I believe he has hinted that Sheridan was merely brought forward in the planned chronology rather than invented out of whole cloth to fill the gap. At this point, I don’t expect to ever know more than that.

          But, yes, Sinclair/Ivanova ’58 FTW.

        • Deiseach says:

          Sheridan irritated me in part – and I don’t know how much of this was intended, because JMS was smart enough to do this, and how much of it was just his character grating on me (I cheered Garibaldi when he was resistant to the Cult of Personality forming around Sheridan with that line about “He’s not the pope, he doesn’t look anything like her”) – because (a) he was put in as Earthgov’s top Earthforce officer and preferred station commander and (b) he then mutinies (you can’t really call it anything else), declares the station independent, and is in rebellion against the government and the President but then (c) demands utter loyalty and obedience from the lower ranks, including the Nightwatch – well tough mate, you just blew the chain of command to hell and gone, you can’t pull the “I’m your superior and ranking officer” card on them since you have just told your Earthforce superiors and the civilian government to take a hike! And you’re willing to fire on Earthforce ships, including those with your former comrades-in-arms, when they come to re-take the station from a mutineer! So the whole “this is disobeying the lawful orders of a superior officer and there will be consequences” shit he pulls on dissenting junior officers didn’t impress me; if he gets to decide he doesn’t want to serve under Clark because he disagrees with policy, they get to decide they don’t want to be part of a mutiny and their loyalty is to the government they swore oaths to, not to him personally.

          I found Sinclair a much more interesting character; not the fault of Bruce Boxleitner who did a better job than I expected (I knew him mostly from light romantic hero parts in TV shows such as the lead in Bring ‘Em Back Alive and Scarecrow and Mrs King) but it seemed pretty clear that the studio or whomever wanted a younger, more action-orientated, romantic lead and kick-ass type character and so we got Sheridan replacing Sinclair. Maybe eventually it would have happened, as Sinclair became Valen, but I suppose Sheridan was a bit too successful at playing the anti-alien warhawk that President Clark hoped he’d be when approving him as commander of the station, as far as I’m concerned 🙂

          • cassander says:

            I can’t speak to why Boxleitner got the job over someone else, but the reason O’Hare left was because he literally started going mad

          • Deiseach says:

            Sad news to learn, but at least better than the fan rumours at the time that he’d been pushed out because the powers that be wanted someone younger and more appealing as an action type.

            I liked O’Hare’s acting as Sinclair, and I suppose that kind of sensitivity and vulnerability as a character was reflective of his real-world circumstances.

            God rest the man, and the other cast members who’ve died.

          • John Schilling says:

            I liked O’Hare’s acting as Sinclair, and I suppose that kind of sensitivity and vulnerability as a character was reflective of his real-world circumstances.

            I believe JMS himself coined the term “method casting”, by analogy to method acting. But hiring the mentally ill actor who remained functional by stoic self-discipline, to play the mentally ill character who remained functional by stoic self-discipline, was purely coincidental.

            Hiring, in 1993, the Croatian actress with the Serbian husband to play a mixed-race political leader of a planet that was scheduled to undergo an ethnoreligious civil war in the third season, that may have been deliberate.

            God rest the man, and the other cast members who’ve died.

            Andreas Katsulas, Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs, Jeff Conaway, Stephen Furst, just among the regular cast.

        • John Schilling says:

          I don’t know how much of this was intended, because JMS was smart enough to do this, and how much of it was just his character grating on me (I cheered Garibaldi when he was resistant to the Cult of Personality forming around Sheridan with that line about “He’s not the pope, he doesn’t look anything like her”)

          I’m with you and Garibaldi on this, and I do think that by the end JMS was too in love with his own character to give him the skepticism he deserved. But whether intentional or not, the last year of Sheridan was a master class in storytelling about how Evil Dictators really come about, and I’m not sure I want to revisit that universe five years later.

          it seemed pretty clear that the studio or whomever wanted a younger, more action-orientated, romantic lead and kick-ass type character and so we got Sheridan replacing Sinclair.

          That’s the part Paul Brinkley referred to cross-thread, about JMS being able to keep a secret. Whatever the original plan was, and whatever the network might have wanted, Sheridan replaced Sinclair when he did because Michael O’Hare had a (mental) health issue that made it impossible for him to continue in the role, and which JMS promised not to talk about until O’Hare was safely dead. Which took about twenty years, during which time JMS let the world think he had knuckled under to a bunch of studio suits and was being too proudly stubborn to admit it.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            To be fair, JMS did push back at such accusations. I distinctly recall language such as “you weren’t in the room when we made this decision; it was me, O’Hare, and [other producer? I forget now]”. I took from this that there was stuff going on that I didn’t know about, JMS was not going to say what, and all we fans would know for certain was that O’Hare was getting phased out.

            And this certainly looked to a few fans like JMS was knuckling under. I remember many comment threads along those lines. I was quietly worried that there was a loss of confidence in his ability to helm the show. Maybe O’Hare was getting out while the getting was good? I couldn’t know either way. All I knew was that JMS had a very consistent story, with a very consistent, clearly defined hole. He didn’t sound like someone searching for a politically viable statement, and he didn’t sound like suits were speaking through him – one of the benefits of him being a direct Usenet group poster.

            I ended up watching anyway – easy to do – and I got to see a pretty cool time travel story sending Sinclair off, smooth as you please, as if they’d planned it before Season 1. And then I heard about O’Hare’s passing years later, and then I got a story within that story. It was almost better than the show plot.

            Today, I see tropes like “Severus Snape isn’t what he seems”, and I keep thinking that JMS / O’Hare affair beats ’em all.

          • Deiseach says:

            But whether intentional or not, the last year of Sheridan was a master class in storytelling about how Evil Dictators really come about, and I’m not sure I want to revisit that universe five years later.

            Oh indeed. As I said, Boxleitner surprised me pleasantly because I’d only seen him in rather shallow roles before that, and he proved he was up to the challenge of playing a meatier character.

            But for whatever reason, as the seasons progressed, Sheridan became the Big Hero so whatever he did (and he did some shady things) it was all okay because he did it for the Greater Good (DS9 with their exploration of how Sisko and the other characters and indeed the Federation as a whole were changed and coarsened by a long, grinding war handled it better, but they came later).

            For me, Sheridan (more than Clark) was the exemplar of how someone could be swept to power on a rush of popularity and with a heavy dose of manipulation by well-meaning allies behind the scenes (Delenn being his fiancée-later-wife, as well as an ally in La Résistance, representing the Minbari who are the Big Guns when it comes to war, with her not-so-subtly threatening to have the Warrior Caste come rain hell on you if you don’t fall in with John Darling’s plans). He’s literally canonised by later generations and more or less turned into a Dear Leader in the mould of the House of Kim with him modestly(!) submitting to the authority of the remnant Earthgov once Clark kills himself but taking the job as President of the newly minted Interstellar Alliance, thus at one step becoming the real power in the galaxy.

            I think we are meant to see Sheridan as a flawless hero, with his real flaws being ignored or whitewashed as the show wraps up, and that’s a pity because it was a missed opportunity.

          • Jaskologist says:

            JMS was aware enough to put in a scene deconstructing Sheridan, but clearly he doesn’t buy your interpretation.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Also, the real problem with Sheridan is that he didn’t do anything. Delenn was the one who built and staffed a whole war fleet; Sheridan just took credit.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve heard authors describe their protagonists as taking on a life of their own inside the writer’s head, explaining how their story has to go because of what sort of person they are.

            Meanwhile, here in reality we have history books full of heroes, revolutionaries, and liberators who manipulated their way into being presidents-for-life, dictators, and tyrants, all the while keeping their formerly liberated subjects cheering for the Great Man and never recognizing what he had become. John Sheridan may be the only person ever to pull this trick, not on a population of adoring subjects, but on his own author.

            But whether JMS was in on it or not, that’s what Sheridan was by the end. A literal president-for-life, with an election that took place unnoticed between episodes, with no opposition that he recognizes as anything but traitorous scum, and the most powerful military force in the galaxy loyal to him personally and willing to deal with that traitorous scum without anything resembling due process. And the story almost never dropped the facade of him being the pure white-hatted Good Guy.

            Garibaldi got in a few good digs, IIRC. I wonder whether that was Michael Garibaldi whispering in JMS’s ear, or Jerry Doyle? Both good people.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Was that really Garibaldi getting in those digs, or was it Evil Garibaldi under Psi-Corp control doing so?

    • Protagoras says:

      I loved it; watched it religiously when it was first on. Londo was also my favorite character. I also thought it held up really well the last time I re-watched it; knowing where it was going meant I noticed more of the little bits of clever stage setting in the early episodes.

    • achenx says:

      B5 is probably my favorite as well. And it’s still one of the few shows that took storytelling seriously. Yes, serialized, continuity-heavy storytelling is all over the TV now, but even still it’s rare that anyone plans anything in advance. BSG is an obvious example — yes they stuck to a storyline in a way Trek has never done for any length of time, but it’s also incredibly obvious they were making it up as they went along. Even if B5 didn’t end up exactly the way JMS had planned at the beginning, the story still hangs together better than just about anything else. (Game of Thrones does, or did, ok, because someone else did it for them, up to a point.)

      As far as the production values, they definitely went for CGI a bit before it was really ready for a weekly TV series. Sets were uneven. There were a few very good actors and then a quick, large drop-off. But it’s the story that makes B5’s reputation.

  31. Zephalinda says:

    Kipling fans out there– can anyone recommend a good mass-appeal short story to “sell” Kipling to a youngish late-teenage person of average reading ability, narrow sympathies and limited cultural literacy? Assume that the person guardedly liked “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” but found “The Man Who Would Be King” unacceptably “long and confusing.”

    • johan_larson says:

      Does it have to be a short story? Kipling is more famous for his poetry than for his prose.

      A young person might like this one, for example:
      http://www2.fiu.edu/~milesk/Rudyard_Kipling_Law_of_the_Jungle.htm

    • shakeddown says:

      Most of Just So Stories are good for this – IIRC I particularly liked The Beginning of the Armadillos

      • Nornagest says:

        If the kid’s reading Rikki-Tikki-Tavi independently, the Just So Stories might be a little too simple for them; I think of them more as bedtime stories for very young children.

        I’d start with the rest of the Jungle Book.

        • shakeddown says:

          Depends: I read Just So Stories at fifteen, when I was old enough to enjoy fairy tales unironically again. There’s a window there where kids can’t do that, though.

          • Peffern says:

            My father read Just So Stories to me when I was first learning to read, and I loved it immensely. Rereading them is part of what helped me rediscover Kipling around 15 or so.

            I also really like the GotCHa but this is SSC so…

          • At a slight tangent, my reading of the Just So Stories is that they are directed to/inspired by his daughter, who died in the flu epidemic that almost killed him.

            For far–oh, very far behind,
            So far she cannot call to him,
            Comes Tegumai alone to find
            The daughter that was all to him!

    • keranih says:

      I am particularly partial to those in Life’s Handicap, but I suspect the appeal is limited. Likewise “The Undertakers,” which I appreciate because it contains the oldest literary (and poetic) reference to ‘shallow reference pools’ that I know. (*)

      If he likes sports, “The Maltese Cat” may be to his taste. Also try “With the Night Mail”.

      Other favorites: “Her Majesty’s Servants”, The Village that Voted The Earth Was Flat, and The Cat Who Walked by Himself.

      (*)Older examples taken with a glad heart.

    • I’m fond of the Puck of Pook’s Hill/Rewards and Fairies stories. I think all of them would be accessible to the person you are describing. Also the Jungle Book stories.

      For poems, “The Ballad of East and West” is not only an entertaining story, it will equip him to look down on all the people who dismiss Kipling as someone who believed that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet” is about cultures. “The Last Suttee” is technically impressive and a good story, although I have some reservations on the ending twist. “A Code of Morals” might amuse some people that age.

    • Jiro says:

      I suppose this isn’t directly responsive, but I tried reading Kipling a few months ago. I was unable to get into his fiction because of all the attempts at foreign dialect.

      • What were you reading?

        • Jiro says:

          Soldiers Three and Military Tales.

          I got a set of Kipling works published in 1898 off of archive.org. The first volume was Plain Tales from the Hills, which is nonfictiony and doesn’t use dialects.

          • So the “foreign dialect” was British–cockney or perhaps Irish?

            I don’t remember noticing that, but those aren’t among my favorite stories.

          • Jiro says:

            Sample (assuming I typed this in correctly): “Ah said,” said Learoyd, “gie us t’ brass. Tak oop a subscripshun, lads, for to put off t’ p’rade, an’ if t’ p’rade’s not put off, ah’ll gte t’ brass back agean. Thot’s wot ah said. All B Coomp’ny knawed me. Ah took oop a big subscripshun — fower rupees eight annas ’twas– an’ ah went oot to turn t’job over”

            It’s Cockney in this case.

          • Thanks. I don’t remember things that extreme, perhaps because the examples that occur to me are in the poetry.

            Try later stories.

          • Betty Cook says:

            The bit you quote is, if I remember correctly, Yorkshire, not Cockney; it’s one of the others who speaks Cockney dialect. The “soldiers three” are from Yorkshire, Ireland, and London, deliberately three very different people from different places thrown together. Not that that helps much if the written dialect just clangs for you rather than suggesting something Kipling was used to hearing and you and I are not.

      • schazjmd says:

        Jiro, I put Kipling’s “Complete Novels and Stories” on my kindle and had the same experience — as soon as a short story introduced dialect, I had to go to the next one. His semi-phonetical approach made reading too painful. I couldn’t hear “words” the way he wrote them.

  32. Well... says:

    How do people develop filters–as in, ways of seeing the world that result in some particular category of thing becoming more obvious than it otherwise would be. Is there any academic literature on how filters are formed, or steps a person has to go through to get a new filter?

    How about non-academic literature?

    • keranih says:

      In non-Academic literature – Caryll Houselander’s experiences (told in The Reed of God and Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings) describe her experiences in learning to see every person’s sufferings as the Passion of Christ.

      This is…an extremely hard teaching.

      • Well... says:

        This is…an extremely hard teaching.

        Wutchu mean?

        • keranih says:

          Sooo…you see someone from your outgroup – say, Richard Spencer. And you see him get punched.

          That’s Christ, being scourged with whips by the Roman guards. Sara Palin and Hillary Clinton – the woman taken in adultery, about to be stoned to death. Trump – Simon “Even God Calls Me ‘Idiot'” Peter, stumbling along trying to do the best he can.

          But mostly just – see Christ in everyone, and respond to the truth of that seeing, and not the outer shell of mortality.

          (the phrase itself is a ref to John 6:60, and the Houselander teaching/visions references Matthew 25:31-46)

          • Well... says:

            That sounds incredibly confusing if not Rorschachian.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That’s the point.

          • keranih says:

            It’s a hella lot less confusing when one gives up on clinging to ones own judgement of other people and just tries to love them as completely as one loves Christ.

            (Or as completely and as wisely as Christ does. But the first way is much easier.)

            As has been said, it’s *hard*. But simpler.

          • lvlln says:

            Is Christ really useful in this, though? When I see Richard Spencer or any other member of my outgroup being punched, I can love him just fine without loving him like a Christian loves Christ. I just need to recognize that he’s a human capable of suffering just like me and that the reason he’s in my outgroup is pure luck of birth – he didn’t choose his genes, his brain circuitry, his upbringing, his political beliefs, his decisions any more than I chose mine, and therefore he is no less virtuous for landing in my outgroup due to his beliefs and actions based on those beliefs than I am for landing in my ingroup due to my own beliefs and actions based on those beliefs. From that, it obviously follows for me that I want to reduce his suffering exactly as much as I want to reduce the suffering of people in my ingroup, and that I find the increase of his suffering to be exactly as undesirable as increase in suffering of people in my ingroup. Just having this empathy for all other humans (and, to an extent, all beings capable of suffering) seems enough, no Christ required.

            As an aside, this reminds me of Jordan Peterson’s description of Jesus Christ as something like the culmination of the greatest good in all people (I haven’t seen or listened to any of his Christianity lectures, so my understanding of his view on this isn’t particularly good, but he’s touched on religious myths in his psych lectures). I don’t know how common it is for Christians to view Christ in this way, but learning that this was one way in which some Christians saw Christ was something really interesting and unexpected for me.

          • Randy M says:

            @lvln, I don’t think Jordan Peterson, interesting though he is, is an example of a Christian. Although there might be self-professed Christians who do see Christ as mostly metaphorical, that’s unorthodox, to say the least.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @lvlln,

            I agree with and want to second your major point: it seems like this is jamming Jesus in-between oneself and other people. Feeling sympathy for the suffering, even if you otherwise despise them, is normal.

            That said, your list of accidents of birth is a bit troubling. If you can’t even claim responsibility for your own decisions, then you’re not responsible for anything at all. It’s an internally consistent view but also utterly insane.

          • lvlln says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            That said, your list of accidents of birth is a bit troubling. If you can’t even claim responsibility for your own decisions, then you’re not responsible for anything at all. It’s an internally consistent view but also utterly insane.

            I mean, sure, the lack of responsibility is a highly inconvenient conclusion, but I’m not sure it’s possible to avoid it. Our decisions are the results of the physics of our environment and our cells. People seem happy to acknowledge this when it’s the result of, say, hitting one’s head many times due to a career in football, or certain brain cells dying due to a blood clot, but there’s no distinction between the freedom of choice that those people have compared to people who haven’t suffered such injuries. People without those injuries are just as held hostage by their less-injured brains as people who have CTE or have suffered a stroke are held hostage by their injured brains.

            To me, this just means responsibility doesn’t exist – or rather, that responsibility needs to be redefined so that it does exist. Which is to say, “responsibility” as we generally use it seems to have attached on it a whole lot of affect – both negative and positive – that shouldn’t be attached. Like the idea that someone who’s responsible for doing something bad deserves to be punished and to feel guilt, or the idea that someone who’s responsible for doing something good deserves to be rewarded and to feel pride. I think it’d be more useful to remove such associations from “responsibility” and only use the meaning in the sense of who actually did what. And then consider reward and punishment separately, while taking into account the costs and benefits that go into creating an incentive structure that we think is good for our society.

            For instance, a murderer is “responsible” for committing murder, but it shouldn’t follow that we gleefully enact suffering on her because she’s responsible for doing something bad. Rather, whatever punishment we enact upon her should be the minimal suffering necessary such that a regime of such a punishment being carried out on murderers in our society results in a reduction of the suffering caused by murders (i.e. loss of life, grief of friends/family, higher stress of populace due to greater fear of being murdered, etc.) that is greater than the suffering of murderers under such a regime.

            That seems incredibly hard, if not impossible, to calculate, and it’s clear to me that the heuristic of “responsible for bad thing -> they deserve to suffer” is a very very useful shortcut in many, perhaps most, cases. To use a mirrored example, if someone feels proud of oneself every time they solve a novel engineering problem, that person will be encouraged to solve more novel engineering problems, which will tend to make the world a better place – thus this is a good heuristic that we may even want to adopt in our society. But it also seems to me that such heuristics have pitfalls – if we encourage being proud of oneself for solving novel engineering problems, that seems likely to lead to some people jumping from that feeling of pride to feeling of moral superiority over others who aren’t as good at solving novel engineering problems, even though it was purely by luck of birth that some are better at this than others. So it seems to me that it would serve us best to start on that hard work of figuring out how to run a prosperous society which minimizes unnecessary suffering in a reality where people’s decisions and behaviors are beholden to physics entirely outside their personal control.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re jamming Jesus in between oneself and other people: Reconceiving My Body— the author gets into eventually not wanting God as a third party in his marriage.

          • quanta413 says:

            people’s decisions and behaviors are beholden to physics entirely outside their personal control.

            This sounds weirdly dualist to me although I doubt you intend it to be. People are physical machines. Saying “They are beholden to physics entirely outside their personal control” makes it sound like physics is acting on them and they are somehow helpless, but they are physical hardware. It may be extremely complicated path dependent self-modifying hardware, but people are still stuff. They cannot meaningfully exist without physics. And as physical machines they obviously act on their environment as well. The fact that there is no soul substance somehow outside physical reality shouldn’t have any meaningful affect on our conception of morality because all that would do is push the hardware into another level.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Not wanting God as a party to [X] is pretty much the human condition. I might even go so far as to call it the essence of original sin.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Jaskologist, I don’t know whether you’d want to read the book. It’s by an ex-Catholic who took a lot of damage from having an overly conscientious self-hating approach to Catholicism.

            I think it’s important to make a distinction between God (in some sense, the actual universe) and the various ways people imagine God.

  33. Well... says:

    A few open threads ago we talked about Lent and other types of self-denial. If I remember right, most of the benefits people (including myself) named were focused on themselves–ways in which my self-denial makes me better off at the end.

    I now realize an important benefit of self-denial is when it’s done as a devotion to someone else. Personal experience has shown me this can be extremely effective at bringing the self-denier closer to the person he is devoting his self-denial to.

    Self-denying in devotion to God therefore makes sense in a way I hadn’t formerly considered.

  34. keranih says:

    We were just talking about Terry Pratchett’s books, which got me to thinking about book series, and how the quality/appeal can vary over the course of the series or the author’s career. I can think of several series where my favorite book has been midway through the series, with both later and earlier works being somewhat lesser, even if still enjoyable. (In particular, there’s the thing where the best novel is the first one, or where everyone’s favorite is the end.)

    Craig Johnson’s Longmire series – my favorite is #7, Hell is Empty, with #5 The Dark Horse a close second.

    Kage Baker’s The Graveyard Game is, imo, easily the best of her Company novels. (Plus, as it’s about a bunch of time traveling cyborgs in thrall to mysterious overlords, reading it out of order is less an issue than one would think.)

    Of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Naismith novels, Memory stands far and away above the rest, but with the distinct disadvantage that (imo) you really do have to read eight books before in order to get the effect. OTOH, Civil Campaign was just a riot and *fun*.

    Any one have other long, meaty series to suggest, with midpoint highlights?

    • johan_larson says:

      How about the Aubrey/Maturin series of tall-ships naval adventures?

      The series doesn’t really catch its stride until #3, “HMS Surprise”. I’m not sure which one is the very best, but it might be #9, “Treason’s Harbour” or #10, “The Far Side of the World”. And there’s ten more novels to go after that.

    • shakeddown says:

      Memory is my favourite, but the runner-up is probably Ethan of Athos. I wasn’t such a fan of Civil Campaign – some parts of it were great, but others felt annoyingly preachy. (Also, what’s wrong with the guy raising lots of daughters?! He was treating them okay and you have room, dammit!)

      • keranih says:

        Bujold could get preachy, tis true. She did a better job of managing it than most.

        I agree that there was an argument to be made that the daughter scheme wasn’t exploitative in and of itself, but it was pretty much in line with making a horse your heir – the sort of thing that really needs to be cut off before the notion spreads to other people. Plus, you know, Barraryar – there was just so much galactic madness that they could choke down in any one decade.

        (The guy’s wife offering to warm him with her plasma rifle was funny, though.)

      • ECD says:

        If I’m remembering correctly, wasn’t he stealing the eggs for daughters from the leftovers from the couples who were using uterine replicators? Seems problematic in a lot of ways.

      • Ethan of Athos isn’t really in the same series, just the same fictional universe.

        • John Schilling says:

          It costars Elli Quinn, who was a major supporting character in the early Miles stories.

          Speaking of whom, Bujold is apparently retiring the Vorkosigan saga with a series of light happily-ever-after stories for the supporting cast. I wouldn’t mind seeing Quinn one more time in that context.

      • bean says:

        Also, what’s wrong with the guy raising lots of daughters?! He was treating them okay and you have room, dammit!

        It was a balance-of-power issue. Gregor didn’t want him to get the benefits he would have gotten out of being able to use them. Also, use of other people’s embryos without their permission.

    • J Mann says:

      The Jacky Faber books are like that.

      For those unfamiliar, they’re kind of a YA Flashman-lite, about a young woman who joins various militaries and pirate fleets and has all kinds of crazy adventures in Napoleonic era England, the US, and pretty much everywhere else.

      They’re very well written and engaging, but I’d say they hit their high point about halfway through the series. For the first several books, the author gets better and better, and the characters get richer, but the last few books are a little repetitive – the characters don’t have much room to change without resolving or changing the story, so the books tend to go over the same ground as earlier novels.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think for most series, the first couple of books are where the writer is warming up and still getting their feet under them and working out the kinks and bugs. The middle books are where they hit their stride, they know and the readers know how it will go, and they’ve built up familiarity without it becoming tedious due to over-repetition of the same tropes. End books of series fall into the trap of “I hate these characters but my publisher insists I churn out another one of these because they make money” or the writing is on autopilot or the author has run out of things to say or they’ve become Too Big To Edit and get away with the excesses that their editor, during the middle period, reined in.

      Often it happens that a writer writes a book without intending it to be a series, then it takes off and suddenly they have a hit on their hands – like the Ellery Queen books, where Dannay and Lee wrote the first one for a contest, won, and decided to turn their character into a series ‘tec like Philo Vance. The Nero Wolfe stories are ones that have a well-worn formula but (for me at least) managed all the same never to pall to the very last book; the mystery became of secondary interest, you read for the familiarity of the setting and the characters and how you knew they would interact in their relationships. I think the Spenser books fell into that pattern, too; even after Robert B. Parker’s death they have been continued by a successor (the publishers plainly wanting to keep the goose producing the golden eggs, as with his other series characters which are being continued as well). It’s noticeable in the Spenser books how they changed over the years from the style he used in the 70s and 80s, and it’s very noticeable how the new writer (Ace Atkins) is rolling back the character development that Parker invested, where he more or less brought the characters to a natural end as to how they would have changed over the years, so that Spenser and the other main characters are more like the selves of the 80s/90s books (the middle period of the series and the one probably regarded as the best part).

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      It’s been a while, but this reminds me of Asimov’s Foundation series. Maybe more if you want to tie in the Robot novels and Empire novels. But then it gets tricky, given the timeline of publication and timeline of when he decided to place them in the same timeline.

      Also, it’s been so long since I read them that I’m left with this decayed sense of story. I ended up liking the first, fourth, and fifth Foundation novels most, but both my tastes and my ability to evaluate stories changed so much over that time that I can’t trust even my own sense here.

      And of course, the meatiest, most epic series I can remember reading at all would be the King James Bible. But my reading of it was even more spread out, and I read most of it as a teenager. Genesis and Exodus obviously had the best yarns, only to have things get a little dry for the rest of the Pentateuch, and even harder to follow still for the rest of the OT, save for a few fun episodes such as Daniel or Job.

      The series picks up in a big way in Matthew – pretty much an Abrams-level reset button there – then a few retellings, followed by some more boring letters. They try to give it a good wrap-up at the end, but I’m still not sure what the writer was thinking on that one.

    • Deiseach says:

      I keep wanting to start reading Bujold’s novels because I see a lot of praise for them but I keep getting turned off by the fear of preachiness. I don’t want to read a novel that strong-arms me (even if the strong-arming is done discreetly) down the author’s route of “and this is the moral of the story which all right-thinking people will agree with”.

      Also, I want to strongly approve of a character like Miles who suffers from a debilitating illness but makes a successful life despite it all but tanj dammit, couldn’t he just have been a book-keeper or something instead of Greatest Military Genius and Future Emperor and whatever else? I get a strong whiff of Marty Stu which is probably massively unfair but I’ve had my fill of “character gets kicked about something awful by fate and destiny and big ol’ meanies but triumphs in the end because they’re just that darned wonderful”.

      Thirdly, military SF isn’t my thing 🙂

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Bujold isn’t as preachy as Terry Pratchett.

        Bujold also mentions the “Great man’s son/daughter” condition which drives Miles to try to be the greatest he can be, while never thinking he lives up to his father’s or grandfather’s shadows (she herself was daughter of a relatively well-known weatherman).

        I find her novels relatively easy to digest because it is obvious Miles would not have been as good as he was (various showstoppers are conveniently ignored). He also has bouts with depression and mania, so is not that totally wonderful. And he can definitely see the skills that his cousin the Emperor of Barrayar has that he lacks, and the skills the higher-ups in the Empire of Cetaganda have that make him the equivalent of a mascot.

        And at heart, most of the problems he solves are fairly basic or minor. He makes the world a better place, but he’s no superman. And while he wins battles, he never wins wars (unlike his father and grandfather).

        And sometimes he’s only saved by dint of his close relationship to the Emperor – literally nepotism. And he recognizes this.

        I get a strong whiff of Marty Stu which is probably massively unfair but I’ve had my fill of “character gets kicked about something awful by fate and destiny and big ol’ meanies but triumphs in the end because they’re just that darned wonderful”.

        This is not an unfair characterization. If you really can’t tolerate it anymore then avoid it, though “The Mountains of Mourning” would still be a worthwhile booknovella.

        • The Nybbler says:

          And while he wins battles, he never wins wars (unlike his father and grandfather).

          It’s strongly implied he played a key role in the success of the rebellion of Marilac against Ceteganda.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Not really, he just gets it started by freeing 10,000 POWs.

            They are the ones who win the war.

            This is nothing compared to his father and grandfather who literally strategize and command through multiple battles of multi-planet wars.

            Miles breaks a blockade, frees from POWs and GE captives, finds someboatloads of traitors and insurrectionists, and befriends his clone.

            Compared to them Miles is a piker, and he knows this.

          • Deiseach says:

            Compared to them Miles is a piker, and he knows this.

            Doesn’t really help much. “Compared to legendary heroes who are one-in-a-million types” sure, but “compared to ordinary guys, he’s really something extraordinary” is precisely what I’m complaining about. Bit like angsting over “sure I cured cancer, but compared to the guy who cured death, what did I do? nothing at all!” I mean, that is the definition of a Marty Stu/Mary Sue: oh sure I have all these talents and gifts, but really I’m nothing special if you compare me to [list of wonderful beings] sigh, moan, simper, saves day despite all that. Freeing prisoners and setting up the situation where they’re in a position to successfully overthrow a planetary regime and have a revolution that does not end with the leaders all paraded in a show trial and summarily executed is saving the day, God-Like Grand-da be damned!

            I think I’d probably like the character better if he said “screw the whole Ruler Of The Empire family business, no way I can compete with Literal Supermen there, I’m gonna find my specific talent and be the best damn tulip breeder in the quadrant” or something 🙂

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “screw the whole Ruler Of The Empire family business, no way I can compete with Literal Supermen there, I’m gonna find my specific talent and be the best damn tulip breeder in the quadrant” or something 🙂

            That’s what his clone (legally younger brother) Mark does. And Miles kind of envies him this power of the second-born.

        • bean says:

          she herself was daughter of a relatively well-known weatherman

          He was a welding engineer, not a weatherman. (I just finished Falling Free. Also, where did ‘weatherman’ come from?)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Damnit, I must have misremembered. Was it her grandfather then? It’s been years since I read the author’s notes of her books but I swore she mentioned this in one of them, possibly the one where Miles is sent to the arctic.

      • bean says:

        I’d recommend you read them. I didn’t find them very preachy, and Miles is believable in a heroic way. Bujold’s explicit tactic of asking “what’s the worst thing he can survive” and then doing it makes for interesting reading.

        Thirdly, military SF isn’t my thing 🙂

        I’d argue that it isn’t really military SF (which is my thing). The books are good, but they’re not quite in the same category as Honor Harrington or David Drake’s stuff. Miles is a bit too loose of a cannon for that.

        • Deiseach says:

          Bujold’s explicit tactic of asking “what’s the worst thing he can survive” and then doing it makes for interesting reading.

          If you do it a couple of times, sure. If you do it all the time? And that’s the impression I get – that she keeps turning the screw another twist and he still comes through. As I said though, I may be unfair because I’ve never read any of the books, I can’t make myself do so due to the “And Miles is so great!” fan-approval when they’re talking about them.

          • John Schilling says:

            At least around here, pretty much all of the praise I have seen (and given) is of Bujold as a writer, and of Miles et al as characters. I can see how the sort of people who want a Mary Sue could find one in Miles, and maybe you spend some of your time hanging around people like that, but it really is a stretch for the character as written.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you do it a couple of times, sure. If you do it all the time? And that’s the impression I get – that she keeps turning the screw another twist and he still comes through.

            Not exactly. He fails on more than one occasion. Starting in the first book, actually.

            I may be unfair because I’ve never read any of the books

            Yes.

      • D, read them! At least try one. I don’t normally push books on people, but I will make an exception for Bujold, because she writes characters so well. Miles in probably my favorite character that I have ever read. Although I prefer the earlier ones in the series. The books aren’t particularly militaristic, they simply take place in a militaristic environment. I don’t remember any preachiness at all.

        I think the first one I read was “The Warrior’s Apprentice.” Is that the one with the episode of Miles going to the pleasure planet and kidnapping the genetically modified female warrior, and the one that has him being a traveling judge on the home planet? I read it so many years ago, I forget the details a bit, but I fell in love with Bujold and her characters at that point.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I think the first one I read was “The Warrior’s Apprentice.” Is that the one with the episode of Miles going to the pleasure planet and kidnapping the genetically modified female warrior, and the one that has him being a traveling judge on the home planet.

          No, that’s _Borders of Infinity_, a fixup novel.

          I think the first one I read was _Cetaganda_ (in serial form in Analog), perhaps the worst introduction to the series there was at the time (and still not a good place to start). Then I read _Borders of Infinity_, after which I obsessively searched used book stores to find the then out-of-print earlier books.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          but I will make an exception for Bujold, because she writes characters so well

          Her own personality’s dispositions bleeds through her (main) characters quite a bit. But this is fine as few authors really describe other personalities well, and those who do are generally limited in their repertoire. She does well describing cousin Ivan, whose dispositions are nowhere near her own.

        • I once asked Bujold, who was doing a reading/signing at a local bookstore, how she managed to write such unbelievable plots and have them work. Her answer was that she put real people in them.

      • John Schilling says:

        Greatest Military Genius and Future Emperor and whatever else

        Drop that crown and nobody gets hurt. I’ve got a plasma arc and I’m not afraid to use it! I mean it, keep that bloody thing away from me!

        Miles also has an extensive knowledge of Barrayaran law he will quote at anyone who tries to make him an Emperor.

        Thirdly, military SF isn’t my thing

        Fortunately, there’s about one or two novels’ worth of military SF in the entire series. Miles very definitely wants to be a Great Military Genius, because that’s what basically all his childhood role models were, but he even more than that wants to do right by his family and his nation, and there are limits to how far he can rationalize running off with mercenaries as being somehow his patriotic duty.

      • shakeddown says:

        They’re mostly not preachy (Civic campaign and one or two of its later sequels were exceptions). In the early books Cordelia, who comes from SF California, has a civilization that’s portrayed as just as flawed as anywhere else.

        In the later books she gets a reputation as the woman who can talk anyone into anything by using her cultural superiority and better arguments, but that’s somewhat forgivable in that that’s how her son portrays it, and he isn’t really objective. But this is absent in the early books. Also, there’s a nice twist in that Cordelia’s actually somewhat religious, while the people of the technologically backwards Barrayar are atheist.

  35. HFARationalist says:

    Dead humans have no rights

    The very idea that one should take the interests and wishes of dead humans into account when making a decision is absurd because dead humans can no longer feel anything.

    However this principle has almost never been applied anywhere in human history. Why is this true? There are no ancestors turning in their graves, period. There is no reason why we living humans should do anything to please them.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Are you referring to inheritance, or something else?

      • HFARationalist says:

        No, I’m not talking about inheritance. Instead I’m talking about the absurd idea that living humans should somehow care about the wishes and ideas of their dead ancestors.

        The less people care about the wishes of dead humans the better off the people are. The modern Western society is one of the societies with the least amount of such bullshit and it certainly helps. However such bullshit still exists. Otherwise this “turn in one’s grave” phrase would not have existed.

        • hyperboloid says:

          I think your misunderstanding this. people who say that such and such thing would cause “the founding fathers (for instance) to turn over in their graves” are making a kind of argument from authority.

          The idea that because Thomas Jefferson was the author of our national civic creed means that we should give his opinions some special consideration in political matters does not strike me as entirely stupid. Of course, when he wasn’t founding our nation he was busy f*cking his slaves, so maybe he was not a perfect moral exemplar.

          Also, of course the dead have rights. When they were living they were parties to the social contract, and since we have certain preferences that extend beyond our deaths that we would wish to be respected, we ought to, within reason, feel bound to respect theirs .

          • HFARationalist says:

            In the case of founding fathers of the US I believe we do need to care. However it has nothing to do with these people themselves. Instead we should care in the sense that they were people who had a vision at least some of us share.

            Why do the dead have rights? I don’t have any preference that extends beyond my death that really have to be expected at all. Nor shall anyone else.

          • I don’t have any preference that extends beyond my death that really have to be expected at all. Nor shall anyone else.

            You seem to believe you know what people ought to care about.

            One of the things I do is to create and spread ideas. One of the things I care about is that other people read and understand the writings that contain those ideas.

            Does that seem odd to you, a preference I ought not to have? If not, is there any reason why I shouldn’t care whether people read and understand my writings after my death? I can’t get pleasure from it after my death, but I can get pleasure now from the expectation that it will happen after my death.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nor shall anyone else.

            Since you are not, as far as I know, Lord God Almighty, Creator of all seen and unseen, you do not get to set my preferences for me.

            See, this is the type of statement that makes it very hard for me to reconcile your other stated views on how every single person should have absolute independence from any kind of ties or obligations or submission to others, apart from the kind of basic minimum obligations set down by the state of being an employee or living under a law-ruled society. You seem to set yourself up as Absolute God-Emperor making all the rules for the future society and dude, if you really mean it that people are not obligated to pay a straw’s worth of attention to anyone else’s whims or wishes, why do you think you get to set the rules and terms other people will follow?

            You make it sound like your enthusiasm for transhumanism is really an enthusiasm for the notion that you will get to program into the transhumans your set of preferences and values such that they will all behave and think as you wish people would behave and think, and that does not sound like liberty at all.

    • Nornagest says:

      There are a couple ways of looking at this.

      The hard-nosed functional way is to observe that while the opinions of your dead relatives, or at least those that you’ve personally known, might not have any consequential bearing on your decisions, they do have some psychological bearing — even if your grandpa is dead, your mental model of your grandpa isn’t. It’s that mental model that you’re trying to fit when you make decisions, and you can’t just make it vanish in a poof of logic, decision-making doesn’t work that way.

      Relatedly, you might observe that dear departed Grandpa had more life experience than you and therefore, all else equal, might have been expected to make better decisions on average. If your model of him is saying “don’t do this”, then maybe it’s not a good idea, unless you can work out the details of why he’d say that well enough to firmly dismiss them. (Say, if he had a snake phobia and you’re considering adopting a python.)

      There’s also the sketchy neotraditionalist way, which I don’t fully endorse but which might be worth considering, and which goes like this: we aren’t unmoved movers, but are vectors for social technologies we pick up from various sources. Some of them were passed down from our ancestors. And to paraphrase Neal Stephenson, the fact that your ancestors survived to reproduce is strong evidence in itself that those social technologies were stupendously badass, because they existed in a nightmarishly unforgiving state of Darwinian competition and all the ones that weren’t stupendously badass died. If you’re making decisions about whether to adopt social technologies, it makes sense to discount new ones, or ones from other civilizations that might not be as well adapted to your circumstances, accordingly.

    • hlynkacg says:

      The idea that the interests and wishes of future humans should be taken into account is equally if not more absurd. The dead can at least lay claim to thier own existence, and gave us the world we now inhabit. What have hypothetical future people done to warrant consideration?

      • Wrong Species says:

        Our actions can actually affect people hypothetical future people, not the dead. Let’s say you had X amount of money. You can either take that money and spend it on a child you don’t yet have(maybe a crib or something of that nature) or spend it on something you have no interest in but that your dead parent would have liked. Would you really suggest that the former option is inferior to the latter option?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Are you suggestion that the alternative is superior? The net effect on actual people in both cases is null.

          • Wrong Species says:

            In the present, yes. But assuming you had a child, they would have access to a crib so the effect eventually has a positive outcome. Short of resurrection, there is absolutely nothing you can do that would help the dead.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Short of resurrection, there is absolutely nothing you can do that would help the dead.

            Says who?

          • Wrong Species says:

            If Hylnkag was talking about religion, that would be one thing. But he seems to be saying that dead people have utility curves, even if they don’t go to the afterlife.

          • roystgnr says:

            “there is absolutely nothing you can do that would help the dead” is only true if you are referring to the internal state of the dead, rather than to the degree to which the universe matches their desires. Hedonic utilitarianism rather than preference utilitarianism. The latter seems almost tautologically more sane than the former, to me. I care that my descendants will have a nice world to live in even after I’m gone, for example, and any changes to that effect have positive utility to me over and above what utility they have to those who directly experience them.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Wrong Species

            Even if we leave religion completely out of it, dead people do have utility curves, or rather they had utility curves. My utility is served by the knowledge that my will will be carried out after I’m gone, as was my grandfather’s before me, and his grandfather’s before him. Hypothetical future people other hand do not have utility curves until they stop being hypothetical.

            Any argument against honoring the will of the dead is a fully general argument against honoring any obligation that can not be enforced through cold steel and steaming blood.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @roystgnr I do believe that hedonist utilitarianism is better than preference utilitarianism. People can have preferences that are detrimental to themselves. Hence preference utilitarianism isn’t really the best thing in the world.

            People valuing other people too much can lead to people controlling each other. And…having dead people de facto controlling living people is even worse than other forms of people controlling each other.

          • hlynkacg says:

            People can have preferences that are detrimental to themselves.

            This ought to count double against hedonism. A lot of self destructive behavior feels really really good. Case in point, the parable of the lotus eaters, and just about every addict ever.

    • cassander says:

      So you told sandoratthezoo that you don’t object to inheritence. that raises a question. You, a rich old man, set up a will establishing that your fortune be used to establish a foundation to further some purpose. Doesn’t matter what. I get hired by your estate lawyer to carry out that will. Do I have any moral obligation to do what your will says to do?

      • HFARationalist says:

        I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of inheritance. However before we can abolish it we need to think carefully. Views of dead people have no value unless we can resurrect them. Dead people themselves are irrelevant unless something related to dead people also affect living people.

        I believe in your hypothetical example the will should be respected not out of obligation to the dead person but out of legal obligation.

        • cassander says:

          Do you think the law should mandate respecting the wishes of the dead? I can think of a few pragmatic reasons for inheritence.

        • Nick says:

          What in the world is “legal” obligation other than obligations to people? It seems to me you least of all think we can have obligations to things that aren’t people (or sapient beings, at any rate).

          • HFARationalist says:

            I would say legal obligations to the society consisting of living people. Dead people themselves are completely irrelevant.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You keep asserting this but have yet to provide any basis or justification for your assertion.

            Why should we believe you?

      • John Schilling says:

        Do I have any moral obligation to do what your will says to do?

        You promised to do so, generically and specifically and for approximately the highest standard of “promise” our society recognizes. Breaking sacred promises is almost maximally unvirtuous. It is in this context explicitly against the rules. And if you’re going to be all consequentialist about it, you have to include the consequences of diminishing public trust in the people and institutions we expect to look after our personal affairs when for any number of reasons we can’t immediately do so ourselves.

        What moral system even leaves this subject to question? Yes, you have an obligation to do what you said you were going to do.

        Also, what do you hope to gain by doing otherwise? The alternative to inheritance law is not that the wealth of Dead Rich People is made available for socially benevolent causes like reducing inequality. The alternative to inheritance law is that the wealth of Old Rich People gets turned into hookers and blow before they die, or into buried treasure with their favorite son maybe getting the map after Dad kicks off, or into complex business ventures that will collapse without the network of personal contacts that only the Father and Son share, or into corporate entities that will endure forever and are vaguely expected to favor the founder’s preferred interests for a while at least. Or is simply transferred in life, less the three-sigma hookers-and-blow fund. The only way the wealth is made available to your preferred causes is if the Dead Rich Person favored the same or similar causes and would have written his will that way in any event, or he is careless, unmotivated, or incompetent in planning for the future of his money (hint: he’s rich, so probably no).

        • hlynkacg says:

          What moral system even leaves this subject to question? Yes, you have an obligation to do what you said you were going to do.

          Utilitarianism.

          • John Schilling says:

            Didn’t I explicitly address that one, albeit using the broader “consequentialist” label?

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, the functional difference between utilitarians and consequentialists is that utilitarians don’t recognize the consequences of diminishing public trust.

          • utilitarians don’t recognize the consequences of diminishing public trust.

            I cannot imagine any rational utilitarians for which this would be true. Why do you say this?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Because failing to recognize and appreciate the social milieu/norms they inhabit appears to be a common failure mode of rationalism. Utilitarianism, being a fully general solution that doesn’t generalize, is just one of the more visible examples.

        • hyperboloid says:

          The alternative to inheritance law is that the wealth of Old Rich People gets turned into hookers and blow before they die

          It would seem that problem could easily be solved by taxing hookers and blow. Indeed progressive consumption taxes seem like a good idea generally.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hookers and blow are generally available in tax-free form on the black market, which puts limits on how much you can hope to extract by taxing a legalized version. Less illicit rich-people consumption goods are often of a form that can be easily parked or registered offshore in some more amicable jurisdiction.

            Granted, the people who imagine schemes like this are a good idea tend to also be people who believe in the world communist or at least socialist revolution, so presumably there is to be a single World Government that makes sure rich people can’t escape like that. But that never seems to actually happen.

          • hyperboloid says:

            The only reason there are large black markets for cocaine, and the services of prostitutes is because those things are illegal.

            In my opinion prostitution should be taxed and regulated like anything else. Cocaine’s combination of neurotoxicity and addictiveness makes me a little less enthusiastic about legalization, but at the very least we should start by legalizing the recreational use of safer alternatives, and see if they displace black market cocaine consumption.

            At any rate, I doubt that most consumers (especial well-to-do ones) would be willing to accept the downsides of the black market just to avoided tax.

            Granted, the people who imagine schemes like this are a good idea tend to also be people who believe in the world communist or at least socialist revolution

            The single most obnoxious trait of libertarians is the tendency to call anyone who disagrees with them either a Communist, or a Fascist. The fact is that the only way you can make libertarianism sound remotely attractive to most people is to ignore the existence of the political and economic systems of every western democracy, and imply that the only choice is between your ideas, and mass murder. This is probably a sign that your ideas might be less than sound.

            It’s also obvious that you don’t what a progressive consumption tax is.

            There is more then one way of implementing it, but the simplest proposal is the personal expenditure tax. Under this plan each household’s total taxable consumption of goods and services would be calculated by subtracting their savings and investment, plus some large standard deduction, from their total reported income (including any money they borrowed). Consumption would then be taxed at a steeply progressive rate.

            There are other forms that are more like a variation on VAT. Here is senator Ben Carden’s page advocating for one such version, and Alan D. Viard at AEI advocating another.

            You just called me Communist for wanting to eliminate that Republican bete noire, the “double tax” capital gains.

            Less illicit rich-people consumption goods are often of a form that can be easily parked or registered offshore

            You’re going to have to explain that one. Consumptions taxes are uniquely resistant to those kind of avoidance schemes, as it is of course quite hard to offshore consumption. I suppose you could buy some very expensive real estate oversees (disguising it as an investment), and vacation there, but it seems like there would be pretty hard limits on how much income people could, or would dispose of in that way.

          • John Schilling says:

            The only reason there are large black markets for cocaine, and the services of prostitutes is because those things are illegal.

            Thus it is proven that there is no black market in cigarettes. And nobody in the United States ever ran bootleg moonshine before 1920 or after 1933.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I think everyone is missing that currently living people have a vested interest in a will being carried out. And that often enough these still living people/entities took direct action while the decedent was still alive to ensure they’d be included in the will. (Even children take such actions, or neglect to take them – I’m estranged from my parents so there’s a good chance I’ll be disinherited from a likely mid-to-low six figure sum.)

        This is likely the major reason why wills are honored (except when they aren’t).

        Do I have any moral obligation to do what your will says to do?

        You have a legal obligation not to screw over the named beneficiary. In this case it means every charitable cause, which is a very large group that doesn’t want to be screwed over. It especially means every charitable cause that has some degree of relation to the executor, as these are the charities most likely to get some of the money.

    • I leave money in my will to go to a particular good cause. It’s true that if the money is somehow diverted elsewhere after my death, that will not affect how happy I am. But the knowledge that there are institutions which will result in the money going where I want it after my death makes me happier now which helps justify the existence of those institutions on a utilitarian basis.

      Think of it as a special case of the rule utilitarian vs act utilitarian issue. The rule “be bound by the wishes of dead people” makes live people better off, even if the act of following those wishes does not.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Probably a different thing, but I think it’s fair to say that corpses (especially fairly recent ones) are considered to be members of the community. Desecrating a corpse is a big deal.

      I’m not going to argue that people shouldn’t be like that, but what goes into the belief?

      • HFARationalist says:

        Why is it a big deal though? If you really care about someone you should get their genetic information. Once technologies make it possible to recreate such a person again you can in some sense resurrect them.

        • hyperboloid says:

          What makes you think it will ever be possible to recreate a person from their genetic material? Because that strikes me as incredibly unlikely.

          Cloning would just give you more or less the same effect as having a living mono-zygotic twin. I say more or less because the clone will not have shared the same environment, both prenatal and post.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I agree. I didn’t think about that. A person is more than their genes.

            If we can somehow document all the quarks and gluons in a human body to some extant can we reconstruct a human?

          • hyperboloid says:

            If we can somehow document all the quarks and gluons in a human body to some extant can we reconstruct a human?

            So far as we know, the laws of physics prevent you from exactly copying the sate of a quantum mechanical system.

            So if you mean to ask: “could we use some kind of scanner to examine someone on the sub-atomic level, and store an exact back up copy?”, then the answer is no.

            Now do you need an exact copy, in the quantum mechanical sense? Since we don’t have anything like a scientific theory of consciousness; I don’t know. But it seems to me there are good intuitive reasons to suspect that consciousness, and the seat of personal identity, (the “soul”, for lack of a better word) are deeply rooted, and perhaps impossible to copy.

            Imagine a machine that could exactly duplicate a human being on the molecular (but not subatomic) level. To use this machine a man would sit down in a chair, and be scanned. The classical, but not quantum, data thus gathered would be transmitted to a molecular constructor attached to a chair across the room. The constructor then builds a second man, molecule by molecule, to exact specifications. When the process is complete the second man wakes up in his chair with the exact same thoughts and memories as the first man.

            If we assume that the seat of personal identity is identical with the classical information that makes up the brain, and thus the mind; we must ask a question: are these men the same person?

            On the one hand it seems that their minds are identical, on the other hand It seems obvious that two different people with two different subjective experiences can not be the same person. If we prick the finger of the second man, the first does not feel the pain.

            Now consider this: what if someone installed a mechanism on the first chair that killed the user the instant the process was complete? If you were to use the device, thus modified, would you survive?

            The person who got up from the second chair would certainly feel himself to be the be the same person who sat down in the first one. The instant he sputtered to life, it would seem that he would pick up every thought, and feeling, right where his now dead predecessor had left off.

            So what has happened, has one man been transported across the room? Or has a man been killed, and then replaced, Invasion of the Body Snatchers style. If we go with the first interpretation, does that mean that one man existed, for an instant, in two places on once? If we go with the second, must we give up the materialist view that mind, and thus the seat of personal identity, is the same as the brain?

            I think the resolution to this paradox rests in the fact that the minds of the two men must differ, all be it in a very small way. After using the version of the device that allows both men to live, they will open their eyes look across the room, and have two different thoughts. One will feel that he has stayed in exactly the same place, and one will feel that he was teleported across the room leaving us with two very similar, but subtly different people. For the first man, siting in the chair with the scanner was no different then siting in any other chair, but for the second man there will seem to be a radical interruption of the normal flow of conciseness.

            It seems to me that physical continuity is necessary for continuity of identity. There is no mind uploading, and no human technology could ever resurrect the dead.

            Now that leaves open the question, of weather some cosmic phenomenon, could cause a mind to be resurrected, (or perhaps more precisely, “reoccur” through natural processes) in all of it’s details. On this question of cosmic immortality I’m left only with the thoughts of Arnold Toynbee.

            Human nature presents human minds with a puzzle which they have not yet solved and may never succeed in solving, for all that we can tell. The dichotomy of a human being into ‘soul’ and ‘body’ is not a datum of experience. No one has ever been, or ever met, a living human soul without a body… Someone who accepts—as I myself do, taking it on trust—the present-day scientific account of the Universe may find it impossible to believe that a living creature, once dead, can come to life again; but, if he did entertain this belief, he would be thinking more ‘scientifically’ if he thought in the Christian terms of a psychosomatic resurrection than if he thought in the shamanistic terms of a disembodied spirit.

          • rlms says:

            Roger Penrose argues in The Emperor’s New Mind that consciousness arises from quantum stuff in the brain, but says that most neuroscientists disagree.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Even if consciousness does result from uncopyable quantum stuff in the brain, it doesn’t follow that a human being cannot be effectively duplicated. It just means the copy will not have continuous consciousness; perhaps the copy will have an experience akin to an electric shock, but consciousness will re-establish itself based on the copyable parts..

    • dodrian says:

      To quote G.K. Chesterton (because it’s not really a good Open Thread without a Chesterton quote):

      Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.

      Orthodoxy, chapter 4

      • HFARationalist says:

        I don’t think the dead should be allowed to have any influence in the society other than in terms of what useful things they have done that we can use. However nobody should be obliged to obey the dead or something.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Based on your professed belief in “absolute individualism” you don’t think anybody should be obliged to obey the living either.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Agreed if by “obey” you mean personal submission instead of legitimate structures that need to exist in jobs.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You can’t have “legitimacy” without obligation and your axioms reject it.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @hlynkacg My axioms do not reject the idea that sometimes humans voluntarily cooperate in the workspace and elsewhere. If you sign a contract and work then you have voluntarily accept the responsibilities of the job. There is nothing wrong with that.

            The only kind of obligations I oppose are involuntary ones, especially the idea of imposing parenting on humans.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I didn’t say your axioms reject cooperation. I said they reject obligation.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @hlynkacg My axioms don’t reject all kinds of obligation either. However they do reject unconditional and involuntary forms of it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Obligations, regardless of whether they are voluntary or conditional, require the individual to submit to something other than thier own desires. It is deeply antithetical to your professed beliefs.

            As John points out above, there’s a reason pretty much every moral system in the world settled on promise keeping as their central virtue. A contract or responsibility that does not bind it’s parties is less than worthless.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @hlynkacg No, it’s not. I believe in the validity of obligations one voluntarily enter into. Once a person agree to some deal they should keep it. I believe contracts and responsibility should be binding.

            Otherwise why do I oppose the idea of adultery?

            My absolute individualism is mostly about rejection of families and other groups one does not voluntarily get into. That’s it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If group membership is purely voluntary as you say it follows that an individual may enter and exit the group at will.

            Contracts and responsibilities have no meaning if they can be dropped the moment they become inconvenient.

    • J Mann says:

      HFARationalist, I think we need more specifics to discuss the issue fully – what are some examples of rights you think we shouldn’t give dead people?

      Without specifics, I’d note that some respect for the dead has a function in reassuring the living. If Aunt Mildred really wanted me to keep the family portrait on the wall of her house after leaving it to me, then one function of leaving it up is to reassure people (during their lives) that their posthumous wishes will be granted some respect.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I believe dead people and interests of dead people should be completely irrelevant unless they are somehow related to benefiting living people.

        I won’t want anyone to keep my picture or do anything about me if I’m dead. If you like my ideas you can use them in whatever way you consider appropriate. You can bury me wherever you want because it won’t matter to me anyway.

        • Nornagest says:

          We know what you believe. We don’t know how that cashes out on the object level, nor how good your reasons for believing it are.

          This is borderline unkind, but you’ve said in the past that you want constructive criticism, so here: you have a bad habit of taking questions about your motivations and interpreting them as questions about your beliefs. Beliefs don’t come out of nowhere. They are motivated by something, and if you’re trying to convince people of unusual beliefs (you do, constantly), it behooves you to start with the reasons why and only move on to your conclusions once that’s firmly established. That can be done inferentially (specific, concrete things you want to see happen in the world) or analytically (start from shared axioms and work your way down), but dumping a big abstract bottom line on people is the worst of both worlds.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Really thanks! 🙂 Constructive criticism is always good. I really need you guys.

            I assume that by motivation you mean more concrete examples or moral axioms that produce my particular moral and social beliefs. Sure! I will do it now.

            I believe one key reason why West Europe edged ahead of East Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and Northeast Asia is that West Europe managed to be less authoritarian and more rational than these places. All other major civilizations and Medieval West European civilization suffered from lots of cultural ossification. Cultural ossification can be in the form of political authoritarianism-induced impairment of rational thoughts, extreme social conformism caused by ideologies such as Islam and Confucianism, extreme asceticism, violent fundamentalism (i.e. Crusades) or other similar ideas that harm a society. To protect an authoritarian regime the authoritarian leaders frequently produce or encourage nonsense that helps them maintain power. It is the populace that is actually harmed by such nonsense in addition to the harm caused by authoritarianism itself.

            An important part of authoritarian unthinking caused by authoritarianism is about ancestral worship and other forms of family authoritarianism. The very idea of chaining someone to their parents from birth is completely revolting. However this is a crazy idea that is harming people in many ossified cultures such as Muslim ones. It is completely revolting that ancestors should be allowed to controlling people simply for being ancestors regardless of how immoral or ignorant they are. It is much worse if even the feelings of dead people are allowed to interfere with lives of living people if these dead people happened to be evolutionarily successful. Such tendencies can basically stop societies from ever progressing if they are sufficiently strong.
            Any ideology that requires people to obey their ancestors is completely revolting..Yeah just a little bit less revolting than ideologies that kill or injure people. If a person has to unconditionally obey someone else due to something they did not voluntarily get into then this person is not really fully an autonomous person. Instead they are in some sense enslaved. The idea that this obedience nonsense has to exist for 18 years in America is disturbing enough. However the idea that this should never end in places such as Pakistan is revolting. If everyone in a society has to obey their parents including dead ones then the society does not really have persons at all. Instead everyone is just a slave chained from birth who can never be released from their slavery..or..maybe…drones. This idiotic phenomenon never exists among animals. Why did humans invent such a weird idea?

        • J Mann says:

          HFARationalist – thanks. Based on your examples, my response is what I thought it would be.

          Your response to me offered two examples where we respect the wishes of the dead – (1) keeping a picture of a deceased relative on display (I presume that the decedent wished to keep the picture up and the resident would otherwise prefer not to) and (2) interring the remains of a decedent in the way she wished instead of the way most convenient for the living.

          My first Chesterton’s fence analysis of both of those is that they are for the living. Many living people presumably gain comfort from knowing their wishes will be respected after death. If we say “Aunt Jackie’s dead, who cares that she wanted to be buried on her special gravesite when we can sell it for more and have her cremated,” then Uncle John is not going to get a lot of comfort fram the belief that his wishes will be respected.

          A second argument is that keeping our promises helps to develop pathways that make us more reliable and better citizens. If you are the kind of person who will break a promise casually if you think the counterparty will never know or be affected, your promises are on the whole worth less.

          None of this is to say we always respect the wishes of the dead (there’s a whole body of law about when we may ignore them) or always keep promises (ditto), but there’s often some real value in keeping Aunt Mildred’s picture up or her gravesite clean, just because she asked us to.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Many living people presumably gain comfort from knowing their wishes will be respected after death.

            I would think the living gain more comfort just by keeping their emotional connection to the relationship alive by fulfilling the wishes of the beloved dead.

            People who were genuinely antipathic to the dead generally have no problem in not fulfilling their wishes, or even contravening them in spite. They get a final sense of satisfaction that way (except those who have a moral qualm against vengeance like this, and thus get an emotional boost by ‘doing the right thing’).

          • J Mann says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            That’s a good insight. It might be some of both.

            When my father died, I was happy making some fairly significant bequests to some charities at his request, and we were happy to arrange a service and treatment of his remains that he requested.

            HFARationalist is right that as far as we know, my father doesn’t gain any utility from us actually keeping those commitments that he wouldn’t gain from believing (mistakenly) that his family was going to do so. But