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Open Thread 90.75

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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856 Responses to Open Thread 90.75

  1. Mark says:

    Is there any way I can use my money to try and make Disney lose money?

    Are you allowed to buy attack adverts against other people’s products?

    • Anonymous says:

      Is there any way I can use my money to try and make Disney lose money?

      Probably. I presume you want legal options.

      How much money do you have? Can you buy the company and simply liquidate it?

      Are you allowed to buy attack adverts against other people’s products?

      I… think it depends on the jurisdiction? I think most places will have a hard time arguing against them if they happen to be true.

      • Mark says:

        I don’t have enough money to buy Disney, but even if I did, that’s not really what I’m looking for. I want the people who own Disney to not make money. I want the people who manage Disney to fail.
        If I buy it, then I’m the one who isn’t making money.

    • Montfort says:

      You would probably need a lot of money, but you might try hiring PIs to look for evidence of scandal in Disney, see if you can get anything major to stick around in the news. Of course, even then Disney’s big enough it would probably rebound in a few years.

      For the one-in-a-billion shot, you could become a master businessman, take over an entertainment company and squeeze Disney out of its traditional markets. But I assume people are already trying (and failing) to do that.

    • Incurian says:

      Star Wars was that bad, huh? Damn.

      • Nornagest says:

        93% critical, 56% audience on Rotten Tomatoes. So… I guess it depends who you’re asking?

        We’ve been seeing disparities like that a lot more recently. I wonder why.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Heh, critics used to be stereotyped as snobs. Now they’re giving 93% approval to many franchise blockbusters and audiences are getting tired of it? Interesting.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Meta Spoilers for the new Star Wars.

          Episode XIII VIII went in a pretty weird direction, so my guess is critics liked that and audiences didn’t. I sympathize with both; I found the new direction pretty interesting, but I don’t think it was appropriate for a main-episode SW movie.

          Meta Spoilers for the new Star Wars.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Rian Johnson raped my middle age!

      • Mark says:

        It’s reasonably entertaining – it’s just that it doesn’t really seem to be story driven anymore. Just a bunch of somewhat cool but ultimately inconsequential stuff happening.

        Reminds me a bit of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

        Feels thin.

      • CatCube says:

        It wasn’t bad, but for my money it wasn’t as good as the original trilogy. However, the political background of The Force Awakens, which continues into The Last Jedi, is even more nonsensical than the prequel trilogy.

        What, exactly, is the Resistance? At the end of the original trilogy, it overthrew the Imperial government and reinstalled the Republic. So at the beginning of TFA was it a military auxiliary or something? Why are there no Republic political connections evident? Why are they running like they’re operating outside the law?

        The First Order is easily explainable as an insurgent force seeking to overthrow the Republic and set up a new Empire, but how do they have better equipment and organization than the legitimate government, considering that they’re not operating openly? We’ve never even seen a lick of Republic military, only Resistance, who are heavily outmatched. The largest starships by far we see are First Order, so only the largest shipyards would be working on them, and how does the Republic not notice Star Destroyers sitting on the slipways? This is like telling a story where ISIS has aircraft carriers that can go toe-to-toe with Nimitz-class supercarriers. There are ways to tell that story, but these supply lines need explanation. Either they’re carving out an area where they’re openly the de facto government and simply building them, or they’re seizing them through mutiny.

        I get the sense that for the new trilogy, they really, really, really wanted to tell another “scrappy underdog Resistance” story, and elected to ignore the fact that the end of the original trilogy didn’t allow for that.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I found The Force Awakens nigh unwatchable when I saw it, for precisely this reason.
          Rebellion is Good, so it’s an ontological necessity that the Good Guys fight for something with a similar name. So three decades after Return of the Jedi, the new Good Guys get drawn into Leia’s Resistance against the galactic government that’s been carrying on Empire stuff since Palpatine’s death.
          But what happened to the new Republic that was supposed to be founded when everyone cheered at the end of RotJ? Oh, they control some planets that the First Order’s Death Star blew up? OK, well what planets and infrastructure did they control for the 30 years before that? Was the New Republic just an idealistic figment of the heroes’s of the OT’s imagination and the galaxy is in a warlord era? If so, where are the warlords other than the First Order? And will you ever explain why these guys are led by Gollum?
          See, the nice thing about the prequel trilogy is that I could always understand it, and any dislike stemmed from thinking the director made stupid choices in realizing his vision.

          • Nornagest says:

            Haven’t seen either of the latest Star Wars movies, but I like the warlord idea. It makes perfect sense both in and out of universe; a Rebellion that’s small enough to be existentially threatened by attacking one base on one planet (twice!) is not going to be able to exert a monopoly on force over an entire galaxy, even if we assume that the Emperor didn’t have a succession plan in place or was only holding the whole thing together through Force shenanigans or something. And it allows our heroes to be fighting against overwhelming odds in the next movies: it even allows for the Star Destroyers, if we assume that one or more of the shipyards that built those ended up in space belonging to a Dark Side-aligned warlord.

            The fundamental problem with the idea is that neither Disney nor Lucasfilm has the guts to show its protagonists’ rebellion producing anarchy.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think the best explanation for the Resistance/First Order is out-of-story: the producers wanted to tell a story that was very much like A New Hope, and therefore set up a very similar situation between a rebellion and an evil empire.

          If you want to retrofit an inside-the-story explanation, I think you can get away with saying
          a) the Empire was never quite defeated,
          b) the First Order is a reinvigorated outgrowth of the remnant Empire,
          c) the New Republic eventually became highly dysfunctional,
          d) the dysfunction prevented it from dealing with the growing threat of the First Order, but
          e) a smallish portion of the New Republic (called the Resistance) was able to rise to the occasion.

          No idea how close that is to real canon, but I think it fits the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

          • CatCube says:

            That’s what’s annoying. There’s a way you could tell that story, but the screenwriter didn’t bother.

        • cassander says:

          this really really annoyed me about the force awakens. It takes one clause in the opening crawl to explain it, “but some sectors remain under the control of forces dreaming of a new empire” or something like that. Instead that have that laughable scene (literally, I laughed out loud) where the first order supposedly destroys the new republic, (which is apparently entirely based in one star system) and which wasn’t fighting them rather that the resistance, which was. It’s so convoluted, I almost hesitate to call it lazy screenwriting, because it was clearly more work than something even vaguely sensible.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            To be fair, I think it would be brilliantly realistic if the canon is that the New Republic Leia and Luke founded only controlled one star system, because the Rebellion never had a viable plan for governing once the Empire was destroyed. We saw that Leia walked away from the government she helped found to become a guerilla General, Han would rather be a poor smuggler than a Senator of such a small polity, and all Luke knew how to do for a Republic was train Jedi and then become a sad hermit when a student betrays him.

          • cassander says:

            that would be better than what we got, to be sure, but I think the real gold is to go with is leia as a sort of mashup between sun yat sen and chiang kai shek. the republic is founded, but there’s a lot of warlordism/imperial remnants going on, the republic is weak and squabbles internally, and when leia gets frustrated with it she goes out and raises an a private army to put down the remnant. Or if that’s too politically complicated, gets made pro-consul for the underfunded army sent to put down the remnant.

        • This reminds me of an anecdote about Ithaca, New York, a town populated by people who, when they were twenty, knew you couldn’t trust anyone over thirty.

          There was a demonstration about something and one of the speakers was the Mayor. Who bravely declared that they wouldn’t let the authorities shut the demonstration down.

    • johan_larson says:

      I seem to remember that some media do not accept advertisements including direct attacks on, or even comparisons with, competitors. You may be familiar with ads that feature comparisons with “Brand X” and such; that’s what advertisers use when they can’t attack competitors directly. This isn’t about the law, it’s about being able to play both sides of the table and get ad money from both Ford and GM, say.

      In less traditional media, such as online ads, I expect such rules don’t apply, and you’ll be able to buy anti-Disney ads. If you are spending only the sort of funds available to ordinary people, you probably won’t get much traction, and the company will probably ignore you. But if by some chance you did, they would probably try to stop or hinder you by legal means, starting with accusations of trademark violations. Disney is also a big enough player in most markets that you might find that services you need start refusing your business, just to keep on Disney’s good side.

    • I think it would be useful to explain why you hate Disney. You’d have to be a very powerful person to have any noticeable effect on Disney through the use of power or money. But if you have some good reasons to hate them it is always possible you might start a viral plague against them by explaining these reasons. Besides I am curious.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      Spend your money lobbying for copyright term reduction, which would likely harm Disney’s vault more than most other media companies.

  2. johan_larson says:

    If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix this weekend, you could do a lot worse than “Manhunt: Unabomber”, a miniseries about the search for the Unabomber, back in the 90’s. It stars Sam Worthington as the profiler assigned to the case, Paul Bettany (yes!) as the bomber, and Chris Noth (who you may rememeber from “Law & Order”) as a senior FBI agent. It’s really well done.

    I wonder how true to life the series is. “Fitz”, the profiler, is a pretty unlikable guy and doesn’t seem like the sort of character a writer would create out of thin air, so I’m guessing it’s at least pretty close to the facts.

    • Well... says:

      I wonder how fairly they treat Kaczynski’s philosophy of technology (i.e. his raison d’agir), or if they discuss it at all.

      • johan_larson says:

        It’s mentioned to some extent. The profiler has trouble fitting in at the FBI and resists just doing what he’s told, which has some resonance with Kaczynski’s ideas about all the ways society pushes us to conform and obey.

        Kaczynski is portrayed as an angry, alienated loner, not a mad-man.

    • skef says:

      I watched this. I was impressed with Bettany’s performance, although mostly because I didn’t realize it was him for a long time.

      I wonder how true to life the series is. “Fitz”, the profiler, is a pretty unlikable guy and doesn’t seem like the sort of character a writer would create out of thin air, so I’m guessing it’s at least pretty close to the facts.

      Given the degree to which the scripts are ladled with the hokiest, most absurd melodrama, I came to a different assessment.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dammit, why is T’Pol acting like Selin Gören? Argh.

  4. maintain says:

    History book recommendations?

    Did you enjoy reading a book about history? Do you think others would benefit from you recommending the book?

    I’ll go first. My favorite book: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

    • Anonymous says:

      Farewell to Alms and The Son Also Rises are great. (What? They’re totally history. And economics too!)

      I, Claudius and the sequel are also very good. (What? They’re totally history too!)

      Appendix N is very interesting if you’re into Dungeons and Dragons. (What? Literary history is history!)

      On Power, also good.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I, Claudius and the sequel are also very good. (What? They’re totally history too!)

        Count Belisarius is worth reading too, if only because you don’t normally find many books about/set in that period.

    • baconbacon says:

      Up From Slavery Booker T Washington

    • cmurdock says:

      History of the Medieval World, Susan Wise Baur. Pretty doctrinaire “then this happened then this happened”-style history, but its two great assets are 1. it actually has a global perspective (including Korea and America– I was impressed that the author actually talked about the Dorset), and b. unlike the typical Greatest Hits school of history writing, each time period is given roughly equal space, meaning that the book talks about some less-often-discussed topics like the Merovingian dynasty and the Iranian intermezzo.

      The First Frontier, Scott Weidensaul. American frontier history from the Basque whaling days until just prior to the Revolution. The style is very close-up, mostly told via the biographies of individual people (traders, captives, interpreters, captains, sachems, etc.). Its best asset is probably the attention paid to, and how much he gets right about, the Native side of the frontier– the Indians are neither ignored, nor anachronistically waved about as a modern political mallet, nor treated as a static monolith (one thing I didn’t like about Colin Woodard’s book was how he figured each colony’s success or failure only as a factor of the particular character of the settler population, with no regard for how different native populations might have different local characters as well). Weidensaul is an ornithologist, and this is his first history book… and I’m starting to suspect that all the best history books are written by non-historians…

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Susan Wise Bauer is a homeschooler who got her start finding the need to write world history for children. “Medieval” is the second of four volumes in her adult world history.
        She is a Christian and has a rationalist mindset, as shown by spending the opening of the “Ancient” volume discussing the different epistemic status of truth claims about the past (you can read between the lines here that she knows creationists and doesn’t want to deal with archaeology and genes as sources of prehistoric knowledge despite knowing they have value). So you’re going to hear a lot about rulers and not much about anyone else until the textual sources diversify.

    • maintain says:

      How are you supposed to tell if a history book is legit or not? If you follow this rationality thing to it’s conclusion, most history books are going to be full of biased bs.

    • I’m fond of Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army.

      It goes through all of Alexander’s campaigns, leaving out the battles. The basic subject is the difficulty of keeping that many people alive, and the ways in which the need to do so explains Alexander’s actions. The author was one of the people I dedicated my first novel to.

      Another good one, again on classical antiquity, is Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. I was particularly struck by the author’s persuasive reconstruction of what the Ptolemaic forty, a rowed ship with about the displacement of a WWII heavy cruiser and about the crew size of a WWII battleship, actually was (a giant catamaran, if he is correct).

      Can anyone here suggest a good history of Alexander’s successors?

      • cmurdock says:

        re David Friedman: Interesting. Apparently, William Murray agrees with Casson about the dual-hulled tessaraconters [really, these words are great, why not use them?], too.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I’ve read this book! The question of what Classical ships larger than triremes were is pretty interesting.

        • There’s a pretty good sf trilogy by Melissa Scott, starting with Five-Twelfths of Heaven, in which the categories of space warships are based on the classical ship categories.

          The first book of hers I read, possibly the first she wrote, was an alternate history. It was obvious that her reaction to the Mary Renault three volume Alexander series, like any reader’s, was that Renault got the ending wrong. Alexander wasn’t supposed to die young.

          So she fixed it.

        • the dual-hulled tessaraconters

          Tesseraconter. There was only one.

          Unless you know something about it I don’t.

    • bean says:

      To be overly ambitious, I’d recommend Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of US Naval Operations in World War II. While it’s rather large (14 volumes), it’s also very well-written and fantastically detailed, both about the big headline actions and about the little ones that aren’t in most history books. Here’s the first volume on Amazon. If you want the whole set, Naval Institute Press has a bundle on sale now.
      (Also, they’ve extended the Christmas sale, which is making the part of my brain responsible for managing the book budget cry.)

  5. Deiseach says:

    I can’t tell if this is the slippery slope warned about when legalising same-sex marriage or not 🙂

    • Friends getting married is a great result! My primary objection to gay marriage has been that it only eliminates discrimination against single people for a small group of people. Actually my example was usually sisters living together. Why didn’t they have the right to file joint returns, have contract rights, etc.? Them getting married might solve the problem like these guys, but I’m not sure if sisters legally have the right to get married (whether in Ireland or the US). In other words, people live together for all sorts of reasons, and often not for sexual reasons, which is the implication of marriage laws. OF course we also need to allow group marriages too, because groups also live together (and again, often not for sex, so get your mind out of the gutter!)

      • outis says:

        Or perhaps eliminate marriage (as a public contract) altogether. All arguments in favor of gay marriage are in truth arguments against marriage: if it’s discriminatory to grant special privileges to a heterosexual romantic pairing, then it also discriminates against groups of three (famously, the Mormons were ruthlessly persecuted by the federal government), or non-romantic pairings, siblings, etc.

        Perhaps this is what the slippery slope people meant? If we accept these arguments for gay marriage, the only logical conclusion is to abolish marriage? Probably not, nobody picks policy on the basis on logic.

        • Anonymous says:

          Probably not, nobody picks policy on the basis on logic.

          Word. There is certainly no logic to be found in the current reshuffling of marital law.

          1. Married couples get various benefits, since they provide a crucial service to state and society – producing new members.
          2. Somehow, the reason for this is forgotten, and the usual suspects begin harping on how unfair it is that homosexuals can’t get in on this scam (even though they can, because marital law doesn’t care about orientation at all, just physical sex).
          3. The physical sex requirements of marriage are stricken from the record, usual suspects and allies rejoice, status-quo adherents integrate into their policy to preserve henceforth.
          4. Since there are no physical sex requirements on marriage, and there was never an attraction/orientation or even affection requirement, people start marrying strictly for the economic benefits, and the proponents of the earlier reform are upset that this degrades the institution.

          • Lillian says:

            Uh, is actually #4 happening? Because i’m not seeing #4 happening. Also you really haven’t been paying attention if you think people only recently started marrying purely for the economic benefits, that’s been a thing for as long as marriage has existed. Longer even, since there are inherent economic benefits to pooling resources into a shared household, and that predates and precipates the institution of marriage.

            Anyway, my position with respect to marriage has always been that it’s a legal contract between individuals, and government has no business regulating the kind or number of people allowed to enter such contracts. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision was very disappointing to me since it was Kenney going on about all this love and dignity nonsense on what should be a straightforward contractual matter.

            If a pure contractual ruling would have meant it no longer makes sense to give married people additional economic benefits, then good, those benefits are inefficient to begin with. If we want to incentivize child rearing, we should give economic benefits to people actually rearing children, not to people who might one day maybe have them, if they feel like it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Uh, is actually #4 happening? Because i’m not seeing #4 happening.

            You’re not paying attention, then! While I apologize for using the Daily Fail as a source…

            Two heterosexual men have tied the knot on Friday morning under New Zealand’s liberal marriage laws.

            Marrying not for love, but for Rugby World Cup Tickets, the two men from Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand officially said ‘I do’ in front of 60 family and friends.

            (…)

            Local gay rights groups have condemned the wedding, protesting that it ‘trivializes what we’ve fought for,’ according to the New Zealand Herald.

            Bold mine.

            Anyway, my position with respect to marriage has always been that it’s a legal contract between individuals, and government has no business regulating the kind or number of people allowed to enter such contracts. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision was very disappointing to me since it was Kenney going on about all this love and dignity nonsense on what should be a straightforward contractual matter.

            My position is that, besides being most properly a sacrament, (monogamous) marriage is the best known institution for raising children not to be criminals and parasites, and equitably distributing access to women so that young men have an actual stake in society and its future.

            If a pure contractual ruling would have meant it no longer makes sense to give married people additional economic benefits, then good, those benefits are inefficient to begin with. If we want to incentivize child rearing, we should give economic benefits to people actually rearing children, not to people who might one day maybe have them, if they feel like it.

            I’m also against giving benefits to married couples (as opposed to married couples with children), but only because it’s too hard to see for some, why they have those benefits. And then you get the usual suspects vying for easier access to those benefits, even if they don’t do anything to merit those benefits.

            I also don’t favour giving any kind of benefits to people who are acting irresponsibly about child-rearing, such as single mothers.

          • A1987dM says:

            1. Married couples get various benefits, since they provide a crucial service to state and society – producing new members.

            If that’s the point, we shouldn’t give those benefits to childless married couples, and we should give them to unmarried cohabiting couples with children.

          • Anonymous says:

            @A1987dM

            If that’s the point, we shouldn’t give those benefits to childless married couples

            Yes.

            and we should give them to unmarried cohabiting couples with children.

            Sui juris marriage is close enough to be considered marriage legally, at least in common law jurisdictions. While it’s not optimal for raising productive members of society, given its greater instability compared to a formal marriage, it’s not a wholly bad idea. Just not the best.

          • Brad says:

            If new members are a benefit then how come we charge so much for the privilege of applying and then reject most of those that do?

          • Anonymous says:

            If new members are a benefit then how come we charge so much for the privilege of applying and then reject most of those that do?

            I don’t agree with the implication that foreigners can ever truly become members of a society in the way that the offspring of existing members can.

          • Brad says:

            Perhaps that’s true in Eastern Europe.

          • Anonymous says:

            Perhaps that’s true everywhere, just some cultures/ideologies are in denial about it.

          • rlms says:

            How can you tell that there aren’t foreigners who have integrated sufficiently to be indistinguishable from natives?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think we actually need to defend the proposition “Foreigners can never integrate” to answer Brad’s question; the proposition “A large number of foreigners can’t or won’t integrate” will do just as well. If anyone doubts that, let them simply look at any modern country which has had large-scale immigration over recent decades; all of them have large, un-integrated minorities in them.

          • If anyone doubts that, let them simply look at any modern country which has had large-scale immigration over recent decades;

            What is special about recent decades? The U.S. had large scale immigration for a long time, peaking at about one percent of the existing population a year. Most of those immigrant populations merged almost entirely.

            The clearest exception would be blacks, who were both visibly different and, until modern times, legally different, and Amish, who maintained a strong deliberate identity.

            I’m dubious that your claim even applies in recent decades, since Hispanic, Indian, and Iranian immigrants seem to be successfully integrating into American culture all around me. But if it does, you might want to ask what is different about recent decades.

          • Anonymous says:

            How can you tell that there aren’t foreigners who have integrated sufficiently to be indistinguishable from natives?

            Because mind-wiping and re-sleeving hasn’t been invented yet.

            What is special about recent decades? The U.S. had large scale immigration for a long time, peaking at about one percent of the existing population a year. Most of those immigrant populations merged almost entirely.

            The USA would be my example of the exact opposite – how large scale immigration has unavoidably and greatly changed what used to be American society. The visual similarity of the foreigners only made it worse, since the European immigrants melded into the “white American” identity, but largely kept their pre-immigration proclivities.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What is special about recent decades? The U.S. had large scale immigration for a long time, peaking at about one percent of the existing population a year. Most of those immigrant populations merged almost entirely.

            As Anonymous said, previous waves of immigration did in fact change the US quite a bit.

            I’m dubious that your claim even applies in recent decades, since Hispanic, Indian, and Iranian immigrants seem to be successfully integrating into American culture all around me. But if it does, you might want to ask what is different about recent decades.

            Given the existence of a prominent Hispanic community in the US, I’m sceptical as to your claim that they’re “successfully integrating into American culture”. Though, it’s true, there are factors that are different about recent decades, most significantly that expecting immigrants to assimilate into their new societies is now considered racist by a considerable portion of the country.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think we actually need to defend the proposition “Foreigners can never integrate” to answer Brad’s question

            Maybe not, but Anonymous has chosen to defend that proposition — “can ever truly become members of a society”. This is obviously the case for Scotsmen, but I don’t think it is in general.

          • rlms says:

            The US has only had one ESL President so far — Martin Van Buren.

          • albatross11 says:

            Original Mr X:

            I know a fair number of hispanics from many different countries in Latin America. In every case, their kids are more comfortable in English than Spanish, and fundamentally dress and look and act and think like Americans. One way to see this is their extremely high intermarriage rates with non-hispanic whites and blacks.

          • Anonymous says:

            dress

            OK.

            look

            Doubtful.

            act

            Does that include voting? Because I’m pretty sure, without checking, that even Americanized Hispanics vote markedly differently from Anglo-Americans.

            and think like Americans

            Telepath?

          • Brad says:

            Perhaps that’s true everywhere, just some cultures/ideologies are in denial about it.

            If Eastern Europe is what enlightenment looks like and the United States is what denial looks like, long live denial.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The USA would be my example of the exact opposite – how large scale immigration has unavoidably and greatly changed what used to be American society.

            My understanding is that “Let no new thing arise” is an old Spanish motto, not an American one.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think Hispanics are assimilating better than it appears; the difference is we’re still getting a whole lot of Hispanic immigration, so there’s always a large unassimilated population.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            Enjoy the decline, I guess.

          • Brad says:

            Anonymous: do you have some list of timestapped prior predictions so we can see how well you are calibrated? Or is this coming decline a matter of faith?

          • Anonymous says:

            Or is this coming decline a matter of faith?

            I am not predicting any decline. I am pointing out something that is occurring as we speak, and has been occurring for most of the last century. If not longer.

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh, well, since the “gross money flow” is increasing, everything must be fine. After all “gross money flow” is the be-all, end-all measure of societal health. All of the grassroots dissatisfaction with how things are done, the election of a populist demagogue, the replacement of the native population with foreigners, the downfall of traditional morality, not even being able to procreate – they’re all irrelevant. So long as that money line goes up, it’s all good!

          • Brad says:

            Which way is the net population flow again? Why would anyone want to leave the paradise that is Eastern Europe — what with its traditional morality and its intact native population? It can’t be for mere money, who cares about that?

            It’s a real puzzle.

          • Anonymous says:

            Which way is the net population flow again?

            Into the population sink, of course. It’s the same thing with cities on an intra-country level.

            Why would anyone want to leave the paradise that is Eastern Europe — what with its traditional morality and its intact native population?

            Greed is why. On both the side of the migrants, and the plutocrats who just love cheap foreign labour.

            It can’t be for mere money, who cares about that?

            It seems that money is all *you* care about. You have no idea how much you remind me of a Roman patrician in the 100s B.C.

          • Creutzer says:

            @Brad: Whatever one may think about the issue, I don’t think net population flow is a good argument here. Assuming that Eastern Europe is really as xenophobic and hard to integrate into, the low migration into it is somewhat expected regardless of the conditions under which its native citizens live. And of course, when it comes to those conditions, Western Europe kind of got half a century of headstart on economic development, so the response from Anonymous’ side is going to be “just wait another 50 years”. And even then I’m not sure anyone has much of an argument because I would expect migration from Eastern Europe to lessen in the future in any case because they’re going to catch up quite independently of the effect immigration may have on Western Europe.

          • Brad says:

            @Creutzer
            I’m told the United States has been in decline for 100 years. Why do we need to wait another 50?

            @Anonymous

            It seems that money is all *you* care about. You have no idea how much you remind me of a Roman patrician in the 100s B.C.

            Whatever you need to tell yourself to get you through the day. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • Anonymous says:

            @Creutzer
            @Brad

            I’m told the United States has been in decline for 100 years. Why do we need to wait another 50?

            Creutzer is talking about the economy. The Warsaw Pact was handicapped by communism for the entire Cold War era, so it’s obvious that it will take them some time to get to where western Europe is today.

            Which is irrelevant to my argument. The late Roman Republic must have had a booming economy, with all the gigantic land agglomerations worked by unpaid foreign slaves. High GDP, high income inequality.

            Whatever you need to tell yourself to get you through the day. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            Well, I care about these things. You might not, but then why are you arguing with me here if you give no fucks?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Personally, if I had a choice, I’d happy exchange a couple of GDP points in return for being able to have a Christmas market without filling it with armed guards and concrete barriers, but maybe I’m in a minority here.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Personally, if I had a choice, I’d happy exchange a couple of GDP points in return for being able to have a Christmas market without filling it with armed guards and concrete barriers, but maybe I’m in a minority here.

            Oh my incarnate God, this. I don’t know why this isn’t a bigger scandal. No matter how much GDP goes up from plutocrats benefiting from Muslim immigration, it’s not worth letting them steal Christmas with violence.
            I’m not even conceding that Muslim immigration increases GDP. As an American, I lack the experience of Europe to know what the balance is between the economically productive immigrants the plutocrats want and the “refugees” the Left wants to add to the welfare rolls is. But even if it does, by the difference between 2% growth and no growth, it’s literally a grave error.

          • Brad says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            the rapefugees the Left wants to add to the welfare rolls

            It’s a shame that Scott has stopped moderating. But on the off chance he decides to start again I’ve reported this crap.

          • Montfort says:

            [re: deleted comment, much appreciated]

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, with no inflammatory words, what is the Left’s position on men fleeing their country to the West? Welfare or no welfare? Any screening for whether they believe God permits them to capture female unbelievers? What punishment, if any, for the ones who commit sex crimes?

          • rlms says:

            I don’t know, what does the Right think?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @rlms: Either “post border guards to keep them out” or “ooh, reserve army of labor!”, depending on what you think the central example is.

          • the election of a populist demagogue

            Andrew Jackson?

            , the replacement of the native population with foreigners

            By 1890, the foreign born were about fifteen percent of the population. The figure started to decline about 1910, by 1970 it was down to about 5%, back up to about 13% by 2010.

            So we are most of the way back up to the situation from 1890 to 1910.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DavidFriedman: By 1890, the foreign born were about fifteen percent of the population. The figure started to decline about 1910, by 1970 it was down to about 5%, back up to about 13% by 2010.

            Immigration was rather different back then. I wouldn’t say it was a melting pot (I have ancestors who first got in trouble for speaking German in 1917), but the immigrants who were most accepted were Judeo-Christian Europeans and Latinos. The culture was such that the US didn’t have African, Muslim, or Hindu immigration, and Chinese were only let in until 1882, after which they were considered too alien.

          • Lillian says:

            You’re not paying attention, then! While I apologize for using the Daily Fail as a source…

            Hah, guess you’re right, i wasn’t. My reaction to this is to point and laugh at the gay rights groups for not seeing this coming. When i was in school we once had a big impromptu class debate during an English class about same sex marriage, with me leading the pro side and another girl leading the anti-side. After the bell rang, i confided to the teacher that i was pretty sure that some straight people would want to get in on the action if it was legalized. So you know, if a girl too young to get married could see it, then gay rights groups should have bloody well been able to see it too.

            It seems that money is all *you* care about. You have no idea how much you remind me of a Roman patrician in the 100s B.C.

            The Patrician class as a whole made off pretty well in the transition from Republic to Principate. What they lost in political power they made up in greater wealth. The exception being those unlucky enough to both pick the wrong side in one of the various civil wars, and piss off the victors enough to be then murdered and expropriated.

          • The culture was such that the US didn’t have African, Muslim, or Hindu immigration, and Chinese were only let in until 1882, after which they were considered too alien.

            The current Hindu immigrants mostly speak fluent English. Most of the immigrants c. 1900 didn’t speak English at all. More generally, we have much more of a world culture now than we did then, with the result that most of the immigrants now are probably less foreign than most of the immigrants then.

            Where I live, nurses are likely to be from the Philippines, doctors from Iran or India. They are a lot more familiar with American culture when they arrive than my grandparents were. My maternal grandfather never learned English. One of his sons was a University of Chicago professor.

            The nativists of the 19th century saw the Irish and Italians and Eastern European Jews as just as alien as you see the current immigrants.

          • Anonymous says:

            @DavidFriedman

            By 1890, the foreign born were about fifteen percent of the population. The figure started to decline about 1910, by 1970 it was down to about 5%, back up to about 13% by 2010.

            I think you misunderstand my argument. I’m not discriminating on the basis of where these people are born, but rather who they are born of. Where I’m standing, it looks like most of the USA is populated by “cultural Americans” who are really not, in the same way that “cultural Christians” aren’t actual Christians.

          • I think you misunderstand my argument.

            Certainly possible. I don’t understand the figure you linked to. What does American ancestry mean? The great majority of people in America were born in America and I’m pretty sure a sizable majority have parents also born in America, but only the Amerinds are descended from people who were born in America more than about five hundred years ago (I suppose there might be a few descendants of a Norse birth in Vinland a little earlier).

            What is the sense in which most Americans are not really American? Is it more true now than it was a century ago?

          • Anonymous says:

            @DavidFriedman

            IMO, “Albion’s Seed” are the original Americans. Those guys who the preamble to the US Constitution refers – “ourselves and our posterity” – descendants of the original rebels.

            What does American ancestry mean?

            That was added as a census option in 2000, IIRC. As I understand it, previously the people who now described their ancestry as “American” would have said “English” or “British” instead.

            What is the sense in which most Americans are not really American? Is it more true now than it was a century ago?

            In the sense that they are not primarily descendants of the original Americans.

          • Brad says:

            IMO the word “three” means the number that comes after seven. I don’t feel it necessary to mention this unique-to-me definition unless explicitly asked.

          • Anonymous says:

            IMO the word “three” means the number that comes after seven. I don’t feel it necessary to mention this unique-to-me definition unless explicitly asked.

            I guess numeracy is not required in the legal trade. Thank goodness you’re not an accountant.

      • John Schilling says:

        If marriage is generally recognized as being a legitimate expediency between friends, coverage of spouses under employee-provided health insurance will likely become unsustainable. Every health-care horror story you’ve ever heard becomes trivially soluble by a marriage of economic convenience to someone with a good insurance policy, but those stories are horrifying because they involve genuinely large costs that neither insurance companies nor employers will accept just because a friend (of a friend) of one of their customers/employees gets sick.

        So either employers try to delegitimize such marriages the same way the INS deals with green-card marriages but with fewer safeguards, or tprivate health insurance market already faltering under the ACA g.ets flooded with tens of millions of non-working spouses and probably collapses.

        Either way, the question of hospital visitation rights is rendered irrelevant because nobody’s spouse (gay or otherwise) can afford to go to the hospital. Back to square one, and enjoy.

        • If marriage is generally recognized as being a legitimate expediency between friends, coverage of spouses under employee-provided health insurance will likely become unsustainable.

          That’s a feature, not a bug. I got married to my girl friend 35 years ago because she needed health insurance, and my employer gave insurance to spouses. It was a stupid rule then, and still is a stupid rule, that married and family employees get more benefits that single ones. Hopefully making a mockery of spousal insurance would be a step towards getting rid of employer provided health insurance altogether.

          I’m in favor of anything that makes the marriage laws less workable, because they are inherently discriminatory against single people.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I got married to my girl friend 35 years ago because she needed health insurance,

            I kept waiting for you to say “and we’re still married.”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m in favor of anything that makes the marriage laws less workable, because they are inherently discriminatory against single people.

            You’re assuming as a given that this is a bad thing.

            It was a stupid rule then, and still is a stupid rule, that married and family employees get more benefits that single ones.

            What benefits? Single+childless people don’t have dependents to give those benefits to, so you miss out on nothing. Unless we’re talking “How come Bob gets company dental for his kids but I can’t get braces for my dog?! DISCRIMINATION!!”

          • I kept waiting for you to say “and we’re still married.”

            We are still married, but it adds nothing to the argument, so I didn’t bother saying it.

            What benefits? Single+childless people don’t have dependents to give those benefits to, so you miss out on nothing.

            There is less money available for the singles when the marrieds make more.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          I don’t think marriages of convenience are as convenient as you think. I would have proposed to literally any random broke college student years ago–they get gold plated Google health insurance, I get a five figure tax break–except that this gives them an undated call option with strike of “talk to a lawyer” for half of my stuff now and forever.

    • Anonymous says:

      It pretty much is. If you remove the restrictions on marriage, so that it’s primarily distinguished by its tax benefits, then it’s just a tax loophole, nothing else.

  6. johan_larson says:

    Does anyone here work in video production?

    I’m looking at this series of YouTube videos: http://www.cracked.com/video_20260_where-do-they-keep-getting-money-these-death-stars.html

    The videos are short and feature only a handful of characters, but the credits list has dozens of people on it. For a cash-strapped operation like Cracked, I would have expected less than a dozen people behind the camera, with plenty of people doing double duty: writer/director, camera/editing, sound, clothes/makeup, sets, effects. Why does it take so many people to produce something so small?

    • Montfort says:

      I’m not a professional in this field. However, I would hazard a guess that it’s mostly about the schedule (which, in turn, is also partly about budget). Basically, when you’re trying to set up something with roughly professional-level lighting, sound, and camera work, it’s a lot faster to, say, have four people who can work as a team to put all the lights in the right places, and a few more to handle the microphones, and about one makeup artist/costumer per actor in a scene, than wait for one specialist in each area complete these tasks in sequence (or direct unskilled labor helping them). When set-up is faster and the people who actually record the actors (camera/sound) are better, you get more usable takes in a workday.

    • Well... says:

      I worked in the film industry for half a dozen years, some of those in Hollywood.

      I would have expected less than a dozen people behind the camera, with plenty of people doing double duty: writer/director, camera/editing, sound, clothes/makeup, sets, effects.

      Doing double-duty on anything is hard if you’re not just shooting a 1-scene film school exercise in your apartment. There’s so much to consider that everything has to be specialized and delegated. Film shoots are film shoots no matter whether the final product is 30 seconds or 3 hours. Some 3-hour films have shorter shooting schedules than some TV commercials.

      It’s pretty normal in the film industry to work a few shoots for free when you’re just starting out. Also, people trade favors a lot, and sometimes the favor is bringing your own experienced camera team or gear package or whatever.

  7. Andrew Hunter says:

    Reconcilled tax plan is out. Everyone is sending out a lot of confused noise about the new brackets, and stunningly *no one* that I can see has actually lined up the brackets before and after to show the difference for the same dollar of income…so I did. (This is for single filers, because I’m bitter and alone, do it yourself if you’re married.) This gives the percentage (marginal) tax rate as a function of income.

    income before after
    0-9525 10 10
    9525-38700 15 12
    38700-82500 25 22
    82500-93700 25 24
    93700-157500 28 24
    157500-195450 28 32
    195450-200000 33 32
    200000-424950 33 35
    424950-426700 35 35
    426700-500000 39.6 35
    500000-inf 39.6 37

    I’m having trouble seeing this as a giveaway for the rich, unless anything that gives them any money is a giveaway for the rich. The top rate delta is 2.6%, which is actually a smaller rate cut than far below it.

    (The pass through stuff is far less defensible, as is a number of the random giveaways to various influential Congresscritters, of course. I will not offer a strong opinion of the corporate tax rate change.)

    • Brad says:

      I think starting at $0 is confusing because the first dollar of income is taxed.

      The prior system had a standard deduction of $6,350 and an exemption $4,050, for a $0-$10,400 bracket of 0%, and the new system has a standard deduction of $12,000 and no exemption, which means a 0-$12,000 bracket of 0%. The exemption phases out starting at $261,500 which means adding the zero bracket in and bumping up the numbers isn’t exactly accurate, but they’d still be pretty close.

      Stylistic issue aside:

      I’m having trouble seeing this as a giveaway for the rich, unless anything that gives them any money is a giveaway for the rich. The top rate delta is 2.6%, which is actually a smaller rate cut than far below it.

      How a define “giveaway for the rich”? It seems like looking at where the majority of the dollar weighted benefits are going is a pretty good definition. I recognize that most tax cuts are going to disproportionately benefit the rich since they disproportionately pay the most taxes, but I don’t think that makes labeling such a tax cut a “giveaway for the rich” unfair. If it’s accurate, it’s accurate.

      The better argument that it isn’t a giveaway to the rich is that the corporate tax changes are, I think, cost significantly more than the individual tax changes and the incidence of those are far from clear. They might not be mostly on the rich. Though the passthrough stuff cuts the other direction.

      • cassander says:

        >How a define “giveaway for the rich”? It seems like looking at where the majority of the dollar weighted benefits are going is a pretty good definition. I recognize that most tax cuts are going to disproportionately benefit the rich since they disproportionately pay the most taxes, but I don’t think that makes labeling such a tax cut a “giveaway for the rich” unfair. If it’s accurate, it’s accurate.

        at a minimum, the fair baseline isn’t share of total dollars cut, it’s share of total dollars relative to total taxes paid, so if “the rich”, however defined, pay 75% of the taxes and get 75% of the cuts, the cuts are neutral.

        • Chalid says:

          If you’re going to do that you would probably want to count all taxes, not income taxes; the choice to cut income taxes and leave (say) regressive payroll taxes alone is largely what might make it a giveaway to the rich.

          To make the problem more obvious – clearly cutting the estate tax is for the rich, but your formulation makes it neutral.

    • cassander says:

      I’m not sure how useful lining it up like this actually is. DOn’t get me wrong, it’s way more useful than almost any commentary you’ll read in the press, because it at least tries to be quantitative, but headline rates matter surprisingly little because there are so many deductions and exemptions in the code.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Not really, for normal people. Most people do not pay >$10K in state taxes or have bizarre deductions. (My coworkers in MTV are a large, loud group of exceptions.) The increased standard deduction shifts things around a bit, but other than that I don’t think things change much at all. My deductions are going to change to the tune of, like $3K.

        • Nornagest says:

          Most people that itemize do it because of the mortgage interest deduction. That could easily top 10K in an expensive area. But it’s relatively hard for middle-class incomes to exceed the standard deduction otherwise, although if you’re making six figures in a state with a high income tax it’s not out of the question.

          If you’re a youngish guy in MTV then that’s not unlikely for you, but it is unlikely that you’d own a house. So yeah, probably not much change for you.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I’m a guy in Seattle who owns a reasonable expensive house; it is still well under the new mortgage threshold.

            If we assume everyone takes the standard deduction, though, the effective brackets look like this:

            raw income before after
            0-6500 0 0
            6500-12000 10 0
            12000-16025 10 10
            16025-21525 15 10
            21525-45200 15 12
            45200-50700 25 12
            50700-94500 25 22
            94500-100200 25 24
            100200-169500 28 24
            169500-201950 28 32
            201950-212000 33 32
            212000-431450 33 35
            431450-433200 35 35
            433200-512000 39.6 35
            512000-inf 39.6 37

            (though I think most people who are making $300+ are going to be itemizing, or should be.)

            This looks even less like a give away to the rich–the effective bracket drops are much larger in %age towards the low end.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I pay over $13K in property taxes alone. This isn’t that high for northern New Jersey (and will get even higher unless someone manages to catch our governor-elect in one of these sex scandals before he is installed… one can hope). State income taxes… well, at least I’m paying less than your MTV co-workers, NY income tax being less than California. But with a 10K limit on state and local taxes plus mortgage interest of about $10,000, and personal deductions gone, I’ll be below the married-filing-jointly standard deduction. That’s a pretty big difference.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            That makes you moderately rich in my book.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Not sure how you could determine my wealth from my property tax and mortgage interest amount. My house value is also comfortably under the mortgage principal cutoff.

          • outis says:

            No, Andrew. You are the rich.
            And then Andrew was a zombie.

            Any plan that keeps the mortgage interest deduction deserves to be lambasted as a “giveaway to the rich”.
            The SALT deduction is also bad, and I’m sad that it’s not going to be eliminated entirely, but at least it’s capped at 10k. The mortgage interest deduction can be quite a bit more. And they’re still allowing it for second houses! What the hell.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Any plan that keeps the mortgage interest deduction deserves to be lambasted as a “giveaway to the rich”.

            US home ownership rate is over 60%, so this is polemical nonsense.

          • Brad says:

            US home ownership rate is over 60%, so this is polemical nonsense.

            Is that the relevant category? What percentage of Americans will itemize with the new doubled standard deduction? Only 30% of filers did under the old limits.

          • quanta413 says:

            The mortgage interest deduction would be bad if every American claimed it. Government policy doesn’t need to determine the balance between renters and homeowners among other distortions the deduction introduces into the housing market.

            Granted this only makes it one out of… what? thousands? tens of thousands? ridiculous rules. But still. Bad rule is bad.

          • Any plan that keeps the mortgage interest deduction deserves to be lambasted as a “giveaway to the rich”.

            Any plan that lowers the cap on the home mortgage interest deduction is, in that respect, an increase on taxes on the rich. Poor people don’t have hundred thousand dollar mortgages.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Seen on Facebook:
    “Straight men who won’t date transwomen because they’re not really women are gross. Gay men who won’t date transmen because they’re not really men are gross. Dating trans people because you have a fetish is gross. Treating a nonbinary person as the gender you’re comfortable with is gross. Sorry, that’s just how it is. I don’t make the rules.”

    … to quote Scott, Origen would admit that you’re going to Hell.

  9. skef says:

    Well, I’m Dr. Skef. From now on, I’m ending all of my sentences with “bitch“.

    Now to wrap up this logic stuff and ramp up on whiteboard programming again … uh, bitch.

    • Randy M says:

      Everyone needs a hobby.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Congratulations on a successful defense!

      • skef says:

        You would think that would be a safe inference, but my department has been routinely forgoing defenses for several years now. I have yet to discuss my thesis with anyone other than my chair.

        So, a successful filing, I guess.

        (And, thank you!)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Congratulations. Key is now to include both “Doctor” and the degree title in your name.

    • I must be missing something. I’m Dr. Friedman, and I rarely use the word in question unless referring to a female canine.

      • skef says:

        Presumably you weren’t always Dr. Friedman. Did the change not lead to even a couple hours’ sense of novelty?

        Don’t worry about the word. My Pinksmanship* was pretty short-lived.

        * wrong, worth it.

    • Well... says:

      I have a friend who completed her doctorate right around the same time she did a 23andMe-type thing and discovered to her great excitement and elation that she was part Irish.

      So from then on I called her O’Doctor Mc[her first name] O'[her last name]. She didn’t get tired of it.

  10. Nick says:

    For those who have been paying attention to the Amoris Laetitia controversy, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Gerhard Mueller has published an essay which is pretty unambiguous on it:

    It is crucial to remember that the sacraments are not private interior encounters of the faithful with God, but visible expressions of the Church’s faith. This is why the ecclesial discipline governing the admission to the sacraments has always required that the faithful do not find themselves in contradiction with the Christian form of life. St. Thomas says that to admit someone to the sacraments who continues to live in sin means to introduce “a falsehood into the sacramental signs” (S.Th. III q. 68 a. 4 co.). Thus one could be without culpability before God because of invincible ignorance and still not be able to receive absolution.

    In many complicated situations, in the face of ideologies hostile to marriage, and in a context in which the transmission of the faith has all too often been superficial, the wise steward of divine grace will gently guide Christians, who seriously seek a life of faith, to come to see their familial situation in the light of Christ’s Gospel. In cases where there are grave reasons not to dissolve the new union and where a declaration of nullity of the first union could not be obtained, the goal of this often difficult and long journey is for the partners to come to live together as brother and sister and thus also to have access to Holy Communion.

    The passage I’ve highlighted in the second quote is the money quote, but both passages are very important. To give an extremely quick summary, it is possible to read Amoris Laetitia in an orthodox way, but this reading is rather strained, while the plain reading of it—the one favored by those such as the Malta bishops and Cardinal Kasper—is that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may receive Communion without having resolved to live as brother and sister. Mueller’s essay, as I understand the highlighted quote above, explicitly rejects that. Given that Kasper said only days ago that the debate has been settled in precisely the opposite direction by the publication of the Pope’s letter to the Argentines (a hasty conclusion, one canon lawyer argues), what effect will this essay have? Mueller is, after all, no longer prefect, but he is still a cardinal, and given his former position, a lot pinned hopes that he would settle the controversy (the Dubia, after all, were also addressed to him). How much closer, after this essay, are we to seeing an end to this confusion?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Sigh. It seems like whenever Pope Francis speaks, someone in the Vaticanhas to deny he said anything confusing, it’s all the fault of journalists, while someone else in the Church says his words can only be understood as orthodox with more effort than the heterodox plain meaning.

    • Deiseach says:

      I understand that Francis wants to be pastoral rather than legalist, and he has a very great emphasis on Mercy. But this is not clearing up any confusion. I think his response to the dubia was (ironically for someone with such an emphasis on collegiality) more in the spirit of “I am the pope and I am the boss of you so do what I say”, probably as much out of frustration with trying to reform the Vatican apparatus which has had centuries to get entrenched, is still highly Italian (and Roman) and is not in any way inclined to rush to obey a new pope trying to get them to change their ways.

      I’d be with Francis on this, that modern Catholics have such a poor understanding of the sacramental nature of marriage (and of the Faith in general) and are so influenced by and soaked in the Zeitgeist of the secular world that a lot of marriages are probably technically invalid, regardless of whether they ever officially seek annulment, so even civilly divorced and remarried Catholics are not committing adultery. Though I’d also question why they’re going to receive Communion (that’s another rant about the way the Eucharist is so gravely misunderstood) but then again, at least Francis also has a very strong emphasis on “go to Confession!” which is rare these days.

      Eh. It’s a mess whatever way you look at it; the modern Catholic is going to demand their right to the sacraments and ‘no priest or clergyman is the boss of me’ and ‘how dare you say anything about sin to me’ (look how modern funerals are celebrated, and I do mean celebrated) so whatever you do – whether strict or lenient – is going to either be ignored or taken advantage of.

      But Benedict is still ‘my’ pope, and he’d never have stumbled into this, having the opposite tendency of going into scholarly detail to explain his reasoning. I’m not yet ready to shout “heresy” or “anti-pope”, but Francis is sailing close to the wind on things like this. God is good!

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’m not sure Francis really has that much emphasis on collegiality, TBH. Sure, he’s in favour of it when he thinks he can get particular Bishops’ conferences to do what he wants, but when that doesn’t happen, he rams through his agenda with the sort of ruthlessness that would make a South American dictator blush. (Compare how the emphasis on “free speech” at the synod on the family completely disappeared after the Bishops used their freedom of speech to say that they were quite happy with the current sacramental discipline, thank you very much.)

        I’d be with Francis on this, that modern Catholics have such a poor understanding of the sacramental nature of marriage (and of the Faith in general) and are so influenced by and soaked in the Zeitgeist of the secular world that a lot of marriages are probably technically invalid, regardless of whether they ever officially seek annulment, so even civilly divorced and remarried Catholics are not committing adultery.

        Eh, I don’t think so. The Church’s teaching has always been that only a very minimal level of understanding is required, if any — basically, the celebrant has to be intending to do what the Church does, and the sacrament is valid. It doesn’t matter if the celebrant doesn’t actually know what the Church teaches, or if his understanding is wrong (so, for example, a priest who thought that the Church taught consubstantiation could still validly celebrate Mass); otherwise you’d get the problem of never knowing which sacraments actually were valid or not, since you don’t generally know how good an understanding your priest actually has of sacramental theology. So, in the case of marriage, if somebody says their vows thinking “I know the Church teaches that marriage is indissoluble, but I still reserve the right to get a divorce if I decide I’m not happy,” then the marriage would be invalid; if they just intend to get a normal Church marriage without knowing that that included indissolubility, then they’re still married.

        • Nick says:

          So, in the case of marriage, if somebody says their vows thinking “I know the Church teaches that marriage is indissoluble, but I still reserve the right to get a divorce if I decide I’m not happy,” then the marriage would be invalid; if they just intend to get a normal Church marriage without knowing that that included indissolubility, then they’re still married.

          It’s worth emphasizing that while this is generally the case for a marriage in the Church between two Catholics (the only exception there that I can think of is violating the canonical form of marriage), there’s a few ways non-sacramental marriages could still be invalid, like cult of disparity (marrying a non-Christian without receiving dispensation), but importantly, even non-sacramental marriages are generally valid. This is the case for other sacraments, as you allude to, since the Church generally recognizes the validity of non-Catholic baptisms, too. Anyway, this means that if two Jews or two Muslims or whoever else, who more or less understood what marriage is, were to marry, then they are validly married according to the Church, even if not sacramentally married. It would take a very messed up society for most folks not to understand what marriage was at all for this not to hold, and while the West has serious problems, I doubt we’re that far gone.

          Anyway, while I love a discussion of the canon law of marriage as much as the next guy, this is actually beside the point of the problems raised by Amoris Laetitia. Under what I would call the heterodox interpretation of it, for folks in an irremediable situation (including and especially folks for whom an annulment is actually not possible!), it’s been suggested that they may receive Communion even if, again, they do not resolve to live as brother and sister. It’s this particular suggestion that strains credulity—if the first marriage was valid and cannot be nullified, and the second marriage, therefore, is definitely not valid, then by not living as brother and sister the Catholic or Catholics in question must be living in an objective state of sin. Until resolving to live as brother and sister, the priest is obligated to deny Communion, or risk scandal to his parish.

          And given the danger here is scandal, I think this illustrates well why these suggestions are, if nothing else, ill advised. (I should note I’m here speaking to the general reader, not to Mr. X or Deiseach.) If modern Catholics have as a result of poor catechesis this terribly lax understanding of marriage, how is treating these situations even more laxly going to help with that? If we agree that Catholics ought to know what constitutes a valid marriage, then it seems to me we should agree that seeing that some marriages are not valid and that so living constitutes an objective state of sin is a potential lesson, both for the invalidly married and for the parish at large. The synod on the family could be an opportunity for learning about marriage; let’s not make it an excuse for not learning.

          • Deiseach says:

            If modern Catholics have as a result of poor catechesis this terribly lax understanding of marriage, how is treating these situations even more laxly going to help with that?

            I’m in agreement with this whole-heartedly, but I have to be very careful here, because my innate tendency is to channel my Inner Pharisee and bang on about Da Roolz.

            I think I see what Francis is getting at; with modern laxity regarding cohabitation, there is no longer the social stigma against two unmarried people living together in a sexual relationship and/or having kids. So suppose the letter of the law is rigorously applied in every single parish in the world. This is not going to cause all the hard cases to repent, and amend their way of life. They will continue to live together, have sex, have kids, and probably completely fall away from the Church and society at large will be on their side and anti- the cruel, repressive, sex-negative, etc. etc. etc. hierarchy and the Church (and the Usual Suspects will be only too glad to give their shpake to the media about the need for mercy, this is the Current Year and we have to get with the times, Jesus would not do this and so on and so forth).

            So Francis is saying half a loaf is better than no bread. Keep them attached to the Church by some means so they don’t altogether fall away from attending Mass and other occasions, keep a channel open, always leave the possibility for grace to work. He does not want to be in the position of Simon the Pharisee (or Leper, depending on the Gospel account) who stood there tut-tutting over the woman anointing Christ:

            Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

            (I’m very inclined to be in the position of Simon, by the way. You have no idea – or possibly you do, from reading the strain of comments I leave on here – how hard it is for me to respond with the principle of charity first and not justice).

            And of course the lesson Francis wants us to learn lies in the parable that Jesus tells immediately after the above:

            And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

            41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven— for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

            This lesson includes that we too are sinners who need forgiveness, and our hard hearts towards our brothers and sisters are signs of our ingratitude for the mercy God extends us.

            So I definitely see where Francis is coming from, but I am also wary that this will simply end up like annulment in the USA for instance; divorce by another name.

          • Nick says:

            Deiseach,

            I’m pretty sure that this is the key step in your argument:

            So Francis is saying half a loaf is better than no bread. Keep them attached to the Church by some means so they don’t altogether fall away from attending Mass and other occasions, keep a channel open, always leave the possibility for grace to work.

            I see where you’re coming from here, and where, perhaps, Francis is coming from, but I think this line of thinking proves too much. Half a loaf is better than no bread, and keeping a channel open is a very important thing which works wonders for many people. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the right move—for some, excommunication is the only thing that got their attention!—and moreover, that doesn’t mean that admitting them to Communion is the right means. The danger of admitting them to Communion is that it, as I suggested, it makes the situation worse, not better; they profane the Eucharist by taking it in such a state rather than receive any grace from it, and it affirms them in their sinful state.

            This lesson includes that we too are sinners who need forgiveness, and our hard hearts towards our brothers and sisters are signs of our ingratitude for the mercy God extends us.

            This is true, but it’s plainly an ad hominem argument, and risks shifting the focus of what is right for our brothers and sisters to do over to what is right for us to do; I can have the worst motives in the world, telling my fellow parishioners they can’t receive Communion right before I drown some puppies or go talk in the movie theater, and yet the correct application of the law is nonetheless the correct application of the law. Having bad motives does a disservice to the message, and perhaps I shouldn’t even be the one to deliver it, hardhearted Pharisee that I am, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a right thing for our brothers and sisters to do, and that someone has to tell them that.

            I’d be very concerned for the health of the Church if no one could put another on the right path. And I don’t think anyone thinks this is impossible anyway; defenders of the orthodox interpretation are repeatedly lectured in essays for all sorts of supposed sins (failure of charity, hypocrisy, etc), suggesting that their opponents do believe we can say a thing or two about others’ behavior, even to the point of public admonishment. 😉

            I’m inclined like you, Deiseach, to Phariseeism, so I sympathize with the argument that I’m not fit to lecture anyone. But the opposite pole of Phariseeism is antinomianism, and it lurks behind the worst of the arguments for the heterodox interpretation. The Church had serious issues with scrupulosity and rigid adherence in the 20th century, to which many (now older) priests and parishioners reacted strongly*. We have to be careful that in correcting for that we don’t slide to the other pole—antinomianism is to my mind the greater concern today.

            *And now here I am speculating about the motives of my opponents… mea culpa.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s worth noting, as well, that the proposal is for the divorced-and-remarried to start receiving Communion again after a suitable period of discernment with their confessor. Now, whilst I can believe that there are Catholics out there who don’t know the Church’s teachings on the indissolubility of marriage, but I really don’t see how their confessor, during the course of their “suitable period of discernment”, could avoid raising the issue. So, even if there are people who are currently not culpable for their sins (because they don’t know that what they’re doing is sinful), anybody who’s gone through the process of discernment wouldn’t even have this excuse to fall back on.

            I’m in agreement with this whole-heartedly, but I have to be very careful here, because my innate tendency is to channel my Inner Pharisee and bang on about Da Roolz.

            Sed contra, it is written, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Also, let’s not forget that the longest Psalm (no. 118 or 119, depending on which numbering you’re using) is a big song about how wonderful God’s law is.

            I think I see what Francis is getting at; with modern laxity regarding cohabitation, there is no longer the social stigma against two unmarried people living together in a sexual relationship and/or having kids. So suppose the letter of the law is rigorously applied in every single parish in the world. This is not going to cause all the hard cases to repent, and amend their way of life. They will continue to live together, have sex, have kids, and probably completely fall away from the Church and society at large will be on their side and anti- the cruel, repressive, sex-negative, etc. etc. etc. hierarchy and the Church (and the Usual Suspects will be only too glad to give their shpake to the media about the need for mercy, this is the Current Year and we have to get with the times, Jesus would not do this and so on and so forth).

            So, whilst I understand the point of view expressed here, I think it’s deeply misguided, for several reasons. First of all, the Church has been trying this sort of thing (soft-peddling doctrine in order not to scare people away) for the last fifty years or so, and by almost every measure — Mass attendance, % of Catholics who believe Church doctrine, and also more intangible things like how much respect non-Catholics give the Church — it’s been a total failure. Indeed, almost the only parishes showing any sign of vitality are those which have most rigorously resisted the temptation to water-down Church doctrine. Since the current proposal essentially amounts to “What we’ve been doing for the last fifty years, but more so,” I don’t see why we should expect the result to be anything other than “The same decline and confusion we’ve seen for the last fifty years, but more so.”

            Secondly, let’s not overlook the impact this will have on the
            victims of divorce, namely, abandoned spouses and their children. I’ve known a few people who’ve fallen away from the Church because the ecclesiastical authorities seemed to connive at their spouses’ abandoning them (the whole handing out annulments like sweeties phenomenon Deiseach mentions above); isn’t their salvation worth worrying about, too? How will giving an official imprimatur to divorce culture help them at all? As for the children, children in broken homes are more at risk of falling into all sorts of self-destructive, criminal, immoral, etc., behaviour. What they need is support in coping with the crappy situation they’ve found themselves in — including an acknowledgement that their situation is crappy and it’s wrong that they should have to suffer it — not the sort of gaslighting “Oh, but mummy’s so happy now with her new boyfriend, why do you have to ruin everything by feeling upset?” stuff they usually get.

            Thirdly, there’s another group of vulnerable Catholics, namely, people who are trying to live according to Church teaching in the face of an increasingly hostile and unsympathetic culture. What such people need is a clear affirmation that, yes, the rules are true and right and it’s worth following them, even when it seems difficult or impossible to do so. Official connivance at adultery is going to send the clear message that these rules are really more guidelines than actual rules, and is likely to cause many people to give up trying to follow them entirely.

            Finally, and most importantly, this proposal doesn’t do anything to deal with the real root of the problem, which is the widely-held view that marital breakdown is something that just happens, like a natural disaster or random accident, and that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. No. Abandoning your spouse is a choice, and, like most choices, it has a moral dimension to it. What the Church should be doing is reaffirming that abandoning your spouse and children is wrong, and that people shouldn’t do it. What it most definitely should not be doing is going along with the view and making excuses for unrepentant adulterers.

            (Whew, well that turned into quite the rant, didn’t it?)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Nick:

            I see where you’re coming from here, and where, perhaps, Francis is coming from, but I think this line of thinking proves too much. Half a loaf is better than no bread, and keeping a channel open is a very important thing which works wonders for many people. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the right move—for some, excommunication is the only thing that got their attention!—and moreover, that doesn’t mean that admitting them to Communion is the right means. The danger of admitting them to Communion is that it, as I suggested, it makes the situation worse, not better; they profane the Eucharist by taking it in such a state rather than receive any grace from it, and it affirms them in their sinful state.

            There’s a story that a young man once came to Voltaire, complaining that, for all the philosophes he read, he couldn’t convince himself to disbelieve in Catholicism. “Go and commit a mortal sin and then receive communion,” said Voltaire, “and then come back to me and tell me whether you still believe.” The young man did so, and then came back to Voltaire. “Do you still believe?” the philosopher asked. “No, I don’t,” replied the young man. I’ve no idea whether this story is true or not, but it does point to an important truth, namely, that how we live and worship affects what we believe. There’s only so much double-think most people can handle; if we profess to believe that the Eucharist and Marriage are very important and act as if they’re completely unimportant, sooner or later something will give, and either our beliefs will have to change to match our actions or vice versa.

          • Nick says:

            Mr. X,

            All good stuff. I’m a little embarrassed my post made it in before yours, because I think you’ve put it better than me. 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            defenders of the orthodox interpretation are repeatedly lectured in essays for all sorts of supposed sins (failure of charity, hypocrisy, etc), suggesting that their opponents do believe we can say a thing or two about others’ behavior, even to the point of public admonishment

            Generally when I’ve seen this done, it has been in the context of “Religion is a private matter, you have freedom of worship, the church should stay out of politics, it is all up to someone’s individual conscience” (when it is a subject like “no, the Catholics are still officially anti-divorce and contraception and good stuff like sex-positivity”) until it’s something the lecturers like/want/approve of, then it’s all “The bishops should speak out!”

            I misremember the exact details but the last episode of this I saw was a bunch of the same opinion-formers, columnists and online jaw-jawers who had just got done telling the bishops to shut their cakeholes and that the public square was no place for preaching a sermon and they had no business telling others what morality was then turning on a sixpence and demanding the same bishops start meddling in politics and using their influence over lawmakers in support of immigration (I think it was) and should be giving interviews to the media about morality and the rest of it.

            So I don’t much care about the finger-wagging lecturers and their opinions, to be frank. Be glad women can’t be ordained, because were I Pope – whew! The bad old Dark Ages days of burning scientists on a pile of Classical manuscripts looted from the wreckage of the Great Library of Alexandria would look like the General Convention of The Episcopal Church by comparison 🙂 (For starters, I’d have slapped an interdict on the whole of North America and be getting the mass excommunications ready unless a whole heap of grovelling “we’re so sorry, we’ll start actually teaching religion in religion class right this minute” went on, and as for the Nuns on the Bus, that bus could just keep on driving until they crossed over into Canada or one of the two oceans, either is fine by me).

            As for the Voltaire story, I doubt it’s true; it has the neat finality of an anecdote showing off how clever Our Hero is. But were it true, I would have to say: sorry, François-Marie, I’ve done that and yes, I still do believe as strongly as ever. Sin has never made me think “well plainly they’re wrong about this harmless thing and my conscience is right” (though it hasn’t helped me be any more virtuous, I still keep sinning).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: Hey, let’s be charitable. A general convention of the Anglican Church these days does look like the bad old Dark Ages trying to snuff out the “light” of postmodernism at a stake piled with books of Higher Criticism.
            God bless those Bishops of Colour. 😀

    • Anonymous says:

      AFAIK, if the Pope says A, but it contradicts Canon Law which says B, then B stands, because Canon Law is actual orders from the office of the Pope, whereas random apostolic exhortations are not.

      • Nick says:

        Canon law only exists at the pleasure of the pope, so he could simply order that the relevant canons be amended or eliminated entirely. The heterodox interpretation ostensibly violates Canon 915, and various writers arguing for it have mocked 915 or said it’s been amended somehow, but the pope has yet to make any mention of it at all. So in the meantime it seems Canon 915 is in effect no matter how murky those passages of Amoris Laetitia look, and therefore we have a duty to uphold 915 regardless of what the bishops of Malta or Buenos Aires or elsewhere believe.

        Another separate issue, of course, is what the theological basis for Canon 915 is in the first place and whether there is an acceptable alternative. So far, proposals like recourse to personal conscience or making it up to individual bishops or even individual priests are extremely dubious at best, threatening to upend our understanding of marriage or our understanding of grace or Lord only knows what else. Cardinal Burke’s discussion of 915 is as good as any other. It ultimately goes back to 1 Corinthians 11:27–29, in which it Paul says that to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is to profane it and damn oneself (to say nothing of scandalizing one’s community, if one’s state of grave sin is manifest). Canon 915, naturally, is meant to delineate just who so qualifies, so that that never, ever happens; the category “those obstinately persevering in a state of manifest grave sin” does exactly that.

  11. johan_larson says:

    The German military has announced a competition for a heavy lift helicopter contract, which is expected to be between the CH-53 Super Stallion and the CH-47 Chinook.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-military-helicopter/german-military-kicks-off-heavy-lift-helicopter-competition-source-idUSKBN1E91EN

    I think it’s interesting that both of the competing designs are really old. The CH-53 dates back to 1966 and the CH-47 to 1962. Of course both aircraft have been upgraded many times since then with new engines and new rotors and new avionics and God knows what else, but the fundamental designs still date back to before the Summer of Love. Looks like helicopters are a really slow-moving field of engineering.

    • Urstoff says:

      Also, the Chinook has been the fastest military helicopter all that time. Maybe the development of helicopters just quickly hit physical design limits, and so have just been tweaking against those limits for the last 50 years.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Has it? I always thought that was the Lynx (entered service 1977, still in service) but the record was set by a modified version.

        In service trim, Wikipedia says 196 mph for the Chinook vs 201 mph for the Lynx.

      • John Schilling says:

        Anything whose lift is provided by a rotor (or multiple centerline rotors like the Chinook) is subject to retreating blade stall, which I believe theoretically limits the speed to Mach 0.5 and in practice to about 200 knots. TL,DR: to keep the helicopter from flipping over you have to generate equal lift from the blades on each side of the vehicle, half of which are being dragged through the air at a much faster speed than the other. Eventually, the slowpoke blades just can’t keep up their share of the load.

        To get much beyond 200 knots, you need a hybrid aircraft which can transition to a flight mode where the rotor is no longer a major source of lift. Designing aircraft that can operate in two different flight modes, and transition safely between them in flight, is a very hard problem. Even if we now have practical ways of approaching it, you need to really really want to break 200 knots and not care about the cost to not just buy an ordinary helicopter.

    • Incurian says:

      What else is there after rotors and engines and avionics? A big aluminum tube? I don’t think the aerodynamics of the airframe are as important as in say, supersonic fighters.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Basic changes in configuration. There have been several attempts at replacing the tail rotor in smaller helicopters, for instance. I imagine the main drivers for changes to a heavy-lift helicopter would be either fuel efficiency or greater capacity.

      • Well... says:

        If aerodynamics are important for a car traveling 60 mph why wouldn’t they be important for a helicopter traveling + 100 mph at higher windier altitudes?

        • Nornagest says:

          I imagine it’s a relative thing. Aerodynamics buy you more for a helicopter going 150 mph than they do for a car going 60 mph, but they’re nowhere near as important as for a cargo plane doing 600, let alone a fighter going 1800 on afterburners.

          And military ground vehicles tend to look like armored shoeboxes on wheels, so military helicopters’ kinda-but-not-particularly-streamlined look fits pretty well into the sequence.

        • skef says:

          The rotor of an operating helicopter alters (almost defines) the airflow environment around the chassis in a way that’s different from a car or an airplane.

          • Well... says:

            That makes me think the main body of all helicopters should basically be shaped like vertically-oriented teardrops, with the rotors attached at the pointy tip. But they aren’t really shaped that way, are they?

        • bean says:

          It’s in what you’re optimizing for. Aerodynamics are important for cars because you get marginal gains in fuel economy, which you can use as a selling point. The operators of military helicopters are looking at a broader picture, and unlike with cars, redoing a helicopter’s aerodynamics is going to be relatively expensive. The recurring costs of cars get spread over a lot of units, which isn’t true of most military hardware.

          • Well... says:

            Aerodynamics are important for cars because you get marginal gains in fuel economy

            Pretty sure it also affects the handling, noise, tendency to fill the windshield with splatted bugs, etc., doesn’t it? Not to mention the “look” which is definitely one of the things consumer automobiles are optimizing for.

            (By the way, what’s up with the “evil insect” look that all cars these days seem to be converged on? I miss the 1990s when cars looked as boring as what they’re typically used for.)

            Anyway I think I get your point about aerodynamics in helicopters. They got it “close enough” already, would hit diminishing returns by further tweaking the shape, focus design/engineering resources elsewhere.

          • Nornagest says:

            Not all! Fiats looks like Mickey Mouse props.

            Personally, I’d hoped the retro trend kicked off by the Mini Cooper and the 2005 Mustang would have more legs. But most of the other cars that tried to tap into it turned out to be hideous or crap or both, although the Mustang’s 2016 refresh isn’t bad.

          • A1987dM says:

            Not to mention the “look” which is definitely one of the things consumer automobiles are optimizing for.

            That sometimes but by no means always correlates with aerodynamics.

    • bean says:

      The CH-53 has gotten two Super Hornet style overhauls since then, one very recently. It’s a new bird that looks a lot like the old one. Nothing quite as drastic has happened to the Chinook, but with military helicopters, you’re not seeing a lot of the design drivers for new airframes that you do in other fields. A few % savings in operating cost isn’t going to draw customers the way it does in an airliner, and new fighters come from a desire for stealth and more space for electronics. The C-130 is in pretty much the same boat. New engines, new avionics, don’t worry about the airframe.

    • cassander says:

      Most helicopter designs are really old. the H-1 series (bell 204/2065/212/412) date to the 50s, the jetrangers to the 60s, the H-60 dates to the 70s, most of the airbus helicopter line is based on aerospatiale designs from the 60s, the H-6/md500s date to the 60s. Bean is right that a lot of the internals get changed, but there definitely seems to be less advantage in clean sheet helicopter designs than with fixed wing aircraft.

    • Am I wrong in believing that the Colt M1911 and the Browning GP, both designed by John Browning who died in 1926, are still being made and are the basis for a lot of handgun designs?

      • bean says:

        You are not. Some fields advance faster than others. For a whole slew of reasons, pistols haven’t seen that much advance over the past 100 or so years. Other small arms really haven’t changed in about 60. Helicopters have changed a fair bit, although they still look pretty much the same.

        • johan_larson says:

          What was the last big innovation in the helicopter space? Going from piston engines to turbines was a big deal, but that was around 1960. Surely there has been something else since then that rates.

          • Sfoil says:

            Purpose-built gunships date from the later 1960s. Then the incremental but still significant development of tank killers built around guided missiles in the 1980s.

      • Nornagest says:

        The 1911 and Hi-Power families are still fairly common, but there’s a case to be made that they’ve been superseded except in specialized roles by newer pistol designs developed in the late 20th century. Single-action/double-action triggers and better barrel linkages appeared first, on pistols like the Sig P22x family and the CZ-75, and then there’s the numerous striker-fired polymer-framed pistols like the Glock family and the S&W M&P. Cops (for whom, unlike soldiers, a pistol is a primary weapon) were still using antediluvian six-shooters well into the Eighties; these are what finally replaced them.

        They aren’t as much of a step up from the 1911 and especially the Hi-Power as those were from the pistols of the late 1800s, though.

        • You seem knowledgeable, so perhaps you can answer a question. H&K made, for all I know still make, a squeeze cock handgun. The pressure of your hand on the grip cocks it, which means that if you drop it it will be uncocked before it hits the ground.

          That looks like a design that combines the advantages of single action and double action. Why didn’t the idea catch on?

          • Nornagest says:

            I hadn’t heard of that one, but some investigation turns up the HK P7 — is that what you’re thinking of?

            I don’t enough about it to say for sure, but I’d speculate that its ergonomic disadvantages weren’t compensated for by its advantage over the grip safety designs that were already common on single-action semiautomatics (the 1911 has one, and so does its predecessor the Colt 1903/1908). A grip safety acts similarly, by mechanically disconnecting the firing mechanism except when a shooter is physically gripping the pistol, but because it doesn’t need to cock the hammer it can be actuated with much less pressure. Wikipedia cites 15 pounds of force to use the P7’s cocking lever, which is pretty stiff.

            Single-action/double-action triggers were also coming out about the same time, and offer another path to combining the advantages of single and double action (a long, heavy first trigger pull cocks the hammer and fires the first round, and a short, light pull fires subsequent shots), but they have more conventional ergonomics.

          • Yes. The P7.

            I don’t know how many pounds it takes, but it cocks when you hold it as tightly as you normally would.

            The grip safety designs are normally carried cocked?

          • bean says:

            I don’t think 15 lbs is a normal grip force for a pistol. It sounds uncomfortable to try. Normal grip safeties require a lot less force, which is good for shooting. And while I don’t want an unsafe pistol, I want one that’s unsafe for the guy I’m shooting at. That kind of grip makes it safer for him, and less safe for anything else downrange.

          • Nornagest says:

            The grip safety designs are normally carried cocked?

            I can only speak for the 1911, but that’s traditionally carried “cocked and locked” — cocked, with a round in the chamber, but with the thumb safety (a switch on the side of the frame, separate from the grip safety) on. Users are trained to disengage the thumb safety as they draw the weapon.

          • John Schilling says:

            It was a clever idea, and possibly better than conventional handguns of the era, but mostly displaced by Glock and its clones which don’t need to be cocked at all but are nonetheless safe to carry loaded and ready to fire. The P7 came out in 1976, the Glock 17 in 1982, and in this case the good enough succumbed to the perfect.

            There have always been complaints about Glocks being dangerously unsafe and citing some allegedly horrifying number of accidental discharges. The number is in fact small given the sample size, and the “accidental” discharges are almost entirely of the form, “I applied 4+ lbs of force to the trigger of a loaded gun, and the damn thing fired!”. Usually also including “with my trigger finger”.

          • Sfoil says:

            The biggest cause of Glock NDs appears to be the fact that you have to pull the trigger to remove the slide. True trigger snags not involving one’s fingers (on e.g. a worn leather holster) do happen, but I don’t think they’re common. Probably less common than people firing 1911s while trying to lower the hammer on a loaded chamber, I bet.

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        Ha, the single action army (patented in 1873) is still has multiple clones being made and is the basis of many handgun designs (mostly for high powered hunting rounds).

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    How about discussing one’s changes in political views which aren’t related to college?

    I started out (by high school, I think) as a libertarian. The ideas seem so reasonable and comprehensible. I’ve since come to believe that libertarianism is politics for people (mostly) who don’t like the details of political process– at least that’s true of me.

    However, as the years went on and I was pleased to see the USSR collapse and then found that it seemed to be a good deal for the ex-Soviet territories and not such a good deal for Russians (dammit, I thought they’d do a better job of self-organizing, but I didn’t think about how they weren’t exactly starting with a blank slate), I came to have less trust in drastic changes based on a theory.

    I’ve become what I call a harm-reduction libertarian– I focus on areas where the government is clearly making things worse, like the war on drugs and sloppiness and malevolence in the justice system.

    I believe in open borders, which might be a little on the drastic side, but I look at the damage done to refugees, and I go full-on deontological. I think a culture which thinks it’s normal to imprison refugees is insane. I sympathize with hating it when helpless people are abused, but I seem to also have a somewhat unusual hatred of incapasitating people who could perfectly well take care of themselves if they were allowed to.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Major changes? I went from Michael Moore-liberal to min-archist libertarian in my last 2 years of high school. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. I became less convinced government economic interventions were necessary or even helpful and more convinced that people should just be allowed to do their own thing. The NAP was highly intuitive.

      Bypassing college, I go into young life as a pretty moderate conservative type of fellow, from a blue tribe area.

      As stated in the above thread, post-college life (in early 30s right now) has led me to become less patient in tolerating “wrong” beliefs in my voting behaviors, though much more patient in just talking about said beliefs. So I don’t mind my sister-in-law ranting and raving about how we need to escalate funding for whatever pet cause Facebook believes in at the moment, and I don’t mind my brother-in-law ranting and raving about how we need to BDS Israel because of how aggressively they treat Palestinians.

      But in terms of my voting behavior? And other related decisions (like where to live)? Yeah, no. I am voting for politicians who promise to waste the least amount of my money. I pay enough in taxes and don’t want to pay more, and practically every plan to expand the social safety net involves reducing my benefits and/or making me pay more.
      I am also not in favor of any policies that sound like code for “high crime” and poor schools. My Sister and I live 15 minutes away from each other. We pay about the same amount in property taxes. But we’re in different school districts. Her school district is a very “vibrant” school district, with lots of kids from “non-traditional” homes. They have all sorts of awesome, progressive programs, like ESL options where 90% of the classes are taught in Spanish.
      Shockingly, her schools test vastly, vastly worse on state schools than my schools do. Her schools also have a large number of sinks that have to be shut down for lead remediation. Also, her child’s class did not have enough seats, so her kid had to stand for 2 weeks.

      Yeah, no to that, no to ALL of that. Illinois pays some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and I pay some of the highest property taxes in Illinois, and I do it so kids can go to good schools that send kids to National Debate championships and 80% of the students get into public Ivies. ANY argument that even REMOTELY threatens this will result in me IMMEDIATELY voting against it. You want to play social experiment? Fine, but then I get to play social experiment, and I get school vouchers so I don’t have to send my kids to “WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE WE GOT FUN AND GAMES” schools.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I think I had a similar path as you: I started out pretty extremely libertarian, based I think largely on the fact that it seemed more intuitive and cohesive than other political traditions.

      As I’ve grown older, I still have most of the same intuitions, but I’ve come to be much more skeptical of large changes and how much you can reason through problems in the abstract. Smaller, more modest change, pragmatism, and nuance seem a lot more important to 40-year-old sandor than they did to 16-year-old sandor.

    • Loquat says:

      I used to be solidly liberal, but became noticeably more conservative over the last several years. When fresh out of college and having serious and prolonged difficulty getting a job, I starting spending a lot of time online in some extremely liberal communities and largely agreed with their views. Eventually, though, I started to feel uncomfortable with the amount of time they spent on “can’t” – I can’t make my life better because I’m disabled, or because of sexism, or poverty, and anyone who says I can is an asshole trying to justify society not helping me!

      And I’m not saying society shouldn’t help people who need it, but if you sit down on your ass and wait for society to reform itself you’ll be waiting an awfully long time. There was one time in particular, when a blogger I followed had posted a rant against some white dude columnist for writing a tone-deaf column about resources available to poor black kids wanting to get out of the ghetto, and this (white) blogger was just so convinced that poor black people improving their own situation without massive new government intervention was well-nigh impossible… and meanwhile, one of my co-workers was a black woman with 2 young children trying her damnedest to work her way through college and fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor. Because, you know, how else was she going to achieve the life she wanted? So I wound up reacting into a more conservative view of personal responsibility, which was also what I needed to make myself put forth the effort to leave that crappy job and get a better one.

      Now that I have a kid myself, “only you can give yourself the life you want” is definitely a key life lesson I hope to pass on.

    • Well... says:

      It seems pretty common for adult conservatives to have been liberals at some point (usually in their youth/adolescence).

      I wonder how many people go from conservative in youth/adolescence to liberal in adulthood without a significant change in religious beliefs, especially from more- to less-devout.

      For this discussion I’m defining adulthood as beginning after about age 25.

      • Brad says:

        I went from conservative to libertarian to a reasonably standard set of American center-left political beliefs on a timeline, roughly speaking, of: high school, college, somewhere around 25-30.

        I was never terribly religious, but I it is accurate that I got less religious continually over that time.

        • Well... says:

          Was the family environment you grew up in fairly religious/politically conservative?

          • Brad says:

            No. Politically very liberal and religiously only moderately involved conservative Jewish (more than 3 days a year, but not shomer shabbos or anything).

            The political conservatism was a combination of teenage contrarianism and the influence of an uncle. This probably accounts for my negative reaction to habitual contrarianism.

          • Well... says:

            I hypothesize that you, sir, are an outlier.

      • Protagoras says:

        Well, I was already a hardcore atheist in my teens. The subsequent leftward evolution of my political views was accompanied by no change whatsoever in my religious views.

        • Well... says:

          Are you more hardcore atheist than the family environment you grew up in?

          Also, what’s the difference between hardcore atheist and regular atheist?

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes. My family was religious, though they were fairly tolerant. And on your second question, perhaps “evangelical” would be a better description than “hardcore.” And I suppose I may have mellowed a little bit in that respect over the years; religion still seems crazy to me, but people believe so many other crazy things that I perhaps don’t consider it as much worth making a big deal of that particular nonsense.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        It seems pretty common for adult conservatives to have been liberals at some point (usually in their youth/adolescence).

        “If a man is not a liberal at age twenty, he has no heart; if he is not a conservative at age thirty, he has no brain.” — Probably not Winston Churchill, although it usually gets attributed to him.

        • I think the original is 19th century French, with Republican rather than liberal.

          My preferred version, which I think is (falsely) attributed to Churchill, is:

          If a man is not a socialist before he is twenty, he has no heart. If he is still a socialist after he is thirty, he has no head.

          There’s also a version where it’s “If my son is not a socialist before twenty I’ll disinherit him. If he is still a socialist after thirty I’ll disinherit him.”

  13. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    In today’s “Amateurs try to actively invest” (anecdotes taken from the ADBG workplace)

    -$500 invested in Bitcoin. What is Bitcoin? I don’t know, but everyone is talking about it.
    -I need a new snowblower, and these lithium ion batteries look cool. I am going to invest in that.
    -Retail stores make most of their money during the holidays. I bought a bunch of retail stock to reap all the gains!
    -I made a ton of money on my Amgen stock because they increased the dividend!
    -I bought this stock at $30/share and it tanked to $20/share. There’s a buy-out offer that rose it back to $31/share, but I think it’ll go up to $35/share, so I’m going to keep on holding the stock!

    Everyone thinks they are a Warren Buffet, but they’re actually Michael Scott.

  14. Anonymous says:

    A hypothetical scenario.

    A friend asks you to do him a favour. This favour is not especially onerous, or dangerous, compared to the value of being owed a favour by said friend.

    However, said favour is both immoral (as considered by you, but not by your friend) and illegal (as considered by the jurisdiction where it would be taking place in).

    What do?

    In particular, I would like to know which excuse you would prefer, if you would decline – “no, that’s immoral/wrong” vs “no, that’s illegal” (or even “no, that’s both illegal and immoral”).

    • Randy M says:

      Difficult to response accurately without an example. Maybe something like “let them download pirated movies using your computer?”
      With that example in mind, I’m going to try to change the subject, suggest some other activity, and ultimately as them to look elsewhere, but try not to lose a friend over it.
      Answer will change with more significantly immoral requests, or extenuating circumstances.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about “aiding welfare fraud”?

        • Witness says:

          I think I would just say “no”. If pressed, I might say “That’s bad and you should feel bad” or possibly “Is there another way I can help you out?” depending on my assessment of the friend’s past behavior and current desperation.

        • Protagoras says:

          My mother was guilty of this at one point. When my maternal grandmother died, the primary heirs were my mother and two cousins (my aunt had already died some years earlier). One of the cousins renounced her claim to a share of the inheritance in order to avoid having that impact her eligibility for public assistance, on the understanding that my mother and her sister, who would then split her share, would funnel it back to her afterward under the table. I’m not altogether sure what I would have done if the decision had been mine; the welfare queen cousin had kids with disability issues she always had trouble affording taking care of (concern for the kids was, I think, my mother’s primary motive for participating), but was certainly also an irresponsible person who had brought a lot of her problems on herself.

        • add_lhr says:

          I would be led by my assessment of the morality in this case. If I truly believed that he deserved the welfare benefit under the spirit of the law, but I need to do something illegal to help him qualify, then I might. For example, if he needed my help to “recreate” a document that I know he legitimately had but lost.

          If he’s just trying to get something he’s not entitled to, I would either say I’m not comfortable with it (if a close friend), or vaguely say yes, not do anything and then ignore him every time he reminds me.

          Similarly, I would most likely not help a friend with a request that was legal but I considered immoral – for example, if this friend legally qualifies for something that I considered an abusive tax shelter / loophole, and needed my help demonstrating that, I probably wouldn’t.

    • lvlln says:

      When you say it’s not dangerous, do you also mean that the likelihood of being caught for the illegal activity is very low as well, or that it’s just inherently not dangerous only when not taking into account law enforcement?

      I think I’d definitely invoke the morality. I wouldn’t say “that’s immoral,” but rather “I consider that immoral,” and I would expect my friend to respect my own sense of morality enough to drop the request even if his sense of morality says that it’s moral.

      And if it’s inherently not dangerous but carries some significant risk of my being arrested, I’d also say “that’s illegal, and I don’t want to risk my freedom/life/future for it.” If it carries low risk of being arrested – at least, relative to the gains that my friend would get – I’d probably not invoke the legality but just stick with invoking my sense of morality.

      • Anonymous says:

        When you say it’s not dangerous, do you also mean that the likelihood of being caught for the illegal activity is very low as well, or that it’s just inherently not dangerous only when not taking into account law enforcement?

        Both. In unlikely case of legal trouble, you’d get at most a slap on the wrist. Your friend may be liable for more than that.

    • Nornagest says:

      It seems to me that “that’s illegal” could be pointing to one of two things: either you don’t want to take the chance of prosecution for it, or your personal ethics are such that breaking the law is immoral in itself. I gather from the tone of this comment that there’s no realistic chance of prosecution, and it’s fairly clear that your friend doesn’t believe breaking the law is immoral, so you can’t persuade him that way. All that leaves is one flavor or another of personal moral objection, so you might as well say so.

    • baconbacon says:

      In particular, I would like to know which excuse you would prefer, if you would decline – “no, that’s immoral/wrong” vs “no, that’s illegal” (or even “no, that’s both illegal and immoral”).

      No, that is immoral is the better answer. No, that is illegal opens you up to “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, who cares about legal/illegal?” No it is immoral says “My personal code won’t let me do that”, which has fewer chinks (unless you are generally a hypocrite/lazy morally most of the time).

      • Deiseach says:

        “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, who cares about legal/illegal?”

        It is amazing how fast people who use this line suddenly become very outraged about something they disagree with not being illegal/when something happens to them that has them shouting for the cops and the courts to get involved.

        Let that “who cares about legal or illegal” person have their wallet stolen, they will very rapidly be demanding the full rigour of the law to be applied.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Let that “who cares about legal or illegal” person have their wallet stolen, they will very rapidly be demanding the full rigour of the law to be applied.

          Because they think theft (at least from them) is wrong, not because it’s illegal.

          • Deiseach says:

            They think it’s wrong but they want recourse to legal remedies, not “oh who cares about legal/illegal, let’s settle it some other way”. If you ask them “maybe it’s wrong but why should there be a law about it?” I imagine you’d get some kind of defence of the need for law and order in a society 🙂

            “Who cares about legal/illegal” is generally only applied to “But I want to do this thing” cases, not as a general principle.

          • DavidS says:

            I think this is consistent. They want the law to reflect what is moral (because as a matter of fact this empowers moral people and allows the immoral to be punished) but don’t think we should follow laws that are immoral.

            To be honest, I think this is true of the vast majority of people – though how immoral the law has to be varies. In the hardcore version the existence of the law adds no information to the morals. But for most it’s more ‘obey the law unless it comes into conflict with a higher value’.

        • Incurian says:

          If you only like some laws, you’re a hypocrite?

          • lvlln says:

            I think the hypocrisy comes from the fact that “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, who cares about legal/illegal?” is a fully general argument against not wanting to break any law. If the argument was more like “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, and helping fugitive slaves was obviously moral, and breaking this specific law in this specific way that I want you to break the law is also moral just like helping fugitive slaves was, so who cares about legal/illegal in this specific case?” then there would be no hypocrisy.

            Perhaps the former argument is meant to imply the latter more narrow argument, but I think it makes just as much sense to interpret it as a fully general one.

          • albatross11 says:

            It feels like that’s an overlap of proves-too-much and noncentral example.

        • Nick says:

          As Catholics we have recourse to Aquinas, for whom, as the famous formulation goes, an unjust law is no law at all. The folks at the partially examined life podcast have a nice summary. Well, if you can look past the first sentence:

          Natural law seems like a relic, remembered only by Catholics who use it as thin grounds for odd sexual theories: the evil of condoms, the intrinsic disorder of homosexuals.

          😛

          Of course, the classic problem has always been our personal opinions of justice potentially giving us free reign, or exceptions and special privileges at least. This is precisely the issue which Scalia of all people raises in his opinion for Employment Division v Smith (you’ll recall Brad brought this case up in re the cake baking case), quoting Reynolds v. United States:

          To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.

          Scalia has elsewhere remarked that he really does disagree with Aquinas on this point—folks are not exempt from a facially neutral law simply because their religion dictates otherwise (I’ve been doing research, Brad 🙂 ). Scalia’s conservative, of course; he just thinks there’s ample justification in the Constitution for defending his own religious beliefs, if not the religious beliefs of everyone else, and if that’s a problem, that’s up to folks to amend the Constitution.

          I’m inclined to side with Aquinas and MLK here, though I really need to look at more opinions on this—but that’s not to say this isn’t an issue over which people of good will may disagree.

    • Jiro says:

      The usual answer to a question like this should be “what’s the favor?” Otherwise it’s easy for someone to ask this kind of question about a non-central case, get an answer that applies only to a central case, and use it to justify how he acts in the non-central case.

      Also, while you said that the favor is not especially onerous or dangerous, you didn’t specify how immoral it is. Immorality comes in degrees just like onerousness and dangerousness. I might help a friend pirate a movie but not help him dox someone, for instance.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Whether I’d decline or not would have something to do with how immoral I find it, and also likelyhood of getting caught. If I did decline I’d probably start with the illegality, as it requires less justification.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I just posted a nearly identical comment below, so I’ll just delete that and say “+1” to your sentiment.

      • Lillian says:

        Like Nabil ad Dajjal this pretty much perfectly encapsulates my position, but unlike him i’m not content to just +1, so i will expand a little. To me, loyalty to friends and family is a high moral principle, so i would refuse to help only if it would infringe that principle or some higher one. As for the legality of the matter, i don’t care and never have, except insofar as Johnny Law can make me care. However, i’m still likely to use “it’s illegal” as an excuse, because in my experience people are more likely to try to persuade you to make exceptions to your moral principles than to let go of your fear of the state’s monopoly on violence.

    • John Schilling says:

      How does “that’s illegal” even factor in except as a special case of “that’s immoral” (because some people find it inherently immoral to break the law) or “that’s dangerous” (because you might get caught and severely punsished)?

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m not sure how to parse this, except as an implication that you don’t believe that one should obey the law, absent threat of punishment.

        • Witness says:

          There are a few reasons one might obey a law:

          1) One thinks that following this particular law is also a moral positive => can say “that’s immoral” instead of “that’s illegal”.

          2) One thinks that following the law in general is moral* => can lead with “that’s immoral” and if pressed fall back on one’s belief that “illegal” is a subset of “immoral”.

          3) One thinks that failing to follow the law will result in punishment => can lead with “that’s dangerous”.

          Maybe you can think of some other reasons, but I think I’ve covered the typical cases. John Schilling’s post reads to me as addressing 1s and 3s pretty well. I’m guessing you are a 2, to a first approximation.

          One reason a 2 might want to lead with “it’s illegal” is that doing so helps to reinforce 2ism in the other person’s mind.

          *subject to caveats about [insert immoral law here]

          • Anonymous says:

            My faith requires obedience to temporal authority where it doesn’t contradict a forbidding of moral law. Things can be any combination of moral/immoral and legal/illegal.

            Legal/moral: Donating to charity.
            Illegal/moral: Refusing to burn incense for the Emperor/bake a cake for a homosexual wedding.
            Legal/immoral: Abortion.
            Illegal/immoral: Infanticide.

            (Above mentioned legality may or may not match your jurisdiction.)

          • Witness says:

            Okay, that’s fair. I normally think of “things my faith requires” as “moral” – or at least, that violating things my faith requires is immoral.

            But explaining that immorality to someone else does sometimes require emphasizing the illegality.

          • albatross11 says:

            One reason to think following the law is moral is because you think that, while any individual law may be morally neutral or even morally wrong, you may still believe that it’s a better world when everyone follows the laws.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        How does “that’s illegal” even factor in except as a special case of “that’s immoral” (because some people find it inherently immoral to break the law) or “that’s dangerous” (because you might get caught and severely punsished)?

        probably it doesn’t, but isn’t that enough?

    • skef says:

      One excuse amounts to picking out the friend as immoral and the other could make you sound like a prig, or hypocritical if you do other illegal things (e.g. speeding).

      Ambiguity between the two seems like the best bet: “I’m afraid I’m not comfortable doing that.”

    • Some version of “that’s immoral,” but “immoral” is a sufficiently loaded word–Orwell commented that most people thought it only applied to sex–that I would probably use different phrasing, such as “That is not something I think one should do.”

    • DavidS says:

      On account of being a coward I suspect in practice I would say I was worried about being caught or something rather than actually objecting. (And if I clearly wasn’t going to get caught just saying I’d feel paranoid about it etc. etc.)

      Assuming we’re talking here pretty light on the immoral front. If it was severe enough that would be different and undermine the friendship.

  15. Conrad Honcho says:

    Can we all agree though that Thanksgiving is the best holiday? Four day weekend, no gift giving, no decorations, just food, family and then a tryptophan coma?

    • powerfuller says:

      Oh, I definitely agree Thanksgiving is the best holiday, hands down, now and forever. I used to date a Korean-Canadian, which meant we got to celebrate three Thanksgivings in a row (Korean in September, Canadian in October, and American in November). Truly a blessed time in my life.

      Despite all the talk on the War on Christmas, I could argue that the “war on Thanksgiving” is even worse, with the commercialism of Black Friday on one side, and the “Thanksgiving is a celebration of genocide” argument on the other. At least those arguing we ought call Christmas trees holiday trees are not arguing that Christmas shouldn’t be celebrate at all by anybody. On that note, it’s probably a good thing that Thanksgiving gets overshadowed by Christmas, or there would be more hoopla about it.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There are a lot of people who have to work Black Friday. Thankfully, I am no longer one of them!

      Thanksgiving has the best food, but it’s a restrictive menu. Turkey in particular sucks. Our Christmas party is going to have roasted chicken and lasagna, and my family dinner will be prime rib.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’ve had some good turkeys – unfortunately, not recently. When I was growing up, my family used to serve ham for Thanksgiving; that’s easier to make well.

        The side dishes are good, though – stuffing, well-roasted spiced vegetables, sweet potato pie…

    • rahien.din says:

      Thanksgiving is absolutely the best holiday, for all the reasons you state.

      Let me add: the recognizable yet broad flavor palette, football, and the natural superiority of fall over the other three seasons.

    • Brad says:

      I find Thanksgiving underwhelming. I don’t like turkey and my extended family doesn’t have any tradition of getting together. That leaves four day weekend.

      I like Labor Day. Fourth of July is good too, except when it falls on Wednesday.

      • Evan Þ says:

        my extended family doesn’t have any tradition of getting together.

        If you’re interested, maybe make that tradition? Last year, I flew down to meet my sister in college, and we both drove up to our aunt and uncle’s. It was good to get to see them all.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I prefer Christmas ham over Thanksgiving turkey

      Thanksgiving is more likely to have extended family and it’s more awkward around them then immediate family

      More people get off Christmas than Thanksgiving.

      Thanksgiving doesn’t have movies.

      Christmas is more ritualistic. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to some people but I think it helps make it more special than a big meal.

      On Thanksgiving, people are more focused on Christmas than anything else. Christmas is the one day where almost nobody is actually doing anything except relaxing.

      I actually like gift giving. It helps when you have family members outside of your parents who give good gifts.

      • powerfuller says:

        It’s only one, but at least “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is a good movie.

        • JayT says:

          National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is possibly my favorite movie ever. At the very least, it’s the one I can watch over and over without getting tired of it.

          Also, there’s Die Hard.

    • JayT says:

      I love Thanksgiving, but for me it still falls just short of Christmas. Both have great food, lots of time off, and family, but Christmas lasts longer* and I enjoy the decorations quite a bit. I would leave Christmas lights up year-round if it were more socially acceptable.

      *eg, I had friends over last night for an early Christmas dinner and it was lovely, this evening I have my end of year office party, etc.

    • achenx says:

      Life pro tip: you don’t have to have turkey! We’ve had Thanksgiving ham the past couple years, and it’s great. All the sides still work, unless you literally cook stuffing inside the bird.

      Possible problem: What do you have for Christmas then? I mean, nothing wrong with ham again, but if you’re a Christmas ham person then it is something to consider.

      • Nornagest says:

        I cooked a large duck for Thanksgiving a couple years ago when the dinner ended up being small. It worked pretty well (and I like duck better than I like turkey).

        • achenx says:

          This is a good point too. There are other birds available. For either holiday, even: remember Scrooge’s Christmas goose.

          Hm. Anyone ever had goose? Is it appreciably different from turkey?

          • JayT says:

            It’s been a long time since I’ve had goose, but my recollection is that it’s more similar to duck than turkey.

          • rahien.din says:

            Goose is SPECTACULAR.

            It’s like unto duck, but so much more delicious. The richer, darker flavor of goose makes duck seem insipid in comparison.

            And the fat that drips out of the goose is perfect for frying anything, in particular potatoes.

            If I had my druthers, I would have a ham and a goose for every Christmas.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes I have had goose, and it is indeed different to turkey. Although I’m rubbish at describing tastes, I’d say goose has a richer and stronger flavour than turkey, and also a slightly more chewy texture (not in a bad way, though).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Tried duck for the first time this week and wasn’t terribly impressed. It sure did render a TON of fat, but there was not much meat on a 5 pound bird. It was also damn difficult to cut, much more so than any other bird I’ve ever had.

            Might try a goose…how much do I need to feed, say, 4 people?

            Not having turkey is apparently blasphemy. I’ve suggested it at any of the 4 Thanksgivings I regularly go to. I am always told to pound salt. No one wants to give up turkey as a Thanksgiving tradition.

            Oh well. At least it gets drowned in gravy.

          • skef says:

            ADBG: You should try one more duck, and then the goose.

          • Nornagest says:

            Goose is a pretty big bird. A medium-sized one would probably feed four people with some left over for sandwiches, especially if you’ve got the traditional array of side dishes.

          • Loquat says:

            ADBG – I haven’t done whole duck before, but I’ve had great results with duck legs doing a sort of pseudo-confit (pre-salt legs, overnight if possible, pack into small baking dish so they’ll wind up submerged in their own fat, cook low+slow for a couple hours – this recipe explains in more detail )

          • Winter Shaker says:

            A Definite Beta Guy:

            Not having turkey is apparently blasphemy. I’ve suggested it at any of the 4 Thanksgivings I regularly go to. I am always told to pound salt.

            Have you tried scaring them off?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Duck leg confit might be the only thing I try. I’ll give that recipe a shot. I am a sucker for dark meat. I saved the rendered fat from the last duck, so I’m probably good to go on that front.

            I would love to have a Cthulhu-Turkey, but my wife would kill me with her Death Glare. She already despises the marshmallows-on-sweet-potatoes.

            In positive news, beef rib roast is on sale for $4.99/lb, and, being the king of meats, is definitely on the menu for tomorrow!

          • Loquat says:

            She already despises the marshmallows-on-sweet-potatoes.

            My husband and I are both in full agreement with her on that front! He even used to think he disliked sweet potatoes in general, until I cooked him some with no added sugar or candy of any kind.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Capon is another lesser-known fowl. In my experience, it’s like chicken, but larger and tastier.

          • @Nancy:

            A capon isn’t a different fowl, it’s a castrated male chicken.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Yes, I should have said that better.

            I will still maintain that capon is a somewhat different eating experience than chicken, and makes for a better display.

      • JayT says:

        Christmas prime rib and crab is where it’s at.

        Also, I would say that if you don’t like the Thanksgiving turkey, that you should probably try a different approach to cooking the turkey. I always thought I hated turkey until I took control of cooking it. Turns out, I just didn’t like overcooked turkey.

      • rahien.din says:

        My great-aunt was a gourmet cook but refused to eat poultry. She would make Cuban roast pork and beef Wellington every Thanksgiving.

      • gbdub says:

        I think you just need “a visually impressive cut of meat” (sorry vegans). I’ve done a New York Strip roast the last couple years (nice for childless couples, since you can get one only a few pounds, i.e. small enough that two people can eat all of it before becoming utterly sick of it, which is not true of turkey or a ham.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Last two years the wife cooked goose. I said I really wanted to have a Christmas goose, just like in A Christmas Carol. Pretty darn good.

    • Well... says:

      I know you don’t have to have turkey on Thanksgiving (finally got my wife to admit turkey sucks, we had chicken this year, hallelujah) but the association, for me anyway, along with all the rotten memories of it from childhood, is still strong enough to soil the holiday in my mind.

      Best holiday is April Fool’s day. Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day are also good because barbecue, but 4th of July is my favorite of those three because Murka. Discovered fireworks (“Hey I think i just saw fireworks behind those trees!”) are better than “let’s go see the fireworks,” and July 4th has potentially both going for it anyway. Also, our national anthem gives me goosebumps, the good kind.

      I’ve only done one so far but my Torahically correct Passover was pretty awesome. Two feasts, with a week of buttered matzah in between.

      • Evan Þ says:

        my Torahically correct Passover

        I’m curious – did you have lamb? If so, where’d you kill it, and what does your HOA say about the blood on your lintels? If not, then it might be Talmudically correct, but I wouldn’t call it Torahically correct.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Question from honest ignorance, how much blood is required to be compliant?

          Just one drop is probably not a problem or even noticeable to a HOA, a landlord, a property manager, or a condo association.

        • Well... says:

          You’re confusing the actual “passing over” event with the God-ordained holiday.

          The Passover celebration, as specified in the Torah, is:

          1. Get rid of all your leavened bread products
          2. Have a “convocation” (a feast) honoring YHVH, on the sabbath that starts the holiday
          3. Eat matzah for a week in place of leavened bread products
          4. Repeat step 2 on the sabbath that ends the holiday

          What you eat for those feasts is not specified. I did in fact make lamb, but did not kill the thing myself.

  16. skef says:

    Anyway, why can’t we have a war on New Year’s? It is by far the shittiest holiday, revolving entirely around calibrating one’s drug ingestion to maximize excitement at a particular time that isn’t really all that late, with almost inevitably anticlimactic results. There’s basically one associated song and it’s fucking annoying.

    Just seeing the first stupid year-end lists of the season today makes me want to hurl.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I dunno, seems like a good excuse to hang out and drink with friends instead of spending more time with family.

      • skef says:

        You conveniently set aside all the romantic pressures and expectations.

        And “being anywhere in Wisconsin” is a much better excuse for that.

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, there’s a definite “young & single” tilt to Beta Guy’s comment. No wife and kids for Beta Guy, I’m guessing.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            No kids. Mrs. ADBG doesn’t really demand a lot of romance, just a kiss at midnight. We’re both low-key people.

            The worst part is that our friend is in LOVE with Anderson Cooper, and Anderson Cooper’s NYE show is really, really lame.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know if New Years is the shittiest (stay up late drinking champagne and eating snacks sounds like the setup for a good time) but it is the most overrated holiday (because that’s basically every party ever), and like you said, inevitably anti-climactic (because nothing magical actually happens after all the build-up and hype).

      You might even be right that the problem is that the Big Moment happens at midnight and not some later hour that is something of an accomplishment to stay awake to, like 2 or 3am.

      For the past several years I’ve gone to bed before midnight on December 31st and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The worst part is watching the ball drop. It’s ridiculously boring to watch on TV, and if you go in person you can expect to stand in the world’s largest mosh pit for six to eight hours before you even get to the boring part.

      The best part is that weird Rankin and Bass claymation movie. I have no idea how they survived all the drugs that must have gone into producing that movie.

    • bean says:

      With my fireworks hat on (thing I used to do), I’m in complete agreement. Particularly in Washington state (where I was at the time), it was awful. Turn up as soon as it gets light, work like crazy in the cold, finish up as it gets dark, then spend 8 hours standing around when it’s really cold making sure that idiots who think that “keep out” signs don’t apply to them don’t mess up the wires. Then shoot and clean up.
      If we swapped with July 4th, it would be much better. In the summer, you can’t shoot until like 11 PM anyway, and in the winter, you’d be home in time for dinner.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I would prefer a war on Halloween. Well, not a war precisely, but at least an intensive diplomatic offensive, backed with occasional drone strikes and other kinetic military action, to force it to withdraw to its former kids-only borders.

      • gbdub says:

        I will fight you.

        Seriously adult Halloween is the only holiday that is actually both fun and unique for childless adults.

      • achenx says:

        Yes, I will volunteer for that war kinetic military action.

      • John Schilling says:

        Halloween must not fall. Halloween is the last bulwark against eternal commercial “The Holidays”. Once upon a time, the existence of Thanksgiving made it unseemly to play Christmas carols or put up Santa-themed decorations in November, and so the pressure to buy overpriced plane tickets to visit one’s family and expensive gifts to give them was at least confined to a single month. Now that we just have “the Holidays”, which are generically about family and celebration in a culture-independent way, that barrier has fallen.

        Halloween, with a unique and decidedly non-generic theme. Halloween can’t be neatly folded into “the Holidays”, and its own unique commercial appeal enlists the costume- and candy-sellers to do battle against the airlines and gift stores, while the greeting-card industry plays both sides against each other. If Halloween falls, those damn bells will jingle up past October, through September, and we’ll wind up singing “Let it Snow!” in July.

        Halloween must not fall

        • albatross11 says:

          A century from now, our descendants will take for granted that all commercial locations are decorated with fake snow, reindeer, and fat guys in red suits, and play traditional commercial music involving snow, roasting chestnuts, etc. Almost nobody will know the origin of this tradition.

    • Randy M says:

      that isn’t really all that late

      I haven’t see the back side of midnight regularly for a good while now, let alone on New Years.
      I don’t care much for the televised festivities of the day, but a party and some resolutions aren’t a bad day to welcome the new calendar.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      Don’t say this in Scotland! Here it’s such a well liked holiday that we get an extra bank holiday to sleep off the hangover, compared to England.

      • skef says:

        But no fish cookies, right? That’s Austria or something?

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Scottish person checking in. As American pop culture suffuses the rest of the Anglophone world, it has been losing ground against Christmas (which apparently was the lesser of the two holidays here until relatively recently), but Hogmanay is still a pretty big deal.

        I personally shall be leaving Scotland to celebrate it, at an international folk music and dance festival which is happening in Czechia this year, and if that is your cup of tea, I can heartily recommend it as a superior alternative where you spend the evening dancing, come outside to watch the fireworks at midnight, go back inside and continue dancing into the wee hours. Beats freezing for hours to watch a ball drop (not that we have that exact tradition here, we just have someone count down the last ten seconds of the old year).

    • achenx says:

      New Years is kind of dumb but seems mostly avoidable, I think. Sometimes I stay up, sometimes I don’t. I’m actually going to a party this year for the first time in awhile, but since I’ll be bringing kids along we’ll be checking out of the party by, say, 8pm at the latest, so can go home, stay up or not, whatever. Plus it comes with an honest-to-goodness day off, and as far as I know there are no culture war battles brewing over it (please don’t correct me if I am wrong), so really it seems pretty middle-of-the-pack as far as holidays go.

      • Evan Þ says:

        and as far as I know there are no culture war battles brewing over it

        That’s because the war was already fought and won long ago (at least outside the Eastern Orthodox Church).

        • Deiseach says:

          as far as I know there are no culture war battles brewing over it

          Well, that’s because they’ve already been fought. See the comments on Hogmanay – the reason it is such a big deal in Scotland is because of Calvinism (or Knox’s version thereof). New Year’s Day was heavily promoted by the Scots theocracy of the time as a secular alternative to Christmas, because Christmas was a wicked Papist creation polluting the pure Gospel, and if the unregenerate laity were going to insist on still having a celebration to get drunk during the end of winter, well they could do it on a completely non-religious state-sanctioned day, and taking the existing celebrations around the end of the year/New Year’s Day and promoting them was a way of doing this.

      • Nick says:

        I like reset buttons. My last New Year’s resolution actually was the flashcard one, and it went pretty well this time (four months before I got myself derailed!). I’m probably going to try the same one again come the new year.

        Also, upon rereading that post, I have to draw attention to this:

        As soon as you hear “kabbalistic” you think “this is going to be super weird and super awesome”, and the kabbalists do not disappoint. They say that all year, God is watching all the horrible things we do and thinking “Oh man, I am totally going to do some righteous smiting on that squid314 person.” And as God finalizes destinies for the New Year (which for Judaism and therefore for God begins in late September/early October) He is remembering all those resolutions He made. Kol Nidre is when we release ourselves from our vows in the hope that God will reciprocate by releasing Himself from His and so let us live and stay happy and healthy for another year.

        I’m a little disappointed this didn’t make its way somehow into Unsong, but it’s nice on its own.

        • A1987dM says:

          I like reset buttons.

          Me too, so much that I have twelve as many of them!

          • Nick says:

            Fair enough. I’d say his first problem with resolutions doesn’t apply to me, since I always choose well in advance. I also do have another yearly resolution already, namely Lent, although that only lasts 40 or so days. But his other two problems are well stated.

  17. rahien.din says:

    [Disclaimer : if anyone objects to this as too Culture-War, consider it retracted.]

    One compelling description of liberty is “Your right to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” This makes perfect sense in an aphoristic, “Ah-ha!” kind of way.

    But that definition can be exploited. If I move my nose closer to your fist, I’ve restricted your liberty, and illegitimately. And I don’t know that the obvious objection “But I want to swing my fist!” would necessarily be a full answer to that illegitimate behavior, if only because that makes you sound like someone who wants an excuse to punch people in the nose. And not punching people in the nose is the exact injunction at the heart of this definition of liberty

    Is there a term for that illegitimate behavior? If not, maybe “swinging your nose”?

    • albatross11 says:

      I think this is basically the insight Coase had into how externalities work. The real-world case of this is where you build an airport, then people build houses nearby, and then later the homeowners demand that your airport do expensive noise-abatement procedures because the noise of those jets is messing up their property values.

      But I really only learned this by reading David Friedman’s wonderful book _Law’s Order_, and it seems unlikely that I could explain it as well as he did.

      This essay explains the idea pretty well.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Freedom vs coercion is a scale, not a dichotomy. Every inch closer you are to me reduces my freedom by X%.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I wouldn’t call that response “exploiting” the definition. Rather, its correctly pointing out that to achieve perfect negative-liberty, you have to be the only person on the planet.

      One route would be to broaden your description of liberty to include things beyond restrictions on human/human physical contact. For example, defining “liberty” to not include building a moat or cage around someone (without touching!) so that they were imprisoned.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Your question mainly shows how subtly loaded “Your right to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins” is. The only reason “But I want to swing my fist!” makes me sound like someone who wants an excuse to punch people is that no one ever swings their fist for any other reason. So it makes a poor analogy (I realize it’s not your analogy) for most of the liberties people are trying to curtail when they invoke it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Unfortunately, for some rights in the minds of some people, that makes it a very good analogy. Take the right to guns, the right to offend people with free speech, the right to anonymous currency transactions, the right to privacy in general…

      • Winter Shaker says:

        “Your right to swing your poi“, then? 🙂

  18. gbdub says:

    Thoughts on the Strzok issue and how it should (or shouldn’t) impact how we view the Mueller investigation?

    We had a discussion a couple threads back on the likelihood of Trump being impeached.

    I would think that, at a minimum, the Strzok revelations and how Mueller may have (mis)handled them makes it much less likely that GOP congressmen would turn on Trump for anything other than basically blatant high treason.

    Then again I doubt anybody GOP inclined is exactly surprised that the FBI was (is) full of Clinton sympathizers, so maybe it changes nothing.

    • skef says:

      Thoughts on the Strzok issue and how it should (or shouldn’t) impact how we view the Mueller investigation?

      My only thought is that I always mistake that name for “strtok”.

    • BBA says:

      The only way Trump is leaving office before noon on January 20, 2021 is in a coffin. People are paying attention to the Russia scandal because they hope otherwise, but it’s wishful thinking.

      Strzok doesn’t move the needle either way. Might increase the chances of a premature end to the Mueller investigation, but then Congress was always going to ignore whatever Mueller came up with.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But it gives them political cover to do so. Just like the RNC was going to oppose Roy Moore no matter what because he was Bannon’s project (and a theocratic nutjob), and the sex accusations were just a convenient excuse.

    • BBA says:

      New shit has come to light. Lo and behold, there are other out-of-context texts from the same FBI agents suggesting bias in the opposite direction. This will probably not change anything.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        more like out-of-context text, and a very mild one at that

        compare to, say

        “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,”

        or the already widely-quoted “insurance policy” quote

        “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…”

        it’s not like FBI agents can’t have political bias, but it sure does confirm some narratives there doesn’t it

      • The article you link to says:

        His messages included calling Chelsea Clinton “self-entitled,” and mocking Eric Holder. He wrote, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected.”

        Given the nature of the campaign, an enthusiastic Hillary supporter might be worried about what would happen after she was elected–up to and including worries about assassination. And supporting the Democrats doesn’t imply approving of Hilary’s daughter. Or Eric Holder.

        Do you have any quotes from the correspondence that actually support the claim the article you link to is making? Neither of the links in the article does so. The article reads like a desperate attempt by someone to blunt the effect of the initial set of quotes, which were much less ambiguous.

  19. SamChevre says:

    I’d say it’s not a war between Christmas and other holidays. It’s a war between an explicitly religious holiday, and the idea that religion is a somewhat-disreputable hobby that ought not to affect or be brought to the attention of anyone who isn’t an active participant. (Compare laïcité, freedom of worship to the more-American no establishment of religion, freedom of religious exercise.)

  20. Well... says:

    Since it’s a culture war-permissive thread…

    Is there a war on Christmas? I’ve written my answer to this question at my blog. Curious to hear y’all’s thoughts. I’m especially interested if anyone can point to actual cases of bad things happening to explcit-Christmas-celebrators, “Merry Christmas”-wishers, nativity scene displayers, etc. (in the developed world, let’s say).

    My boring argument boils down to “depends how you define War on Christmas” and “I can understand why many say there isn’t one, but I can understand why many say there is.” In the end I urge those scoffing the idea to practice empathy.

    • rahien.din says:

      Arguendo : Christmas emerges victorious from The War on Christmas. Which December holidays would have been defeated?

      • Well... says:

        Answering that seemingly facetious question seriously, from an American perspective, I’d say that if Christmas emerges victorious from the war against it, what’s been defeated isn’t this or that other December holiday but the notion that other December holidays ought to be acknowledged equally by default–in a society where >90% (or something close to that percentage?) of people celebrate Christmas in December and no other religious holidays.

        Like, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” which plural holidays are they referring to? If I’m Joe Sixpack I celebrate Christmas. That’s it.

        “Seasons greetings” well that’s nice, but why are you greeting me this season and not the other three seasons? What’s so special about this season? Oh, right: it’s got Christmas in it.

        • albatross11 says:

          Happy Holidays could plausibly be Christmas + New Years (Christians) or Hanukkah + New Years. It could conceivably be Kwanzaa + New Years (non-Christian American blacks that celebrate Kwanzaa). Or maybe just New Years (eveyone else).

          • gbdub says:

            What percentage of African Americans actually celebrate Kwanzaa? What percentage actually celebrate it at the exclusion of Christmas?

            Oh hell, LMGTF myself – Wikipedia says it’s as low as 1-5%

          • Well... says:

            My black wife and her family think Kwanzaa is a joke.

            I have a lot of black friends. None of them take Kwanzaa seriously.

        • Quiet Lurker says:

          Like, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” which plural holidays are they referring to? If I’m Joe Sixpack I celebrate Christmas. That’s it.

          I’m pretty much Joe Sixpack and I always thought this was a weird argument.

          Where I grew up literally everyone (to my knowledge) was a Christian and I’m sure I remember everyone saying “Happy Holidays” or something almost identical to it. I always assumed it to mean the important winter holidays: Thanksgiving, New Years and, most importantly, Christmas.

          • Witness says:

            I’m with you here. When I was growing up “Happy Holidays” was just one of several ways to greet people in the winter months. And it didn’t seem weird at all – just about every “Merry Christmas’ was paired with a ‘Happy New Year’.

            Then I got older and some people started getting weird about it. Or maybe they were always weird about it and I just didn’t notice before, or they just got louder. I can only assume the Uruk Machine got to them.

          • Well... says:

            Well yeah, “Happy Holidays” didn’t take on this (perceived) flavor of “Because I’m enlightened and non-bigoted and multicultural enough to know that Well Actually Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated this month” until the War on Christmas became a thing. So I’m referring to that phrase in its current context.

        • Brad says:

          Although I am a Hanukkah celebrator, I have some sympathy with the war on Christmas narrative.

          There were all these people celebrating Christmas and having a grand old time. Some Jewish kids felt left out, so parents started digging into the very large catalog of obscure Jewish holidays (New Years for the Trees, anyone?) found Hanukkah and decided it was basically Jewish Christmas. Okay fair enough, why should those kids be left out.

          But to then go and insist that everyone treat your heretofore obscure holiday, with essentially zero religious significance, that 2% of the population celebrates, as if it were equally important as the actual #2 holiday of the majority religion, that 90+% of the population celebrates, seems somewhat unreasonable. That’s not even getting into Kwanzaa.

          • Well... says:

            Exactly. Exactly.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the “war on Christmas” discussion is ultimately about the distinction between religious[1] holidays vs civic ones.

            As an example, Catholics recently celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Non-Catholics were certainly welcome to the Mass that day, but really, it’s a feast day that matters to Catholics and maybe some Orthodox churches (I’m not sure), but not to much of anyone else. It’s a feast day that’s really pretty-much focused on a particular community. And this is partly about defining community membership.

            One way you can think about who is a serious vs not-so-serious Catholic is in terms of whether they bother showing up for the holy days of obligation that aren’t Easter or Christmas. Or whether they go to the optional celebrations that are important but aren’t mandatory. These are feast days, and even holidays, that are at least as much about exclusion (the only people who bother with them are believers or at least community members). The classic examples here in US / Western culture are Easter and Passover.

            By contrast, civic holidays are about inclusion–about appealing to as wide a range of people as possible. Independence day or New Year’s Day are purely secular affairs, and they are meant to bind together the whole society/nation, not just a specific community.

            The tension is that Christmas is an explicitly Christian holiday, but it has also been absorbed into US culture as an American civic holiday. There’s a tension between treating it like a Christian holiday (where non-Christians are excluded, not in a hostile way, but rather in the same way that Passover or Eids aren’t actually my holidays and aren’t really about me) or like a civic holiday (where everyone is invited, but then invited to a secular/civic thing involving pretty lights and decorated trees and fat guys in red suits, but not something that’s specific to Christians).

            The other tension there is in defining what we want the default US culture to look like.

            Perhaps in World #1, we have freedom of religion and no religious discrimination, but the default US culture is explicitly Christian–public events start with a Christian prayer, civic Christmas decorations involve Nativity scenes, etc.

            And in World #2, we have the same freedom or religion and lack of religious discrimination, but the default US culture is irreligious or even somewhat hostile to religion.

            That’s a sort-of classic bit of the culture war there. Commercial culture tends toward maximally inclusive/secular because that’s how you sell stuff to the most people; media culture in the US seems to me to be rather hostile to Christians who take their religion seriously for Blue Tribe/Red Tribe reasons and also because of the kind of people who end up in media.

            [1] Or maybe just “exclusive,” since you could imagine a holiday that didn’t get celebrated by most of the society but wasn’t about religion. If we celebrate Nielsday and Yuri’s Night, we’re being exclusive (most people don’t care) without an implied religious belief.

          • Well... says:

            @ albratross11:

            I think that summarizes it well.

            To expand on that second tension, it’s about people’s expectations as to whether American society is essentially Christian (or Christian by “default” as you said; that’s a good way of putting it).

            Many people remember American culture feeling fairly default-Christian most of their lives, and are uncomfortable with changes (in the last few decades?) that make it feel less so. This includes people who might not be serious Christians themselves but who nevertheless derive some kind of comfort or security from that particular form of cultural groundedness.

          • Civilis says:

            But to then go and insist that everyone treat your heretofore obscure holiday, with essentially zero religious significance, that 2% of the population celebrates, as if it were equally important as the actual #2 holiday of the majority religion, that 90+% of the population celebrates, seems somewhat unreasonable. That’s not even getting into Kwanzaa.

            I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently. It’s a relatively minor festival repurposed to cover up one or more traditional non-Christian celebrations.

            The flip side of this is that the values Christmas has come to represent are relatively universal in nature, such that some of the best-regarded cultural stories of Christmas are either only nominally Christian (Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer) or completely disconnected from Christian theology (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Despite being Catholic, my personal Christmas traditions include reading Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather the night before.

            Since it’s not possible to separate the religious and cultural institutions of Christmas, those citing a ‘War on Christmas’ cite the attempted forced banishment of the word ‘Christmas’ from the public sphere as an attack on everything in the package, including the underlying values.

          • Brad says:

            Just goes to show you what I don’t know. It seemed entirely reasonable to me that Christ was born would be #2 behind Christ was resurrected.

          • Randy M says:

            Your empathy is appreciated. In similar vein, while getting annoyed at anyone who hypothetically tells you to not say “Merry Christmas” seems pretty fair, getting annoyed at any who tells you “Happy Holidays” seems pretty grinchy itself.

          • I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently.

            Could you expand on that? It sounds as though the December 25th date was agreed on pretty early, and it was a prominent holiday by the high middle ages.

          • Civilis says:

            Could you expand on that? It sounds as though the December 25th date was agreed on pretty early, and it was a prominent holiday by the high middle ages.

            I’m a Catholic, so my experience is limited, but I understand that most of the Orthodox churches put a lot of the festivities associated in western Christianity with Christmas on other calendar days, most notably the Epiphany. As far as religious holidays, I would think Pentecost Sunday would be the most logical choice for the second most important from a purely religious standpoint. Ash Wednesday is also important, although given the nature of the day as the opening of the 40 days of sacrifice before Easter, it’s typically celebrated beforehand (Mardi Gras). Some cultures place a lot of emphasis on All Saints / All Souls, which, again, we celebrate beforehand (Halloween).

            Your empathy is appreciated. In similar vein, while getting annoyed at anyone who hypothetically tells you to not say “Merry Christmas” seems pretty fair, getting annoyed at any who tells you “Happy Holidays” seems pretty grinchy itself.

            I agree, and I’m certainly not going to complain about being wished ‘Happy Holidays’. It’s more a feeling that there’s no reason I should feel bad if I accidentally wish someone that doesn’t celebrate Christmas a ‘Merry Christmas’, nor is there a reason people should be forced into a cookie-cutter bland culture in their interactions with strangers.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Civilis

            While I generally approve of viewing “the past few centuries” as “relatively recently,” just how many hundreds of years are we talking about?

          • LewisT says:

            @Civilis

            I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently. It’s a relatively minor festival repurposed to cover up one or more traditional non-Christian celebrations.

            Not all that recently. Christmas is a late-comer, to be sure, but it was already being observed at the time of Augustine. Two hundred years later, the Second Council of Tours (c. 566) established the Twelve Days of Christmas and ordered an Advent fast. By the 11th century, the Advent fast was made mandatory throughout all of Western Christendom and was second in duration only to Lent. Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were both crowned on Christmas Day (800 and 1066), and we know with certainty that Christmas was the second-most important festival in the Christian calendar by the time of the Reformation. It’s been a major Christian holiday for at least the last ~1400 years, and it’s been just as important to Christians as it is today for at least the last ~700 years.

            I’m no expert on Judaism, but I don’t believe Hanukkah was celebrated nearly as widely in Judaism as Christmas was in Christianity until very recently.

          • Well... says:

            Hannukah wasn’t celebrated widely until the 1970s, in my understanding.

          • S_J says:

            I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently. It’s a relatively minor festival repurposed to cover up one or more traditional non-Christian celebrations.

            One of the oddities of the history of Christmas in the Anglosphere is that the holiday had become too much of a party. So certain sects of Christianity advocated against celebrating Christmas.

            One of these groups played an important part of the English Civil War. Since they were staunchly against the then-current role of the Catholic church in the Christian world, they pushed back heavily against many Catholic feasts and festivals…especially Christmas.

            Thus, when Oliver Cromwell was in-charge-of-English-government-but-not-King, his government tried to stamp out the celebration of Christmas.

            It wasn’t fully successful, but it downplay or suppress many of the older English customs of Christmas-time.

            Settlers in certain parts of New England–the ones who were closest to the Puritan tradition–also did not celebrate Christmas.

            Other settlers, especially those in Virginia and Pennsylvania, were fond celebrators of Christmas. (I can’t figure out if George Washington usually celebrated Christmas, but he did know how to crash a Christmas party that he wasn’t invited to…)

            During the 1800s, a revival of Christmas celebration came in the Anglospheric world. Parts of this happened when the Crown of England passed into the hands of the house of Hanover. Christmas customs from the German-speaking regions of Europe were celebrated by the Royal Family. These customs (Christmas trees among them) seeped out into the broader culture.

            Charles Dickens also did a good deal to increase the celebration of Christmas.

            This may be why Christmas appears to be very old, and very new, in the Anglospheric world.

          • Civilis says:

            Not all that recently. Christmas is a late-comer, to be sure, but it was already being observed at the time of Augustine. Two hundred years later, the Second Council of Tours (c. 566) established the Twelve Days of Christmas and ordered an Advent fast. By the 11th century, the Advent fast was made mandatory throughout all of Western Christendom and was second in duration only to Lent. Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were both crowned on Christmas Day (800 and 1066), and we know with certainty that Christmas was the second-most important festival in the Christian calendar by the time of the Reformation. It’s been a major Christian holiday for at least the last ~1400 years, and it’s been just as important to Christians as it is today for at least the last ~700 years.

            Always glad to learn something new. Looking into it, I think I get thrown off by the Puritan pushback against too much ‘Popery’, which notably included Cromwell banning Christmas and had assumed that that sentiment (pushing back against the showy feasts) was common among Protestant pushback against Catholicism. I saw the low point with the Puritans, without considering how important it was before that, or, for that matter, why it was pushed aside by the more Puritan sects in the first place. I also apologize for being overly literal in my reading of the initial piece; just as we don’t wish people a Merry Christmas only on December 25th, the Christmas season isn’t just Christmas Day itself.

            However, I think this is irrelevant to my original point. Whether or not Christmas was important a millennia ago, the modern holiday combines the traditional religious Nativity of our Lord with the barely-religious Santa Claus and the fundamentally secular stories of Scrooge (who I completely forgot to mention in the original post) and the Grinch. And despite being religious, I don’t mind the inclusion.

            Happy Chanukah, everyone.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Brad:

            “But to then go and insist that everyone treat your heretofore obscure holiday, with essentially zero religious significance, that 2% of the population celebrates, as if it were equally important as the actual #2 holiday of the majority religion, that 90+% of the population celebrates, seems somewhat unreasonable. That’s not even getting into Kwanzaa.”

            You’re not being asked to celebrate Chanukah, just acknowledge that it exists. I’m not sure if this is fair to your “treat as equally important”.

            As for the war on Christmas more generally, I think it depends on what you mean by Christmas. If you mean a holiday celebrating Jesus’ birth, then I think it’s not in any trouble. If you mean a holiday where people who celebrate Jesus’ birth feel as though they’re in a society which unanimously agrees with them– an experience which was an imprint for a lot of Americans– then it is being opposed.

            I find I have no trouble typing “Jesus’ birth”, but choke a bit at “Christ’s birth”. Is this just me? I feel as though I wasn’t exactly raised Jewish, I was raised Jewish-not-Christian.

          • Randy M says:

            the fundamentally secular stories of Scrooge

            Hmm… I think it would be more accurate to say the heterodox stories of Scrooge, unless the spirits are truly read to be “bits of undigested beef” or otherwise psychological.
            Because I don’t think secular has lots of room for sentient spirits.

          • beleester says:

            “95% of people celebrate Christmas” can also be read as “5% of people don’t.” Which can in turn be read as “1 in 20 times you wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas,’ they’ll give you a weird look and wish you a ‘Chag Sameach’ in return.”

            (Or something similarly awkward, like “Um, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but… thanks?”)

            That’s a pretty low rate if you only need to send season’s greetings to your friends, but if you’re working retail and talking to dozens of people a day, this is going to be a daily source of awkwardness for you. Even at low rates of other religions, I think it’s pretty reasonable for a company to prefer “Happy whatever-it-is-you’re-celebrating”, or as we usually abbreviate it, “Happy Holidays.”

            Point being, just because something is rare for an individual doesn’t mean it can’t happen frequently at the institutional level.

          • tgb says:

            @albatross11 I disagree – if I understand your argument, it would imply that we should expect fervent Christians to be backing the War on Christmas. Instead, it is the opposite. Your argument seems to be that the War on Christmas is trying to make Christmas back into a purely religious holiday and NOT the de facto civic holiday it has become, and the people who would benefit from that are the people for whom Christmas-as-a-religious-holiday would increase in-group ties. Those are the most religious and, in reality, those who are most against the War on Christmas.

            On the other hand, I agree that the War on Christmas is about religious vs. civic holidays and whether religious holidays ought to be part of the ‘default culture’ of the US.

          • skef says:

            Your argument seems to be that the War on Christmas is trying to make Christmas back into a purely religious holiday and NOT the de facto civic holiday it has become, and the people who would benefit from that are the people for whom Christmas-as-a-religious-holiday would increase in-group ties.

            I don’t read albatross11 as saying this. I think he’s referring to the tension foregrounded by cultural discussion of the holiday as an important Christian holiday. Basically: for a while it was a working civic holiday because people, including marginally or nonreligious people, were doing Christmas-y stuff without thinking about it too hard. Now that the Christian link is more in people’s minds it works less well as a civic holiday.

          • lvlln says:

            “95% of people celebrate Christmas” can also be read as “5% of people don’t.” Which can in turn be read as “1 in 20 times you wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas,’ they’ll give you a weird look and wish you a ‘Chag Sameach’ in return.”

            (Or something similarly awkward, like “Um, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but… thanks?”)

            I don’t really say “Merry Christmas” other than on 12/25 or during events that are specifically for Christmas, so don’t really have much experience with people’s reactions to being told “Merry Christmas,” but is that really the expected common or typical reaction from people who don’t celebrate Christmas? I do celebrate Christmas secularly, so perhaps I have a hard time putting myself into that frame of mind. I imagine that if someone told me, say, “Happy Hannukah” (I don’t celebrate Hannukah) I would just smile and continue on my way without feeling any awkwardness or offense. Especially if I was in a country where some supermajority of people celebrated Hannukah.

            I do think it makes sense for many companies to use “Happy Holidays” as a standard, in order not to piss off potential customers who find “Merry Christmas” offensive, but I also think it probably makes sense for many companies to use “Merry Christmas,” in order not to piss off potential customers who find NOT “Merry Christmas” offensive. It would have to depend largely on their potential customer base.

          • Brad says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            I do celebrate Hanukkah. That aside, in terms equally important vs acknowledging that it exsits: how about an analogy?

            Suppose that someone at your office was retiring after 30 years with the company. The company was throwing a party, coworkers bought presents and so on. As the party is being thrown you go around loudly insisting that it is also your third full year of sobriety and everyone should acknowledge that that too is an important milestone worth celebrating and that people should mention both when they talk about what the party is for. Would that be more insisting on equal importance or acknowledging existence?

            Also, we don’t go around insisting that people acknowledge the existence of Log B’Omer or Tu Beshvat or even Shavuot.

            P.S. I think I’d have a similar reaction to you if I were to type out ‘the Messiah’s birth’. For whatever reason the Greek version is different, I think of it as a last name even though I know it isn’t.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M:

            I can see “A Christmas Carol” as secular because the message is “be kind to poor people because it’s the decent thing to do” rather than “be kind to poor people because it’s what God wants”.

            It’s secular, even the the Christmas ghosts make it not materialist.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I thought the moral was “be kind to poor people or else you’ll be tortured for eternity after you die.”

          • baconbacon says:

            The moral of “A Christmas Carol” is that Scrooge is in a hell of his own making already. The first two ghosts show him poor, but happy people, while he is miserable and rich. The third one shows him that he still cares for people and for himself. It’s the opposite of Sartre, hell isn’t other people, hell is the absence of other people.

        • rahien.din says:

          the notion that other December holidays ought to be acknowledged equally by default

          I can see why you find this to be nonsensical or antidemocratic. But why is it a War?

          • Well... says:

            I think people take it kind of personal, and understandably so. Christmas is a pretty huge marker of Christendom, Westernness, etc. and it has its place in Americana too. “War” is probably a hyperbole that serves to draw attention to the issue or is a reflection of people’s emotions, or both. To many people it might even feel like a coordinated assault.

        • A1987dM says:

          FWIW, in Italy “happy holidays” is perfectly normal even among groups entirely composed of Catholics and has always been for as long as I can remember, because it includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day (i.e. Boxing Day), the Feast of the Holy Family (i.e. the first Sunday after Christmas, does it even have any particular secular name?), St Sylvester’s Day (i.e. New Year’s Eve), the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (i.e. New Year’s Day), the Epiphany, and possibly a few others I’m forgetting. (School children have two weeks off, at least from 24 December to 6 January plus sometimes one or two days at the beginning and/or the end in order not to e.g. end school on Monday or start school again on Friday.)

          • Deiseach says:

            it includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day (i.e. Boxing Day), the Feast of the Holy Family (i.e. the first Sunday after Christmas, does it even have any particular secular name?), St Sylvester’s Day (i.e. New Year’s Eve), the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (i.e. New Year’s Day), the Epiphany

            Those are the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, because liturgically Christmastide does not begin until Christmas Day (up to then, we’re still in Advent).

            Secular Christmas gets celebrated from the start of December up to Christmas Day, and then nothing more. If I’m being extra-cynical, I’d say it gets celebrated as the shopping season from Black Friday (yes, that and ‘Cyber Monday’ have percolated over to this side of the Atlantic) to the ‘January’ (now starting on the 27th of December) Sales.

          • Nick says:

            (yes, that and ‘Cyber Monday’ have percolated over to this side of the Atlantic)

            You’re welcome. 😀

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Like, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” which plural holidays are they referring to? If I’m Joe Sixpack I celebrate Christmas. That’s it.

          The standard greeting in England (majority of the population claim to be Christian but attend church maybe once or twice a year) is “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year“. That’s two holidays.

    • rahien.din says:

      I should state my position.

      I guess I view “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” in the same light as handicapped parking spaces. They decrease the convenience of my daily life, they serve in part to point out disparities which I don’t really want to confront, and they are sometimes very blatantly misused. But on the whole I am glad they exist.

    • skef says:

      I grew up atheist. (Not in the “we’re atheists!” sense, but in the sense that when I put it together that other people had spiritual beliefs and asked my mother about it, she said something that amounted to “yeah, we don’t believe in that kind of thing.”) We celebrated Christmas with a tree and presents. Some years I even remember caroling, so I’ve also expressed any number of Christian sentiments without thinking about it. Santa Claus figures into this picture as the putative source of (some of) the presents.

      I currently have two strings of lights up in my place right now, and some years I do a tree.

      Like a lot of people, what I celebrate in December amounts to a bunch of the sort of pagan stuff European Christianity soaked up into its Christmas celebration, re-distilled away from any spirituality, Christian, pagan, or otherwise. It seems particularly attuned to cold weather, although that appearance may just be a cultural association.

      It seems to me that what has happened is that this sort of quasi-secular Christmas has suffered a bit from its own internal contradictions. It’s reasonably good for some atheists and many of those who are spiritual-NOS. It’s less good for people of any other religious background, including Christians, for whom it emphasizes all the wrong things. Practicing Jews have their own exhausting calendar, thank you very much. I don’t know the contemporary Islamic take on Christmas so I won’t speak to it.

      The “solution” to these contradictions has basically been to change the name, or rather to remove the name and celebrate an anonymous “holiday” among others. Go to the mall: all the same decorations are there. Most of the actual changes in behavior have to do with the stuff that has always been kind of weird. Yes, having kids sing “Christ this” and “Christ that” in public schools doesn’t really fly anymore. It only flew before because no one was thinking much about what they were saying.

  21. johan_larson says:

    I think we can all agree that the twentieth century had some problems. Several episodes that caused the deaths of millions seem like they could have been avoided with a bit of forethought.

    But what if they weren’t? What if the twentieth century in all its horror and glory was pretty much the best case scenario, the product of hundreds of iterations of intervention by benevolent external agents (such as time travellers). They tried their best to make things better before settling on the history we know as the best realistically possible scenario.

    That suggests that all the bad things in our timeline is either justified by some greater good that they enabled or some greater evil they allowed us to avoid. But what in the world might those greater goods and greater evils be?

    The only thing that comes to mind (on the greater-evil side of the ledger) is large-scale nuclear war. As you may remember, we didn’t have one of those.

    Any other possibilities?

    • Björn says:

      Leibniz argued something like that to explain why God lets evil exist in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_all_possible_worlds

      I think it’s a problematic idea to take all possible histories and to order them how bad they are. I mean, how to you argue which history is worse then another. If one has countless massacres and the other doesn’t, it’s easy, but there will always happen bad things, so one would have to compare them directly, and compiling a “worst of genocide” list is always a stupid idea.

    • SamChevre says:

      There’s a story about that. Timely Intervention, by Doug Muder (yes, Red Families Blue Families Doug Muder.) I like several of the other stories on the page, especially the Mike deSalvo stories.

    • rahien.din says:

      Maybe, a la Answer to Job, the relationship isn’t as direct as you may be suggesting. Maybe this isn’t the best-case-scenario, but one of innumerable overall-good-case-scenarios, in which evil is permitted because it does not overwhelm all the good, in order that the overall amount of goodness is maximized, rather than evil being justified by resulting in a greater good.

      Evil isn’t work or effort or investment. Evil is simply evil.

    • baconbacon says:

      Several episodes that caused the deaths of millions seem like they could have been avoided with a bit of forethought.

      Which events do you think could have been avoided with forethought?

    • albatross11 says:

      johan:

      If this theory were true, I think it would lead to a prediction: More evil will be allowed in the world as God faces more constraints. Civilization-destroying nuclear war or human-extinguishing engineered plagues are both things possible in the 20th/21st century, but not in the 18th century, and they’re so horrible that God might have to accept a lot of bad outcomes to avoid them.

      On the other hand, the same technological/social/economic progress that made these dangers possible also made it possible to pull most of the world out of poverty, eliminate Smallpox, etc. So you might be seeing a kind of balance–on one side, avoiding destruction, on the other side, using tools related to the ones that might end humanity to max out their well-being.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Large scale conventional wars with tech well beyond 1945.

  22. ManyCookies says:

    Quick terminology question: is just-so the same as unfalsifiable, or am I missing a subtlety?

    • Anatoly says:

      I would define “just-so” as “superficially plausible, yet missing the evidence required to make up a serious or compelling argument”. This may overlap with unfalsifiable, but usually does not.

      An unfalsifiable argument may not be a just-so story when it doesn’t sound superficially plausible, e.g. the explanation “the world was created 6000 years ago by God in such a way that it looks precisely as if it existed for billions of years, with fossils already in the ground, photons in space as if they travelled millions of years from their stars etc. etc.” is unfalsifiable but not a just-so story.

      A just-so story is usually falsifiable, it’s just hard to do, e.g. “humans do X because our ancestors in the savannah found X useful for these reasons” is falsifiable by a more careful analysis which human societies do X, whether in fact X was practiced in the savannah, the whole evo-psych explanatory framework might be susceptible to attack, etc.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think of just-so stories[1] as stories constructed by the process:

        a. Observe what is there.

        b. Spin out a plausible tale about how it might have happened.

        This isn’t inherently wrong, but it doesn’t leave you any way to find out whether you’re right or not. Because you started from the observations and then pieced together a story about it, your story will always be consistent with your observations. So the fact that you can construct a convincing story for how something might have happened, after the fact, doesn’t tell me whether your convincing story is true or not.

        [1] I assume named after the Kipling stories (stuff like “How the Camel Got Its Hump”).

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Agreed. I’ve always connected it to the Sequence idea of privileging the hypothesis–you’re picking one possible explanation without any real indication that it’s in any way special among the set of possible explanations.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy is also related. To me, the core of the idea of a just-so story is the feeling a listener gets that, if the speaker believed ~X to be the case instead of X, he would give you just as glib an “explanation” of how the same set of data accounts for ~X.

      • lvlln says:

        I think Anatoly nailed it. A narrative that is plausible given the evidence, but for which there is no particular support over other narratives. It’s usually falsifiable, but it hasn’t been falsified because extra evidence would be required to falsify it. And I think often the fact that the narrative hasn’t been falsified is invoked as support for the narrative being true, even though all it supports is that the narrative isn’t yet definitively known to be false.

    • Well... says:

      I think of just-so as something that supports one’s own argument without addressing any (or enough) counter-arguments.

      • Well... says:

        Like for example, an argument in favor of welfare or minimum wage hikes or whatever that uses an anecdote about a hard-working single mom who deserves a break, her kids are smart and would really blossom if their mom didn’t have to work so much and could help them more with their homework, etc.

        The anecdote doesn’t address any of the counterarguments, and if it does it has a handy one-off excuse that works for the anecdote but not as a general way to address the counterarguments.

    • gbdub says:

      I was under the impression that “just-so” was a pejorative crafted specifically for overzealous applications of evopsych. The name is a reference to Kipling’s “Just-So Stories”, a collection for fanciful tales about how, e.g. the leopard got his spots.

      So if an argument sounds like it would work as an etiological myth, it’s probably just-so.

      I think “unfalsifiable” is probably not right, more like “unverifiable”.

  23. WashedOut says:

    State your profession, followed by the most exciting sub-field of work or inquiry for you at the moment.

    I am a consulting geotechnical engineer. It is my responsibility to investigate and assess ground conditions in terms of the strength of soils and rock mass to support infrastructure and mining.

    What’s really blowing my hair back currently is slope stability modelling using probabilistic inputs for soil strengths, and estimating Probability of Failure rather than the classical notion of engineering Factor of Safety. The interesting this about this is actually the data analysis/interpretation stage. As you can imagine, statistical soil properties soil are encumbered with big problems of spatio-temporal heterogeneity, sample disturbance, (un)reliability of empirical correlations, etc. etc. Optimizing a ground investigation programme for low cost/efficient data collection is a fun challenge.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m a “software engineer”. Sorry, there’s nothing exciting in the field; it’s all a grind. What interesting stuff there is all gets done by well-connected PhDs and PhD students who never manage to get a product out. The work which gets products put out is basically dealing with corner case after corner case in legacy code bases (code is “legacy” immediately upon commit), not to mention the inevitable last minute changes in direction and scope. And there’s always someone who wants to bikeshed about variable names or something, usually right before a release deadline. Many capable programmers, seeing this, simply go off to play in the shangri-la of new programming languages, either fashionable things like Rust or Haskell, or in really advanced cases, they write their own language when they should be writing the 9934th test case for the 20 lines of code they wrote last week.

      • WashedOut says:

        Thanks for the laugh! What is the attitude towards/level of interest in Wolfram products in your field?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m a great fan of incandescent light bulbs and I hope the ban against them is finally for-real repealed… oh, you meant the other Wolfram. Haven’t had much contact with them in my part of the field.

      • johan_larson says:

        If it’s all grind all the time, you need to find yourself a younger project. It will have less accumulated cruft, so you can design and build big slabs of functionality, rather than carefully carving little puzzle pieces that fit between untouchable existing features.

        But yeah, there’s a lot of grind. Most work, most of the time, is not cool. Spending even 10% of your time on cool stuff is a lot.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Agreed, but older projects tend to make more use of this arcane financial instrument called “actually selling a product to consumers”

      • Iain says:

        Rust may be a new programming language, but it is shipping real code. I work on a codebase that would have been right in Rust’s wheelhouse if Rust had been a viable option fifteen years ago, and I feel strongly that Rust is a significant improvement over C++ for systems programming.

      • Garrett says:

        At my last job, whenever somebody referenced our vaguely-enforced style guide on line length limitations I’d respond with a link to NewEgg or Amazon for a 132-column printer, pointing out that this has been an obsolete requirement for almost 40 years now.

        At my current job, I’m afraid to have a sense of humor.

        • gbdub says:

          I’m not sure how to write a standard that says “80 characters, but if that’s obviously stupid up to ~100 is fine” but it would be nice if I could.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This is a bad standard, because that sort of formatting should be handled automatically. Only way I know to significantly reduce such arguments.

          • gbdub says:

            Not sure how you would automate, given that by “obviously stupid” I meant “cases that applying the firm rule to result in reduced readability in most actual use applications”, which is fairly subjective.

        • bzium says:

          Isn’t readability the reason to keep your lines short? Sending people links to printers sounds like a bit of a non-sequitur.

          • johan_larson says:

            Readability in what context? 24-inch displays are commonplace now. We’re not coding on VT-100s any more.

            I’ve worked at a place that had a strict 80-character rule, and meeting that requirement was a real pain. I’d often have to break up lines in contrived ways, particularly after four or five levels of indentation.

            I believe in code review, and readability is a proper concern when doing it. Very long lines are a hindrance to readability, and should be addressed with that in mind as part of code review. But a strict limit on line lengths is more trouble than it is worth, and sometimes actually detracts from readability.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is a readability tradeoff between line length and variable naming conventions — generally the more readable your variable names are, the more space they take up. The issue gets particularly acute in heavily templated C++ (a bad idea for readability anyway, but still common) or for the verbose callback semantics used by many languages.

          • pontifex says:

            I hate this meme that’s going around that line length limits are obsolete.

            Have you people ever heard of a “laptop”? Or a “cell phone”? Both devices where reading super-long lines is painful. Both came out some time after the VT-100, or so I am told.

            And no, small font sizes or scrolling are not an option for me. I’m old, and grumpy. >:|

    • CatCube says:

      Are they working up to compatibility with LRFD or Ultimate Strength Design as used for everything above the footings? That’d be cool. Then if we can get the damn mechanical engineers on board we can design most of our systems to a known reliability, rather than using the same FS for dead and live loads.

      I can see that you’ll still have some pretty low resistance factors on soils just due to the inherent uncertainty. I mean, if you had Jesus with you on a jobsite and asked Him for the subgrade properties, He’s going to give you a range of values.

      • WashedOut says:

        Load and Resistance Factor Design – for pile foundation assessments, offshore platform bearing capacity stuff, most vanilla geotech for structural applications – yes. For mining – no.

        The problem with presenting your stability assessment in terms of Reliability Index is that you are basically saying “Congratulations Mr Asset Manager, your asset is 3-sigma away from failure, which we think is satisfactory.” At which point the client has to a) grapple with a probability and b) check with his insurer about whether he will still be covered if he accepts this risk.

        As for what Jesus would do: he would simply smile and remind us that a contractive soil will always fail in an undrained manner. I swear if I see another engineer assign drained frictional properties to a loose silt im going to join a militia.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I’m a glass chemist. My specialty is the structural characterization of glass: determining the “molecular” arrangements of the various components of the glass in question, and relating that to various different properties, including strength, hardness, optical transmission, non-linear optical, chemical durability, and many others.

      The coolest thing in my field right now, in my opinion, is the concept of single crystal writing in bulk glass. A defining property of a glass is that a glass is structurally disordered. Conversely, a single crystal is (nearly) perfectly ordered, with some tolerance for slight defects.

      For some glass compositions (e.g. Sb2S3), you can use a laser to “write” single crystal lines into a glass. These lines are a) of arbitrary length, b) of arbitrary 3D geometry, and c) a single crystal despite the significant length scales involved. This is fascinating! The glass is undergoing a solid-solid phase transition from a disordered state to a (nearly) perfectly ordered state. The study of this has significant implications, both practically (these single-crystal architectures could be useful for a number of purposes) and fundamentally (data on the nature of the transition between glass and crystal).

      Further reading: Savytskii et. al., Rotating lattice single crystal architecture on the surface of glass, Sci. Rep., 2016

      • Aapje says:

        Your comment inspired me to share these links:

        Cool video about Prince Rupert’s Drops (tadpole-shaped droplets created by dropping molted glass in water and which have special properties).

        One of the common ways in which red tribe Americans investigate material properties is by firing bullets at something, very interesting what happens.

        Dutch scientist Constantijn Huygens at one point asked the English scientist Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, to investigate the properties of the drops. She did a bunch of experiments. Margaret Cavendish is also the writer of a novel that some consider one of the earliest examples of (proto-)science fiction, The Blazing World (published in 1666).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          At 5:29, there’s an instance where the bullet shatters the drop, and then the tail disintegrates starting with the far end.

    • Well... says:

      As you can imagine, statistical soil properties soil are encumbered with big problems of spatio-temporal heterogeneity, sample disturbance, (un)reliability of empirical correlations, etc. etc.

      I have no formal background in engineering or any other STEM field, but if I can unpack your jargon then yes, I think I can imagine! Let me make sure I’m doing it right:

      spatio-temporal heterogeneity – Over time soil in various parts of the area becomes different. Maybe it compacts differently, maybe it gets added sequentially from different sources, etc. So a given site might have a mix of soils, of different ages, each with its own properties. This will complicate the overall statistical model of the soil at that site.

      sample disturbance – This either means parts of the site itself are being disturbed leading to the possibility that samples taken from this or that spot are not in fact representative and therefore produce bad data, or that the samples under analysis are tampered with and therefore produce bad data. I suspect it means something closer to the former.

      (un)reliability of empirical correlations – Essentially this boils down to “the models used for the statistical analysis are unproven and sometimes produce inconsistent results.”

      Yeah, I could see this being a fun challenge. Basically a game of “fix the model” but by looking at the whole interdisciplinary chain from sedimentology through equipment through statistics?

      • CatCube says:

        Essentially this boils down to “the models used for the statistical analysis are unproven and sometimes produce inconsistent results

        Part of the issues with geotechnical engineering are that many of the equations don’t have theoretical support. That is, we have an equation that seems to fit the data, but we can’t derive it from first principles. I mean, take a falling body. The equations for that *do* fit the data, but they can also get the equation by mathematical derivation from Newton’s laws.

        Soils, in many cases, don’t have that. I’m structural, so not up on the geotech state of the art, but I recall than fine-grained soils (silts and clays) were especially prone to this. Basically, they fit a curve to particular properties, often with fudge factors that depend on soil type. These work well enough for design, but the scatter is a lot wider than you’ll see in most other engineering.

    • Loquat says:

      I’m an insurance agent, specializing in (American) Medicare-related health insurance plans. I don’t think anything going on there qualifies as exciting, but I do find it interesting that the “Donut Hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage is scheduled to close in a little over 2 years. (It’s mostly closed now, which means you don’t pay full price in the gap but instead a percentage.)

      Basically, medicare drug coverage was originally designed like this:
      1. You have an annual deductible, and pay full price until you meet it.
      2. Then your plan starts paying 75% of the cost of your drugs, with you paying 25%.
      3. But if your total annual costs go over a certain threshold, you fall in the gap and pay full price again.
      4. But then if your annual out-of-pocket costs go over another threshold, you leave the gap and go into catastrophic coverage where you pay only 5%.

      But most people don’t know or want to have to know the actual price of their drugs so they can keep track of the 25% or progress towards the gap, so most plans replace step 2 with an arrangement where most drugs get assigned flat copays and only a few drugs have you pay a percentage, but for those few it can be as high as 45-50%, so right now with the gap mostly closed people taking those drugs actually see lower costs in the gap, which is kinda nuts.

      Overall, though, most people who go in the gap still see their costs go up noticeably, so flat-out removing step 3 from the above will be a net win for Medicare recipients with serious drug costs. Now, if only they’d consider adding a hard annual out-of-pocket limit…

      • WashedOut says:

        Interesting. What’s the annual cost of a decent health insurance policy in USA? How much state-to-state variance is there, and what drives this variance?

        • Loquat says:

          To your first question: our system is a ridiculous hodgepodge such that the answer varies widely depending on the personal circumstances of the person seeking to buy the insurance.

          In my specialty, Medicare, which is a government program reserved for the elderly and the seriously disabled, the typical individual has to pay a premium to the government of $1,608 annually (though they may be required to pay more if their income is above a certain threshold), and must purchase prescription drug coverage separately at an average annual premium of roughly $400. These costs are artificially low, though, because the government subsidizes the coverage. A full coverage Medicare Supplement, which pays the sometimes substantial out-of-pocket costs Medicare leaves the individual to pay, can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or more, depending on what state it’s in, the age of the covered person, whether the plan will automatically raise its rates as the person gets older, etc.

          For persons who do not qualify for Medicare, group coverage through an employer is generally the most desirable option. Looking at my own employer, a mid-range plan (deductible under $2,000) for a single person would cost about $6,540 per year, but for tax purposes around $5,000 of that is paid directly by the employer and not officially considered a payment made by the covered person. If employer coverage is not an option, you’re probably stuck with the individual market where there’s been a lot of chatter lately about premiums being in a death spiral. “Silver” plans seem to range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or more, which you might think is comparable to my employer’s cost except that as an individual purchaser you have to pay the whole premium yourself, so the cost is a lot more visible. Lots of people on the individual plans do qualify for government premium subsidies, though.

          State-to-state variance… some of it is differences in how much care insurers expect their policyholders to use, and some of it is different levels of state regulation. I don’t know enough about the non-Medicare market to really address this in detail.

  24. nfeltman says:

    It looks like Vox took Scott’s advice

  25. pontifex says:

    Star Wars is obviously a parable about neo-reaktionry politics.

    The good guys in the original movies are all either royalty (Princess Leia), or a small group of elite, unelected knights defending the traditions of the realm (Obi Wan, etc.) Democratically elected politicans are portrayed as either evil and self-serving (Senator Palpatine) or incompetent and laughable (Jar Jar Binks.) Yes, Jar Jar was a politican– look it up!

    The Republic is portrayed as corrupt and evil. Because it’s become so big and centralized, it’s bound to be bad. Instead, society should be organized as a loose patchwork of independent states (like the Rebels). The government on most worlds has become so politically correct and left-leaning that it refuses to even protect the citizens against being kidnapped by Sand People. Most cities we see look like the bad parts of San Francisco. You can imagine the smell. And do I even need to mention the cantina scene and how it portrays multiculturalism?

    When Luke needs enlightenment, who does he turn to? Yoda, a former Libertarian who accidentally dyed himself green by taking unlicensed medications to increase his midichlorian count. Yoda has achieved reaktinary enlightenment and now hides out from the Cathedral on a swamp planet.

    Clearly, it all makes sense now! I never knew Lucas was such a crazy guy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Tatooine wasn’t left-leaning, it was ancap. Only the Huts had pretty much cornered most of the markets.

    • Nornagest says:

      Cute, but I think the only world we see in the Old Republic that doesn’t have substantial autonomy already is Coruscant, which is the capital. The Trade Federation guys are obvious. The world raising the clones seems to be running its own show. Naboo has a queen. Tattooine is basically 19th-century Sicily with more sand.

      • baconbacon says:

        Tattooine is basically 19th-century Sicily with more sand.

        And almost exactly the same number of Jedi, its eerie.

  26. littskad says:

    There’s been a bit of a controversy brewing the past couple weeks on Language Log. It started when Geoffrey Pullum put up a post about singular they (A letter saying they won) in which he noted that in his personal grammar, he’s arrived at the point that, for him, it’s grammatical to use singular they for an indefinite person, but not yet for a specific person. His post included the sentence: “It turns out that Phillip Garcia’s profile reveals that he is — sorry, that they are — one of the opponents of gender binarity whose own choice is that they would prefer to be referred to with the pronoun they all the time.”

    This sentence raised quite the shitstorm. Pullum followed it up with a post (Courtesy and personal pronoun choice) where he pushed back against people accusing him of trans- and other assorted -phobias for merely noting that internal grammars are really difficult to change and that, despite his own wishes, this is going to be a struggle for him, but he also strenuously objected to this “most extreme manifestation of prescriptivist Stalinism I have ever encountered.”

    This, unsurprisingly, didn’t suffice. There have been two replies posted by Eric Bakovic (If you can’t say something nice… and On when listening is better than talking: A call for contemplation and empathy). These latter two had comments open for a little while (although they were clearly heavily moderated), while Pullum’s posts, as is customary for him, never had comments open.

    I find a lot of the rhetoric around this pretty unfortunate. This issue has never come up for me personally, so I don’t actually know how much effort I’d be willing to put forth, but I honestly believe I’d try. However, if every slip up is going to be greeted with accusations of being hurtful, and requirements to listen to long lectures about the pecking orders of various groups’ relative power and privilege, I don’t know how long my efforts would last. I also don’t think it’s very helpful to blame an unwillingness to listen to these sorts of lectures on “feeling defensive”, as Eric Bakovic does, and to label anyone who disagrees with the party line as simply not “willing to listen and learn”.

    I guess what I really object to is the insistence that, because these issues are extremely important to some people, they should get to require that they become extremely important to me, too, alongside every other small group’s extremely important issues.

    • skef says:

      One of the things in the background of this particular controversy is the problem of people who find X easy to remember and apply not grasping how other people might find X difficult.

      Another solution for X is foreign language requirements in grad programs (which are, admittedly, mostly dying out). People who pick up a new language without too much difficulty are often quick to make this or that argument for why doing so is valuable and important, even when the level of understanding actually required of students (because it’s much harder for some people) isn’t good for much.

      Some people seem to find it easy, and even enjoyable, to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. I find this completely mystifying. I can reflect on grammar, and certainly do some of that when editing. But in real time?

      Pullum made a rhetorical mistake by purposely writing and lamp-shading that “correction”. But people are using that flub to grandstand and ignore the underlying point.

      All these isolated demands for Utopia …

      • Creutzer says:

        Some people seem to find it easy, and even enjoyable, to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. I find this completely mystifying. I can reflect on grammar, and certainly do some of that when editing. But in real time?

        You’re misunderstanding what’s going on. Nobody finds it easy to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. You can only speak once you have acquired the ability to automatically apply them without conscious attention – you need to turn the declarative knowledge of the grammar into procedural knowledge. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle or play an instrument – quite literally, if some neurolinguistic studies are to be believed.

        For some reason, some people seem to find it easier to automatise these rules than others. Indeed, some seem to acquire the procedural knowledge without even going through declarative knowledge at all. In addition, there is known individual variation in auditory processing – some people have a much easier time learning to segment an auditory stream in a foreign language. This is a very important contributor to ease of language learning.

        • albatross11 says:

          Also, it’s very common to use which set of grammatical rules you have internalized as a class marker.

        • skef says:

          You’re misunderstanding what’s going on. Nobody finds it easy to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. You can only speak once you have acquired the ability to automatically apply them without conscious attention

          This third sentence is certainly true, but that fact does not secure the truth of the second.

          When I read, for example, David Foster Wallace on grammar (or DFW on his mother on grammar), it seems to me that what they describe is a kind of enjoyment in imposing a small number of corrective rules that they are at least semi-conscious of on top of the normal subliminal language generation capacities. As long as that set is small enough, I don’t see why doing so would be impossible for a human, or why it couldn’t be something some people are better at than others.

          So basically I grant that the bulk of language generation is sub-conscious, and for your claim that no one does anything other than that add: citation needed.

          • Creutzer says:

            I was being sloppy in my formulation. What I meant to say is that nobody who is good at learning foreign languages is so in virtue of being good at consciously using rules, because nobody speaks a foreign language that way. Nobody is fast enough at consciously applying such rules in order to generate more than simple and very halting speech. Writing is a different matter entirely – it’s perfectly possible to write in a language whose rules you know only consciously, but haven’t automatised.

          • skef says:

            I expect that’s true. It seems to me that the biggest differentiating factor in ease of language acquisition is a particular kind of memory. I’m good at remembering things that are (somewhat mysteriously) tied into a some kind of structure, but bad with isolated facts. So the word in French for A or even worse the gender of A in French seems to be no big problem for some people even when many As are involved, but really hard for me. (I’m also terrible at remembering names.)

            So it’s a different skill, but leads to the same sort of “why not just have everyone do this” sort of assessment on the part of some people who can do it easily.

    • Brad says:

      The first post (If you can’t say …) seemed fine to me. A little on the nasty side, sure, but mostly on the topic of linguistics. The second one ( On when listening is …) had no business being posted there. Or anywhere, maybe, but certainly not there.

    • baconbacon says:

      This makes me feel old at 38. My memory of social activism from 20 years ago was that it was heavily focused on “treat us like individuals, not based on our race/sexual orientation” ie “I’m a woman who is black, not a black woman”. Nowadays (now that word makes me feel very old), reading the linked articles and some of the pieces linked in those it sounds like this whole approach has been scrapped and it is about wanting to be treated differently based on the group you identify with. It is a weird switch.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I’m not even 30 and I agree. It’s like everyone is gleefully throwing in the rubbish bin all the lessons from preschool about how to get along.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If being labeled as part of a group gets you discriminated against, demand to be treated as an individual. If that group identity gets you special privileges, demand to be treated as part of the group.

        • gbdub says:

          Identity politics works until straight white folks start wanting an identity. Perhaps if you could manage to split up white Christians along some sort of identity lines, but that’s been either untried or unsuccessful. Socioeconomic class and nationalism was the best effort, but that’s been abandoned outside the Bernie bros.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I suppose it is true that there are two replies “posted by Eric Baković,” in the sense that he has used his privilege of posting to exercise editorial control, but I think it worth clarifying that he is not the author of the first, nor the sole author of the second. This is relevant to their differences, indeed, the very reason both exist.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I would agree… English works fine with all sorts of violations of agreement in number, but a singular “they” referring to a specific person doesn’t work; it’s jarring. However, as a compromise, I will be willing to try to use “they” if the person in question does indeed carry a live mouse around in their pocket; effort for effort. Otherwise it’s a tax on me (and everyone else) for their oddity. I do in fact know someone who demands “they”. I avoid referring to them at all. (Note this post works because “someone” is indefinite).

      • CatCube says:

        I will be willing to try to use “they” if the person in question does indeed carry a live mouse around in their pocket; effort for effort.

        I’m going to steal this and file off the serial numbers.

      • Nornagest says:

        Minsc and Boo stand ready.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t have a problem with the singular they. It may be a matter of regional variation.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I have also been known to write “themself” even though I find it as little weird because I feel as though I might as well be consistent.

          • Nick says:

            I’d considered mentioning “themself,” but hadn’t found a good place to. I’ve seen it too, and it’s the best example to me of oddities resulting from singular they. I think “themselves” is definitely the better option; if your verbs and possessives are going to agree in number, your reflexive pronouns might as well too.

    • outis says:

      It’s pretty funny that “prescriptivism” was linguistics’s own Satan (though a Satan made of straw, often) for the longest time, and now suddenly the progressive thing to do is to embrace this unilaterally prescribed innovation. It was always clear to me that the universal embrace of “descriptivism” was purely based on what was politically expedient, but the sudden reversal really makes it blatant. I mean, people will openly tell you that the right solution to these issues is to rewrite the grammars and style guides so as to change the language.

      It’s just another example of how nobody has any principles ever. Every single position, down to something as marginal and nerdy and the choice of linguistic ideology, is chosen on the sole basis of which group it seems to benefit. I said it was funny, but it’s actually despair-inducing.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I do sometimes spend time with people who go by singular ‘they’, and I too find that it doesn’t feel like part of my grammar like ‘they’ referring to a non-specified person does. On the other hand, some clearly recent constructions (such as the odd positioning of ‘even’ in ‘What even is that?’) seem to have become part of my normal way of speaking. Not sure what to make of that.

      • Loquat says:

        I feel the same way about both of those things – singular ‘they’ feels intensely wrong when I’m referring to a specific known person, while “what even is that?” feels perfectly normal.

        In the latter case, I feel like my internal grammar enforcer is ok with it because it was already acceptable to use “even” as an intensifier before other verbs – ‘what does that even mean?’ or ‘what do you even do around here?’

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything odd about ‘even’ here. I’d also note that having a word there helps with the natural cadence of the sentence if we want to place emphasis on ‘is’ (which we do). Other acceptable alternatives are ‘What the hell is that?’ or ‘Just what is that?’ but neither, in my opinion, mean quite the same thing.

    • James says:

      My problem with singular “they” is not to do with the pronoun itself but how verbs conjugate with it. “Robert is my friend.” -> “They are my friend.” A pronoun that changes the rest of the sentence when it’s substituted for its noun is broken, as far as I’m concerned. (I’ve even seen people get tripped up by this and use “are” on “they”-ish people, even when they’re not using a pronoun, as in “Robert are my friend”, which is abominable.)

      • Creutzer says:

        You’re trying to rationalise something here, and your rationalisation isn’t working.

        All the students are gathered in the hallway. ~ Everyone is gathered in the hallway. (Crucially, not *Every student is gathered in the hallway, which isn’t a good sentence.)

        But I’d be surprised if you found “Someone apparently opened the window. They must have been insane – it’s freezing” as jarring. At least I don’t – my grammar is the same as Pullum’s, which I suspect is pretty wide-spread.

        • James says:

          You’re trying to rationalise something here, and your rationalisation isn’t working.

          It’s certainly possible.

          All the students are gathered in the hallway. ~ Everyone is gathered in the hallway. (Crucially, not *Every student is gathered in the hallway, which isn’t a good sentence.)

          I agree the first two of these are fine and the last one is bad.

          But I’d be surprised if you found “Someone apparently opened the window. They must have been insane – it’s freezing” as jarring. At least I don’t – my grammar is the same as Pullum’s, which I suspect is pretty wide-spread.

          No, I don’t find that jarring. Should I? I don’t see the relevance of this one to my point.

        • Nick says:

          This example actually fails to mirror James’, because the grammatical form “must” already agrees with singular or plural, which is not the case with most verbs. A better mirror would be “Someone apparently opened the window. They are clearly insane – it’s freezing” or “They need to close it before I freeze”.

          • James says:

            OK, yes, that’s a better match and I see what Creutzer was going for now. I admit I don’t find “they are clearly insane” weird there, where its referent is “someone”.

            What can I say? Applying “are” to a known, singular, definite individual feels weird to me, moreso than “they” does.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not sure your last statement is meaningful. How can you possibly separate the two, given that they necessarily co-occur and “are” is “are” only because there is they?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            James:

            “What can I say? Applying “are” to a known, singular, definite individual feels weird to me, moreso than “they” does.”

            What do you make of “How are you doing?”?

      • SamChevre says:

        Their name is they, because they are many.

    • James says:

      Aside from the issue of whether it’s reasonable to expect everyone to use “they” regardless of whether or not they find it grammatical, I do find the sentence in question frustratingly passive aggressive. It parenthetically uses “he”, whilst trying to pass this off as a slip—which it obviously isn’t, because if it genuinely was, he would’ve used backspace and corrected it.

      • dodrian says:

        Or they made the slip, and went back to correct it, but left the slip in to make a point about how difficult it can be to remember during normal conversation.

        • Brad says:

          Or they made the slip, and went back to correct it,

          This raises a question, if some people are entitled to be referred to as ‘they’ aren’t other people equally entitled to be referred to has ‘he’? Haven’t you just misgendered Geoffrey Pullum?

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          There’s now a note on the post saying exactly this:

          In case you thought “reveals that he is — sorry, that they are —” above was mockery, let me tell you that I originally wrote “reveals that he is”, and then realized that I had already made my first slip, so instead of silently concealing it, I revealed my shame by making the self-edit overt.

          • Randy M says:

            I revealed my shame

            Oh good grief. It’s shameful to fail to internalize a trivial yet idiosyncratic request to go against decades of grammar norms?

          • A1987dM says:

            I usually agree with GKP on pretty much everything, but fact is, in writing “X — I mean, Y” is basically always sarcastic (the standard way of doing that non-sarcastically being “Y (I originally typed X)”), so he did fail xkcd.com/169 this time.

          • Nick says:

            fact is, in writing “X — I mean, Y” is basically always sarcastic (the standard way of doing that non-sarcastically being “Y (I originally typed X)”), so he did fail xkcd.com/169 this time.

            Personally I facepalmed when I read that in the post, and while I was glad he explained what he really meant, simply adding “I’m sorry I phrased it that way, since it’s so easy to mistaken for sarcasm” would have gone a long way. Of course, it’s not like the folks reading him the riot act had to assume the negative interpretation….

    • BBA says:

      My prediction is that “he” and “she” will go the way of “thou” in the coming decades, and everyone will be a “they.” But knowing it’s coming won’t make the shift in language any less awkward.

      • James says:

        A friend of mine has already started using “they” for everyone, but not consistently.

      • Speaking as a writer that would be a serious loss, since it eliminates one of the most convenient tools for distinguishing among characters in text.

        • skef says:

          Not to mention other groups of objects.

        • Iain says:

          In other contexts, this is known as the Gay Fanfiction Problem.

        • BBA says:

          Other languages lack gendered pronouns, and they manage.

          • Anonymous says:

            Which ones? (None of the ones I know appear to be in that set.)

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I’m currently in the early stages of learning Finnish, where in the official, formal/written version of the language, they already just have the one pronoun, ‘hän’, which covers both ‘he’ and ‘she’, for persons, while ‘se’ is the inanimate pronoun, equivalent to ‘it’. But apparently it gets more extreme once you get into the casual spoken language, where ‘se’ has entirely taken over as the third person singular pronoun, like if ‘he’ and ‘she’ were replaced by ‘it’ in English.

          • lvlln says:

            Korean lacks gendered pronouns. When I was learning English after moving to the US as a child, I found the fact that pronouns are gendered to be utterly bizarre and absurd. I see that it’s somewhat useful now, but it still strikes me as somewhat bizarre, as if we had separate pronouns for, say, people who are wearing hats and people who aren’t wearing hats at the moment. Like, it does communicate useful information, but it seems weird that gender is the one thing that matters and nothing else.

          • Nick says:

            Like, it does communicate useful information, but it seems weird that gender is the one thing that matters and nothing else.

            Well, gender and number are marked. And case, sort of, although that obviously has more to do with the role of the pronoun in the sentence than with the pronoun’s antecedent. The only exception I can think of is when a language marks things like agent and patient more strictly than we do in English, so that it would strike someone as very odd if not ungrammatical to hear of a stone or table doing something instead of merely undergoing change or being in some state, but outside of Panini’s Sanskrit grammar I can’t think of any good examples of this, and even there Panini acknowledges that common parlance permits the blurring of agent and patient anyway.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not sure what you have in mind regarding Sanskrit, but there are languages which do not have the same notion of “subject” as the familiar Indo-European languages. So-called ergative languages do not distinguish between nominative and accusative, but between ergative and absolutive. In these languages, the stone in “the stone fell” has the same case marking as the stone in “John cleft the stone” – absolute case. Ergative case is for agents and causes – so a stone can appear in ergative case, but only when it is the cause of a process rather than undergoing it. For example, in “the stone killed John”.

            There are also some weird languages that have a nominative-accusative distinction in one tense and an ergative-absolutive distinction in another tense. They’re called split-ergative languages.

          • Nick says:

            Creutzer, yeah, I didn’t bring up ergative-absolutive languages because I think it’s a bit different phenomenon, although on consideration it may be relevant after all. Thinking out loud here: it’s my understanding that one can still say in an EA language, as you suggest, “The stone killed John” and the stone is grammatically the agent of the sentence, even if not thematically. By contrast, under Panini’s analysis the stone shouldn’t be considered an agent at all, and the sentence shouldn’t even be formed that way (perhaps “John was killed by the stone,” where the stone is the means of some other agent’s action, or perhaps a natural event, but generally wouldn’t considered an agent), but common parlance is nonetheless that way. So I was raising the possibility of a language which doesn’t even allow such pseudo-agents as in “The stone killed John,” though I don’t know of any examples myself. Panini, it seems to me, was trying to make thematical relations out to be grammatical relations, and he’s admitting that descriptively that’s just not how Sanskrit was used. I got this from the History of Philosophy episode on Panini; he provides his sources, though I don’t know from which he got this interpretation, although poking around the Internet it looks as though other sources say similar things.

            It was my understanding that Sanskrit has split ergativity, with those cases appearing on the perfect tenses, but I’d have to find a source for that. It looks on a quick Google like it appears in later Indo-Aryan languages, but I’m not seeing any mention of it in Sanskrit, so salt to taste.

            And I should mention that in raising the “John was killed by the stone” example, I was reminded of another interesting example: in Latin that would be expressed by the ablative of means and not by the ablative of agent. The ablative of agent uses ab + the noun, while the ablative of means uses just the noun (and both in the ablative case, of course!). So there’s a grammatical difference in Latin at least in that situation. But Latin already marks for grammatical case, and English clearly doesn’t do this, so this is really beside the point of my original comment to lvlln.

          • Randy M says:

            Korean lacks gendered pronouns. When I was learning English after moving to the US as a child, I found the fact that pronouns are gendered to be utterly bizarre and absurd.

            But at least gendered pronouns reflect (if not 100% perfectly) a distinction in reality. Spanish (among others) has genders for every single noun!

          • Loquat says:

            Mandarin Chinese also historically lacked gendered pronouns – in fact, if you’re speaking aloud, it doesn’t even distinguish between he/she and it.

            They’ve added gendered pronouns in the written language, though, presumably because it’s useful.

          • Creutzer says:

            @Nick:

            I think the lack of distinction between agent and cause subjects is a typological universal.

            Here’s a hunch I have about the Latin thing, though obviously I haven’t done the necessary investigation: maybe the “ablative” vs “ab + ablative” distinction in Latin is actually the English “from” vs “by” distinction. You can’t use “from” with a passive in English (*killed from the stone), but the question is whether those passives that go with a plain ablative in Latin are really passives rather than anticausatives (died from the stone).

    • dodrian says:

      I have been using singular ‘them’ for a while in referring to hypothetical people or people of unknown gender for a while. It seems the least bad solution for a language that doesn’t have one (though see dinosaur comics and the xkcd parody).

      A few years ago a friend asked to be referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them’ in the third person. It felt like a reasonable request, since it was important to them, and they were corrective but polite when you got it wrong. It didn’t take long to get used to.

    • rlms says:

      I have an odd internal grammar regarding this issue. Not only do I refer to people of unknown gender as “they”, I often still use “they” even if I know the (binary) gender of a person if the whoever’s listening to me doesn’t.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I actually really like having the option to use the singular they, I just don’t like being required to use it.

      Grammatical gender can be bizarre and arbitrary at times (e.g. the entire German language) but in English at least gendered pronouns usually provide a lot of useful information. Using they to refer to someone whose sex you know is withholding that information.

      For example, at my lab there’s a coworker who identifies as non-binary. They are behaviorally and physically indistinguishable from a cis-lesbian. Using their preferred pronoun is pointless for anyone who has spoken to them for a few seconds and confusing for anyone who hasn’t.

      There are circumstances where it makes sense to play that information close to the chest, but here and in every other case I’ve seen it’s an unnecessary hindrance to understanding anything about them.

      • gbdub says:

        That’s part of what gets me – pronouns convey information. Imperfectly, to be sure, but when you start demanding a special pronoun for non binary gender fluid squirrelkin you’ve removed the utility. At that point I’m just going to abandon pronouns entirely and use your name.

        That said I’m all for adding “y’all” as acceptable English, just not sure how to remove the lower class Southern stigma from it.

        • Witness says:

          That said I’m all for adding “y’all” as acceptable English, just not sure how to remove the lower class Southern stigma from it.

          Best way is to just start usin’ it, y’all.

          • LewisT says:

            I tried that with “ye” my first year of college (in the context of translating German). It didn’t catch on.

        • Nick says:

          That said I’m all for adding “y’all” as acceptable English, just not sure how to remove the lower class Southern stigma from it.

          I used it all the time in my Latin and Greek translations so my professor was aware I knew it was plural. In writing one could say “you (pl.),” but that just doesn’t work when reading one’s translation aloud.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Nick

            I’ve done the same. This reminds me of one of my teachers, who was from South Carolina. While he usually spoke without it, there’s nothing quite as delightful as hearing Latin in a Southern accent.

          • quaelegit says:

            My classmates and I sometimes did this, but since we were in California we usually didn’t because it felt too close to mocking Southern accents (at least, that was my personal thoughts, Idk what anyone else thought about it).

            In silly enough contexts*, this has propagated back to Latin, so that you (pl.) might be greeted, “Salvete, v’omnes!”

            *I have mostly observed it at the NJCL convention.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          No, bring back the thou/ye distinction, that’s what I say.

      • A1987dM says:

        Using they to refer to someone whose sex you know is withholding that information.

        Withholding information when said information is irrelevant to what you’re saying is ordinarily perfectly normal.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The thing is, gender/sex is usually pretty damn relevant when you’re talking about human interaction.

          The “who cares about what genitals they have?!?” meme misses that between sex differences and gender roles there are only a few cases where it isn’t relevant. Unless you’re on an anonymous imageboard, the sexes/genders of people involved one of the first things you need to know in order to understand the dynamics of a situation.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like the explicit goal of the change in grammatical rules here is to try to change the way people think–to force them into patterns of thought that don’t rely so much on knowing what gender each person in the conversation is.

            On one side, this may be a worthwhile goal–maybe we’ll get a better society out of it as a result. On the other side, I don’t feel a moral obligation to go along with massive social-engineering schemes to redesign society just because I think the people pushing them have broadly admirable goals.

          • A1987dM says:

            “Usually” as in “the majority of times gendered pronouns are used by the average person” I can agree, but “only a few cases”/”unless you’re on an anonymous imageboard” sounds way too strong to me.

            E.g. if I’m citing a scientific paper the gender of its author is pretty much irrelevant (though these days few papers have a single author so usually I can just say “they”), if I’m telling you I had my eyesight tested the oculist’s gender is irrelevant, if I tell you I bought something second-hand the seller’s gender is often irrelevant, if I tell you I’m renting a new place the owner’s gender is usually irrelevant, and so on, but in certain languages in certain situations I can’t withhold this information without drawing attention to the fact I’m withholding it (or at least it’s not immediately obvious how to, e.g. I had originally typed “landlord/landlady” instead of “owner” above), and I think that’s a bug, not a feature.

            For comparison, whether the author/oculist/seller/owner is somebody I already knew is much more likely to be relevant, but I don’t know any language which would require me to go out of my way in order to withhold that information.

  27. hash872 says:

    Is cryptocurrency speculation crazy?? Like, pure speculation. I am pretty convinced that we’re in the middle of a tulip mania-like bubble with bitcoin & others, and that it will eventually pop- but, crazy bull markets can go on for a long time. (Hence the stories about shorts who got burned trying to short Pets.com or whatever in the late 90s/2000 stock market bubble- they were right eventually, but wrong about the timing). I would basically purchase various crypto coins with the specific goal of finding a ‘bigger fool’ weeks or days down the road- I hesitate to call this financial ‘trading’, per se. I’m quite aware of the risks and lack of real underlying value- and trying to take advantage of the bigger fools before it collapses, like pre-2008 house flippers or the aforementioned stock market runup.

    Like, is this a crazy strategy if

    I go in eyes wide open as to the risk
    I’m obviously utilizing a small % of my net worth, specifically set aside for speculative investments
    I have a day job and am reasonably financially secure
    I consistently take my earnings out (i.e. don’t keep reinvesting them gambler-style)

    Once I’ve doubled my initial stake (and taken that profit out of cryptocurrency and back to the bank), I have essentially broken even and any earnings after that are pure profit. Is this a non-crazy course of speculative action?

    Along that vein- is there a quasi-liquid market for non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies? Any good online guides as to wallet security? I am seriously considering taking advantage of this market craze while it’s still here (I think my only other posting on SSC also related to financial speculation, if that gives you an idea as to what’s on my mind these days lol)

    • baconbacon says:

      Once I’ve doubled my initial stake (and taken that profit out of cryptocurrency and back to the bank), I have essentially broken even and any earnings after that are pure profit. Is this a non-crazy course of speculative action?

      Assuming you actually double your initial stake. For bitcoin you are talking about it hitting ~$33,000. What is your exit strategy? Why is that your exit strategy? How much are you willing to lose before you pull the plug entirely?

      • Nornagest says:

        The price per coin tells you pretty much nothing; it’s a big number but it’s a more or less infinitely fungible commodity. Lately I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of market cap.

        Cryptocurrency was hovering around half a trillion in total market cap last time I checked (it’s been bearish today, so probably lower now). Gold is somewhere around eight trillion. Since Bitcoin at present occupies a store-of-value niche comparable to gold, a 2x rise in Bitcoin requires it to pull a sizeable fraction of investors from gold or a comparable asset. That’s not totally outlandish but it’s a tall enough order to get me a little worried.

        On the other hand, if Core manages to unfuck itself, its scaling problems are resolved, and it starts getting adopted as a medium of exchange, then the sky’s the limit.

        • baconbacon says:

          OP is (in his words) trying to play a bubble, which is (typically) psychological in nature. This makes the sticker price per coin relevant. If you can’t see bitcoin going that high then you can’t see doubling you money in bitcoin.

          Functionally he sounds like a house flipper in the 2000s, only he doesn’t know if its 2003 or 2006, the only thing he knows is that it isn’t 2001.

        • gph says:

          >On the other hand, if Core manages to unfuck itself, its scaling problems are resolved, and it starts getting adopted as a medium of exchange, then the sky’s the limit.

          I still don’t think it’s a good medium of exchange for anyone not trying to use it for illegal/illicit means. It’s inherently deflationary, which isn’t really the end of the world for a currency, but it’s not exactly good. See this article from 2014, I haven’t seen any great counterarguments yet:

          https://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/04/money

          • I can’t read that article–it’s apparently behind a paywall triggered by reading some number of Economist articles.

            But being mildly deflationary for a currency is desirable–see my father’s old article “The Optimal Quantity of Money.” The social cost of holding currency as a shock absorber is about zero due to law of large number effects–the average variation in the sum of all currency stocks is small because individual variations average out. The private cost is the interest rate. So you get the optimal stock of money with a nominal interest rate near zero, which means an inflation rate that is about the negative of the real interest rate.

            Quite a neat argument. As I pointed out to him, this is the outcome you get with private competing currencies due to the zero profit condition, assuming that the actual cost of maintaining a currency in circulation is negligible.

          • Nick says:

            I can’t read that article–it’s apparently behind a paywall triggered by reading some number of Economist articles.

            I don’t know what browser you’re using, but opening in private or incognito often circumvents this. I use this trick to read Quora.

            ETA: Okay, I actually tried this on the Economist and it didn’t work. I had to clear all my Economist cookies before I was able to view another article. Sorry; I should have tried first.

          • baconbacon says:

            It’s inherently deflationary, which isn’t really the end of the world for a currency, but it’s not exactly good.

            “Here is my money”

            “I don’t want that money, it is going to increase in value if I hold it!”

            Said no one ever.

          • Loquat says:

            “Wait a minute, why should I spend this currency now? It’s going to increase in value if I hold it! I think I’ll hoard it and not spend it unless I absolutely have to.”

            Said… actually quite a lot of people who realized they were holding a deflating currency.

          • John Schilling says:

            Here is your salary. We’re going to reduce it every year. Here is your home mortgage. We’re not going to reduce that every year. Enjoy.

          • Here is your salary. We’re going to reduce it every year. Here is your home mortgage. We’re not going to reduce that every year. Enjoy.

            If you borrow money in a deflationary currency the nominal interest rate allows for the deflation, just as it allows in the other direction with an inflationary currency.

            The problem you describe isn’t due to a currency that increases its value over time but to a currency that deflates faster or inflates more slowly than was expected when the loan was made. It applies to a currency that inflates at eight percent and was expected to inflate at ten percent just as much as to one that deflates at two percent and was expected to maintain a constant value over time.

          • baconbacon says:

            Here is your salary. We’re going to reduce it every year. Here is your home mortgage. We’re not going to reduce that every year. Enjoy.

            “Here is your salary, it stays flat, as does your home mortgage. Everything else gets cheaper every year. Enjoy!”

            “Here is your salary, it decreases slightly every year. You can now refinance into a 0.25% annual loan cutting your borrowing costs down by 95%. Every thing else is also cheaper every year. Enjoy!”

      • hash872 says:

        There is no ‘exit strategy’ (and I was looking at other coins as much as bitcoin). It’s- buy, say $1000 worth (in one currency, to keep it simple for now). Sell every time there’s a set rise in value (say, 20%). Move profits to bank account and purchase another $1000 (or, sell off amount equal to profit, leaving me with $1000 invested still- either or). I am profiting off the purely speculative volatility while locking in profits. If the price drops, simply wait until it goes back up again.

        After I’ve made $1000 in profits, I can’t be affected by the bubble bursting and the value of said coin going to zero, so I’m not concerned (at worst I’ve broken even). Continue strategy until bubble bursts (whenever that is). I understand this is less profitable than the pure buy and hold strategy, but a million times less risky…..

        What am I missing? What would be the reasons not to do this? Taxes?

        • Nornagest says:

          Traders in any market commonly take profits, but unless they’re day traders they don’t usually do it this often or this mechanically. There are a number of tradeoffs inherent in doing it more often; tax is a concern, yes (holding an asset for less than a year means you’re on the hook for regular income when you sell, as opposed to capital gains, and selling your entire stack every time means you’re being taxed on your entire stack), but more importantly doing it every 20% up means you’re locking yourself out of most of that exponential growth.

          If you want to play with house money, I think a better way to do it in the crypto market is to buy out your cost basis (plus tax) when you’ve made substantial profits and hold the rest until you feel like cashing out. (Note that you are still risking your initial stake! And the graph right now looks pretty hairy to me.) If you just want regular dividends, there are less risky and effortful ways to get them.

          • hash872 says:

            Thanks man. Still kinda putting my trading strategy together here, but….. hard to compare rational traders in a ‘normal’ market versus speculators in the midst of a mania. I guess my underlying philosophy is that I think crypto is a bubble and will crash dramatically at some point, so ‘hold the rest until you feel like cashing out’ is impossible to time. I was probably too conservative with 20% (just sort of made that number up), and, I do understand the value of compound interest/growth- but, I feel like mechanically withdrawing x % of profit every time that number’s achieved is a rational ‘get out while the getting’s good’, before the inevitable crash. Less profit but way less risk. Anyways, just thinking out loud here

    • beleester says:

      If you’re only betting what you can afford to lose, then you’re within the realm of sanity. It’s not any crazier than taking your money to the casino.

      Maybe a little less crazy than that, actually. The odds are definitely against you at the casino, the odds are only probably against you in the market.

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What’s the current science on human lineages?
    The model that we all came Out of Africa ~60,000 years ago has been revised to include 1.8-2.6% Neanderthal ancestry in all (?) Eurasians, and therefore Native Americans, plus 4-6% Denisovan ancestry in Melanesians and Australian Aborigines.
    One piece of the human puzzle that’s unclear to me are the Negritos of Asia. It’s intuitive that hunter-gatherers who colonized southern Asia from Africa ~60,000 YA would have looked like Black Africans, but specifically resembling Pygmies is surprising. How large a data set do we have of paleolithic H. sapiens sapiens skeletons?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I think the date for OOA is more like 100kya, or at least 75kya. There are remains in Australia 60kya.

      I think you’re confused by some kind of “living fossil” fallacy.

      What is surprising about Negritos? Populations change size all the time. It’s just a niche. They’ve been sequenced and they’re related to surrounding populations. Distantly related, but closer than they are to other Negrito populations, let alone Black Africans, let alone pygmies. Some have Denisovan ancestry; some don’t. They don’t look like Black Africans in any way but skin color. They have a few traits in common with pygmies, but that’s convergent evolution. Also, pygmies (along with Bushmen) probably diverged from Black Africans long before OOA.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think the date for OOA is more like 100kya, or at least 75kya. There are remains in Australia 60kya.

        I was under the impression that “Adam”, the LCA of all extant Y-haplotypes, was dated to ~60,000 YA, very close to the first arrival in Australia. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me that our ancestors expanded overland by Suez and also invented rafts and sped them all the way to Australia at about the same time, but I thought that was the state of the science.

        Yes, I’m confused, because the “living fossil” is one of the hypotheses about them mentioned in the link. It talks about the hypothesis that living Negritos are genetically-isolated relics of once-widespread Asian hunter-gatherers, as well as studies claiming continuing admixture (“distantly related to neighbors, but closer than they are to other Negrito populations”).
        Anyway, I think you’re misunderstanding that I thought Negritos are closely related to Pygmies. I was just saying that when H. sapiens sapiens first left Africa, it’s intuitive that we would share a phenotype regardless of genetic diversity (all being under tropical African selection pressure), and IF Negritos are relic descendants of the first Hss southern Asians (it seems definitely not?) before they mixed with Denisovans and entered Melanesia, that would be evidence for the ur-Asians being Pygmy-size. Do we have evidence that it’s more recent adaptation to a niche?

        Also, pygmies (along with Bushmen) probably diverged from Black Africans long before OOA.

        Wow, it seems they really did. 260,000 years ago, unless peer review rips that date apart.
        Do we know which sub-Saharan Africans all Eurasians are most closely related to? African demography has changed a lot in the past 2500 years.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It talks about the hypothesis that living Negritos are genetically-isolated relics of once-widespread Asian hunter-gatherers

          That’s probably true. But the “living fossil fallacy” is that the Negritos are more like the common ancestor of OOA than the dominant populations. The fallacy is to select them over the other population; they have the same relation to the common ancestor: 75ky of evolution. So one of the two must have changed size, so there was enough time for either to. So, yes, the OOA population might have been all small, but this seems like a pretty arbitrary hypothesis you have suggested. The fossils in Africa definitely don’t suggest this. I don’t know about the earliest OOA fossils. Presumably the early Australian fossils are full size.

          Are you suggesting that Denisovan introgression made them big? That seems pretty arbitrary to me. Why would you think that? There are Negritos with Denisovan admixture. I think that there are populations that are pretty close to Australian and Papuans, but without Denisovan admixture, but maybe I’m confused. And, of course, most OOA populations are big without Denisovan admixture.

          The 260kya should be treated very tentatively. Razib Khan suggests that maybe archaic introgression is confusing the models.

          Do we know which sub-Saharan Africans all Eurasians are most closely related to? African demography has changed a lot in the past 2500 years.

          Northeast Africans are closest, for the not useful reason that they back to Africa blood in the past 2500 years.
          Ignoring that, yes, the Bantu expansion messes everything up. It wiped out the population structure and it’s hard to get an answer other than: they’re all equally related to OOA.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            That’s probably true. But the “living fossil fallacy” is that the Negritos are more like the common ancestor of OOA than the dominant populations. The fallacy is to select them over the other population; they have the same relation to the common ancestor: 75ky of evolution.

            OK, I see the fallacy now. Even if the OOA founding population had a very similar phenotype to Black Africans, Negritos have the same relation of ~75k years of mutation to the founders as Scandinavians or Amerinds or anyone else, which could easily include novel mutations for the phenotype of short stature. Being among the only Asians to retain the archaic genes for melanin and hair shape wouldn’t make them living fossils.
            So I suppose the interesting question is what did Asians look like at the end of the paleolithic? Geneticists have found that the full set of three fair skin mutations only entered most of Europe (save Scandinavia) with farmers from Asia Minor. The Siberian/Korean/Japanese cluster has evidence for paleolithic continuity, though one might surmise their phenotype had more similarities to early Americans back then. And there were “Caucasoid” north Eurasians who mixed with farmers coming from Asia Minor to become the Yamnaya lineage. Do we know anything about Iran, India, or Southeast Asia?

    • B Beck says:

      There seems to be evidence of a ‘drip’ of people leaving Africa much earlier than 60,000 years ago, followed by a larger migration. I’ve only read the abstract, so I’m not sure what findings they’re citing.

      link text

  29. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Multiple leftist Facebook friends are now saying that it’s all because of black women that they won Alabama. That sounds so random. It’s well-known in American politics that the black vote is a monolith, so why celebrate only women and not men?

    • Charles F says:

      The black vote is a monolith, but turnout is fickle, right? Was the turnout for black women much higher than it was for men? I couldn’t find numbers in 5 minutes of googling, but that seems like the most plausible explanation.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The black vote is a monolith, but turnout is fickle, right?

        Yeah, of course. I’m just seeing this praise with no citation of a gender difference in the turnout, is all.

        • beleester says:

          It’s because Roy Moore was thought to be uniquely repulsive to women, due to the sexual assault allegations (and just having really regressive views in general).

          Exit polls show Jones did get more votes from women. However, race was a much larger split, and a (small) majority of voters said the allegations weren’t a factor in their decision.

          “Black women won the election” is a bit reductionist, but I think it’s fair to say that black people and women turned out strongly for Jones.

          • albatross11 says:

            Blacks vote like 90% Democratic, so I’m sure Jones got nearly all the black vote. But the interesting question is whether he got more such votes because of Moore than he would have against some other Republican.

        • dndnrsn says:

          There is a gender difference in turnout – black women are even more strong Democrat voters than black men. I’m going with exit polling for 2012 rather than 2016, because I heard there was some weirdness with 2016 exit polling, but if you look at it, black women went 96% for Obama vs 87% for black men. Additionally, black women were 8% of the electorate and black men were 5% – presumably at least some of that gap is due to greater likelihood to vote.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Whoa, 60% more likely to vote than black men, according to 2012 exit polling? Interesting.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I imagine that since there’s usually a male-female gap in the population due to men being more likely to die earlier doing stupider stuff, that’s part of it. White women are 38 vs white men’s 34 in the same exit polling. I would imagine some things hit black men harder than white men (homicide, imprisonment, disenfranchisement due to criminal record presumably follow that a higher % of black men get hit by those things than white men). But after everything’s accounted for there’s probably still some difference not explained by those factors.

          • albatross11 says:

            I strongly suspect that a big source of the difference in turnout between black women and men has to do with incarceration and felony convictions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Beyond that, for men and women in general, are women who are entitled to vote more likely than men who are entitled to vote? Do early deaths, incarceration, disenfranchisement due to incarceration explain the gap between white women and white men entirely, or only partially?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Another contributing factor: women are more likely to have the free time on voting day, labor laws ostensibly requiring the time be made available notwithstanding.

          • Aapje says:

            Women also live longer and old people have a high turnout, so this means that the average woman is more likely to vote, as the average woman is older.

    • outis says:

      The voter block that decided Jones’s victory was Alabama Republicans. Lots of them stayed home or wrote in a third candidate (I think there were more write-in votes than Jones’s entire margin). That was the major change that decided the election; the change in Democratic turnout was, by comparison, minor, and would have been irrelevant if Republican voters had turned out for Moore like they would have for any other Republican candidate.

      Of course, new papers choose to print bar graphs showing the percentage of valid votes, so the people who abstained do not show up. That’s how you get the right narrative.

      • albatross11 says:

        To be fair, in any story involving statistics or mathematical modeling, almost no journalists will ever get to a good description of reality except by amazing good luck. Innumeracy seems to be almost a requirement of the field.

        • cassander says:

          it’s worst than that, half the time they can’t even get budget numbers right. I don’t want to get into a debate about kansas, but most of the articles I’ve read about it cite general fund figures as if they were the entire state budget, confuse debt and deficit, or make other fundamental basic errors. It’s terrifying.

      • Iain says:

        The Alabama Secretary of State predicted turnout at 25%. It was actually at 40%. Special elections normally don’t get that kind of turnout, and black voters typically vote at lower rates for special elections and off-year elections.

        The media spin leading up to the election was that Doug Jones was not energizing the black vote. The spin turned out to be wrong. These articles are the result.

        • gbdub says:

          So what worked? I’ve met a fair number of black people from Alabama, and while they exclusively vote Democratic, their social views would get them hit with a bike lock in Berkeley – can’t imagine Jones was a major turn-on for them.

          • Iain says:

            Jones is hardly a radical leftist.

            I’m not an expert on the politics of Alabama, but as far as I can tell it was a combination of opposition to Roy “I think America was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery” Moore and a huge get-out-the-vote effort. The Democrats managed to funnel a fair bit of support to Doug Jones — Obama recorded a robocall, for example — without making it look like he was a DNC puppet.

          • gbdub says:

            I didn’t mean to imply that he was a far leftist, just that, as a basically bog-standard Democrat, it was unclear why he’d inspire a lot of extra black voters to turn out, relative to the other bog-standard Democrats that inspired the pre-election turnout estimates.

          • Witness says:

            Maybe this had something to do with it?

    • Deiseach says:

      why celebrate only women and not men?

      I think because of a particular graph/graphic going around:

      White men: voted 72% for Moore
      White women: voted 63% for Moore
      Black men: voted 93% for Jones
      Black women: voted 98% for Jones

      So given that the accusations against Moore have to do with sexual misconduct/hebephilia, the emphasis is on the women’s vote, especially “Why did white women vote for Moore not Jones?”

      African American women made up 18 per cent of the vote and approximately 97 per cent of their vote went to Mr Jones – compared with 65 per cent of white women (who made up 30 per cent of voters) opting for Mr Moore. In contrast, the vote among black men made up just 12 per cent of the vote even though 92 per cent voted for Mr Jones.

  30. bean says:

    I need advice on phones. Looks like my current one (a Nexus 5X) packed up unexpectedly. I got it about 15 months ago, and it’s the second Nexus that’s died on me early. I need to replace it with another Android (I will not buy Apple, period), and I’d like something that’s going to get replaced because it’s old (obsolete, and I want to replace it), not because the warranty ran out. I’m also not going to spend huge amounts of money, but low cost isn’t my main driver.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      You aren’t going to get what you want.

      Consumer phone hardware really is still improving, and will continue to do so for quite a bit (Moore’s law style limits may limit the pure CPU improvements, but screens and batteries and such really are getting better.) As a consequence, a long lived phone is going to be obsolete within two years tops.

      The market has noticed this and spoken: people will not pay any meaningful premium for a phone that can be trusted to live (and have useful Flash / battery / software updates for) several years. So they aren’t sold.

      • bean says:

        Two years is fine. I’m not looking for a lifetime product, just one that will be obsolete instead of dying on me.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t think this as true as it used to be. I have an IPhone 6 and I’m only now thinking about upgrading and even then, I’ll probably wait a year. Most phones just don’t change that much year to year.

      • Rosemary7391 says:

        I don’t think that it’s available in the USA, but the Fairphone is a nice option that addresses your points. It has a long intended support life, and they sell spare parts. It’s quite easy to repair if need be; they send you the part and you just need a normal screwdriver (not even that for the screen). The nice bit about that is that it is just as easy to upgrade as to repair. I’d say it has been less reliable than Samsung phones I’ve previously used to death in 4/5 years, but the self repair option and 2 year warranty (battery excepted) helps with that. And the software has definitely improved over my time of owning it.

    • Charles F says:

      How much do you expect from your phone? I don’t have any recommendations in a class with the Nexus phones, but I’ve had good experiences with the moto G (4 or 5 years now) and the moto e (got one for my mother about 3 years ago). Both of them would probably be considered obsolete by a lot of standards, but I can run the few apps I care about on them without any trouble. And I still don’t have to charge it more than every other day. I haven’t tried the newer models, so things could have changed, but what I’ve seen from the line is solid.

    • Dog says:

      If you’ve been put off by your Nexus experiences, it’s worth noting that both the Nexus 4 and 5X were manufactured by LG, while the Pixel and Pixel 2 (smaller size) are manufactured by HTC. I’m generally happy with my Pixel 2. The camera is great, stock android is great. Weak points are the speakers and the large bezels.

    • pontifex says:

      If you want a phone that will be supported (and continue to receive security updates) for a long time, you pretty much have to go with iPhone or (to a lesser extent) Nexus. Everything else will be orphaned by the manufacturer in a year or less.

      iPhone also lets you much more effectively limit data access by applications. The phone feels much more like it’s mine, rather than Google’s.

      • bean says:

        You’ve managed to name the two phones I absolutely will not buy. I refuse to pay the Apple premium or hand control of my digital life to them. And I’m going to do my best to never give any money to LG ever again.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          The Pixel phones (“Pixel” is the new brand for flagship android devices, replacing what used to be “Nexus”) are mostly HTC (with the exception of the Pixel 2 XL.) If you don’t object to giving HTC money, they are going to be the phones supported by Google for the longest time frame, it’s just not going to be as long as you’re ever going to hope.

          I have a Pixel 1 XL. I like it. It was very expensive, but can probably be had for cheaper now.

          • bean says:

            My first smartphone was out of support the day I got it. This was irritating, but not as irritating as a phone that dies on you. Again, all I really want is for it to last into 2020 at this point.

        • pontifex says:

          You don’t have to “hand control of your digital life” to Apple if you have an iPhone.

          I have an iPhone and I use CardDAV to synchronize my contacts with Fastmail. Similarly, I CalDAV to synchronize my calendar with Fastmail. And my email is with Fastmail as well. I don’t use iCloud for anything except the Find My Iphone feature.

          On the other hand, to even log in to an Android phone you need a GMail account. And nowadays, you need a phone number to register a GMail account. Android phones also usually come with apps preinstalled that you can’t uninstall.

          Apple is a censor that bans apps from their app store for being malware or for sometimes for political reasons. Google is a censor that bans apps from their app store for
          political reasons, but allows in malware.

          Yes, Android allows sideloading (for now) and iphone doesn’t. But if you are technical and you really care, you can sideload on either platform. But you will notice that privacy settings like allowing the Maps app to track you only when the app is open are conspicuously missing on Android. Hmm…

          • Lillian says:

            Uh, my phone has a shortcut in the menu bar to toggle location tracking with the push of a button. Gmaps can’t track me unless the app is open, because location services are only ever enabled when i think an app needs them, and disabled the rest of the time. On top of that, there is privacy setting to disable Gmaps tracking, it’s just in your Google account rather than the app itself. This is actually more convenient, because it gives you a single location where you can disable every other type of tracking Google does.

    • skef says:

      My general strategy has to buy the 1) higher-end 2) Samsung phone with 3) a removable battery 4) from 12-18 months ago 5) reconditioned. I also get 1-2 spare batteries with an external charger (which tend to be cheap for phones of that age).

      None have died on me yet, although I eventually have to start cleaning some of the electrical contacts more frequently.

      At around 3 years old, some of the app updates will start taxing it. The Browser seems to be the worst offender, typically.

      • Nornagest says:

        I used to be a Samsung guy, but every phone I bought from them had something significantly wrong with it. These were flagship phones, too, not the discount stuff.

        • skef says:

          Well, my current phone is a Samsung Galaxy Alpha, and before that was a Galaxy II Skyrocket. So one of the features of this strategy is that one’s information is somewhat out of date.

          I was meh about the Skyrocket but I have liked the Alpha quite a bit, especially its modest form-factor. It’s borderline fancy, and apparently came out way over-priced and failed as a product, but then the secondary market mostly forgot that the only problem was with the price.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Having recently had a similar experience with a sudden, unexpected Nexus 5X failure: has your device fallen victim to the boot loop, and if so have you contacted LG about it? My 5X was out of warranty by 2 weeks, and they replaced it free of charge (minus some international shipping fees). Might be worth thinking about, as they have an extended warranty on the boot loop issue.

      • bean says:

        Don’t think it was the boot loop. Seems to be a battery/power problem of some sort. It was on, and then it just stopped. Attempts to turn it on since then have shown a bit of the boot sequence, but usually not very much. How much is based on how long it’s been since I last tried.

        • rmtodd says:

          What you describe sounds consistent with the boot loop to me: the system getting partway thru bootup, showing the Annoying Boot Animation, then sitting there spinning in the animation for a bit while the big CPUs are locked up until (I assume) the watchdog timer fires and the thing reboots to the “Google” screen to try it again.

          • bean says:

            Yeah. Further investigation shows that it is the boot loop. I actually got to the home screen using the freezer method before it packed up.

          • Eltargrim says:

            Give that it sounds like the boot loop, I’d recommend contacting LG. The replacement process should be free for you, given you’re in the US, and it gives you some time to figure out an ideal replacement phone. Good luck!

          • bean says:

            Unfortunately, it was an amazon purchase, and while the order form said US, the warranty card says India. (I probably should have known, but that was a rather hasty purchase, due to the last one basically not charging.) Also, it’s been a while since my last backup, so I’m more concerned with getting the data off. I went with the Moto, as it’s the right price, I don’t need a high-end phone, and I really strongly don’t want one made by LG.

    • rmtodd says:

      Yeah, I had the same thing happen to me a few weeks ago. The Nexus 5X, and apparently several other phones made by LG, have some dodgy hardware that LG doesn’t seem to know how to fix (several people over in the Nexus5X reddit have reported getting “repaired” phones that suffered the same fate months later). The main symptom is that the phone gets far enough into the bootstrap process to show the annoying little animation and then just spins there.

      There is a way, if you’re sufficiently adventurous and technically inclined, to more-or-less resurrect the phone; I’ve done it as per advice from over on the Nexus5X reddit. Here’s how it goes: The problem is theorized to be dodgy soldering that causes a lockup on one or both of the “big” CPU cores in the machine (Nexus5X has 6 cores, 2 really powerful ones and 4 less powerful ones). If you can get the machine stable enough to unlock the bootloader and flash a replacement firmware image someone on the reddit came up with that just outright disables the two “big” cores, the phone seems to run OK on just the four “lesser” cores. Of course, the catch is how do you go and unlock the bootloader settings if your phone never successfully boots? The trick seems to be, curiously enough, heating the phone up enough causes the phone to successfully boot — it’s not clear why this works, but the popular theory is that if the phone gets warm enough the thermal cutouts automatically disable the “big” cores. People on the reddit suggested various schemes with heat guns and the like, but I found that just having the phone on, plugged into a charger, and wrapped fairly tightly with a blanket was enough to warm it up to where it’d stay up long enough to unlock the bootloader (and copy off stuff I wanted to save, in case the fix didn’t work). Again, there’s plenty of discussion of this on the Nexus5X reddit.

      If, on the other hand, you don’t feel like doing that much tinkering with a dying phone and just want to buy something that works, I bought a Motorola G5S Plus to serve as my new main phone. Seems to work pretty good, and while they don’t do Android 8 yet, it is supposed to be coming soon. I would have preferred a Google phone for the software-update timeliness, but I wasn’t gonna pay $600 for a piece of hardware unless I had some assurances Google had had them made by someone with a working soldering setup.

      • bean says:

        Got it. Tried the freezer, and it didn’t quite work. (It didn’t help that I was having power issues at the same time.) Right now, I’ve got an improvised hotbox the phone is in. I happen to have a plug-in thermostat (my last apartment didn’t have central air, and the window unit was so old that it didn’t have a thermostat, so I improvised), which is hooked up to the space heater and a couple of blankets covering a lid leaning on the heater. Keeping the phone at a nice 120 F, which seems to do the trick. I can get in and work on it. For some reason, it refuses to talk to the USB cable, so I’m having to upload all the pics to Google Drive. (No, direct file transfer didn’t work either.)

    • sohois says:

      I always recommend this whenever phones come up and frankly I’m shocked it isn’t widespread at this point. Don’t waste hundreds of pounds(or dollars) on a phone from a big manufacturer when you can literally buy near identical Chinese manufacturer phones for much much cheaper.

      I suppose partly this is because Chinese brands, of any type of good, tend to have a dodgy reputation, but really when you think about phones it makes no sense to apply this. The hardware used is all made by third parties. The software is made by Google. All phones are manufactured in China, regardless of if they’re a Samsung/iPhone or a Xiaomi/Meizu. The only difference seems to be that in the West Apple have successfully set a price for phones in the minds of the public that is way above the cost of production.

      I’m on my third Chinese made phone, and each of the past 2 were replaced by choice rather than due to faults. Current phone is a Xiaomi MiMax 2, it’s an outstanding piece of tech though probably not for everyone – at 6.4 inches it’s a lot bigger than many people are comfortable with. If you don’t mind the size I would definitely recommend it.

      Otherwise, it will depend on the specifics of the phone you are looking for. If you don’t want any hassle then stick with the bigger players, which are Xiaomi, Huawei, Meizu, Oppo, LeEco. Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is the best of those for a mid tier option. All of these guys will have long update cycles, their phones will have plenty of international bands so you won’t have to do much research. These guys do still have a slight premium on price over the smaller players, so if you’re really concerned about getting a bargain then you can turn to the likes of Ulefone, Elephone, Doogee, Oukitel, Vernee. You’ll be able to find information about these guys at http://www.gizchina.com or r/chinaphones.

    • dodrian says:

      I have a OnePlus (3T)… I was a bit concerned when they switched away from removable battery and storage, but since I now have Dropbox Pro and a (mostly) unlimited data plan I realized that the storage isn’t actually a problem. Dash Charging on the OnePlus is incredibly fast, so battery hasn’t been an issue either.

      What convinced me to go with them was that the posted instructions on how to root the phone on their own website. I’ve ended up being happy with their software – the updates come quickly, but if for some reason they decide to stop updating I can switch to Cyanogenmod or similar with no issues.

      If you don’t like the price of their latest phones, you could look at buying used/refurbished earlier model. And it looks like Amazon stocks some of their earlier models.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve been assimilated into the Borg and carry an iPhone[1], but my understanding is that most Android phones do not get regular OS updates and security patches. This potentially leaves you carrying around a computer in your pocket that hasn’t been patched in two years and has widely-known and published vulnerabilities that anyone can use to take over your phone.

        [1] Of course, an Apple version of a Borg Cube would be much more thin and stylish. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be very good at assimilating alien technology because of intentional incompatibilities….

        • dodrian says:

          That was my experience owning two low-mid range Android phones – “we’ll get around to it when we get around to it” was the Manufacturers attitude, and unfortunately the manufacturers are responsible for OS updates (I believe Google is trying to change this, because most manufacturers don’t care about anything but their current flagship).

          My OnePlus asks me to update fairly regularly (every two weeks or so?), and even though they’ve released two major versions since, I’m still getting (though my model is only a little more than a year old) regular OS updates.

          My point was, that as OnePlus is upfront about how to root the phone and install a third-party OS (though in practice based on Android). This would mean I would be responsible for the security updates – but the community around modded phones is pretty fast at pushing them out. The ability to install your own OS does a lot to phone longevity, because if the manufacturer stops supporting the model you can still get the latest updates (and often custom OSs have less cruft to slow the phone down).

          This does require a bit of technical knowhow, but as OnePlus gave official and easy-to-follow instructions, it requires much less than for most ‘droids. For what it’s worth, I was able to root my Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 after a little bit of online searching and legwork (giving me an extra year of use), but never managed to do the same for my LG G3. The instructions for the OnePlus make it look much much easier than I had for either of those.

          • CatCube says:

            I’m the (one) guy with a Windows Phone, and Microsoft seems to be on the ball about updating it. The problem is that it feels like each update increases the bloat, so the phone will run slower, or sometimes hang on webpages for what I suspect are out of memory errors, where it didn’t do that before.

            Sometimes I wish they’d stop fucking with it.

          • pontifex says:

            Sometimes I wish they’d stop fucking with it.

            Your wish is granted!

            You have two more wishes.

    • gbdub says:

      I have to say this thread has not made me regret owning an iPhone….

      • Wrong Species says:

        Same. People complain about the price but Apple supports their phones for years so it’s still a pretty good value.

      • Nornagest says:

        Yeah. The price is painful, and Apple’s habit of trying to lock you into its walled garden is annoying, but it does actually Just Work.

        • gbdub says:

          I mean, when the garden is nice, there’s a lot of good to be said for walls…

          (Really I picked iPhone mostly because my family already had them, and I’m the designated family tech support. But I’ve really come to appreciate the “Just (mostly) Works” that doesn’t seem to exist among the ‘droids except maybe the Google flagships. I treat my phone as an appliance, not a hobby, so that’s a big part of it – I feel differently about my home PCs, so there I use Windows. (But not Linux, nerds))

          • Nornagest says:

            The walled garden isn’t that nice, is the thing. Apple is fundamentally not an applications company and their applications leave a lot to be desired. iTunes is particularly bad, and I find it endlessly annoying that tasks that should take fifteen seconds with a local filesystem interface instead take an app setup and a cloud transaction. But Apple will do its damnedest to rope you into its stupid dance, because that sells more iDevices.

            For me it’s worth it for not having to deal with all the issues I’ve had with Android phones, though.

    • gph says:

      https://www.xda-developers.com/best-value-flagship-of-2017/

      OnePlus is probably the best way to go. They make their phones very user friendly for rooting/custom ROMs, and they are generally better than other OEMs on keeping the latest updates available.

  31. Robert Liguori says:

    A question of mild to moderate culture-war-redness:

    It is oft claimed that going to college turns Red Tribe people Blue, and Blue Tribe people Bluer. There have been a number of stats and studies to this affect. I, however, am more curious in anecdotes.

    Of the people who post here, do you feel that going to university or being involved with higher education steered you towards one quadrant of the political compass versus another?

    I spent a little time reviewing my old LiveJournal from back in the days, and once I had gotten the embarrassed cringes at decade-old-me’s smug smarminess down to a mild twitch, I noted with interest where my opinions seemed to have changed, and where they hadn’t.

    Notably, I updated fairly strongly in the direction of LGBT rights being important, but also towards the understanding that gender differences were in fact a Thing, and that differing outcomes by sex on average didn’t seem to have that much to do with discrimination.

    Does anyone else have any idea of their own changes in heading, if any? I can also go ahead and talk about the incidents I wrote about (and have reminded myself about) if there is any interest.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I entered college a diehard libertarian with a bunch of views I now consider both clearly wrong and morally reprehensible. I came out very progressive. However, from the inside it doesn’t feel like college itself was the reason for this. The bigger reason was being away from my hugely conservative parents for extended periods of time and feeling free to form my own beliefs. None of my college courses were particularly liberal, nor did any of my professors push any progressive view stronger than “multicultural societies are hard, but sometimes work” and I wasn’t involved in any especially left-leaning campus activities or groups. It really does feel like I just grew out of conservatism naturally rather than being pushed/pulled out of it.

      That being said, I’m not sure how to determine if that impression is correct, or if my environment was actually more left-pushing than I thought and that had I been in a theoretical right-leaning environment with all other factors equal I wouldn’t have stayed conservative.

    • rlms says:

      I think my object level political opinions are pretty much the same as they were when I was fourteen.

    • cassander says:

      It is oft claimed that going to college turns Red Tribe people Blue, and Blue Tribe people Bluer.

      I suspect the second part of this is more accurate than the first.

      Remember, people showing up at college are 18. The vast majority of them know basically nothing about anything. The average blue tribe freshman will have show up with little more than a vague “I’m pro-LGBT rights”. They don’t have strong opinions about, say, what bathrooms transgender people should use (not the best example because it’s been in the news lately, but you get the idea), because they’ve probably never even thought about the question. Then they hear arguments from other people who also identify as pro-LGBT, who have thought about it, and who explain how being pro-LGBT requires letting people use whatever bathroom they want and adopt those positions. their mind hasn’t really been changed, because they didn’t have an opinion to change, they’ve just learned a new “fact”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I basically stayed the course, but I graduated in 1992, just before the previous PC wave.

    • Protagoras says:

      Before college, I was a somewhat right leaning libertarian. It was during my fairly lengthy time in college that I evolved into the somewhat libertarian leaning leftist I am now. I know a lot more now than I did when I was younger, and from the inside it feels like the reason my views have changed is because I know more, but I can see the degree to which bias affects the conclusions drawn by so many other people and it would be absurdly arrogant to assume it isn’t a factor in my case. Even being of above average intelligence seems, on most of the available evidence, to usually only produce above average talent for rationalization. I can only even try to fight such biases as I am able to detect, and actively resisting biases doesn’t seem to work reliably even when they are known and the attempt is made. Still, unless I wish to devolve into absurdity and take to coin flipping or something, it seems I can only rely on my best judgment, while continuing to seek more information whenever possible.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I ended up becoming considerably more right-wing, after twice being on the receiving end of a two-minutes’ hate by leftist mobs. I also ended up with a considerably scepticism of the wisdom of technocratic experts, due to getting a good look at the sort of people who’d most likely end up running any technocracy.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      For myself, I was a Computer Science major at Va Tech, from 02 to 06.

      Some of the shifts are easy to figure and document. I came into college with the intellectual awareness that LGBT people existed and had problems, and ended up joining the furry club my sophomore year. (For those not involved in the fandom, the furry fandom leans wildly disproportionately gay and trans, and this was reflected in the club membership.) Gay marriage has a bit more urgency when you personally know a couple whose ability to run their business together is impacted by what were Virginia’s laws at the time.

      As for the gender stuff…well, I was a CS major. Female membership started low, and got lower as the years progressed, and the same pattern could be noted across all of the really mathy courses I took. I didn’t see any obvious discrimination, and it seemed more likely to me that there were fewer women than men with the kind of super-nerdy focused interest you needed to be really into math or physics or programming. Either there was invisible discrimination everywhere, or there was a non-discrimination explanation.

      Strangely enough, the Super-Feminist English Teacher Who Only Accepts Politically Acceptable Essays was someone I had, and who I managed to shrug off with remarkable aplomb at the time. This was a freshman English class, and I was fresh from some equally-terrible high school teachers, so I just engaged in a few rounds of guessing the teacher’s password, made the requisite noises in the discussion portion, got my B, and moved on.

      I also attended a debate between a feminist speaker arguing against porn, and Ron Jeremy. That one ended up being a giant loss for Team Antiporn, from my perspective at least. The anti debater threw out a lot of accusatory statements, simply leading to Ron shrugging and saying he didn’t see any of that himself. He came across as polite, friendly, and very much as though a whole bunch more evidence was needed to accuse him of predation, or enabling predation. Said anti debater also cut me off mid-question when it was clear I was digging into one of her earlier statements of questionable factual veracity.

      All in all, my opinion from the whole deal was 1: It is truly remarkable how many college students will take the opportunity to make the same tired dick jokes, and 2: if this was the best the anti-porn faction could muster, they clearly didn’t have much in the way of arguments.

      Reading the responses so far, it does seem like the usual shift is something of a gradual shift Blue-wards unless something dramatic and specific happens to you. I’d be interested to see who else has opinion on the what, why, and how of this phenomenon.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I came into college with the intellectual awareness that LGBT people existed and had problems, and ended up joining the furry club my sophomore year. (For those not involved in the fandom, the furry fandom leans wildly disproportionately gay and trans, and this was reflected in the club membership.)

        You might not want to tell people that if we’re all supposed to support LGBT. 😉

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Curiously: being raised Roman Catholic made me bluer. Going to UT Austin (and reading Usenet circa 1992) made me redder. In both cases, I felt like I was feeling out the dominant narrative for weak points.

      Today, I’m mostly libertarian, spending a noticeable amount of time trying to pick that apart.

    • As best I recall, I was a classical liberal when I entered college (at sixteen), a somewhat harder core libertarian when I graduated, but I don’t seem to have become an anarchist until a few years later. At least, I remember the change being triggered by reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which was published a year or so after I graduated.

      I don’t think any of my classes had much effect on my political views, although arguing with fellow students probably had some. The biggest change I can remember, not political but related, was becoming a moral realist as a result of losing an argument with Isaiah Berlin.

      • christhenottopher says:

        Forgive me if this is a question you’ve gotten before, but do you know how many generations back the liberal/libertarian streak goes in your family? And is there any correlation you’ve seen between getting formal education and libertarian-like beliefs?

        • My father’s father died when my father was ten or so. I met my mother’s father but have no idea what his political views were. So I have no evidence on political views prior to my father’s generation.

          My mother’s brother Aaron was left wing for a while.

          I haven’t observed a correlation between formal education and libertarian beliefs, with either sign, but I don’t have enough data, in particular enough observations of people without formal education, to say.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I had my political opinions change unrelated to college, and that will continue.

      I’m in a pretty liberal state, so the colleges are like that too. I have had plenty of super-left and feminist professors, and I’ve done a pretty good job not bringing up politics nearly at all, god bless. That’s my story.

    • I went to college in the ’70’s, much earlier than many here. But college was pretty leftist then too, if not so much in your face as it is sometimes now. Most students pretty much ignored politics. I remember a couple of politically biased classes, but majoring in Accounting, this was only a risk for distribution courses.

      College changed me very little politically. I was vaguely libertarian when I went in, and the same coming out. I knew little of real life, and I realized that, so my beliefs weren’t very strong. My beliefs have gotten much stronger in the next 35 years, as I figure some stuff out. Interestingly, I still lean vaguely libertarian, but I have stronger feelings about individual issues. Not so much any movements as a whole.

    • BBA says:

      I felt like I moved significantly rightward in college, and significantly leftward when I entered the workforce, but I may not actually have gone anywhere. I think I just notice and exaggerate my disagreements with whatever crowd I’m in. Thus here I feel like a raving SJW sometimes, even though my disagreements with the social justice movement are what brought me here in the first place.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I moved more left in some things, but more right in other things, and the movement was far more in meta-level than object-level stuff. I consider myself a left-winger, and there are a lot of left-wingers who reach similar conclusions to me, but their ways of reaching those conclusions are strange to me. It’s more about attitude/worldview than actual opinions, y’know? This was largely a reaction to attitudes/worldviews more prevalent on campuses than off them, and to the way that proponents are often very difficult to have a reasonable disagreement with. I imagine that if I’d been exposed to the right-wing equivalents, the opposite would have happened. Also, I can’t think of any actual object-level opinions I moved right on. I can think of some I moved left on.

      I moved right when I started working – not because of “I don’t want to give the gummint my monies” but more because of a. having a job involving dealing with a fairly incompetent government bureaucracy and b. realizing that I had subconsciously been assuming that everyone was as smart as the people I dealt with on a daily basis; as it turns out going from dealing with people who got into good schools to dealing with the general populace means the average smarts of the people you’re dealing with drops.

      Going to grad school moved me to the right a little, with the same caveat as the first paragraph, because suddenly I was working much harder and getting better marks and it was far more due to my personal efforts than any external change; it changed how I viewed agency – previously, I’d sort of blamed poor results on things I couldn’t control. Similarly, getting into better shape had a similar effect.

    • Rob K says:

      I moved in an idiosyncratic anarchist direction during college, and then back into a more mainstream political orientation afterwards.

      I think there were two reasons for this. First, I was in college during the late second Bush term, which was kind of an ideologically freeing time; the complete collapse in support for the administration meant there was plenty of time to spend engaging in debates over less conventionally polarized and more fun stuff like the mechanisms by which exploitative centers of power develop historically, or how to align the levels at which decisions are made with the levels at which their impacts are felt. Then I graduated into the teeth of a rather historically dramatic election and its aftermath, and all of a sudden my opinions about whether an affluent nation should guarantee basic health care for its citizens were more relevant than my thoughts on Jim Scott’s analysis of how different agricultural schemes lend themselves to centralization or decentralization.

      Second, reading about the history of contact between empires and those who empires want to subjugate is a great way to become an anarchist. Being an ideological anarchist and attempting to do something practical about it after college will bring you into contact with someone who attempts to run meetings on anarchist principles, which is a great way to stop being an anarchist.

    • WashedOut says:

      Prior to uni I was firmly-left on almost all issues.

      During uni I was a Socialist of the Trotsky/Fourth International stripe.

      Shortly after joining the workforce I developed strong sympathies for laissez faire economic policies and minimal government.

      So yes, I was blue and went bluer, then jumped into a pool of red paint.

    • cactus head says:

      I moved from teenage south park style centrist to almost-SJW in late high school, then from almost-SJW through grey-tribe/rationalist/libertarian to far right during university. Both swings were because of reading ideology on the internet and had nothing to do with real world politics. From the inside it feels like my facts changed greatly and my values changed very little.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t think I really moved to the left or right on the object-level, but I’m just out of college, so maybe it’s going to take time to see its impact. I feel farther to the right, though, perhaps because everyone I know moved further to the left.

      ETA: Since I feel bad about not giving anyone here anything to chew on, I’ll add that the much more interesting transition in my beliefs was from an attempt at a genuine having-it-both-ways moderate Catholicism to a great deal of pessimism that that’s even possible. I went into college all bright-eyed and idealistic that dialogue with the left was possible if only orthodox Catholics could see, and aggressively emphasize, the aspects of e.g. Catholic social teaching on which they could agree with leftists. That empathy on both sides could be gained and a foundation for work toward economic justice or buttressing the family or decreasing racism, sexism, homophobia, etc could be crafted. And when I got to college, I thought I’d found Catholics who were doing just that.

      Sustained contact with them rid me of that notion. They weren’t actually orthodox Catholics; their beliefs were only Catholic so far as that coincided with fashionable thought on the left, and Catholic teaching which didn’t so coincide was ignored. That’s not to say they weren’t sincere, but they had been so thoroughly miseducated I despaired of ever correcting them. I grew increasingly frustrated that Catholicism was being, to my mind, perverted for politics; even those who insisted they were totally orthodox refused over and over to affirm inconvenient teachings (I’m looking at you, Fr. James Martin). Catholic “third way” economics like Distributism languished in obscurity the last few years while Catholics left and right took papal pronouncements about the importance of the environment, the destructiveness of capitalism, and so on as naked partisanship. Catholics on the right, meanwhile, were either embarrassed if knowledgeable of Catholic teaching, or assumed with seventy million others that it was coextensive with the platform of the Republican party. Where is the courage of our convictions?

      I’m so sick of this false ecumenism. I’m so sick of this perverted “dialogue.” And I’m so sick of this slack, enervated Catholicism unable to speak for itself except in the distorted terms of contemporary left or right thought. For all our object-level disagreements, give me the attitude Antonin Scalia any day.

    • johan_larson says:

      I was a pretty hard-core libertarian coming out of high school. It was just in the air in the late 80’s; although it was called neo-conservativism at the time. I remember Friedman’s “Free to Choose” making stone-cold sense to me.

      I’ve since drifted centerward, and think of myself as a moderate conservative with pro-science and populist mix-ins. I don’t think my evolution had anything to do with college. Not a lot of political discussion to be had in data structures class. It probably had more to do with the influence of my father, a pro-business social democrat in the Scandinavian style.

      • I was a pretty hard-core libertarian coming out of high school. It was just in the air in the late 80’s; although it was called neo-conservativism at the time.

        I cannot remember libertarianism ever being called neo-conservatism in any context I was involved in. To quote Wikipedia:

        Neoconservatism (commonly shortened to neocon) is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among liberal hawks who became disenchanted with the foreign policy platform of the Democratic Party.

        That’s almost the opposite of the libertarian position, since libertarians tend to favor a less interventionist foreign policy than either major party, while rejecting the economic views of modern liberals (U.S. sense).

    • rahien.din says:

      Prior to college, I had been not-quite-indoctrinated into Redneck trickle-down Republicanism by frequent exposure to the Excellence In Broadcasting network, by my family’s endorsement of the term “libtard,” and by our participation in the Southern Baptist Church. I can remember, during elementary school, standing beside my parents silently picketing an abortion clinic.

      One important step was becoming demystified by exposure to the full spectrum of ideas. For instance, I had been brought up to be incredibly skeptical of evolution. Then I took a genetics class, and wondered what all the fuss had been about.

      The other important step was that becoming good friends with a bunch of folks who turned out to be rather vocal liberals – to the extent that they didn’t talk to me for a week or two after GWB’s reelection. They were and are excellent people. They could express their strongly-held views with conviction, and could also respond to my objections with genuine and thoughtful challenges, things that made me reconsider my starting points and my logical steps. It was fun, and enriching.

      And yes, that also gave me a more broad-spectrum set of arguments with which to assemble my worldview, but that isn’t what really made me go bluer. The only reason why we could have these discussions was because we valued each other. The principle that people have value – utterly regardless of their beliefs or their character or their instrumentality – had been glaringly absent from my conservative upbringing, even in my religion. Here I had found it, with a bunch of libtards, go figure. It’s why I turned blue.

      I have since grown further. I became a huge fan of Dan Carlin and his “neo-prudentism.” I read a lot of early-to-mid 2000’s Andrew Sullivan, and (now somewhat abashedly) a lot of Dan Savage. I discovered a kind of concurrentism via Michael Tkacz’s “cosmogonical fallacy.” I converted to Catholicism, in order to marry a wonderful Catholic girl. And the mother of the girl I married is at once quiveringly and vituperatively rage-Republican, and also a deep well of compassion for her family and for the inner-city projects kids she taught in one of her city’s roughest schools. So there’s a lot to assemble here.

      But that one principle – people are valuable – is what my friends gave me, and what I live by.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I entered college anti-SJ libertarian, came out pro-SJ liberaltarian. The more dramatic change, the SJ one, came primarily from becoming emotionally close to someone more directly affected by SJ issues, and secondarily from Scott giving me a gateway into actually understanding some social justice claims.

      I spent at least two years before either of these processes began, and I don’t think the general milieu budged me at all; there were a bunch of SJ people on campus making arguments that made no sense to me, but I had always known there were a bunch of SJ people on campuses making arguments that made no sense to me.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Blue and Red tribes are supposed to refer to cultural and class markers not just politics. Politics are part of it but it’s entirely possible to be a Blue Republican or a Red Democrat. /rant

      College made me more “Blue” in the sense that I picked up a lot of the etiquette of the intelligentsia. Even in a biochemistry program a plurality of my required courses were essentially finishing school for bien pensants. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: in my experience working class accents and mannerisms are usually interpreted as signs of racism and sexism, so unlearning them is important for your career.

      It also pushed me way way out to the right politically. Partly the push came from examining the evidence behind positions I had uncritically accepted. One moment in particular was when I started looking into the evidence cited in The Mismeasure of Man and was furious to discover that I had been blatantly lied to. Another big one was when I Red-pilled myself by learning Game. The rest of the push was the experience of living in the ghettos of various cities as an attempt to save money on housing.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      As an engineering student who did lots of his gen-ed stuff as AP or dual enrollment in high school, I wasn’t really exposed to anything political in my course work. This was in the late 90s/early 00s, though, so who knows, maybe now they’re teaching Feminist Circuits and Queer Number Theory. I flirted with libertarianism during the Bush years because I really didn’t like neoconservatism, but basically I formed all my political opinions reading Pat Buchanan and watching him on the McLaughlin Group in the 90s and still pretty much hold all those same opinions today.

      • quaelegit says:

        > So who knows, maybe now they’re teaching Feminist Circuits and Queer Number Theory.

        They aren’t. At least not at Berkeley.

        The C.S. ethics class would probably seem terribly biased-liberal to most SSCers given the way arguments were framed and discussed, but there was actually a fair amount of overlap with some of the topics that come up on SSC a lot (self-driving cars and automation affecting the workforce come to mind). It’s a 1-unit class out of a 120-unit degree.

        Actually, one of the first assigned readings in above mentioned ethics class was an SSC post! (IIRC Toxoplasma of Rage.)

        • quaelegit says:

          >They aren’t. At least not at Berkeley.

          Although who knows, I come very a very liberal background so I probably wouldn’t notice if it were. All I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty is that the subjects covered in lecture and in homework were entirely engineering. (One example I can think of that’s culture war-y: the stable marriage algorithm is still explained in terms of men proposing to women — I think people would make jokes about it being an old fashioned scenario but everyone realized it was far clearer to stick with the traditional explanation and I never heard anyone make a stink about it.)

          Breadths of course all bets are off, but there’s a lot that aren’t particularly culture war-y: my linguistics survey course and Irish theatre*/lit course stayed away from (American) culture war stuff entirely as far as I remember. Anthropology not so much 😛

        • rlms says:

          My Software Engineering course last year (not at Berkeley) briefly mentioned the gender gap in CS and made the assumption that it was to some extent innate.

        • Nornagest says:

          I hated my CS ethics class, but I hated it for the same reason that Scott hates bioethics: it framed everything in a very zero-sum, hyper-precautionary, almost Luddite way. Some of the examples did include stuff like automation affecting the workforce, but its political valence was a sideline; the problem was that it was too conservative in the context of actual engineering practice, not too liberal in the context of society. (It was also totally at odds with how things work in industry, but I didn’t know that when I took it.) The current version might be more social justice-aligned; that was a few years ago.

          Breadth courses were a mixed bag. Most of the time it possible to avoid social justice indoctrination (though it sometimes took some creativity), but one requirement was two courses in… I forget what they called it, but it boiled down to race/class/gender studies and adjacent topics. Had to just keep my head down and regurgitate as needed for those ones, and I hated every minute of it.

          Aside from that, I ended up taking a lot of linguistics and archaeology courses, and while I did still end up with a professor who called himself a Marxian archaeologist, that seemed mostly to imply interpreting potsherds and petroglyphs in terms of economics rather than religion or culture. The class ended up being about the pre-Columbian Puebloans, who had a fascinating culture, and it didn’t stray much into present-day politics.

          • The Nybbler says:

            CS Ethics? I’m pretty sure that those who consider whether they SHOULD do something before they go ahead and do it never get anything done.

            I mean, yeah, maybe you screw up and have velociraptors running rampant in LA. But HOW COOL IS THAT?

          • Nornagest says:

            I almost wish I had to track down and shoot a pack of velociraptors every time someone broke the build. It’d make my life a lot more exciting.

        • bean says:

          I had an ethics class (for some reason, it’s required for aerospace and CS), and I came to the conclusion that the class itself was unethical. Bad ethics ranks fairly low as a cause of failure compared to other factors, and a class focusing on those factors would do more good.
          The class itself wasn’t particularly SJish. I engaged in a very vigorous defense of nuclear weapons as morally good, and nobody really got bothered by it. (I will admit that I did this at least partially because the class consensus was that they were morally neutral, and I wanted an argument.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      In college? Yes, I became more “left,” but more in the direction of internationalism. I went into college as something not far removed from a min-archist (STOP AUTOCORRECTING. I DO NOT WANT A KING). I became convinced that there were enough collective action problems at national and international levels and democracy is generally secure enough to support a traditional modern-sized government.

      College was mostly non-political for me, because I took mostly business classes. However, my gen eds tended to be EXTREME left-wing. My US FP foreign class was a litany of “here are all the stupid illegal wars we fight.” My sociology class was “RCG RCG everyone is oppressed!” Ya know, etc. My English class was full of people who thought we should just give out to money to everyone so we can boost consumerism and therefore boost growth, so I wrote Ayn Rand quotes on the wall every day before class.

      Psychology was surprisingly not that way, and our psyc professor was actually more inclined to give Evo-Psych a favorable treatment.

      I’ve always been socially permissive, so college did not affect any of my stances on social issues. If anything, I became less convinced that things like gay marriage should be constitutionally guaranteed rights.

      So college? Small potatoes.

      Post-college, especially marriage? WAY more conservative, way less inclined to trust government to spend my money wisely, way more intolerant of the tax burden, way more interested in annihilating tiny little third-world nations that might cause harm to my family, way less interested in social projects that sound like code for “more crime and crappier schools.” Far, far, far less charitable to systematic oppression arguments and far, far, far worse opinions of philosophies that amount to “you didn’t build that.”

    • bean says:

      Political views didn’t change much in college, and those that did were fairly orthagonal to classes or even real-world peer interaction. But I went to an engineering school and had a lot of AP credits, so I only had a few gen ed classes. The only one that was at all left-leaning was Sci-Fi lit, and that was fairly mild.

    • gbdub says:

      I was a pretty standard neoconservative in high school (got a standing ovation for a challenging question I asked of an anti-war hippie vet in a campus Iraq war debate!), but generally naive. Went to a very liberal public university (but in engineering, so not THAT liberal).

      College exposed me to a lot more knowledge, and a lot more liberals. Of all stripes, levels of extremity, and thoughtfulness. Which made me on the one hand more sympathetic to some of their positions (particularly LGBT issues – I was in no way homophobic in high school, but college made me much more aware/supportive) but on the other hand much more annoyed by and generally skeptical of their excesses.

      Now I’m probably closest to “bleeding heart libertarian” if you corner me and make me pick something. I don’t think college moved me left per se, so much as “getting older and less naive”.

      I might just be contrarian – now I live somewhere with a ton of hardcore conservatives and I find myself getting annoyed with conservatism much more than I did in college.

      EDIT: perhaps oddly, college made me more sympathetic to the concept of “microaggressions”, although I don’t think the term was in vogue at the time. Taking mostly ancient or Russian history and engineering classes, I didn’t get exposed to a ton of in-class leftist propaganda, but there were many anti-conservative “microaggressions”.

    • JayT says:

      I grew up in a very Religious Right family, and my schooling was heavily RR too, so I more or less shared those views. In college I definitely moved leftward on social issues, mainly because as I came to know people from more walks of life, I realized that I cared very little about what they did in their personal lives. In general, it was in college that I really discovered libertarian thought, and that has influenced me quite a bit. So if you consider libertarian to the left of Religious Right, then I suppose I moved to the left.

      I was not very interested in politics as a teenager, so I really didn’t have many beliefs beyond “I hope my team wins the election!”

    • achenx says:

      I was very vaguely libertarian in high school, without really understanding things specifically. After college I wouldn’t say any of my principles changed, but I understood positions better.

      For context, I appear to be older than many of you but not all. The time period here is the late Clinton years. In the sense that polls sometimes show people’s lifetime political views being affected by their first election choices, I don’t doubt that part of my opposition to the two major US parties comes from my first presidential race being Bush vs Gore, though the fact that the choices have mostly just gotten worse since then hasn’t helped. (On the topic of old LiveJournals, my own LJ recounts my utter disgust with Bush vs Kerry. I often thought of that last year, when Bush vs Kerry seemed like the good ol’ days. This has not given me optimism that we’ve hit the bottom yet.)

    • John Schilling says:

      I was much more sympathetic to anarchism, particularly anarcho-socialism, when I graduated high school. Also, and somewhat paradoxically, to Reagan-style Republican conservatism – the paradox is mostly near/far mode with the Cold War and its aftermath still dominating near-term political thinking.

      University education per se had little to do with the evolution of my political thought towards a non-anarchist libertarian position, More exposure to the range of human experiences, both in person and through reading, greatly reduced the appeal of anarchism. The university environment may have facilitated that. I don’t think my college education had much to do with the end of the cold war, however.

    • quaelegit says:

      I just graduated from undergrad. In the latter half of college I became much less confident in my views, and its entirely due to discovering SSC. I had some sense of “everyone is biased, including myself” and even some “map =/= territory” before, but from SSC I learned a lot about epistemic uncertainty and gained new models for politics and group relations in general (ingroup/outgroup, signalling, ideology is not the movement, etc.). And from the commenters I’ve gained a lot of insight into other worldviews that I’ve never seen explained before (and that I would be afraid to ask about in real life).

      So thank you for your lessons and perspectives, Scott and SSC commenters 🙂

      (On the other hand I’m not sure if “approaching a political equivalent of Buridan’s Ass” is a good place to be, but at least it leaves me more open to change if that should be necessary.)

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I came into college a red liberal/pinko/not sure if to call myself a social democrat or communist and came out the same way.

      My shift towards radicalism (of the “red revolution now” variety, not the “the US was a marginally worse evil during the cold war” variety) came in 2014-15, over both the ant thing alienating me from liberals and browsing /leftypol/ exposing me to a ton of leftist thought. Hillary’s nomination and the DNC leaks (and reaction to same) ended any doubt I had about the subject.

      That said, spending the first couple years after graduating (I graduated in ’12) with no job, no hope, and a lot of friends in the same position didn’t exactly give me cause to believe in the system. As a materialist, I have to acknowledge this made it a much easier shift to make.

    • Kevin C. says:

      When I graduated HS in 2000, I was mostly your standard 90’s “redneck” Republican, only not religious and with a certain fondness for the Alaskan Independence Party. Then I went to college in southern California, and ended up coming out much of the way toward my current position as a “Death Eater.” As another example of the problems with the “left-right” spectrum as currently defined (rather than just sticking with the original definitions of those terms) is that this meant becoming less pro-capitalism, which many would consider a “leftward” movement (but as most of my objections and preferred alternatives are essentially “pre-capitalist,” I would call the movement rightward).

  32. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I just stumbled on Random Critical Analysis’s General Factor of Consumption theory. Of all the answers to Scott’s cost disease, this is maybe the only one that makes me feel like I understand something I didn’t before.

    tl;dr run a principle component analysis on nations’ spending patterns by category, and you get a first principle component that correlates quite well with per capita disposable income.

    To me the mind-blowing aspect of this is that things that we think are under the control of a nation actually seem to mostly be a function of its wealth. Or more succintly, “everything is endogenous”.

    (Not sure if SSC discussed this when it came out, but I didn’t see anything in the open threads from the time)

    • Aapje says:

      Doesn’t this just show that household spending has different outcomes than government spending and more specifically, that household spending causes cost disease much more than government spending?

      Isn’t this an argument for big government? Apparently you get more healthcare for the buck if you tax and spend, rather than let individuals spend more themselves.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The data covers all spending, public and private, so it doesn’t tell us this. In fact, it tells us that politically imitating one European country or another will cure almost none of our cost disease.

        (See: US spends above trend on health, and Britain with its NHS spends below, but these residuals account for a very small part of the expenditure difference)

        I do think it’s a strong argument that increasing national wealth inexorably goes to a lot of pointless places, so we should be more willing to trade off against economic growth if we actually can get something good in exchange for it.

  33. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Don’t people who won’t eat eggs and dairy realize the name “vegans” makes them sound like space aliens?
    They should be called Those Who Walk Away From Omelettes.

  34. Brad says:

    Why does google keep on making their products less and less powerful? Why do they care so much more about cleanliness than useability? The new news google com is lobotomized.

    /rant

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Because you are not smilar enough to the target user. The target user gets confused when there are too many buttons to press, too many things happening at once, too many configuration options that suddenly make stuff work differently than before.
      I assume they introduce their products and don’t yet know how people are going to use it, so they give many options. Then they measure what stuff gets used in what way (and how it influences revenue) most of the time, and cut the things that only few people use, or people use rarily.

    • skef says:

      Note: If you’re looking for the old searchy stuff, doing a normal google search and then following the “news” link still brings up that interface.

  35. narfiklonel says:

    Someone on Reddit is claiming to be donating an enormous amount (~$86 million worth!) of Bitcoin to charity, and is taking suggestions on what to do with it. Good opportunity to get a word in on behalf of EA causes.

  36. baconbacon says:

    Black and Grey market economics

    Lots of discussion about Bitcoin and its uses in the most recent open thread, so I thought I would write up a little something on shady economics which might give some context to how they generally work and how that could potentially affect bitcoin.

    1. First a basic (incomplete) definition: Black markets are where goods and services are traded in a way that is illegal in that jurisdiction. It could be the goods that are illegal, the medium of exchange, not collecting taxes, any number of things.

    2. Making something illegal generally doesn’t stop it from occurring. Enforcement is needed, sometimes social pressure can play a role in enforcement, but I will stick to actual state attempts to enforce laws. Enforcement requires resources, so to make something new illegal will mean increasing the government budget or switching around funds from somewhere else. Say the US correctly claims (as in this is the hypothetical, not that I know what actual bitcoin transactions are for) that Bitcoin is mostly used for drug transactions and decides to make it illegal on this justification and starts prosecuting bitcoin users. What happens to the use of drugs? An economically naive person might speculate that making Bitcoin illegal makes it harder to obtain drugs, and so should decrease consumption, but that depends. On what? Well if the enforcement dollars come from the general ‘drug fighting’ pool of dollars then you basically would expect a shift in how drug users/dealers are caught*, because you are adding people caught by the bitcoin task force, but dropping people who were being caught by conventional anti drug task force. Because the end goal of drug users is to use drugs, not to spend bitcoin, you would expect this shift to be ineffective (if the government happens to be particularly good at catching bitcoin users the drug users will go back to using cash/barter/etc to procure them), at best. It is like stopping your teenage daughter from going to a dance to prevent her from having sex, putting all your effort into stopping her from going to any particular dance is going to allow many other opportunities for her. Long story short trying to curb drug use by making bitcoin illegal is unlikely to succeed without an increase in funding. It also kind of makes bitcoin using drug dealers ambivalent (on a rational, macro scale) about the government’s policy toward bitcoin, as it is unlikely (beyond accidentally publicizing that it is easy to procure drugs with bitcoin) to impact overall sales.

    3. What happens to the overall dollar value of bitcoin? Making it illegal might make it less useful to legitimate businesses and push down on the price, but making things illegal generally drives prices up. Why? It increases the risks of holding and producing those goods, meaning effective supply decreases and prices rise. Which side will dominate is hard to say, but if you start from the supposition that most bitcoin uses are illegal then it would be reasonable for prices to increase over the long run**. Obviously other concerns can dominate (ie a different crypto currency could cut into their market share) over that time frame and make this hard to observe.

    4. Finally the importance of centralized vs decentralized needs to be mentioned. If you want to end the use of windows as an operating system, the government could probably pull that off as they know who produces windows software and can go right for them. If you want to end the use of all operating systems you are going to have a much more difficult time as now there is another major player you have to take down, while also fighting back all the systems that will try to rise into the void created by the repression. Bitcoin looks like it fits into the latter category, where there is no central point to stop usage. Shutting down massive mining operations in China will not take those currently in circulation out, and will open up large incentives for setting up a mining operation elsewhere.

    * The government could be better or worse at catching bitcoin users vs drug users so it won’t be neutral typically

    ** this can coincide with a short term crash as legitimate users flood the market initially in trying to dump their inventory.

  37. Jaskologist says:

    Likely of interest to many here, especially those who remember the days when we debated en are ex and democracy.

    Neuhaus Was Right

    Neuhaus thought attachment to our liberal democracy much weaker than generally supposed. “What is happening now,” he wrote [in 1996], “is a growing alienation of millions of Americans from a government they do not recognize as theirs; what is happening now is an erosion of moral adherence to this political system.” He was particularly concerned by how this would affect coming generations. “What are the consequences when many millions of children are told and come to believe that the government that rules them is morally illegitimate?”

    Young people in North America and Western Europe are becoming skeptical of free speech, human rights, and free elections. Not only are they less likely to vote than young people in the past, they are less likely to attend protests, marches, and sit-ins. They are half as likely as older people to join humanitarian organizations or human rights campaigns. Robert Bellah spoke of a “civil religion” that sustains democratic faith. In terms of that faith, today’s youth are unchurched. They are increasingly alienated from democratic rituals, from democratic values, from democracy itself.

    When John Paul II wrote Evangelium Vitae, he was able to hail “an almost universal consensus with regard to the value of democracy.” That consensus is now collapsing. A war on the weak has been conducted in the name of democracy, and whoever resists it is called “anti-democratic”—no matter how broad his electoral support. We should learn from, rather than denounce, these dissenters. Candidates as disparate as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, and Marine Le Pen share one great thing: Against a regime that enshrines private interest, they assert, however crudely, the primacy of the common good. In doing so, they have revived the practice of democracy while challenging its ideology. We must do the same.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Interesting read, with some worrying statistics, but also quite a few weirdnesses.

      Politics is confined to policy questions rather than competing visions of right and wrong.

      Not sure what he means by that. I’m not a USAian, but the last national election looked pretty ‘competing visions of right and wrong’-ish to me.

      Our regime … accepts abortion and overdose as the price for free love and free trade.

      One is tempted to respond that the US regime accepts overdose as the price for not being willing to back down from the instance that punishment must be the central plank of drug policy, and for refusing to treat people with drug problems as fully human by allowing (and funding) life-saving harm-reduction policies such as supervised injecting facilities, or legal supplies of opiates of know dosage and purity. Sure, the collapse in economic opportunity in former manufacturing areas is part of the problem, but the War on Drugs is also very likely to be part of the problem, and it’s a part of the problem that directly contradicts the ‘things are bad because of maximising individual choice’ narrative.

      And it’s pretty jarring to see him bringing up abortion as if it were obviously as bad as the other concerns he brings up. I mean, I suppose it’s a Catholic magazine he’s writing for, but he must know that abortion is an idiosyncratic concern of Catholics and some other Christian groups, which is an atrocity only if you accept some insufficiently-established (to the rest of us) claims, right? It’s a bit like seeing someone from the Muslim world making an argument about the conditions of the modern world causing such ills as poverty, lack of education, war and cartoons of Mohammed – even if they were persuasive on the first items, seeing them tied to a highly religion-specific concern does not fill the reader with confidence that he is opposing bad things for good reasons.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        It’s pretty jarring to see this poster bringing up abortion as if it’s obviously less bad than the other concerns. I mean, I suppose Winter Shaker is a liberal, but he must know that support for abortion is an idiosyncratic concern of WEIRD people, which is OK only if you accept some insufficiently-established claims, right? It’s a bit like seeing some disciple of Peter Singer making an argument about how we should all be doing more to promote charity, effective altruism, and people’s freedom to have sex with animals — even if they were persuasive on the first items, seeing them tied to a highly idiosyncratic concern does not fill the reader with confidence that he is supporting good things for good reasons.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Well, it may not be obviously less bad than the other concerns, but it’s certainly not obviously as bad as the other concerns. And it’s not as if you have to be a liberal to not have a no-abortion stance anyway. ‘Permissible up to 40 days after conception’ seems to be a mainstream position in Islam, for instance, not a religion strongly associated with liberal attitudes.
          Things like

          A national increase in deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse has caused overall life expectancy to decline for the first time since the AIDS epidemic.

          are all matters that concern the suffering of sentient entities. So are things like

          Thirty-two percent of young Americans say they would welcome a strongman who doesn’t have to “bother with parliament and elections” (up from a quarter in 1995). And they don’t mind if he arrives in uniform. One in six supports military rule (up from one in sixteen)

          (assuming that his implication is that it would be worse for the people living in the USA to live under a military dictatorship than a democracy).

          If you don’t actually think that the suffering or wellbeing of sentient entities is a major concern, if you think that high rates of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny are bad for reasons that have little to do with the suffering that they cause, then fair enough. But if you’re going to do that, then you should at least be up-front about it, and make it clear that you are not trying to connect with the people (I would have thought a majority of people) who would disfavour the spread of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny precisely because of the suffering they cause.

          Would you, out of curiosity, be less, more or equally likely to take someone’s concerns about poverty, war etc seriously if you knew that they considered cartoons of Mohammed to be a comparable evil?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well, it may not be obviously less bad than the other concerns, but it’s certainly not obviously as bad as the other concerns. And it’s not as if you have to be a liberal to not have a no-abortion stance anyway. ‘Permissible up to 40 days after conception’ seems to be a mainstream position in Islam, for instance, not a religion strongly associated with liberal attitudes.

            Reading “absolutely no abortions” into a generally pro-life stance is like reading YEC into a generally creationist stance. Try harder.

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            If you consider abortion to be a problem comparable to “deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse”, then “absolutely no abortions” is the obvious stance to take, unless you have an edgy position that the ideal number of suicides and overdoses is positive (which, regardless of general plausibility, seems unlikely in this context).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t see why considering something a problem of a given degree of seriousness implies that all problems of that tier warrant the same level of utter eradication. By your standard, “an argument about the conditions of the modern world causing such ills as poverty, lack of education, war and police shootings” would be just as WEIRD.

            Additionally, even pro-choice people generally agree that the ideal number of abortions is zero. I strongly doubt that right-to-die folks would have suicides in their ideal world. But we don’t live in an ideal world so we’re left to deal with edge cases as humanely as possible. The bridge too far comes when it is asserted that core cases be treated the same way as those under exceptional circumstances.

          • unless you have an edgy position that the ideal number of suicides and overdoses is positive

            It’s edgy to believe that some lives are so bad that the people living them would have good reason to end them?

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            This is my argument:
            If you think abortion is a similar problem to deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse, you think an abortion is a tragic death (tantamount to murder). So it makes sense that you would apply the normal (at least for the general cluster of pro-life type people) attitude towards tragic deaths to abortion, i.e. that all abortions are terrible and should be treated similarly to killing adult humans.

            I do think your example quote is weird: it suggests that war and police shootings are similarly harmful. It’s this effect that makes Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking a trope (CW: TVTropes).

            I definitely don’t think “pro-choice people generally agree that the ideal number of abortions is zero”, any more than meat eating people generally agree that the ideal number of animals killed for meat is zero.

            @DavidFriedman
            I would say so. I think most people who support assisted suicide prefer to mentally frame it as something other than suicide. If you explicitly said “some people have terrible lives and should commit suicide”, I doubt the response would be wholehearted agreement.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            i.e. that all abortions are terrible and should be treated similarly to killing adult humans.

            Precisely. To be minimized, but sometimes the lesser evil in exceptional circumstances.

            I definitely don’t think “pro-choice people generally agree that the ideal number of abortions is zero”

            In what way is “some abortions” a more ideal scenario than “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them”

          • lvlln says:

            In what way is “some abortions” a more ideal scenario than “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them”

            I think a world in which “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them” would almost certainly be a totalitarian hellhole where all heterosexual activity of everyone is strictly controlled through coercion or brainwashing. Because, as far as I can tell, the only way to guarantee that is to make sure that heterosexual sex happens only when the mothers want to carry a baby to term and never when the mothers don’t want to. What I’ve observed about how humans behave indicates to me that this wouldn’t be possible without unprecedentedly strict control of people’s behaviors. I think it’s possible that non-abortion contraception could get much much more reliable than they are now, but I don’t find it plausible that it would ever reach literal 100% reliability.

            I think I recall seeing some polls indicate that a good portion of pro-choice people do believe that abortion is something that, in an ideal society, ought to happen rarely (I think Bill Clinton famously said something to this effect). I don’t think I know any such pro-choice people, though; I’m pro-choice and basically everyone I know IRL is pro-choice, and the impression I get from my conversations is that there is no ideal number of abortions – they should happen exactly as often as women deem it based on their individual decisions about their own situations. Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I think a world in which “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them” would almost certainly be a totalitarian hellhole where all heterosexual activity of everyone is strictly controlled through coercion or brainwashing.

            Same rules apply to suicide+overdose.

            Alternatively, contraception is 100% free and effective, we cure any possible sources of a miscarriage, and everyone is enlightened enough to accurately predict whether they should conceive or not. Sounds about as plausible as reducing suicide and overdose to zero without a totalitarian hellhole.

            Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

            That is concerning. Apparently I held too high an opinion of pro-choicers*.

          • Randy M says:

            That is concerning. Apparently I held too high an opinion of pro-lifers.

            ?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Randy

            As in I thought we agreed on “it’s tragic but sometimes necessary” and mostly disagreed on what circumstances constitute “sometimes”, and how tragic.

            I can respect assigning less moral worth to a fetus than to a full-grown infant, but the utter indifference of equating the moral worth to that of a vestigial organ is positively Lovecraftian.

          • Nornagest says:

            Surely you meant “pro-choicers”, then?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Oh. Derp. Just managed to fix within the edit window. Thanks, guys.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If you don’t actually think that the suffering or wellbeing of sentient entities is a major concern, if you think that high rates of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny are bad for reasons that have little to do with the suffering that they cause, then fair enough. But if you’re going to do that, then you should at least be up-front about it, and make it clear that you are not trying to connect with the people (I would have thought a majority of people) who would disfavour the spread of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny precisely because of the suffering they cause.

            I don’t think the majority of people limit their disapproval to things that cause suffering. If you doubt this, try conducting a quick straw poll among your friends/neighbours/co-workers as to whether necrophilia, bestiality, or having sex with people in comas is permissible.

            (Also, it seems likely that foetuses, at least towards the end of pregnancy, are capable of suffering. At any rate, newborn infants pretty clearly are, and there seems no reason why soon-to-be-born infants wouldn’t be similarly capable in this regard.)

          • Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

            Do you feel the same way about infanticide? If not, why such a sharp distinction between killing the offspring just before and just after delivery?

          • A1987dM says:

            Also, it seems likely that foetuses, at least towards the end of pregnancy, are capable of suffering.

            Not that many people think that abortion should be permissible all the way until “towards the end of pregnancy”. Most abortions are had in the first trimester AFAIK.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Not that many people think that abortion should be permissible all the way until “towards the end of pregnancy”.

            We’ve got someone in this very thread saying that “basically everyone [he] know[s]” thinks that abortion “at any point before birth” should be considered “as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed”.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Mr X:

            I don’t think the majority of people limit their disapproval to things that cause suffering. If you doubt this, try conducting a quick straw poll among your friends/neighbours/co-workers as to whether necrophilia, bestiality, or having sex with people in comas is permissible.

            I suspect that a lot of our intuitive responses in these sort of areas are effectively hygiene (including what you might call genetic hygiene) responses that have been hardwired into us by evolution. Sex with animals and the dead is likely to promote the spread of disease, which would cause suffering to anyone else you might infect (and sex with someone in a coma is probably sufficiently close to sex with a dead body that we pattern-match it into the same bracket). Like cannibalism can spread brain diseases, and incest raises the risk of children with birth defects, so it’s no surprise that we developed taboos about them. But to the extent that we now have the technology to mitigate these risks, we are left with a range of behaviours that are not, if you actually sit down to analyse it, as dangerous as they were in the ancestral past, yet the squick factor remains.

            To the extent that we can’t mitigate those risks, then moral disapproval is still justifiable on harm-related grounds.

            Of course, I am perfectly open to arguments along the lines that, although we have no reason to think that an early-stages embryo is itself capable of suffering and therefore an entity worthy of moral concern in its own right, nonetheless a society that permits early-stage abortion* will suffer in other ways, such as being outcompeted and conquered by rival societies. I’m not persuaded that that is true, but one could make a much more reasonable case for that sort of claim than one could make for treating the embryo as morally indistinguishable from a sentient person.

            *To be clear, I am not wedded to ‘abortion must be freely available up until birth’; if there is good reason to think that the suffering caused to a late-stage foetus outweighs that of a woman who does not want to carry it to term and yet has not been able to arrange a termination at an earlier stage, then that is a relevant consideration, but the the article certainly read to me as if the author was lamenting the fact that abortion was legal at all, and expected his readers to find that as reasonable a concern as alcoholism, suicide, overdose or political tyranny.

          • lvlln says:

            Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

            Do you feel the same way about infanticide? If not, why such a sharp distinction between killing the offspring just before and just after delivery?

            So this is a topic where I’ve actually recently slightly modulated my position, thanks in large part to listening to this episode of Julia Galef’s podcast where she interviews a philosopher about moral uncertainty. But to get into my mindset from before that, I simply drew an arbitrary line at birth between “clump of cells” and “human.” And I just didn’t consider anything that’s not “human” as having moral worth.

            I’m not sure if that’s the exact same reasoning that my peers IRL have – I suspect some of it might also be justified by privileging the freedom & autonomy of women over all other values.

            I’m now a little more doubtful that this view is correct, just based on the fact that it is highly unlikely that the moral intuitions that I happened to land on are the correct ones, despite there being massive amounts of people who landed on a conflicting moral intuition. I’ve also come to think the experience of suffering as mattering more than classification of “human” and “non-human,” and so I’ve come around to the argument that abortion after a certain point is immoral due to the suffering experienced by the fetus. I’m not convinced that it’s correct, because I don’t know if a fetus really does experience suffering, and I’m not sure how this would be empirically proved or even if it’s empirically provable at all. But I see it as a reasonable argument that a reasonable person could be convinced by.

            That said, I’ve read at least one argument that infanticide up to a certain age is morally permissible which I didn’t think was obviously wrong. The notion does cause me to have what I think is a reflexive disgust reaction, but I also think that such a disgust reaction may be caused by the same irrational part of my mind that makes me see babies as cute and worth protecting, rather than due to anything rational. So while I find discomfort at the notion of infanticide, I would say that a society which permits infanticide isn’t automatically one that I would condemn as immoral. Much like I would say that a society which outlaws all abortion isn’t automatically one that I would condemn as immoral.

            I’m not sure I answered your question satisfactorily. Unfortunately, this is an area where I feel like I have a hard time thinking clearly.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Winter Shaker:

            The point is that you’re criticising the article for using a controversial premise (that abortion is wrong) by yourself using a controversial premise (hedonism), which is inconsistent.

          • Like cannibalism can spread brain diseases, and incest raises the risk of children with birth defects, so it’s no surprise that we developed taboos about them.

            I’m dubious about both explanations. The brain disease one is, I think, based on one example in a rather obscure corner of the world–is there any reason to believe that it was a sufficiently serious problem elsewhere to explain a strong and nearly universal human norm?

            I think a more plausible explanation is that, if cannibalism is legitimate, individuals have a reason to kill others that they would not otherwise have, under some circumstances quite a strong reason, and that raises serious costs. I discuss the point in Chapter 15 of Law’s Order.

            The incest argument is a little more persuasive, but I note the existence of at least one substantial and long existing culture where first cousin marriage was considered particularly desirable. So I suspect that in that case as well there may be other reasons driving the norm.

          • albatross11 says:

            DavidFriedman:

            I suspect the utimate driver for why cannibalism is unwise as a strategy is at least partly the fact that it’s a dead-end. Eat deer or cattle or sheep or goats or pigs, and your food animals can get nutrition out of stuff you can’t live on. It expands your set of possible food sources. Eat humans and it’s a complete dead-end–they couldn’t eat anything you couldn’t eat.

          • Nornagest says:

            The brain disease one is, I think, based on one example in a rather obscure corner of the world–is there any reason to believe that it was a sufficiently serious problem elsewhere to explain a strong and nearly universal human norm?

            Hard to say. Kuru is pretty obscure, but that might be because cannibalism in the modern day is pretty obscure — prion diseases (scrapie, mad cow) are a major concern in food animals.

          • baconbacon says:

            I suspect the utimate driver for why cannibalism is unwise as a strategy is at least partly the fact that it’s a dead-end. Eat deer or cattle or sheep or goats or pigs, and your food animals can get nutrition out of stuff you can’t live on. It expands your set of possible food sources. Eat humans and it’s a complete dead-end–they couldn’t eat anything you couldn’t eat.

            This explains why canabalism isn’t year round, but you could still have situations with perishable and seasonal food supplies where ‘excess’ population could be turned into a food store during the winter. The fact that it takes extraordinary circumstances for cannibalism to occur suggests that it is more than just your explanation.

          • And you also have situations where someone dies and all that meat is buried instead of being consumed. On the face of it that’s a substantial waste, so we need a good explanation for why almost all human societies have a strong norm against.

          • John Schilling says:

            This explains why canabalism isn’t year round, but you could still have situations with perishable and seasonal food supplies where ‘excess’ population could be turned into a food store during the winter.

            For that matter, there have been societies which have kept slaves and used them to e.g. carry supplies for their army, but AFIK none which ate the slaves once they’d finished eating the food they had been carrying. I do not think the taboo on cannibalism can be ascribed to purely utilitarian concerns, even if filtered through evolutionary biology. Unless you consider the meta-utilitarian “this comes almost inextricably bundled with social behavior, and that is too useful to get rid of for a marginally useful food source”.

          • Viliam says:

            Also, it seems likely that foetuses, at least towards the end of pregnancy, are capable of suffering.

            From political perspective, what matters is whether we (the voters) are capable of empathy with their suffering. Or rather, whether politicians believe that we are.

            And that’s why it is strategically important to publicly pretend to be pure sociopaths towards babies. Anything else, and you are not sacrificing enough to our lord Moloch.

        • Tandagore says:

          Winter Shaker has also mentioned that he is not from the US, one of the very few countries where abortion is a real society-wide discussed issue. In most countries in Europe, it’s just… not.

          • In most countries in Europe, as I understand it, early term abortion is legal, later term abortion, under most circumstances, is not.

            So a position intermediate between what the more extreme right to life people want and current U.S. law.

          • gbdub says:

            This has always seemed odd to me – abortion *seems* to be less of a live issue in European politics, and yet, restrictions on abortion are generally more severe than in the US (at least in theory – some argue that abortion in at least parts of the US is legal but functionally inaccessible).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @gbdub
            Multi-party (i.e. >2) systems can actually arrive at a moderate conclusion instead of getting stuck in a never-ending fight to the death between the two extremes?

          • Anonymous says:

            @gdub

            Abortion is a live issue in some places in Yurp, such as Poland.

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            The majority of Americans support having some restrictions on abortion and thus do not support total legalization or a total ban.

            If we assume that Europeans have somewhat similar beliefs, then don’t their laws just reflect the average opinion? There being less debate about the issue can be explained by abortion not being part of the culture war in those countries (it is part of the culture war in Poland, though).

  38. bean says:

    Today at Naval Gazing:
    Part 1 of the story of the Peruvian ironclad Huascar.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I gotta wonder: is there a particular reason to care about the Huascar? While the story is interesting, this strikes me as a very niche topic even among pre-dreadnoughts. Am I missing the larger importance of Peru here?

      Also, post request: the rewrite of your missile defense post, because this has been coming up as a topic offline from various friends of mine who assert carriers are all doomed, and I’d like a better reference.

      • gbdub says:

        I enjoyed it. There weren’t that many ship-to-ship battles involving ironclads (Lissa was already covered, and Hampton Roads is already known to anyone with a passing interest in the subject). So this was new and interesting to me.

      • bean says:

        Basically, there were very few ironclad battles, so I looked into this one and found it interesting.

        I’ll look into doing a light update on the carrier doom posts, but a full rewrite is not going to happen soon.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        OT, but have you seen The Last Jedi? There’s a question here that you might have insight into. (Well, at least if you subscribe to the theory that the space combat in Star Wars is based on WWII naval warfare.)

        • bean says:

          I haven’t and won’t. I refuse to acknowledge Disney’s destruction of the EU, unless Mara Jade is in this movie.

          In terms of the question, not really. Trying to hit a ship was hard enough, hitting a specific spot didn’t really happen. The closest I know of is when they went after Yamato, they tried to hit just one side with torpedoes to make her more likely to capsize. Musashi had been hit from both sides, and took a lot more torpedoes to sink.

          • Lillian says:

            They didn’t destroy it, they just set it aside into its own alternate universe. Also frankly, do you really think anyone making Star Wars sequels would bind themselves to decades of EU material? George Lucas himself never gave a shit about the EU when he made the prequels or the Clone Wars show, he wouldn’t have given a shit about it if he’d chosen to make sequels. Nobody would have, it was already a full time job just getting the EU authors to write stuff that was in line with the rest of the EU. It was inevitable that EU would be ditched as soon as someone with full creative control started making stories set after Return of the Jedi. It’s unrealistic to expect otherwise.

          • bean says:

            They’re still selling the books, but they’ve closed it off to new content, and are developing the new stuff with almost no reference to the old. Thrawn’s reintroduction is an exception, but that’s mostly because he’s so amazing that they couldn’t keep him out. My suggestion was to do it like a comic book adaptation, and keep the best bits. There was a lot of garbage, but also some absolute gems.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Thanks.

            Amusingly, I generally take the exact opposite tack, and refuse to acknowledge anything but the movies. (That includes Clone Wars, of course; I’ve seen some episodes because the kids watch it, but though they’re sometimes fun to watch, I don’t think of them as really being part of the story. I think the word is “headcanon”?)

            … I think that’s mostly about scope, though. Canon that’s got far too much detail for me to possibly take it all in may be more realistic, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. Perhaps I’d have gotten past that if the first few EU novels I tried had been more engaging, or if I’d had more free time back then.

          • bean says:

            … I think that’s mostly about scope, though. Canon that’s got far too much detail for me to possibly take it all in may be more realistic, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. Perhaps I’d have gotten past that if the first few EU novels I tried had been more engaging, or if I’d had more free time back then.

            I can sort of understand that. But Star Wars was what I did in high school before I got into aerospace. So I threw lots of time at it. And there were some really good novels in there, too. I reread the Thrawn Trilogy a couple years ago, and was blown away by how good it was. There’s also a lot of absolute dreck.

  39. AKL says:

    How much, if at all, should we care about the personal behavior of elected representatives independent of any impact on policy outcomes? I wanted Al Franken to resign because I thought he was bad for the Democratic party brand and ultimately his presence made progressive changes I wanted less likely. Also, because it seems likely he’s a sleaze. But really because of policy. I think that whether they realize it or not, most people make exactly the same type of calculation.

    All else equal I would rather vote for a good person, but I’m not sure I’d be willing to make any meaningful policy sacrifices to do so. Should I be willing to, say, raise the probability of 1M people losing Medicaid coverage by .0001% (or kick one person off Medicaid) (or replace this with a policy goal you like) in exchange for replacing Franken with his imaginary non-sleaze doppleganger? What if he was credibly accused of armed robbery? Murder? I -think- I don’t care about behavior at all, and I -think- I am happy with that frame, but I have low confidence in the latter. Do folks feel the same way?

    • Matt M says:

      I’ve been thinking a bit about this and updating my mental model of this sort of thing. I’m increasing coming around to “almost zero.” Personal behavior matters to the extent that it reveals a person’s character. Does character matter?

      I think character matters in politics in one specific way – it helps you determine whether or not the person is likely to keep their promises. High character people will probably keep their promises, low character people probably will not.

      So if you have to choose between two people who support your preferred policies, the high character option is probably better, because they will actually do what you want, while the low character may defect. But I can’t really see a good reason to support a high character person who supports policies I oppose. This isn’t (supposed to be) a popularity contest. We aren’t electing a pope. Anyone who thinks that politicians are supposed to represent “the best of us” or whatever is probably unreasonably naieve.

      • DavidS says:

        Disagree strongly. Most of what most politicians do is on issues where they made no promises, so how they think/feel/value is important. I’d rather elect someone who shared my values but reached a slightly different conclusion on some big ticket items than one whose policies I agreed with but reached them for totally different reasons.

        Of course some ‘character’ issues are more important than others. But if I thought a politician e.g. was racist or held poor people in contempt I wouldn’t elect them even if their manifesto pledges did not reflect that. Not out of piety but because that belief would come out in thousands of small but important decisions.

        This is mostly important for people with independent decision making powers of course. For an mp/congressman you might be focused on the values/character of the party/leadership they’d empower instead.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I endorse the above. I’ve long thought that if you want to know what a politician will decide on the issues of the past term, read their platform.* If you want to know how a politician will decide on the issues of the coming term, read their character.

          And since the issues of tomorrow will be more important…

          *Platform is, of course, important, to the extent that its issues will come up later. It’s just that it won’t be complete coverage.