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Open Thread 92.75

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

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1,250 Responses to Open Thread 92.75

  1. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been thinking about the Jedi, and this idea that they have to be celibate. Where did Lucas get this idea? The Jedi are sort of sci-fi knights, but the traditional European idea of the virtuous knight does not include celibacy. Knights could have children. In fact, as lowest level of land-holders in a feudal system, they were supposed to do so, in order to have someone to inherit that land when they passed away.

    Lucas definitely drew some inspiration from Asian sources, particularly Japanese films. But the Japanese notions of the warrior, codified in Bushido, don’t mention celibacy either.

    The groups that are supposed to be celibate are priests and monks. Are the Jedi supposed to be monks? They seem rather too martial for that. The only Jedi we see who fits a monk-like role is Yoda, and even he can pull out a light saber and go to town when the occasion calls for it. But he is rather the exception. Most Jedi are more warlike than he is.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I think the Jedi owe at least as much to the Shaolin Monks of Wuxia as they do to the Knights Errant of chivalric romance or the Ronin and Samurai of Jidaigeki.

      Which is not to say they aren’t -heavily- inspired by the Ronin and Samurai of JIDAIgeki…

    • meh says:

      Night’s Watch and Kingsguard are also fictional warrior classes that require celibacy.

      • johan_larson says:

        Interesting. What’s the first time Jedi celibacy is introduced? Phantom Menace? That was in 1999, which was later than the novel “A Game of Thrones”, which came out in 1996.

        In the earlier EU, based on the original trilogy, Luke did marry. His wife was Mara Jade.

        • cmurdock says:

          Where was it said in Phantom Menace? The earliest I remember is from the promotional posters for Attack of the Clones (this, or whatever that’s a recreation of).

    • The Red Foliot says:

      The Jedi are a pseudo-religious sect, so I think the precedent is not with ordinary knights but knights crusader. I guess having them eschew earthly delights makes them seem more mystical and profound. And I think they do perform some, if not monk-ly deeds, at least deeds reminiscent of what monks do. They often enter a meditative trance when performing feats through the Force, often folding their legs and closing their eyes while doing so, in the vein of a Buddhist monk. And all of their advice and stuff is from Zen Buddhism. So there seem to be ample similarities between them and religious orders, especially the militant ones, for Lucas to perceive his idea.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      The groups that are supposed to be celibate are priests and monks. Are the Jedi supposed to be monks? They seem rather too martial for that. The only Jedi we see who fits a monk-like role is Yoda, and even he can pull out a light saber and go to town when the occasion calls for it. But he is rather the exception. Most Jedi are more warlike than he is.

      The Jedi of the original theory certainly are supposed to be more like monks than “martial” class. I mean, look at how Obi-Wan dresses. He is an ascetic living in hut. I don’t think Yoda ever wielded light saber until the modern CGI allowed that. Of course they are like monks, and the idea of celibacy was quite natural plot point when it was introduced.

      What we see in the prequel trilogy is extrapolated from the precedent introduced in the OT.

      Also, now that you mentioned, we have been talking about celibacy, but Lucas never said Jedi were supposed to celibate. They were not supposed to form attachments. This was a plot point in many/some EU stories.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        “Lucas never said Jedi were supposed to celibate. They were not supposed to form attachments.”

        “A PUA you can be, Luke.”

        • johan_larson says:

          A PUA with literal mind-control powers?

          [handwave] “You want to have sex with me.”
          “I want to have sex with you.”

          Such behavior would swiftly bring the Jedi Order into disrepute. I can’t believe that’s what Lucas had in mind for his upstanding guardians of the republic.

          • Matt M says:

            In the KOTOR video games, using the “jedi mind trick” on people for selfish ends (i.e. getting a bigger reward for doing them a favor) earned you dark-side points, and was considered to be an immoral act.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s not a pickup artist, that’s a pickup technician.

      • johan_larson says:

        I mean, look at how Obi-Wan dresses. He is an ascetic living in hut.

        Obi-Wan in ANH is the ruins of a once-proud order. He is an old man in hiding living on the fringes of society. Using him at that time to understand the Jedi Order is like trying to understand the SS based on the old men in hiding in South America in the 70s.

        I’m wondering whether the Janissaries would be a better model than monks are. They, like the Jedi, were taken from their homes at an early age and turned into formidable fighters.

      • Nornagest says:

        Everyone on Tattooine dresses like a 16th-century Japanese peasant, though.

        (Which, now that I think about it, is kinda odd given that Tattooine is a desert planet and Japan is a humid temperate climate, but this is probably one of those things I shouldn’t be thinking too hard about.)

    • Mark says:

      Templars?

    • John Schilling says:

      The groups that are supposed to be celibate are priests and monks. Are the Jedi supposed to be monks? They seem rather too martial for that.

      Right, because monks have always been peaceful in popular culture.

      The warrior monk is an archetype as old as anything else Lucas mined for the story and worldbuilding of Star Wars, and celibacy/chastity have usually been part of the package. Mumble something purity strength purpose mumble mumble. Also, the coach says no sex before the Big Game.

      • Nick says:

        Mumble something purity strength purpose mumble mumble.

        BOOK
        Some orders allow Shepherds to marry,
        but I follow a narrower path.

        JAYNE
        But, I mean, you still got the urge.
        They don’t… cut it off, or nothin’?

        BOOK
        Mm, no, I’m more or less intact.
        I just…

        BOOK sits down at the kitchen table. RIVER quietly enters the kitchen area.

        BOOK (cont’d)
        …direct my energy elsewhere.

        JAYNE
        You mean like masturbating?

    • cassander says:

      One of the many things that bugged me about the prequels was the laziness of dressing all the jedi the way that Obi-wan dressed on tatooine. the star wars universe would be much more interesting place if we saw more rich and politically powerful jedi like Dooku and had them interact with the rest of the universe in ways more complicated and nuanced than “was a good monk” and “led robot rebellion.”

      • Lillian says:

        Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Ghost Anakin all wore the same robes, so it was already strongly implied that this was the Jedi uniform. They’re space monks, so they wear space monk robes. That said, it would have been cool to see Dooku play the Grey Eminence. (The real Grey Eminence, btw, got that title because of his monk robes.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/what-are-celibacy-chastity-and-continence-9-things-to-know-and-share

      This is a very civilized handling of the fact that the meanings of celibacy and chastity different in common usage and common usage.

      In Catholic terms, celibacy means not being married. There doesn’t seem to be a specific word for the obligations of those living a consecrated life (those who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience) to not be married.

      Chastity is obeying the rules about sex.

      Continence is not having sex.

      • John Schilling says:

        And “decimate” means to kill exactly 10% of. Or else language evolves.

        Since there no longer are any rules about sex other than “don’t be a rapist”, and since “continence” now means not wetting yourself, the obvious linguistic evolution is for chastity to take over the former role of continence.

        It is amusing that, applying the old words to the new rules, we can literally say that anyone who isn’t chaste is a rapist.

  2. sty_silver says:

    For a university thing, I have to present results from a study.

    In the study, two people made an experiment with a 13-year-old girl; applying a method to teach her multiplication skills. To test progress, they had her do 10 simple multiplication tasks and looked how much she got right. They did four before the training began, then six throughout, and an additional four afterward. The numbers she got right are

    5 – 4 – 4 – 5 – 5 – 8 – 8 – 7 – 9 – 10 – 9 – 9 – 7 – 10

    Those were all with tasks involving multiplication with 7. Paralelly, they did the same with 8 and 9 and got these success numbers

    4 – 3 – 5 – 4 – 5 – 8 – 8 – 7 – 9 – 10 – 9 – 9 – 7 – 10 (in this case training began after the fifth, not the fourth, still lasted until the 10th)
    4 – 3 – 3 – 3 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 9 – 10

    Here’s what I want to ask about. The study says there is a 95,3% chance that the effects are real and not by chance, based on some dubious statistical tools. This strikes me as way way too low. There is supposed to be a 5% chance that this is a coincidence – really?

    I take that deciding whether a sequence is random is actually very hard, so most don’t know what they’re doing and are using methods that aren’t very good. But what would be a reasonable way to obtain a probability? Or is the 95,3% number accurate after all?

    It also strikes me as an ill-defined question in the first place. The study presents it as the probability that there has not been literally zero real progress.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I haven’t actually run these numbers, so take this with a grain of salt. You are applying your expectations to the statistics. You expect that somone who cannot perform multiplication problems will be able to be taught to multiplication (and fairly easily).

      This seems to be a very low power study, with only one individual, with only a total of 30 tests. 30 observations is quite small.

      If that one individual was actually a dolphin, your reaction would be to question the how anyone could calculate that it was 95% probable that you could teach the dolphin multiplication.

      Basically, you are letting your Bayesian prior sneak into your evaluation of the problem.

      • sty_silver says:

        So let me make sure I get this right: you believe that, had I just asked what is the chance that these three sequnces of numbers-

        5 – 4 – 4 – 5 – 5 – 8 – 8 – 7 – 9 – 10 – 9 – 9 – 7 – 10
        4 – 3 – 5 – 4 – 5 – 8 – 8 – 7 – 9 – 10 – 9 – 9 – 7 – 10
        4 – 3 – 3 – 3 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 9 – 10

        -are randomly generated, you’d have said something around 5%? Because I’m pretty sure that if I had seen them, without knowing about the study, I’d have said it’s lower than 0,1%. Probably lower than 0,01%.

  3. Evan Þ says:

    Reddit: “If someone was born in 1900 and died in 2000, what is the maximum number of countries they could live in without ever moving?”

    A commenter counted ten countries for a spot in northern Serbia outside of Vojvodina (with a bonus two more between 2000 and the present); can any of us get more? How about for other hundred-year periods?

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Does anyone know of a thing by GK Chesterton (possibly in The Everlasting Man about the foolishness of worshiping success?

    He was talking about the proto-Nazis of his time, and saying that Christianity is better because it has a God that understands failure and is at the side of those who are suffering.

    Nazis think they’re natural-born winners, so they can only lose if the other side is using unfair methods. Yes, I think there’s an error there.

    This is *not* “The Fallacy of Success”, which was about extremely low quality advice books. If Chesterton was giving a fair description of those books, we’ve actually seen some progress in the field.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve had a quick look through a book or two and I don’t think I’ve quite got what you mean, but there is this excerpt from one of the essays in Heretics, “Pagans and Mr Lowes Dickinson”, on the topic of humility:

      I have not spoken of another aspect of the discovery of humility as a psychological necessity, because it is more commonly insisted on, and is in itself more obvious. But it is equally clear that humility is a permanent necessity as a condition of effort and self-examination. It is one of the deadly fallacies of Jingo politics that a nation is stronger for despising other nations. As a matter of fact, the strongest nations are those, like Prussia or Japan, which began from very mean beginnings, but have not been too proud to sit at the feet of the foreigner and learn everything from him. Almost every obvious and direct victory has been the victory of the plagiarist. This is, indeed, only a very paltry by-product of humility, but it is a product of humility, and, therefore, it is successful. Prussia had no Christian humility in its internal arrangements; hence its internal arrangements were miserable. But it had enough Christian humility slavishly to copy France (even down to Frederick the Great’s poetry), and that which it had the humility to copy it had ultimately the honour to conquer. The case of the Japanese is even more obvious; their only Christian and their only beautiful quality is that they have humbled themselves to be exalted. All this aspect of humility, however, as connected with the matter of effort and striving for a standard set above us, I dismiss as having been sufficiently pointed out by almost all idealistic writers.

  5. Brad says:

    Since these OTs are occasionally a vehicle for advice–

    I’d suggest at least once in your life, and possibly every few years, doing your own taxes using just the forms and their instructions. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there about how complicated the tax code is, and if you are a multinational drug company or own the Trump real estate empire it certainly is. But for most people, even most of those doing quite well for themselves, it isn’t that complicated. Doing them by hand will give you insight both as a voter and as a taxpayer (e.g. what to look out for in terms of possible deductions next year).

    Even you don’t feel comfortable submitting your version and ultimately decide to use turbotax or an accountant, you still will have learned something and you can compare what you did to what they did.

    • Matt M says:

      I endorse this as well. I was sort of forced into doing it when I was young and in the military because the VITA rep screwed something up and my return was rejected. I figured “What the hell, I’m smart, I can figure this out.” And it turned out that I could. Was a really useful learning experience.

    • smocc says:

      I especially endorse doing this when you are very likely to get a refund (e.g. you are young, don’t make much money, have children and get EIC etc.). Then it’s like doing a logic puzzle where you get paid $1000 at the end.

      • quanta413 says:

        Personally, I prefer a more negative framing of doing taxes to get a rebate

        Imagine a government that took 10% of each person’s income, and put in in a wooden box. The box was placed at the end of a 10-mile gravel road. Each citizen was given a knife, and told then could crawl on their hands and knees down the road, and then use the knife to cut a hole in the box, and retrieve their money.

        Now let’s view these two policies in isolation. There is the 10% tax on income, and the “knife, gravel road and box program.” Considered in isolation, we clearly benefit from the knife, gravel road and box program, as we are free to either try to get our money back, or not. That’s more options than if the program didn’t exist. I’m sufficiently lacking in self-respect to actually crawl down the road, knife in hand, to get back 10% of my income. Thus it seems like I’d be worse off if they eliminated the knife, gravel road, and box program. That’s the sense in which my wife thought we benefited from the flexible benefits tax break.

        But that’s not how I see things. I see the original 10% tax on income and the subsequent tax breaks as being linked. The gravel road just seems like a big deadweight loss to me. This is how they do things in Venezuela, not Sweden.

        Now if the rebate was obtained by doing a sudoku or something, that might be more palatable.

        • Brad says:

          The box was placed at the end of a 10-mile gravel road. Each citizen was given a knife, and told then could crawl on their hands and knees down the road, and then use the knife to cut a hole in the box, and retrieve their money.

          One of my points is that this is an exaggeration. Unless you are terrified of numbers or have a rare tax situation, it is not an especially difficult or time consuming exercise.

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s hyperbole obviously. But how unpleasant it is isn’t just a matter of numbers but also of how much you hate tedious tasks and some other factors. Personally if I had the option, I’d rather exercise so strenuously I vomited rather than waste even one evening doing taxes. And I’m not terribly athletic but I’m good at math. I can only imagine how much my preferences would change if my understanding of basic arithmetic was bottom 20% of the population.

            And how time consuming it is or isn’t depends vastly on how much of a stickler you are. Last time I tried to do it by hand to the letter, despite the fact I was a graduate student with one of the simplest possible returns to figure out, I couldn’t even figure out how the two states I had to pay taxes in legally defined residency. After one night (a few hours) spent trying, I gave up since nothing I could find in any public laws by googling contradicted my layman’s understanding of residency and since I made so little money that even if I had fucked up, neither state’s tax administration was likely to wreck me.

        • Nornagest says:

          If you’re getting 10% of your income back as a tax refund, you have your withholdings set up wrong.

    • James Miller says:

      I suggest the reverse as well, that if you always do your own taxes have a profession do them at least once to see if this profession can save you lots of money.

    • Nornagest says:

      I agree, and would add that if you aren’t in a complicated tax situation and are moderately decent at reading legalese, it’s just as easy (though not as user-friendly) as doing Turbotax. The first time I did it, I felt stupid for having paid fifty bucks a year for tax software that was obviously was just a brightly colored wrapper around the IRS e-file form.

    • I have changed my mind a bit about how easy tax returns are to do. I am a professional tax accountant (although corporate, not individual), and I feel that I understand them pretty well. My kids are in their twenties, and I insisted on them doing their own returns so they would understand them, even though I found them pretty easy to do. But once I started going over the instructions with them, I realized they were a lot harder than I thought. It seems like every line of the instructions have a lot of comments telling taxpayers that if they all these various kinds of income they need to do these various other things. See the easiest form instructions 1040EZ. I know what these things are, but I understand why my kids don’t. I guess if you just assume you don’t have those kinds of income, then the instructions are pretty easy. I guess that’s how returns should be done, but it does mean if you do have one of these oddball types of income or situations, you will probably do the return wrong. The “simple” tax returns look a lot harder to do than when I first started to fill out mine (this was before I had any training myself).

      Having said that, I do endorse Brad’s comment that everyone should at least try to do their own.

  6. johan_larson says:

    A few OTs back, I asked what the US is best at. This time, let’s consider the other side of the coin, what the US is worst at.

    I think it’s fair to say the US struggles in some areas. Other prosperous countries would probably not trade their K-12 education systems for that of the US. The medical system is known for high overall costs, mediocre overall results, and some nasty gaps in coverage. The electoral system is known for high incumbency, low voter participation, and a funding model that makes politicians highly dependent on their campaign contributors.

    But where are the problems worst? I suspect the worst of the worst is the justice system. The cops kill a lot of people, the system jails a lot of people, the prisons themselves are pretty darn nasty, cops and prosecutors have a lot of leeway to seize your property, and prosecutors have so much discretion in filing charges that most defendants plead to lesser charges rather than face high-stakes trials.

    • Matt M says:

      Yeah, having the #1 incarceration rate in the entire world, including despotic hellholes, is pretty damn embarrassing. Especially for a country whose propaganda constantly emphasizes freedom and liberty.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Speaking as a Canadian – so, about as close to an American as you can get (although not as close as commonly thought) – there are so many horrible features of your systems in general for choosing governments, officials, etc. This probably leads to the other problems. The most visceral example is the gerrymandering. But stuff like elected police officials, judges, etc, that seems really bad too. In general a lot of stuff in the US seems run on systems that were cutting-edge in the late 18th century but are kinda struggling now (be more like us: our system only dates to the late 19th century, with periodic half-assed attempts to update it).

      • That got me curious about the Canadian system. As I understand it, your senate consists of individuals appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister for what used to be life terms, now are up to age 75 terms. There are supposed to be an equal number from each of various regions, not based on population.

        That sounds an awful lot like the British House of Lords, although without hereditary membership and with geographical dispersion. Is your point that the power to appoint life peers is a 19th century innovation? It actually seems to go back quite a lot farther than that–farther than the 18th century.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The senate doesn’t really do anything, though. In practice, it’s mostly an honourary thing, with a certain amount of “this guy was useful to the party” type stuff, that sort of thing.

          My comment was more a shot at Canada’s kinda-antiquated-too system. A better comparison would be US vs Germany – the latter has a system that was brand shiny new far more recently, and was kind of put in place from scratch (well, West Germany up to reunification).

    • James Miller says:

      The US is worst at advancing the technology necessary to create an unfriendly artificial general intelligence that will eat our light cone.

    • psmith says:

      Trains. Maybe roads. Not being fat (not literally the worst, but pretty bad.).

      Other prosperous countries would probably not trade their K-12 education systems for that of the US.

      Eh.

      (Though I suppose you could also make versions of this point about trains/roads/obesity.).

      • shakeddown says:

        even if pisa rank is okay, the cost is terrible.

        Trains in the US are uniformly ridiculously expensive to build AFAICT. Most of them are also really bad (Boston and maybe Seattle subways are okay, but they’re the US at its best and are sub-par for rich countries).

      • Nornagest says:

        Our train system is great, it just isn’t optimized for being a passenger train system.

        Our roads do kinda suck compared to the other first-world countries I’ve been to (though they’re nowhere near the worst in the world), but I think this is more a symptom of one of the things we might actually be the worst in the world at, which is infrastructure cost control.

        • Matt M says:

          Geographically (and culturally) we aren’t well optimized for a passenger train system at all.

          • Nornagest says:

            Depends where in the States you’re talking about. The Northeast megalopolis is well situated for passenger rail, and California could do better than it’s doing (though the current high-speed rail plan is stupid). Might be a few other places where it’s worth it, too — Vancouver/Seattle/Portland, maybe, or Milwaukee/Chicago/Detroit/Toronto. But that all hinges on someone figuring out how to cure the cost disease, because otherwise the return on investment would probably be better if you went to Vegas and bet it all on black.

  7. Wrong Species says:

    If I switched the email that I’m using for this account, would someone still be able to figure out what my old email address was?

    • beleester says:

      AFAIK, your gravatar is based on an MD5 hash of your email. It’s not trivial to reverse the hash, but a determined adversary can probably uncover it (MD5 is meant for speed, not cryptography). So it depends if you’re worried about casual observers, or if you think the Mossad is out to get you.

      One researcher says they were able to uncover 45% of gravatars on a forum in about a day, using hash-cracking software and a dictionary attack.

      As for your previous email, it shouldn’t be hard to find two posts by “Wrong Species” with two different gravatars, and get the emails from both.

      • Wrong Species says:

        So I’m pretty much screwed either way if someone is determined enough, no matter what I do now?

        • albatross11 says:

          Use a throwaway email address for your gravatar and you break the linkage. Though there’s still a lot of stuff it’s hard to do–I’m not sure if SSC works if you come to it through TOR, but the performance will surely be horrible, and some parts won’t work if you use the TOR browser since they’re also useful for tracking. (Also, basically every website that lives on ads does everything it can to track you, because that lets them sell the ads for more money.) For a really serious attacker, maybe I try to match your text style to other known copies of your writing, or just note what times you usually comment and infer an approximate location, or….

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m confused. Beelester said that even after changing email addresses, someone could still find out my old email address. You say the opposite. Are you saying that Beelester is wrong or is there some new nuance that I’m not getting?

          • Nornagest says:

            I think Beelester is wrong, at least for posts made after the transition to user accounts. Posts made before that transition may not be linked to your account and therefore may be immutable.

            EDIT: Yep, it gets changed on your old posts.

          • Brad says:

            There may be archive sites, screenshots, or caches that have the old icon. But this website will display your new icon on your old posts once you change your linked email address.

      • albatross11 says:

        From hashcat’s performance numbers for a stock PC with 8 GPUs, we get something like 200 billion MD5 hashes per second. So it would take about 200 seconds to try every 8-letter and less Gmail address. One estimate I saw was that there were about six billion active email addresses in use right now, so if I had a list of them, I could use that system to find your email address in under a second. (Or if I just had a list of emails of people I thought would be interesting to track, I could check those *really quickly*.) Assuming there’s no salting being done, I could precompute the gravatars for each email address, scrape sites to find gravatars, and then look for matches.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t believe so. I’ve changed my email here before, and doing so changed the gravatars on my old posts.

      I don’t know if this is 100% reliable, though.

  8. Conrad Honcho says:

    My wife and I had an argument last night. Am I out of line?

    I do not like tattoos. I have never liked tattoos. My wife has heard me describe them as “degenerate,” “low-class,” “trashy” and “ugly.” Now I completely understand that other people do not share this opinion. This is my own personal taste. I completely understand that other people get tattoos because they find them meaningful, they make important statements about themselves, they commemorate events or people in their lives, or they simply find them beautiful. That is their opinion and they are entitled to it. I would never try to argue with someone who likes tattoos that they shouldn’t, because there is no accounting for taste.

    So I made some comment about the ugly tattoo on some musician on TV and my wife bristled. She has for awhile been pondering getting a tattoo on her forearm of a few words that are very meaningful to her; a sort of personal mantra. She said that should she do this, I would be unsupportive, or judgmental and would look at it as ugly, even though she should be able to do whatever she wants with her body.

    I said yes, she is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body, I’m certainly not going to “forbid” her from getting a tattoo, but I’m not required to like it. How can I like something I think is ugly? I can do whatever I want with my body. Dye my hair orange, shave half of it off, and tattoo dicks all over my face to show how empowered I am or whatever, but she’s not required to find that attractive.

    Am I wrong?

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      I think tattoos are interesting.

      Is it subconscious or conscious personality signalling? There’s plenty of psychological data on differences for those who get tattoos and those that don’t….and “on average” stereotypes hold.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        That’s part of it, but I also simply find them aesthetically displeasing. I like the human form as it is. I value things like “purity,” “cleanliness,” “symmetry.” I have never seen a tattoo on a person (especially a woman) and said to myself “that makes that person look more attractive.” Only the opposite. I completely understand this is a matter of subjective taste, and there are others who think tattoos are sexy. Great for them! But I do not share this opinion.

    • skef says:

      My wife has heard me describe them as “degenerate,” “low-class,” “trashy” and “ugly.” Now I completely understand that other people do not share this opinion. This is my own personal taste

      “Ugly” and perhaps “trashy” plausibly qualify as descriptors of “personal taste”. “Degenerate” and “low-class”, not so much.

      As for the rest of it, don’t standard marriage norms call for lying in such situations?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Not when you’re talking about permanent changes to appearance. “Does this dress make me look fat” gets a white lie because the dress isn’t permanently attached to the body.

        • skef says:

          Ok, but in that case this needs to read in the stronger way:

          I said yes, she is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body, I’m certainly not going to “forbid” her from getting a tattoo, but I’m not required to like it.

          What you say after this about “it” implies you mean how the tattoo affects her appearance. But you also mean that she is “allowed” to get the tattoo but you’re not required to like that she gets the tattoo. You don’t forbid her doing so but you’re not OK with her doing so. (Or at least I don’t see how a white lie wouldn’t also be appropriate in this case otherwise.)

          That doesn’t make you out of line, but it does clarify the substance of the disagreement as not just aesthetic.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I meant I’m not required to like the tattoo. It really is about the thing itself, and not about me not liking her doing something I don’t like.

            If she did this, I would completely understand why she did it (self-empowerment), and I certainly don’t object to her doing self-empowering things. But I would find the tattoo unattractive, and thereby find her less attractive than I currently do.

          • skef says:

            But then again: why not the white lie?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because white lies are about little things that aren’t important, and tattoos are necessarily important, because they’re permanent.

            Your wife declares she’s going to get dicks tattooed all over her face. For some reason, you think this will make her less attractive to you. Do you lie and say “oh, that’ll be beautiful, honey?”

          • skef says:

            I don’t really know how to interpret this thought experiment alternative because tattooing dicks all over one’s face really would have dramatic social implications in the way a smallish arm tattoo would not now. You’ve already said that tattoos have class implications for you, but you’re picking an example that would have class implications for virtually everyone while (I think) wanting us to consider the aesthetic implications in isolation.

            What we’re looking for in an example is a change that’s permanent, ugly to at least some people, but still broadly acceptable. So maybe one of those 90s ski-ramp nose jobs.

            Hmm. Now that I think about it, though, anything like this is probably going to be a lost battle. Especially for a woman in our culture, any change of this kind is going to be a proxy for aging. Grumpiness about the tattoo, whether she gets it or not, is going to be projected onto future grumpiness about looks lost to age.

            Yeah, I think you’re fucked here.

          • vV_Vv says:

            No, I meant I’m not required to like the tattoo. It really is about the thing itself, and not about me not liking her doing something I don’t like.

            But you said that you think tattoos are not just aestetically ugly, but also “trashy”, “low-class” and “degenerate”. This implies that if your wife got a tattoo, it would lower your opinion of her, since the tattoo would be evidence that she is the kind of person who gets a tattoo.

            Which is a perfectly fine opinion to have.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it’s a bad idea to let your spouse (or kids) do something you hate so much, because it will contaminate your opinion of them. And you’re stuck with them, so it’s not like you can cease association.

      Regarding tattoos themselves, I agree with you. Might as well tattoo “I come from a long line of poor decision makers” if you get tats at all.

    • albatross11 says:

      FWIW, my wife and I have discussed the same issue. She has considered getting a small tattoo on her ankle; I find tattoos pretty unattractive in general. We haven’t had a fight about this, exactly, but in an alternative universe where I didn’t sometimes express dislike of tattoos, I think it’s at least 50/50 that by now she’d have a tattoo.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to tell your wife you’d find a tattoo unappealing or unpleasant. I’d expect her to be willing to do the same with you, if you proposed getting a tattoo and she thought they looked trashy or low-class or whatever. Indeed, I’d expect that to be the more common case–husband says “I think that tattoo looks cool and want to get it” and wife says “over my dead body!”

      You can’t forbid her from getting a tattoo any more than she can forbid you getting one, but both of you can certainly express your opinions. You have to decide how forcefully to do so–my own experience in 20+ years of marriage is that there are places where I disagree with my wife that are really important to her and not to me, and there, I generally just swallow my objections and don’t make a big deal of it–it’s not a hill worth dying on. There are other issues that go the other way. (We’d probably have a couple guns in the house if my wife didn’t find the whole idea so upsetting, for example. It matters a lot more to her than to me.)

      Maybe it would also be worthwhile to be clear that even if she gets the tattoo, that’s not going to make you leave her or stop loving her or lose your attraction to her or something, it’s just something you’d rather she didn’t do. (Even though that should be clear, it’s good to say out loud for her to hear.) Among other things, that lowers the perceived stakes on the conflict, which is almost always a good idea.

      All IMO.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        You have to decide how forcefully to do so–my own experience in 20+ years of marriage is that there are places where I disagree with my wife that are really important to her and not to me, and there, I generally just swallow my objections and don’t make a big deal of it–it’s not a hill worth dying on.

        Absolutely. My dad always told me “don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff” and the magic words for a successful marriage are “yes, dear.” She tells me what color she wants the room painted and I paint the room that color. It makes her happy and I simply do not care.

        Maybe it would also be worthwhile to be clear that even if she gets the tattoo, that’s not going to make you leave her or stop loving her or lose your attraction to her or something, it’s just something you’d rather she didn’t do.

        I did make that explicitly clear, that I would still love her and would never leave her, but it would definitely impact the attractiveness. My wife is very girl-next-door cute, with blonde hair, blue eyes, great rack. A tattoo kind of wrecks that whole sweet-and-innocent image. If she got one I doubt I would be successful at hiding my disgust.

    • Urstoff says:

      You should probably trying being more open about something aesthetic like that simply because your wife is interested in it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        How does one change their aesthetic tastes? If you hate the color green, how do you start liking green?

        • Urstoff says:

          Exposure, trying to appreciate different elements of the object, discussion with why other people like them. Surely you’ve had the experience of your aesthetic tastes changing before.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I can’t really think of anything that I used to dislike, that I now like. It usually goes the opposite way, where something I used to enjoy like certain TV shows or styles of pop music or something I now find juvenile and stupid.

            And it’s not like I haven’t had decades to develop my aesthetic tastes in what I find attractive in women. I dated a lot, including girls with tattoos, but that was always a signal to me that this was going to be a short-term thing.

          • Urstoff says:

            It’s your wife, so maybe try anyway? I’m also a bit astounded that you’ve never had the experience of going from dislike to at least indifference. Maybe see a therapist for that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What something that you disliked after reaching adulthood (I’m not talking about kids thinking brussels sprouts are icky here) that you now like?

          • Urstoff says:

            Plenty of different kinds of music, literature, etc. SSC may not be the place to ascertain this, but I feel like aesthetic development is the norm, not the exception. Maybe it’s not, and people really do get further stuck in their tastes as they get older. If so, that’s a somewhat disappointing.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Brussels sprouts, in fact, were something I only learned to like recently. I had a disgust reaction to them, but my wife cooks them well, and now I can even handle poorly cooked Brussels sprouts (and TIL that Brussles should always be capitalized).

            The biggest hurdle I often face when I make an effort to like something that I don’t is that the old not-liking was something I saw as a key piece of my identity. Is this an issue? Ask yourself for a few days how you would feel if you suddenly liked tattoos. Would it feel like any kind of betrayal of your prior self? If so, that might be an issue for you as it is for me.

        • dodrian says:

          Ask her to share her thought processes in the meaning behind the tattoo, and what it is she likes about the potential artwork, etc. Encourage her to go into depth, and while she’s doing so try to not think about it as a body modification.

          It might not change your mind, but it will at the very least show a willingness to consider things you don’t like from her perspective, which may help.

          • ohwhatisthis? says:

            There appears to be a good deal of unconscious social signalling involved in individual patterns of dress.

            Not simply meta-commenting on tattoos, but whatever comes may be a rationalization, or otherwise obfuscated for various reasons.

            Thus,the information gained may be in the category of “This is how the brain makes rational a partially unconscious pull”

            … That’s still a valid inter-personal method of communication, though.

    • Matt M says:

      You’re not wrong.

      But it probably doesn’t matter. I’d start practicing the phrase, “Wow, that actually looks much better than I thought! Maybe I was wrong about tattoos!”

    • Randy M says:

      My wife and I had an argument last night. Am I out of line?
      She has for awhile been pondering getting a tattoo

      I am strongly against divorce, so before I go on, let me ask–can you afford two residences?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Point of order: “it’s my body” is not a true statement of any married person.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’m torn.

      I think each of the following is true :
      1. Healthy marriage does not require that you subvert or alter your own personality, including your aesthetic tastes.
      2. A person is the sole possessor of their own body. No other person has the right to determine what happens to it (with certain limitations that would not apply here).
      3. One essential marital role is to help your spouse achieve their greatest aspiration / fulfillment / degree of personal expression.

      I don’t think that resolves the issue, though.

      People naturally have some trepidation when it comes to permanently altering their bodies. Maybe part of what she is feeling / expressing is a heightened sense thereof, as she could also be permanently altering her marriage. And you can’t reassure her that she wouldn’t be.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      No, I don’t think you are out-of-line. But then again, I’m an old-school type.

      That said, I suggest that in lieu of the tattoo you offer to get her a pricey piece of jewelry with her mantra engraved on it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This is the compromise I’d want if it were rational given your finances.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        You are a genius. And Valentine’s Day is coming up. fortaleza84 you just saved my marriage, bless you!

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Oh you are soooo fucked if you think this is the solution.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How do you figure?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            @HeelBearCub

            Hey, it might work! Do tell us how it turns out, Conrad!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            You’ve already offended her by implying she was morally degenerate.

            She wants to make a permanent addition to her body. That is an extremely personal decision, a statement of self determination and autonomy. A statement of personal values. She is so committed to an idea that she wants to place it on her body permanently.

            For instance, I’ve contemplated getting a tattoo on my arm that incorporated the names of my wife and children somewhat abstractly into a design.

            You are offering to replace that with a “pricey piece of jewelry”. The optics on that are all kinds of wrong (and the thinking behind it is probably wrong as well).

            If you think me offering me an expensive watch with my wife and kids names on it as a substitute for a tattoo is going to show how much you understand me, you are sorely mistaken.

            EDIT:
            Oh God, it’s even worse. You’ve already picked it out for her and are just going to present it to her. Holy fuck.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So what’s your solution, besides “change my moral foundations?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Because you’re doing it for _you_, to dissuade her from getting that tattoo, and she’s going to know it.

          • Fahundo says:

            My solution would have been “don’t sign a piece of paper shackling yourself to someone who doesn’t share your moral foundations” but you done fucked that up

          • Brad says:

            So what’s your solution, besides “change my moral foundations?”

            I don’t have any kind of problem with NaD’s position here:
            https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/10/open-thread-92-75/#comment-587883

            which I take is similar to what you are saying about moral foundations, but if it is really that important to you, shouldn’t you have talked about it before marriage?

            I don’t like tattoos either, though I don’t dislike them quite to the extent you seem to, but if there’s something that’s fairly common in our society and _really_ a dealbreaker I’m surprised you never talked about it before.

            That said, I can’t some I’m quite as horrified about the proposed solution as HBC, just as you married her, she married you. She too should have had some idea of what she was getting into.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @The Nybbler

            Because you’re doing it for _you_, to dissuade her from getting that tattoo, and she’s going to know it.

            And? That is exactly the point. Or rather, it’s a compromise: she still gets her mantra on her arm where she can look at it, in a beautiful and lasting way, but it’s not permanently affixed to her body.

            @Brad

            which I take is similar to what you are saying about moral foundations, but if it is really that important to you, shouldn’t you have talked about it before marriage?

            I don’t like tattoos either, though I don’t dislike quite to the extent you seem to, but if there’s something that’s fairly common in our society and _really_ a dealbreaker I’m surprised you never talked about it before.

            I’ve been making such statements about how much I dislike tattoos to her since well before we married. She generally agreed with me, but mostly along the lines of “I don’t hate them, but there’s nothing I’d ever want to permanently put on my body.” Her considering getting a tattoo is a new development on her part.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And? That is exactly the point. Or rather, it’s a compromise

            You’re going to give her a gift, that’s actually for you, or a compromise. Obviously I could be wrong here; I don’t claim to have an accurate mental model of your wife (or even mine). But I’d be very surprised if it was taken positively.

            If getting this tattoo is as important to her as her not having it is to you, you’re at an impasse and one of you is going to have to yield. If it’s actually much less important to her, better that you impress upon her how important it is to you, and lead her to suggest an alternative like the bracelet, rather than giving it as an unsolicited gift.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So what’s your solution, besides “change my moral foundations?”

            First, I would suggest you talk to her, rather than presuming you can dictate to her. You already know she is angry, and you should take on board the idea that she is pissed for good reason.

            Second, make sure you differentiate between what you like and what is moral. Make sure that you are clear with yourself that this is about what you find unattractive, not about what is actually moral. She isn’t proposing forcibly giving you (or anyone else) a tattoo.

            Just because you have a disgust reaction to something does not make that thing immoral.

            Do you think that all traditional Maori are actually immoral?

            I really doubt you are being asked to give up your moral foundations, here.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I don’t think tattoos are immoral, I think my aesthetic preferences are derived from my moral foundations. You know I’m a conservative. I have a low disgust threshold and put a high value on purity. That’s out of Haidt’s moral foundations theory. I’m doing some armchair self-psychoanalysis here and figuring that’s why I dislike tattoos on women and find them so aesthetically displeasing: they violate my moral leanings towards purity/sanctity.

            @Nybbler,

            Okay, yes, I like the idea better of leading her to the bracelet idea instead of presenting it as a gift.

          • Her considering getting a tattoo is a new development on her part.

            How long have you been married?

            I considered making the jewelry suggestion and decided against it before I saw that others had made it and some argued against. It works as a compromise if she suggests it, might work if you suggest it, is very unlikely to work if you just do it–because they you are making the choice for her.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Her considering getting a tattoo is a new development on her part.

            This is a bad sign.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I ran this whole thing past my wife. We discussed it for a while, because it’s interesting, and she came down to a few takeaways”:

            1. Her advice to Conrad, if he asked my wife, is to just live with it, because it’s important to her.

            2. But her advice to Conrad’s wife, if she asked my wife, was that she should realize Conrad doesn’t like it and stop, because it’s important to him.

            3. When I mentioned the jewelry compromise someone had suggested, my wife said “oh, that could be a good solution.”

        • Jaskologist says:

          Or you’re creating a utility monster. Next year it’ll be all “this is some nice skin, it would be a terrible shame if something were to be permanently written on it, hint hint hint.”

          Once you pay the damegeld…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            damegeld

            Well played.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Once you pay the damegeld…

            I like it.

            Keep in mind that for most men, marriage is all about damegeld. The trick is to always give her a little bit more cash and prizes than she would get in a divorce proceeding.

        • Alphonse says:

          I’ll reiterate the viewpoint that this may be a good compromise if you suggest it and she agrees, but I think it will likely backfire badly if you get it for her as a surprise.

          I ran an abbreviated version of your scenario past several people whose opinions I think are reasonable. Everyone had the same reaction I did: jewelry might work if you suggest it and she agrees, but it would seem manipulative if given as a surprise.

          Obviously the actual outcome depends on the dynamics of your relationship and is impossible to say with confidence from afar, but I doubt this will go well if you gave this as a Valentine’s Day “gift” (especially in that context, since then it feels particularly like you’re giving her something that really advances your preferences in a manipulative way).

          (FWIW, I think your decision to express your concerns is perfectly reasonable and I would do the same if my spouse were seriously considering getting a tattoo. I don’t envy you having to navigate these issues, since there may not be a good way to reconcile it and make you both happy. Good luck.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m not an expert on women or your marriage. Nonetheless, I have an opinion about the bracelet.

        It might work, but if your wife accepts the bracelet instead of the tattoo she wants, she is doing you a favor.

        I strongly recommend *asking* her if she’d like a bracelet instead rather than surprising her with it.

    • Well... says:

      On my blog (and maybe here too?) I’ve argued against tattoos, not on an aesthetic basis (although I dislike them) but on a physiological (?) one. Basically I think you have to have some kind of body dysmorphic disorder to look at your body and see it as a blank canvas. Would your wife find that idea offensive or interesting?

      Relevant blog entries here and here.

      • DavidS says:

        To be honest this just reads to me as ‘I personally dislike tattoos and don’t do well at empathy’. And this from someone who doesn’t personally like tattoos!

        You’re pretty much begging the question with things like ” they can only leave the skin in a worse condition aesthetically”

        Basically I think it all comes down to this: “Similarly I never could imagine looking down at a fresh tattoo on my own skin and thinking “Good, that part of my skin looks better now than it did before.” That’s the main reason I don’t have any tattoos.” Some people can and do look down at tattoos and think that. This is the main reason they have tattoos. People are different.

        Your posts could be repeated with ‘why eating spicy food is objectively wrong’, ‘why do people read novels when films are better?’ and any number of other projections of personal taste.

        • Well... says:

          If I was just justifying my lack of empathy, I would merely say “I can’t understand why anyone would want a tattoo” and then retreat immediately to aesthetic reasons. It is because I have empathized, by understanding that to get a tattoo I’d have to look at my skin and decide it would be better with a tattoo there, that I decided there might be a body dismorphic disorder thing going on. I know I said “I never could imagine” but really I have imagined it, I just also had to imagine a sort of mental disorder to make it make sense.

          Some people can and do look down at tattoos and think that [their skin looks better with the tattoo there]. This is the main reason they have tattoos.

          I know! That’s what’s begging the question though.

          Maybe we’re starting from different assumptions. I assume that the lack of markings humans are born with is “nature’s intended way” so to speak, that we cannot be further perfected by adding permanent markings. We can only be downgraded by such a modification.

          Tattoos/piercings/etc. is like lowering your car’s suspension until the tires scrape against the wheel wells, all just to get a particular “look,” when the suspension as set at the factory is optimized for the way 99.99% of people drive the car. (I can’t remember, but I think I made an exception about tattoos when it comes to gang members and people in primitive tribes. For those groups I am more approving of tattoos.)

          • How do you feel about people deliberately getting a tan? Lipstick? Shaving?

            All of those are departures from “nature’s intended way,” assuming you aren’t living somewhere where the tan comes naturally.

          • Well... says:

            In terms of perfecting-the-already-optimal, I don’t have a big problem with any of them:

            Tanning is the skin’s natural response to sunlight, and a tan doesn’t last longer than a few weeks or months at most anyway. Someone who lies on a tanning bed is replicating sunlight they for whatever reason can’t or won’t get by going outside. I don’t think it’s unattractive if a woman is tanned because she’s been outside a lot, but I am a little put off if it looks like she goes to tanning salons, but more because it signals a bunch of other stuff I find unattractive.

            Lipstick is very impermanent, normally not worn for more than a few hours. Most often it’s worn in a shade meant to exaggerate the natural blush of an aroused person’s lips, but in less natural shades it is actually even more functional in that it simply draws attention immediately to the lips, and does so quite successfully. So I can appreciate it in that respect, and it often looks nice. I would be put off by a woman who wore lipstick all day every day though.

            Hair grows back. I have been thoroughly acculturated to be disgusted by armpit hair and to a lesser degree leg hair on women, and I’m even a bit grossed out by long or bushy armpit hair on men, but despite awareness of this acculturation I am not too stressed about the custom of shaving.* I’m not sure how I’d feel if it was a custom for all women, at the onset of puberty, to get permanent laser hair removal on their legs and armpits, though. I’d have to think about that.

            *I like that a more rugged look is back in fashion for men of all socioeconomic strata (for the first time since, what, the Civil War?). Men look like men again. Though it is sometimes perplexing/amusing to see men who look like lumberjacks from the neck up and dandies from the neck down. (“Lumbersexuals”)

          • DavidS says:

            I can see you’re trying but I think you’re failing badly. Labelling ‘someone having an incredibly common different preference’ as ‘body dysmorphia’ isn’t really understanding.

            As far as I can tell, the point is that
            1. Some people value the ‘don’t interrupt the natural’ more, some less. You are clearly on one extreme
            2. Some people feel this sort of permanent inking is a powerful way to state/express something, whether trivial or fundamental. Others don’t at all

            I’m definitely someone incredibly unlikely to have tattoos (except perhaps as part of a group thing e.g. ‘everyone in this regiment gets this tattoo’ or all the actors in the fellowship of the ring getting the same LOTR tattoo). But this is because it doesn’t do anything for me, because I frankly fear permanent decisions, and because I’m uncomfortable with simple ‘this is who I am’ statements of that kind (similarly I don’t wear clothes with slogans/words on to express my identity/personality)

          • Well... says:

            @DavidS:

            We agree more than you realize.

            1. Some people value the ‘don’t interrupt the natural’ more, some less. You are clearly on one extreme

            I’m not all that extreme. I think it’s fine for members of gangs, tight military regiments, and primitive tribes to get tattoos. But I’ll grant you I am pretty entrenched where I am.

            2. Some people feel this sort of permanent inking is a powerful way to state/express something, whether trivial or fundamental. Others don’t at all

            No argument there. Of course it’s a powerful way to express something! I just don’t think expressing something in that way is ever worth the cost (except for the previously mentioned exceptions).

            I’m uncomfortable with simple ‘this is who I am’ statements of that kind (similarly I don’t wear clothes with slogans/words on to express my identity/personality)

            Me too! The only clothes I own with writing or graphics of any kind on them are promotional items I got for free, and I only wear them as pajamas, while doing yardwork, etc.

            Labelling ‘someone having an incredibly common different preference’ as ‘body dysmorphia’ isn’t really understanding.

            I totally get how it looks that way. But can’t you at least concede it’s plausible? Suppose I said “it seems like >95% of people suffer from cognitive bias X.” It sounds like an incredible statement and your impulse might be to respond “No, you’re probably the one with the problem,” but humans DO suffer from cognitive biases all the time! Basically all of us! I don’t think it’s that farfetched to say most humans suffer from a kind of body dysmorphia that makes them see their bodies as incomplete works requiring finishing touches in the form of piercings, tattoos, etc. After all, it took a major religion and its world-conquering offshoot to reverse that pattern, and after a mere few thousand years (a blip in human history) it’s already losing its influence to prevent people from tattooing themselves.

          • Montfort says:

            Are you arguing some common definition of body dysmorphia applies to the desire for tattoos, piercing, etc, or are you redefining “body dysmorphia” to include tattoos, piercings, etc ? What information do you think you’re adding by pathologizing their preferences? We already know some people like getting tattoos and think they look good.

            For comparison, here is the mayo clinic’s short description of body dysmorphic disorder, as diagnosed today:

            Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable. But you may feel so ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.

            When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day. Your perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause you significant distress, and impact your ability to function in your daily life.

            You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” your perceived flaw. Afterward, you may feel a temporary satisfaction, but often the anxiety returns and you may resume searching for a way to fix your perceived flaw.

            Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder may include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

            (emphasis mine)

          • Well... says:

            I was suggesting that the desire for tattoos might be related to some kind of unexamined/undiscovered body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t think it needs to be so extreme that it causes you to have trouble functioning (though how would we know, since tattoos are readily available? I’ve seen otherwise well-behaved teenage girls sneak off behind their mothers’ backs to get tattoos!), so walk back the “disorder” part if you want and just make it “dysmorphia.” When you take the dysfunctional part out, I think the Mayo definition fits pretty well:

            a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable.

            Check. Presumably spending a few hundred bucks on a tattoo is a way to alleviate that issue, until it creeps up again and you have to go get another tattoo.

            When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day.

            I doubt anyone’s done a study to determine whether/how much people obsess over areas of their bodies they then get tattooed, but that would be interesting to know.

            You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” your perceived flaw. Afterward, you may feel a temporary satisfaction, but often the anxiety returns and you may resume searching for a way to fix your perceived flaw.

            Check.

            Treatment of body dysmorphic disorder may include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication

            Another interesting research question: do people treated for body dysmorphia get fewer tattoos after their therapy than people who are otherwise similar but do not undergo therapy?

          • Montfort says:

            If you’re taking the “disorder” out of it, then all that’s left is someone who wants to look different than they currently do. The “disorder” is the disordered, irrational, and/or harmful part of the behavior. It’s the obsessive behaviors and negative thoughts, the unrealistic body image. Again, if you’re defining “body dysmorphia” to mean “desires any permanent change to their body for non-functional reasons,” then yes, tattooed people fall under your definition, but it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know – that some people like tattoos.

            I think your reading of the description is inaccurate, or else we disagree considerably on what a typical tattoo-desiring person is like. One of the key components of body dysmorphia is that they are correcting or hiding a (perceived) flaw, not adding something cool. This is a flaw that bothers them, that they obsess over. Do you think people who want tattoos are spending time worried about whatever untattooed skin they have left? This is not the same thing as the “canvas” metaphor you used – the canvas metaphor is someone realizing they have room to improve, to customize, to express themselves, and getting excited about it. Body dysmorphia is finding stains on your canvas and having to add some paint or plaster to cover them up – only you can’t, because the stains are in your head, or because you pore over every inch of the canvas looking for tiny stains no one else would notice. It’s panic, anxiety, shame. It’s the difference between exercising because you think everyone’s laughing at your slightly-untoned left calf and exercising because you think it’s cool to look ripped at the beach.

            It would not greatly surprise me if some people with many tattoos used it as a coping mechanism for body dysmorphia, but I would contend that the typical tattooed person does not fit that description.

          • Well... says:

            Surely there’s something in between “normal healthy functioning” and “disorder that keeps you from any semblance of healthy functioning.” Just like there’s something between “I just go to the gym to stay in shape” and “OMG everyone notices my slightly less than award-winning calf muscles, I’d better go do a thousand reps of ankle raises at maximum weight, right after I inject these steroids.”

            I’ve met women who always seem to think they’re 5-10 lbs over weight when they look healthy-slim to everyone else. It doesn’t mean they’re throwing up after every meal or even going on and on about it all the time, but it is a dismorphia that’s pretty obvious after hanging around them for a week, and maybe they devote more time to trying to lose weight than they really need to.

            Spending a couple hundred bucks on a tattoo isn’t exactly elective amputation, but it is a sizable investment in a permanent and fairly invasive cosmetic alteration, which in turn suggests that “my skin requires improvement over its natural state” is held as a notion by the would-be tattooee. In fact it goes beyond just “my skin has room to improve,” because it adds “and I am willing to pay lots of money, and other non-monetary costs, to improve it, without the possibility of going back if I don’t like the outcome.”

          • Montfort says:

            which in turn suggests that “my skin requires improvement over its natural state”

            (emphasis mine)

            No, I don’t think that follows. You’re listing factors that increase the cost of a tattoo, but someone can think those costs are worth paying without having an inaccurate image of their body that “requires” a tattoo. People spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on frivolous things all the time, even things that will make other subcultures look at them askance.

            I ask you again, what is the difference (if any) between your model of a tattoo-desiring person as having body dysmorphia, and the common model of someone who thinks tattoos look neat and decides to get one permanently etched on their skin?

            What is the “disorder” or inaccuracy you see in their thoughts besides “they think tattoos look good and I think tattoos look bad”?

          • Well... says:

            What is the “disorder” or inaccuracy you see in their thoughts besides “they think tattoos look good and I think tattoos look bad”?

            To see the skin as a blank canvas must indicate some kind of body dysmorphic disorder because the skin simply isn’t a blank canvas.

          • Montfort says:

            What specifically do you mean by that? I’m not trying to be difficult, but it really doesn’t seem different from “they think tattoos look good.”

            That is, I’m inferring you mean something like “they think skin can look better with certain tattoos on it,” rather than “they think skin is literally canvas,” or “they are incapable of perceiving visual features present on the skin.”

          • Well... says:

            I’ve responded in the new OT.

      • Fahundo says:

        Basically I think you have to have some kind of body dysmorphic disorder to look at your body and see it as a blank canvas.

        Couldn’t a nudist make a similar argument about people wearing clothes?

        • Well... says:

          We wear clothes because our skin is insufficient in some provable way (i.e. fails to protect us sufficiently from cold weather found even not that far outside equatorial latitudes, from the sun, from rough surfaces and pointy objects, etc.).

          I’d take this hypothetical nudist more seriously if he was also arguing that humans should only live in a narrow band of latitudes near the equator, in shady forested areas where there are no thorny plants, rough-barked trees, or sharp rocks.

    • Wrong Species says:

      How big of a tattoo is it? It’s one thing if it covers the entire forearm. But if it’s something that is relatively small then I don’t see why it should bother you so much.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But if it’s something that is relatively small then I don’t see why it should bother you so much.

        I suppose it’s related to my personality type? In a Johnathan Haidt moral foundations sense I’d lean heavily, heavily towards sacredness (purity) over degradation. My wife is very girl-next-door cute, blonde, blue eyes, bubbly. She’s the exact type of innocent, wholesome beauty that I find most attractive. A tattoo ruins that package, regardless of size.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If you take a decoration in your house, love it or hate it, it eventually fades in to the background for most people. As long as it’s not too outlandish, I think you’ll get used to it sooner than you think.

        • My wife is very girl-next-door cute, blonde, blue eyes, bubbly. She’s the exact type of innocent, wholesome beauty that I find most attractive. A tattoo ruins that package, regardless of size

          Is there a way of saying this to your wife that would work (maybe you have)? Some version of “You are just so perfect the way you are, the exact type of innocent, wholesome beauty that I find most attractive, and a tattoo messes with that.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, I should have gone with this argument last night. But it was late, and I was kind of blindsided by the whole thing.

    • meh says:

      It may help evaluate the situation if you told us what words she was considering.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I think that you’re wrong but in the direction of being too lenient not too harsh.

      (I’m not married, and obviously I’m not married to your wife, so take this with a giant block of salt.)

      A tattoo isn’t like a bad haircut. It’s permanent unless you get an expensive and painful procedure to remove it.

      Do you want your daughter or daughters to look at her and think that it’s okay to get tattoos? Do you want your son or sons to look at her and think that it’s okay to marry a woman with tattoos? Because those are the stakes.

      Personally I wouldn’t allow my girlfriend to get a tattoo: if she did, she would cease to be my girlfriend. Divorce is probably going too far in your case but there would need to be serious consequences of some kind.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Do you want your daughter or daughters to look at her and think that it’s okay to get tattoos? Do you want your son or sons to look at her and think that it’s okay to marry a woman with tattoos? Because those are the stakes.

        That is a very good point.

        • DavidS says:

          Are you guys serious?

          I think ‘Honey, I personally just have a problem with tattoos and I’d much rather you didn’t get one’ is something many people would respect. But this is a really bizarre thing to get super-judgemental about. I mean, of course it’s OK to get tattoos. Of course it’s OK to marry people with tattoos. We’ve suddenly moved from ‘this is personal taste’ to ‘everyone who disagrees with my personal taste is scum’ (actually, it’s not sudden, we started with ‘trashy, low-class, degenerate’)

          • Anonymous says:

            I mean, of course it’s OK to get tattoos. Of course it’s OK to marry people with tattoos.

            That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

          • DavidS says:

            Well from this

            I completely understand this is a matter of subjective taste, and there are others who think tattoos are sexy. Great for them! But I do not share this opinion.

            I’d have thought it was OP’s opinion too. I personally don’t like peanut butter: if my son does or marries someone who does, I’ll live with it. I even let my wife eat it!!!!!

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Either Anonymous is a psychic or I’m extremely unoriginal. I was going to employ the same Big Lebowski quote myself.

            Stated less pithily, this is a question of different values.

            I strongly value health and bodily integrity. I also believe that you are your body in every meaningful way: there is no external disembodied self.

            Body modification is a complete rejection of that philosophy. It says, “I will mutilate and destroy my body, my self, in order to send a message about my identity.” I categorically reject tattooing, male and female circumcision, scarification, gauges, and most piercings. The fact that our culture is so in favor of it disgusts and alarms me.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, I also think tattoos signal “I make poor life choices.” This does not mean everyone with tattoos makes poor life choices. My wife has not made poor life choices, and she wouldn’t start making poor life choices if she got a tattoo. It’s a good heuristic though, but as we all know those only work until they don’t.

            Also keep in mind I’m the same weirdo on this blog who doesn’t want his kids to see gay pride parades or TV/movies that portray homosexuality as normal because I think they increase the chance your kids grow up to engage in the homosexual lifestyle, which is suboptimal in terms of positive life outcomes. “I don’t want my daughter getting a tattoo nor do I want my son marrying a girl with a tattoo, and their mother having a tattoo normalizes this for them” is right in line with my parenting strategy.

          • Fahundo says:

            most piercings

            Why not all piercings? And how do you feel about someone with a fake hip or screws in their knees? What about someone who loses an adult tooth and gets it replaced with a fake?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Don’t you think there’s a huge difference between “body repair” and “body modification” or “body mutilation?”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Because if I made “no earrings” a requirement then I might as well join a monastery. There are still a fair number of women without tattoos but essentially zero without pierced ears.

            As for people with protheses of any kind I don’t have anything against them. They didn’t choose to lose their teeth or have joints give out, they’re making the best of a bad situation. It’s just not something that I would inflict on a healthy person.

          • Fahundo says:

            Don’t you think there’s a huge difference between “body repair” and “body modification” or “body mutilation?”

            No. Especially not in the case of a missing tooth. No one needs all their teeth. If you’re only missing one you get it replaced for purely cosmetic reasons.

            There are still a fair number of women without tattoos but essentially zero without pierced ears.

            So if everyone on the planet got tattoos tomorrow your mind would be instantly changed?

          • Anonymous says:

            So if everyone on the planet got tattoos tomorrow your mind would be instantly changed?

            That would at least have the advantage of tattoos ceasing to be a marker of Bad Stuff You Do Not Want In Your Spouse. Though I doubt it would change his mind on what’s attractive.

          • Fahundo says:

            If the only thing you have against tattoos is that they raise your estimation of an individual’s likelihood to do Bad Stuff, then what’s the problem with a wife or child who presumably has already been vetted and doesn’t do any of that other Bad Stuff getting one?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Young people in love are stupid and rationalize away all sorts of bad behavior/attributes. The point of following the heuristic is to avoid falling in love with high-risk individuals. Ever tried to talk a friend out of a relationship? It does not work well.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Fahundo

            If the only thing you have against tattoos is that they raise your estimation of an individual’s likelihood to do Bad Stuff, then what’s the problem with a wife or child who presumably has already been vetted and doesn’t do any of that other Bad Stuff getting one?

            Many people don’t really know their spouses, or children, especially by the time they’re teenagers. An out of character action can lead to suspicion of there being a can of worms that just has started leaking.

          • Fahundo says:

            Many people don’t really know their spouses, or children

            Sounds like a bigger problem that wouldn’t be solved by forbidding them from getting tattoos.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Anon

            He says he’s known her over a decade. I would hope that he knows her by now.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Fahundo,

            Are you familiar with the idea of circles of control and circles of concern? The terminology is from 7 habits of highly effective people but the idea is pretty ancient.

            Basically, I try not to stress out over things which I can’t control. Doing otherwise is a perfect recipe for neuroses.

            I can try to order my own life and my small corner of the world. But I can’t bring order to society or the whole world.

          • Fahundo says:

            I try not to stress out over things which I can’t control.

            I like to take this a step further. I prefer not to stress about things I can control, but have no good reason to.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            But this is a really bizarre thing to get super-judgemental about. I mean, of course it’s OK to get tattoos. Of course it’s OK to marry people with tattoos

            This is a bit less than the level as if my wife suddenly decided she needed to take up smoking to look cool. I wouldn’t divorce her or anything, but I’d be pissed.

            I have a revulsion reaction to tattoos like Conrad does. You might see it as an aesthetic choice like changing your clothes, or earrings, or hair color, but those of who don’t like tattoos, really don’t like tattoos. It is a visceral disgust.

          • There are still a fair number of women without tattoos but essentially zero without pierced ears.

            You have just told me that neither my wife nor my daughter exists.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @DavidFriedman,

            No, I didn’t. I specifically hedged by saying that there were essentially none.

            This is also a really annoying argumentative style by the way. Your family is exceptional in a lot of ways and that’s a good thing. But the flip side of that is that they’re often the exception to the societal trends we’re talking about.

          • meh says:

            @Nabil
            I think you are mis-interpreting it as an argument, rather than a way to express uniqueness (like a tattoo?)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nabil:

            This is also a really annoying argumentative style by the way.

            I see you have met David Friedman.

          • @Nabil:

            I was trying to suggest that the world is less uniform than you assume.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Honcho: have you considered the hypothesis that she wants to start making bad life choices – as in “choices that will be bad for *your* life”? Also, do you have children?

          • meh says:

            We all like to jump in when we are the exception to the norm. A survey on percent of ears pierced would have shown how uniform it is. One personal data point does not.

          • One personal data point does not.

            In the absence of statistical data, personal data is what we have–so far as I know, it was what the original claim I was challenging was based on.

            The comment by DavidS suggests that there is more than one datum contrary to the view that practically all women have pierced ears.

            On a brief search for statistical data, I find:

            A 2005 Chicago Tribune article about ear piercing holdouts said that “estimates place the percentage of US women without pierced ears at 10 percent to 20 percent.” No industry professionals contacted in the course of reporting this story could point to definitive numbers.

            It’s not clear how reliable that figure is, but would you agree that 10 to 20 percent of women isn’t “essentially zero”?

          • meh says:

            Sure. Will you agree that you really didn’t care about arguing about Nabil’s mate pool?

          • @meh:

            Of course. My point was that I thought he was expressing an incorrect factual belief.

        • DavidS says:

          @A Definite Beta Guy: aesthetic can be strong! My point is more that a bit of humility is helpful, as this is ‘can you do me this favour as I have a non-rational aversion’.

          In general I think the quest to turn ‘my preference’ into ‘the objectively right thing’ is a problem in a lot of relationships.

          • DavidS says:

            PS: on the tattoos/earrings: I’m a 30-ish middle class white Brit living round London. Thinking of my female friends I’m not sure more have pierced ears than tattoos (and of course I wouldn’t necessarily know about the latter). Neither are ubiquitous, neither at all uncommon.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            Re: tattoos/earrings – I have unpierced ears and as far as I can tell, it is rare but within the Overton Window among my friends/community, ie nobody has tried to pressure me out of it/told me I was being childish or needed to see a psychologist/etc. about it (which is what I would expect to happen if it were outside the Overton Window). Mostly I’ve gotten “Huh, okay,” or “Yeah, okay, that makes sense,” or “that’s odd, but okay.” As was pointed out above, I am not normal, but my friends may be more so.

            Less than half of my friends have tattoos. Disapproving of them would probably get hostility – how is that any of my business? – but not wanting one is still treated as perfectly reasonable, not even particularly odd, and the majority of people don’t have them.

          • albatross11 says:

            My sister had her ears pierced at some point, but let them close up again. Some time late in college (long ago now) she went to a field school in Costa Rica to do some primatology observation/research with a bunch of other students, and apparently a large majority of the other girls (mostly rather well-off Ivy-League types) had piercings of one kind or another–all of which proceeded to get infected as they hung around in a tropical rainforest 12 hours a day, waded through swamps, etc.

    • Zephalinda says:

      You may not be wrong about disliking tattoos/ preferring your wife untattooed, but “Yuck, how trashy” is an unfortunate framing, pretty much tailor-made to provoke maximum defensiveness on her part.

      For one thing, the class angle means that you’re really critiquing anyone who would even want a tattoo, e.g. your wife right now. She’s already lost your good opinion in that scenario, so of course she responds angrily to the perceived status hit.

      Secondly, the emphasis on your hatred for tattoos/ tattoo-loving folks frames the issue really negatively: this self-expressive thing she wants is bad and ugly, and she can’t have it. Seems much better psychologically to try to harness some endowment effect: you love her natural beauty and girl-next-door image so much, you’d be sorry to lose even a little piece of that, or you just think her smooth arm is so perfect in every cell that it’s disturbing to think of some needle punching holes in it and filling it up with iron oxides. That plus the jewelry would certainly do it for me.

      • DavidS says:

        I think this really depends on the person. Some people like the ‘I want to shield you from all the roughness and complexity of the world’ schtick. Some find it patronising.

        I really think the best approach here is not trying to win or prove you’re ‘right’ about whether she should have a tattoo – as OP says, it’s personal taste. So much less combatitive to just say you’d prefer it.

      • JayT says:

        I got the impression that he had made his feelings clear about tattoos before she considered getting one, so in that situation it would be difficult to walk back prior comments.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, this is the case. And we’re talking, oh, over a decade of her hearing this sort of thing from me. The only things she had ever said before were along the lines of “if I were to get a tattoo, this is what I’d get…” This is the first time she ever said she was actually thinking of doing it. Kind of a “if I still want it in five years maybe I’ll do it” thing. And she brought that up after hearing me make negative comments about the tattoos on someone on TV. It was not a case of her bringing up a tattoo and then me jumping on her.

    • CatCube says:

      FWIW, I share your distaste for tattoos. It wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for me, but I’d prefer no tattoo.

    • Randy M says:

      Have you pointed out that in the history of humanity, no sight–no distant vista, setting sun, or tended garden–has captivated men’s attention more than that of female flesh? Nothing has so inspired sonnets or deeds of great heroism, and she thinks she can improve that with some words of ink?
      (Which may, in fact, be the second most captivating sight, mind, but generally only in paragraphs at a time. Maybe as a compromise she could get a few pages from your favorite book as well?)

      Joking aside, can we assume that your wife cares about you being attracted to her? Early in my marriage I heard the most jaw dropping statement from my wife, that she felt she shouldn’t or shouldn’t bother to take as good care of herself (I think in the context of losing weight) now in order not to be so attractive to other men. I had to enlighten her that not only did I still appreciate attractiveness in a spouse, but some part of my esteem among other men was in having an attractive wife.

      Have you asked you wife to consider what priority she should place on pleasing her husband aesthetically vs advertising that particular value or saying to passers-by? Especially when she can achieve it by abstaining from something simple.

      Still, you’re swimming against the currents. For example, most of the female relations I have are people of coloring-upon.

    • Matt C says:

      How old are you? I’m in my 40s. Tattoos on women are usually unattractive. Not always, but usually. (Forearm tattoos especially, ugh.) But I keep it to myself. Lots of women I like have them, especially younger ones. It’s too bad that they became just the coolest thing, but they did.

      Of course it’s different when it’s your wife. (My wife had an ankle tattoo when we got married, which never really bothered me, but if she wanted a forearm tattoo boy I’d try to talk her out of it.)

      I’d look for a compromise. A bracelet sounds great, I wouldn’t have thought of that. If a tattoo was inevitable, I’d be a lot less put off by a shoulder tattoo than one on the forearm, but that might just be me.

    • rlms says:

      Calling things degenerate is degenerate (not joking).

      • quanta413 says:

        That’s a bridge too far.

        A murderer is degenerate. Really, this statement isn’t strong enough.

        It is not degenerate to say that murderer is degenerate.

        Or if I wasn’t serious, I’d say “this matrix is degenerate” is not a degenerate statement, but obviously that’s not the same thing.

      • CatCube says:

        Not being able to call degenerate things degenerate explains a good deal of degeneracy.

        • rlms says:

          You can point out degeneracy without being degenerate! It’s the word specifically that’s degenerate. Calling things immoral, unnatural and sinful has a long conservative tradition behind it; referring to degeneracy was made popular by spiritualist atheists, rootless Zionist agnostics, and these guys.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            You could have been clear the first time. Besides, while I think “immoral” should be accepted in some contexts it currently isn’t [and feel free to use “sinful”], “unnatural” is BS, and none of those applies to anything that just suggests people becoming weaker (say, of mind). “Degenerate” is fine.

          • quanta413 says:

            This is the worst argument against using a word I have ever heard that didn’t fall into complete incoherency on the level of “fargle the pancake green wingwozzles”. This is like saying I should stop using the word “oppression” because it’s used in stupid and terrible ways by marxist nutjobs. Or like saying I shouldn’t use any terms from Nietzsche because the Nazis were kind of in to him.

            EDIT: Just checked that your third link is literally Nazis. I seriously can’t tell if you’re serious or just joking by intentionally using the literal worst argument in the world and Godwinning in the first post you’ve bothered to make an argument in.

          • rlms says:

            I never said degeneracy was bad! (If I thought it was, I wouldn’t have called you degenerate)

            I think you’re misunderstanding my intentions here.

          • quanta413 says:

            @ rlms

            Still can’t tell if joking. Leaning towards it now. But you’re clearly not making a joke about eigenvalues or something. And all the other possible denotations of “degenerate” that I am familiar with are obvious insults. And none of them apply to using words that Nazis happened to use. And googling doesn’t show me any that aren’t insults either.

          • rlms says:

            Some people use “degenerate” to describe a cluster of properties that they consider negative. I agree that some of those properties are bad, but not all: there is nothing wrong with atheism, homosexuality etc. I brought up the Nazis not because they’re bad, but because they’re degenerate (the two are orthogonal).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        How do you, rlms, define “degeneracy?”

      • Mark says:

        I love reading the word “degenerate”.

        It reminds me of the possibility of beauty and excellence.

        But, yes, you’re probably right.

    • Changez says:

      Probably a shit test.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        Probably the not-really-reversible result of failing many.

        Possibly, a bunch of those (almost certainly not all) were hearing, multiple times, after expressing a preference against it, “if I were to get a tattoo” and doing nothing.

    • Mark says:

      I’m alarmed by some of these responses.

      Modifying preference to conform to social norms, where those social norms are justified entirely with reference to personal preference is chaotic and mad.
      That’s how we end up as slugs, or writhing dick monsters, or something similar. Behave yourselves.

      Anyway, the issue.
      The answer is compromise. Sometimes you have to get used to the annoying things people do – but if you want to maintain a happy relationship, without domination, there has to be at least the appearance of a compromise.
      So, the compromise shouldn’t be “I do it and you get used to it”. It should be something like, “I will make this extra effort in your preferred direction even though I can’t get all the way there. I’m trying.”

      The compromise in this case is that she should write this important message on her arm each morning with a biro. Get a stencil or something.
      In fact, writing it each morning shows a greater dedication to the message – it can become a ritual.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        I wouldn’t call this a bad idea, but I’m doubtful on whether she still cares about any idea he has (except possibly to go against it).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There may not be anything to be done about your seeing tattoos as ugly, but I think your associating tattoos with being low class is out of date.

      Tattoos are probably not upper class, but especially for people below a certain age, they’re sort of middle class. I expect to see more opinions here about tattoos, class, and cohort.

      These days, I think tattoos are as much about conspicuous consumption as they are about personal expression, or at least a lot of tattoos look vaguely similar to each other.

      • Matt M says:

        I agree with this. I know a whole lot of upper-middle class people that have one fairly small and tasteful tattoo. Increasingly popular among the under-40 crowd.

  9. MrApophenia says:

    So everyone is focusing a lot on the “shithole” part because of the vulgarity, but I found the next exchange more informative:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946

    “Why do we need more Haitians, take them out,” he said, according to sources. Someone else in the room responded: “Because if you do, it will be obvious why.”

    Is there any reasonable read of that exchange where “it would be obvious why” doesn’t mean “it would be obvious you only want to expel the non-white immigrants”? Especially combined with the Norway bit?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think your reading is more likely. However, I think we can fill the rest of the statement in fairly accurately and see that there is ambiguity in meaning.

      “It would be obvious why [you want these Haitians in]”

      There are lots of potential reasons why you would want the Haitians in the bill. They are good people. They contribute to the economy. Bad things happen if you send them back. Etc.

      • albatross11 says:

        The whole world will spend time talking about the shithole comment, and everyone will be distracted from any substance. If Trump could also do substance, he would be *terrifyingly* effective in our current media/political environment.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Trump spews chaff, to be sure.

          But he constantly spews nothing but chaff. This isn’t a considered strategy to distract from something. Not in the way you are contending.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not saying he’s employing it as a strategy, I’m saying if he were capable of doing so (by being good at substance), he’d be very effective, because his constant twitter public-outrage-fest smokescreen would let him get away with just about anything with only people who actually pay attention to the news noticing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What’s your take on Trump’s level of effectiveness or accomplishments (non-legislative of course) during his first year? I’m not asking if you like what he’s done, but is your impression that he has done much, or that he has done little?

          • cassander says:

            the strategy is in who he chooses to spew chaff at. See, for example, his continual criticism of Kim Jong Un, and not of Assad.

      • Matt M says:

        There are lots of potential reasons why you would want the Haitians in the bill. They are good people. They contribute to the economy. Bad things happen if you send them back. Etc.

        Do these attributes not apply to Norwegians as well?

        I guess the “bad things happen if you send them back” doesn’t, but keep in mind, Trump sees immigration from the point of view of “We should only allow it if it benefits the US,” not as some sort of humanitarian charity program to better the lives of non-citizens.

        Assuming the existence of some sort of hard limit on number of people allowed to immigrate, is it not reasonable to discuss how we should go about prioritizing who is allowed in and who is not?

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems like this is one of two core pieces of the immigration debate.

          What should our immigration policy be trying to do? (Broadly improve the world, broadly improve things for current US citizens and their offspring, broadly improve things for the future US with the prospective immigrants, offer a home to those who need one enough regardless of the impact on current US citizens or the world or the future of the country, etc.)

          Assuming we can agree on one of these, we get down to factual questions like “does the current US/future US/world benefit from relatively free immigration of low-wage, low-skill labor from Latin America?” Or the H1B visa program? Or family-based rather than merit-based visas? Or….) One of the stronger arguments to bring up here is that we’ve had a lot of large-scale immigration in the past, and it’s overwhelmingly paid off for us. On the other hand, you can make convincing arguments that some things have changed (jobs for people with few skills are hard to come by and may become even harder to come by in the next couple decades).

          A huge amount of public rhetoric, even from pretty smart and otherwise-reasonable people, is pretty fuzzy on (a), in favor of emotional appeals about the well-being of refugees from Syria or Somalia, or nostalgia about Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, or some similar thing.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. I agree that (a) is a very important question that we need to answer. It’s a discussion that virtually every mainstream politician and media outlet has gone out of their way to avoid having for decades. And I think, in his own overly belligerent and ham-fisted way, Trump is trying to spur and motivate that discussion.

            And instead of having the discussion and engaging him on that question, the media response is “SHUT UP YOU RACIST!”

            Trump asked a simple question – why do we want more Hatians as opposed to more Norwegians? And as far as I can tell, all of the outrage media coverage in response has been dedicated to calling him names, and none of it has been dedicated to actually answering his question.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t mind running immigration as a charity program, but I would love it if we acknowledged it as that. It would make us realize there are costs and that it is optional, two things that often are pretended aren’t true.

          • Brad says:

            We have some immigration programs whose purposes are pretty explicitly charitable — most notably the refugee program. Other parts, which collectively make up the overwhelming majority of annual admissions, are clearly not charity nor intended to be. Family reunification, for example, is not about the benefit to the alien, it’s about the benefit to the US relative.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I sort of read it more like this:

        There are lots of potential reasons why you would want the Haitians in the bill. They are good people. They contribute to the economy. Bad things happen if you send them back. Etc.

        Not that I agree with the sentiment, but there is a strong sentiment out there that low-skill immigrants do all sorts of jobs that Americans won’t do, and the country will suffer/grind to a halt without these jobs getting done.

        This seems more likely to me when you compare to arguments about seasonal Mexican laborers picking veggies and fruit, where the argument is that we are all gonna go without veggies and fruit if they don’t pick it.

      • MrApophenia says:

        “It would be obvious why [you want these Haitians in]”

        I’m pretty confused how you go to that implied rest of the sentence. I read the exchange as almost precisely the opposite of that.

        “Why do we need more Haitians, take them out.”

        “Because if you do [take them out of the bill], it will be obvious why [you took them out].”

        I’m genuinely confused how you get to your reading, if you could elaborate I would be interested in the thinking that got you there.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s obvious that we need Haitian immigrants to reside in the US; if we take them out of the US then every hotel in Florida will have to close for the lack of cleaning ladies, and there will be a massive humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti that we’ll be blamed for and feel bad about.

          It’s obvious that we need Haitian immigrants to be included in the bill; if we take them out of the bill, the talking heads on television will accuse our President of being a horrible racist. Er, more than they already do.

          Both of these are plausible readings of the statement, both are politically useful but strained on the facts. Trump is immune to accusations of racism, and Florida’s hotels can get their cleaning ladies from Puerto Rico.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @MrApophenia:
          Again, I think your reading is most likely correct.

          John Schilling’s examples above show how it’s quite possible to read the statement in the way I outlined. You asked if there was “any reasonable way” to read it other than you did, and I was trying to steelman that for you.

    • shakeddown says:

      Yeah. This exchange changed my view on Trump and racism – prior to this I agreed with Scott that Trump isn’t racist, just signalling red tribe, but it’s hard to see this exchange as anything but “Trump is blatantly racist, but knows better than to say so explicitly”.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Can you elaborate on this? I’m not sure why someone would think Trump is racist because of this, but not when he, say, disparaged Judge Curiel.

        • shakeddown says:

          Lots of democrats would say something like “after Trump spent all that time insulting mexicans, now he’s up against a judge of mexican heritage. Ha, take that!” This doesn’t seem necessarily racist, just aware of ingroup/outgroup dynamics.
          Saying we don’t want any immigrants from lousy african countries sounds like he’s assuming everyone from an african country sucks. I can’t see a reasonable alternate explanation of it.

          • bean says:

            Saying we don’t want any immigrants from lousy african countries sounds like he’s assuming everyone from an african country sucks. I can’t see a reasonable alternate explanation of it.

            I think the alternate explanation is that he thinks that it’s even less politically feasible to get a finer-grained filter in place. I can’t see someone with Trump’s general experience believing everyone from sub-saharan Africa is terrible. But if we can’t just take the non-terrible ones and if the terrible/non-terrible ratio is high enough, then yes, banning them all makes sense.
            (Just to clarify, I don’t support this logic. I’ve had friends from quite a few countries that would probably be on the ‘terrible/poor’ list, and frankly, the fact that the US didn’t snatch them up is a damning indictment of our immigration system.)

          • MrApophenia says:

            Lots of democrats would say something like “after Trump spent all that time insulting mexicans, now he’s up against a judge of mexican heritage. Ha, take that!” This doesn’t seem necessarily racist, just aware of ingroup/outgroup dynamics.

            Digressing a bit from the main topic, but that wasn’t the big deal about Judge Curiel. The big deal was that Trump said in an interview, in fairly clear language, that he didn’t think Curiel was able to fairly judge his case because he was of Mexican descent.

          • Matt M says:

            that he didn’t think Curiel was able to fairly judge his case because he was of Mexican descent.

            Of course, this all occurred simultaneously with the media insisting that people of Mexican descent would refuse to vote for Trump because he favored building a wall.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Yeah, and I doubt Curiel was a Trump voter, too. Not sure what that has to do with his ability to judge whether Trump University was a scam.

          • Nornagest says:

            Why are we even bothering to go through this exercise of sifting the Trumpian tea leaves for racism? It seems like the same basic idea comes up every couple weeks and I just don’t know what we’re getting out of it.

            There seems to be this baseline assumption that if Trump ever says anything unambiguously racist then all right-thinking people will immediately denounce him as Double Hitler and the nightmare will be over, and that seems unrealistic to me.

          • entobat says:

            @Matt: The Trumpian implication people are concerned about is not “(almost) all Mexicans are opposed to the wall” but “Curiel will be unable to separate his feelings about my wall with his factual judgments about my scam university”. No one is saying that Mexicans shouldn’t let their feelings about the wall dictate whether or not they support Trump; I would hardly fault you for not wanting to vote for Trump if your brother pickpocketed someone and Trump’s response was to airlift your entire family to Canada.

          • Matt M says:

            The Trumpian implication people are concerned about is not “(almost) all Mexicans are opposed to the wall” but “Curiel will be unable to separate his feelings about my wall with his factual judgments about my scam university”.

            Lots of people who voted for Trump disagree with at least one of his policies.

            The implication of “supporting the wall automatically means Mexicans won’t vote for you” doesn’t seem that far off from “supporting the wall automatically means that Mexicans will not carefully weigh the pros and cons of your general argument and select the best overall option”

            Yes, there’s an argument to be made that Curiel is a professional, and that he is held to a higher standard than the average citizen and we expect him to overcome this sort of bias in his professional capacity as a judge. But overall, I still see the narrative going something like this.

            Media: Mexicans hate Trump!
            Trump: This guy is a Mexican, how can he judge me fairly if he hates me?
            Media: OMG Trump is such a racist for suggesting a Mexican guy might judge him unfairly!!!

          • entobat says:

            There is an argument to be made that thinking someone is prejudiced against your race is a good reason not to vote for them for president, and a bad reason to decide if their university is a scam.

            Yes, in theory Mexicans are equally capable as everyone else of deciding that Trump, on the net, is a great president despite his plausible prejudice against Mexicans. But “precommit not to endorse / vote for people who are prejudiced against me” is hardly an unreasonably life strategy.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Saying we don’t want any immigrants from lousy african countries sounds like he’s assuming everyone from an african country sucks. I can’t see a reasonable alternate explanation of it.

            He said that he doesn’t want the special, non-merit-based, immigration from lousy countries, he said nothing about the regular, merit-based immigration.

            This is consistent with him thinking that lousy countries have people who suck on average, but not that everybody in these countries sucks. And he didn’t say all African countries, or talked about black people, so how is his view racist?

            Do you think it is racist to believe that in some countries there are people who, on average, suck?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        He denies saying it, so I don’t know if it’s true or not.

        But that said, I don’t see how saying Haiti is a shithole is racist. I mean, would you want to live in Haiti?

        • skef says:

          If it wasn’t racist, why would the place being a “shithole” be a reason for not prioritizing immigration, rather than prioritizing it? All things being equal, isn’t it better to provide a route out of shitholes first?

          • shakeddown says:

            Besides which, you can be more selective about getting the most talented people out of shitholes than out of countries that are already rich.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Depends on whether you believe places are shitholes because the ordinary people living there make them so, or because some aspect of the place (including a small and shitty elite in charge) makes them so. Neither proposition is per se racist; I’m sure conservatives say the same thing about Berkeley…

          • Anonymous says:

            Haiti isn’t a “shithole” because of the climate.

          • cassander says:

            Unless you think the ground of haiti is literally cursed (after all, they did once make a deal with the devil) then there are reasons that haiti is a shithole that have something to do with the qualities of the people that live there. Some of those qualities are racial (95% of the population is of primarily african ancestry) other are not (their culture is descended from people who literally made a deal with the devil!).

          • albatross11 says:

            You can think Haiti’s problems are inherent in its people, perhaps genetically burned in, and that’s conceivable[1]. But you can also think it’s inherent in the culture or widespread beliefs of its people, or its institutions, or just some set of self-sustaining destructive social patterns that keep it poor and nasty and awful.

            We have a bunch of worked examples where impoverished superstitious warlord-ridden shitholes pulled themselves out of poverty and became, say, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, etc. So it’s clearly possible for a country to be a mess for a long time in ways that can change rapidly for the better. This is, in fact, one of the strongest arguments against a kind of h.bd determinism w.r.t. nations–lots of countries that looked almost as screwed up as Haiti turned things around and ended up as pretty decent places to live.

            [1] Though I kinda doubt Haiti is so genetically different from the rest of the Caribbean that this is a good description of reality.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Why is the purpose of US immigration policy to provide routes out of shitholes? “The People” in “government of, by, and for The People” is me, not foreigners in shitholes.

            People from shitholes tend to have a lot of problems, like poor education, poor health, etc. I don’t see how moving them in next door to me makes my life better, and is not something I’d like the government that’s supposed to be acting in my interests to do.

          • Matt M says:

            All things being equal, isn’t it better to provide a route out of shitholes first?

            If your objective is to use America as a charity to make lives better for non-Americans, then yeah, sure.

            If your objective is to maximize American greatness (again), then no, that’s clearly a terrible idea.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s not declaring Haiti as a shithole which provides evidence for Trump being a racist; Haiti is undoubtedly a shithole. It’s declaring, as he has been reported, African nations (along with Haiti) as shitholes, and contrasting them with Norway. This is not proof but the first really good evidence I’ve seen that Trump is racist against blacks.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            That’s more of a problem with the way the news presents Africa. There are some nicer sections of Africa, but all you hear about it is death and destruction. Which isn’t unfair, because Africa has more than its fair share of human misery.

          • albatross11 says:

            Africa has more than it’s share of misery, but also it’s far away and news reporting from faraway places is almost always about disorder and misery.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

          • Matt M says:

            There are some nicer sections of Africa

            Nicer compared to what? Are there any major cities in Africa that are nicer than the nicest cities of Norway?

            Note that this is a legitimate question – I readily admit that I am largely ignorant of Africa in general.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HeelBearCub

            And?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Matt M

            Are there any major cities in Africa that are nicer than the nicest cities of Norway?

            I’d be skeptical of there being any African city that was nicer than the worst city of Norway. (If you compared sub-city entities, such as neighbourhoods, I might be willing to believe it. Places like Grønland, Furuset and Stovner are well-colonized by foreigners, and there might be superior places to live in South Africa somewhere.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            I thought you generally put more consideration in your posts than that.

            First off shanty and hut aren’t the same thing. Plenty of shanty towns in the US.

            But also, shanties or huts merely existing has no relevance to whether the average Nigerian entering the US lived in such a dwelling.

          • skef says:

            @Anonymous: I think you’re underestimating the weight many people put on climate. I know many people who claim they can’t deal with Boston, for gods sake.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I can’t judge Africa, as the only African city I’ve ever been to was Cairo, which was moderately shitty. Definitely dirty. They were still on (or were just coming off of?) leaded gasoline at the time. Every building was covered in soot or dirt. You’d get back to the hotel room and blow your nose and it was black.

            But I’ve been to the Dominican Republic, and that was a shithole, and if that’s the nice half of Hispaniola, then I can say with high confidence that Haiti qualifies as a shithole.

          • Anonymous says:

            @skef

            It doesn’t help, but there are places with climate similar to Haiti that aren’t shitholes. Hong Kong and Singapore have similar climates and aren’t shitholes. Climate is not something that can’t be overcome.

          • skef says:

            @Anonymous, I was just responding to this:

            I’d be skeptical of there being any African city that was nicer than the worst city of Norway.

            Absent immigration limitations, plenty of people are going to be happy to give Nairobi a try after a couple Oslo winters. “Nicer (in the abstract)” is a pretty meaningless measure.

            (re)edit: Looking into it a bit more, by what standard would Trondheim, for example, be more than a backwater in comparison to Nairobi?

          • Anonymous says:

            @skef

            Oslo isn’t even particularly cold. It’s the same climate as northern Germany or Poland.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I do not think the difference between a shanty, a shack, and a hut is relevant. I’ve seen Mexican huts which are nicer than those shanties anyway. I don’t know which Nigerians Trump was talking about, but if he meant refugees, I’d expect them to be going back to substandard housing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Edit: Looking into it a bit more, by what standard is Trondheim, for example, not just a backwater in comparison to Nairobi?

            Probably by the standard that Norway’s entire population is only somewhat larger than just the population of Nairobi.

          • skef says:

            Worse than Boston, but I take your point. At the same time, there are a number of cities much farther north.

          • skef says:

            (@Anonymous: I reedited to get my point the right way around.)

          • Anonymous says:

            @skef

            (re)edit: Looking into it a bit more, by what standard would Trondheim, for example, be more than a backwater in comparison to Nairobi?

            Homicide rate and crime in general, for instance. Kenyan homicide rate is an order of magnitude higher than Norway’s (merely 3x higher if you think Breivik should be counted).

          • skef says:

            By that standard Trondheim beats out New York City. I’m sure plenty of people would prefer living in Trondheim to living in New York City, but would anyone really judge it a better (or nicer) city?

            (Or compare with Chicago or Houston, if you prefer.)

          • Anonymous says:

            @skef

            I haven’t actually lived in Trondheim, and probably couldn’t understand trondese, but even so I’d definitely favour it over New York for a bunch of reasons, of which crime rates are certainly one.

          • skef says:

            @Anonymous: As would anyone else who doesn’t like cities and prefers something akin to a suburb.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            This just demonstrates that “shithole” and “backwater” have different meanings. Backwaters are boring and no one remembers they even exist, whereas shitholes lack basic amenities (any or all of stable food supply, plumbing, electricity, competent law enforcement, public hygiene, etc – the more missing, the more of a shithole it is). A place can even be a backwater shithole.

            So Trondheim is certainly more of a backwater than NYC, while by some measures (crime, dirtiness) NYC is more of a shithole.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            What causes a man to become an ankle-biter? Lust for gold? Power? Or are they just born with a heart full of insecurity?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            But the sentence “They will never go back to their huts in Africa once they have seen America” can’t be reasonably read as referring to urban shanty towns. It’s a “How you going to keep ’em down on the farm, once they’ve seen gay Paris” line. It’s a statement of contempt for “backwards” rural areas. It does not contemplate the idea of the impoverished living within sight of opulence.

            Otherwise, merely seeing the US wouldn’t be the thing that kept them here.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t really see how you can be ok with calling Haiti a “shithole” but then balk at Africa being called the same. Even if you don’t take the entire continent as a whole, the richest African nations are still very poor with high crime and AIDs rates.

            Equatorial Guinea has the highest per capita GDP in Africa, and it’s like half of Mississippi’s, and I’ve definitely seen Mississippi called a shithole.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Conrad:

            I can’t judge Africa, as the only African city I’ve ever been to was Cairo, which was moderately shitty. Definitely dirty. They were still on (or were just coming off of?) leaded gasoline at the time. Every building was covered in soot or dirt. You’d get back to the hotel room and blow your nose and it was black.

            I’ve been to South Africa, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live there for any long period of time. Everything was covered in barbed wire to keep burglars out, so after a while it started feeling like I was living in a warzone. Once in Durban I saw a guy getting lynched in the street, and this was in one of the nicer parts of the city.

          • rlms says:

            I bet Saint-Denis, Réunion and Victoria, Seychelles are nicer than the worst city in Norway.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            I bet Saint-Denis, Réunion and Victoria, Seychelles are nicer than the worst city in Norway.

            No objection here. I accept that Réunion and Seychelles are probably not shitholes. But they’re also not quite what “Africa” means in common parlance, even if possibly technically correct, at least as far as continental classification is concerned. Réunion is also France, and as long as we’re talking countries, and France is not a shithole.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Saying Haiti is a shithole isn’t racist. Saying we should stop letting immigrants from black countries in, in favor of immigrants from white countries, sure looks a lot closer to fitting the criteria, though.

          So much so that someone in the room apparently said as much in response.

          • Anonymous says:

            Is seeing any aggregate difference between races racist?

          • MrApophenia says:

            We’re not talking about “seeing aggregate differences,” we’re talking about saying in fairly plain language that we should favor white immigrants over black ones, then proceeding to set policy accordingly.

            And yes, that is obviously racist. It would be hard to think of a clearer example of racism.

          • Fahundo says:

            I would consider judging individuals according to those aggregate differences racist. Not everyone agrees.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But the standard is “not from shithole country” and not “isn’t black.” I don’t think that’s racist.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Right, and “shithole country” just happens to be defined as Haiti plus Africa.

          • Anonymous says:

            @MrApophenia

            We’re not talking about “seeing aggregate differences,” we’re talking about saying in fairly plain language that we should favor white immigrants over black ones, then proceeding to set policy accordingly.

            And I’m trying to figure out why a reasonable person might adopt such a policy. What’s the difference between white immigrants and black immigrants, such that the distinction is useful for deciding which group of immigrants to favour?

            And yes, that is obviously racist. It would be hard to think of a clearer example of racism.

            I see.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I get that you’re trying to wink-wink nudge nudge your way into a banned topic, I just don’t feel like humoring you. Deciding legal policy based on race is racist (and illegal), even if you think you have a cool, edgy acronym theory that says it makes perfect sense.

          • Anonymous says:

            @MrApophenia

            I get that you’re trying to wink-wink nudge nudge your way into a banned topic, I just don’t feel like humoring you.

            We’ve been in the supposedly banned topic for this entire thread.

            Deciding legal policy based on race is racist (and illegal), even if you think you have a cool, edgy acronym theory that says it makes perfect sense.

            What I’m trying to do is to understand your viewpoint. Which I find hard, given your earlier statement that noticing things that may or may not be true is morally wrong.

          • Nornagest says:

            The topic isn’t banned, the phrase is, to make it harder to find this blog by Googling it.

            But bringing the topic up might still be stupid, because it tends to shed more heat than light.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Right, and “shithole country” just happens to be defined as Haiti plus Africa.

            I would put money on Trump considering all sorts of other countries to be shitholes. Maybe Latin America, maybe SEA, maybe Eastern Europe, almost certainly Middle East…

          • MrApophenia says:

            We’ve been in the supposedly banned topic for this entire thread.

            I’d suggest that if you think the best explanation of Trump’s statements is the Banned Acronym, we actually pretty much agree entirely on what is driving Trump here. You’re just cool with it, and I’m not.

          • Matt M says:

            Right, and “shithole country” just happens to be defined as Haiti plus Africa.

            Is your argument that Haiti isn’t shitty compared to Norway?

            It’s not Trump’s fault that European countries are highly developed and African ones aren’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d suggest that if you think the best explanation of Trump’s statements is the Banned Acronym, we actually pretty much agree entirely on what is driving Trump here. You’re just cool with it, and I’m not.

            Fair enough. I have a somewhat lower opinion on Trump’s being familiar with the statistical sciences in that regard, but don’t see much against the notion that he’s got roughly the same idea in a pedestrian way. After all, he’s really old. This stuff used to be mainstream in the distant past of the previous century.

          • JayT says:

            Saying Haiti is a shithole isn’t racist. Saying we should stop letting immigrants from black countries in, in favor of immigrants from white countries, sure looks a lot closer to fitting the criteria, though.

            To be fair, it’s not like he was saying we needed more Albanians coming in. He picked one of the richest, safest countries in the world to use as an example of desirable immigrants.

            If anything, I would consider his comments classist, not racist.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. There are a lot of ways Norway differs from Haiti. Typical skin tone of citizens is one of those, but it sure as hell isn’t the only one…

          • So far as a genetic racial argument is concerned, there are a lot of West Indian immigrants and they seem to do pretty well–I think Sowell, in Ethnic America, says they reach the median US family income in one generation. I don’t think we know whether Trump would be opposed to letting them in or not.

            I don’t think it is racist to argue that we are better off with immigrants from more successful societies–better education, health care, lower crime rates, and the like. I’m not sure it’s true—a lot of the mass immigration a century+ ago was from very poor places—but it isn’t racist. At the moment Haiti and most of Africa qualify as particularly unsuccessful societies.

        • meh says:

          You can call a place a shithole, or you can call it other words, such as ‘suffering’, ‘hit hard’, ‘hurting’, etc. You call people you like from ‘hurting’ places, and people you don’t from ‘shitholes’. I don’t think it’s inherently racist, it just shows preferences. When those seem to align with race it then gets called racist.

          You can even restrict to US areas. Listen to how one might refer to poor rust belt, mining, or rural areas vs. poor urban areas.

      • albatross11 says:

        I guess I don’t see much reason for change.

        In private conversation among my circle of acquaintance, it wouldn’t be shocking to hear someone describe Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, etc., as hell-holes or shit-holes. That’s not the kind of talk you want from a leader, in general, but the sentiment isn’t crazy. A lot of countries are really awful places where there’s a lot of poverty and corruption and dysfunction and war, and colloquially calling them shitholes isn’t all that shocking.

        And the underlying question of what countries we’d do better accepting immigrants from is worth asking. We’re probably going to do better overall with Norwegian immigrants than Haitian ones, in terms of how the immigrants will do economically and academically and such. (Though I think Haitian immigrants actually do pretty well here in the US, so maybe not.) People making our immigration policy shouldn’t call poor countries shitholes in public, but they definitely should be asking about whether some countries are a lot better places to get immigrants from than other countries.

        A more accurate version of this than thinking in terms of selecting which immigrants we want from each country, based on their skills, qualifications, history, health, etc. We probably benefit more from the French-educated Haitian engineer coming here than from the perpetually-unemployed Norwegian welfare recipient.

        But again, all this requires thinking through what our goals are w.r.t. immigration policy.

        • shakeddown says:

          To clarify, what made me change my mind isn’t his referring to countries as shitholes, it’s his conclusion that we don’t want immigrants from poor countries. By far the most likely reasoning behind this is that he assumes citizens of these countries are pretty much all the same, and their quality determines their country’s success (he didn’t make any room for the people who come to America being above the baseline, which is what happens in practice). Hard to read that as non-racism.

          • cassander says:

            >By far the most likely reasoning behind this is that he assumes citizens of these countries are pretty much all the same

            ,

            That or he’s aware of the concept of “averages”.

            >and their quality determines their country’s success

            Would anyone dispute this assertion?

            >(he didn’t make any room for the people who come to America being above the baseline, which is what happens in practice)

            If the people that come to the US are above average, then it’s still be better to get people from countries where the average is higher.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, regression to the mean is a thing.

          • Brad says:

            That or he’s aware of the concept of “averages”.

            What that he has ever said or done gives you the idea that he has? A steelman is supposed to be a tool for coming up with the best version of your ideological opponent’s arguments, not for deluding yourself about the intellectual abilities of your allies.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            I don’t like trump, and I certainly don’t consider him an ally, but I grow tired of the incessant baseless and hyperbolic complaining about him that attempts to pass for serious analysis. If you think that trump is incapable of the thought “shitty countries are shitty because the people that live there are, on average, more shitty than people in non shitty countries” then it’s not me that’s deluding myself about anyone’s intellectual abilities.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t like trump, and I certainly don’t consider him an ally

            You could have fooled me.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            Then you might want to reconsider some of your priors and assumptions.

          • To clarify, what made me change my mind isn’t his referring to countries as shitholes, it’s his conclusion that we don’t want immigrants from poor countries. By far the most likely reasoning behind this is that he assumes citizens of these countries are pretty much all the same, and their quality determines their country’s success (he didn’t make any room for the people who come to America being above the baseline, which is what happens in practice). Hard to read that as non-racism.

            Actually, I have pretty much the opposite reaction. Your entire quote said nothing about the race of the citizens in these poor countries, until the last word. The way you put it I find it very hard to read as racism. Maybe you are right that Trump shouldn’t consider people from a shit hole country to be shit hole people, but you are doing the same thing as previous people who said he was racist. “He is doing this thing that is bad or unethical, and racism is bad or unethical, so he must be racist.”

            Yes, his examples of shit hole countries correlate with Black countries. But the problem is that hellhole countries do correlate with Black countries. If one were to honestly come up with the poorest countries in the world, and not consider race, Haiti and most of Africa would be a likely result. It was not at all politically correct or astute to use those examples, but this is Trump we are talking about. He is very stupid in some ways, but still I have seen little evidence of racism.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Scott on the Haitians:

            “It has proven hard for me to appreciate exactly how confused the Haitians are about some things. Gail, our program director, explained that she has a lot of trouble with her Haitian office staff because they don’t understand the concept of sorting numerically. Not just “they don’t want to do it” or “it never occurred to them”, but after months and months of attempted explanation they don’t understand that sorting alphabetically or numerically is even a thing. Not only has this messed up her office work, but it makes dealing with the Haitian bureaucracy – harrowing at the best of times – positively unbearable.

            Gail told the story of the time she asked a city office for some paperwork regarding Doctors Without Borders. The local official took out a drawer full of paperwork and looked through every single paper individually to see if it was the one she wanted. Then he started looking for the next drawer. After five hours, the official finally said that the paper wasn’t in his office.”

            Whether you think that this sort of “cognitive peculiarity” is caused by the Banned Topic, or childhood malnutrition, or a curse by the Devil, or anything else, do you think it has anything causal effect on Haiti being a shithole?

            Can you imagine these people running a developed society, with functional government agencies and private companies larger than mom and pop shops? And if they were imported in the US, without any filter, what kind of jobs would they able to hold?

            Are these observations racist?

          • By far the most likely reasoning behind this is that he assumes citizens of these countries are pretty much all the same

            I don’t think so. If I’ve correctly understood the context he was talking about the visa lottery, which assigns visas at random to applicants from any country that has less than some number of immigrants. A low average quality of the population is a good argument against assigning visas at random although not a good argument against assigning them selectively–to members of that population who are not of low quality in whatever respects are relevant.

            As it happens Haitians are not eligible because we already have more than the required number of immigrants from Haiti.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And if they were imported in the US, without any filter, what kind of jobs would they able to hold?

            Retail. They work retail. That is, similarly intellectually endowed people exist already in the US, and you’ll find them at your local hamburger establishment, unable to make change for $12.53 on a $10.53 tab without the cash register.

          • Matt M says:

            Can you imagine these people running a developed society, with functional government agencies and private companies larger than mom and pop shops? And if they were imported in the US, without any filter, what kind of jobs would they able to hold?

            Stefan Molyneux just did a Youtube video comparing this discussion to the history of germ theory. That back in the day, a lot of people believed in the “miasma theory” of illness. That people got sick because of “bad air” or what have you. A particular location was making someone sick, so if you took that person out of that location and brought them to a place with “good air” they’d get better.

            Of course, what germ theory teaches us is that no, it’s the person who is sick, not the place. Taking a sick person and placing them in a new environment full of healthy people won’t really make the sick person better, but it will make all of the healthy people sick.

            A whole lot of people seem to be treating noticeable differences in human development in various countries as if the miasma theory is still in play. Countries are bad for no particular reason. If we take the people in bad countries and put them in good countries, surely their lives will get better.

            Of course, if the countries aren’t inherently bad… if they are bad because the people are bad… then all you’ll really achieve is making the healthy countries sick.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Matt M

            A whole lot of people seem to be treating noticeable differences in human development in various countries as if the miasma theory is still in play. Countries are bad for no particular reason. If we take the people in bad countries and put them in good countries, surely their lives will get better.

            Wait, what, the most empathetic no. I know nobody who has paid any attention at all to the public discussion around these issues who treats the differences in country outcomes that way.

            Usually the current differences are attributed to the social, economic and cultural history of the country; the commonly-given reasons why they persist vary a lot, but common ones include various aspects of culture, bad political institutions, bad educational institutions, and path dependency effects of bad political decisions. Everybody likes to recall how the past one child policy of China created a male-female demographic imbalance and then proceed to speculate what kind of present day consequences it has on Chinese society; or how polygamy creates social instability in various parts of Africa; what kind of effects different religions’ stances on various issues have societies; and so on.

            The short answer that most people would answer why some countries are persistently not doing very well because stuff is complicated. I’d assume that even high school graduate not particularly well-versed in social science is bright enough to say that.

            To me it sounds like Molyneux is misrepresenting his outgroup’s position to the extent that the word “bullshit” is warranted. Nobody of interest is acting like there’s magical miasma around around Haiti. Only people who I can imagine doing that are people whose knee-jerk reaction would be to attribute it to the race and don’t want to say it aloud but are lazy enough not to research or think about the question at all.

            I’d also add that the standard pro-immigration argument is that when individuals from bad countries move emigrate to good countries and integrate in their superior society and learn their ways, then their lives will get better. If they don’t, their lives won’t get better, and that’s a problem to be dealt with. (One basic right-wing argument how that can happen is that they won’t integrate if the society rewards them with social security handouts that alone enable a better standard living than what they had in the bad countries).

            I also hate hate hate that I must write out this kind of very very basic position? It isn’t like culture and economy and history and their effects on society are not subjects that we have discussed to death in Moloch-knows-how-many open threads, no, we are back to the fricking square one.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            common ones include various aspects of culture, bad political institutions, bad educational institutions, and path dependency effects of bad political decisions

            and now I’m at it, let’s add the standard argument of “death spiral of political corruption and terribly structured post-colonialist economy, where corruption enables the continuation of the exploitative economic structure and high profits enjoyed by the landowners / natural resource extractors continue to fuel the local political corruption, which continues to breed overall misery” to the mix, even though it counts as such path-dependency effect.

            One can discuss whether such explanations are reflective of the reality, but I simply can’t let a notion pass that such explanations wouldn’t exist and the mainstream political thought is running on magical miasma thinking and only Molyneux dares to ask questions “why some countries are like this”.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @The Nybbler

            Retail. They work retail.

            But Amazon is killing off retail for non-perishable goods, and McDonald’s restaurants are starting to install touchscreens where you can order on your own, avoiding the issue of the idiot cashier messing up your order or your change.

            The job prospects of the “diversely smart” aren’t going to be good.

            @nimim.k.m.

            Usually the current differences are attributed to the social, economic and cultural history of the country; the commonly-given reasons why they persist vary a lot, but common ones include various aspects of culture, bad political institutions, bad educational institutions, and path dependency effects of bad political decisions.

            I don’t know if the inability to grasp the concept of alphanumeric sorting even after the white devils spend months trying to explain it to you can be an aspect of your culture, but even if it is, it’s not like you immediately lose your culture the moment you set foot in another country. It would take a generation or two before your descendents are fully Flynned, in the meantime the country that hosts you has to deal with you.

          • Matt M says:

            Usually the current differences are attributed to the social, economic and cultural history of the country

            Well yeah. If you ask someone why Haiti is so much poorer than the Dominican Republic, they won’t claim that the ground in Haiti is cursed by a malevolent God and that the DR is not. They’ll go on a long rant about evil white colonialism or whatever.

            But that has little relevance to present-day policy. The fact is, they don’t care why Haiti is worse than the DR. It’s not relevant to them. In their view, a randomly selected immigrant from Haiti has just as much of a chance of being a great and successful American as a randomly selected immigrant from the DR, India, or Norway. To think otherwise is blasphemous.

            They wouldn’t say “the ground in Haiti has been cursed by God” but they would say “the political entity of Haiti was made irrevocably poorer by the policies of western colonial powers 200 years ago.” Which, in a very practical sense, is basically the same thing. Appeals to some vaguely-defined third-party power in the past of which nothing can be done to rectify the situation other than “move them to somewhere not cursed/destroyed by colonialism”

            I’d also add that the standard pro-immigration argument is that when individuals from bad countries move emigrate to good countries and integrate in their superior society and learn their ways, then their lives will get better.

            Yes. And the point here is that focusing on what happens to the immigrant is only half of the equation. When you take someone suffering from the plague out of a bleak, cramped, dreary quarantine zone and move them to a fancy resort in the alps, surely they’ll feel a bit better and be a bit happier – even if their plague is uncured.

            But what will also happen is that all of the formerly healthy people staying at that resort will also catch the plague. The biggest problem with miasma theory wasn’t that it didn’t make the sick people better, it’s that it made more people sick.

            I don’t know enough about Hatian history to say, definitively, to what extent the place being a shithole is attributable to God, colonialism, luck, government, or what. But one component of any particular country being a shithole is the people in that country. To whatever extent Haiti is a shithole because of something having to do with the Hatian people, bringing more Hatian people into other countries increases the likelihood of those places becoming shitholes too. I know that this is crimethink, but I’m about past the point of caring…

          • Anonymous says:

            @Matt M

            And nevermind that if you skim the best people from a shithole, it becomes increasingly shittier.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There’s a very reasonable possibility that the reason some countries are shitholes is because of institutional inertia rather than the people in them. After all, the people of North Korea aren’t different than South Korea.

          • But Amazon is killing off retail for non-perishable goods

            Amazon was responsible for about 4% of all retail sales in 2017.

          • After all, the people of North Korea aren’t different than South Korea.

            Hong Kong, Taiwan, China before Mao’s death and China since provide a similar contrast.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Stefan Molyneux just did a Youtube video comparing this discussion to the history of germ theory. That back in the day, a lot of people believed in the “miasma theory” of illness. That people got sick because of “bad air” or what have you. A particular location was making someone sick, so if you took that person out of that location and brought them to a place with “good air” they’d get better.

            Of course, what germ theory teaches us is that no, it’s the person who is sick, not the place. Taking a sick person and placing them in a new environment full of healthy people won’t really make the sick person better, but it will make all of the healthy people sick.

            Only the germ theory (as presented) is incomplete, ignoring genetic diseases even. What is closer to accurate is that germs cause disease under specific circumstances*, which is a blending of the two theories. How well you fight of disease depends in part on general health and stress levels along with how many times you have fought off similar infections before. Some germs have a symbiotic relationship with us in one portion of our body and a murderous relationship in another. For some things his statement is approximately correct, but for others it would actually be incorrect, that taking the person out of an unhealthy environment would allow them to be cured and not only that but would improve the general health of the population they are introduced to by helping them build up antibodies to related diseases.

            *Yes, this is a gross oversimplification and doesn’t apply to all disease.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Matt M

            If you ask someone why Haiti is so much poorer than the Dominican Republic, they won’t claim that the ground in Haiti is cursed by a malevolent God and that the DR is not.

            Haiti may be a special case, in that there is a strong rumor that it was dedicated to Satan in the course of their revolution (turns out it may have been some Voodoo god instead, but eh, tomato, tomahto). I know at least some Haitians believe it to be true, since that’s where I first learned this factoid.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Matt M

            continues with a hardly relevant plague metaphor and at the end self-crucifies himself “oh I realize this is terrible crimethink”

            I’m done with this discussion. Frankly, I think I’m done with OTs.

            For some time now I’ve been pondering about having an OT holiday and I think I’m going to act on these plans now.

          • To whatever extent Haiti is a shithole because of something having to do with the Hatian people, bringing more Hatian people into other countries increases the likelihood of those places becoming shitholes too.

            A century or so ago, the U.S. was bringing in about a million people a year, a lot of them from places such as Poland and southern Italy that I suspect you would have viewed at the time as shitholes. Yet the U.S. did not become a shithole. To predict whether whatever characteristics of Haitians were responsible for the poor condition of Haiti would also make Haitians bad citizens of the U.S. you would have to know more than either of us knows about what those characteristics are.

            More relevant evidence would be how Haitian immigrants have done in the U.S. The answer is that family income of Haitian Americans averages $47,541, which is below the national average but well above the average for African Americans ($40,931) or Mexican Americans ($38,000).

          • Matt M says:

            How do you think they vote, compared to the national average?

            How does the income for Hatian immigrants compare to that of Indian immigrants? Or Swedish immigrants?

            Personally, I’d be in favor of a race/nationality blind merit-based system, which I believe Trump previously spoke in favor of and was shouted down with cries of RACISM! then too…

            But if you come in and say, as a given, that we’re going to have a system where we pick people based on their country of origin, it seems entirely reasonable to me to suggest “maybe let’s pick the good countries instead of the bad ones?”

            Edit: I also think a merit-based immigration system should only admit those who are projected to do better than the US national average (total average, not average among your race or whatever). I see no particular reason to admit anyone who would move the average down.

          • vV_Vv says:

            A century or so ago, the U.S. was bringing in about a million people a year, a lot of them from places such as Poland and southern Italy that I suspect you would have viewed at the time as shitholes.

            Not much more shitholey than NYC, Detroit or whatever other typical immigration target. Poland and Italy (including southern Italy) were still considered first-world countries a century ago, and even more so, historically.

            By contrast, who is the Haitian Copernicus, or the sub-Saharan African Archimedes?

            The answer is that family income of Haitian Americans averages $47,541

            Were these immigrants mostly selected by merit?

            EDIT:

            Since a picture is worth a thousand words:
            Warsaw circa 1914
            Naples circa 1910
            Port-au-Prince circa 2015

          • The Nybbler says:

            1) Much less welfare back then

            2) Much more pressure to assimilate; if immigrants and natives clashed then, the assumption was generally that the problem was with the immigrants. Today, it’s that it’s with the natives.

            3) Sicily, for example, was a shithole, but not to the level of Haiti.

            4) This immigration wasn’t without its problems; along with the people leaving Sicily’s problems behind, we also got some of the people causing Sicily’s problems, like the mafia.

          • rlms says:

            @vV_Vv
            Who is the Alabamian Copernicus? You can throw in Missouri if you want to get to equal populations with Haiti, which gives you George Washington Carver, but I don’t think that helps you much.

          • John Schilling says:

            Who is the Alabamian Copernicus?

            Well, Alabama does include Huntsville, with all the people who proved the planets circle the sun by going out to visit them…

          • The Nybbler says:

            A few accomplished Alabamans:

            Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black

            Astronomer Micheal E. Brown (head of the team which discovered dwarf planet Eris)

            Robert Carmichael, mathemetician

            Tim Cook, businessman.

            Waldo Semon, inventor of vinyl

            J. Curry Street, physicist, co-discoverer of muons

          • Who is the Alabamian Copernicus?

            I can resist anything but temptation.

            Nearly the whole of Europe could be lost in that stupendous region of worn-out farms, shoddy cities and paralyzed cerebrums: one could throw in France, Germany and Italy, and still have room for the British Isles. And yet, for all its size and all its wealth and all the “progress” it babbles of, it is almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, as the Sahara Desert. There are single acres in Europe that house more first-rate men than all the states south of the Potomac; there are probably single square miles in America. If the whole of the late Confederacy were to be engulfed by a tidal wave tomorrow, the effect upon the civilized minority of men in the world would be but little greater than that of a flood on the Yang-tse-kiang.

            ( From H.L.Mencken, The Sahara of the Bozart)

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Who is the Alabamian Copernicus? You can throw in Missouri if you want to get to equal populations with Haiti, which gives you George Washington Carver, but I don’t think that helps you much.

            Woah, hey now, as a Missourian I’m compelled to defend my state (although I’ve been sitting out thus far). Off the top of my head:

            – Mark Twain
            – John J. Pershing
            – Walt Disney
            – Maya Angelou
            – Reinhold Neibuhr
            – T. S. Eliot
            – Laura Ingalls Wilder
            – Langston Hughes
            – Robert Heinlein
            – Omar Bradley
            – I’m going to claim U.S. Grant, too
            – Charles Lindbergh
            – the founders of Anheiser-Busch, J. C. Penney, and H&R Block
            – Sam Walton
            – Edwin Hubble
            – Joseph Pulitzer

            Now, maybe we didn’t have anyone who lent his name to a systemic revolution in the history of science, but we’re not a bunch of uncultured yokels out here, neither. To borrow from Civilization, we’ve got our fair share of great writers, artists, merchants, generals, and scientists.

          • Montfort says:

            @Chevalier, I’m not disputing most of your list, nor Missouri’s claim to some fine citizens, but you can’t possibly claim both Hubble (born in MO, moved before or just after his first birthday) and US Grant (born outside MO, but posted in St Louis ~ages 21-24) unless you’re going by a standard of “once breathed Missouri air.”

            I mean, claiming famous Americans for particular states is always kind of weird because they can move so freely, but still.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            You’re undercounting Grant’s time here a little, as he lived at White Haven between ’54 and ’59, too, but your point is fair. I’m just possessive of Grant since I live within walking distance of the historic home and volunteer there often, but I’ll concede I can’t justly count him and Hubble.

            Nevertheless, I feel that my state’s honor has been satisfied.

        • Brad says:

          A more accurate version of this than thinking in terms of selecting which immigrants we want from each country, based on their skills, qualifications, history, health, etc. We probably benefit more from the French-educated Haitian engineer coming here than from the perpetually-unemployed Norwegian welfare recipient.

          That’s exactly the problem with Trump’s statement, aside from just being unpresidential.

          The program that he was arguing against (DV lottery) is premised on the idea that we should take or not take people based on the country they are from. He made exactly the opposite of the argument he should have been in order to attack the program. The argument should have been “why do we want people that have no other qualification except that they won a lottery”, not “why do we want people from poor countries”?

          Norwegians are eligible for the DV lottery. Haitians aren’t.

          • albatross11 says:

            Expecting intellectual depth and care from Trump is like expecting good behavior from a drunken motorcycle gang.

          • cassander says:

            That’s exactly the problem with Trump’s statement, aside from just being unpresidential.

            Trump’s statement was made in a private meeting with his staff. It’s not unpresidential to speak frankly in such circumstances. It’s insane to expect that anyone would so police themselves.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            If we are talking about the “shithole” comment, that isn’t true. It was a meeting with members of Congress, including Leslie Graham and Dick Durbin.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Apologies, it was a private meeting with members of congress, not members of his staff. How does that change things? It still wasn’t public.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Members of Congress literally are the representatives of the public. Dick Durbin is a member of the opposition party who Trump is engaged with in negotiation. Leslie Graham, of all people, was apparently pissed enough to call out Trump while still in the meeting.

            Trump doesn’t have the kind of political capital where he gets to spew venomous bullshit at members of the opposition party and expect people to cover for him. LBJ he ain’t.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Trump doesn’t have the kind of political capital where he gets to spew venomous bullshit at members of the opposition party and expect people to cover for him. LBJ he ain’t.

            I thought we were discussing the morality of what he said, not its wisdom. And trump wasn’t spewing “venomous bullshit” at these people, he was asking a question that millions of people have asked themselves.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            You appear to not be keeping track of your own arguments.

            It’s not unpresidential to speak frankly in such circumstances. It’s insane to expect that anyone would so police themselves.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I don’t see where you think i’ve been inconsistent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @casander:
            First you claim:

            It’s insane to expect that anyone would so police themselves.

            I pointed multiple reasons why a generic President, especially one with Trump’s lack of political capital, should, in fact, police his language.

            Then you made the claim:

            I thought we were discussing the morality of what he said, not its wisdom.

            Your statement about sanity is explicitly one about wisdom, not morality.

            This kind of thing is frequent with you. It is annoying.

          • cassander says:

            I pointed multiple reasons why a generic President, especially one with Trump’s lack of political capital, should, in fact, police his language.

            No you didn’t. You attempted to cast his decidedly non-public statement as if it were public in order to prove your own point, with an irrelevant example about how LBJ liked to cow people through insults. That wasn’t what trump was trying to do, and even if he had, and it worked, I sincerely doubt you, or anyone else castigating him now, would have approved.

            Your statement about sanity is explicitly one about wisdom, not morality.

            No it isn’t. almost everyone agrees that presidents ought to be circumspect in what they say in public, and that trump is not as circumspect as he should be. I am objecting to people extending the same moral standard to his private conversations and judging them as if they were prepared public statements. That’s an insane moral standard.

            This kind of thing is frequent with you. It is annoying.

            You inventing straw men about my arguments is not my fault.

          • Practically everyone in these discussions assumes that we are better off if immigrants are high education, high income types. It isn’t at all clear that it’s true.

            The implication of the principle of comparative advantage is that exchange produces a larger benefit when it is between people with very different relative abilities. If I can cook a meal in an hour or cut a lawn in an hour and your time for each is two hours, there is no gain from one of us cutting the other’s lawn in exchange for cooking. If the ratio of costs is different for the two people, on the other hand, there is a gain from trade, even if one of them is able to do both jobs in less time than the other.

            That suggests that the present occupants of a country are likely to gain more by bringing in people who are different from them–for instance people who are about as good as the current occupants at mowing lawns but much worse at programming computers or curing diseases. The U.S. is a relatively high income, high education society. So we may benefit more by bringing in poor and uneducated people, as well as benefiting the immigrants more, than by bringing in people more like the ones already here.

            That argument assumes, of course, interaction by voluntary exchange. If you imagine a society where everything everyone produces goes into a single pool and is then allocated on a per capita basis you would get the opposite result. I think that is at least part of the intuition that lies behind the widespread support for “merit based” immigration.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            One reason why ‘we’ have a high income society, is because we automated and outsourced many of the poor paying jobs, hence high unemployment for people with less education attainment.

            Setting up a society so that people with less education attainment do worse and then having mainly those people immigrate, seems sub-optimal.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Taxes, minimum wage laws, liability, and licensing screw all that up. Even the upper middle class doesn’t have much in the way of servants because the cost of hiring such is just too high.

        • Matt M says:

          People making our immigration policy shouldn’t call poor countries shitholes in public

          Did he even say it in public?

          I thought this was a private meeting, and someone leaked? Does that even matter?

          • MrApophenia says:

            I think if the controversy was just Trump said a bad word, the privacy of the meeting would matter. Presidents swear in private, nothing new there. Bush had his hot mic moment getting caught calling a reporter a major league asshole, and people snickered about it on the news but it wasn’t a huge deal.

            If the controversy is that the President is espousing racist views, it doesn’t really matter as much whether it was public or private.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @MrApophenia

            The public controversy mostly is about the bad word. If Trump had said “third world” there’d be no controversy.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I don’t fully agree. If it leaked that Trump has said we don’t want any more Haitians in the US, and we were setting immigration policy accordingly, I think that would still be getting attention.

            Probably less without the cussing, though.

          • albatross11 says:

            This seems like basically every other thing Trump does, ever, in his presidency. There are some important issues to be resolved, some of them rather subtle and requiring some careful thought. Trump and his people start trying to work out how to address them. And then Trump spouts off something offensive and eye-catching, and like 99% of the news coverage goes off and chases the offensive comment, and there’s nobody left paying any attention to the important issue, including Trump and his people.

            At this point, this pattern is reenforced because everyone expects Trump to say something offensive and awful, so even if it’s a meaningless slip of the tongue or something, the whole news media and public are primed for it.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11

            that’s definitely the pattern but, at least in some cases, trump clearly does it deliberately and he (or at least his people) do keep paying attention. Hence how we just got a tax bill, and building pressure on north korea.

        • Controls Freak says:

          In private conversation among my circle of acquaintance, it wouldn’t be shocking to hear someone describe Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, etc., as hell-holes or shit-holes. That’s not the kind of talk you want from a leader, in general, but the sentiment isn’t crazy. A lot of countries are really awful places where there’s a lot of poverty and corruption and dysfunction and war, and colloquially calling them shitholes isn’t all that shocking.

          This description has me thinking, “Yes, Minister did it.

  10. tayfie says:

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/07/open-thread-92-5/#comment-586549

    Thanks to everyone for helping. I should tell more about myself. Expanding on my comment from last time:

    What goals I do have are very uncertain because I do not know what I want. @Brad asked if there was something I had a burning desire to do, and it doesn’t feel like there is. Or, put a better way, it feels like my passion is split in many different directions. I had this problem in college where I joined too many clubs and never put my full effort into any single one. I would end the week exhausted but not feel like I contributed to anything.

    I was raised on a farm with a strong red tribe culture. I love my family, but was bored stiff in public school growing up where there wasn’t much opportunity for gifted kids. Home internet was dial-up until high school. Libraries were my connection to the outside world. Reading extensively and taught me many things. I wasn’t bullied and had several friends, but most people thought I was kind of strange. I always thought I would get out of there and do Great Things, but I am not sure I am that ambitious any longer. What I always told people growing up was that I would be an inventor and run my own company. Entrepreneurship runs in my family, and I went through periods of fascination with Thomas Edison and Bill Gates.

    For relationships, I don’t have many close friends. My high school friends all went to different colleges. My college friends all moved to different places across the country. I do not feel enough social draw to stay close to people. I am single and actively looking for a relationship, but am hampered because I am an introvert averse to “night life”, work in a male dominated space with few young people, and have few friends to introduce me to dating prospects. My hobbies have the same problem as my work, too skewed towards men. Online dating is difficult because, while I get plenty of good leads, no one commits to meeting in person. I am impulsively, but not certainly, monogamous and think I would like 3-4 kids. This may not be possible due to the testicular cancer I had at 20. I have one testicle, possibly infertile due to the chemotherapy, and one surgery caused nerve damage that prevents me from ejaculating.

    What advice do you have?

    Shoutout to @quaelegit: If you didn’t read my other reply, I am in the Dallas area and would love to meet up. Email me at cwl at protonmail dot com.

    • Aapje says:

      I wouldn’t rule out having kids, even if you are infertile, because I think that many women who want children favor having a good father much, much more than having the children be ‘his.’ Sperm banks were invented for exactly this problem.

      Your characteristics probably result in your dating prospects becoming much better in 5-10 years time, with women who explicitly seek a partner to have children with. If you are not particularly lonely right now, you may want to focus first on becoming a better prospect in 5-10 years time.

      I think that your main issue is your lack of focus. One approach is to fix that. I don’t feel qualified to give advice on how to do this. Another approach is to find a job that is ‘chaotic’.

      Ultimately, you do have to commit to something and accept that you will never have a perfect job, perfect hobbies, etc. You always have to accept some drudgery and unpleasantry. The trick is to have enough good to outweigh that.

      • tayfie says:

        I wouldn’t rule out having kids, even if you are infertile, because I think that many women who want children favor having a good father much, much more than having the children be ‘his.’

        You are right, but missing the point that having kids that are mine could be important to me. There is value in I think I would be emotionally closer to kids I fathered myself, that heritable traits would allow me to better predict and relate to the troubles and feelings any future kids may have and be a more effective parent, that there would never be any delicate conversations over the “real” father.

        …your dating prospects becoming much better in 5-10 years time…

        Again, true. I’m just worried that time will sneak up on me and I won’t know what to do when I get there and make an awful mistake about the right person for me. The prevailing advice of those I’ve asked and society at large seems to be to let love happen. This is at odds with my personal inclination to have a plan and what seems likely to produce a successful long-term match.

        main issue is your lack of focus…find a job that is ‘chaotic’.

        That’s interesting. Most people that know me have told me I’m very focused. Only I don’t know what to focus on now that I am out of school. Could you please elaborate on what you mean about that and a ‘chaotic’ job?

        • The prevailing advice of those I’ve asked and society at large seems to be to let love happen. This is at odds with my personal inclination to have a plan and what seems likely to produce a successful long-term match.

          Nothing wrong with having a plan. Think about your optimal search strategy for finding a mate.

          A very long time ago, after the end of my first marriage, I did a little calculating. I was living in Blackburg, VA, teaching at VPI. I estimated how many women there were in Blacksburg who I would have to date once to eliminate as prospects. I then estimated how many women I could reasonably expect to date a year. The second number was considerably smaller than the first, so I concluded that being in Blacksburg did not directly impede my search.

          A further calculation (you like plans) might look at the presence or absence of subpopulation that were particularly rich sources of prospects. One advantage of NY over Blacksburg would be the existence of SIGs, special interest groups associated with Mensa or some other organization. It’s worth thinking about whether there are such institutions which would prefilter the population, select for women more likely to be what you were looking for.

          Another conclusion I reached was that I should not limit my social efforts to looking for another wife. I should also try to expand my network of friends, because friends have friends, some of whom might be potential mates for me. Think of it as a net trolling the ocean.

          The wife of a friend suggested folk dancing as a good place to meet nice girls. She was correct.

        • Aapje says:

          @tayfie

          Could you please elaborate on what you mean about that and a ‘chaotic’ job?

          I think that a typical job for extremely chaotic, easily bored people is concert planner or such. That involves a lot of small, diverse tasks, I think.

          However, given your self-description, you seem quite capable of focusing on medium term tasks, but don’t want to spend years doing the exact same thing. So that’s less about chaos, but more about having diversity.

          A good option for you might then be consulting. I’ve done a software quality assessment where the client was unhappy with their supplier and wanted an independent assessment of the issues with the software. Another job was an analysis of how the performance issues of the software could be solved.

          These kinds of gigs generally last weeks to months. You have to quickly get to grips with the software, the problem, the customer culture and such. Then you measure the things that need measuring and/or analyze the things that need analyzing. You end with writing a report and generally present it, sometimes directly to (middle) management.

          Of course, a job like this involves a lot of travel and possibly having to stay in hotels during an assignment. Although that also depends where you do it. If you do such a job in an area with many IT companies (like Silicon Valley), you may find plenty of work locally.

          It is a senior level job if you do it alone, although mediors can do it when part of a team. You may prefer doing it as a member of a team for the social contacts, anyway. I would expect that there is a fairly big opportunity for security consultants especially, so that can be a great niche to go into.

          You can make a plan to work towards getting the right qualifications & skills if you are interested.

    • Björn says:

      When I was 23 and had finished my bachelor degree, because of bureaucratic reasons I could not start my Master degree right away, so for half a year I was sitting in my room with nothing to do. I also got a hand injury, so I could not play the guitar, which meant i could not do my favorite hobby. This was the psychologically most unhealthy time of my life. So I definitely recommend you, if you quit your job, you need something to do everyday so your daily routine stays in order.

      Apart from that, I can tell you that I am in a similar situation as you. I will soon be finishing university, and my main job perspective is becoming a programmer as well. But becoming a programmer does not feel that interesting to me, for years I have the feeling that i want to do something with culture. I am toying with the idea of studying a humanities subject for fun (universities are very cheap in Germany) while working on the side as a programmer, but I’m unsure if I would have the courage for that. My dating life is also similar yours, I don’t get to know that many women in university, but my diverse but focusedinterests and introvertedness makes it hard to form a connection with people.

      I’m sorry that I do not have a solution what you should do, but I hope it helps you to know that you are not the only person with those problems.

    • Brad says:

      @Brad asked if there was something I had a burning desire to do, and it doesn’t feel like there is.

      That’s fine. Most people don’t.

      If you don’t have a burning desire to travel, get a Phd, or run for public office then the best advice is to keep on keeping on. That doesn’t mean just letting the years go by. You should be working on your career (make sure you are getting a new year’s worth of experience every year instead of the same one over and over), trying to build those friendships you have and make new ones (it will only get harder in your 30s), and go put yourself out there on the dating market. Even if nothing comes of it you will develop the skills you will want to have later on.

      Regarding that last part (and partly the second to last), given your background and where you live, I’d think about joining a church unless that’s a totally repugnant idea to you.

    • quaelegit says:

      Emailed you 🙂

  11. Andrew Hunter says:

    I just discovered this book about WW2 naval logistics which may be relevant to the interests of some of our commenters (David Friedman mentioned loving some books about ancient war logistics.) I haven’t read it yet, but the first line definitely catches my attention: “THIS IS NOT A STUDY in logistics. It is more a story of logistics.”

  12. Well... says:

    Every once in a while someone writes an article claiming there are not any “no-go zones” in Europe. (“No-go zones” being shorthand for Muslim enclaves where basically Shariah law has fully replaced the law of the local government, where non-Muslims are afraid to go, where police don’t bother going, etc.)

    I don’t live in Europe and haven’t been there in a decade, but some SSC readers live/visit there and I trust y’all’s testimony way more than that of journalists.

    So tell me: are there no-go zones or aren’t there?

    • Matt M says:

      I’d just like to say that I think this is a question that has no factual answer.

      Because the claim is not that there exists somewhere in city hall an official document that says “This neighborhood is ruled by the local imam and law enforcement are to avoid it.” Because that obviously wouldn’t fly. The claim is that this is a well known unspoken rule that is implemented in practice. It is essentially impossible to prove or disprove.

      • Well... says:

        Wouldn’t a bunch of reasonable people saying “Yeah, no cops or white people ever go to that [Muslim] part of London/Stockholm/Paris/etc.” be enough to at least produce a credible claim worthy of testing? Couldn’t some organization (maybe one that owns helicopters and has special access to police headquarters…like, oh, say, news organizations) find a way to monitor the flow of police cruisers (or something similar) and verify the claim?

        I get that measuring an unspoken rule is hard, but surely it’s not impossible.

      • “This neighborhood is ruled by the local imam and law enforcement are to avoid it.” Because that obviously wouldn’t fly.

        The claim doesn’t fly, and has been made anyway. I’ve seen it made about places where I’ve lived.

        • Matt M says:

          My point is that it wouldn’t fly as official written policy. And the claim that it’s happening is not actually about official written policy.

          If I claim the freemasons have some weird and creepy induction ritual, they will likely respond saying “No we don’t!” And they might even say “Here’s a copy of the official freemason manual and it includes no secret induction ritual, HAHA DEBUNKED FIVE PINOCCHIOS!” But that probably won’t do much to satisfy anyone now will it?

        • DavidS says:

          Whether or not they make the official written policy claim, people regularly claim that areas are no-go which aren’t. E.g. this

          https://sputniknews.com/art_living/201603261037026861-europe-dangerous-immigrant-districts/

          I lived in Brixton for years. I am white, posh enough to draw some people’s ire, not particularly streetwise, and neither am nor look good at fighting. I felt far safer walking down the street there than where I previously lived, a white-dominated town.

          I went back there with my small child to meet family (none of whom live in Brixton: just the food’s good). We felt really on the edge especially as if you want a coffee you have to go to rough, scary places like this
          http://www.fmondayscoffee.com/

          Essentially the problem is that people take ‘lots of ethnic minorities/immigrants’, ‘high crime rates’ or both and then make things up about ‘a white person can’t walk down the street’.

          You’re right that if anyone says ‘there are no go areas but they’re secret and I won’t tell you where’, this is technically unproveable, like Russell’s teapot.

          • It may be a matter of degree. One chance in ten of getting mugged might make the area effectively no go, but most times you went there you would be fine.

            I’m thinking of a real experience in Cleveland a while back. My daughter had been mugged–not injured, but several things, including her iPhone, taken. The phone continued to report its location, so we told the police and went looking ourselves.

            The location was in a black area–how low income I’m not sure. A black cop advised us against wandering around there. We did anyway, found the phone and some but not all of what else had been taken discarded in a dumpster.

            Our interactions with the locals were entirely friendly. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some risk of encountering locals with whom the interactions would not have been.

          • John Schilling says:

            If there’s a cop in the area to advise you against wandering around, then the area definitely isn’t no-go for cops and the state is still attempting to enforce the law. This disqualifies it as a “no-go zone” in the politicized sense being discussed here.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, yes and no. It proves it’s not a literal “no-go for the cops” but if they’re advising you to go away, rather than assisting you in recovering your stolen property, it seems odd to claim that they’re “still trying to enforce the law” in that area.

            If their only purpose is to chase the law-abiding white people away (for their own safety) that seems closer to the spirit of no-go zones than not…

          • There were two cops, in a cop car, there because we had told them where the iPhone was claiming to be. I think only one of them was black. I don’t remember their doing much searching, but that might just be that it looked as though it would take more time than the chance of finding something was worth.

            Not no go in the strong sense of police never going there, but an area where the police advised that it was imprudent to go.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think if “no-go zone” is being redefined to mean places where the police usually won’t bother searching for stolen property worth less than $1000(*), then there’s just one big no-go zone called “Earth”. There may be small terrestrial enclaves one could safely visit.

            Mostly, though, “no-go zone” is looking increasingly like a pair of goalposts on hoverboards steered by hyperkinetic ferrets, and I’d rather play a nice sensible game of Quidditch.

            * Or whatever the local equivalent is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think if “no-go zone” is being redefined to mean places where the police usually won’t bother searching for stolen property worth less than $1000(*), then there’s just one big no-go zone called “Earth”. There may be small terrestrial enclaves one could safely visit.

            It’s not that the police didn’t bother looking for their property, it’s that a policeman advised them against going into the area themselves. I don’t think using the term “no-go zone” to refer to “a place where people are advised not to go because of the risk of being attacked” is particularly unreasonable.

          • Brad says:

            It’s particularly unreasonable when we started with a definition that included quasi-sovereigns because the state’s laws effectively don’t run there and locals have to turn to other power centers for dispute resolutions. Complete with references to Sharia, natch.

            Now it turns out to just mean neighborhood with a bad reputation for crime. Are those goalposts lighter than they look?

          • Matt M says:

            It’s particularly unreasonable when we started with a definition that included quasi-sovereigns because the state’s laws effectively don’t run there

            A place where law enforcement specifically tells you to avoid because they cannot protect you from violence sounds a lot like “the state’s laws effectively don’t run there” to me.

            But even bad neighborhoods do not seem to operate in a perpetual state of violent anarchy. There ARE quasi-sovereigns. They might be local religious figures or gang leaders or whatever. But there’s surely someone setting the rules. And it doesn’t seem to be the state, because the state’s official agents have nothing to offer you but “You have every legal right to go there, but if you do, you’ll likely be attacked, and we won’t do anything about it.”

          • John Schilling says:

            “You have ever legal right to go there, but if you do, you’ll likely be attacked, and we won’t do anything about it.”

            And we have firsthand reports of people going there and being attacked, and no reports of the police refusing to “do anything” about people who are actually attacked, and yet a simple warning suffices for us to assume things like “likely attacked” and “police won’t do anything” and local gangs/warlords/theocracies openly ruling the streets.

            Find evidence for the claims you want to actually make, or go away. Define, in a readily falsifiable manner, what a “no go” zone actually is, and mark its boundaries on a map so we can investigate, or go away. And do try to make the claims you are putting forth for rational inquiry here consistent with the hype being spun for Fox News, or else find a different term to keep the distinction clear.

            The Fox News version often does include the explicit claim that the police won’t go to those places, and that is trivially falsifiable. You don’t want to associate yourself with that if you can’t back it up.

          • Brad says:

            Matt M

            A place where law enforcement specifically tells you to avoid because they cannot protect you from violence sounds a lot like “the state’s laws effectively don’t run there” to me.

            The original quote in question was:

            black cop advised us against wandering around there.

            That’s not “law enforcement specifically tells you to avoid because they cannot protect you from violence”. Garbage in, garbage out as they say.

            Besides weren’t you just telling us that these claims aren’t inherently unfalsifiable? Why would you think your assertions of admittedly faith based claims would be at all convincing to anyone else here?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The original quote in question was:
            black cop advised us against wandering around there.
            That’s not “law enforcement specifically tells you to avoid because they cannot protect you from violence”.

            What plausible reason might a cop have had for telling David Friedman not to enter an area, if not the risk of him becoming the victim of some sort of violent crime?

          • albatross11 says:

            How does “no-go zone” differ from “rough neighborhood” or “ghetto?”

          • albatross11 says:

            Mr X:

            In world #1, the police tell you “That’s a dangerous place to go. If you go there and anything happens, we can’t or won’t do anything about it.” Like the DMZ between North and South Korea.

            In world #2, the police tell you “That’s a dangerous place to go. If you go there and anything happens, call us and we’ll try to get there in time to help you out, but know we can’t be everywhere and you’re taking a risk.” Like East St Louis or Anacostia.

            David’s story seems to reside entirely in world #2.

          • Matt M says:

            In world #2, the police tell you “That’s a dangerous place to go. If you go there and anything happens, call us and we’ll try to get there in time to help you out, but know we can’t be everywhere and you’re taking a risk.” Like East St Louis or Anacostia.

            What makes it dangerous if not the fact that the police have a minimal presence and are unwilling to spend the resources necessary to make it fully in compliance with state authority? The fact that some places are significantly more dangerous than others to the point of prompting a disclaimer at all is evidence that there are specific enclaves where state authority is minimal, if not absent.

            And “we can’t be everywhere at once” is something they’d say anywhere. Even fancy upper class neighborhoods routinely have response times from 5-10 minutes.

          • Matt M says:

            Besides weren’t you just telling us that these claims aren’t inherently unfalsifiable? Why would you think your assertions of admittedly faith based claims would be at all convincing to anyone else here?

            I think the main issue here is that there is no precise definition of what a “no-go-zone” actually is. I guess we can define two extremes. At one end, we can think of a place where state authorities literally never go and that is fully and wholly independent and autonomous (probably does not actually exist). At the other end, we can define every high-crime neighborhood where someone might advise you to be on your guard as a no-go zone because clearly, state power and influence is not as high as we might prefer it to be.

            If you insist upon the first extreme, then yes, you are probably correct that no-go zones are a crazy conspiracy that does not exist. If it’s the other extreme, no-go zones are literally everywhere and always have been. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, such that people who say “There are certain no-go zones in Sweden” are not complete and total liars and conspiracy freaks, but also, when the government of Sweden says “no such place exists,” they technically aren’t wrong either.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the main issue here is that there is no precise definition of what a “no-go-zone” actually is.

            Because the people who insist that “no-go zones” exist refuse to provide a definition, except that whenever an argument is raised against them they insist that a “no-go zone” is something different than what is being argued against right there.

            There is no reason why a precise definition of “no-go zone” could not be provided, say by yourself, except that it would pin down the alleged zones as either nonexistent or not worthy of mention. Ghettos got crime, news at 11, whee.

          • Nornagest says:

            At one end, we can think of a place where state authorities literally never go and that is fully and wholly independent and autonomous (probably does not actually exist).

            Oh, places like that exist. But they’re usually the endpoint of a long period of ethnic conflict, not the starting point, and they frequently have some level of tacit or official state recognition. Abkhazia. Transnistria. Iraqi Kurdistan. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

            I don’t think there are any Western European ethnic ghettos that qualify.

          • Matt M says:

            Because the people who insist that “no-go zones” exist refuse to provide a definition

            So what if I say the definition is “any place that a state representative cautions you go avoid going to”?

            Then you’d just tell me I’m using a dumb definition because that applies literally anywhere. And nothing is solved. What you’re demanding is that I provide a definition that would invalidate the argument. Any definition I provide that might allow for the existence of such zones will be dismissed as not the right definition.

          • John Schilling says:

            What you’re demanding is that I provide a definition that would invalidate the argument.

            No, I’m demanding that you provide a definition that would allow you, at least in principle, to lose the argument. The ability of either side to lose is what makes an argument valid.

            “In this defined zone of this specified European city, the police forces of the legitimate government do not patrol”, is a definition that allows for a valid argument. An argument that it turns out you will lose.

            “In this defined zone of this specified European city, any woman not wearing a headscarf will be promptly hauled before an informal Qadi, who will have her flogged”, is also a definition that allows for a valid argument, which you will lose.

            “In this defined zone of this specified European city, the crime rate is two standard deviations above the mean and the local police will advise tourists not to go there (but still respond if they call and say they are being attacked)”, is a definition that allows for a valid argument. Which leads to the next valid argument, “Is there a reason anyone who isn’t planning to be in that city should care?”, which you will lose.

            You’ve chosen to stand on ground where, as far as I can see, all paths lead to defeat. Pick one.

            Any definition I provide that might allow for the existence of such zones will be dismissed as not the right definition.

            There’s no one right way for you to lose this argument. Pick one. But be specific, and commit to it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “In this defined zone of this specified European city, the crime rate is two standard deviations above the mean and the local police will advise tourists not to go there (but still respond if they call and say they are being attacked)”, is a definition that allows for a valid argument. Which leads to the next valid argument, “Is there a reason anyone who isn’t planning to be in that city should care?”, which you will lose.

            Of course there are reasons why other people should care. For example, if cities with lots of Muslim immigrants find that Muslim-majority areas tend to turn into no-go zones for outsiders, this is relevant to the question of how many Muslim immigrants a country should accept.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I was interpreting “no go zone” as a place where it’s more dangerous to be obviously a police officer than to be someone who probably lives there.

          • John Schilling says:

            Of course there are reasons why other people should care. For example, if cities with lots of Muslim immigrants find that Muslim-majority areas tend to turn into no-go zones for outsiders,

            That’s an “obvously” followed by an “if” followed by an as-yet-undefined term.

            To validate the “obviously”, you need to define “no-go zone”. Then you need establish that such a zone would be a matter of real concern (e.g. significantly worse than the zones populated by Eastern European immigrants or poor Western European citizens or whomever else is going form the low-skill labor pool). Then you need to establish that “no-go zones” by that definition, exist.

            It is unclear that using “no-go zone” as an intermediary is doing you any good in making that argument. It is also unclear that your argument is going to end up as anything more than an observation that the places your low-skill labor pool lives will have higher crime rates than the places everyone else lives, independent of their religion or skin color or nationality.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s an “obvously” followed by an “if” followed by an as-yet-undefined term.

            Maybe you could try reading the piece of text I quoted in order to see which definition of “no-go zone” I was using.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Believers in “no-go zones” have evidently been warned by the police to stay out of the bailey.

          • Jiro says:

            It is unclear that using “no-go zone” as an intermediary is doing you any good in making that argument.

            Any word with a definition can have the definition substituted in, “proving” by this standard that pretty much any word is useless.

          • John Schilling says:

            Words with existing and widely accepted definitions, are not useless. Words which do not have existing definitions, for which a unique definition will be provided for use in this argument only, are very nearly useless. Words which do not have existing definitions but which suggest an obvious definition that isn’t the one you are going to use (or suggest different “obvious” definitions to different people), are worse than useless.

      • Brad says:

        I’d just like to say that I think this is a question that has no factual answer.

        It is essentially impossible to prove or disprove.

        In that case there’s nothing to talk about and the people that push it despite this impossibility of falsification should treated similarly to UFO enthusiasts.

        • John Schilling says:

          UFOs are transient and mobile; the alleged “no-go zones” are not. One can trivially falsify a claim that there is e.g. a UFO permanently hovering over Bob’s Small Appliance Repair over on 5th and Main by going over to 5th and Main and looking up. No-go zones should be similarly falsifiable, and anybody qualified to claim that they exist should be able to give us the information we need.

          • Well... says:

            The difference being that whether or not there is a UFO over Bob’s Repair Store is not closely tied to a major political disagreement about a very controversial topic.

            The claim there are no-go zones is falsifiable (you could tease out a reasonably well-agreed-upon definition of “no-go zone”), but it seems like nobody’s undertaken falsifying it. Am I wrong in either regard?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve seen a few informal attempts, mostly ignored or dismissed on the basis of “you didn’t go to the right part of Malmo/Molenbeek/Beziers/whatever, obviously you’re not taking this seriously”. Step 1 has to be getting the people claiming a “no-go zone” exists to mark it unambiguously on a map, which they can never be bothered to do.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Well…

            There was a journalist who raised money to go investigate this claim in Sweden. My understanding from reading his reddit AMA was that he did not find any areas that meet the strong definition of “no go zones” that you and John Schilling are using, but he did think he found systemic police-related issues in some Swedish cities. My impression was that it sounded like the same kinds of stuff people complain about in US cities, but I don’t remember the details and didn’t investigate beyond reading the ama thread. He also got in trouble with one or more Swedish police departments, though I don’t remember details or if this was related to his claims of finding problems.

            (There was of course controversy and disagreement in the AMA thread, and I don’t remember any of the details so I’m not super confident in my impressions mentioned above. But I am pretty confident that investigating such “no-go zone/religious law” claims was the journalists’ stated mission.)

            I don’t remember his name or what cities he went to, but this might be enough info to find his stories/reddit threads? (If timing helps, I’m pretty sure I saw the AMA last spring — it was definitely after Trump became president.)

          • Well... says:

            Thanks quaelegit, that’s interesting. You summarized it well enough I don’t feel compelled to go searching for it. I was mainly just curious to know if that kind of analysis had been done, and I think I now have a good sense of what the reporter found.

    • toastengineer says:

      I mean, supposedly there’s completely secular “no-go zones” in the U.S.. I’m sure there’s places the police go “aww fuck, I don’t wanna go there, let’s go investigate this instead” everywhere, regardless of what demographics live there. That’s where the big U.S. street gangs come from, people go to the gangs because the police won’t come.

      • Well... says:

        And the existence of them is measurable, isn’t it?

      • John Schilling says:

        I mean, supposedly there’s completely secular “no-go zones” in the U.S.

        I am skeptical of this claim. Do the people making it ever specify latitude and longitude, or something similarly unambiguous?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Anacostia (District of Columbia) in the late 1980s. Probably some large swathes of Detroit and Camden NJ now.

          • albatross11 says:

            They’re maybe not on a map, but if a friend comes to visit from Germany and wants to go do some tourist stuff in DC, I’ll be telling him in approximate terms where it is and isn’t safe to go, because there are parts of DC with a pretty high crime rate. The same is true for many other cities (St Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, New Haven, etc.).

            None of those are no-go areas, exactly. But there are parts of town where even the police don’t like to go alone, and where an awful lot of people get murdered, and those are places you would be wise to avoid.

            The question is, are there similar parts of big European cities, particularly (in the context of the question we started with) where recent immigrant communities from Muslim countries have created those dangerous neighborhoods.

          • Well... says:

            My understanding is that no-go zones (if they’re real) are a step further than just places where cops don’t like to go alone. It’s where cops have all-out stopped going. Those areas are in some ways functionally sovereign, though without the heroic/positive connotation.

          • Matt M says:

            Anacostia is amazing to me. The fact that a complete shithole neighborhood exists about 0.25 miles away from the actual US Capitol building is all kinds of hilarious.

          • John Schilling says:

            My understanding is that no-go zones (if they’re real) are a step further than just places where cops don’t like to go alone.

            Right. If someone tells me that a place is a “no-go zone” and I hang out there for an afternoon, nobody physically assaults me, and I see two-man police patrol cars pass by every couple of hours, it’s not a “no-go zone”. And if someone tells me that there’s a “no-go zone” in [city] but won’t be more specific than that, I consider the claim falsified if a random low-income neighborhood fails the above test.

          • Nornagest says:

            DC is gentrifying pretty fast now, but for years going there was surreal. Some of the richest neighborhoods in the States literally a block or two away from some of the poorest.

          • JayT says:

            There are parts of Oakland that I would never go to at night, and it is very difficult to get police help at any time of day. I was once driving through one of those neighborhoods in the daytime when I saw a pedestrian get hit by a car, and it took almost a half hour for any emergency services to show up. I don’t know if it’s because the area is a “no-go”, but it did seem fairly obvious that there weren’t any cops hanging out nearby.

        • JonathanD says:

          Sure. I live in St Louis city. A few members of my extended family live in St Louis county. Most of my family is convinced that I live in an urban ghetto where sensible (white) people fear to tread. I have been told directly that a cousin (by marriage) who occasionally has to venture into my neighborhood for work always leaves behind his wallet and carries three twenties, enough money that when he is mugged the urban youth won’t kill him. If you asked my extended family, they might well say I live in a no-go zone, or something along those lines.

          This has very little correspondence to reality, but surely fills some need. (For locals, for reference, though I didn’t attend, I understand the St. Louis meetup happened at Hartford Coffee Company. That’s my neighborhood.)

          OTOH, I might tell you much the same thing if you asked me about, say, East St. Louis, and possibly with as little justification.

          • bean says:

            I grew up in St. Louis, and would pretty much agree about East St. Louis. I did once end up driving through after getting lost, and I didn’t get shot at, but jokes about the US military sending troops headed to Bagdad there first for training are generally seen as humorous, but with a tiny bit of truth.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Obvious bullshit. If a minority is acting bad, it’ll turn up on the internet with empirical proof, see reddit, worldstar, etc. The “no go” phenomenon has all the hallmarks of insular (American) old men, in only existing in still images and text posts on the 2018 internet where everyone films everything. Why is it trivial to find something as weird and infrequent as, say, a deer killing another animal to eat its meat ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQOQdBLHrLk ) but no “60 minutes of petite blonde waif being harassed and hollered at by judging Muslims through Berlin-Kreuzberg” video?

    • Aapje says:

      @Well…

      I’m not aware of anything going further than social pressure (primarily towards other Muslims) and street harassment (primarily by youths against non-modest women and gays). Also, in a few places criminal gangs have gained a lot of power over some streets and you have gangs made up of mostly Muslim youth, who act partly in accordance to their culture, but who tend not to be very religious and who also tend to violate Sharia law in many ways (like by stealing). So I don’t think that it’s reasonable to call this an issue with Sharia rule, but rather a problem with street gangs.

      It’s certainly a lot different than places like Iran, where you have religious police enforcing certain religious rules in an organized way.

      I don’t think that there is any place where the police won’t go, but people in some places are much more prone not to cooperate with the police and more prone to fight the police (but only after a (perceived) provocation, not as a general policy to keep the police out).

      Some very similar problems exist with some lower-class, non-Muslim areas; especially those that feel disconnected to general society, while having a very strong subculture. An example is that some trailer encampments in The Netherlands are extremely criminal and anti-police, probably way, way more than any area with many Muslims. I would be way more wary of going there as a non-member of that community than any area with many Muslims. They are also the only places where the Dutch police seems to be wary to go with anything less than a large force.

      PS. There was one story in a major Dutch newspaper about a ‘Sharia Triangle’ being a no-go area. The article had many damning quotes, but the journalist turned out to have invented quotes for most of his articles and he was fired.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      A few years back, I was in Baltimore for an interview. I came back from a bar with a girl around midnight and Google Maps sent me through what I would later learn was one of the biggest open air drug markets in the city.

      I was followed for a few blocks, but I’m a big guy who is regularly mistaken for a cop so nobody hassled me or her. We were both scared witless but that was the extent of it.

      As an American, that’s my mental image when I hear about no-go zones in Europe. A no-go zone is a neighborhood which doesn’t belong to your people and everyone knows it. You won’t necessarily get jumped if you go there but if you do it’s absolutely your fault for going there in the first place. We’re used to the concept here but it’s something they haven’t really had to deal with before.

    • dodrian says:

      The one place that comes to mind when I hear things like this is the borough of Tower Hamlets in East London.

      It’s not a no-go zone in the sense that I have a good friend who lives there, and went to visit him on a number of occasions. I did not feel unsafe any more than I normally would traveling through an unfamiliar part of London.

      It does fit that description though in that the council ended up being controlled by one man, who used his religious connections to gain and retain power in the area. Search the BBC for “Tower Hamlets” or “Lutfur Rahman”.

      Then in 2015 the UK Electoral commission came in, found evidence of massive voter fraud and overturned the election results, showing that it wasn’t beyond the control and reach of the national government.

      On the other hand, a quick google does bring up some concerning articles dated since the change in leadership.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        The debate comes as the ongoing turf war between BEZ and ISB in Birmingham intensifies, with both sides now competing with Illuminati agents, the Chipping Norton set, communist guerrilla fighters, the European Union, and a race of alien lizard people for control of the West Midlands city.

        Lizardman’s Constant meets Proportional Representation!

    • DeWitt says:

      Every time this kind of thing seems up, it seems to mostly be confused Americans talking about things. This thread doesn’t appear all that different.

      Preface: N = 1, I am not a researcher, what have you. OP said he wanted to hear from people in Europe, he can get what he wants.

      From ages 5-23 or so, I’ve lived in the outskirts of the city in the Netherlands with the highest amount of non-western immigrants. When I was in high school, the amount of such people apparently was higher than ‘native’ citizens, and it certainly shows when going about on the street. Since 2009, the mayor has been a certain muslim, of the sorts who very literally said to jihadis to fuck off already. Insofar my country is concerned, there’s not really any place where immigrants are more widespread.

      I have never at all been afraid to walk about in any neighborhood. This does not owe to me never going out at night. This does not owe to me taking long routes to avoid bad areas. This isn’t because I’m tanned and wiry-haired; I technically count as someone of non-western descent, given that my father is from eastern Europe, but I’m stark white and very visibly Dutch. None of this changes that I’ve not once been very afraid to walk around anywhere.

      Again, this is not because of any avoidance on my part. Low-income areas have their advantages; I’ve always had a thing for foreign foods, since Dutch cuisine is lacking, and I’d often duck into shops run by Poles or Arabs to buy things. On a couple occasions, I had no money at all after a night out and had to walk home through bad areas; nothing at all happened. While writing this response, I asked my brother what he thought about this issue; he seems to agree that being at all afraid of walking around simply doesn’t happen.

      Again, N=1. But for as far as I’m aware, no-go zones simply don’t exist here, and it’s also why I’m very skeptical about this being so very different elsewhere.

  13. Matt M says:

    Glad to see the left-libertarians at Reason hopping aboard the “shut up and move” bandwagon, even if they’re only doing it because they can frame it as anti-Trump!

    • The Nybbler says:

      Is Reason actually left-libertarian now? I quit subscribing a long time ago; when Virginia Postrel left it was a serious drop in quality, but I didn’t think they’d actually gone over to left-libertarianism (*shudder*)

      • toastengineer says:

        If they have I hadn’t noticed… they seem to support a pretty wide spectrum of libertarian thought. I mean, they’re more lefty than, say, Tom Woods.

  14. toBoot says:

    This may belong in the classifieds thread, but – does anyone have a good therapist they recommend in the Seattle area? I’ve had pretty mediocre experiences with therapists/mental health professionals, but would like to see if I can find someone who is more rationalist oriented. I think that could be really helpful for me!

  15. rahien.din says:

    On several recommendations from recent OT’s, I got Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion via Audible and just finished listening to it. Overall it was a very good listen and well-narrated.

    Guvatf V yvxrq

    Pnmnevy’f vaare zbabybthrf naq uvf pnershy fcrrpu jrer irel pyrire. V rawblrq yvfgravat gb uvz ernfba guebhtu ceboyrzf. V nyfb rawblrq gung ur jnf culfvpnyyl ubooyrq, va n jnl gung ceriragrq uvz sebz gnxvat gur fbeg bs urebvp npgvba gung zbfg snagnfl fgbevrf erdhver. Ur’f bayl n pbzcrgrag jneevbe, naq zbfgyl ybfrf svtugf, bgure guna gur barf jurer ur pna hfr pyrire gnpgvpf.

    Gur qvfphffvba bs gurbybtl jnf irel jryy qbar, vafvtugshy naq zrnavatshy gb gur aneengvir jvgubhg orvat crqnagvp. Vg envfrq n ahzore bs irel tbbq cbvagf. V ernyyl yvxrq gur “qr-zlfgvsvpngvba” bs fnvagubbq.

    Gur fho-aneengvir bs n grezvany vyyarff jnf nyfb irel jryy qbar, jvgu ernyvfgvp qrcvpgvbaf bs obgu fvqrf bs gur qbpgbe-cngvrag eryngvbafuvc.

    Guvatf V qvfyvxrq

    Gurer vf ab zlfgrel be ribyhgvba gb nal bs gur punenpgref. Lbh xabj gurz va shyy qrgnvy nf fbba nf lbh zrrg gurz, naq arire ernyyl yrnea nalguvat zber. V jnvgrq nyy obbx sbe fbzr hagvzryl orgenlny ohg vg arire pnzr.

    Gur fgbel vf fb raqyrffyl gvql. V’z fher guvf vf orpnhfr N. vg vf n ybbfr uvfgbevpny nyyrtbel, naq O. vg vf Pnmnevy’f cerqrfgvangvba fgbel. Ohg abguvat gehyl snvyf, naq rirelguvat jbexf cresrpgyl. Rira Pnmnevy’f nggrzcg gb rinqr gur phefr vf urnivyl sberfunqbjrq naq hggreyl erqrrzrq. Guvf tvirf gur obbx gur srryvat bs na vzzrafr rcvybthr gb nabgure zber vagrerfgvat fgbel.

    Gur aneengvir vf yvggrerq jvgu hasverq (be pbasvfpngrq) Purxubi thaf. Gurer ner znal qrgnvyf juvpu ner cynprq gb or zber guna zrer sybhevfurf, ohg arire ghea bhg gb yrnq gb nalguvat.

  16. Well... says:

    What’s up with lentils? Seriously!

    I’m talking about the fact that store-bought bags of lentils contain rocks. My mom told me about this decades ago when I first started cooking, and she likened it to old-timey Middle Eastern societies where merchants would slip rocks into their lentils (or whatever other similar product) so a measured amount would seem heavier/more voluminous than it really was, therefore they could get away with selling less of their inventory for the same money. I shrugged it off, thinking in our advanced, highly regulated society where there’s a whole section of government in charge of weights and measures — emblazoned on every gas pump! — this couldn’t possibly be a problem, but sure enough there are indeed small rocks in bags of lentils you buy from the store, and you can seriously hurt your teeth or your digestive tract on them — or maybe worse could happen if you feed lentils to your infant as my wife and I do.

    No matter what brand you buy, each bag’s packaging usually comes with an instruction to “sort” lentils before cooking them (although they usually don’t tell you what you’re sorting for). I’ve found that for 8 ounces of lentils (about half a normal bag you’d find in the “Asian” aisle at Kroger/Meijer/etc.) it usually takes me about 2-3 minutes of sorting to be reasonably sure I’ve discovered all the rocks. There are usually 2-3 tiny lentil-sized rocks per bag in my experience.

    If my time is worth $10/hour (normally it’s worth much more than that but I’m being generous) that’s about $0.16/minute I’m losing by sorting lentils, which means I’m essentially donating about $1 of my time per 16oz bag. Where I live each bag usually costs around $2. So I’m essentially paying double for lentils if I factor in my time.

    The thing is, I don’t see any way around this unless I quit eating lentils (which I absolutely refuse to do because they’re delicious and an essential part of many of my camel-jockeying, felafel-popping, kafiyah-sporting ancestral recipes). The way lentils are grown, harvested, and processed, I can’t imagine how they could prevent lentil-sized rocks from occasionally making it into the final product.

    Should lentil producers discount the price because of the extra work I am compelled to perform (for the safety of myself and my family) every time I cook them? I don’t see how they could do that either.

    Quite a conundrum.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Well, there’s sorting lentils and then there’s sorting lentils.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The Nybbler, I was surprised at the comments to your link.

        V jnf fhfcvpvbhf ol gur frpbaq fragrapr bs gur frpbaq cnentencu, ohg frireny crbcyr fnvq gurl qvqa’g ernyvmr vg jnf snxr hagvy gur fcrpgebzrgre.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Lrf, gur frpbaq cnentencu vf shyy bs erq syntf, ohg V pna frr fbzrbar guvaxvat vg jnf whfg wbphyne ynathntr nobhg n yrtvgvzngr cebprqher.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I shared the link about sorting lentils on facebook and it went over very well.

    • quaelegit says:

      Hm, I don’t sort them as carefully as you and I don’t remember having any problems. I don’t cook lentils super frequently though (probably about once a month on average) so maybe I’ve just been lucky so far.

      I usually “wash” them — by which I mean pour the whole bag in a big measuring cup (the 2-cup-volume glass type), fill the cup with water, stir it a bit, then pour off the water while trying to keep all the lentil in the cup. I don’t think this would help with rocks, and it might not be the right thing to do…

      Are lentil-sized rocks more of a hazard than small fishbones or peppercorns like you might have to watch out for in soups?

      • Well... says:

        Small fishbones can certainly be painful, but many fish come reliably de-boned, and the with ones that don’t, you’re already expecting bones so you eat the fish in a kind of special way.

        Peppercorns aren’t a problem, you just bite through them, and I don’t think even a baby would choke on them. They might be uncomfortably intense, spicewise, for some people who end up biting them, but that’s not a huge deal.

        Biting down on a lentil-sized rock can crack your teeth. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost a filling that way.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Where I live each bag usually costs around $2

      Should lentil producers discount the price because of the extra work I am compelled to perform

      Perhaps they already do…

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I mean, almost by definition, they do.

        You would be able to by a more expensive bag that did not have (statistical) rocks in it, but the market won’t pay that cost (probably because no one has figured out how to automate it).

        • Aapje says:

          Can’t you just weigh the lentils? Presumably, any rock in there is heavier than any lentil.

          Perhaps such a machine is rather expensive and slow, because you have to weigh individual things that don’t weigh very much, requiring sensitive equipment. But that doesn’t make it hard, just expensive.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            I’m guessing the per unit weight difference of rocks the size of lentils is not going to be detectable when the quantity that @Well is reporting is 2 or 3 and the number of lentils in the bag is going to be in the thousands.

            I think that in order to find out that the rocks existed in that manner, you would need 3 accurate pieces of information. First you would need a very accurate measure of the weight, but this by itself wouldn’t tell you anything, as the bag is filled by weight.

            Next, you would need a count of exactly how many units went in the bag. This starts to tell you something, but it still won’t be enough, as lentils themselves aren’t of uniform weight.

            So then you will need an accurate measurement of the size of each lentil so you can estimate the weight of each lentil.

            And even if you could do all of that, it doesn’t help you at all, as you still need to locate/segregate the individual rocks in the bag. We could already just assume that their are rocks in each bag, as by this report rocks in the bag are a near uniform occurrence. So we really haven’t progressed in finding a solution.

            Although, I don’t know that I have ever had this experience, so perhaps it is not so ubiquitous (but I’m not a frequent consumer of lentils).

          • Aapje says:

            The machine I proposed wouldn’t weigh an entire bag, but each individual lentil. The idea is to toss out the rocks before you fill the bags, not toss out entire bags for having some rocks in there.

            Once you measure individual lentils and have a process for moving each separate lentil from the scale to the bagging area, you can separate the rocks from the lentils. A common way to get rid of bad, light items, seems to be to blow them off the conveyor belt using compressed air.

            A common way to measure many items individually in a factory is to use a conveyor belt scale. Some of these seem to be able to measure very light weights, so individual lentils may very well be within the range of a decent commercially available conveyor belt scale (and you don’t actually have to weigh the lentil accurately, just ensure that the weight is less than a rock of a size that you don’t sieve out).

            Googling ‘lentil destoner’ gives me this, so apparently the lentils are already destoned based on weight, but not by using a scale, but by using a more efficient method.

            So the actual issue seems to be that this regularly fails to remove stones. Perhaps the stones that remain are too light to easily distinguish from lentils?

          • Well... says:

            The rocks I find tend to be almost exactly the size and shape of lentils. Usually when I’m removing them I have to look at them carefully for a few seconds and drop them on my counter and listen to the sound they make to confirm they are rocks.

            Occasionally I remove rocks that are much smaller, more like very large grains of sand.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @aapje:
            Misunderstood your proposition, my bad.

            My assumption is that any readily available way to distinguish lentils from stones at commercial volumes is being employed already.

            They are probably the same weight, size and color as lentils. They presumably differ in density and hardness (but perhaps only when cooked), but I assume that the tests available to distinguish these differences readily are destructive to the lentils. Other potential tests, like chemical composition, are presumably either cost prohibitive or unreliable or both.

            Obviously, you could hand sort them. But again, I assume that is cost prohibitive.

            I got lentils in a Blue Apron package (only 2 servings). I’m thinking that was likely hand-sorted, as the cost allows it.

            Edit:

            And it looks like Well is confirming my thought.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Couldn’t you just get a gold spiral wheel to sort out the (presumably heavier) rocks? Or run your bags through a sluice?

    • Chalid says:

      I’d guess this is you just getting cheap lentils. I’d wager a small amount of money that if you went to Whole Foods and got whatever their most premium lentils were, that there would be no rocks.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, if we can winnow grain in industrial quantities by bowing air through it to separate grain from (lighter) chaff, presumably we can use the same technique in reverse to separate lentils from (heavier) rocks.

        • Chalid says:

          Even if that’s impossible, we know that if Well.. can filter out the rocks by hand, a laborer from some much poorer country can do it too. Someone just has to be willing to pay their wages in the form of more expensive lentils.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Lentils sink. Rocks sink. My guess is the rocks and the lentils are the same density, so winnowing by weight or air resistance won’t work. The obvious solution would be to splice a fluorescence gene into lentils; then anything which didn’t fluoresce could be automatically removed. However, people are unreasonably resistant to splicing random genes from animals into their food supply.

          • bean says:

            Are we sure that they’re the same density? Because if they aren’t, then we can solve this by picking a fluid that isn’t water to use for float sorting.

          • albatross11 says:

            “Say, I’ve got a great way to sort lentils from rocks automatically by soaking them in mercury. I expect great health benefits from this scheme!”

          • Randy M says:

            “I don’t trust your mercury lentils; they’re glowing!”
            “Oh no, that’s intentional. It’s for QA purposes.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            Lentil particle densities according to one paper I found are around 1300 kg/m^3 (1.3 specific gravity). Rock is mostly denser than that, so perhaps float sorting would work, though you’d need a non-toxic fluid that could be removed from the lentils. Or perhaps the pebbles in lentils are unusually cavity-ridden and low density.

            @Randy M

            They’d glow only under a strong UV source of course, no point in freaking the normies.

          • bean says:

            “Say, I’ve got a great way to sort lentils from rocks automatically by soaking them in mercury. I expect great health benefits from this scheme!”

            You should know full well that mercury is much too dense to make that work, and everything will float. Other than that, I see no problem at all with this scheme.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            They’d glow only under a strong UV source of course, no point in freaking the normies.

            “Why does the blacklight show splatters all over your couch and floor?”

            “I, uh, spilled some lentil soup”

          • Well... says:

            Lentil particle densities according to one paper I found

            “Say, I’ve got a great way to sort lentils from rocks automatically by soaking them in mercury. I expect great health benefits from this scheme!”

            You should know full well that mercury is much too dense to make that work

            There is absolutely no better place to ask a question than here.

          • SamChevre says:

            In my experience, they differ in density: the lentils sink more slowly. You could probably tweak the specific gravity of the sorting solution by using water with some quantity TBD of salt.

          • John Schilling says:

            You could probably tweak the specific gravity of the sorting solution by using water with some quantity TBD of salt.

            Salt water doesn’t get above 1.26, and the vaguely common fluids that would float lentils are all toxic and/or corrosive.

          • rahien.din says:

            According to this chart, lots of common minerals have a specific gravity that exceeds lentils, albeit not by too much. So you could sort them by their bouyancies.

            But you don’t have to use a different fluid. Put the lentil/rock mixture in an upwardly-flowing column of salt water. The rocks, being more dense, will sink more readily. Adjust your flow rate so that rocks tend to sink or remain suspended, and your lentils will flow out the top of the column, perfectly seasoned.

            Density-exclusion liquid chromatography.

            ETA : no, this is better.

          • johan_larson says:

            I still say air-winnowing would work just fine. Fire the rocks and lentils into air at a fixed speed, and the rocks, being denser, will fly slightly farther. Everything beyond this line here will with probability X be a rock, everything on this side of the line will with probability Y be a lentil. Of course, we may need to test and tune the setup and figure would what the appropriate values of X and Y are. But that can be left to others, mere market researchers and engineers. We first-class minds can return to more important work. I believe we were discussing racism on the internet?

          • Chalid says:

            lentil/rock mixture in an upwardly-flowing column of salt water. The rocks, being more dense, will sink more readily. Adjust your flow rate so that rocks tend to sink or remain suspended, and your lentils will flow out the top of the column, perfectly seasoned.

            This is a nice idea. You don’t need salt water though; different fluid density just requires different fluid speed to get the same behavior. I think you’d still get small particles at the top (rock weight ~ radius^3, water force ~ radius^1) but I’d imagine a filter could solve that easily.

          • bean says:

            Everything beyond this line here will with probability X be a rock, everything on this side of the line will with probability Y be a lentil.

            Why am I now seeing a giant cascade of centrifuges, enriching the mixture of lentils and eventually discarding the rocks after enough passes?

          • The Nybbler says:

            BRB, buying a variable-speed aquarium pump, some polycarb tubing, cheesecloth, a colander, a basin, a drill bit, and a bunch of silicone sealant.

            Oh yeah and some cheap lentils.

            (OK, I’m not but if I did I bet it would be the Youtube sensation of the year.)

            @bean:
            That’ll work but it’s illegal to export.

          • John Schilling says:

            Lentil enrichment is much more efficient if you use a laser to selectively ionize the lentils and electrostatically divert them into the collection basin.

          • johan_larson says:

            I think we should end this thread before the machine learning algorithms of some security service decide “lentils” is code for something more exciting, and we all end up guests of the government.

          • bean says:

            I think we should end this thread before some the machine learning algorithms of some security service decide “lentils” is code for something more exciting, and we all end up guests of the government.

            They seem to have decided that at least a couple of us are trustworthy already. I’m not worried.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @bean

            You say that now, but you might be singing a different tune when you show up at work one day and your manager intercepts you on your way to your desk and says the Security Officer would like to have a talk with you right now. You go in and the Security Officer tells you to close the door, then says. “Now, Mr. Bean’s Real Name, have you ever heard of a site called ‘SlateStarCodex’?”. And then you spend the entire rest of the day trying to explain to a professionally suspicious non-internet-savvy bureaucrat that sometimes a lentil is just a lentil.

          • rahien.din says:

            No no, officer! By “range-targeted ballistic pulse selection” I only meant I am trying to separate lentils from tiny pebbles by air winnowing!

          • bean says:

            @The Nybbler
            I’ve had some fairly frank online discussions about stuff much more naughty than this under my real name. And I know they know who I am. I’ve probably been on some list for a decade or so, and yet I’ve never had any trouble. I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to avoid public-domain topics out of fear of them pulling up my profile and going “Oh, one of that kind”, then closing it again. There’s some stuff that I can’t talk about, and some stuff where the virtue of silence applies, but this is miles away from either category.

          • “Why does the blacklight show splatters all over your couch and floor?”

            Because my cat.

          • Is it possible that stones in lentils occur in only some countries or markets? My wife’s experience is that she has never encountered them–and we use lentils fairly often.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve never found a rock in lentils, either, though I don’t use them all that often. I see the warnings on the packages, and I think I’ve seen them on dried beans as well.

    • rahien.din says:

      Are the rocks the same size as the lentils?

      If not, you could build a sieve that would let either the rocks or the lentils pass through.

      If so, you could sort by density, by putting the lentils in a tall container and shaking it so the rocks go to the bottom, then skimming the rock-free lentils off the top.

      If there is a mixture thereof, you could perform these in sequence.

      If my time is worth $10/hour, that’s about $0.16/minute I’m losing by sorting lentils, which means I’m essentially donating about $1 of my time per 16oz bag.

      You could make a similar argument regarding the need to wash root vegetables prior to eating them. You’re “donating” that time, too. It’s a smaller and less tedious donation, but it’s the same in kind.

      You might, then, describe the inedible matter attached to your food as an externality imposed by the food producer. In that sense, [2-3 small rocks per 16 oz of lentils] strikes some kind of Coasian bargain.

      And if we can describe this lentil-and-stone system as an allocation of effort/revenue/etc. between agents based on incentives, and thereby apply Holmström’s theorem, then the allocation is probably Pareto nonoptimal, but stable.

      So it’s probably not fair, but you can at least depend on lentils.

      —–

      Side note : your nick makes it harder for me to begin statements with “Well, …” because I feel like I am addressing you directly with every paragraph and that feels awkward. I think this improves my writing. So, weirdly, thanks.

      • Well... says:

        Are the rocks the same size as the lentils?

        Mostly yes. See above comments.

        If so, you could sort by density, by putting the lentils in a tall container and shaking it so the rocks go to the bottom, then skimming the rock-free lentils off the top.

        If that worked, then the rocks should already be at the bottom of the bag if I shake it. They aren’t though, because most of them are roughly the same size, shape, and weight as the lentils. I suspect that’s how they got in there in the first place.

        You could make a similar argument regarding the need to wash root vegetables prior to eating them. You’re “donating” that time, too. It’s a smaller and less tedious donation, but it’s the same in kind.

        I agree but it’s so much less time, and so much less arduous an activity to wash vegetables, that it’s not worth measuring. I don’t start thinking about this kind of thing until the 2nd or 3rd minute I’ve been standing there hunched over my kitchen counter sorting through tiny little legumes.

        I doubt Bill Gates pays someone else $10 to dab his own mouth with a napkin when he’s eating spaghetti just because it technically costs him thousands of dollars to take a few seconds out of his day to do it.

        And if we can describe this lentil-and-stone system as an allocation of effort/revenue/etc. between agents based on incentives, and thereby apply Holmström’s theorem, then the allocation is probably Pareto nonoptimal, but stable.

        Agreed. Thus my deep grumbling.

        Side note : your nick makes it harder for me to begin statements with “Well, …” because I feel like I am addressing you directly with every paragraph and that feels awkward. I think this improves my writing. So, weirdly, thanks.

        You’re welcome! Not intended but I’m glad it had that effect. The pseudonym is a reference to that exact speech habit, sort of me making fun of myself for using this account to ramble about stuff on the internet when I could be doing something more productive.

        • rahien.din says:

          What about sorting them by their bounciness / coefficient of restitution?

          Some sort of… inclined hopper? It might at least concentrate the rocks in a smaller volume of lentils.

          • rahien.din says:

            I thought about this more. Load your lentil/rock mixture into the feeder of a pneumatic gun, whose aperture will allow one particle (mineral or legume) to emerge at a time. Fire a stream of particles against a hard surface, and collect the particles within a certain radius. Lentils should have a lower coefficient of restitution than rocks, IE, the rocks should bounce farther.

          • toastengineer says:

            How do you collect the lentils efficiently, though? And in any case that machine isn’t going to be very space efficient.

            I’m also not sure how robust that aperture system is going to be. Sounds like that’s going to end up getting clogged a lot.

            The rate at which you can actually fire lentils/rocks might be a little low too, even if you’re firing them in a constant stream, processing one lentil at a time is going to take an unacceptable amount of time to fill a 3 lb bag…

          • rahien.din says:

            How do you collect the lentils efficiently, though? And in any case that machine isn’t going to be very space efficient.

            You could build it into a cabinet, like a ballistic mass spectroscopy unit. And there could be three zones therein : the zone where only lentils land which tilts into a collection bin, the zone where mostly rocks land which tilts into a waste bin, and an ambiguous zone where either can land. This last zone would have to be re-fed by conveyor. It would probably end up at least as efficient as a bag of microwave popcorn.

            I envision that you would load the machine with lentils in the opposite phase of the day as you wish to eat them (lentils for dinner means load the machine in the morning, lentils for breakfast means load the machine before you go to bed).

            Probably needn’t be any bigger than a chest freezer, and only about three times as noisy.

            I’m also not sure how robust that aperture system is going to be. Sounds like that’s going to end up getting clogged a lot.

            Eh, I think you’re right, here. The disk-like shape of the lentils could pose a major problem. If there were only lentils in the mixture, they could probably form a tidy rouleaux in the feeder unit, but the irregularly-shaped pebbles would probably cause them to jam up.

            If we are permitting re-feeding of ambiguous lentil/rock mixture (as above) then maybe the lentils and rocks could be gravity-fed into a constant stream of air via a larger aperture. It might be less accurate in each iteration, but more iterative power could overcome that.

          • Deiseach says:

            Discard the lentils. Eat the rocks.

          • Well... says:

            If there were only lentils in the mixture, they could probably form a tidy rouleaux in the feeder unit, but the irregularly-shaped pebbles would probably cause them to jam up.

            But what about the otherwise perfectly good broken lentil pieces? I don’t want to exclude those either.

          • rahien.din says:

            Well…,

            I would just repair the broken lentils by hand before feeding them into the ballistic spectroscopy unit. Problem averted.

          • toastengineer says:

            I see, you were thinking of this as a home unit. I was thinking in terms of an industrial-scale process done at the packaging plant.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          “I don’t start thinking about this kind of thing until the 2nd or 3rd minute I’ve been standing there hunched over my kitchen counter sorting through tiny little legumes.”

          You could make the task a little less annoying by sitting at the kitchen table.

    • skef says:

      Damn, I thought specific heat might be the ticket, but it’s also kinda close, and varies a lot with moisture: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/1254/2016/04/tang11.pdf

    • Well... says:

      PS. How about grains of sand in your cilantro? I’ve had that a number of times, even after washing the cilantro. Not as bad as biting down on a rock from a bag of lentils, but still very unpleasant and could potentially damage teeth or dental work. And the worst part is, you don’t discover it until after the cilantro is finely chopped and mixed into your food.

      • Loquat says:

        Do you use the whole cilantro plant? In general with plants like that I find that the part where the stems all come together and meet the root is going to be really good at trapping dirt and no amount of washing will get it all, so I just cut off and discard that section.

        • Well... says:

          Normally the cilantro I buy is already loose. It has some length of stem but the stems are not joined at the bottom. I wash the whole thing well, running it under water, shaking it, repeating this many times. Sometimes I’ve even submerged all of it in cold water, shaken it in the water, shaken it out of the water, rinsed it thoroughly, and still found sand later. Cilantro really grabs sand.

          • Loquat says:

            Huh, not really a problem I’ve had. Maybe the cilantro growers where I live just use soil instead of sand and it doesn’t get into the plants the same way.

            I do recommend the full-submersion method, though, for cilantro and any similar herb. Fill large bowl with water, immerse herbs, swish around for a bit, shake off, change water and repeat if necessary. Also maybe don’t do the whole bunch at once, do it in small batches so all the leaves can really spread out. Definitely stop rinsing bunches of herbs under running water, though, that’s really ineffective in my experience.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Well…

      Where do you live? What brands of lentils are you buying?

    • Charles F says:

      you can seriously hurt your teeth or your digestive tract on them

      What really? I don’t bother to sort my lentils and I’ve never had a problem with hurting my teeth since I generally chew pretty gently and rocks are less dangerous when they’re surrounded by a goopy lentil cushion, but I hadn’t considered that eating a few tiny smooth rocks could hurt my insides. Is that an actual risk?

      • Well... says:

        Sometimes the rocks aren’t smooth.

        And while I don’t think tiny rocks in the digestive tract of my infant will assuredly do damage, it definitely smells risky.

  17. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I learned back in school that one teaching of the Protestant Reformation was a belief in “salvation through faith alone” and specifically not through good works. What exactly does this mean? (Wiki article isn’t that clear)

    The naive meaning, to a modern American atheist hearing the words, is that as long as you don’t doubt Christianity’s factual claims, you’ll be saved, so you can walk around killing and stealing and as long as you’re certain in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, you still go to heaven.

    I doubt anyone actually believes this. When I heard about this doctrine, I sort of automatically steelmanned it into the idea that “faith” means more than unquestioning belief; that faith would necessarily produce good intentions towards others; and that the killing-stealing-faithful person above is a contradiction in terms. But I recently argued with someone who thought the doctrine meant the “kill who you want as long as you believe” thing, and I realized I had no sources at all to contradict them.

    Googling it, I kinda get the impression that something like my steelman is accurate, but nothing conclusive. So SSC, what’s the deal here?

    • Jaskologist says:

      The book of James was written to address that very misconception. Your steelman is basically correct.

      It may help you understand better if you replaced the word “Faith” with “trust in God” or “love for God.”

      “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” – James 2:19

      • Anonymous says:

        Not that I disagree (seeing as I would have quoted the very same passage), but I think he’s asking for a better steelman.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Nah, that makes sense to me. Just wanted confirmation it was an actual church teaching and not something only an atheist would think up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Disclaimer: I’m not a heretic, and may therefore be biased. This is, furthermore, a steelman, not an argument that convinces me.

      First of all, I think you are trying to analyze it backwards. Start from everyone being damned. Proceed from there to what can change that. Sola fide claims that no action can save you, no good deeds you do have any impact on your going to Hell. What you can do, instead, is become Christian, a believer – which is an internal state, not an action – and therefore pardoned. Consider the bandit crucified with Christ – he lead a life of crime, and made no atonement for his sins (excepting being crucified, I guess), but was saved through his belief that Christ could save him.

    • Nick says:

      Justification is a mess. It’s a complicated subject to begin with, complicated further by the numerous seemingly contradictory passages on it in the Bible and the Church Fathers, and complicated still further by the ambiguous language of folks like Luther. I would love to see a good debate about this, but I’m Catholic, so I reject sola fide anyway. 😀

      • powerfuller says:

        It seems like one of those debates that matters little in practice: if you believe it’s justification by faith and not by works, you still have to remember that faith takes a lot of work.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, a lot of authors, going right back to the passage in James, make the point that “faith without works is dead.” My impression is less that that debate doesn’t matter—if Protestants really are saying that strawman/weakman ADifferentAnonymous was quick to question, that would be very concerning!—and more that it’s very difficult to parse what everyone is actually claiming and how much disagreement there is, so the debate is perhaps much smaller and narrower than folks realize. I feel in part vindicated in this by the recent Joint Declaration on Justification by Catholics and Lutherans.

        • rahien.din says:

          If you believe in salvation by works, then the salvation is an object that you purchase via the coin of action.

          If you believe in salvation by faith, and also that faith requires works, then the nature of salvation is instead supplication.

      • rahien.din says:

        I’m Catholic, so I reject sola fide anyway

        Yeah, but we also believe (de fide dogma no less) in predestination.

        • Nick says:

          I said it was a mess, didn’t I?!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If it’s a mess, why are you a Catholic rationalist?
            Definitely not suggesting you stop, but be ready to give a reason for the Hope, etc.

          • Nick says:

            I’m saying it’s a mess—it’s “a situation or state of affairs that is confused or full of difficulties“—I’m not saying it’s wrong, or false, or unintelligible. On the contrary, the Catholic doctrine on justification is true, correct, and with enough patience and dedication, intelligible. And I did after all say I’d love to see a debate on the subject—part of what I mean by that, which I’ll admit wasn’t clear, is that I’d be happy to be defending the doctrine if that’s something people are interested in talking about.

          • rahien.din says:

            I’d be interested in seeing what you and others have to say. I might weigh in too.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick: go for it. I’m Catholic too, but my instinct in an intellectual mess is “it’s messy because people who come up with false theories prefer adding epicycles to changing their mind”, so it would be good to see. 🙂

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Since you sound interested in discussing this more, how does the Catholic account of the crucified thief go? The history-class version of Catholic justification was that it needs both faith and works, but the thief didn’t get to do any good works, so I imagine it’s more complex.

        • rahien.din says:

          Isn’t “Shut up, idiot, you’re talking to the Son of God! And we put ourselves up here!” quite a work, in and of itself?

          • Anonymous says:

            He pretty much did a confession-like plea for forgiveness there and had no opportunity to reoffend, too.

          • rahien.din says:

            My understanding* is that when Christ says “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” this is a recognition of the thief’s salvation, but not a formal bestowal thereof. It’s like the centurion who says “I am not worthy to receive you” and by doing so evidences that he has received Christ already. The thief’s plea for forgiveness follows the achievement of his salvation, via his heart’s conversion and his just works. Thereafter, Christ is just pointing out the obvious. Even if He had not replied to the thief, we would still believe the thief to be in Paradise.

            And one could imagine ways in which the thief could have reoffended, which could be lost to the Biblical account, or could be invisible to observers.

            * I am Catholic, but I am not sure if this is or isn’t the Catholic account. I hope someone will tell me one way or the other.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          From memory: In a radio play about Jesus, Dorothy Sayers has it that the thief starts out just humoring what he thinks is a madman, and then realizes it really is the son of God. The thief is saved because of his initial compassion.

          So far as I know, this is not part of Christian tradition, but it is kind of neat.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Sayers comments in the notes to the typescript version that she’s “offended all the commentators” by that, so I don’t think it’s part of Tradition anywhere outside her.

            (The Man Born To Be King is a very good play, by the way! If you’re interested in 1940’s radio drama, or plays about Christ, definitely read it!)

    • powerfuller says:

      Here’s an excerpt from Pilgrim’s Progress that addresses salvation by faith; I can’t speak to the book’s theological credentials, but it should reflect a popular vein of Protestant thought:

      Christian: How dost thou believe?
      Ignorance: I believe that Christ died for sinners, and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his Law. Or thus, Christ makes my Duties that are religious, acceptable to his Father by virtue of his Merits; and so shall I be justified.
      Chr. Let me give an answer to this Confession of thy Faith.
      1. Thou believest with a fantastical Faith, for this Faith is nowhere described in the Word.
      2. Thou believest with a false Faith, because it taketh Justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.
      3. This Faith maketh not Christ a Justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy actions’ sake, which is false.
      4. Therefore this Faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty; for true Justifying Faith puts the soul (as sensible of its lost condition by the Law) upon flying for refuge unto Christ’s righteousness, (which righteousness of his is not an act of grace, by which he maketh for Justification thy obedience accepted by God; but his personal obedience to the Law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands.) This righteousness, I say, true Faith accepteth; under the skirt of which the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquit from condemnation.
      Ignor. What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list. For what matter how we live, if we may be Justified by Christ’s personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?
      Chr. Ignorance is thy name, and as thy name is, so art thou; even this thy answer demonstrated what I say. Ignorant thou art of what Justifying Righteousness is, and as ignorant how to secure thy Soul through the Faith of it from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effects of saving Faith in this Righteousness of Christ, which is to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love his Name, his Word, Ways, and People, and not as thou ignorantly imaginest.
      Hope. Ask him if ever he had Christ revealed to him from Heaven.
      Ignor. What! you are a man for revelations! I believe that what both you, and all the rest of you, say about that matter, is but the fruit of distracted brains.
      Hope. Why man! Christ is so hid in God from the natural apprehensions of all flesh, that he cannot by any man be savingly known, unless God the Father reveals him to them.
      Ignor. That is your Faith, but not mine; yet mine I doubt not is as good as yours, though I have not in my head so many whimsies as you.
      Chr. Give me leave to put in a word: You ought not so slightly to speak of this matter: for this I will boldly affirm (even as my good Companion hath done) that no man can know Jesus Christ but by the revelation of the Father; yea, and Faith too, by which the soul layeth hold upon Christ, (if it be right) must be wrought by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power; the working of which Faith, I perceive, poor Ignorance, thou art ignorant of.
      Be awakened then, see thine own wretchedness, and fly to the Lord Jesus; and by his righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, (for he himself is God) thou shalt be delivered from condemnation.

      I think the upshot is that your steelman is on target.

      • SamChevre says:

        This is a reasonable articulation of the Reformed position–and Bunyan was a Reformed Baptist. The Westminster Confession articulation is very specific.

        I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

        II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

        I think the Reformed get it wrong (I would–I’m a Catholic who grew up Mennonite), but in practice the argument looks like this one from Wilson.

    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s important to know that there isn’t a uniform opinion on this among Protestants. Luther gave Sola Fide as one of his main reasons for breaking with the Catholic Church. Calvin also believed it but stressed the transformative power of God. So Luther would be closer to your “naive” version than Calvin.

      I think the problem with “kill everyone and then pray to God” is that you’re intentionally trying to game the system. If you’re trying to game the system then it means you aren’t really sincere in your efforts to follow God and if you aren’t sincere, then you don’t deserve to go to heaven.

      • albatross11 says:

        Compare with the way smart technies will often come up with plausible-sounding literal interpretations of law that seem like they’d require the legal system to go along with them. It turns out that judges aren’t all that fond of smartass amateur legal scholars trying to game the system….

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        I think “kill everyone and pray to God” is different from what I was asking about, but since my original question was surprisingly well resolved, let’s take a crack at this.

        The hard version of the thought experiment has it that when you start going to church near the end of your life, you aren’t just going through the motions and relishing your successful gaming; you actually develop a sincere faith and a real regret of your youthful immorality. But as a youth you foresaw that that would happen and counted on it. So either the youth’s strategy goes through as planned, or a sincerely penitent soul gets told “no, sorry, your former self’s machinations cut off the possibility of forgiveness”.

        To me getting extended time in Purgatory for your prior sins is a satisfying resolution, although I’m not sure it works exactly like that even in Catholicism.

        • rahien.din says:

          a sincerely penitent soul gets told “no, sorry, your former self’s machinations cut off the possibility of forgiveness”.

          This seems entirely incompatible with Christianity.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah. As the saying goes, the only unforgivable sin is believing yourself unable to be forgiven.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the story of the thief (traditionally St Dismas) who repented on the cross next to Jesus and was saved, seems like a pretty clear attempt to teach the lesson that even after a badly-lived life, you can still repent and be saved.

          • Deiseach says:

            The point here is the sincere repentance. To take Wrong Species’ example, if there is someone who has a habit of hurting others or being selfish or pulling stunts like making and breaking promises, and then apologising afterwards, and then going on and doing the same thing again, you have to question their sincerity.

            If they think “But it’s okay to do this, I’ll just say sorry afterwards and that fixes it all up!”, they’re wrong. Especially if they think “fixing it all up” means they can then go on to break more promises, lie, take advantage, etc. “I’ve said ‘sorry’, you’re supposed to forgive me!” is the penny-in-the-slot approach that, whether it’s sex or salvation, does not work.

            You cannot say “I will commit this sin, then be sorry afterwards” because that’s false repentance. Any more than you can say “I will murder my spouse, then be really sorry afterwards” and think that gets you off the hook legally.

            By the same token, you are not judged on sins you might have committed/would have committed if you survived and lived after your “atheist in a foxhole” experience. If there is any seed or germ of genuine contrition and repentance, then God works with that. If you say “Wow, I really am sorry, I really do wish I hadn’t done that, I didn’t expect to genuinely feel bad”, that is enough. Otherwise, you’re judged on what you have done, not what you might have done had you lived.

            There has to be repentance, restitution (or satisfaction) and a firm purpose of amendment. You can’t say “I’ll do this and then be sorry afterwards (and then keep on doing this)”. The joke attributed to Heine on his deathbed (“Of course God will forgive me, that’s His business”) is a risky way to proceed, since God is not obligated to forgive you just because you said the magic words.

            That was a form of rules lawyering that used to be prevalent; people –
            including Constantine the Great – putting off baptism until on their deathbed because baptism cleanses all sin (not just original sin) and so the sins of a lifetime would be cleansed by baptism near death, rather than being baptised after the period of being a catechumen and then risking losing your salvation by sinning during your life time:

            By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. Also worth noting that on matters spiritual, men are not equipped to judge other men. Only God can judge the sincerity of one’s repentance. We may suspect that someone is “gaming the system” and has not sincerely repented, but we can never know for sure. But God will know with 100% certainty and will deal with that person accordingly.

          • Jiro says:

            Otherwise, you’re judged on what you have done, not what you might have done had you lived.

            Doesn’t the very concept of original sin contradict that? Original sin can get you punished by God, but it isn’t anything you’ve done.

        • Wrong Species says:

          That’s an interesting question. Does your present sincerity count if your past self was banking on it to continue their own insincerity? Let’s say you had a “no atheists in foxholes” situation. Someone prays to God to save their soul. They mean it but it comes from a place of fear and they end up dying. God, being omniscient, knows that if they lived they would have continued on sin. Should they go to heaven? How much sincerity and how long, is needed?

          Even outside of religion, it’s an interesting thought. If someone wrongs me and then later feels guilt, should I forgive them, even if they made their decision counting on them feeling guilt later?

          • Deiseach says:

            How much sincerity and how long, is needed?

            “Between the saddle and the ground is the mercy of God” – old Irish (and seemingly elsewhere) saying.

            A poem from a collection published in 1917 (dealing with the Great War) by an Irish poetess, Katherine Tynan:

            The Great Mercy

            Betwixt the saddle and the ground
            Was mercy sought and mercy found.

            Yea, in the twinkling of an eye,
            He cried; and Thou hast heard his cry.

            Between the bullet and its mark
            Thy face made morning in his dark.

            And while the shell sang on its path
            Thou hast run, Thou hast run, preventing death.

            Thou hast run before and reached the goal,
            Gathered to Thee the unhoused soul.

            Thou art not bound by Time or Space:
            So fast Death runs : Thou hast won the race.

            Thou hast said to beaten Death: Go tell
            Of victories thou once hadst. All’s well!

            Death, here none die but thee and Sin
            Now the great days of Life begin.

            And to the Soul: This day I rise
            And thee with Me to Paradise.

            Betwixt the saddle and the ground
            Was Mercy sought and Mercy found.

    • rahien.din says:

      Here’s a question that I have always found clarifying : “Does this theology treat God like a vending machine?” Meaning, does it suggest that one could perform a particular action that would compel God to a certain desired result.

      If the answer is “Yes,” then the theology (or the interpretation thereof) is simply wrong.

      • Nick says:

        Right. One related idea caught up in the faith and works debate is that we might somehow merit salvation. The Catholic view rejects this: grace received from God is always a gift freely given, and it is only by grace that we are saved. But works are still a common source of grace even if God is not obliged or compelled to impart grace to us.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The saved don’t desire to act like that. A thief could be not in a state of grace his whole life, then in a state of grace when he prays to Jesus during his execution.
      The problem then is believing the Gospel truth claims and hoping to get saved near death so you can enjoy a life of vice without going to Hell.
      I think a way toward understand this is that God transcends time, so from His perspective some rational agents are predestined to love Him and therefore be saved, while some are not.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      The naive meaning, to a modern American atheist hearing the words, is that as long as you don’t doubt Christianity’s factual claims, you’ll be saved, so you can walk around killing and stealing and as long as you’re certain in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, you still go to heaven.

      To be fair, that’s pretty much what Luther believed (although substitute “don’t doubt Christianity’s factual claims” with “trust that Jesus will save you”). This teaching was toned down pretty much as soon as Luther died, though.

    • Deiseach says:

      I learned back in school that one teaching of the Protestant Reformation was a belief in “salvation through faith alone” and specifically not through good works. What exactly does this mean?

      Part of the problem is that the Reformation was a whole bunch of guys and addressing a whole bunch of questions, and since it’s been five hundred years since the Reformation a lot of those questions have been answered, ignored, re-phrased, or changed completely (I imagine if Luther saw modern German Lutheranism, for instance, he’d have a screaming fit). Before we start, I’d like to curtail any accusations of “This is just Protestant-bashing!” (wait till I start talking about Luther) by admitting up front yep, there were real abuses and disgraces on the Catholic side. I’m going to leave the politics and history out of it and try and stick to theology.

      There’s a few points here:

      (1) I’m more familiar with the phrase as justification by faith alone, and justification is a complicated matter (there’s actually been a joint declaration on it by the Catholics and Lutherans, which I think about three theologians not on the joint bodies have actually read, and everyone else – especially the laity – is either leery of it, doesn’t know about it and cares less, or is happily ignorant of the entire topic). Luther used forensic, legal imagery for his doctrine on this, famously the “dunghills covered with snow” image to represent his understanding of how we are justified – we are still rotten stinking sinners even if we repent, but the perfect faith and virtues of Christ are imputed to us (the snow covering the dung). Yeah. Well, not quite the Catholic view which is why it took until 1999 to come to a compromise on this one.

      (2) Leaving justification aside, Sola Fide is, as some Protestants of the Reformed Tradition like to put it, one of the Solas (which makes me laugh because that’s the same joke as The Lone Gunmen – if there’s more than one, it ain’t sole). They also like to make the distinction that it is Sola Fide, not Sole Fide (Faith Alone On Its Own, Nuthin’ Else). You can’t buy salvation. This was a more pressing concern about the time of the Reformation because of the whole Tetzel ‘selling indulgences’ scandal, but for centuries there had been the practice of making large donations of money/land to the Church in a tacit “tit for tat” bargain: yes I’m a hard-nosed practical man of the world who has done hinky things, but I pay you to pray for me after my death and get me out of Purgatory, worst case scenario get me into Purgatory instead of Hell (see the Scrovegni Chapel as an example of this; Wikipedia calls the guy who commissioned it a banker but most sources are less diplomatic and say “money lender”). We don’t bother so much about this nowadays because one of our besetting sins is Presumption (e.g. “I’m a Good Person, I’m going to Heaven/there’s no such place as Hell, God wouldn’t create that” where ‘Good Person’ means “I didn’t rape or murder anyone, apart from that I didn’t exhibit much evidence of reforming grace in my life”).

      Luther, though – he bothered.

      (3) I’m talking a lot about Luther even though there were several other influential movers at the same time, but he’s the one got the most publicity then and now, and Lutheranism had a big influence on English what would become Anglicanism and so Protestantism in general in the English-speaking world (which includes America). Luther had issues, to put it mildly (yeah, remember that disclaimer above? Apply it here). At the very least, he suffered from extreme scrupulosity, which meant he was on a constant mental treadmill of “Am I saved? How do I know I’m saved? But really, how do I know? Do I have faith? Do I have real faith, or do I only think I have faith? What if I don’t have real, saving faith but false faith and I only think I’m saved and then I die and find out I’m damned? HOW DO I KNOW FOR SURE FOR POSITIVE FOR 100% CONFIDENCE AND REASSURANCE ON THIS???”

      Well, he came up with his own answer (or set of them) which was basically radical confidence in the word of Christ in the Gospels about forgiveness and salvation. Strip everything else away except total faith in this. Naturally, this meant you had the problem of “But how can I be sure the words of the Gospel are true?” and that’s where the “Biblical literalism” got its start – it’s not poetry, metaphor, history or human interpolation, it’s all 100% divine inspired inerrant word to be literally believed. Literally believe the bare word with full faith and you are saved. You can’t buy salvation by good works or piety, you can’t get others to pray your way to heaven, but what you can do is read and believe with full confidence and trust.

      I spoke about Presumption above, the polar opposite of Presumption is Despair: “I am such a terrible, horrible sinner and wretch I am hopelessly damned, not even God will or can forgive me, there is no hope”. Luther had an inclination towards this and, to do him credit, he fought against it by clinging tightly to the belief that there is no unforgivable sin and God can and will forgive and save all who truly repent and believe and amend their lives.

      Luther was touchy on this (because he was, understandably, protective of the system he’d worked out to calm his mental demons) and so reacted poorly to any opposition or even anything that seemed to contradict him. Even if by an actual apostle. That’s why he was so iffy about the Epistle of St James, to the point of calling it “an epistle of straw” in one writing and (in anecdote at least) ripping it out of a Bible he was reading in a fit of rage, and trying to get the Protestant Bible to drop it altogether as doubtful and dubious.

      Luther was fond of preaching that there were no unforgivable sins, that you could be steeped in sin, that you could sin every day – but if once you had saving faith and repented, you were saved:

      If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign

      Now, this did not (and does not) mean that “Believe in Christ, say the magic formula*, and you can then go on doing what you like, even murdering others**”. True repentance and faith mean amendment of life; you don’t live a virtuous and pious life because you’re trying to bribe your way into heaven (“I can commit this sin and then do that act of charity to offset it”) but because now your heart has changed and you want to be a good person and do good. That’s in a way how the Protestant Work Ethic got its start; Calvinism and that strain of the Reformation was big on visible signs of God’s grace, including in worldly affairs, so a reformed sinner would now be sober, hard-working, thrifty and all the rest of it, and having God’s favour would naturally do well, and worldly goods and wealth were a sign of success.

      *This is what some variants of American non-denominational Protestantism have fallen into, with the Sinner’s Prayer, but even they in their origins demanded more than just “say the magic words”.

      ** Assurance of Salvation or Perseverance of the Saints; another problem that cropped up with the Reformation and doubt about “but can I lose my salvation? what if I fall back into sin? what if I do terrible things, am I still saved even then?”. There’s an entire novel – Confessions of A Justified Sinner – about a guy who wrestles with this due to a form of Calvinism and is seduced/tempted/goes nuts and commits ever more dreadful sins to test his confidence in his salvation; the hook on which he is wriggling is that if you doubt you are saved, then poof! this is proof you don’t have saving faith, so you are damned! Then the only way he can prove to himself that no he really does have saving faith is to commit sin in the assurance that it doesn’t matter, he is saved beyond all power of even himself to damn himself.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Perseverance of the Saints drove me crazy. My mother was an Evangelical, and preaching “say the sinner’s prayer and get saved” to the choir was a big thing. I was usually in the position of not wanting to follow the social rules of the church (don’t believe in evolution, don’t do this fun thing), but I said the sinner’s prayer because Jesus could come back Any Day Now and I wanted to be saved from damnation (curse the moral luck of those who died before I was born and so could deathbed comvert!)
        As a 14-year-old budding rationalist, I was receptive to the old arguments against the Bible that are easily found online. But Perseverance of the Saints means that if today I say up myself “I am an atheist”, that means I was never saved when I said the sinner’s prayer, right? But it felt real… how would one know the difference? So many questions of epistemology!

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s interesting how much of the history of ideas is sometimes just a history of self-administered psycho-therapy. John Stuart Mill had something similar going on. He slavishly followed Benthams utilitarianism but it made him miserable. He then came up with his own version which in the end left him satisfied. Ideas are supposed to stand on their own, regardless of the personal quirks of the founder but it does inevitably color our perceptions of them.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        I had a feeling you’d have something interesting to say about this 😉

        Seriously, fascinating background on Luther.

        • Deiseach says:

          Thanks, I’m trying to be a lot more charitable towards Our Separated Brethren and particularly Luther, though I still think his main trouble was that he needed to loosen up a lot 🙂

    • Aapje says:

      @ADifferentAnonymous

      I’m not particularly knowledgeable on this topic and Protestants are quite good at disagreeing/splitting up over doctrinal matters, but it seems to me that “salvation through faith alone” was in itself primarily a rejection of indulgences and/or erasing people’s sins during confession* and/or people being promised salvation if they donated to the church.

      So I think you have to keep in mind that the concept was introduced to prohibit certain behavior, not to enable people to behave badly in another way.

      I think that some Protestants ‘solved’ the problem that you identify by separating salvation from condemnation. Calvin and Luther seem to believe that the damnation of the damned is caused by their sin, but that the salvation of the saved is solely caused by God.

      So people then still get punished for sinning & thus have an incentive not to sin, but they cannot ‘buy’ their way into heaven.

      * You can just as easily argue that this allows people to keep committing mortal sins, if they just get their sins removed during confession.

      • Deiseach says:

        Calvin and Luther seem to believe that the damnation of the damned is caused by their sin, but that the salvation of the saved is solely caused by God.

        I think the problem with original Calvinism was the insistence on double predestination while the Lutherans went with a more ‘Catholic’ version of the doctrine; not alone does God choose whom He wishes to save, but that He chooses (or condemns) some to be damned. Neither can effect or affect this; in the one case, grace is irresistible and in the other, faith is dead even if it seems to be a living, saving faith.

        That part seems to have dropped out or been discarded or quietly set aside in modern Calvinism/Reformed tradition, though, and there’s a lot more emphasis on the single predestination (God has chosen the Elect, we don’t know who is in the Elect, so preach the Gospel to everyone).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This thread seems to have died, but the subject is super interesting, so here’s some analysis of the salvation question:

      Basic Christian truth claim: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light; no one comes to God the Father but through Him (all others get a relatively bad afterlife).
      The basic modern Anglophone objection to this is that there’s no evidence for this, Christianity is hostile to evidence (creationism!) So if we exist in a world where it’s true, God is an unjust demiurge who takes people to His utopia or sends them to an eternal concentration camp on the basis of a lucky guess.
      The problem with their objection is that they’re reacting to the conservative side of English Protestantism. We need a steelman of the basic Christian truth claim.

      @Nick apparently understands the Catholic Church’s teaching on justification well enough to defend it. Meanwhile, I’ll put out the definition that occurs over and over in the Church Fathers:
      “God became a man so men could become divine.”
      Through the Incarnation, God the Logos offered a way for those who return His love (“I love Him because He first loved me.”) To become what He is, in all ways except ontologically, which is logically impossible. The term the New Testament uses for the afterlife of those who reject this free gift is Hades… yeah, the Greek underworld. The Good News to its original hearers was that you don’t have to go there.
      People in the Roman Empire weren’t stupid, even the uneducated classes the Church spread fastest in. They wouldn’t have called a message “You’ve never heard of an eternal concentration camp, but that’s where everyone is going unless they beg our incarnate God to let them into his utopia instead.” Good News.

      • Nick says:

        @Nick apparently understands the Catholic Church’s teaching on justification well enough to defend it.

        Oh geez! No! Do not put me on the spot here! 🙁

        I do read secondary material on this sort of thing, but oh my gosh am I not qualified to make a thorough defense of things. I invited a debate because I’d be happy to mark out the position of the Church in specific ways, not fully. In other words, I’ll do my best to answer specific question and objections, but there’s no way I’m writing up a big apologia.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Oops, mea culpa. And we seem to have run out of specific objections, so mission accomplished? 🙂

          • Nick says:

            You’re all right. But no, I’m afraid SSC will be mission country for the foreseeable future. 😀

    • dodrian says:

      As others have said, yes, you’re pretty much right, but since most of the responses so far have been from SCC’s esteemed Catholic cadre, I wanted to weigh in coming from the perspective of a life-long protestant, currently exploring the reformed tradition (Presbyterianism is the big reformed denomination, but many others share some of the heritage).

      @Deiseach made some good points which I’d like to flesh out a bit more, in particular the “magic words” of the sinners prayer. It is unfortunately common, especially in modern America, that much of “salvation through faith alone” has been boiled down to a magic formula. Ironically, being saved by faith becomes a work (all you have to do is say this). It is common to hear this view, even among some pastors and in some big churches, and it’s understandable why it’s pushed a lot: either because people want to view themselves as part of the same ingroup as those around them, or out of genuine concern for seeing people’s lives (and afterlives) changed for the better. I’d liken the popularity of this view in protestant/evangelical churches to something like the blog IFL science: well-meaning people have positive associations with the word ‘science’ and share every article with ‘scientists say’ in the title because science=good. These people are often unable to articulate what the scientific method actually is, and don’t really understand the importance of peer review, duplicate studies, statistical hygiene, etc etc. The importance of something complicated (justification by faith / the scientific method) has been boiled down to something easy-to-say (pray this prayer / scientific study => correct), even by people who should know better.

      Next, lets take a look at Luther. Again, @Deiseach did a good job highlighting some of his personal hangups and how those influenced his theology, but I want to look more at the historical backdrop of the protestant reformation. The Church at the time was using it’s power and influence to manipulate people: demanding money and other sacrifices under the auspices of their God-given authority and the promise/threat of giving/withholding salvation. Justification by faith was for Luther and the reformers a way of diminishing the Catholic Church’s authority over people in this way. Got Questions has a simple outline of the five solas viewed from this perspective.

      A more common phase in the reformed tradition would be something like “justification by grace through faith”. It has the emphasis on grace—that salvation is God’s gift which cannot be bought or earned, and that faith is the human response to this salvation. There is also the expectation that the work of God’s salvation will begin a change in someone’s life, and that change will be evidenced by good works (that is, doing good is a response to being saved, not an attempt to gain salvation).

      In terms of sources against someone who would say that it would be ok for someone to be an unrepentant murderer, @Jackologist already mentioned the book of James, Paul (in Romans 6) specifically wrote against the idea that someone saved should want to keep on sinning, and I personally like the Presbyterian Mission website for good medium-length introductory articles with the Presbyterian beliefs of various doctrines (nothing specifically on sola fide, but it is talked about in a number of articles including Atonement, Forgiveness, Grace, Reconciliation and Salvation).

      • The original Mr. X says:

        There’s also Revelation 20.12 f. (“…and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; and the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them, and they were judged every man according to their works”), which certainly seems to contradict the “It doesn’t matter what you actually do, so long as you believe” theory.

        • SamChevre says:

          Just for clarity–I’m Catholic, but I’m a convert: I attended a Reformed (Presbyterian–PCA) church for several years.

          The Reformed answer to the “judged according to their works” passages is the doctrine of “substitutionary atonement.” In that understanding, the Christian is judged by Christ’s works, rather than their own.

          I think the Catholic understanding–that Christ’s sacrifice saves us but a key part of that change is making it possible for us to change to be like Him–is a much better understanding, but thought it might be worth noting that the Reformed tradition does have an answer (even though it’s one I don’t agree with.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “God became a man so that men could become God.” If I understand the Fathers aright, there is no bridge between what humans are, even before the Fall, and what God is. The Hypostatic Union in Jesus Christ brought such a bridge into reality: by imitating Him through cooperation with God’s grace, we can become godly in a way impossible even for a hypothetical sinless Adam and Eve.
            Greek Orthodox call this theosis. It’s not emphasized in the Roman Catholic Church, but is said even by Latin Fathers. The way salvation was taught led more to the image of souls flitting about in heaven enjoying the presence of God, as we see in Dante’s tour of the solar system.

  18. LapisLacrima says:

    Can anyone recommend cogent documentaries that advocate for greater free trade in order to promote the welfare of denizens of poorer countries?
    My friend and I are “trading” documentaries relating to capitalism (mainly to rebulid our friendship), and I have no clue what documentaries would paint capitalism in a favourable light (they are bringing documentaries painting capitalism in an unfavourable one).

    • JayT says:

      Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” was turned into a PBS series back in the ’80s, and I think it would fit that description.

    • j1000000 says:

      Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose series from PBS seems like the most obvious example, though I haven’t seen that in ages. But this friend may already know who Friedman is from stuff like The Shock Doctrine and The Corporation and could already consider him the embodiment of capitalist evil.

    • Anon. says:

      Documentaries are a terrible, terrible medium for this sort of thing.

  19. hollyluja says:

    I keep seeing these stories of Trump live-tweeting Fox n Friends almost word for word. And everyone acts so confused and surprised at the contents of the tweets. This has to be a bubble filter Different Worlds thing, right?

    He’s a universal leak in the bubble filter. Hence the constant feeling of cognitive dissonance.

    • arabaga says:

      I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding you, but it has been known for a while that Trump live tweets Fox & Friends, e.g. http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/18/media/trump-fox-friends-tweet/index.html

      People still object to the fact that the President of the United States endorses these things.

    • Iain says:

      It’s not the content; it’s the context.

      People are used to seeing that kind of stuff from Fox News. They are less used to seeing it uncritically retweeted by the president of the United States. Take, for example, this morning’s tweet about 702 renewal, which attacked an act that his administration officially supports — on fictional grounds, no less. The intelligence apparatus of the most powerful nation in the world is dedicated to putting daily briefings on Trump’s desk, and this is where he gets his information?

      • phil says:

        . “He believes that television producers, especially of highly rated shows, understand what the public is interested in—what it fears, what it wants, what it loves,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in a recent interview. “And so TV programming in some ways is a more accurate reflection of the public mood than polling. That’s his view, he said it to me. And that’s one of the reasons he watches a lot of television.”

        https://newrepublic.com/article/144940/trump-tv-post-literate-american-presidency

        • albatross11 says:

          Donald Trump as Ozymandias….

          • Nornagest says:

            If that means we can get a Bubastis in the White House to eat some dignitaries on national TV, I’m all for it.

          • quanta413 says:

            That description pretty much nails him.

          • phil says:

            I don’t get the connection

          • hls2003 says:

            phil: It’s a reference to Alan Moore’s character in Watchmen, Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias. He was depicted sitting in front of a wall of screens in his secret lair, watching the world through television.

          • quanta413 says:

            Huh, I totally missed that but that makes more sense than what I was thinking. I was thinking of the poem.

          • hls2003 says:

            The empty boastfulness of the poem also resonates pretty well with Trump’s persona.

          • John Schilling says:

            The boastfulness is a bit less empty for Ozymandias being still one of the most famous people of his age, whose works the mighty are more likely to look upon with wonder than despair.

            Dear God let Donald Trump not be the Ozymandias aka Rameses II of our age, one of the few unambiguous historical names stil remembered as an exemplar of civilization just before the Atomic Age Collapse (cause unknown and what are these “tweets” everyone keeps talking about). For that matter, Rameses was the Archetype of Ultimate Evil for almost two thousand years while we were waiting for Hitler to be born; I’d really rather Trump be a forgotten buffoon.

          • Jiro says:

            You know that bothered me. You’d think the smartest man in the world would know better thsn to name himself after a symbol of futility, especially since his explanation in Watchmen for why he chose the name didn’t even seem to recognize that it’s a symbol of futility.

            It’s like calling your ship the Titanic II and it isn’t ironic or anything, you just haven’t heard of the Titanic.

          • shakeddown says:

            Maybe he wanted people to underestimate him.

          • Lillian says:

            You know that bothered me. You’d think the smartest man in the world would know better thsn to name himself after a symbol of futility, especially since his explanation in Watchmen for why he chose the name didn’t even seem to recognize that it’s a symbol of futility.

            Because the smartest man in the world knows that despite the name’s association with futility, Ramses II was one of the most successful men to have ever lived. Thirty-two centuries after his death and we still know his name, his person, his acts, his visage. Ruined though they may be, some of his works still stand, and people travel from all over the world to come and see them. Adrian Veidt picked it precisely because educated people think it’s a name associated with futility, but he knows better.

        • Matt M says:

          That strikes me as entirely plausible.

  20. Deej says:

    Hello, I’m looking for some help from the rationalist community establishing some principles of rational debate with my bosses at work. Where would be the best place to ask for this? (Lesser Wrong, comments here, subreddit?)

    I would expand upon in the relevant place but brief back ground as follows – My perception at work is that I try to discuss things rationally and objectively, but other people are often really just trying to defend a position. This will almost always be under at least the pretence of rational, objective debate and often the other person probably believes that’s what they’re doing.

    Perhaps naively, I think that if we could agree some principles debate and perhaps do a bit on cognitive bias, then the problem would go away to some extent. I’d get on better at work, and as a team we’d do better work.

    (Realise I may have delusions of above average objectivoty and rationality relative to my team here)

    • Nick says:

      Are the things being debated directly relevant to your job, or just workplace discussions of things like life, current events, and politics?

      The most important thing to establish here is how your interlocutors are treating the debate. If they’re just shooting the breeze about the news or some funny observation, a bit overly adversarial approach to a topic is not uncommon: it’s fun (provided you realize that’s all it is!) and it keeps the conversation going. If it’s something more serious and they are being adversarial, maybe that’s their preferred approach to seeing the best position dominate. With them it’s important to check a while later whether they’ve actually changed their mind or not. Other folks, often ones who maintain more dispassion as to the outcome, are willing to stop a debate halfway, so to speak, when they realize you’ve made a really good point. But that comes down to different approaches to debate.

      • Deej says:

        The things are directly relevant. Things we actually work on, and a general debate about how we work.

    • johan_larson says:

      My perception at work is that I try to discuss things rationally and objectively, but other people are often really just trying to defend a position. …
      Perhaps naively, I think that if we could agree some principles debate and perhaps do a bit on cognitive bias, then the problem would go away to some extent.

      I don’t think you should expect to change the metagame of persuasion in your workplace. You’re not the boss, right? You just don’t have that sort of authority. A better approach would be to figure out what sort of arguments and techniques actually work in this setting. You’d get your way a bit more, making the workplace a bit more appealing to you.

      • Deej says:

        Yes, it probably won’t work, but it’s the difference between my job being horrible and it being really rewarding, so it’s worth a try.

        One reason that it might is that our job requires us to be both rational and objective and I think there’s quite strong evidence of this. They can argue that actually they are being, but they can’t say they don’t need to be…

    • skef says:

      Suppose there is a work debate over issue X, and you are advancing a rational position about X while others are “just trying to defend a position.” The latter could be related to ego or cognitive bias, or it could be related to motivates that have little to do with X or override the significance of X. It’s important to distinguish between the two situations.

      Suppose the group botches X. Would it matter? For whom would it matter? If X is likely to be botched anyway, who might it hurt if a plausible solution for X were documented in advance?

      Generally speaking, try not to be the one who doesn’t know what the debate is really about. Arguing over the text while being oblivious to the subtext is at best a hollow rationalism.

      • Deej says:

        I don’t think I’m that guy, but maybe I am.

      • CatCube says:

        One other thing, when defending the allegedly “rational” position is to consider the statement “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” Your bosses might be defending a position because it’s actually correct. (Of course, your boss might be a known idiot, and this isn’t likely, but it’s always worth keeping in mind. Scott Adams has the Pointy-Haired Boss be the smart one in a situation very occasionally.)

    • Deej says:

      Anyone up for answering the question asked? 🙂

      • skef says:

        For the sake of discussion let’s assume that the putative issues under debate are the actual issues.

        I have been in (software) engineering groups in which debates tend to go as you describe. I’ve also been in one group that was as close to the ideal as I can imagine encountering in practice, and one other that did pretty well.

        As you point out:

        other people are often really just trying to defend a position. This will almost always be under at least the pretense of rational, objective debate and often the other person probably believes that’s what they’re doing.

        The last bit might make it look as if all that people need is some “rationalist education”. But the first part counts against that interpretation: many people are just trying to defend a position. Why would they do that? Most likely because it’s the position each respectively came up with. Having one’s position chosen is evidence of being right, and being right means being clever, having value, etc.

        What you want is for everyone in the debate to want to arrive at the best answer regardless of who came up with it. This amounts to valuing the team, or even better the goal, over the individual in this particular domain of life. So your task is not to educate people about rationalism but to inculcate a different set of values. The primary value needs to be pride in “the work”, rather than in individual contributions to the work.

        Value shifts are hard. Most people don’t like much or all of their work and are doing it to make a living. And if most people don’t shift at the same time it’s of little help. But since you ask, the typical strategy would be along the lines of “Don’t you want to look back on your projects with a sense of pride?” and so forth.

        This is one thing that advanced, adversarial academic training can help with. I say “can”, not “will”. But the better groups I have encountered tended to have more people with that background.

        • Aapje says:

          And if most people don’t shift at the same time it’s of little help. But since you ask, the typical strategy would be along the lines of “Don’t you want to look back on your projects with a sense of pride?” and so forth.

          This is not going to be effective in certain corporate environments where well-intentioned failure is heavily punished and/or the leadership is incapable of recognizing and/or rewarding actual ability.

          In such an environment, management can usually only survive/thrive by subterfuge. This means that they may prefer that their engineers do things that are not optimal for the greater corporate goals, but that are politically optimal.

          An example is delivering a non-working software component to another unit inside the company before an unreasonable deadline. Then the manager of the engineers that delivered the non-working component can claim to have done their job, blame the other unit for not using it correctly or for the specifications to have been wrong or such. Then the resulting drama buys time for the software to be fixed, without the manager being be blamed for his unit exceeding the deadline, although they actually did.

          The above actually happened to me, BTW (my project was dependent on that component).

          Of course, I would advise not working too long in such corporate environments (although it is quite educational, especially on how bad systems/leaders corrupt people).

      • Rick Hull says:

        I’m fond of Rogerian argument, and Miller’s law and Double Crux are very new to me but seem interesting and fruitful.

    • Urstoff says:

      Listening, making others feel valued, and compromise would probably work better than some sort of official system of debate. A positive work culture [some might even call it a “mindset”] would also help.

      • Deej says:

        yes – a bit of that not happening on both sides here, I guess. One thing I was going to mention is experiments showing biases reduce where people feel good about things/themselves. (I think from thinking fast and slow, but need to check)

    • rahien.din says:

      I want my team to agree on some principles of debate and do a bit on cognitive bias.

      Stop. Do not do this. It is a terrible mistake.

      You wouldn’t be coming here for advice if you were winning these arguments. The people who are winning the arguments are doing so by non-rational means. You’re asking the winners to throw down their weapons, while you remain armed, so that you can win all the time. You can’t beat Lebron on the court, so you are challenging him to a chess match. What do you think is going to happen?

      The sooner you learn how to deal effectively with people who strike you as less-rational-than-thou, the better. World’s full of them.

      Also, gently : something is telling you that you might be the naive one here, and that you may have delusions of intellectual grandeur. Listen to it more carefully.

      • James says:

        More or less seconded.

      • Deej says:

        You’re asking the winners to throw down their weapons, while you remain armed, so that you can win all the time.

        Yup, I suppose I am. They probably see themselves as rational and objective, though, and it’s not a total zero sum game scenario, so they might just do it. Maybe Lebron reckon’s he’s a fine chess player…

        Also, gently : something is telling you that you might be the naive one here, and that you may have delusions of intellectual grandeur. Listen to it more carefully.

        The main reason I said that I might be naive and that I might have delusions of rationality and objectivity, was to head off replies like, well, all the replies I’ve got! So advice duly noted, but really I’d just like to thoughts on where’s best to discuss what such principles might look like? 🙂

        • Glen Raphael says:

          Maybe Lebron reckon’s he’s a fine chess player…

          As a compromise you might get Lebron to accept Chess Boxing

        • rahien.din says:

          Epistemic humility of one kind or another. Your co-workers know something you don’t which is how to be better-optimized for this environment.

          If the overall aim is to win… and perfect rationality loses… then it’s not rational to be perfectly rational. Operationally, you may be overvaluing pure, sanitized rationality.

          They might also be making decisions based on information you don’t have, or in different ways than you do. You may underestimate their rationality.

          Or, you might not be as sanitized-ly rational as you perceive yourself to be. You may overestimate your rationality.

          Or some combination thereof.

          Or you may be genuinely surrounded by lunatic cretins, in which case you should look for a different job.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      …This feels like cleverly worded sarcasm. The perfect parody post of the rationality sphere. It’s only online,so I can’t separate text from context.

      Sitting down and talking with your bosses about principles of rationality so they value you more. Errr….Good luck.

      Rationality sounds alot like being reasonable,and I’m sure they are used to people sitting down and ‘reasonably’ asking for a promotion.

      • Deej says:

        Ha! Afraid it’s not a parody. Even if it is a silly idea in the context of trying to talk to my bosses about stuff, I thought the rationality folks would have some thoughts on principles for productive rational discussions generally. Check your biases, point at issue…. that kind of thing…

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          See, if you’re a very productive utilitarian-leaning rationalist, then you convinced your boss…that you no longer are needed, he just outsourced you to india because they need it more and then he donates excess profits there.

          Rationality != job success.

    • Deej says:

      So, replies so far all make one or more of the following points – 1) it’s not worth doing/there’s no chance of success 2) learn to persuade people by means that actually work 3) we think you’re an idiot with delusions of rationality.

      On point 1), I agree it’s a bit of a long shot, but pay off if it works is large (enjoy current job) and the cost if it doesn’t is low (I’ll quit my job which I’d do anyway).

      On point 2) sure, I should try to get better at this (and I do), but it’s not a solution to my current predicament. My job is fun and interesting when it’s about objective analysis and trying to find out what’s true, it’s not when it’s about other stuff – if it can’t be mainly about the former then I’ll do something else instead. I have other viable job options that I’d like to try.

      On point 3) The reasoning seems to be only an idiot would try and do this, so I must be an idiot. Obviously if I am such an idiot, I’ll not know it without being directly confronted with my own idiocy. So lets assume I am an idiot with delusions of rationality, and think about some principles of rational debate that might help expose me as the idiot that I truly am.

      Where would be best to discuss these principles? What might they be?

      • AKL says:

        You could tell your manager you are struggling with this aspect of your job and ask for their help. Managers are generally sympathetic to and will try to help employees who are trying to solve their own problems. Managers are generally not sympathetic to and will not try to help employees who have identified a systemic issue with the way the managers do their jobs.

        • Deej says:

          I’m kind of in the middle of that – I am asking for their help, and they are nice guys. But I’m also going to be criticising the organisation and them a fair bit. (I know, never get anywhere criticising the boss…)

          • Aapje says:

            @Deej

            I think that your criticism is too offensive to others to work. You are asking your manager to tell your colleagues something that they will probably be quite offended by (that they can’t reason as well as you due to their biases), creating conflict between the manager and the workers and between you and your coworkers.

            Your manager would be a fool to jeopardize his standing with the workers like this and to create a rift between you and your coworkers.

            If you personally criticize your co-workers in a way that implies that you are better than them like this, they will probably not take it well.

            Generally, the way to address undesired behavior by a large number of employees is to introduce solutions that don’t feel like a personal attack or at least, that feel like a personal attack by some outgroup/fargroup outside the team (like HR or upper management). An example is optional or mandatory ‘harassment training’ or ‘presentation skills training.’ At best, you want people to perceive the training as being aimed at helping them become better than the average person, not making them feel inferior as a person or worker. At worst, you want your coworkers to convince themselves that the training is really meant for their coworkers, while still getting exposed to the information. You definitely don’t want specific people to be singled out for (or in) the training, so they feel that the implied or explicit criticism applies to them more than others.

            Another way is to introduce a methodology that forces people to not make the mistakes that they naturally tend to make. An example is Agile development methodologies, which, if you analyze what they intend to do, imply some very negative things about human behavior. However, because the methodologies are presented as a tool that is generically helpful, people usually don’t get offended if you ask them to use such a methodology.

            The problem here is that AFAIK there is not really a good anti-fallacy methodology for debating well; nor good training that doesn’t involve a large time commitment (which is probably because you can’t actually learn this easily).

            What you could do is prepare or offer to prepare one or more presentations on this topic and get your manager to set aside time for the team and/or interested people from the organization to attend your presentation. Design the presentation to be self-deprecating. Tell people that you have a tendency to fall victim to cognitive bias and that learning some things helped you and that you want to share it with others. Sell it to your manager the same way.

            Err heavily on the side of less criticism of others and more self-deprecation. If you can’t come up with examples where you personally fell victim to a fallacy, but you can come up with examples where another person did, then just lie that you were the person making the cognitive error.

            Don’t tell people your real issue: that you want them to debate more like yourself. Let them draw their own conclusions (or not).

            I doubt that it will create a huge change at your workplace, but I think that this will result in the maximum achievable outcome* given the constraints of human nature and the limitations of the corporate environment.

            *probably not that large

          • AKL says:

            I think clarifying your assumptions might be helpful. As I understand it, your view is:

            (1) There is a problem: the style of communication in your workplace is frustrating to you on a personal level and also counterproductive for the organization because your managers and coworkers fail to be rational (in at least some sense).

            (2) There is a solution: establish team-wide communication norms and guidelines which will constrain your bosses and coworkers into engaging in more rational communication.

            (3) But you need advice: figuring out how to establish those new norms / rules / policies.

            The consensus of the commenters (with which I agree) is that there is no answer to (3) that has a realistic chance of achieving (2). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make progress on solving the problem; it just means that you might want to rethink your approach.

            I think you should try to identify exactly what bothers you. Is it that sub-optimal choices are being made? Is it that the quality of your ideas isn’t being recognized? That they’re not understood? That you aren’t being listened to? Obviously these are related. If, over the last 6 months every decision was identical, but you felt like the process was better would you be satisfied? What about the inverse (better outcomes, shitty process)?

            I ask those somewhat rhetorical questions because I think reflecting on your answers might help you figure out realistic, actionable steps for improving the situation.

            If the ONLY acceptable outcome is “all my coworkers are as rational as I am,” you are – to be frank – probably screwed in this job or any other.

            If the outcome you want is that your recommended course of action is taken more often, then maybe some of the comments about effective communication / “spin selling” are the most relevant. Learn you understand and tailor YOUR communication to the mental models your colleagues (subconsciously) rely on.

            If the outcome you want is for your ideas to be given more weight / consideration, you are overwhelmingly more likely to succeed by framing the issue to your colleagues as YOUR problem, not theirs. Think of a time where you had a good idea that wasn’t given its proper due and ask your boss for feedback. “I think I have good ideas, but I think I could be doing a much better job actually advocating for them. Do you have any tips for how I could be a more effective communicator? I was I might be a lot more effective if [we tried each taking 3 minutes to make our case followed by a 2 minute open Q/A]. Do you think that might be worth trying? Do you have any feedback for me? I’d really like to build my skills here!”

            I understand that you don’t think the problem is with you. Without trying to adjudicate that point, though, ACTING as if the problem is with you is much, much more likely to gain your colleagues’ respect and consideration than informing them that they all have a problem but luckily you’ve drawn up a list of rules that will solve their heretofore unrecognized issues.

            No matter what, this won’t be easy! Your approach to debate, problem solving, and communication is different than most people. The attendant difficulties are not going to disappear with one simple trick. But try to take the same outside perspective on your own situation you wish your colleagues would do in theirs, think about what you can realistically control, and try to make incremental improvements. Good luck!

          • Deej says:

            @Aapje – thanks a lot, really helpful

          • Deej says:

            @akl – also thanks, v.helpful

      • phil says:

        I would recommend reading the book Spin Selling.

        It lays out a sales method based on asking questions attempting to get deeper into the roots of the why’s behind decision making.

        In a professional setting, I would suggest that that’s actually what you should be shooting for.

        I would suggest that the tools you’ve learned though rationality would actually be really helpful in that process,

        but professionally, if you have ideas, you need to think about having a process to sell them,

        other sales books you might find helpful:

        – The challenger sale – Snap selling – Little red book of selling

        All of these are of the mindset of help your customer first and foremost, the sale is a secondary effect of the helping. And given my nature that has made sales a lot easier since I’m not an extroverted manipulator, I’m an introverted problem solver.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I think you might need to go into more detail. By posing your problem in such general terms, you’re effectively asking for a general solution, which strikes me as impossible, or near enough as to be a waste of time. I wish my fellow commenters were a bit nicer about this, but I think this is part of why you’ve gotten such a dismissive response.

      But solving the problem in your specific case might be much easier than solving it in general! Probably not easy in absolute terms, but maybe worth a shot.

      Specific examples of interactions would help get us there. (Or made-up ones that you think are representative).

      • Deej says:

        Thanks

        We’re a public organisation with a clear objective (defined in law). It’s difficult to measure how well we’re achieving said objective – impact of our work is usuaully quite long term, and counter factual’s difficult to estimate.

        I’m quite junior but experienced in a fairly technical area of policy/economics. I spend a lot of time explaining fairly complicated stuff to more senior people including a lot of time explaining why something about their understanding is wrong. I’ve no desire to be promoted or anything, I’d just like us to do a good and efficient job.

        I find where I’m involved early and/or there’s no inconvience for people understanding someting there’s very rarely any issues. I explain the thing, they understand it to a greater or lesser degree, I correct bits and pieces later. Where something’s already been agreed or has come from a source they see as an authority (eg consultants) or it’s inconvenient for someone to understand something for whatever reason, there’s often a problem. For my own career prospects I’d be best just to let it go, but I kind of just want to do the right thing – not sure the motivation for this is exactly, and it’s probably not particualrly worthy.

        I find that given enough passes, I can usually get points through. But this takes loads of energfy on my part and sometimes leaves bothsides a bit pissed off. Typically I’d see at least three of the following –

        – people become reluctant to agree even the most uncontroversial starting assumptions (presummably for fear of where the following logic will take them)
        – people move from weighing evidence on balance to burdon of absoulute proof is on you
        – appeal to authority (often directly followed by a cry of “appeal to authority” when I point out I might know as much about this as whoever they’re talking about)
        – refusal to discuss with the authority they’re appealling to or to mention my points when discussing with more senior people (for example, them: “ah, but person x said this is correct” me: “I think they might not have considered the y, can I check with them” them: “no”)
        – describing points of logic or fact as ‘just my opinion’.

        Now usually each point can be addressed, and we’ll get to the right place – but this takes a lot of energy on my part and sometimes leaves people pissed off (not least me).

        If I could get people to discuss things as they normally do, when not – as I see it – just defending a position, that’d be great for all involved. So I’m trying to think of some principles, ideas, for doing this. My managers are nice guys, they do want to do a good job so it’s not totally impossible that we get somewhere with this. And if it doesn’t work I’ll be quitting anyway so, well, nothing to lose really…

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @ Deej

          I find where I’m involved early and/or there’s no inconvenience for people understanding something there’s very rarely any issues.
          […]
          Where something’s already been agreed […] or it’s inconvenient for someone to understand something for whatever reason, there’s often a problem.

          The business world is full of situations where it is more important to make some plausibly-justifiable decision than to make the best possible decision. Once something has, as you say, already been agreed, that means a bunch of people have expended political capital defending or attacking an outcome. That is probably the wrong time for you to jump in as a junior person and say “Hey guys? you know that brutal argument everybody spent months being mad at each other about until they finally came to a mutually tolerable agreement? Let’s re-open that old wound and fight it all over again!”

          Your company has a decision process. If that process reaches bad decisions because you weren’t in the room where it happens, the best thing you can do is so useful when dealing with new issues that next time you are in the room where it happens.

          or has come from a source they see as an authority (eg consultants)

          Companies often seek the advice of consultants when they need somebody to blame for the result of a risky decision. If the firm is really at a deadlock and can’t decide what to do but needs to decide and act, one side of the argument will hire a consultant to provide cover for doing what they wanted to do anyway. “Look, we’ve paid these guys all this money for their advice based on their track record and expertise – it’d be stupid not to take it, right?”

          Think of already-made decisions as like the outcome of an election. Or a court proceeding. Or the course of an ocean liner. You can’t just reverse course on a whim because you think the wrong path was chosen last week. There is momentum; changes are costly. Your bosses would need a specific excuse – a good one – to revisit old decisions at all before they could even consider changing them to suit you. Otherwise the company and its leadership would look weak and indecisive and the people carrying out policy would get really confused. (“I thought we were doing A?” “No, that was last week – now we’re doing B instead”.)

  21. outis says:

    I got slightly above 30 on this test that was part of the SSC survey: https://psychology-tools.com/autism-spectrum-quotient/

    Does that mean I am autistic? On the spectrum?

    • Nornagest says:

      No, it means your score on a quiz on the Internet overlaps that typical of autistic people. Pretty much every test like this comes with some boilerplate somewhere saying that it’s not meant to be used for diagnostic purposes, and while you’d be correct if you thought that smells of ass-covering, there is actually a good reason for it too.

      • outis says:

        But from reading some of Scott’s posts (like the recent one on Adderall), it sounds like these kinds of questionnaires are basically how psychiatrists diagnose people too. What else would a professional look into to determine if I’m on the spectrum? Whether my life has been affected? I’m professionally high-functioning, but my social situation is bad enough to qualify as significantly impaired, whatever the cause.

        • quanta413 says:

          Professionally high-functioning is already somewhat of a strike against having autism; it makes it significantly less likely and means the severity almost certainly can’t be that high. Socially, if you are really severely impaired, you may want to see a psychiatrist. One thing I’d note is that among adults, I think having literally 0 friends is not rare enough that it would necessarily count as significantly impaired. There are a lot of reasons you could have social difficulty. If you’re a nerd (and you probably are, that’s basically what the AQ test reads as to me), you’ve probably got some of those.

          I think sometimes to nerdy people it appears as if more normal people have social superpowers, but the reality is that a lot of perfectly normal people suffer a lot of the same communication problems, difficulty reading context, and nervousness in large groups. And in my experience adults tend to lack friends if you compare them to children or college students, so for some young adults who had fewer friends than average the sudden shift may feel like a social disability becoming clear when it’s more like a normal part of aging and changes in social responsibilities.

          • outis says:

            Oh, I’m certainly not rock-back-and-forth autistic. I would have said I may have Asperger’s, if the BDSM-V or whatever had not retired that term in favor of “autistic spectrum”. But I have had at least one person ask me if I was autistic, unprompted.

            As for the social situation, I have had issues since adolescence, so it can’t be the aging phenomenon you are talking about.

        • US says:

          Diagnostics in this area involves a lot more than just answering a few questions. The diagnostic process that lead to me getting an Asperger’s diagnosis took most of a week and involved multiple visits to a neuropsychological unit. Gold-standard diagnostics in this area involves both observing behaviour closely in what is known to be diagnostically relevant contexts, as well as asking questions to people who are not the person of interest (parents, caregivers), and neither of these aspects are covered in an online multiple-choice test.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m going to be a little lazy here, and just link my post from the last time I answered this question.

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/24/open-thread-91-5/#comment-581790

      tl;dr. The test is not perfect and the base rate of autism is low. Therefore you most likely don’t have autism if your score is in the 30s. Also, if you read the DSM-5 criteria, you can see that it actually overlaps less with the AQ test than you might expect. I scored ~36 on the AQ test, but I could only plausibly meet a small subset of the criteria in the DSM-5 at a low severity at worst.

      If you read the original paper, you’ll see that mathematics majors score unusually high on the test even when not autistic. Similarly, I’d bet a lot of people here who aren’t autistic have high AQ scores.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Well, literally everyone is on the spectrum, thanks to it’s definition based on the gaussian distribution.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4552377/

      And about 2/5 of those diagnosed score above average,with 1/4 scoring below typical make distribution.

      That word may mean something different in practice what you think it means.

  22. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I see exercise programs and such frequently have a disclaimer that tells people to consult their physician before starting.

    This is probably reasonable self-protection for people offering exercise programs, but do people ever consult their physicians? Do physicians have enough knowledge of their patients and of exercise programs to give sensible advice?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This is probably reasonable self-protection for people offering exercise programs, but do people ever consult their physicians?

      I’m guessing people who write those disclaimers don’t know. The important thing is that their ass is covered. Offering an exercise program in a thong is a crime.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I think it does happen from time to time. For example, at an annual checkup the patient mentions that he is thinking of starting to go to the gym and discusses it with the doctor. Or the doctor brings up the issue himself.

      I’m not a doctor myself, but I would guess that for people who are young or middle-aged and in decent health, the doctor is not going to be able to give advice better than what could be found in 5 or 10 minutes of internet searches.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      If you are being treated by your doctor for, say, heart disease, you might not want to just show up at the local Crossfit and start going as hard as your (other) muscles will let you.

      People can have medical conditions that limit what kind of excercise they should engage in. People also don’t necessarily actually know their own condition.

  23. WashedOut says:

    Video game general

    I’m looking for a new PC game to start – would appreciate your recommendations.

    My criteria:
    -makes you think (includes some form of puzzle-solving or lateral thinking)
    -not a gratuitous amount of cut-scenes, preferably none. I want a game, not a playable movie. For reference, I stopped playing The Last of Us about half an hour in because of the constant banal interruptions to play.
    -combat, army building, military strategy themes are a plus but not essential
    -RPGs with stat-building, character development and skill/trait customisation a strong plus

    Previously played and enjoyed:
    Myst series, Obduction, League of Legends, Diablo 3, Resident Evil (most recent one), Dark Souls 3 (though frustrating).

    • Rick Hull says:

      I just started playing Door Kickers again. Most similar to XCOM including limited character development but there are experience levels, 5 classes, and a broad array of realistic equipment.

    • Fahundo says:

      Does your aversion to cut scenes extend to RPGs that have dialog prompts?

      • WashedOut says:

        No, I just mean cinematic cut scenes that interrupt gameplay, usually for purposes of disclosing plot.

        • Fahundo says:

          Divinity Original Sin 2 has plenty of dialog but not a lot of cinematic cut scenes. It’s an RPG where you manage a squad of 4.It has a classless system in which any character can potentially learn any ability, and there’s room to customize builds. The combat is somewhat unique and features lots of powerful status ailments and battlefield control options.

          It’s not the most challenging lateral-thinking wise, but probably better than average.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      How do you feel about Mass Effect?

      I also don’t fully understand your opposition to cutscenes–should all plot be delivered during actual action? That seems somewhat restrictive.

      • WashedOut says:

        RE: Mass Effect – never played it. I think a satirical youtube montage of all the games bugs put me off.

        I’d rather find out what the plot is through gameplay and paying attention to designers’ clues, rather than being force-spoon-fed C-grade cinema dialogue. Same with movies – I’m OK with not knowing what the story arc is until it reveals itself through the sequence of events.

        I like games where you are just dropped into a world and have to figure things out for yourself.

        • toastengineer says:

          Are you talking about ME: Andromeda or the entire series?

          ME is glitchy but well… most of what VG critics call the greatest games tend to be weak on the technical aspect. Yanno, do you want the game they spent the whole dev time making sure the computer program part of it worked properly or the one where they spent all their time making the entertaining parts of it perfect?

          I’d say pick up ME1 just because it’s old and cheap nowadays, don’t bother with the other two; they both have Electronic Arts’ stink on ’em.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d say 2 is the strongest of the series overall.

            1 is the most thematically coherent and internally consistent, and partly because of that it’s also the truest to the Seventies/Eighties sci-fi feel that they’re going for, but they hadn’t quite gotten the characters nailed yet and that’s what any Bioware game stands or falls by. Its gameplay’s also pretty clunky, although it has some features I wish the rest of the series had kept.

            2 is certainly where some of the problems started that eventually dragged the series down — style-over-substance twists, plot threads that get dropped for no good reason, misplaced edginess, weak conclusions. But it’s got the strongest cast and the strongest script, and gameplay that’s much better than 1 and not much worse than 3. The suicide mission at the end is also very impressive, though marred by a completely nonsensical boss battle. Roll a Vanguard, romance the space babe or hunk of your choice, enjoy shotgunning vorcha in the face and don’t think too hard about the changes it made.

            3 has some points where it’s as good as anything in 2, and its nuts-and-bolts gameplay is the best of the series, but its large-scale plot makes no sense, it’s inconsistent even at the level of individual scenes, its villains are terrible and its new heroes aren’t much better, and its ending is one of the weakest I’ve seen in a AAA game, even after the patches. Skip it.

            I haven’t played Andromeda.

    • Anonymous says:

      Undertale (retro psych RPG, set in a fantasy world).

      Jagged Alliance 2 (small unit tactics RPG, set in a fictional modern-day Banana Republic).

      Crusader Kings 2 (medieval RPG with grand strategy elements).

      Long Live The Queen (choose-your-own adventure with RPG elements, set in renaissance fantasyland).

      Mount and Blade: Warband (exactly what it says on the tin, heavy on combat and RPG elements).

      Cubicle Quest (allegorical lifepath jRPG).

      The Longest Journey (classic pixel-hunting adventure game).

      Fallout 1 and 2 (post-apocalyptic RPG).

      Geneforge (fantasy RPG).

      Nethergate: Resurrection (fantasy RPG, set in Roman Britain).

      Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (turn-based strategy on a hostile extraterrestrial planet).

      Populous: the Beginning (real-time strategy with some RPG elements).

      • Thegnskald says:

        Mount & Blade is a great game.

        And I recommend against ever playing it, because it does medieval combat so well (although the controls take some getting used to), it will ruin other games for you.

    • Thegnskald says:

      RPG+Army:
      Eador: Masters of the Broken World is a decent game. I couldn’t quite get into the long-term of it, when you get enough magic points to transfer heroes between worlds, but it is solid enough. It is sort of like Civilization (but not really at all), with a turn-based tactical combat.

      Battlelords: Warcry is an Age of Empires-style game with a persistent lord/hero. Decent game, although you run into the exploration limits fairly quickly.

      Lords of Magic is a fantastic game, albeit older; it is hard to describe, as, while Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a modern reboot, nothing has ever quite been like it.

      Dungeon Keeper is great. Don’t bother with the sequel or the reboots, though.

      Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a reboot of Master of Magic, which is a civlization-esque game set in a fantasy universe; the RPG elements are a bit weak, though.

      For RPG+Puzzles:

      Lufia 2 is the king of this subgenre. Plot is meh, characters are so-so, but it has interesting-ish puzzles (nothing world-spanning, mind, just “Solve this puzzle to open this door”) and fantastic music.

      For RPG+Puzzle+Action:

      Hexen and Hexen II. That is, uh, pretty much it, as far as I know.

      For RPG+Action:
      Torchlight (and to a lesser extent Torchlight 2). Diablo-esque game with a more playful attitude. They are the spiritual successors to Fate.

      Grim Dawn:
      A better version of Path of Exile. Which, if you haven’t played, is another Diablo-esque game. Haven’t played much yet, but a solid game.

      You might also enjoy the isomorphic RPGs, which tend to be more puzzle-heavy than standard action RPGs. Avadon is an example of this genre, of which I haven’t played much. I think Baldur’s Gate was considered this genre?

      There are also squad ARPGs, which seem the closest thing to what you describe; Pillars of Eternity is supposed to be good, but I could never get into it. Dungeon Siege likewise.

    • dodrian says:

      Others have given good recommendations strictly per your criteria, I’m going to make a few sideways suggestions that you still might enjoy:

      The X-COM series springs to mind as a good military squad-building puzzle game. Especially look at some of the complete-overhaul mods (The Long War) if you want to increase the class/stat-building aspects of it. It’s brutally difficult, though incredibly rewarding if you play on permadeath mode (though, start a campaign and play a few missions to get the hang of things before going for that). Cut scenes are in-between missions to advance plot, but they very rarely interrupt gameplay – they are for outlining/debriefing.

      The Borderlands series is a good 1st person shoot-em-up with RPG elements. It’s not heavy on puzzle solving, but it does help a lot if you plan out your attack and think up a strategy that best uses your skills/weapons before rushing into the next area. There are 4-6 classes in each game, and three separate skill trees per class.

      FTL is a rogue-like where you command a crew on a starship. It’s similar to RPGs in how you have to manage your money and customize your ship in different ways, and those decisions do affect the strategy you use when encountering others.

      Thinking pretty far outside the box: Braid and Fez are two puzzle-heavy platformers which both have unique mechanics. I’m not usually a fan of platformers, but I loved both of these. I especially recommend Braid, and it has a fairly short playthrough time.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’ll second FTL, although I will warn that it will probably annoy most people. Like most roguelikes, you can’t necessarily win every playthrough – you may never get that piece of equipment that makes your build viable, for the standard roguelike screw-you. What it does worse is that it has a final boss fight that violates the until-then established rules of the game (don’t bother optimizing a pure boarding party strategy, basically, because it won’t work, at least as of the last time I played, which was some years ago).

        It also has unlockables that are entirely chance-driven, which can lead to endless frustration for completionists.

        ETA:

        Borderlands is a great series, with an important caveat: It is a multiplayer game. If you don’t have someone to play with, it isn’t worth playing. It quickly becomes “Whose numbers are higher” in single player mode.

        • lvlln says:

          I’ll second FTL, although I will warn that it will probably annoy most people. Like most roguelikes, you can’t necessarily win every playthrough – you may never get that piece of equipment that makes your build viable, for the standard roguelike screw-you. What it does worse is that it has a final boss fight that violates the until-then established rules of the game (don’t bother optimizing a pure boarding party strategy, basically, because it won’t work, at least as of the last time I played, which was some years ago).

          I’m also a huge fan of FTL, or at least I was for an intense few months after which I quit cold turkey because of how addicted I was. I’d say “Like most roguelikes, you can’t necessarily win every playthrough” is vastly underselling it – you’ll lose almost every playthrough at first, and later, you’ll probably still lose most of playthroughs. My first win came after having played for about 40 hours. Given that each failed playthrough generally takes 0.5-2 hours, I’m guessing that was around my 30th-40th playthrough. My 2nd win came on the very next playthrough, which was pretty shocking to me, but I did manage to win with some regularity after that, even going on streaks occasionally, but probably still losing more than I won. And even so the game was insanely fun – in fact, losing often felt just as fun as winning!

          (don’t bother optimizing a pure boarding party strategy, basically, because it won’t work, at least as of the last time I played, which was some years ago)

          I only played the vanilla version before the updates, but at the time, I had found that a boarding party strategy was the most consistent one for beating the boss. The strategy had to be slightly modified to account for the boss’s quirks, but not by much. Maybe that slight modification is what you mean when you say “pure” boarding party strategy. Certainly a “pure” one was a path to disaster.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yep. I went pure. I wanted to capture the big bad capital ship, hoping for a different ending.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Advanced Edition introduced an augment that lets you ignore that particular anti-boarding quirk. But even then, using weapons to get past the quirk is within the spirit of a pure boarding challenge imo.

            But how “pure” is pure? Are we allowing bombs and MC, or zero-nada-zip offense besides boarding? The former is pretty doable on most boarding ships and runs, the later I’ve pulled off on a god Mantis B run (6 fully trained mantises + perfect defense) and a somewhat weird Phase 1 strat to kill the crew off through their L3 medbay.

          • Nornagest says:

            FTL is a great game, but getting some of the ships is incredibly frustrating. Probably four or five times now I’ve fulfilled all the prerequisites for the crystal cruiser but one, though I haven’t played for a year or so.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Nornagest They added a much easier alternate unlock for the crystal ship, now you just need to win on all A and B ships.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            Alternatively, get Rock Ship C and rename the crystal crewmember you start with to “Ruwen” and then aim for Rock Homeworlds, where the crystal portal will be marked with the quest marker.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/ftlgame/comments/2hjnyg/rock_c_ship_ruwen_quest_marker/

    • AnarchyDice says:

      Deck building as a replacement for stats/leveling? I’ve been really enjoying Slay the Spire despite it not being fully released yet. It is a deckbuilding rogue-like focused around small combats.

      If you’re looking for Grand Strategy with lots of numbers and management, Europa Universalis 4 (and its WWII cousin Hearts of Iron) where you run a country from early 1400’s to the early 1800’s, balancing conquests, armies, technology, and alliances. Lots of butterfly effects here, making for interesting historical changes depending on randomness and your effects on the world. Lots of creative problem solving depending on your start to wheel-and-deal into getting the right allies to punch up against the great powers like France, the Ottomans, Ming, Spain, or whoever else happens to get really powerful. I’m still working on a run where I started as the Mamluk’s (modern Egypt area) and beat back the Ottoman Turks to form Arabia and unite Islam. I’m thinking my next game I’m going to either play as an aggressive Papal State or try to conquer Europe starting as a small Native American tribe.

      • Protagoras says:

        Hearts of Iron is very frustrating with the way each iteration from 2-4 (I haven’t played 1) does some things right that the others do badly wrong, and conversely. Like the latest version handles puppet states and peace settlements much better than previous iterations, but the supply and resource systems are much inferior. Still waiting for the HOI that has all the good ideas and throws out all the terrible ones.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Personally, I am not a huge fan of Europa Universalis. Stellaris is a better game overall, IMO.

        Europa Universalis suffers from being way, way too long-term. An hour of gameplay doesn’t equate to much in-game progress; you can spend a real-world week setting up favorable conditions to enable you to conquer and integrate a single province, in a world with hundreds.

        Plus, you will spend literally hundreds of dollars just to make the game functional, as they have regularly updated the game in ways that break previous functionality in order to enable new functionality that is only available as purchased DLC (for example, tall rather than wide development, which worked better before they added the DLC to explicitly enable the strategy). Basic features, like the ability to give provinces to allies after a successful war they assisted in, requires a purchase.

        Stellaris will probably go the same direction with regard to DLC, given it is the same company, but hasn’t yet, at least.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          EU4, like probably all Paradox Games, has a fairly steep learning curve. And it doesn’t have many delusions of balance – you can’t just drop into whatever country you like and iterate your way to world domination like in Civ. It requires planning and for true world conquest you need gamey/cheesey/exploitative tricks. I haven’t played Stellaris much since release but iirc it is much more Civvy in the sense that everyone (bar the Ancient Empires) is dropped in at once with comparable starting conditions.

          Also the RNG is an asshole and goes against the Sid Principle of giving players choices between good things – Paradox games have a lot of roguelike-ish crotch punches that you have to deal with and it gets discouraging at times.

          There being a lot to absorb is one of its greatest strengths and weaknesses. It takes a lot of youtube and trial-and-error to really get a good sense of what you’re doing. CK2 has Ireland for “Noob Island”, in EU4 I’d guess probably England or Portugal – give up the mainland clay or ally Castile, respectively, and after that you can keep to yourself without much hassling. And savescum like hell your first few games – learn the lessons and be able apply it without having restart or figure out how climb out of a hole without a complete toolbox.

          Plus, you will spend literally hundreds of dollars just to make the game functional, as they have regularly updated the game in ways that break previous functionality in order to enable new functionality that is only available as purchased DLC

          Yep, getting in new can suck with all the DLC. It can be mitigated at least. You can roll back to earlier patches with Steam settings, so that it doesn’t punish you for not having the relevant expansion yet (though this can make googling for game advice trickier). The older DLC can generally be gotten cheap, too, sales are fairly frequent. But, yeah, like with the game mechanics, it’s a steep hill to climb.

          Quite enjoyable once you get up, though.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Try The Talos Principle. No military or combat, but it’s all interesting puzzles and a unique philosophical/techno-religious theme that the SSC crowd might enjoy.

      Basically you’re a robot who wakes up in a garden in a vacant world except the voice of the Creator who says “this world is yours, just don’t go to that tower” and the rest is about the decisions you make and the puzzles you solve to get to the tower.

      • quaelegit says:

        I wasn’t going to comment because I don’t play video games enough to be confident in my conclusions, but Talos principle is one of a handful of games I’ve (almost) finished in the last decade.

        It has very few cinematic cut scenes (I think), but a lot of extra stuff that could be considered to slow down gameplay — mostly long text passages or short audio recordings about philosophy. If you enjoy SSC posts and comments, you’ll probably enjoy these.

        The reason I didn’t finish was because a combination of crappy computer and poor video game skills meant that I couldn’t get the timing right to complete some of the late game puzzles, but I really enjoyed it up till then and I intend to buy a better windows computer and finish it at some point 🙂

    • CatCube says:

      I enjoyed “The Witness” and thought it was a decent spiritual successor to “Myst”. Note that the puzzles are all variations on the same theme, so if that’s not your thing it could get boring. The story, such as it is, is all revealed by finding recordings throughout the game world. Unfortunately, the story is kind of a twee ball of nonsense as far as I could figure, but I enjoyed the puzzle progression immensely.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I would suggest the Total War series, specifically the recent Warhammer versions.
      Leaders and hero-type characters have RPG skill trees, with the special named characters having quests
      Every faction plays radically differently from the others, and so you will need to devise and use different tactics and army compositions to fight them. While not puzzle-solving in a traditional sense, your request for military themes suggests that you are open to regarding complex tactical situations as “makes you think”
      Quest Battles have a short cutscene before each one where the character gives a speech about why they’re fighting, but they are 100% skippable and don’t tell you vital information.
      Total War: Warhammer 2 has a few cutscenes during the campaign if you follow the Vortex victory path. They’re pretty short and there’s like 5 during an entire campaign so I wouldn’t count it as gratuitous. Also 100% skippable.

    • Randy M says:

      Let me recommend the Renowned Explorers Society. It’s a strategy game where you assemble a team of pulp heroes to search ruins for treasures, trying to optimize your advancements and somewhat goofy tactical play to get the high score. Not too expensive, either.

      • Nick says:

        Looks like a video game version of Fortune and Glory.

        • Randy M says:

          Somehow I’ve never heard of that. The themes are similar.
          RES definitely has the press your luck aspect, along with some simple tech trees and variable player powers and tactical combat (same system for social encounters).

          • Nick says:

            Does it have two games modes? In Fortune and Glory you can play by either pitting all the adventurers against each other, or putting them together against the Nazis. I’ve only played against the Nazis, because that’s the shorter campaign and we only had six hours. 😀

          • Randy M says:

            RES is not a port of FaG (umm….). There’s no nazis, just intra-organization rivalry with the flashy Frenchman’s team. There are multiple game modes at this point, though.

    • toastengineer says:

      I might humbly suggest INJECTION, which I made (and is only like 75% finished but it’s polished enough that you might not notice.) It’s a puzzle game where there are “cutscenes” but you can just walk past whoever is talking to you, there’s only one bit in the entire game where you have to wait for someone to finish speaking before moving on. You solve the levels by altering the Python interpreter’s state directly with an REPL.

      Similarly I might suggest Else Heart.Break(), which is basically Myst with Ruby programming. It has dialogue scenes but they’re short and they’re in broken english anyway. Really the adventure game aspect pales in comparison to the “world I can fuck around with and break” aspect.

      Would also second X-COM, specifically OpenX-COM possibly with mods. OpenXCOM requires the original game’s files but I think they’re official freeware now?

      Maybe From The Depths? It’s a RTS game married with a block-based building game; you build warships out of blocks and then send them to fight. The building is very deep and complicated; maybe too complicated.

      Oh, and Dwarf Fortress, you might like that too.

    • BBA says:

      My avatar compels me to plug the Disgaea series, a couple of which have been ported to the PC – though I haven’t played the PC ports, and don’t know how well they transferred from the Playstation. They’re turn-based strategy JRPGs, a la Fire Emblem or FF Tactics, but with a lot more room for character customization. Potential downsides are silly anime humor (all cutscenes are skippable though) and some gratuitous level-grinding.

      • Randy M says:

        In Disgaea’s case, the gratuitous level-grinding is a downside if you like it, not if you don’t;
        you could be doing somewhat monotonous skirmish for incremental numerical changes for… forever.

    • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

      I’m seconding The Talos Principle: not an RPG, no combat, just pure puzzle solving in first person format. Pure fun. Few cutscenes, as I recall.

      Portal and Portal 2: again not an RPG, no combat, just puzzle solving. Puzzles easier than The Talos Principle. Portal 1 is very short, 4-5 hours playthrough, so it is best considered as an introduction to Portal 2 which is longer. Few cutscenes. Main advantages: voice acting 11 stars out of 10, as well as excellent story (absolutely must play Portal 1 before 2, because major spoiler). Bonus points if you are a scientist – the story heavily satirizes scientific research. Might be the best video game ever made, IMO.

      This was s triumph.
      I’ making a note here:
      HUGE SUCCESS.
      It’s hard to overstate
      my satisfaction.

      Starcraft (SC) and SC2. Arguably, the ultimate RTS. Plenty of thinking. Original SC has just been rereleased as Remasterd version with decent graphics. SC2 Campaign is not very hard on two medium difficulty levels (too hard for me on brutal). Online 1v1 (or team games) with other people has nice ranking system, once your MMR is settled by the system, you get equal share victories and defeats. Online play has fewer (alas, nonzero) raging cretins than MOBAs. SC2 campaign contains cutscenes in between all levels, story is told exclusively through cutscenes.

      The Fall – puzzle solving, nice story, no cutscenes I think.

      Anti-recommendation: Broken Age – point-and-click adventure / puzzle-solving. Boring story, meh puzzles, “cutesy” graphics style not very endearing.

      • WashedOut says:

        Thanks for the 2nd Talos recommendation – I will have to follow up, sounds exactly my jam.

        I loved Portal 1, one of the best games in the genre imo. Unlike you I found Portal 2 to be a big let-down in a lot of ways. What I did like was the visual stylistic touches, additional mechanics like slippery goo and bouncy goo, and the longer gameplay experience. But the INCESSANT attempts at comedic commentary from Steven Merchant…god damn, some of the cringiest writing i’ve heard. In any other game I might have tolerated it or even appreciated it, but PORTAL? Remember the first time you played Portal 1 and you got that anxiety, confusion and despair? That’s what i wanted more of and I got the opposite.

        Like every other man on the plant I grew up playing Starcraft. To this day I have never played SCII because the original (+expansion packs ofc) were so important to me.

        I’ll look into The Fall.

        Thanks

        • Matt M says:

          SCII really isn’t that bad from a gameplay perspective, and the single player campaigns have some interesting progression/building options that are implemented fairly well IMO.

          The storyline is an unbelievably terrible clusterfuck of bad ideas. So uh, steel yourself for that…

        • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

          god damn, some of the cringiest writing i’ve heard.

          Ah, but isn’t that exactly as intended? Wheatley is an avatar for Dunning-Kruger effect. He is a moron with no conception of the depth of his own stupidity. He is not a likable character. Not supposed to be. Any humor derived from his comedic commentary is supposed to be at best a grim chuckle along the lines of “shut up, moron”, and at worst – make you cringe.

          Remember the first time you played Portal 1 and you got that anxiety, confusion and despair?

          Yes, I do! Good stuff. For me, the atmosphere was partially replicated by Tartarus levels in Portal 2 (I will concede that supporting your opinion, Wheatley is absent in those levels).

          RE: SC2. You can not step into same river twice. SC2 is a logical continuation of Brood war, but certainly is not same. Campaign story lines are wrapped up fairly well. (I disagree with Matt M about clusterfuck. SC universe is, after all, a clicheic, Star Wars-esque epic story. Plucky humans clash with hordes of insectoid bugs buggers zerg, while having to fend off wise, but grumpy psychic Protoss. Silliness is inevitable. I think Blizzard did well within these constraints.) New units add a ton of variety in multiplayer. Matchmaking works well. Arcade of user-made games is neat (nothing that reached popularity of DotA, though).

          In general I like what Blizzard did with the game. They seem to care. I don’t know if it is Mike Morhaime’s pet project or what, but compared to a random triple-A shooter that no one remembers a few months after the release, SC2 is vibrant. Blizzard supports e-sports scene and supports wider community (e.g. StarCrafts animated series from Carbot). Apparently at the BlizzCon two years ago, when LotV was released, they had a panel dedicated to the future of SC2. They claim that users asked, unambiguously, for more content. Blizzard obliged with more single-player missions, continuously adding more content to co-op mode, and cosmetic stuff (skin packs, voice packs, blah blah, but if users are willing to pay – and they are, I see all that fluff in-game – that does contribute to the game going strong). Sure, popularity has waned since the heyday of Wings of Liberty, and it will never be LoL or Dota2, but in my book SC2 is a great success.

          • cassander says:

            On the story, maybe it’s just nostalgia/getting older, but I find the first SC to have a much more compelling story. It’s not particularly deep, but the characters are likable and things proceed in a way that more or less makes sense given the fantastic nature of the setting. For SC2, I felt like things make much less sense. I never played the second expansion, so maybe that puts things back together, but the second one starts with finally saving kerrigan from the zerg, only for the story to her becoming zergified again for…reasons? it annoyed me enough that I totally lost interest.

            On gameplay, I think brood wars is just about a perfect RTS. You could play a game in 45 minutes that was complicated, deep, with a nice balance between micro and macro. I feel that SC2 is a lot twitchier, it requires a lot more micromanagement and tactical clicking and having a high APM count. My understanding is that they did this in order to make competitive play more interesting, but I was pretty good (I was very briefly in diamond league when that was, IIRC, the top 5% of players) and I always found it obnoxious.

  24. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I think we need a drug war just for recreational drugs that users inject. Users litter their used needles, creating a public health hazard of diseases up to HIV for innocent citizens. We can believe that individuals have a right to ruin their own lives with narcotics, but in the case of these drugs that changes nothing.

    • WashedOut says:

      In Australia there are “safe injecting rooms” and needle deposit boxes in most public bathrooms. I can’t comment on their effectiveness. This seems to be a better strategy in principle if you think the drug war is bad but dirty needles are worse.

      One problem with a ‘war on injecting drugs’ is that it’s hard territory to isolate. The ‘war’ will tend to creep into areas you want to handle less aggressively, e.g. pot.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What’s the evidence that heroin addicts confine that activity to a “safe injecting room” given the opportunity?

        This is how crazy it’s gotten on the Left coast:

        Infected needles as an on-the-job hazard for Starbucks employees
        10,000 (or 13,000?) dirty needles collected as litter in San Francisco in March 2017
        (Incidentally, how do you San Frans survive there, between this and human feces in public places? Segregation by income?)

        Meanwhile in Portland, where the local government eschews cleanup in favor of telling innocent citizens to go buy a Sharps container and put any junkie syringe they find inside and drive it to the one public biohazard box on the Waterfront, children have started getting stabbed in the face with them in public parks:

        I dunno if the users are already sociopaths or if heroin or meth use changes one’s personality to stop thinking of others, but yikes.

        “It’s hard territory to isolate”… since pot IS an illegal drug in the United States and only gets around it through nullification by WA, OR, CA, CO & c, I’m not currently seeing taking it and other drugs people can abuse without creating a public health hazard (cocaine, LSD) off the list as having a high risk of creeping back.

        • WashedOut says:

          What’s the evidence that heroin addicts confine that activity to a “safe injecting room” given the opportunity?

          Usage stats from safe injecting rooms in Sydney over the period 2001 – 2015:

          More than 965,000 injections have been supervised
          Management of more than 5,925 overdoses without a single fatality.
          Over 15,300 people have registered to use the centre since opening.
          70% of the people visiting MSIC had never accessed any local health services prior to visiting the centre.
          More than 12,000 referrals have been made to external health and social welfare services.
          The number of ambulance call outs to Kings Cross has reduced by 80% since MSIC opened.
          There has been no increase in crime in the Kings Cross area.
          The Kings Cross MSIC has been independently evaluated multiple times. All results show the centre is successful and cost effective.
          The number of publicly discarded needles and syringes halved in Kings Cross after the opening of MSIC

          So if we take “effectiveness” to mean “reduction in gross harm to broader society” this room appears to have had a net positive effect on Sydney.

          It is unknown (and probably unknowable) whether everyone who injects in such a facility exactly translates to one less person injecting on the street (where harm can be done to others). Maybe these users shoot up anywhere anytime they want, but if they are in the general vicinity of the safe room they go there. Even so, the case for safe injecting rooms looks to have some merit.

        • outis says:

          Why doesn’t Starbucks give their baristas heavy gloves to use when handling trash?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          As far as I can tell, San Francisco doesn’t have a safe injecting site; it’s difficult to see how adding one could make things worse. As far as I understand, the consensus seems to be that safe injection sites do not noticeably worsen the problem of people injecting drugs in the surrounding neighbourhood outside them, but they do significantly reduce the risk of overdose deaths and the spread of blood-borne diseases, so I suspect that a lot of the opposition to them comes from a sort of purity/sanctity objection to people using (injectable) drugs at all, rather than a harm-focussed assessment that they actually increase net health risks.

          But I am not sure how big an impact they have – if they take only a tiny fraction of injecting users off the street, at great expense, that would be a strike against them. I would like to see lots of cities run controlled trials.

          Generally, though, if you want to get needles off the street, you probably need to address why people are using needles specifically in the first place. I’m not sure how to get a good handle on that, but if it is to do with the price of opiates being so high that people need to get every last penny’s worth (and not waste some to the atmosphere as in smoking), then making affordable, purity-and-dosage-controlled smokable heroin available, at least to registered addicts if you want to have such a system, should decrease the number of needles even if it doesn’t do anything to decrease the number of users.

          If it is the case that injection delivers such an intense rush relative to smoking that most users offered the choice between smoking and injecting will choose to inject even when the cost of a fix is a trivial concern, then that’s more of a problem, but in that case, safe injection sites (especially when combined with the availability of pharmaceutical grade opiates, since a ‘safe injection site’ by itself still implies people bringing their own, probably fentanyl-laced or otherwise contaminated drugs to the site) should still get *some* of the needles off the streets. You can then add specific crackdowns on discarding needles – heck, if you’re willing to invest enough forensic resources, used needles should be a pretty good source of DNA evidence as to who has discarded them – then you can probably make it a no-brainer for anyone who wants to inject to do so at a safe site. At what financial cost I don’t know, but if your city is already spending a large amount of money arresting and jailing drug users generally, then it shouldn’t be too much of a wrench to start focussing those resources on the needle-droppers.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I mean, if I need an injectable drug I’m paying $50 for a copay and my insurance is paying who-knows-what for the visit (plus the drug itself). Against this background there’s a proposal to spend tax money on helping recreational drug users shoot heroin? That is beyond the pale, unless you really are a utilitarian. And the drug users in this case look a lot like utility monsters.

          • Urstoff says:

            How does that make them look like utility monsters?

            Preventing the transmission of diseases and exposure of bystanders to dirty needles seems like a worthy public health policy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Spend money on them, they get huge amounts of positive utility. Don’t, and they cause huge amounts of negative utility, from dying in the streets to spreading disease.

          • Urstoff says:

            Okay, I can see that. Is that an argument against safe injection sites?

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think users’ utility would be particularly increased by having safe injection sites (especially if we disregard the ones who get help and stop using as a consequence of them). Overall, if combined a crackdown on those who don’t use them, it could even decrease.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Against this background there’s a proposal to spend tax money on helping recreational drug users shoot heroin? That is beyond the pale, unless you really are a utilitarian.

            Well, we’re already spending a lot of tax money on recreational drug users: trying, with little meaningful success, to stop the drugs getting to them in the first place, arresting, prosecuting and punishing them when they get caught with drugs, some fraction going on attempts at rehabilitation and, depending on where you are, some fraction going on methodone maintenance.

            As long as ‘just leave them alone’ isn’t a live option*, it’s not obvious that the current policy is a better investment of tax funds than one which would at least stabilise injecting drug users on a calibrated, uncontaminated dose which is a lot less likely to kill them, while, as Urstoff points out, also reducing some of the negative externalities that Prohibition doesn’t seem to be very good at preventing.

            As for utility monsterism … unless I am mistaken, it’s not like there’s an infinite capacity for tolerance. Even if someone ups their dose initially, it’s not like they’ll eventually progress to injecting their own bodyweight and beyond every day, they’ll just top out at an asymptote (though someone more versed in pharmacology please correct me here). Plus, to the extent that prescription heroin