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Open Thread 110.75

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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887 Responses to Open Thread 110.75

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Have other people experimented with Eliezer’s approach of adding a *lot* of light to deal with SAD? If so, how did it work out?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Not SAD exactly, but a similar strategy helped me survive winter in western New York.

      For those of you lucky enough to have never lived there, winters in western New York are dark enough to make Mordor look sunny. Sometimes it feels like you haven’t seen the sun in months. The cold and snow are bearable but the darkness is a lot harder to deal with.

      To stay sane, I placed a lamp with ridiculously powerful incandescent bulb at an angle near my window roughly where the sun would have shined in. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it definitely helped a lot.

    • yodelyak says:

      Myself, I have started tracking my energy level relative to the amount of sun or other very-damn-bright light exposure I’m getting, and changed ~50% of the lights in the house to the brightest cold-white (meaning full-spectrum, rather than “warm”, e.g. yellow-spectrum-only white) bulb I could find that would work in a given fixture. I keep all the lights, including the glaringly bright ones, on during the day, and switch to the warm-color lights only after about 6 or 7 p.m., which seems to boost my energy during the day without too badly aggravating a.d.d.-like distractedness, and without tending to mess with my sleep cycle.

      I think the last time this was discussed it was pointed out that Eliezer probably doesn’t deserve the credit for this approach, which others had and applied first. Rather, everyone who doesn’t have an engineering-type instict to ask “what if we tried more power” might do well to use that tool a few times before giving up on important problems, including finding themselves dysfunctional during dark/cloudy times of year.

      I think the best two links on this are at David Chapman’s blog, https://meaningness.com/metablog/sad-light-led-lux and https://meaningness.com/metablog/sad-light-lumens.

      Good luck!

      • yodelyak says:

        Oh, and maybe I didn’t say this: blue-spectrum-included *very bright light* (like outdoor sky at daytime) seems to absolutely make a big difference for me. Other light, less so. Using very bright light indoors does seem to sometimes make me more irritable–there’s a period in the morning where I experience some hangover like symptoms sometimes, despite not having drank anything the night before; everything just seems too damn bright. Definitely worth it for me though. I highly recommend trying it in a small way, and going big if you get good results. (Hell, just go visit the lamps/bulbs section of your hardware store, where they have all of ’em out and plugged in for display, and walk around bathed in the light of 1,000 bulbs for 15 minutes and see if you feel a bit different. Took me less than a minute, when I tried it in wintertime gloomy ol’ Portland OR to feel a marked sense of alertness.)

  2. Deiseach says:

    Yeah, I was waiting for peak batshit insanity in the reaction to the Kavanaugh situation and I think we’re getting there.
    A Tumblr post and comment unironically invoking the Handmaid’s Tale (“Welcome to Gilead”) and calling the Republicans the pro-rape party. The end-result of any investigation doesn’t matter a damn; the idea is already fixed in their minds that Kavanaugh is a perjurer and is going to be pushed through the nomination because he’s a sure vote to protect Trump from the consequences of his treason. The damage has already been done, so even if there were an FBI investigation and even if it came out as “not proven” (which I think is the best they can do, nobody is going to thrown Ford in jail for making a false accusation, can you imagine the resulting meltdown if they did that?) it will all be dismissed as a big governmental cover-up and everyone will ‘really’ know that Kavanaugh ‘really’ is a rapist (never mind that even Ford is alleging only attempted rape, not actual rape).

    Ah well, to turn to something more positive in the news – trialling a driverless bus in Dublin. I think, since we’ve been talking before about autonomous vehicles, this is what we are more likely to see before actual driverless cars in cities: vehicles running on pre-determined routes (like trams on tracks) so that disruption is contained to a minimum (there is always the risk of a human driver in their own vehicle turning in front of one of these buses or cutting across the reserved lane or whatever, but that’s the risk of ordinary city driving). Once these are in use, haven’t resulted in any major accidents, and people get used to them, then I think we’ll see cars being permitted (slowly at first), rather than starting off with “great, now we’ve got our model car working, let’s roll out the mass production and next year you too can have your own private vehicle driving you around town!”

    Happy Equinox and enjoy the first day of Autumn (my favourite season)!

  3. Well... says:

    When it comes to energy resources, are there $100 bills lying on the ground that we’re failing to pick up for whatever reason?

    Like for example is there a way to capture traffic flow (cars, planes, trains, elevators, foot traffic, etc.) in a way that would be net energy producing?

    OK, that’s probably a dumb example, but are there better ones I don’t know about?

    • Elephant says:

      Short answer: no. Basic laws of physics constrain or prohibit a lot of possibilities, such as your example. Pretty much everything else is intensely studied. The closest thing I can come up with to a $100 bill on the ground is nuclear power, which we don’t use nearly as much as we could for almost totally political rather than technical reasons. (Yes this is oversimplified.)

    • fortaleza84 says:

      If by “$100 bills lying on the ground” you mean ways to save energy that are easy, simple, obvious, politically and culturally feasible, would result in significant savings, and worth the trouble, the fact that you are asking the question means the answer is probably “no.”

    • LesHapablap says:

      Public-service-announcements to remind people to keep their tires properly inflated

      In the UK, traffic lights which are about to go from red to green show red+yellow for a second, preparing the traffic to move

      • Matt M says:

        In the UK, traffic lights which are about to go from red to green show red+yellow for a second, preparing the traffic to move

        This strikes me as dangerous. In a lot of US cities, common wisdom is “wait for a couple seconds once the light turns green to proceed” in the event that some idiot comes screaming through the intersection late trying to “beat the yellow.”

        Perhaps other societies don’t have this issue…

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Have any governments tried setting up “pull your car in here, get an instant tire inflation” service?

        (This is an example I love for Federal wage-subsidy. With cheap labor this becomes extremely fast and convenient for drivers and gets you the environmental benefits easily.)

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t know, but in the US it’s trivially cheap to fill up your tires. A lot of gas stations or service stations will literally do it for free, just to be nice, in hopes of getting more of your business in the future.

          In the rest, there’s a coin-operated machine that costs like $1-2. In modern times, the most annoying part about this is that nobody carries around $2 worth of quarters anymore.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s inconvenient, and lots of middle-class-and-older people don’t like bending over like that.

    • rahien.din says:

      Better traffic timing would decrease idling time and need for acceleration while decreasing overall travel time. All of that would reduce energy and maintenance costs.

      • Lambert says:

        That’s already being done to an extent. But it’s a complex and capital-intensive task.
        The UK is currently rolling out variable speed limits on increasing stretches of motorway (freeway).
        They slow traffic in some areas to 40 or 50, in order to prevent congestion elsewhere.
        Cities are also putting in smart traffic light systems, which dynamically adjust the timings in response to traffic conditions.

    • pontifex says:

      You should check out Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. A physicist puts numbers on energy consumption, and potential production by means of renewable energy.

      Highlights:
      * Flying is especially bad for the environment. Flying X miles uses X/2 or X/3 as much energy as driving that number of miles (yes, even when taking into account a full flight).
      * The amount of energy saved by unplugging your phone charger when it’s not in use for a year is equal to the energy in one hot bath.
      * Heat pumps are extremely efficient.

  4. Brad says:

    I just noticed (and now can’t unnotice) that WoW uses singular they everywhere. I think this is probably laziness rather than sensitivity given that the character creation screen gives exactly two choices for gender, but I wonder if similar laziness will end up having a bigger impact on the language than anything else.

    N.B. I’m kinda sorta okay with singular they with an unidentified or generic referent but not at all with a concrete one.

    • Matt M says:

      Based on the voice acting in recent expansions, I just figured “Champion” was the preferred gender-neutral pronoun of choice.

      Are you actively playing? How do you like BFA? I have to say I’m a little disappointed so far, but it seems like I enjoyed Legion a lot more than most people.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t especially like it. It seems like the things that were introduced in the last two expansions have had all their excitement removed to produce a thin gruel. And I’m not impressed with the new stuff.

        Artifact power is not at all compelling as a reward. Rares and treasure boxes only drop AP and an insignificant amount of gold in the form of grays. Rep grinding via wq is as bad the daily system it replaced and the story unlocks this time is not interesting (compare suramar). I don’t ever want to hear another word about recycled old gods. Speaking of recycled, a lot of the mob models are recycled. Many with thin or entirely absent justification—like mogu and whatever those stupid monkey things are called. I don’t like the troll voice acting. The professions remain totally unbalanced. Cooking is too dependent on ridiculously boring fishing. The islands are boring after the first time or two and only reward AP. The warfront is lfr all over again.

        At least M+ and the raid encounters seem pretty decently designed.

        • Matt M says:

          Agreed that AP is lame. And Azerite isn’t any better than weapon traits. The whole thing reeks of them trying to bring back a bit of the customization options that were available pre-Cata (remember when you got a talent point each level up and there were 40 things to choose from), but both times they’ve fallen flat because in Legion it was easy to grind to max and then just stack concordance, and in BFA it’s failing because everyone just goes to Wowhead and looks up “which trait should I pick”

          I’ve always been a big supporter of WQs. People say they’re just as bad as dailies, but I think they’re a bit better. Logistically they’re easier at least. That said, it is lame that every rep works the exact same way now.

          The story is probably my biggest complaint. Legion felt very streamlined and coherent. Each of the original starting zones had its own little contained story, that was still relevant in the context of the Legion invasion. Then you got the big grand Suramar experience, complete with actual characters with actual personalities that you gave a shit about. Then that naturally lead to the Broken Shore and your ultimate showdown with Kil’Jaden. Argus felt tacked on and unnecessary but whatever, at that point it was “found money” for me.

          So far in BFA I’m not getting any of that. The Kul Tiras zones are all basically “Some weird curse is happening, solve it” and while it’s nice for Jaina to get a little development, it’s really not much. The war campaign feels sloppy and disconnected. I don’t get the sense that anything I’m doing actually affects the Horde (probably because it doesn’t). And the “horde” dungeons (and more egregiously, Uldir) have virtually no storyline leading up to them that the alliance can actually see and participate in. Who is G’Huun? Why am I killing him? Does anybody know? Does anybody care? Contrast this to Legion where the first 3.5 Raids all included end-bosses that were very important characters with significant development that you grew to have a hatred and rivalry with. I assume this is equally bad for the Horde in Alliance content. Why are they participating in the Siege of Boralus? Shouldn’t they want Priscilla to win?

          Agree that islands are awful and warfront is… well, I seemed to have a good group that knew what it was doing, but it was still disappointing. I’m not sure why they keep trying to come up with “new” things… as if that’s what their core playerbase wants? You know what we want. New quests, new story, new dungeons, new raids. Make those things good, and stop wasting time on pointless new features. Literally nobody bought this expansion because they thought freaking Warfronts sounded cool.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://siderea.dreamwidth.org/1448014.html#cutid1

    It took longer for the authorities to realize the 1918 influenza epidemic was serious than they could have because for a while they were only looking at the stats for civilians, not soldiers.

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    How would you typify this era?

    I was asked this by a younger person who felt he didn’t have enough perspective to do his own typifying yet.

    My first answer is that the era resembles satirical fiction.

    If you want a more serious answer, I’d go with the internet era.

    • Eric Rall says:

      In the spirit of British eras being named after royals (Elizabethan, Jacobean, Victorian, Edwardian, etc), I’m inclined to propose “Carolean Age” in dubious honor of Prince Charles for the period from 1981 (when Charles married Diana) onwards.

      Charles is associated with a lot of tabloid gossip, media frenzy, and farcical goings-on in a way that (arguably) iconifies what I think you mean by “the era resembles satirical fiction”. And the various farcical aspects of Charles’s adult life become public knowledge and a significant part of popular culture in no small part because of the vast expansion in channels of information (and the accompanying breakdown of the old media norms of putting major public figures on pedestals and sanitizing their foibles and gaffes) of which the “internet era” is one of the later parts.

    • Incurian says:

      Maybe we could do a word cloud based on news paper articles per decade.

    • johan_larson says:

      If you want a more serious answer, I’d go with the internet era.

      From over here in the computing industry, I’d prefer to be a bit more specific. Ordinary people have been using the internet since 1995 or so. It had an early era (AOL! Yahoo! pets.com!) where it was accessed through dial-up lines used from the desktop. The current era is more about smartphones talking to leased servers running in big datacenters (“the cloud”).

      It seems reasonable to think of this as the smartphone & cloud era.

      That said, politically speaking, we are still doing a lot of worrying about Islamic terrorists and such. So maybe tech isn’t the right lens for describing the era, and we are still in the 9/11 Era.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I didn’t define era, so it doesn’t have to be just the past 20 years.

        I would say the internet was a big change, though possibly this could be called the social media era.

        9/11 is a reasonable dividing point.

      • Lambert says:

        Cloud? That’s just a marketing trick to hide the fact that the dominance of big, centalised computer systems predates the microcomputer.
        I propose that this instead be called The Mainframe Era II: Boogaloo as a Service.

        • Nornagest says:

          If you actually go and look at the datacenter your stuff’s running in, though, you don’t usually find a single big machine. You find a bunch of little servers with an abstraction layer between them and the Internet, maybe talking to mass storage, maybe not. That’s a fundamentally different way of building a service than you’d have used in the mainframe era, even if it looks a lot like a client/server model from the user perspective.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      “Hypernormalization” like the Adam Curtis doc. Like the end of the Soviet Union for the Russians, everyone knows what they are “supposed” to believe about how the NATO/American/Western system is the best and will keep working forever, but everyone on an individual level knows almost every part of the story is fake now. Life is what happens as we adhoc adapt in weird ways to try to navigate the contradictions, while still parroting the official line in polite settings

      “The Death of God is about the drying up of a horizon of meaning, and of a whole form of human life. And about Nietzsche’s both fear and exhilaration at what might come next. We still, to a large extent, live in the interregnum between worlds, if you will, or between paradigms. Not many people in the history of the world have faced that…” – Philosophy professor Rick Roderick

      In the history books this will be called the “transitional era” between the ascendancy of liberal-capitalist-democratic-republic as a paradigm and the next paradigm, whatever that ends up being. The difference in how we feel about things now vs. how we feel about whats next (once we live under it) will probably produce the metaphor or example that gives our current era it’s “type,” in retrospect. Era of libertine individualism? Whatever way the future goes I have to imagine the “every man an island”-ness or “bowling alone”-ness of the present day is a big part of what the future is going to be defining itself against

    • LesHapablap says:

      Hunter Thompson called America the Kingdom of Fear in 2003. Since then the fear seems to have increased.

  7. johan_larson says:

    Since I know there are some here who take an interest in military affairs, perhaps this is a good place to ask this question.

    How much did the US military lower recruiting standards during the “surge” phase of the war with Iraq?

    • Matt M says:

      I was in the Navy at the time, and my impression is that the Navy and the Air Force were, if anything, raising standards.

      I wouldn’t doubt that the Army and the Marines were lowering them though.

    • Plumber says:

      I seem to remember that the maximum age to join the army reserves was briefly raised.

    • Incurian says:

      Medium-low confidence answer: Most of the stories I heard were about granting waivers more liberally for stuff like age, criminal record, tattoos, and maybe GT score? Afaik (and I was never a recruiter), that was the usual vector for “lowering standards.” It’s more the sort of thing they always had the option to do, but began to do more frequently in order to meet quotas, less the sort of thing where they come out with a policy announcing the standards are lower, so it might be hard to quantify without specifically stating some parameters that are important to you (e.g. presumably you wouldn’t count an increase in tattoo waivers as a significant decrease in standards).

      • johan_larson says:

        It would be interesting to know how the percentage of recruits requiring waivers changed during that time. That may be the best way to quantify it. Although I suppose the gravity of the issues being waived deserves some consideration too.

    • aristides says:

      Not too much was necessary. The increase in patriotic enlistments plus the 6.9% initial raise in compensation in 2002 followed by an annual average 4% raise made the military an attractive enough option to make lowering standards unnecessary. When you think of it, even at peace time we have a massive standing military, especially when you add reserves and national guards, both of which had deployments during this period. Including everything it’s over 2 million.

    • bean says:

      Incurian basically got this one. I don’t know the numbers, but it’s fairly well-known that it was easy to get waivers for all sorts of stuff in the 2006-2008 timeframe. I remember reading an article about the military suicide “epidemic”, which showed that it tracked very closely with psych waivers issued a few years earlier. If I’d tried to sign up in that timeframe, instead of the 2010 timeframe I was actually eligible in, I might have been able to get a waiver for the ADD meds. As it is, I’m just as happy that I didn’t.

    • sfoil says:

      The standards were lowered by issuing waivers for existing guidelines, not by actually lowering the guidelines. This method was chosen partly to make the bar-lowering deniable and makes it difficult to quantify exactly how far standards declined; in practice it was really a feedback system in which requirements were dynamically lowered until quarterly recruiting targets were met.

      The effects were marginal — nowhere close to the horror stories of “McNamara’s Morons” — but noticeable. When you’re running a large organization (not just the service branches but, say, a battalion) you easily notice small systematic changes in the nature of your new recruits — # of misconduct incidents, visits to the doctor, etc. The effects of the psychiatric-conditions waiver gave me more respect for that area of medicine than I’d had previously.

      Also, standards for retention fell. For enlisted men, “up or out” restrictions relaxed a great deal: for a while you could make it, I think, 17 years as an E-4 and retire as an E-5. For officers, promotion rates went up — Major became virtually automatic, Captain was automatic, even O-5 approached 90%. However, none of these conditions went as far as they did in Vietnam.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Another Dungeons & Dragons thread: subtopic monster books.

    At least for the world’s most popular tabletop RPG, monster books peaked with the 2E Monstrous Manual, which took the 1E stats and expanded every monster to a full page with attractive color art (for the first time) and stuff about their ecology or society. There are probably brand-new monsters, too (there are so many).

    Aarakocra
    A race of English-speaking bird-men dedicated to beating all comers in alphabetical order. Apparently these guys originated in the 1E Fiend Folio. They only live on mountain peaks and spend their days soaring on the thermal winds in peace and solitude.

    “Aarakocra are about 5 feet tall and have a wing span of 20 feet. About halfway along the edge of each wing is a hand with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. An elongated fourth finger extends the length of the wing and locks in place for flying. Though the wing-hands cannot grasp during flight, they are nearly as useful as human hands when an aarakocra is on the ground and its wings are folded back. The wing muscles anchor in a bony chest plate that provides the aarakocra with extra protection. The powerful legs end in four sharp talons that can unlock and fold back to reveal another pair of functional hands, also with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. The hand bones, like the rest of an aarakocra’s skeleton, are hollow and fragile.
    Aarakocra faces resemble crosses between parrots and eagles. They have gray-black beaks, and black eyes set frontally in their heads that provide keen binocular vision. Plumage color varies from tribe to tribe, but generally males are red, orange, and yellow while females are brown and gray.
    Aarakocra speak their own language, the language of giant eagles, and, on occasion, the common tongue (10% chance).”

    (This is one of the problems with D&D worlds: these guys are competing for a niche with sapient giant eagles, and probably gryphons too.)

    “Habitat/Society: Aarakocra live in small tribes of about 11-30 (1d20+10) members. Each tribe has a hunting territory of about 10,000 square miles with colorful banners and pennants marking the boundaries.
    Each tribe lives in a communal nest made of woven vines with a soft lining of dried grass. The eldest male serves as the tribe’s leader. In tribes of more than 20 members, the second oldest male serves as the shaman, leading simple religious ceremonies involving the whistling of melodic hymns at sunset on the first day of a new month. Males spend most of their waking hours hunting for food and occasionally for treasure, such as gems and other shiny objects. Females spend eight months of the year incubating their eggs, passing the time by fabricating javelins and other tools from wood and stone. While resting on their backs, aarakocra females can use all four hands at the same time to weave boundary pennants, javelins sheaths, and other useful objects from vines and feathers.
    Five aarakocra, including a shaman, can summon an air elemental by chanting and performing an intricate aerial dance for three melee rounds. The summoned air elemental will comply with the aarakocras’ request for a favor, though it will not endanger its life on their behalf.”

    OK, I like the magic summoning dance, but I don’t think this quasi-patriarchal society is how birds with brightly-colored males and dull females work.
    Note that a single forager band monopolizes their niche in territory of just under a 57-mile radius. That’s a 9-hex radius on typical overland hex maps!

    • dndnrsn says:

      The D&D world implied by much of the rules would, if it was taken seriously and all the way, be pretty cool. A land poisoned by magic. All those weird things without a real ecological niche? That’s magical selection, obviously. There’s monsters everywhere, like fallout from some sort of magical war.

      • Nick says:

        I’m always interested in fantasy settings that give magic a deep ecological or even geological impact on the world. Malazan Book of the Fallen is good at this, but I’m on hiatus from that for the time being. Graydon Saunders’ Commonweal too, but I’m… also on hiatus from that. I believe there’s been more than one series, too, where magical beings aren’t native to the “world” of that setting but invaded from elsewhere; the White Witch from Narnia is an example, since she has a climatic impact.

    • Nornagest says:

      I like the bit about resting on their backs and using all four limbs at a time. It’s an evocative image, although I’m not sure where the eggs would go.

      Territory size seems big to me too. Are they carnivores? Even if they are, that’s about four times the size of the upper bound on wolf pack territory, and a hundred times the lower bound.

      (Seems high when compared to human forager bands of similar size, too, but I’m not 100% sure I’m interpreting this data right.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It is an evocative image.

        Yeah, they’re carnivores like eagles. It says they coexist with human-types, swooping off with a sheep or goat and not understanding there’s anything wrong with that. You’d think ~250 square miles would be plenty unless we’re talking about particularly cold, high-altitude mountain regions like Tibet.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I wouldn’t want to be one of the 11-30 guys responsible for maintaining roughly 354.5 mi of colorful banners and pennants. Even if there’s only one a mile that’s 12-32 colorful banners and pennants per birdman. It must be a big pain in the ass making all of those and their flagpoles.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It must be a big pain in the ass making all of those and their flagpoles.

        On your back, with four hands.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Ankheg

      “The ankheg is a burrowing monster usually found in forests or choice agricultural land. Because of its fondness for fresh meat, the ankheg is a threat to any creature unfortunate enough to encounter it. … Its six legs end in sharp hooks suitable for burrowing and grasping, and its powerful mandibles are capable of snapping a small tree in half with a single bite. A tough chitinous shell, usually brown or yellow, covers its entire body except for its soft pink belly. The ankheg has glistening black eyes, a small mouth lined with tiny rows of chitinous teeth, and two sensitive antennae that can detect movement of man-sized creatures up to 300 feet away.”

      (It also looks like the bug equivalent of a puppy sitting up on its hind legs.)

      Habitat/Society: The ankheg uses its mandibles to continuously dig winding tunnels 30-40 feet deep in the rich soil of forests or farmlands. The hollowed end of a tunnel serves as a temporary lair for sleeping, eating, or hibernating. When an ankheg exhausts the food supply in a particular forest or field, it moves on to another.
      Autumn is mating season for ankhegs. After the male fertilizes the female, the female kills him and deposits 2d6 fertilized eggs in his body. Within a few weeks, about 75% of the eggs hatch and begin feeding. In a year, the young ankhegs resemble adults and can function independently.

      While growing a new shell, it protects itself by hiding in a deep tunnel and secreting a repulsive fluid that smells like rotten fruit. Though the aroma discourages most creatures, it can also pinpoint the ankheg’s location for human hunters and desperately hungry predators.

      Ankhegs living in cold climates hibernate during the winter. Within a month after the first snowfall, the ankheg fashions a lair deep within the warm earth where it remains dormant until spring. The hibernating ankheg requires no food, subsisting instead on nutrients stored in its shell. The ankheg does not secrete aromatic fluid during this time and is thus relatively safe from detection. Though the ankheg’s metabolism is reduced, its antennae remain functional, able to alert it to the approach of an intruder. A disturbed ankheg fully awakens in 1d4 rounds, after which time it can attack and move normally.

      Ecology: Though a hungry ankheg can be fatal to a farmer, it can be quite beneficial to the farmland. Its tunnel system laces the soil with passages for air and water, while the ankheg’s waste products add rich nutrients. The ankheg will eat decayed organic matter in the earth, but it prefers fresh meat. All but the fiercest predators avoid ankhegs. Dried and cured ankheg shells can be made into armor with an AC of 2, and its digestive enzymes can be used as regular acid.

      (I feel like “these things can be fatal to a farmer” is an understatement. More like subsistence farmers would barely be able to survive until heroes locally exterminated them. Presence of ankhegs = absence of civilization.)

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Farming them just south of the city was the best way to grind in Baldur’s Gate once you were 5-6th level or so (IIRC, I don’t remember the CR offhand.) They were all over one particular zone, reasonably predictable to fight, and had great treasure (most notably carapaces that could be crafted into bonkers-good armor.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Ah yeah, good memories. They went all-in on the ankheg armor and other good treasure in that game.
          The Baldur’s Gate games came out when I was in middle school and just discovering AD&D. I think Edition 3.0 came out right on the heels of the sequel, and then in 2012 Beamdog released an Enhanced Edition, which I was not aware of at the time. I wonder if OSR was a thing yet or if they just baffled everyone with the 2nd Edition rules. 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            OSR didn’t exist until 3rd. I’d already been playing D&D for a couple years by the time Baldur’s Gate came out, so I didn’t need much refreshing, but I remember it shipping with a manual that was basically a condensed version of the 2E Player’s Handbook.

            It was also a time when you could just fundamentally get away with less hand-holding in video games, though. The people that bought them were mostly teenage nerds with infinite free time and a sense of self-worth deriving almost entirely from their ability to figure out opaque interfaces, so you got stuff like MechWarrior that had you building a five-story battle robot from the ground up without any kind of in-game instructions, just trial and error and a manual that you could use to hold a door open.

            I really liked the Infinity Engine games. Baldur’s Gate wasn’t the best of them — that was Planescape: Torment, although BGII was close — but no one else has done a Dungeons and Dragons CRPG as well since.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: I was wondering if the Enhanced Edition baffled players. 2012 was like right in the middle of 4E’s lifespan.
            (Oh my gosh, I played Mechwarrior II! That was before fear of copyright law banished the earliest/swiped designs.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Ah, I see. Maybe. I don’t get the impression that it was very popular outside the retrogamer community, though, and most of them would have played the original.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The EE is still with 2nd ed rules. I think it just combines the original game with the expansion seamlessly, provides support for higher resolution, a few new things in the game, a few little changes.

            Did any games get made with the 4th ed ruleset?

            EDIT:
            @Nornagest

            I’m pretty sure OSR sort of comes into being after 4th ed. Around 2010, if google trends (for “osr rpg” – just “osr” seems to pick up other stuff) is right, is when it pops up as an identified thing.

            It’s a reaction to a lot of stuff from 3rd as far as rules go, but I don’t know if it would have happened were it not for the reaction to 4th and its relatively rough rollout (which, to be fair to 4th, was arguably as much or more due to WotC screwing things up in ways that had nothing to do with the game mechanics). On the other hand, it’s also a reaction to a lot of the changes in adventure design, etc, since some point in the mid-80s.

  9. Plumber says:

    So lately I’ve been reading that the next recession is due, and I’m starting to think: 
    While the last recession cost a lot of my co-workers their homes, which is saddening, maybe another rececession could be a good thing for me?

    Besides the raw physical effort that making a living requires, the biggest annoyances to me are:

    1) How long my commute is
    A major recession could reduce traffic.

    2) My wife keeps complaining about how small our house is
    A major recession could make housing, remodeling, and/or rent cheaper?

    3) How many beggers and tents I see
    A major recession could make for less competition for low priced housing, allowing the homeless to get housing on disability and/or recycling money?

    4) How run down public buildings and roads are
    Congress already did a massive tax cut, maybe a recession could start more infrastructure spending?

    5) How much time I spend at work
    A major recession could have overtime cut, and furlough days brought back!

    I’m kinda hoping for a downturn now. 

    • Plumber says:

      It’s counter-intuitive, but during the last few years of “boom” and “recovery” I’ve seen more, not less, tents and beggers.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Anyone with a NYT subscription want to summarize the Krugman piece?

      • Nornagest says:

        “I feel like a recession might be coming, but I can’t think of a plausible macroeconomic problem that’d be big enough to drive one by itself. The ’91 recession happened because of a bunch of small reasons that added up, though, and here they are. I’m not going to spend more than a sentence on plausible reasons for the next one.”

        Mainly it’s about the ’91 dip. It doesn’t really make much of a case that the next recession’s due, except that historically it’d be about the right time for one.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nornagest nailed it.

        • baconbits9 says:

          No obvious large bubbles is a bold statement.

          • Nornagest says:

            Paraphrasing Krugman, don’t necessarily endorse. Although the graph of a financial bubble usually looks exponential or damn close until it crashes, so I’m not sure this would qualify.

          • When has large public debt ever been the sole cause of a recession?

          • baconbits9 says:

            When has any recession had a sole cause?

          • John Schilling says:

            Argentina/2001 and Greece/2009 come to mind, unless you’re going to be a pedant re “sole cause” and insist on examples where literally absolutely everything else about the economy was just peachy at the outset.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But to answer the spirit of your question, multiple recessions have been attributed to shifts in government policies.

            Here is Krugman in 2003 predicting that Bush era deficits would shove up inflation and were setting the stage for a fiscal train wreck. He doesn’t outright use the “R” word, but he does imply economy wide risks of higher deficits.

          • Greece’s recession wasn’t caused by public spending, unless you want to blame debt for all the other countries in the world having gone through a recession. Their problem was about that external factor and the fact that they didn’t have any control of their currency. I don’t know much about Argentina but from what I’ve read they also had currency issues. I’m not denying that huge public debt has exacerbated recessions but I’m pretty certain it’s never been what has instigated a recession.

            Even if I’m wrong on the historical examples that doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen here. The public debt is not nearly as bad. I can say with over 99% confidence that the next recession in the US isn’t going to be caused by our public debt.

            @baconbits

            The Great Recession was not at all caused by public debt. If Paul Krugman said that then, he certainly doesn’t believe it now.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Greece’s recession wasn’t caused by public spending, unless you want to blame debt for all the other countries in the world having gone through a recession. Their problem was about that external factor and the fact that they didn’t have any control of their currency. I don’t know much about Argentina but from what I’ve read they also had currency issues. I’m not denying that huge public debt has exacerbated recessions but I’m pretty certain it’s never been what has instigated a recession.

            Even if I’m wrong on the historical examples that doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen here. The public debt is not nearly as bad. I can say with over 99% confidence that the next recession in the US isn’t going to be caused by our public debt.

            Greece’s problems were certainly at least exacerbated by public spending, which made public sector employment (and taking benefits) much more attractive than it should be in a healthy economy. Such an economy would only be viable in extremely good times and would have toppled even in a “minor” recession ala 2000’s recession. Without a robust private sector (because it was easier and more lucrative to be in the public sector) there was nothing for Greece to rebound with, meaning the debt would be nearly impossible to sustain.

            The fact that Greece couldn’t just inflate this away isn’t a bad thing, the bad thing was having a poorly balanced economy and temporarily enjoying an unearned quality of living.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Greece lied about their finances when joining the EU. If they hadn’t lied about their books, they wouldn’t have been in the EU, and would have kept the ability to control their currency.

            Greece actively surrendered control of their currency for the short-term gains.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The Great Recession was not at all caused by public debt. If Paul Krugman said that then, he certainly doesn’t believe it now.

            Paul Krugman claimed in 2003 that increasing public debt can have significant adverse economic impacts, he warned about increasing debt levels while debt to GDP was a little more than half of what it is now. It would be incongruous for Krugman to posit that debt to GDP levels of X are a risk and then 15 years later look at debt to GDP levels that are 2X and conclude that there isn’t a significant risk there.

            It has nothing to do with Krugman stating that the 2007 recession was caused by debt or not.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Even if I’m wrong on the historical examples that doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen here. The public debt is not nearly as bad. I can say with over 99% confidence that the next recession in the US isn’t going to be caused by our public debt.

            That is a fairly bold statement riding mostly on winning on technicalities rather than actual cause and effect. Debt based issues are typically immediately preceded by rising interest rates, and the Fed responds to such events by lowering interest rates aggressively, this is going to make a crisis caused by unlikely, but a crisis caused by the fed’s reactions which are heavily influenced by public debt levels likely.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If public debt ever causes a crisis in America, it will follow a period in which policy was created based upon the assumption that public debt will never cause a crisis in America.

            (My overall view is that debt is not a problem now, but conditions can change that it becomes a problem in the future, and if that happens we can’t change the past.)

          • Matt M says:

            Gee, I wonder what might have happened to get Krugman to change his view on fiscal policy from 2003 to 2009 to now…

      • Nick says:

        If you open NYT in private browsing it should work.

        • Plumber says:

          ixnay ellingtay ethay ecretsay!

          • Nick says:

            If the New York Times can’t afford developers who can circumvent that trick, then journalism is more cash-strapped than I thought!

          • Plumber says:

            Even “In Private” you’re limited to just four stories….

            ….until you close the browser, and restart….

            ….an acquaintance told me as I would never do such a thing as that’s a vile act almost as bad as sarcasm.

            Oh, and yeah the NY Times must be strapped (unlike the gnomes at the Wall Street Journal dagnabbit!)

      • Matt M says:

        If you ever want a Krugman piece summarized, there’s a podcast for that.

    • 10240 says:

      A major recession could make housing, remodeling, and/or rent cheaper?

      Because people have less purchasing power. In order for it to make it easier for you to buy a house, you have to outsmart the market: keep your assets and/or salary steady while those of others shrink. Similar considerations probably apply to the other points.

    • I just want to point out that the next recession has been due for something like five years. It doesn’t mean anything when someone says that.

  10. jgr314 says:

    What is the current thinking on when suicidal ideation is a strong enough sign for some form of intervention?
    I’ve found these four SSC posts (IAT,Sometimes Help, Burdens, Magic Markers), but the latest is 2015, so I’m not sure how current it is.

    Related questions are when a bystander should get involved and what to do? For context, I have no relevant training in this area, but am personally exposed to 3 different situations at different levels of intensity. I perceive my incentives to get actively involved to be very low and the costs high (I have no authorities to consult in my network, likely there would be social blow-back to me personally being active in each situation), but I also worry about the bystander effect.

  11. arch1 says:

    Scott,
    I just stumbled across your 2017 prediction outcomes posting, in which you focus on how well calibrated your guesses were (i.e. for each probability bucket x% to which you prospectively assigned events, how close to x% of the events actually occurred).

    Some commenters took you to task for not also assessing how discriminating your probability estimates were (i.e. how far your estimates ‘stuck their neck out’ by estimating quite high probabilities for quite likely events etc., as opposed to timidly never venturing far from 50%).

    After reading the relevant blog post in The Sequences (thanks to a commenter’s link), I think you made a sensible choice, at least for the first 5 years: While it’s true that the best overall measure of the quality of one’s predictions (namely the log of the joint probability, conditional on one’s bucketings being true, of the outcomes which actually did occur) depends on both calibration and discrimination, it’s generally easier to improve the former than the latter. (Also, I think it’s easier to estimate what level of performance is realistically attainable in the former than in the latter for a given question set at a given time).

    That said, at some point it might be fun to a) start using questions which are less subject to insider-info effects, b) open the competition to all, and c) measure everyone’s entries w/ two numbers (one to assess calibration and the other one – the log-of-conditional-joint-probability number – to assess overall prediction quality).

    • fion says:

      There are websites that do this sort of thing. Have you encountered, for example, Prediction Book? You can make predictions like Scott’s and put your confidence on other people’s predictions. There’s quite often somebody who puts most of Scott’s annual predictions up on Prediction Book when he posts them here, so those who wish can take part.

      It doesn’t do annual reviews of how your predictions have been, but it does do so on a rolling basis.

      • arch1 says:

        Thanks fion, looks interesting & I will explore further (if I can get the site to actually send the confirmation instructions email to my gmail address:-)

  12. Chalid says:

    How does the Supreme Court look in the long run?

    Republicans have shown that when they control the Senate, they won’t consider a Democratic president’s nominee; Democrats will surely follow their example when they have the chance. So the only time a nominee will even have a chance is if the presidency and Senate are controlled by the same party. What are the implications for the system?

    At some point in the not-too-distant future we’re likely to have a multi-year period where there is a vacancy and no judge can be confirmed. Does this actually matter?

    Retirements are going to be strategic. (It kind of blows my mind that they haven’t already been more strategic.) A judge dying unexpectedly becomes the only likely way to shift the partisan balance of the court. One can easily imagine the current ideological configuration essentially being locked in forever. One could also imagine that partisanship becomes a more and more important criteria in selecting a judge, and that the quality of judging might therefore decline – judges selected for political reliability are unlikely to be the best on other measures.

    You might expect that, sometimes, it would be genuinely unclear about which party would next have both Senate and Presidency. In this case, might they compromise on a moderate? Garland was such, but I think in this case McConnell calculated, correctly, that Republicans were more likely to be the next ones that held both Senate and Presidency. (Clinton was more likely to be president, but Republicans were more likely to hold the Senate, and for longer.)

    In general, it seems hard to believe that the explicit politicization of the process won’t lead to declining public belief in the legitimacy of the court. A decade or two of this, and do you end up with court-packing being seen as acceptable? Would even *that* be too terrible? “The Supreme Court is controlled by whatever party last controlled the Senate and Presidency” isn’t obviously worse than “the Supreme Court is controlled by whichever party managed to have its judges not retire or die at politically inconvenient times over the past few decades,” especially if a partisan court started e.g. striking down popular laws passed by the other party. It seems likely to me that that court-packing leads straight to partisan judging (even more than we already have) which could be a disaster, but I don’t know enough to say with any confidence. After a decade or two of court-packing… well, it’s hard to see where things go from there but probably nowhere good.

    • BobRoss says:

      I would say the republicans are fighting with one hand tied behind their back. If we assume originalists and living-constitionalists each get control of the court for a comperable amount of time. In the time it takes the originalists to overturn a single bad descision, The living-constitutionalist can make ten thousand more.

      One side plays by rules and the other doesn’t.

    • BBA says:

      I expect a more fundamental breakdown in the constitutional order to happen before the legitimacy of the high court becomes an issue.

      I don’t have the foggiest idea how or when this will happen, though.

      • The legitimacy of the Supreme Court is already breaking down. The Democrats have talked about stalling Kavanaugh until next year and if they control the Senate, stalling until 2021. What happens if someone else retires or dies? What if we don’t get a combination of one party controlling the presidency and senate for years. Are we just going to keep all of those positions vacant? If the parties don’t figure out some compromise, then people are just going to stop taking SCOTUS seriously. What are they going to do about it?

        • BBA says:

          As long as they’ve got their fancy building and their black robes and their nominal nonpartisanship, people will take them seriously. Look at Bush v. Gore, where every single member of the court betrayed their supposed judicial philosophy to support their preferred presidential candidate, the conservative majority favoring intervention, the liberal minority favoring restraint. The opinion was full of disclaimers saying it was not to be used as any kind of precedent, but solely for the determination of the 2000 election. It should have destroyed the court’s legitimacy, but it didn’t. Joe and Jane Sixpack don’t care.

          I think a standoff over the budget or executive nominations is more likely to be a flashpoint for a constitutional crisis. Call it a hunch.

          • It’s one thing for justices to make unpopular decisions that seemingly contradict their values. That happens all the time. But when the Senate has agreed to only confirm those that were nominated by their party, that doesn’t happen. Even with something like Bork, the Democrats ended up voting for what they considered a more moderate candidate who was still a conservative.

    • johansenindustries says:

      Republicans haven’t shown that they won’t consider a Democratic president’s nominee, they’ve shown that they won’t accept any more of Obama’s far-left picks (sorry, his ‘moderate’ anti-2nd amendment, pro-RvW
      picks). Or do you not think they would have accepted if Gorush had been the nominee. If you do accept that Gorusch would have been accepted, then what reasons do we have to think that they wouldn’t have accepted a pro-2nd and pro-RvW candidate.

      If Democrat Presidents think themselves so kingly and above the senate that they wouldn’t dream of nominating an actual moderate, then isn’t that where the problem actually lies rather than complaining about congress?

      The real issue is that the Democrats have gone from calling any black Republican nominee a rapist to just calling any Republican nominee it full stop. (Although, of course, they believe that Kavanaugh is a rapist since after all he got black-out drunk in law school, so how could he have not tried to rape a girl in high school?)

      • beleester says:

        In what world is “willing to overturn Roe v Wade” a moderate position rather than a central example of a Republican one?

        • johansenindustries says:

          I never said that “willing to overturn Roe v Wade” is a moderate position. At all. That’s not a possible reading of what I wrote.

          If you meant to ask in what way is pro-2nd amendment a moderate position rather than a central example of a Republican one, then it isn’t but when coupled with the pro-RvW, then you get a compromise or moderate candidate.

          • beleester says:

            You said “‘moderate’, anti-2nd amendment, pro-RvW,” meaning that both of those stances are not moderate. Which implies that conversely, anti-RvW is moderate. So, yes, that’s definitely a possible reading of what you wrote.

            Also, honest question, since I’m not familiar with what names are usually up for the Supreme Court: Is there actually a plausible supreme court candidate who is pro-2nd-amendment but also pro-RvW?

          • herbert herberson says:

            Is there actually a plausible supreme court candidate who is pro-2nd-amendment but also pro-RvW?

            Depends on what you mean by plausible. Someone who would be qualified? Easy. Richard Posner is the first name that comes to mind, but there would be many others–both Heller and Roe are precedent, so it shouldn’t be remotely rare to find people who support both.

            Plausibly nominated by one of our existing political parties? Ha, not really.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            herbert,

            you should re-examine posner’s statements and judicial decisions as of late.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @beleester

            It not being the case that being pro-RvW makes one moderate does not imply that being anti-RvW makes one moderate. It simply doesn’t.

            (And since my example of a moderate was one who was pro-RvW, then its not a possible reading of my post that I was saying that being pro-RvW automatically makes one non-moderate.)

            If one wants to nominate a moderate or compromise candidate then one wants someone who will sometimes be on the Republican side of 5-4s, not just someone who will only rarely make 7-2s with Soto.

            Scalia was very strongly in the RvW is settled precedent camp, so I find it very hard to believe that there’s no one on the Supreme Court track who isn’t. And if there isn’t then something has gone wrong there.

          • Brad says:

            Scalia was very strongly in the RvW is settled precedent camp, so I find it very hard to believe that there’s no one on the Supreme Court track who isn’t

            Wait, what? Where did you see any language to indicate such a thing? Every decision of his on the subject at best begrudgingly reasoned from it arguendo for the purposes of the case at hand and never conceded it was good law.

          • beleester says:

            It not being the case that being pro-RvW makes one moderate does not imply that being anti-RvW makes one moderate. It simply doesn’t.

            On most issues this is true – instead of being pro- or anti- something, you can be neutral on it, and you could argue that neutrality is the only “moderate” position. But if you’re neutral on Roe v. Wade, then you’re not going to try and overturn it, which means that “no opinion on RvW” is functionally identical to “pro-RvW.” At least, from the perspective of a Republican trying to get a justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

            (And since my example of a moderate was one who was pro-RvW, then its not a possible reading of my post that I was saying that being pro-RvW automatically makes one non-moderate.)

            You “put pro-RvW” next to “anti-Second Amendment” in a list of traits Obama’s nominees had that made them non-moderate. If your actual intent was to say “being anti-Second Amendment is non-moderate, being pro-RvW has no bearing on your moderateness” then you picked a pretty fucking disingenuous way to say that.

          • Matt M says:

            But if you’re neutral on Roe v. Wade, then you’re not going to try and overturn it, which means that “no opinion on RvW” is functionally identical to “pro-RvW.”

            I don’t think this is necessarily true.

            I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t necessarily favor RvW, but don’t really pay much attention or focus on getting it overturned, thinking that the important battles currently are over things like partial-birth, third trimester, parental notification, government funding of planned parenthood, etc.

            In a practical sense, this person is basically neutral.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Brad

            Obviously, it was bad law. Anything based on substansive due process is baf. But its still precedent and Scalia has a place for precedent in his originalism. See: https://lawandcrime.com/supreme-court/federal-judge-friend-of-antonin-scalia-recalls-late-justice-saying-he-wouldnt-overturn-roe-v-wade/ .

            @beleester

            It is a list of (two) qualities that by having both one proves oneself to not be a moderate. THat is the obvious way to read it. Since, for example, as an interpretation it does not require a long paragraph saying how RoeVSWade is an exception to the ordinary rules of logic, not bad language.

          • beleester says:

            @Matt M: I think that’s a fair view, but it’s also not the view johansenindustries is holding. He’s counting Scalia as a pro-Roe justice, and “it’s settled precedent” from a Republican seems like a neutral stance to me.

            @johansenindustries: If you say that pro-Roe and anti-2A together make you a leftist, you’re also saying that each of those on their own are somewhere to the left of center. Unless you have some really weird definition of political alignment where issues are neutral on their own and only become left or right in combinations.

            But that makes me ask, if pro-Roe is a left-of-center position, what the heck is the “neutral” position? If Scalia’s respect for precedent counts as being pro-Roe, then what doesn’t count?

    • Matt M says:

      Republicans have shown that when they control the Senate, they won’t consider a Democratic president’s nominee

      False.

      • JonathanD says:

        In what universe? McConnell changed the rules, they’re staying changed. This is the new normal. I expect we’ll see it the other way in Trump’s second term. Certainly it’s the case that any Democratic senator who votes for a Republican’s nominee is going to lose their next primary, unless some Republican president makes redress.

        It’s been two years and this still makes me angry, every time it comes up. And I’m to the right of most of my social media feed.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, that tit is pretty sure to lead to a tat at the Democrats’ next opportunity.

        • Matt M says:

          They have shown that under certain circumstances (a looming election they are considered unlikely to win) they will not consider the nominee. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t consider a nominee under any circumstances.

          Although I agree that it’s likely the Democrats see it that way, and will behave similarly.

          Hell, I think this entire charade with Kavanaugh is the Democrats trying to achieve the same result (delay the thing until midterms and hope they win, which in this case won’t take out Trump but will give them a narrative of a “blue wave” that maybe will give them more power to get a justice more to their liking) while not making it look like they’re being tit-for-tat.

          • JonathanD says:

            I agree, and, tbh, don’t understand it. I would have just liked to have seen the Democrats ask a bunch of questions of Merrick Garland’s qualifications, ask who it was who had the power to appoint justices, ask where in the constitution it indicated that black presidents are only entitled to 3/5 or a term, and then vote against any Republican nominee en masse. And then, repeat, every time.

            Probably not very smart politically. But again, I’m still very angry. Not in an abstract way. I’m thumping my keyboard and my heart rate is elevated because I’m discussing this. It gets to me in a way that the other stuff doesn’t.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @JonathanD

            Are you angry because you think Garland was entitled to a hearing, or because Garland was entitled to a seat on the Supreme Court?

            If the former then I would advise that you look inside yourself and try to put it in perspective (its over two years ago, nobody died or was really harmed etc.) If the answer is the latter then consider why you think he had such an entitlement and if your reasons are really morally good.

            (For example, if you think there are sufficient Republicans who abuse the local party machine, FPTP, and the general American democratic system that they would smugly vote for Garland at the first opportunity while laughing at the voters knowing that their constituents had no real recourse. Then that would hardly be a good thing, and not the sort of thing that one can justifiably get angry at McConnell for trying to stop.)

            I would also advise against sarcastic comments like ‘ask where in the constitution it indicated that black presidents are only entitled to 3/5 or a term’ and fantasies about what the Democrats ought to do. Anger and bitterness are not good for you, and should be smothered not kindled.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            ask who it was who had the power to appoint justices, ask where in the constitution it indicated that black presidents are only entitled to 3/5 or a term…

            I’m not a lawyer, but I believe the relevant passage of Article II reads:

            “he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate… Judges of the supreme Court…”

            The Senate declined to give its consent to Garland. I don’t understand why this seems illegitimate to people.

          • JonathanD says:

            @johansenindustries, the latter, more or less. The standard for the last generation or so had been that if you nominated someone who was qualified, they’d get a thorough background check, a few days of grandstanding and abuse, and then go through, probably with 60 or 70 votes. Hell, this was a guy who’d gotten majority Republican approval once already, including the votes of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley. If the Republicans had decided to vote him down en masse without some good reason, I’d likely be just as angry. Basically, I think that this seat was Barack Obama’s to fill, as long as he did so in a responsible manner, which he clearly did.

            I didn’t understand your middle parenthetical, so I’m not going to be able to respond to it. I might not even if you clarify, because engaging on this issue really isn’t good for my mood or my productivity.

            As far as what Democrats should do, I don’t see any reason they should go along with the fiction that nothing has changed. Everything has changed, and the Democrats should keep reminding people of it. Otherwise, when it comes time to vote down a perfectly reasonable, perfectly qualified Republican nominee under Democratic senate, no one will remember why they have to do this, or who it was that broke the Supreme Court. The Republicans defected. The Democrats should (and really, must) defect in turn.

            Which is what is happening, more or less. Gorsuch got 54 votes, with three vulnerable Democrats and none others supporting him. If the Senate were Democratic, I don’t think he gets those three. I just don’t see any reason to pretend there’s anything going on here other than the tit for the tat. It’s disingenuous, and when it actually costs one of these guys a seat, no one is going to buy it. Say what you’re doing and why. Be clear.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Chevalier Mal Fet,

            It’s obviously legal. I will be just as obviously legal when the Democrats do it next time they have the chance (likely in 2021, IMHO). It is now the political practice in our country that a court vacancy gets filled when the same party controls the Senate and the Presidency. That’s a change, and a bad one, and I regret it. The only reason I’m posting here is because this idea that that wasn’t the natural and inevitable consequence McConnell’s stunt is infuriating to me, and I can’t let it pass. People being wrong on the internet and all that. That said, I’m going back to lurking. This is both not fun and a waste of time.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I also thought Garland was entitled to a hearing. It’s cold comfort to know that he was only one of many judicial nominees in recent years to be denied one.

          • Brad says:

            The Senate declined to give its consent to Garland. I don’t understand why this seems illegitimate to people.

            There are lots and lots of things that are within the black letter law of the constitution that would be considered hardball (i.e. norm violating).

            The constitution would not work at all and indeed no such constitution could ever work, if every actor played such hardball all the time.

            I think there’s a pretty good chance that we are now living in a system where one party needs to be in control of the Senate and the White House in order for a Justice to be placed on the Supreme Court. If you don’t see any disfunction, I don’t know what to tell you.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Many points

            1. > nobody died

            Scalia did. I know that wasn’t your point, but Scalia dying off-schedule started this. The tradition has been that a Justice chooses when to retire, based mostly on who is POTUS, and then POTUS nominates someone. They nearly always get their first pick, but if that fails they get their second. Even through an opposition Senate.

            2. midterms changing things

            The Democrats have a very good chance of taking the House. They have a very poor chance of taking the Senate. There are 26 Democrat seats up for re-election, and 9 Republican seats. It’s the Senate that matters here.

            3. approval of justices

            My view is that Garland should have been seated. But the Republicans definitely had the Constitutional power to say no. My view is that he should have been forced to vote no, bearing the political cost. But this is not a view shared by Democrats historically.
            https://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/nominations/Nominations.htm When there have been votes, historically they’ve always been approved by supermajorities. Things broke down following Thomas. The Republicans voted for RBG and Breyer, but then a bunch of Democrats started protesting against the perfectly qualified but conservative judge John Roberts. (Including Barack Obama, who proceeded to whinge about Republican Senators acting like Senator Obama once he became POTUS.) Then Republicans drug their feet on Kagan, who is again perfectly qualified.

            My view is that the POTUS has a right to field his team, and trench warfare will not serve the country well.

          • albatross11 says:

            I agree with Brad and JonathanD: The Garland nomination set a new precedent that will presumably be followed in the future–we only appoint new SC justices when the same party controls the Senate and the Presidency. This is a very bad thing, and it was the entirely predictable consequence of the way Garland’s nomination was handled.

          • Matt M says:

            I agree with Brad and JonathanD: The Garland nomination set a new precedent that will presumably be followed in the future–we only appoint new SC justices when the same party controls the Senate and the Presidency.

            Dude, this happened one time. And previously, it had never happened in dozens(?) of opportunities. By what basis do you declare it to be the “new normal?”

            The Cleveland Browns won a game last night for the first time in 2+ years. Can we project that they will never lose a game ever again?

          • @Matt M

            You can’t pretend that precedence doesn’t matter when it comes to the Supreme Court.

          • BBA says:

            Mitch McConnell’s strategy is to always defect while saying “I’m cooperating and you’re defecting and isn’t it a shame that we’re being so partisan here?”

            And he’s damn good at it, and it works.

          • Matt M says:

            You can’t pretend that precedence doesn’t matter when it comes to the Supreme Court.

            We aren’t talking about a judicial ruling from the Supreme Court though, we’re talking about a political tactic from Senators, who are not bound (formally or even informally) by precedent in any meaningful way.

            I’ve seen plenty of plausible arguments, right here in these comments, that the GOP ultimately did itself harm long-term by employing this tactic. Many of these arguments have came from people who don’t like the GOP at all. So it certainly seems plausible to me that Democrats, in the future, will agree with this analysis and say “It was a mistake for the Republicans to do this, therefore we won’t do this.”

            Or maybe they will engage in tit-for-tat out of spite. Maybe. But maybe not. And I don’t feel like it’s reasonable to simply take it as a given that this same tactic must now be used, forever, no matter what.

          • @Matt M

            Have you been listening to what Democrats have been saying about the Supreme Court. They aren’t going to forget what happened and it seems pretty naive to think that they won’t consider doing the exact same thing if they get the chance. In standard game theory, if you just let someone attack you without retaliating, you’re just inviting them to do it again. Tit for tat is certainly a rational move and it’s the one that Democrat voters are increasingly going to push for. In their ideal world, Republicans would have given Garland a hearing and the Democrats wouldn’t resort to these tactics but they think it’s too late to go back to those norms.

          • Matt M says:

            As I said, it’s certainly plausible that this will happen. But it’s hardly guaranteed.

            I see no particular reason to believe that Congressmen are expert optimizers in game theory. The Democrats might do this in the future, if they think it will advantage them. Or they might not, if they think that might advantage them.

            Could we wait for it to happen, I dunno, three or four times in a row before we summarily declare that it will always happen, now and forever, until the end of time?

          • At only a slight tangent, John Lott has a book on what has happened to the process for selecting federal judges over time. His basic argument is that control of the courts has become increasingly important, and that has driven the increasingly partisan treatment of the process.

            One of his conclusions is that this results in lowering the intellectual ability of judges. Letting a mediocre conservative judge on a court is a loss for the liberals, but letting a really able conservative judge, someone who can convince others judges of his views and so change the interpretation of the law, is a much bigger loss, to be fought tooth and nail. Similarly, mutatis mutandis, for a liberal judge and the conservatives.

          • The Democrats don’t have to be expert game theorists. They just have to do what their constituents want them to do. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily going to be the new normal until the end of time but quite frankly it’s pretty naive to think that Democrats are going to see what happened to Garland and not do anything about it in the future. That’s not how people work.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Both parties: “THEY defect every time because they’re evil all-defectors. WE defect every time because we’re reasonable tit-for-tat players who have to retaliate against their repeated defections.”

          • Matt M says:

            it’s pretty naive to think that Democrats are going to see what happened to Garland and not do anything about it in the future

            There are plenty of things they can “do about it” short of establishing a perpetual policy of “No President can ever nominate a judge unless they also control the Senate”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If the Democrats have the Senate (either now or in 2020) while Trump is in the White House, I worry a lot that they would just decide “well, we don’t give consent” and we continue our crumble.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I feel that I must point out that all this talk of “tit for tat” ignores the fact that, from the Republican point of view, that’s what they were doing with Garland’s nomination. It’s disingenuous to pretend that we had this long tradition of bipartisan deference to the executive on judicial nominations and then SUDDENLY OUT OF NOWHERE (maybe because the President is black?) McConnell tossed a hand grenade into the entire genteel process.

            no, this is a conflict that has been escalating for decades, going all the way back at least to Robert Bork’s nomination, and proceeding through mutual wars of filibusters at the appellate level (remember the fights during the Bush administration?) and eventually, yes, to the Supreme Court. Yes, Garland was an escalation – but one after Republicans had already largely approved Sotomayor and Kagan.

            Plus, as Friedman points out, this takes place in a context wherein the Court is gradually encroaching more and more policy to itself, to the degree that it feels perfectly within its limits to rule on matters the Constitution is totally silent on, like gay marriage (note: I believe that gay marriage should be the law of the land. That doesn’t mean I need to pretend that it’s in the Constitution, though). The Court matters a lot more now, and who’s on it matters a whole hell of a lot more than what’s actually written in the law (remember, 4 justices thought that banning a movie criticising Hillary Clinton shortly before an election involving Hillary Clinton somehow did not violate the First Amendment, to say nothing of the Second Amendment). Until the Court is somehow put back on the leash and in its role as a neutral arbitrator, rather than another wing of partisan policymaking, it makes no sense for the legislature to just quietly abdicate its consent to the executive. The Senate is a co-equal branch of government with the Presidency and I see no reason why it should not exercise veto power over the President’s desired composition of the court. Let the public sort it out with their votes afterwards.

            Sorry, this has gotten ranty. Bottom line:

            a)It’s a distortion to ignore the steadily escalating partisan history over the judges and to pretend that this was a unilateral defection by McConnell.

            b)It’s also foolish to ignore the background of steadily increasing partisan Court rulings.

            If the Court is going to act like a partisan institution, then we may as well treat it like one.

          • Brad says:

            Yes there have been back and forth escalations for a while now. But the point is that it doesn’t take an escalation for us to be in a situation where the president and the senate have to be of the same party to seat a new Justice. That’s the current step. An escalation from here would be court packing.

          • Polycarp says:

            I have to disagree with @Brad. It would be an escalation to move from where we are now to a “rule” where the president and senate have to be of the same party to seat a new Justice.

            It was an escalation when Biden articulated what the Republicans now call the Biden Rule. “The Senate too . . . must consider how it would respond to a Supreme Court vacancy that would occur in the full throes of an election year. It is my view that if the President . . . presses an election year nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.” [0:32–1:07 from C-Span clip at https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4581754/biden-senate-hearings-scotus-vacancy-election-year.%5D The Democrats did not get a chance to implement the Biden Rule, but I have no doubt they would have if they could have.

            The Republicans escalated with the Garland nomination in the sense that they actually implemented the Biden Rule. It would be a further escalation, and a substantial one, to move to the no-senate-consent for a nominee of the other party.

          • Brad says:

            The phase “Biden Rule” is itself a shibboleth and not one should be proud of knowing how to pronounce. A single speech in 1992 by a single senator about a hypothetical that never leads to any concrete action, and even in its own terms only talks about “should seriously consider”, does not a rule make.

            I’m not shocked that McConnell looked for cover wherever he could find, he’s a politician.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Polycarp

            One dude proposing a Defection for a group, who doesn’t have the power to personally Defect and was nowhere near an opportunity to do so, is not even close to a Defection. Talk is cheap, as they say, and there’s no talk cheaper than political talk.

          • Polycarp says:

            @ManyCookies

            This “one dude” was at the time the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Plus, as Friedman points out, this takes place in a context wherein the Court is gradually encroaching more and more policy to itself, to the degree that it feels perfectly within its limits to rule on matters the Constitution is totally silent on

            It certainly feels that way, but then again, in the 20s and 30s (and earlier) the Supreme Court regularly struck down economic regulations on the theory of freedom of contract, which is about as legitimate as gay marriage or abortion. This is usually referred to as the “Lochner Era.”

            So I don’t know if it’s the stakes getting higher or something else. I would guess it’s another aspect of increasing polarization in American politics. But is the American political scene becoming more polarized? My general impression is “yes.”

            I think it comes down to Scott’s theory of common knowledge. People are a lot more willing to be vocal and take action over a set of viewpoints if they know there are other people out there who share their views. The internet makes it much easier for large groups of people to develop common knowledge. Which makes it much more difficult for one set of viewpoints to become the dominant consensus.

            Instead, you can end up with 2 or more organized groups who can and will oppose eachother with a lot of passion. i.e. polarization.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Biden wasn’t just head of the SJC, he was the Vice President of the guy nominating Garland, so it was very useful for a tu quoque argument.

            McConnell had three things going for him:
            1. Constitutional power to say no
            2. Scalia died off schedule. (If RBG has announced her retirement on Feb 13 2016, McConnell would likely have not tried this.)
            3. VP of the guy who nominated Garland had made an old argument for it.

    • albatross11 says:

      Retirements may be strategic to some extent, but I think they’re more driven by the current justices’ desire to stay in their exciting position at the top of the world for a little longer, rather than trust that their party will get someone else in who will do an okay job.

    • J Mann says:

      If we assume the system continues to break down, the next possible steps are:

      (1) Expanding the period where the opposition party is willing to hold open a seat from several months to, eventually, as long as they have the Senate and not the Presidency, including expanding the foot-dragging period for the District Courts and Courts of Appeals.

      (2) Demanding specific quid pro quos for accepting nominees. (E.g., if you want Judge Garland, cut the budget by 2% and enforce Real ID).

      (3) Open character assassination of all judges (and accusers), including a slew of bar ethics complaints against shortlisted candidates.

      (4) Packing the Court.

      • Chalid says:

        Another direction it could break down is expanding out of the judiciary. Once the Senate gets used to the idea that the president can’t appoint a judge without negotiating with them, perhaps they’ll extend that principle to the cabinet? “You can have A as SecDef if we get to have B run the EPA…” Is there anything other than a belief in norms keeping that from happening now?

        • engleberg says:

          Any president whose official cabinet appointments are blocked can always give his guy the job de facto. Top-down cabinet appointments are often pretty ceremonial anyway.

        • ana53294 says:

          If a President cannot get the Secretary of Housing they want, they can leave the seat empty and hire the UnderUnderSecretary of Housing (that does not need to be nominated). This person would not nominally have the position, but effectively they would be the top dog in the Department of Housing, so they would be the de facto Secretary.

          It is my understanding that a Secretary of a Department has a staff of their choosing, who have power in the Department. If there is no Secretary, what would prevent the President from choosing the Secretary’s staff?

    • Guy in TN says:

      It seems likely to me that that court-packing leads straight to partisan judging (even more than we already have) which could be a disaster, but I don’t know enough to say with any confidence.

      I’m thinking it court packing/partisan judging will be non-disastrous, because the idea of neutrally “interpreting” a law is largely a sham anyway.

      You wouldn’t expect the legislature to neutrally write a law, right? And even if we were able to mandate such neutrality in the Constitution, forcing congress to adopt the rhetoric of neutrality to mask their partisanship, it would just obfuscate what is really going on.

      I say just open the gates. Let the Supreme Court justices tell us what they really think. And if we don’t like it, we can elect new ones via congress and the president.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The idea behind judicial neutrality is that our system of government assigns different powers to the different branches. The legislature writes laws, the executive carries them out, and the judiciary settles disputes about how the laws are applied to specific cases. A Supreme Court that settles disputes based on their own policy preferences rather than based on the law they’re supposed to be interpreting is just as wrong, for pretty much the same reasons, as a President who carries out the laws he’d like to be in effect instead of the ones Congress actually passed.

        Democratic accountability is an additional argument for judicial neutrality: judges serve for life and are appointed through a process that puts them a couple steps removed from voters, while Congressmen, Senators, and Presidents are elected directly (or very slightly indirectly, in the case of the President) to terms of 2, 6, or 4 years at a time. The “political branches” of government are much less insulated from voters than the judiciary, so they can be afforded more discretion in the exercise of their offices without compromising the principles of democracy and the consent of the governed.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I mean, I get all that. I know how it is “supposed” to work. But that’s not how it does work, because there’s no mechanism to enforce judicial neutrality, and certainly no incentive for judges to maintain neutrality on their own accord.

          So we’re left saying “we’d like for you to be a neutral Justice, but you have every incentive not to be neutral, and we have no means to stop you if you ever decide you want to rule in a partisan way. Anyway, carry on.”

          My take is: Since judges are legislating from the bench, then should be held to democratic accountability.

          Here are the options on the table:
          1. Partisan judges, with no democratic accountability
          2. Partisan judges, with democratic accountability in the form of court-packing

          You want option 3 (non-partisan judges), but I don’t think that option exists, and I don’t know how to make it exist.

          • Why exactly do you think court packing improves legitimacy? It’s not a sign of a more democratic system, it’s a sign of a more corrupt one. That’s what countries like Venezuela do. Court packing is how you preserve current political leaders against challengers.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Why exactly do you think court packing improves legitimacy? It’s not a sign of a more democratic system, it’s a sign of a more corrupt one.

            Given the choice of:
            1. Being ruled by judges who were appointed by people elected years ago, possibly even generations ago, with no option for democratic accountability for their rulings
            2. Being ruled by judges who were appointed by people elected recently, and whose rulings can be undone via voting in the next election (via court packing)

            I would say #2 us plainly more democratic. Firstly, in terms of what happens once judges are on the bench, it gives the option of the public expressing non-consent with their rulings, while #1 does not. And secondly, in terms of how justices are appointed to the bench, having the election->appointment process happen more frequently, means the makeup of the court will be more reflective of democratic will of the people.

            Court packing is how you preserve current political leaders against challengers.

            Huh? If they wanted to appoint justices who would rig elections, they could do this now, no court-packing required. The fact that they don’t do so, has nothing to do with the existence or lack thereof of court-packing.

          • Eric Rall says:

            “Partisan judge” and “legislating from the bench” aren’t binary. Under the current system, judges are somewhat partisan and do legislate from the fence to an extent, but they also seem to make a significant effort to work within a framework where they’re mostly following the law (as a combination of statutes, constitutional provisions, and past court precedents) but might put their thumbs on the scales a bit when there’s ambiguity or contradiction in the body of law they’re applying. So right now, judges are maybe 20% partisan, but court packing throws out the norms that currently keep judges moderate in their dishonesty and might kick things up to 80% partisan (made-up numbers on a bullshit scale for illustrative purposes).

            If you actually want judges to be democratically accountable, you probably want to switch to the elected judges model a lot of states have. A judge who faces a yes/no retention election every four years like California’s supreme court is a lot more democratically-accountable than a judge appointed for life in a completely-partisan nomination process, and based on current experience with state supreme courts, probably at least somewhat less partisan than a federal judge appointed in your option #2.

            Or we could follow the old British model and get rid of the independent judiciary completely, making trial court judges part of the executive branch and putting appeals courts under the direct supervision of the legislature with the legislature itself functioning as the top-level court of appeal. Then judges would be exactly as partisan and exactly as democratically accountable as the rest of the current political branches of the government, and the trial/appeals split between the two branches would preserve at least a bit of checks-and-balances in the judicial function.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Eric Rall

            I agree that both the elected-judges model and executive-judicial merger model are preferable to court packing. But they have the downside of requiring Constitutional amendment, while the court-packing method does not.

            I would support any of the three models, but only court-packing seems to be in the foreseeable space of political reality IMO.

          • Court packing is what authoritarians do. If you want more democracy, which isn’t necessarily a good thing by the way, then you can do what Eric says and have them directly voted on by the people. Court packing is especially insidious because it has plausible deniability. “I’m not trying to prop up my rule, I just want to increase democractic accountability”. They say that so they have less resistance. But the result is simply they use it to prop up their power at the expense of future democratic elections. If you want to destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, you can’t do much worse.

          • BBA says:

            Judicial elections are awful where they exist today and should not be expanded any further. For those of you who hadn’t heard of Roy Moore before last year’s Senate race, he was twice elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, where he regularly cited the Bible as a superior source of law to the Constitution. After he was removed from office for defying a federal order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse, he ran again and won his seat back. He was then removed from office again for defying another federal order, this time to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If not for the age limit for judges in the Alabama state constitution, he could run again and probably win again.

            I know we have some Christian traditionalists here who aren’t as viscerally offended by Moore’s conduct as I am. So I’ll also say that here in New York, where judges can’t get on the ballot unless they’re bought and paid for by the local Democratic machines, it’s not a whole lot better.

            My preferred solution is rotating 18-year terms, with one term expiring every two years. If you set it up where a judge with a lifetime appointment to a lower court is temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court and returns to their previous seat at the end of the term, it doesn’t require a constitutional amendment. This makes the court predictably responsive to swings in the elected branches, while retaining enough continuity to establish its legitimacy, and individual appointments don’t bring the whole Senate to a halt.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Wrong Species

            If you want more democracy, which isn’t necessarily a good thing by the way, then you can do what Eric says and have them directly voted on by the people.

            Lets say you have three methods. 1. Status-quo 2. Court-packing 3. Elected judges.

            Out of these, I’m in agreement that electing judges is the most democratic. But that’s not terribly interesting, because electing judges isn’t a politically realistic option. The real debate, is whether court-packing is less democratic, or more so, than the status quo, since court-packing can operate within the framework of our current constitution.

            @BBA

            If you set it up where a judge with a lifetime appointment to a lower court is temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court and returns to their previous seat at the end of the term, it doesn’t require a constitutional amendment.

            I’ve never heard of this idea before. How do temporary appointments to the Supreme Court work? Do they get automatically recalled at the end of their appointer’s term? I’m concerned that there would be little incentive for a president to nominate a temporary justice, over nominating a permanent one. I could see this working if it became an established norm that no party wanted to defect from, but getting to that point seems difficult.

          • BBA says:

            In my proposal there would be no permanent Supreme Court appointments. It’d be like the FISA court, all of whose members are appointed for seven-year terms from among the ranks of already appointed federal judges. (Though FISA is a part-time job and the Supreme Court obviously couldn’t work that way.)

            I’ve seen a more radical proposal for there to be no Supreme Court justices at all; instead each sitting would have a different ad-hoc panel of nine randomly selected circuit and district judges.

            These require statutory changes but not constitutional amendments; all the Constitution requires is that there be a Supreme Court and that judges be appointed for life. Of course these days passing a mere act of Congress seems to be almost as impossible as amending the Constitution…

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @ Guy

            I don’t really see the advantage in making the court “More Democratic” if that also tends towards more authoritarian (as I would think the court packing scheme would be).

            If we are being honest, the entire purpose of the courts is to be anti-democratic (particularly federal courts who hear only a tiny fraction of cases, and most of them barely affect any of our lives compared to your average state court chancery division. If the federal courts aren’t serving that purpose it would be better to just enact legislation that prevents any new judge from ever being appointed to any court that isn’t SCOTUS (the only court that must exist, although the President cannot be compelled to appoint Justices and the Senate cannot be compelled to confirm them). In addition, you could pass legislation that limits the primary jurisdiction of SCOTUS (and lower courts until all the judges die) to that explicitly limits jurisdiction to only that spelled out in the Constitution:

            In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.

            , then SCOTUS would only be an appeals court from state Supreme Courts on Constitutional issues.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @idontknow13164709

            I don’t really see the advantage in making the court “More Democratic” if that also tends towards more authoritarian (as I would think the court packing scheme would be).

            In referring to the structure of government, aren’t the terms “democratic” and “authoritarian” antonyms?

            Or are you using “authoritarian” in the sense of what you predict the legislative outcomes of such a government might be (e.g. heavy handed laws, harsh sentences, ect)?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            In referring to the structure of government, aren’t the terms “democratic” and “authoritarian” antonyms?

            Absolutely not. They have significant overlap in my mind.

            Or are you using “authoritarian” in the sense of what you predict the legislative outcomes of such a government might be (e.g. heavy handed laws, harsh sentences, ect)?

            Partially.

            However, I am also saying that the partial step of packing the Supreme Court instead of having direct elections won’t result even in a more democratic court in the long term. Rather, it will simply enshrine a dead hand of whatever party that gains a supermajority at the same time they have the will to enact such a statute. Indeed, a dead hand is actually kind of a benevolant outcome in such a scenario, while its just as likely that we see a full on destruction of the opposition party.

            Example: Democrats worst nightmares come to pass. There is no Blue wave in 2018, indeed there is a miracle Red Wave, House remains the same or goes slightly more R, and Republicans win all available toss up senate elections. Senate goes from 51-49 to 62-48. Republicans enact a wet dream agenda, but some of it such as immigration restrictions and property requirements and literacy tests for voting are struck down by SCOTUS. In 2020 SCOTUS is now packed with 8 new Trumpian justices for a total of 17 and all those things are enacted. Trump, thanks to these newly blessed laws wins 50/50 states in the electoral college, the Senate is now 70/30, with the 30 “Democrats” almost all looking more like Jeb Bush than Hillary Clinton when it comes to voting, and the House is also about 70/30 with almost all but about 15% of democrats from the most progressive of progressive districts looking, again, like Jeb Bush.

            Edit: I could write the Democratic ascendancy scenario if you like, but it seems like a waste of space because its largely the same.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Republicans enact a wet dream agenda, but some of it such as immigration restrictions and property requirements and literacy tests for voting are struck down by SCOTUS. In 2020 SCOTUS is now packed with 8 new Trumpian justices for a total of 17 and all those things are enacted.

            I don’t understand your argument. If Trump wanted to rig elections, he could start appointing those judges right now (vacant seat), yet he declines to do so.

            We are currently living in your worst case scenario: One party controls the presidency, congress, and the supreme court. Court-packing would make no difference from the 2018 status quo, except for the edge cases where John Roberts defects from his party.

            If election-rigging was the inevitable result of controlling all branches of government, then we should be seeing that today. Since we don’t, it follows that court-packing, and the worst-case scenario of all branches being controlled by the same party, doesn’t necessarily result in rigged elections.

            It’s like: “Ah, don’t you see, once all branches of government are controlled by the same party, they will ban wearing the color blue”. Well, I suppose they could, in the sense that they have the power to do so. But we’re already here, and its not happening, so I think we’re safe.

          • 10240 says:

            I’ve seen a more radical proposal for there to be no Supreme Court justices at all; instead each sitting would have a different ad-hoc panel of nine randomly selected circuit and district judges.

            These require statutory changes but not constitutional amendments; all the Constitution requires is that there be a Supreme Court and that judges be appointed for life.

            Wait, does the Constitution not require (implicitly or explicitly) that it’s the Supreme Court justices who actually make the decisions of the Supreme Court?

          • @Guy

            First off, we’re not in the “worst case scenario” because Democrats can still filibuster. And second, there’s a difference between controlling the federal government right now and being able to to control it indefinitely. There’s a lot of constraints on government right now. If you start court packing, then that leaves only one constraint, and that’s the appointment of judges. Once you get ones friendly to authoritarian tendencies, there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t necessarily think that if the US started court packing, it would automatically turn the country in to authoritarianism. But it would make it that much more likely that someone in the future would be able to use it to their advantage. You really don’t want this, even though you say it now. It’s a terrible, short sighted idea that could easily just as backfire as help you.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            because Democrats can still filibuster.

            Harry Reid would like a word.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I just respectfully disagree with your assessment GUY in TN. While nominally republicans control all the branches, they have a few consistent defectors like Murkowski, Collins, Flake, McCain, etc, particularly on things like immigration and anything besides tax cuts that Dems do not like. Similarly SCOTUS (and just as importantly for speed purposes the lower courts) are not homogeneous, and most of the Republican appointees are not authoritarian at all, they are more libertarian in bent aside from Alito.

            To be quite honest, perhaps we should look back to 2009 when Dems were on the precipice of their wet dream scenario. If instead of 59-41, they were 65-35 they easily would have implemented single payer, near open borders, shorter times to naturalization, naturalization of illegal immigrants, expanded affirmative action, crackdowns on corporate speech, etc. And many of this would have been waved through the courts, but much of it also would not. A court packing would easily have gotten it all through, including national gun bans with mandatory buybacks. This would not have resulted in a more democratic 2012 outcome.

          • @Ed

            They can’t filibuster Supreme Court nominations and Cabinet picks but they can filibuster pretty much anything else.

          • Brad says:

            They can, until they can’t. The seal is broken now and there’s every reason to expect the filibuster to go away entirely.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @idontknow131647093

            This would not have resulted in a more democratic 2012 outcome.

            Is this not what the people voted for? What does it mean to be “democratic”, if not to implement the policies advocated by the majority-winner of an election?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @Guy

            Its not, because the policies that can be enacted with the aid of court packing result in “One man, one vote, one time” ala a lot of “Democracies” in Africa.

            Its also because party positions aren’t 100% clear. Voters may vote for “right to choose” and “immigration reform” but then they find out it was actually “constitutional abortion until birth” and “constitutional open borders” and now those polices are irreversible.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Its not, because the policies that can be enacted with the aid of court packing result in “One man, one vote, one time” ala a lot of “Democracies” in Africa.

            But “suspending elections” is absent from your list. I agree that people voting away their right to vote is un-democratic. But you just listed standard left-wing policy proposals being enacted, and called them anti-democratic. I don’t understand.

            So, you are saying that implementing single payer is anti-democratic, but implementing Obamacare is democratic, because…???

            Its also because party positions aren’t 100% clear. Voters may vote for “right to choose” and “immigration reform” but then they find out it was actually “constitutional abortion until birth” and “constitutional open borders” and now those polices are irreversible.

            This is just representative democracy. You are showing how representative democracy is less democratic than direct democracy. Once again, agreed, but what does this have to do with court-packing? Declining to court-pack doesn’t address this issue at all.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            But “suspending elections” is absent from your list. I agree that people voting away their right to vote is un-democratic. But you just listed standard left-wing policy proposals being enacted, and called them anti-democratic. I don’t understand.

            So, you are saying that implementing single payer is anti-democratic, but implementing Obamacare is democratic, because…???

            No, I am saying Constitutional single payer is anti-democratic.

            Moreover, my overall point is that there are many policy proposals available that would only get 1-2 votes on current SCOTUS that are not “suspension of elections” but might as well be for all intents and purposes going forward. One such thing would be a constitutional right to immigrate + constitutional guarantee found in the bill of rights. Its true that these things could be enacted by representatives, but they are actually very unpopular when proposed in their actual terms, so a Congress would be removed immediately if they did this, but by packing the Court and having them do the dirty work, they seize power with plausible deniability. Deniability has been Congresses modus operandi for a while now, so that shouldn’t shock you.

            This is just representative democracy. You are showing how representative democracy is less democratic than direct democracy. Once again, agreed, but what does this have to do with court-packing? Declining to court-pack doesn’t address this issue at all.

            Actually, decline to court pack is very important to the back & forth swing. Court packing enshrines the lies in the law & Constitution until the other side court packs themselves, then removing your lies and enshrining their new lies. Some of this dead hand is good because we don’t want laws and rights to change too quickly, but court packing is antithetical to slow marching the institutions, it is merely a fast march followed by an anchor drop.

      • actinide meta says:

        Hmm. The logical next step after an openly partisan Supreme Court is that the lower courts just go their own way. How many cases can the Supremes hear? How hard is it to find a fig leaf reason to ignore a precedent?

        I don’t know exactly how many more steps there are between there and a shooting war. But… neither do you.

        Personally, I’d “give the devil the benefit of law.”

    • Eric Rall says:

      My hope is for the unlikely outcome that the appointment process gets reformed via constitutional amendments.

      First, lower the stakes by answering some of the big issues with explicit constitutional provisions. For example, explicitly forbid first-trimester abortion bans, but permit states (but not the federal government) to regulate or ban second- and third-trimester abortions. This is probably the hardest part of my proposal, since it requires finding a meaningful set of compromise positions that majorities of 3/4 of state legislatures (or state ratifying conventions) prefer to having the issue remain a political football in supreme court nomination fights.

      Second, make judges serve for a single, long, non-renewable term (probably in the 15-20 year range). This also lowers the stakes by putting judges on the court for about half the current 30-40 year life expectancy of a new judicial nominee, makes the relationship between judicial appointments and elections less chaotic, and gets rid of the strategic retirement issue. It probably also improves the quality of judges, since the current system inventivizes rushing younger judges into appellate and SCOTUS slots to maximize the impact of the appointment, and it permits older judges to stay in office even after they’re probably too old to do the job at 100% effectiveness. This is probably the easiest part of my amendment package to pass, and there are already trial balloons circulating from multiple points on the political spectrum in favor of variants of this.

      Third, add another layer of indirection to SCOTUS appointments in particular. District and circuit courts stay Presidential appointments with Senate confirmations, but SCOTUS justices are chosen by conclaves of the circuit court judges in their assigned districts. #1 and #2 are probably both preconditions to this being a good idea (especially #2), since otherwise you get judges appointed an average of 15-20 years ago deciding who’s going to be on SCOTUS for the next 30-40 years and decide major questions of political importance. That’s way too much indirection for my blood. But judges appointed an average of 8 years ago choosing justices who will serve for the next 16 years, isn’t that much more undemocratic than the current system of appointing justices who will serve for 30-40 years and who will have the ability to influence their successor by strategically timing their retirements. A conclave system would have the benefits of spreading out the stakes of appointment fights among the circuit court judges, and it also optimizes the selection process for the 90+% of the court’s caseload that’s more focused on technical questions than political football questions.

      • Lillian says:

        See my hope is way simpler: Congress stops abdicating its power to the other branches. The way the Constitution is written, Congress is supposed to be the branch with the strongest and widest ranging powers. Not coincidentally it’s also the branch that has elections every two years, and is therefore most responsive to the public. However over the past several decades Congress has been slowly abdicating its powers. In many cases it has explicitly signed them over to the Presidency, but in others it simply refuses to do its job such that the courts have been forced to fill the vaccuum.

        By now it’s to the point that Congress is easily the weakest and least effective branch of the government. This is why everyone now loses their minds about whoever is President, because ultimately the President is only beholden to the people who elected him, and he has so much power that those who didn’t vote for him feel locked out. After all Congress ability to limit him is limited, and by its own design no less! It’s also why the courts have become so politicized, since Congress refuses to do its job and legislate, the courts must do it for them, and writing legislation is one of the most political processes in existence.

        Here’s an example of a thing that doesn’t happen any more: The Speedy Trial Act of 1974. The Supreme Court itself ruled in Barker v. Wingo (1972) that a five year wait for a case to go to trial did not constitute a violation of the right to a speedy trial. Congress did not throw up its hands in despair and then start angling to nominate judges who would respect defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Instead they passed the aforementioned Act, explicitly defending that right when the courts refused to do so. The entire system is predicated on the branches checking each other, but Congress has apparently decided that its only check on the power of the Courts is who is appointed to them. It is no longer willing to respond to bad rulings with good legislation. The negative results of this are plain to see.

        • Eric Rall says:

          The Speedy Trial Act of 1974

          That’s very interesting. Thank you for the pointer and the background.

          I’m inclined to (mostly) agree with your broader point. I’ve got some Congressional reform ideas, but I’ll save them for another thread, and any structural reforms there would need to be accompanied by a change in attitude where even the President’s party in Congress takes an interest in asserting Congress’s constitutional authority relative to the President.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect Congress is dysfunctional because of the incentives facing Congressmen. Fixing the incentives may hopefully fix the dysfunction (though it may take a fair bit of time), but I’m not sure how to do that.

          • littskad says:

            Would term limits help with the incentives? I think that a big part of the reason that Congress tries to avoid doing anything much is that, whenever you do something, it’s going to piss somebody off, which could hurt reelection chances. So it’s safer to just do as little as possible. I’m pretty convinced this is the main reason federal budgeting is so screwed up.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I recommend two votes for Congress. One as normal for your representative, the second says “should all the current congress be fired?” If the second passes, all votes for current members of Congress are thrown out and the next-highest vote-getter wins.

            If you think Congress is dysfunctional as a whole, this is how you can express that. Since Congressional pork is based on seniority, it’s usually a bad move to try to fix Congress based on firing your rep.

        • 10240 says:

          Congress has apparently decided that its only check on the power of the Courts is who is appointed to them. It is no longer willing to respond to bad rulings with good legislation.

          Responding to bad court decisions with legislation works when the bad ruling is holding something constitutional when it shouldn’t, or when the bad ruling is about the interpretation of a non-constitutional law, but not when it’s holding something unconstitutional when it shouldn’t.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This is an excellent post.

      • Three is not going to happen. Think of Trump talking about the Deep State. Do you think conservatives are going to let that happen?

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        My reply to 1: I actually don’t think most of these are politicians thinking they need political footballs. Instead I think it is more about extreme optimism. Progressives think they are only a few elections away from Constitutional abortion for all 3 trimesters and a national gun ban/buyback; Conservatives think they are only a few elections away from overturning Roe and being able to open carry M-16s in San Fransico. Are there some politicians that just pretend to believe things for the voters sake? Yes, but I don’t think a delegation made up of primarily those kinds of people will hold, because they would get overly squishy and lose support from the base. We have seen this 2006-present with Republicans. Too many old guard Republicans were liars, and thus they not only lost all 3 elected bodies of government, they were then replaced within the party by people who actually thought abortion is bad and banning handguns from normal people wont solve crime.

        On 2: I honestly don’t think this fixes much, if anything. Term limits for legislatures in states has generally failed. It just means more of our time will be dedicated to appointments.

        On 3: Again, I don’t think this makes much sense. This system actually has many perverse incentives. First, it means that the Supreme Court will tend to be controlled by judicial maximists (aka expanding the power of the courts) because that will be the incentive of judges appointing them. Second it will become extremely political, not in the normal sense, but in the kind of way we think of internal company politics and promotions as political (but without the benefit of any real metrics on who is the best salesman). This would resemble the worst of our public service sector, which is not a good model to follow. No normal person can say with a straight face that they trust the GS-13+ people that run departments. Not the people they manage, not the people who see them manage, and not the people who see them in adversarial situations. Depending on your partisanship you may or may not think that the Trump-Russia-Wiretap thing was an abuse of power, or not. However, there is no doubt that greater abuses happen regularly in places like DOE and EPA, its just that they have smaller consequences, and the DOE/EPA have a policy of simply giving up on cases when the person they are trying to bully puts up any sort of fight, because they don’t want to generate court precedent.

        • Eric Rall says:

          #1: There’s a lot to your argument on issues like my example, so sadly those probably aren’t tractable to this kind of solution. Where it might help is on issues where the mainstream of the losing side has accepted defeat, but the winning side still actively fears the debate being re-opened: sodomy laws and pre-Griswold-style contraception bans for sure, and probably state recognition of same-sex marriages as well.

          #3: I don’t think that’s the main incentive here. The core responsibility of SCOTUS is to standardize legal and constitutional interpretation between appellate circuits by resolving “circuit splits” and providing the circuit and district courts with clear precedents to follow. Circuit Court Judge Bob’s main incentives in picking a Supreme Court Justice are A) Pick someone with a similar judicial approach to Bob’s, so Bob will approve of the precedents the justice will vote to set and Bob will be duty-bound to apply; and B) Pick someone who’s good a coming up with clear and consistent precedents that are easy for Bob to apply and don’t often leave him guessing. If Bob’s a judicial maximalist, sure, he’ll probably vote for maximalist justices. But if Bob’s a strict originalist, his incentives are to vote for originalist justices. And Bob a Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee, so he’s not really analogous to a GS-13+ civil servant. He’s a lot more like a Federal Reserve governor or an SEC commission member.

      • Randy M says:

        Steve Sailer had a recommendation that seems pretty reasonable on the face of it recently.

    • Drew says:

      SCOTUS is politically significant because Congress can’t pass laws Fix that, and you don’t need to pack the court. You can just edit the laws to clearly say whatever you want.

      Consider the travel ban. The Democrats could do some baroque maneuver to get liberal justices on the bench and re-litigate Trump’s decisions. Or they could set immigration standards themselves. They don’t have to delegate power.

      So, if Congress can’t pass laws they can’t pack the court. If Congress can pack laws, they don’t need to pack the court.

      • JDG1980 says:

        This is true for issues of legislative interpretation, but not with Constitutional law. Congress can’t overturn Roe v. Wade or Citizens United v. FEC by passing more legislation. That would require a Constitutional amendment, and in today’s polarized political environment, Constitutional amendments are impossible.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Its quite a bind: Congress is hamstrung, and the solution is to make the Constitution easier to amend. But in order to do that, congress would first have to amend the Constitution, since the “difficult to amend” part is written into the Constitution.

          We just need enough activation energy to get over the hump, even for only one time.

        • Matt M says:

          Couldn’t Congress pass a law counter to existing precedent?

          And isn’t that law binding until it is challenged in court?

          The assumption would be that the court would uphold the precedent, but they don’t have to, right?

          • johansenindustries says:

            Congress can’t pass a change in the Constitution counter to existing precedent.

            The supreme court can do whatever they like.

          • Matt M says:

            What happens if they do anyway?

            Say Congress passes (and the President signs) a bill, tomorrow, that says “All abortion is illegal everywhere in the US.”

            What is the mechanism for that law to not be enforced? Who decides that it counters existing precedent? The courts, presumably, right? Which means, presumably, they could also decide that it doesn’t counter existing precedent, yes?

            My understanding of history is that this happens almost all the time. The Court is constantly “overturning itself” but it has no ability to do so in a vacuum. That only happens when Congress passes a law that is contrary to a decision they’ve already made.

          • johansenindustries says:

            There needs to be a case for them to rule on. And there needs to be a law on the book that can take effect upon it being ruled constitutional. But nothing stops five of them saying ‘give us an abortion case, we’re going to call it a state’s rights issue’.

            And such a law or such a case does not have to come from Congress, and most reasonably would not.

          • Matt M says:

            Um… I feel like you didn’t answer my question.

            If Congress decides abortion is now outlawed, what is the mechanism for ensuring that decision is not carried out?

            If your answer is “a court case” then I think we agree?

          • johansenindustries says:

            I feel that we definitely disagree. And that if it looks like we agree then we simply don’t know where we disagree.

            The Supreme Court could definitely change its mind. But that has utterly nothing to do with whatever Congress is up to. (Congress could pass a law banning banning abortion, and the Courts could use the opportunity to declare that its a State’s right issue that isn’t covered by the Constitution or the Commerce Clause.)

            But I’m pretty sure that if Congress passed criminalising abortion centers, then California wouldn’t close them all down while they waited for a judge to declare the law unconstitutional.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Matt M
            I understand your argument, that the courts have a lag-time, while the enforcement arm of the rest of the state doesn’t.

            It’s seems that exploiting that loophole would edge one closer to constitutional crisis territory, particularly if the courts were explicit enough about what they deemed to be unconstitutional, and the legislature was explicit in ignoring it.

            You don’t want to create a game where the “winning” branch of government is the one that brings out the guys with guns first.

            Actually, I DID misread your argument. You are right, the courts can simply overturn themselves at any time.

          • Matt M says:

            You don’t want to create a game where the “winning” branch of government is the one that brings out the guys with guns first.

            *shrugs*

            I don’t want a government at all. Maybe this would collapse it quicker?

            You can’t scare me by threatening a “constitutional crisis.” I’m with Lysander Spooner. If the constitution was so great, it would have been able to protect itself from being so clearly abused.

        • Drew says:

          Citizens United is as good an example as anything. Congress wrote a bad law. The tried to prohibit Exxon from giving unlimited money to politicians. But they ALSO made it illegal for private citizens to pool their money to make a movie critical of Hillary Clinton.

          The justices argued — correctly — that citizens pooling resources to criticize an elected official before an election was central to the 1st amendment. Since the law sucked, it treated all corporate forms the same.

          So, when the justices overturned the rule for Citizens United, Exxon got unrestricted too.

          There’s no legal problem with restricting political donations from certain kinds of tax-advantaged accounts. My IRA can’t donate to a campaign. I have to withdraw money, first. Congress could apply the same restrictions to my LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp. They just didn’t.

          We haven’t seen an updated law because the 1st law was a bipartisan compromise, and congress can’t muster a majority for anything anymore. That’s on congress.

    • Contrarian(Steaussian?) take: McConell refused to vote on Garland not because he wanted the seat for a Republican but because he knew it would undermine the Supreme Court, an institution that has worked against conservatives for decades(other than a few minor wins). Without legitimacy, states with anti-abortion laws would be free to act on them.

      • cassander says:

        This strikes me as implausible. I don’t think that McConell is thinking that far ahead, as a strategy is seems roundabout, and there’s a much simpler explanation, McConell thought Trump might win.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Or he thought that Rubio or Cruz or Kasich could win. Scalia died Feb 13, and Obama nominated Garland on March 16. The outcome of the Republican nomination process was still in doubt up until the end of April, and by that time, McConnell had committed to the strategy and would have had a hard time walking it back even if he believed Trump was unlikely to win.

        • Matt M says:

          Even aside from that, I think it was a no-risk scenario for the Republicans.

          IF GOP wins, you get a conservative judge.

          IF GOP loses, you’re not really any worse off than you were before, you get a liberal judge and the liberals largely forget about this whole thing (and possibly, Hillary appoints a more “moderate” judge than Obama)

          • It’s only no-risk from a short term perspective. Democrats are talking about delaying the nomination until 2021.

          • Matt M says:

            They can’t. The GOP has sufficient control of both houses to vote tomorrow and get this done, do they not?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They only need the Senate. And the Senate is unlikely to change control this year. Even if Democrats delay through the midterms, they won’t be able to stop the Republicans from deciding “fuck it” and confirming their choice in 2019. And If RBG dies in the next ~16 months, that one, too.

          • According to 538, the Democrats have a 1 in 3 chance of taking the Senate. That’s higher than the odds they gave Trump of winning presidency when McConnell made his gambit.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        I think the more simple take is that the 2016 Election included the following important senate races:

        Colorado: Bennett
        Florida: Rubio
        Iowa: Grassley
        Missouri: Blount
        Nevada: Reid, Retiring> Masto
        NH: Ayotte > Hassan
        NC: Burr
        Ohio: Portman
        Penn: Toomy
        Wisconsin: Johnson

        Overall, Republicans lost only 3 of these close races, and only 1 incumbent. Voting for Garland would have killed base support, not voting for a fairly qualified jurist (who was being sold as moderate, although I don’t really see any evidence for that), might put off educated centrists. Thus, McConnell decided that he would absorb all the hate himself. Like a Rodger Goodell.

    • aristides says:

      In the long long run, I am expecting a constitutional amendment. Once the court is considered illegitimate by both sides, likely because of frequent reverals of precedent and the Senate using increasingly dirty tactics, we might get a bipartisan amendment as a compromise, especially if it gets to the point that supreme court justice vacancies are never filled when the presidency and Senate are devided.

      I expect the amendment would include 15 year terms, and something that limits the authority of the supreme court. Maybe allow Congress to override any Supreme Court decision the same way they override a Veto, instead of having to write a constitutional amendment each time.

  13. johan_larson says:

    All you metal-heads may enjoy the upcoming road-trip comedy Heavy Trip, about a Finnish metal garage band that gets invited to perform at a festival in Norway.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7220754

    There’s a trailer.

  14. potato says:

    Seriously?? No comments.

    We have a Supreme Court nominee being accused of attempted rape, and the accusation was meant to be completely anonymous.

    The accuser called her congresswoman and then hired a lawyer, deleted her social media accounts, called the Washington Post tip line, and asked her therapist for a copy of her notes.

    Upon being identified, the accuser cannot remember the year (not date, YEAR), location, who was present, how she got to the location, how she got home, how she knew the people present at the location, how she knew the accused parties, who she talked to at the party, oh spoiler alert she also can’t remember anyone who was at the party or anyone she told about the party.

    There’s clearly a Journalist Aspect here, props to Ezra: every publication that leans left has adopted the same phrasing. “The accusations are credible” or “The victim is credible” or “the survivor is credible” but bottom line Kavanaugh is “under credible accusations of attempted rape.”

    No explanation of why it’s credible. No logic or rationality at all.

    • dick says:

      It was discussed extensively (and, I would say, not informatively or constructively) here, and I for one hope we don’t revisit it.

    • Randy M says:

      There was some discussion on the 110-25 thread.
      I haven’t read her letter personally, but from reports it seems to be trying to valiantly push the overton window on the minimum accepted evidence needed to smear someone.

      • cassandrus says:

        Stipulate for a second that she is telling the truth. What evidence, exactly, would you expect her to have beyond what she has come forward with already (i.e. (1) her own testimony and (2) evidence that she has told people about the attack over the past several years)? I can’t think of any.

        Continue to stipulate that she is telling the truth. Given that she knows that Kavanaugh assaulted her and has never admitted it, let alone taken responsibility for it, should she remain quiet about what happened, simply because she hasn’t preserved forensic evidence of the assault for the last 30 years?

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Lets say the incident occurred exactly as she says, but she made no contemporaneous accounts. What should her actions have been?

          1. She should have made these accusations when he was nominated to the DC Circuit in 2006. This is clearly a politically oriented woman who knows how powerful that position is and what it meant he was being groomed for.

          Failing 1

          2. She should have made these accusations when Kavanaugh was placed on Trump’s 25 person list.

          Failing 2

          3. She should have made these accusations when he was shortlisted. This is the last possible moment she can morally make the claim without publicly testifying. Still she should expect to at least submit an affidavit and should expect to respond to follow ups in private or in writing.

          Failing 3.

          4. She makes the claim to her congressman, senator, the FBI, a select media outlet, and the Judiciary committee when Kavanaugh is selected. It is immoral to expect such an accusation not to be thoroughly investigated at this time, including likely multiple public hearings with cross examination.

          • cassandrus says:

            I reject your claim that she somehow acted “immorally” by not following every step of Brett Kavanaugh’s career and scotching it at the precise phase of your choosing.

            But regardless: It’s July 20. You are Christine Ford, who has hemmed and hawed about coming forward. (Your reticence perhaps being understandable given what you have seen happen to other accusers, including Anita Hill, and what is currently happening to Ford herself.) You were hoping to be let off the hook by Trump nominating someone else. No such luck. Should you remain silent?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Should you remain silent?

            Yes. All other accounts of the man are that he is a saint. Whatever he may have done in high school clearly did not carry over into his adult life. Since I would know my accusations could not be proven and would stir shit and perhaps tarnish him in the eyes of innocent people like the girls’ basketball team he coaches, I would bite my tongue. Perhaps I would justify my silence by telling myself that memory is a malleable thing, and perhaps over the decades I’ve confused myself and maybe have the wrong guy.

            If she isn’t simply lying because, hey, is it wrong to tell a lie to stop Literally Hitler’s pick for the Supreme Court, and she actually believes what she says, it’s probably mistaken identity. Someone bad did something bad to her when she was young, she has vague memories of it, and Kavanaugh pattern matches to the bad man in her mind.

          • Matt M says:

            Should you remain silent?

            Yes.

            Or, failing that, you should have come forward at the start of the process, not the very end of it.

            And you probably should have come forward in public, to law enforcement and/or the media, and not in a secret letter to Diane Feinstein.

            And you probably shouldn’t have gone with this whole “I insist on being anonymous” thing right up until the point where it looked like people were going to say “We aren’t taking anonymous claims seriously” at which all of a sudden you decided “Whoops, guess my anonymity isn’t that important after all.”

            In any case, I reject your entire premise. Stipulating to guilt isn’t how justice works. How about we stipulate to the man’s innocence and ask one simple question: What actual evidence has been provided? Zero.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Or, failing that, you should have come forward at the start of the process, not the very end of it.

            She presented her evidence to people at the start of the process.

            Diane Feinstein then sat on it, skipping the chance to spring the question on Kavanaugh while he was under oath (AND SHE COULD HAVE DONE THIS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS).

            Oh, then it somehow “leaked.” When the only people who knew her name were Ford, Ford’s lawyer, Feinstein and her staff, and Eshoo and her staff.

            The Democrats demanded Ford be given the chance to testify, because they expected the GOP would do something really stupid when the accusation came out, like say that Ford shouldn’t be allowed to testify. Then the GOP didn’t take the bait, so now the Democrats are saying that it’s harassment to expect Ford to testify. The Democrats were caught flatfooted because the GOP didn’t take their bait. (To be fair to the Democrats, I would have been 50/50 that the GOP would have fallen for it, before the fact.)

            Now all they have is stalling, hoping something comes out, but they don’t have anything they know is coming out because they would have struck earlier this week when the timing would have been best.

            *EDIT* And Feinstein is now hemming and hawing about Ford. “This is a woman, who I really believe, has been profoundly impacted by this. Now, I can’t say everything is truthful. I don’t know.” Fuuuuuuck, Feinstein has really caused maximum damage to the process for the smallest actual result, always waiting until everyone has already moved on before signaling “wait, maybe not.”

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Your reticence perhaps being understandable given what you have seen happen to other accusers, including Anita Hill, and what is currently happening to Ford herself.)

            Umm she upgraded from associate professor at Oklahoma to Berkley then tenured at Brandeis, with dozens of yearly paid speaking gigs.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Consider that she might have moved up in the world as a legal academic had she said nothing. Her CV is impressive before that point. Meanwhile, we are completely unable to say what her academic career would have looked like in that case, whereas we can see that she received a lot of abuse at the time.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think I’m inclined to the idea that this was not a Cunning Plan by the Democrats precisely because Feinstein sat on it. That sounds more like someone given what they accepted was a genuine story, but also able to see that the entire thing was as full of holes as a colander and couldn’t be proven due to the haziness of the recollections. Then somebody leaked it and they had to stick or twist.

            I’m also inclined to think Ford could be telling the truth as she believes it. Something traumatic may well have happened to her at one of these teenage parties where she was too young and there were older guys and everyone was drinking. Was it Kavanaugh? Was it as she said? I have no idea.

            I’m not jumping on the “believe the victim” bandwagon because there was a very lurid rape accusation case here locally back in the tail-end of the 90s where there was a whole circus. Like Kavanaugh, one of the accused was a member of a group that it was now safe and popular to despise (the amount of “sure all Republicans are evil rape-apologists if not actual rapists and anyone who ever voted Republican should be made to cower in fear” I’ve seen going around, and that cowering in fear bit is an actual quote), and the media went to town on it with the usual lurid headlines. Everyone was making sure it was widely known how very appalling they found this hideous crime, from the director of the capital’s rape crisis centre to the judge in the case, and both accused served jail time.

            Very short jail time, because the entire conviction was quashed about four days later since the story fell apart under investigation. But didn’t the cops and the prosecutors investigate it? Yeah, well, who wants to be on the side of Evil Demon Sex Beasts and against Poor Innocent Victims? Nobody looked too hard into the stories of the accuser and her witness, until the accuser started giving newspaper interviews where she related other implausible attacks on her, and a person who had been falsely accused of rape by the witness read this, and got on to the defence team. The appeal court came down very strongly on the prosecution and police for the non-disclosure of things like “local police know the witness is a liar” and “she’s been involved before in fake accusations where it was physically impossible it happened”, but that was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

            So the entire circus kicked off because a genuinely troubled individual who had a terrible life from childhood onwards, and who suffered from mental problems, hallucinated “flashbacks” of alleged rapes when she was in the care of the accused, and her witness who wasn’t any too stable herself and came from an equally shitty background had a grudge against the accused and bolstered the story by giving fake evidence to get back at that person.

            I’m not saying Ford is deliberately lying, I am saying it’s possible that something that seems to have – if we take her word for it – caused her psychological trauma over thirty years and that she can’t get out of her mind has been blown up, obsessed over, and reinvented until it’s hard to disentangle true and false memories. Maybe Kavanaugh as a drunken teenager did assault her like she says, maybe it was a different guy at a different party. Without “I will always remember it happened in year 198x” to pin it down, there will always be those who say “yeah but he really did it, all this ‘I wasn’t at that party’ is bullshit”.

            As for the floating memory of “when I was 15 or so”, that is a red flag for me because in the local case this was the exact same shifting of dates; the initial allegation was that one assault was carried out by one of the accused on the day of the accuser’s 12th birthday (or rather, the night of that day). After the police investigated and found it was impossible for that one of the accused to be in the place alleged because they had solid evidence he was miles away and he was actually committed to prison a couple of days later, the accuser changed her story that it happened some days before or after the day of her birthday party.

            So, you know, I don’t see what an FBI investigation is going to achieve; even if they can pin it down to “Kavanaugh was not at a party on the xth of Xember in 198x”, all Ford has to do is say “no no, I meant the yth of Xember”. This kind of fuzziness is very misleading, and the more Kavanaugh is forced to say “I wasn’t at that party”, “I was at that party but I don’t remember her being there”, “I was at that party but nothing happened” about a string of dates, the worse he is going to look, even if genuinely telling the truth.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Then somebody leaked it and they had to stick or twist.

            I think Feinstein held on to it, hoping they’d take Kavanaugh out with something else, but when that failed to happen, she lobbed a stink bomb at him on the way by. She

            1) Changed the narrative about the nomination process from “crazy leftists throw temper tantrums while adults-in-the-room Republicans calmly approve of serious judge with stellar reputation” to “Republicans hate women.”

            2) Gave the media ammo so from now on whenever they write about Kavanaugh’s decisions on the Supreme Court they can refer to him as “Justice Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of attempted rape.”

            Torches norms and decency or whatever, but as far as political dirty tricks go it’s a masterclass.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Deiseach, a major difference between Ford and the other woman you’re describing is that Ford doesn’t seem to have a history of making wild accusations. It’s possible that such will come out, but it seems to me that they’d be found by now if they exist.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This is how a really cunning plan would go.

            Enter the witness with questionable credentials. Stand and yell about how she has to be believed, come up with reasons why she won’t testify. Get the Republicans to move on and confirm and then break out the second accuser with evidence behind her (or evidence they ‘just’ discovered). Then you get to point to every Republican and say “He voted for a rapist, he knew it and voted anyway.” That would be a master stroke, without that this looks more like amateur hour with Dems looking like they are scrambling for ammo and not stopping to wonder how it could blow up in their faces.

          • CatCube says:

            @Deiseach

            My suspicion is that Sen. Feinstein came into this information earlier on, and may have tried to do some validation. If you look at a lot of the men jammed up in the current #MeToo climate, it turns out that there was an awful lot of whispering in their industry about it, where nobody will outright state accusations in public, but rumors fly thick.

            So after getting the letter, she knew that it was a very thin accusation and not remotely enough to sink him on its own, and with a few months of investigation it would die. I think she shopped around to see if there were rumors that, say, Kavanaugh liked to pork his clerks. If that were the case, she could release the letter and trust that all of the muck would work its way out over the ensuing investigation.

            When she found that there really wasn’t any other rumors, that sank any hope that a #MeToo storm would sink the Kavanaugh ship, so she sat on it until late in the process so she could claim that it’s necessary to delay the confirmation (not necessarily until after the election of course, but by coincidence it will take a few months, and well, the election is in a month and a half), knowing that it’s probably going to turn out to be unprovable, and it’s not likely that other events are going to come out to bolster it.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Forensic evidence would be wonderful, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for not having it – and least of all someone who, according to her story, wouldn’t have had any forensic evidence in the first place!

          What I would want in a world where she’s telling the truth would be for her to bring forth evidence that she told people about the assault in the past, including naming Kavanaugh as her assailant. Her psychologist’s notes don’t name the person who attacked her, as well as disagreeing on some supporting details. That’s missing the piece of the story that’s most significant to the current political fight.

          Okay, suppose that we-advising-Ford can only travel back in time to July 20th, not to 2012 or even 2016. That leaves her in a tough place; without any evidence the story happened or even that she was telling it before the nomination, she’s going to get people wondering if she made it up on the spot. But still, she could tell it as soon as possible instead of springing it on the world at the last moment, so people will have more time to investigate.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It is fine that she can’t prove it. It doesn’t mean she is lying. It means she can’t prove it.

            And Kavanaugh cannot disprove it, especially because Ford cannot even narrow it down to a given year. That’s an impossible standard.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nancy, neither did anyone in the local case know that person’s history of wild accusations, and when they did find out, they seem to have been more inclined to “are you sure that’s what happened? okay!” than “maybe we should drop this entire case because it’s not what happened”. There doesn’t seem to have been much contact between the police who all had separate pieces of the puzzle, and the real crack in the story came when, as I said, a man falsely accused by the witness in the case read an interview with the accuser in a newspaper and got on to the legal team for the accused. If they hadn’t run that story? Or if the witness had not been named? I’m not so sure the truth would ever have come out in a timely fashion, if at all. Everybody involved including the public was more interested in having their nice neat ending in a story of bad baddies and good victims that fit the prejudices of the time.

            From the bits and pieces I’m picking up, there’s already some discrepancy between the therapist’s notes of what was claimed to be said and what Ms Ford is saying she said and saying the therapist got it wrong. Who knows what story she’s been telling for years, and how it’s changed in the telling?

            It could all be true. But I’m concerned about the people rushing to “it must be true, after all he’s anti-choice/anti-personal liberties/Republican” and that seems to be all that’s needed as evidence of guilt. The defence there being that nobody ever lies about something like this, why would she make it up, and that the bare word should be enough. I’ve seen people getting fired up for a witch-burning in a situation like this and it’s not pretty. There’s too much politics and polarisation to let this be settled in any kind of neutral way – if there is/is not an FBI investigation, if they find for Kavanaugh/for Ford, if the confirmation does/does not go ahead – somebody, no matter what the decision in the end, is going to say that it was a set-up and a cover-up and the real guilty party has been let go free.

            This also holds for the “it must be a Democrat plan to smear and get rid of Kavanaugh”. It needn’t be and as I’ve said, Feinstein sitting on it does not, to me, sound like “waiting for the perfect moment to strike” but more “knows this vague story can’t be made to stand up but doesn’t want to mistreat a possible victim of real assault”. Ford could be perfectly honest and this is what really happened, she could be honest and deluded (for whatever reason), or she could be a deliberate liar. It’s going to be hard if not impossible to find out what is the truth, given both sides have very strong reasons to want their person to be vindicated and for the other side to be brought low.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Continue to stipulate that she is telling the truth

          You are completely right. It is COMPLETELY POSSIBLE that she is telling the truth.

          It is also COMPLETELY POSSIBLE that Kavanaugh is telling the truth.

          A remarkable number of people have come up with bullshit theories to explain why they can tell with certainty whether Ford, McDowell, Zervos, Gibson, and Deason are telling the truth, and somehow come to the exact opposite conclusion for Broderick, Monahan, and Haggerty. It’s bullshit.

          Then there is “all ties must go to my side, because reasons,” which is also bullshit.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Oh good Lord. Now Ed Whelan, a conservative, has decided that the way to save Kavanguah is to throw some other rando (who went to the school, but is completely uninvolved in any politics, so 100% unprepared for this) under the bus, with the evidence being ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . Eh, his life is just going to be destroyed now, no big deal.

            Ford and Kavanaugh are rapidly becoming the only two people I’m not disgusted with in this disgusting tale.

        • What evidence, exactly, would you expect her to have

          The situation is even worse than that. Assuming the incident really happened, there is unlikely to be a credible accuser. Things are sufficiently polarized so that no left wing accuser is credible and almost no right wing victim would go public.

          The timing–going public just before the end of the process and then insisting on an FBI investigation–looks suspicious. That could mean it’s a pure invention intended to either stall everything past the election or make the Republicans look bad before the election. Or it could mean the accusation is real but, given the lack of evidence, the Democrats thought this was the best way of using it.

        • Stipulate that Kavanaugh didn’t do what she said and she is trying to derail his nomination. Isn’t this exactly the behavior you would expect? She wants the FBI to investigate even though it is completely implausible that they’ll find any new evidence while it would coincidentally stall the nomination for who knows how long. Then when the FBI gambit didn’t work, suddenly she’ll testify but only on her terms? The evidence is consistent with both theories and if that’s true, our justice system says you’re supposed to support the defendant.

        • Randy M says:

          Let’s assume for a minute that the police know, for sure, that a man is guilty of murder but can supply no evidence that will hold up on court. What should they do? Fake evidence? Extra-judicial hit?
          Or should we not set precedent for terrible norms that will have bad consequences for the innocent going forward?

    • BBA says:

      Caitlin Flanagan’s take is interesting, simply because it’s such a sharp contrast with almost everything else she’s written.

      • J Mann says:

        Man, she can write. I knew that article was going to be a gut punch as soon as I saw the topic.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I did not find it compelling. “A black guy once robbed me, so I believe people who say they were robbed by a different black guy.”

      • WashedOut says:

        “Here’s this thing that happened to me ages ago that I’m OK with now, I’ve moved on. It has some similarities to [current outrage de jour] so that makes it relevant, and btw I don’t have anything to add to [current outrage du jour].”

        If that’s what a sharp contrast looks like, I suppose I should check out her other stuff.

    • John Schilling says:

      Just because we can discuss a thing, doesn’t mean that we should discuss a thing.

      • Matt M says:

        This sort of thing is exactly the type of public issue where rationalists can potentially add a lot of value to the public discourse.

        (Of course, just because we can doesn’t mean that we will…)

    • The Nybbler says:

      The way it’s looking now, he and Justice Thomas are going to have a lot to talk about.

      • BobRoss says:

        Do you think the phrase ‘High tech lynching’ would sell well to modern audiances?

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          * For uppity blacks

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This one is more like a drive-by shooting. Feinstein sat on the letter until right before the vote, used it to tar Kavanaugh, but it won’t stop the confirmation because there’s nothing you can do with such a vague and old accusation. But from now until eternity every time the media writes about one of his decisions, they will refer to him as “Justice Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of attempted rape, wrote today that blah blah blah…”

    • BobRoss says:

      At least now it is looking like she will refuse to testify, sort of a tacit admission that it is all bunk.

      I share your lament on the sorry state of the news. The Democrats have reasons to be scoundrels; the press has no excuse.

      • Matt M says:

        sort of a tacit admission that it is all bunk

        This is not, at all, the narrative that 99% of the mainstream media is going with…

        She’s not “refusing” to testify. She just is rightfully demanding an investigation, which is being stonewalled by evil-rape-apologist Republicans all as part of their ongoing attempt to “rush” the dangerously unqualified Kavanaugh through the confirmation process, against the will of the people.

        • Deiseach says:

          She just is rightfully demanding an investigation, which is being stonewalled by evil-rape-apologist Republicans

          I honestly can’t tell if you mean that sarcastically or not. I’m already seeing the commentary about how Kavanaugh is a perjurer (i.e. supposedly lied under oath at the senate hearings when he was confirmed as a circuit court judge, about what he was and wasn’t doing when he worked for the Bush administration). So there are people convinced he’s a perjurer and a rapist, what more do we need to know?

          They’ve got the hot off the presses comedienne Twitter quotes up on their blogs!

          • Matt M says:

            My intent was to summarize the mainstream media narrative.

          • Deiseach says:

            My intent was to summarize the mainstream media narrative.

            Unfortunately plausible. Hey guys, did you know this whole thing is actually a sinister Republican plot? According to people on Twitter whose tweets are being reblogged/shared on social media where I’m tripping over them despite not wanting to know, the whole “here is a list of 65 women testifying to Kavanaugh’s character” is evidence of the set-up!

            I was going to say “it’s getting crazy now” but I think the real batshit insanity is yet to come.

      • brmic says:

        will refuse to testify, sort of a tacit admission that it is all bunk.

        So you’re saying Mark Judge is lying?
        I admit to counting that against Kavanaugh because, if it never happened it should be a no-brainer for Judge to testify to that loudly and clearly. But OTOH obviously there’s a concern of implicating oneself and a desire to avoid the shitshow. Still, there’s such a thing as civic duty.
        If I similarly grant you that a refusal to testify would be an argument against her credibility, would that enable you to both (a) keep in mind that there may be other reasons besides dishonesty at work here and adjust your estimate accordingly and (b) recognize that she is not refusing but setting a precondition, which to me seems reasonable or at least not unreasonable.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Judge isn’t really implicated, and has an easy out. “I thought she was into it, but then I saw her struggling, knocked Brett off of her and got him out of the room. I’m very sorry about what Brett did to Ms. Ford, have felt awful I couldn’t have stopped it sooner, and hope she can find it in her heart to forgive me. #BelieveWomen.”

        • baconbits9 says:

          I admit to counting that against Kavanaugh because, if it never happened it should be a no-brainer for Judge to testify to that loudly and clearly. But OTOH obviously there’s a concern of implicating oneself and a desire to avoid the shitshow. Still, there’s such a thing as civic duty.

          No it isn’t because a positive claim and a negative claim aren’t the same thing.

          1. Mr. Judge, do you recall such an incident happening?

          2. No, I don’t.

          1. Ok, free to go.

          3. Wait, just a few more questions. Mr. Judge it says in your book that high school was “awash in a sea of alcohol”, did you drink some of that alcohol?

          2. Well, yes.

          3. Would you say you drank a lot, even excessively?

          2. Well, yes, I admit to that in the book.

          3. Were you ever black out drunk?

          2. Well, yes.

          3. So when you say you don’t remember it happening, that really doesn’t mean much does it, it just means you don’t remember it happening on the odd night you didn’t get wasted?

          Without the testimony of the accuser, and specifics there is nothing to refute that might make you more credible (and descriptions of Judge sound pretty scum baggy).

          “On the night in question” needs to have an actual night, not a “any particular night in high school”.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          if it never happened it should be a no-brainer for Judge to testify to that loudly and clearly.

          He told the Senate he didn’t do it. He did this in Senate questioning where he’d face the same perjury charges as lying in court.

          Maybe you read the New York Times before they issued their correction. Did you see that one? It was pretty good:

          Correction: September 18, 2018
          An earlier version of this article misstated what Mark Judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that he does not remember the episode, not that he does.

          Oops!

          Kavanaugh and Judge are under oath saying it did not happen. Ford is not. (I don’t think this is necessarily dispositive, but it’s meant to BTFO people who say they don’t believe Kavanaugh because Judge hasn’t said it didn’t happen.)

          *EDIT* Including Smyth, there are now three people have testified that the incident didn’t happen, and zero that have testified it did happen. Again, I don’t think this is necessarily dispositive. I’m just doing it to call out people who used “not willing to testify” as their standard of proof.

          • Evan Þ says:

            That is an egregious and inexcusable error for the Times to make. Judge is an author and journalist; is that enough of a nonpublic figure or limited-public-figure for him to sue the Times for libel?

          • bean says:

            @Evan

            You’re assuming that they were being deliberate. People are notorious for reading what they expect, and typos happen.

          • Matt M says:

            Weird how they always make “mistakes” in one direction.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @bean, that might well be the case. That’s why I brought up the question of whether he counts as a public figure; if not, I believe negligence would be sufficient for the Times to be liable for libel. (If so, he’d need to prove they did it on purpose or acted with “reckless disregard,” which I expect would be impossible.)

          • bean says:

            I really doubt it. IANAL, but the mistake wasn’t really defamatory towards Judge. Kavanaugh might have been defamed by false reporting of Judge’s testimony, but he’s definitely a public figure.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @bean, if the story was true and Judge said he remembered it, then he’d be admitting to participating in sexual assault, which is a crime and presumably would hurt his reputation. That’s what the Times originally said.

    • engleberg says:

      Re: every publication that leans left has adopted the same phrasing.

      The weaker the case, the stronger the threat to the next R party nominee- a D party loyalist will call you a rapist and so will four out of five broadcast networks.
      My guess is, if the accusation is fake, there’s going to be something more thrown at the wall in hopes it sticks. But if it’s real, the accuser has honestly said her piece and the guy who grabbed her booty against her will thirty years ago will probably be on the Supreme Court for twenty years.

      • melolontha says:

        the guy who grabbed her booty against her will thirty years ago

        This is a terrible way to describe the allegation. Even if you think the dismissive tone was a good idea, you didn’t come close to accuracy.

        Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

        While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

        “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

        Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

        • engleberg says:

          If you think ‘grabbed her booty’ means like football players lightly slapping each other on the ass my phrasing was terrible.

    • Matt M says:

      not date, YEAR

      This part really gets me.

      I understand fuzzy memories and how trauma can make them worse. My own memory is generally quite poor. But if you described to me any event from my teenage years that I remember at all, I’m very confident I could at least pinpoint the freaking year, based on other memories, context, etc.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This doesn’t get me, what gets me is the combination of “memories aren’t perfect” with “we must trust her memory on the key points”. If you are going to accept that her memory can be true with surrounding fuzziness then it is pretty hard to justify accepting the details she does recall as unquestionable without corroboration.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m not sure. I can usually point to the year, but there’re a few things I’ve confused between (say) ninth and tenth grade. And I’m just in my twenties.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The accusation is “credible” because it’s not “incredible.” There is some, somewhat conflicting, documentary evidence.

      She doesn’t have a lot of evidence to back up her claims. That is very true. But that’s different than there being something self-immolating about her claims, like there were (from the start) about Crystal Magnum or Jackie Coakley.

      “Credible” doesn’t mean “known to be true.”

      • Matt M says:

        But that’s different than there being something self-immolating about her claims, like there were (from the start) about Crystal Magnum or Jackie Coakley.

        As has been pointed out elsewhere though, this was not immediately clear in either of those cases either. With Crystal it took months, and with Coakley weeks for “Wait a minute – something about this doesn’t add up” to draw anything other than extreme criticism.

        Within the first week or so, proper opinion was that of course these stories were completely credible and anyone suggesting otherwise was guilty of terrible sexism and cruelty towards victims.

        And I might suggest that despite her obvious character flaws, Magnum’s story is, in a way, more credible than this one, in the sense that at least she could actually establish that she was at the party with the accused on the night in question. There were more actual facts to support her narrative than there are to support Ford’s.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          By the time that Newsweek put the Lacrosse players on their front page (which was not Day One but still very very early in the process), they were simultaneously reporting (in the same issue) that Nifong’s photo lineup for Magnum was composed of only the white players on the team, and when she happened to somehow choose 3 lacrosse players out of the lineup, those were the ones he prosecuted.

          The fact that it took months for the media to back down from their collective defense in the face of such a detail is a valuable data point.

          • albatross11 says:

            The specifics of the Kavenaugh/Ford thing seem pointless to discuss, since there will apparently never be enough evidence to know who (if anyone) is telling the truth.

            But the dynamics of how press cover this kind of story seem like something we might learn from.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        If that is what credible means in this situation, the word is basically useless. Its credible also that Anthony Kennedy is a Ron-Swanson like prepper who has gold hidden in every municipality in Maryland. Its credible that Scalia was poisoned to death by CIA operatives at the behest of President Obama who thought he could sneak in a last minute nominee.
        Its credible Jordan Peterson consumes 3 lobsters a day in an attempt to become top lobster in the dominance hierarchy.

        I suppose under this standard we could say its not credible that Ms. Ford was raped by Judge Kavanaugh with the aid of extraterrestrials. But that is not useful.

        • Nornagest says:

          Its credible Jordan Peterson consumes 3 lobsters a day in an attempt to become top lobster in the dominance hierarchy.

          So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s not meant to be useful. It’s meant to damage Republicans politically. And it is doing its job quite well.

        • rlms says:

          There are people claiming to have seen those things? It is credible and indeed true that you are being silly.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is a tangent, but I’m throwing it in there because it’s so “The Onion” (or rather, r/nottheonion)

      Aides quietly stunned by Trump’s respectful handling of Kavanaugh accuser.

      • Matt M says:

        Stuff like this betrays that the media still has an incredibly poor understanding of Trump.

        He attacks people who attack him. This woman has been careful to not say anything about Trump personally, so he has no need or reason to attack her.

        Let her make a statement like “Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh shows what a heartless and cruel monster he is” and then you can bet the insulting nicknames will come forth, but not before then.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I was going to say this exactly. Trump’s whole PR schtick is “say nice things about me and I will say nice things about you. Say bad things about me and I will say worse things about you.” There’s a whole chapter in one of his books about the importance of revenge.

          • Matt M says:

            Trump employs a tit-for-tat strategy. Others defect on him and then get outraged when he defects in turn. Then, when he cooperates with those who have been cooperating, everyone says WOW ISN’T IT CRAZY – THIS GUY USUALLY DEFECTS BUT NOW HE ISN’T!!!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Whelllp, heuristics work until they don’t. That’s usually Trump’s PR strategy, but he just went ham. What was a shitstorm will now be a category 5 shithurricane.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Trump’s chaotic, so of course any given heuristic might fail.

            Trump is in a position where he can impugn her credibility, where few others can — the Senators would look like big bullies beating up on the poor sexual assault victim, and Judge and Kavanaugh obviously have ulterior motives. Trump’s already maximally known as a big bully, so he can attack her, and promote the forbidden counter-narrative of a deliberately false accusation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes. I think the Senate Republicans are…not pleased with Trump’s statements. They were going to win anyway. Maybe she doesn’t show up, maybe she shows up, they say “thank you for your testimony. We will weigh this along with all the information we have about Judge Kavanaugh” and then they vote to confirm .

            On the other hand, the #MeToo thing has gone off the rails. Weinstein was a rapist. Matt Lauer’s office was a sex dungeon. But then you get into Louis CK, who did some weird stuff, but entirely consensual. And then Aziz Ansari which just sounds like bad sex. And now the claims against Kavanaugh are ludicrous. We’re going to have to fight the #ListenAndBelieve crowd eventually. Why not do it from the strongest position against the weakest case? If we’re not going to the mat on this one, then which one? What charge could be sillier than this one?

            If we must fight, and we must, let it be here.

            ETA: Also I just saw a poll that only about a quarter of people (men and women) find the accusations “credible.” So this may be another case where the media explodes, because “you can’t say that!” but yeah most people not on TV agree.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “but entirely consensual”

            Consent is complicated in situations with asymmetric power relations.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How many situations have perfectly symmetrical power relations?

          • Matt M says:

            Consent is complicated in situations with asymmetric power relations.

            And let’s not forget, the existence of the patriarchy is such that power relations between men and women are always asymmetrical. Funny how that works!

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            Maybe it would work better if the other side got to make their own arguments, rather than you making up a strawman version of them.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “How many situations have perfectly symmetrical power relations?”

            Not a lot. So we have to deal with it, rather than declare things “entirely consensual.” This issue even comes up in law, notions of “informed consent” in research, specifically distinguishing “vulnerable groups” (e.g. prisoners), and so on.

          • Randy M says:

            @albatross11
            I agree with you in general that Matt M’s post there is likely to trigger arguments of strawmaning.
            I expect that the group of people who think bosses shouldn’t hit on secretaries overlaps with but is larger than the group that thinks we are living in a rape-culture patriarchy.
            But to the extent that someone does hold the latter view that men have privilege over women, and that power disparities should rule out sexual relations, it seems quite fair to ask where the line is drawn. “All sex is rape” is a fringe position, but it would be good to know the limits of the principles involved.

          • Matt M says:

            I expect that the group of people who think bosses shouldn’t hit on secretaries

            I don’t remember that clearly, but as far as I recall, Louis CK was not doing this to his own employees. He was doing it to other aspiring comedians who happened to be less successful than him (and at the time, “less successful than Louis CK” described about 99% of all comedians). They were closer to being his peers than his subordinates.

            The claim that this is a power dynamic thing is very weak, imho. Bosses and secretaries have a clear and obvious and hierarchical power structure that is entirely absent in this scenario.

          • Plumber says:

            “…And let’s not forget, the existence of the patriarchy is such that power relations between men and women are always asymmetrical….”

            @Matt M,

            Apparently, “If you have women in positions of power behaving like men do, that is not a defeat of the patriarchy. … That’s just patriarchy with women in it“, so you don’t even need men to have a “patriarchy” (which I guess just means a hierarchy). 

            I suppose the revolution will be completed when there’s only one living entity left so no more “asymmetric power relations”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Ilya

            Understood. I withdraw the “entirely consensual” part. I also just read the details of his situation and I had the wrong idea about what had happened. I did not know he also did this in the dressing room at a TV show taping. I thought it was all after hours drinking stuff. Still, I’m just saying there’s a trend down from “rape” to “creepy power disparity behavior” to “bad sex” and now to 36 year old teenage fumbling accusations. These are not the same things.

            As an aside, I’m having trouble articulating how I feel about the state of the sexual culture in society.

            [begin rant]

            We had rules. We had social technology that prevented an awful lot of bad situations and bad behavior. “Girls and boys aren’t alone together.” “Bring my daughter back here by 9:30 or I’ve got a .45 and a shovel and no one will miss you.” “Stay away from my sister or I’ll pop you one.” And all this gets torn down with sermons about how whatever happens between consenting parties is none of my business and stay out of your bedroom and anyone can do whatever they want with their body. Unless something happens that you don’t like (and was almost certainly foreseeable), in which case “consent is tricky” and I am obligated to pry into the very specific details of what went on in your bedroom and make extremely consequential social, political, and financial decisions about it and if I choose wrong I’m a moral monster.

            How about no? About we just go back to the rules, where teenagers don’t have drunken sex parties? Where it’s never okay to do sex acts in front of or with someone you’re not married to? That all solves like 99% of these problems. I’ll concede that there are always power disparities between men and women in any situation, and so to make sure the sex is a good idea and totally consensual then before it’s even an option we’ll make sure people take a lifelong commitment to each other, with the approval of both the man and the woman’s families. Have a big ceremony to celebrate it.

            But instead it’s “no judgment! Until I want you to have extreme judgment!” “screw your morals! But also be morally outraged at *this*!” “Consent makes anything okay! But just because I consented doesn’t mean I really consented!”

            This is all incoherent and unworkable. Everybody just stop with the screwing because nobody can figure out how to do society with it.

            [end rant]

          • baconbits9 says:

            Those rules were steadily abandoned as they failed to work as society changed. No sex without marriage (or if there is proof of sex, ie pregnancy, then you better get hitched) works a hell of a lot better in towns of a few hundred people where you have met most of the eligible members of the opposite sex withing your age range by the time you hit 20. Sure you might get hitched at 19 and then someone you haven’t seen for 4 years will move back from college or the army that you would have been better off with, but the opportunity cost of a poor decision is much lower.

            I own a .45 and a shovel doesn’t work when she turns 18 and goes off to film school in New York. Not only that but it actively hinders them when they head out, they are so used (on both sides) to that in the background that they can’t see the new situation for what it is. A boy who treats you one way and knows your father well isn’t the same as a boy who treats you that same way (to start with) but doesn’t know your father. The girls who dressed and acted a certain way back home in a small town isn’t the same as the big city girl who dresses and acts a similar way.

            The norms started to decay, but we haven’t found good ones to replace them yet.

          • Randy M says:

            No sex without marriage … works a hell of a lot better in towns of a few hundred people where you have met most of the eligible members of the opposite sex withing your age range by the time you hit 20. Sure you might get hitched at 19 and then someone you haven’t seen for 4 years will move back from college or the army that you would have been better off with, but the opportunity cost of a poor decision is much lower.

            The argument is that people now are better off promiscuous because they have a higher chance of finding their optimal match through copious copulation?
            This packs in a ton of assumptions, such that varied sex is better than steady sex, and that sex varies so widely in quality that finding the partner that is perfect for you is a better strategy than keeping one that is experienced with you in particular, and most critically, that the sex you are having while you search for Mr/Mrs Optimal has no effect on your pair bonding and that the comparisons aren’t more emotionally troubling than the wondering about what was missed.
            Also, it makes assertions that should be able to be checked empirically. How does sexual satisfaction change with number of sexual partners? With length of marriage?

            The rest of your post I agree with; it’s much harder to enforce norms, these or otherwise, in modern society.

            (By the way, this–ideal length of search given for an applicant–is similar to the secretary problem in game theory)

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I agree that it’s a legitimate critique of progressives that they may thoughtlessly tear down load bearing social norms. Even bad norms worth tearing down have positive externalities, and one should use those in the calculus that decides to tear them down.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The argument is that people now are better off promiscuous because they have a higher chance of finding their optimal match through copious copulation?

            No, that the odds of finding your best match at 18 vs 25 have shifted a lot. If you are likely to get married at 18, then waiting until marriage means a much lower cost than if your optimal age is 25, plus those extra 7 years are going to be more free from the shovel in the trunk threat than the previous several sexually awake years.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Ilya

            I think the norms fell due to both sides. Pre birth control a norm of “if you get pregnant I know you were having sex, and I am going to force you and the boy to get married” was somewhat workable. Once the pill is available (and condoms) then the norm works less well, now dad has to either accept premarital sex or demand to know if his daughter is on the pill or not. This can be a wedge where parents have to either be pushed into being more permissive or more conservative and controlling, and where the prior norm itself barely serves a function

          • Thinking about it from a Bayesian point of view …

            Suppose there had been no accusation. Given what we believe about prep school culture and the behavior of teen aged boys, the prior for Kavenaugh having done something like this would still be significant–say five or ten percent. The accusation by Ford doesn’t raise them very much, because the probability of such an accusation being made if he is guilty isn’t a lot higher than the probability if he is innocent.

          • Randy M says:

            No, that the odds of finding your best match at 18 vs 25 have shifted a lot.

            I’m reading Algorithms to live by right now, which is why I was ready with a link to the secretary problem. In the optimal world, where you could evaluate all mates equally well [and immediately], then it is wise to go through 37% of the applicant pool before deciding. But, as you point out, there is a price to pay by waiting (and as I argued, having sex promiscuously does not eliminate that price). Therefore one needs to change the hueristic to something else. In other words, the optimal choice is not optimal if you spend half you life, a lot of heartache, an std or two, and your most energetic and fertile years finding that optimal choice.

            Another strategy mentioned in the book is to set a time limit, spend the first third of that time evaluating, then from that point forward choose the optimal candidate (basically the first one to be better than all previous ones).

            Of course, this doesn’t touch on the fact that young people are probably optimizing for the wrong factors.

          • Plumber says:

            “…As an aside, I’m having trouble articulating how I feel about the state of the sexual culture in society….”

            @Conrad Honcho,

            No trouble, you seemed pretty clear to me.

            Throw in “Parents of minor children who get divorced shall be socially reviled and treated with great disdain”, and I’ll join you on that bandwagon.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The Secretary problem is only partially informative here, it is not just a larger pool, it is a fundamentally different pool. In a small town you might only have 40 or so choices of the opposite sex within a 5 year age range, and you know some of them well enough to invite for an interview or reject out of hand. You also know the environment in which their behaviors exist and can infer what they mean (at least to some extent). If you trot off to the big city for college all of your pre knowledge goes out the window. The first person to ask you out as a stranger is different from the first person to ask you out after living 10 houses down from you for his whole life.

            Actually the secretary issue could be extended here: the traits that you would select for out of 100 candidates are different from selecting from 3. If you select from 3 the pushy one who calls back, and really presses for an answer might be understandable because of that trait, but if there are 100 candidates then the pushy ones probably encompass the group who understands the situation the best (plus also people who are just pushy). Likewise the top candidate in a small town who is willing to wait for marriage since it is only a year or two is different from the city boy who will wait for marriage because you are their only option. Same behavior, different signals.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect a big change here is that it makes sense, for social reasons, for most people to wait until they’re in their late 20s or early 30s to get married.

            It’s one thing to convince an 18 year old not to sleep with his 16 year old girlfriend for a year or two, till they can get married. It’s quite another to convince a 28 year old not to sleep with his 26 year old girlfriend for a year or two. In the first case, the parents have a lot of power over the couple; in the second, both are likely on their own, with nobody able to tell them what to do.

            To the extent we have people getting married fairly young, the more traditional rules seem likely to work better.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think the difference between convincing a 28 year old to wait a year or two is wildly different from convincing an 18 year old to wait a year or two, but the 28 year old has to be convinced for 10 years AND THEN wait another year or two for both of them to be virgins. If you are OK with the guy not being a virgin then the woman has to compete with others who are willing to sleep with him.

            One issue that I do think exists is that people wait FOREVER to get married. My sister started dating her husband years (like 5+) before I started dating my wife and they got engaged at our wedding.

          • Randy M says:

            I suspect a big change here is that it makes sense, for social reasons, for most people to wait until they’re in their late 20s or early 30s to get married.

            hmm… Can you expand? By social, do you mean economic, ie, college & career? Or that they just haven’t found anyone yet?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            No, that the odds of finding your best match at 18 vs 25 have shifted a lot. If you are likely to get married at 18, then waiting until marriage means a much lower cost than if your optimal age is 25, plus those extra 7 years are going to be more free from the shovel in the trunk threat than the previous several sexually awake years.

            Given the divorce rates over the last few decades, I don’t think the modern dating scene really optimises for finding your “best match”.

          • Nornagest says:

            My understanding is that divorce rates have been declining since their peak in the late ’70s/early ’80s: on a per-capita basis they’re now slightly above mid-century levels. On a per-marriage basis they’re higher, yet off their peaks by nearly a third. Marriage rates, on the other hand, are at historical lows.

      • Dan L says:

        Trump unleashes on Kavanaugh’s accuser

        Well, this thread didn’t age well.

        • Matt M says:

          Dumb, biased, reporting by CNN, as per usual.

          “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place,” Trump tweeted.

          Trump also called for the process to reach its completion, writing ” Let her testify, or not, and TAKE THE VOTE!”

          That’s “unleashing” on her? That’s pretty damn tame by anyone’s standards but it’s incredibly tame by Trump standards. Where is the insult?

          As far as I can tell, this is about the most polite and diplomatic way you can doubt her story. He’s certainly implying that she is lying or misremembering, but he’s not directly calling her a liar or a psycho or whatever.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            this is about the most polite and diplomatic way you can doubt her story.

            No it isn’t. Claiming a 15 year old girl should have called the police in 1983 or else it didn’t happen is not polite or diplomatic. I guess an extremely autistic person could parse that tweet literally and think Trump really wants to know about the case, but that person needs a sit-down and careful explanation that sometimes people do not mean what they literally say.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I disagree Matt. Trump is calling her a liar. “Unleashes on” is an entirely reasonable headline.

          • Randy M says:

            Is there more? ‘Cause if not, I’m with Matt. “Put up or shut up” in diplomatic language is perfectly fair for charges this serious but unsubstantiated, and his text is consistent with her being merely confused.
            “Trump unleashes a tweet implying disbelief with the accusation” would be fair, but highlights the overwrought nature of the verb chosen.

          • Nick says:

            “Unleashes” is a misleading verb and that’s definitely CNN bias, but Trump’s tweets were hardly “about the most polite and diplomatic way you can doubt her story.” And saying it’s tame by Trump standards is the very definition of damning by faint praise!

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s definitely quite restrained for Trump. And I’d say it would be still be only moderately aggressive for most people trying to put across the same message, such as a defense attorney. But in today’s world, merely doubting the word of an accuser is considered beyond the pale:

            “In taking to Twitter, Mr. Trump did what his aides had feared most: Before hearing her full account, he questioned the veracity of a woman who alleged a sexual assault.”

          • Matt M says:

            The “before hearing her full account” is a nice touch there, given that everyone (including Trump himself) has been asking for her full account for a week now, and she has been refusing to provide it.

          • What Trump says isn’t true. If it really happened she might have reported it to the police. She might have told nobody. She might have told a few friends but not her parents. It depends on what sort of person she was at the time.

            By her account there was no penetration, so she didn’t have to worry about a pregnancy to explain. Probably no bruises that she might have to explain to her parents. I can easily enough imagine her deciding to ignore the whole thing and just be more careful to avoid such situations in the future.

    • At a slight tangent, I’ve been wondering about the effect of this on the election—including the possibility that affecting the election was actually the purpose of making the charge public. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, will women vote against Republican candidates on the basis that the Republicans should have believe Ford? Or will people vote against Democratic candidates on the theory that this was a dishonest attack by the Democrats? If both happen, as I think likely, which will affect more votes?

      • The Nybbler says:

        If they could somehow delay the confirmation until well after the election (e.g. through a lengthy FBI investigation), it would help them in that they’d be able to exhort their supporters to vote for Democratic Senate candidates to “stop Kavanaugh”. As it is, I think they’ve failed to smear Kavanaugh and the effect will likely be slightly positive for the Republicans, because any policy issues voters may have had with Kavanaugh won’t be in voter’s minds, instead pushed out by this allegation that, due to Ford’s refusal to testify, isn’t going to be believed except by partisans.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Up until Ford’s allegations I thought the nomination process was more useful for Republicans, because independents would be turned off watching the unhinged displays by leftist protestors, and the delusional grandstanding by Corey “Spartacus” Booker, etc. The Ford allegations have essentially erased the “deranged leftists behave entirely unreasonably towards unobjectionable judge” narrative.

        It’s an incredibly vile dirty trick by Feinstein, but as far as realpolitik goes, an absolute master class.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        including the possibility that affecting the election was actually the purpose of making the charge public

        🤔

      • baconbits9 says:

        If he gets confirmed and no further allegations or evidence comes out then I would expect it to favor Republicans. The general public defers to power and position, and you need a pretty strong story to turn against them. Republicans aren’t spending significant capital to get him on the bench, and Dems don’t have an obvious wedge here without decent evidence. If she refuses to testify they have to distance themselves.

      • 10240 says:

        If Kavanaugh is confirmed, will women vote against Republican candidates on the basis that the Republicans should have believe Ford?

        On the basis that, despite all the allegations of misogyny against Trump, the difference between his share of men’s and women’s votes was only slightly bigger than those of the Republican candidates in the preceding few presidential elections, I don’t think this will be a significant effect.

    • BBA says:

      Well, this is just a massive shitshow of a subthread, isn’t it?

      A worthwhile take comes from Justin Dillon at Above the Law. Memories can’t be trusted, and there is no concrete proof one way or the other of what did or didn’t happen. The allegation should not have any impact on one’s opinion of the nominee. Of course it does, because humans aren’t wired to be rational.

      I opposed Kavanaugh before the letter came out, and guess what? I still do.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Well, this is just a massive shitshow of a subthread, isn’t it?

        Actually I think it’s been moderately enjoyable, especially in comparison with pretty much any other discussion of the matter on the internet.

    • David Speyer says:

      There is an aspect of this which I’m curious to get feedback from some heavy drinkers on. On his podcast, Matt Yglesias said something along the lines of “I drunk a lot in college and there are a lot of nights I don’t remember. If someone told me that, on one of those nights twenty years ago, I had sexually assaulted her, I would consider the possibility that she might be right.”

      I almost never drink and I’ve never drunk enough to not remember what happened. Is that actually a reasonable thing for a heavy drinker to say or is it nuts?

      • Brad says:

        This is an entirely reasonable thing for a former binge drinker to say. For me the only thing is that when I was drinking so heavily as to black out I was generally sick and don’t think I would have been coordinated enough to sexually assault anyone. But there may have been a window before that.

        On the other hand maybe that does proves too much?

      • quanta413 says:

        I think it depends how you react to alcohol. I probably drank less than most college students. I think I’ve only lost memory once or twice drinking as in “I didn’t remember that night even the day after”. It took almost an entire fifth of hard liquor. And typically much less than a fifth of hard liquor would leave me not only uncoordinated, but horribly sick. I didn’t get blackout drunk at parties though, so it would be easy for me to rule out lots of things if people said I had done something.

        I’ve heard some people are able to act relatively normally even when blacked out though. I think it’s possible. There’s also some window of time between drinks like Brad says.

        God forbid you mix alcohol with other stuff too.

        All that said, I think Yglesias’s just signaling. Based upon how everyone ever accused publicly of sexual assault with little corroborating evidence has reacted, I expect that if he was credibly accused of sexual assault 20 years ago but with little chance of corroborating evidence turning up, he’d deny it. The fact that he might consider the possibility privately while denying it is irrelevant.

      • Protagoras says:

        Concur with Brad; blackout means you really don’t remember things you did, but it also usually means you were too drunk to do very much. Though as I understand it blacking out isn’t just a matter of how much you drink on that particular occasion; being a heavy drinker makes blackouts more common (that is, it means you don’t need to be quite as incapacitation level drunk to start forgetting). And it sounds like there was some very heavy drinking going on among the people being discussed.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Not that it proves anything, but the incident as described by Ford is just the sort of fumbling, abortive assault you might expect from someone who’s very drunk.

          • Matt M says:

            When I read the incident, it sounded to me like a fumbling drunk guy who at first thought the girl was into it, then backed off when he realized she wasn’t.

            My guess is that back in the 1970s, a whole lot of sexual encounters at parties started with “throw her on the bed and try and get her clothes off and see how she reacts” rather than a formal verbal inquiry for consent, but I can’t say for sure.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Putting his hand over her mouth isn’t consistent with your version.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @Nancy,

            It also isn’t really consistent with her version. The reasons for a face cover would be a “playful yelp” wherein a consensual partner wanted to be secretive, or something more dedicated than her easily being able to escape a teenage male who was, conservatively, two times stronger than her.

      • baconbits9 says:

        There are definitely nights where I don’t remember what I did, or don’t remember much. If I was accused I would be concerned but would also have some questions, like:

        Why were you in my room with me? I’m a pretty blatant jackass when nearly black out drunk.

        What was different about last night? When I get that drunk I usually end up passed out alone in some corner or wrestling someone much bigger than me, picking on someone smaller generally isn’t my style.

        It just seems pretty out of character with all the dumb stuff I do not drunk, and all the dumb stuff I do drunk without every having crossed that line before.

        • Deiseach says:

          Allegedly respectable people do a lot of stupid stuff when alcohol is involved; a bunch of teenage boys getting drunk and behaving in a stupid and indeed criminal manner isn’t that strange a notion.

        • Matt says:

          Why were you in my room with me? I’m a pretty blatant jackass when nearly black out drunk.

          Her story is that they were at someone else’s house, and “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stair well from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help.”

          So her answer would be ‘I was in the room with him because he forced me into the room and I agree, he was a pretty blatant jackass’.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This isn’t general jackass behavior though, this is assault. There is a question of “if I usually act like X, and there are lots of witnesses to how I acted when drunk there would probably be some number of accusations of borderline assault or more than jackassery”.

            You also wouldn’t be able to use black out drunk as a defense/excuse/reason that I didn’t remember as black out drunk + planning don’t go well together in my estimation. Pushing someone into a room, locking them in and actively preventing others from hearing isn’t generally in that vein of actions. Perhaps in the “drinking allowed him to do something he fantasized about” sort of accusation but not in the realm of “I should believe I did an out of character thing while black out drunk”.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I don’t think so. Just speaking for myself, alcohol lowers my inhibitions but it doesn’t change my personality. I don’t fight people when I’m sober, and I don’t fight people when I’m drunk. It’s not like when I’m sober I want to fight people, or would fight people, but just need the alcohol to remove the inhibitions that keep me from fighting. So if you told me I got black out drunk and got in a fist fight with someone, I would still say “that didn’t happen” because no part of me ever wants to get into a fist fight. Same thing for sexual assault. So I could believe that, unless you have a habit for sober sexual assault, you’d probably rule out black-out drunk sexual assault, too.

        • Matt M says:

          Given Matty Y’s political leanings, I suspect his point is more of the “Even if this would be completely out of character for me, if I didn’t actually remember anything, I couldn’t rule it out, therefore #BelieveWomen” or something.

          I suspect that he isn’t “more prone to rape” than you are, just a mixture of being less self-confident in his own morality and placing a greater importance on taking sexual assault claims seriously as a terminal value.

          That said, I also think he’s lying about this. His tune would change very quickly if he was hit with a “credible” false accusation.

          • Randy M says:

            I suspect that he isn’t “more prone to rape” than you are

            I expect he would aver that all men are prone to rape sans constant discipline.

          • BBA says:

            Matt, you often fail the ideological Turing Test, so I’ll give credit where credit is due. I can’t speak for Yglesias, but this time you’ve captured my views almost precisely.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I almost never drink and I’ve never drunk enough to not remember what happened. Is that actually a reasonable thing for a heavy drinker to say or is it nuts?

        Apparently so, based on what other people say, but for me?
        I’ve been so intoxicated I vomitted multiple times on the way to the bathroom, vomitted again in the bathroom, then passed out on the bathroom floor, and I still remember it pretty damn clearly. I don’t remember ALL the specifics: for example, I remember dancing with a girl who was a friend of a friend, was somewhat shorter than me, had curly gold hair, wearing a black halter-top, and was moderately attractive, but I don’t remember her name. I also remember exactly the night it was, and where we went, and how many limos we took, and the approximate number of people there. But I don’t remember exactly what I had to drink, or how much to drink, only that it was way too much.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I used to be a very heavy drinker (I quit) but I was one of the “lucky” ones in that I rarely blacked out. Occasional “brownouts” where the previous night was bits and pieces, but my ability to form new memories survives pretty well when I’m drunk. My judgment goes before then, though, so I have frequently had the experience of saying/doing stupid stuff while thinking “this is a GREAT idea.” I’ve only blacked out, say, two or three times over ~10 years of heavy drinking.

        However, the times I have blacked out, it’s just been an extension of my usual drunk behaviour (obnoxiously over-friendly, occasionally obnoxiously morose). Further, most people, there’s a correlation between their sober behaviour and their drunk behaviour: the exception is stuff like guys in the closet who get liquored up and kiss other guys, or people who are closed off with their emotions who “really love you, man” when they’re drunk. Some people drink to relax their inhibitions, of course. But they’re relaxing inhibitions on things they’ve got to be aware of to some extent while sober.

        I would be surprised to the point of disbelief if told I’d caused actual harm to someone else while drunk. My MO while drunk is to embarrass myself.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        Alcohol related loss of memory is uncontroversial, but I don’t understand how that leads to this sort of nonchalant “sure if someone accused me of rape there’s a decent chance I did it.” I’d understand it more from people who aren’t heavy drinkers, since at least for them the effects of alcohol on their behavior are an unknown. Otherwise how is it different from admitting you believe there’s a non-negligible chance you might rape someone if given the opportunity and yet keep going to parties where you have those opportunities?

        In short, I’m a heavy drinker and I wouldn’t believe you in a million years if you told me I sexually assaulted someone while blacked out. I also wouldn’t believe you if you said I sang karaoke.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        When a woman has sex whilst black-out drunk, the fact that she was so drunk is generally taken to mean that she was unable to meaningfully consent because she didn’t know what she was doing. Applying the same standard to our hypothetical black-out drunk man, I guess this would mean that he didn’t know what he was doing, and so can’t be held responsible for his actions whilst intoxicated.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Not quite. When the woman has sex while drunk she is claiming that her consent isn’t informed, and that sex without consent is rape.

        • The Nybbler says:

          There are more or less three standards in use for two drunks of similar intoxication but opposite sex having apparently-at-the-time-consensual sex with no other salient factors:

          1) He raped her

          2) Whoever went to authorities first got raped by the other

          3) Get out of my office/courtroom

          I favor the third.

          • Evan Þ says:

            For comparison, there have historically been at least two other standards, though I also favor Nybbler’s #3:

            4) You’ve both committed a crime and will be equally punished.

            5) Congrats; you’re now married!

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Evan Þ

            Aren’t those the same?

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there good data on how this is actually handled by prosecutors, in practice? My guess is that the overwhelming majority of the time, there’s no charge brought, because the police/prosecutors can’t put together enough evidence to expect to get a conviction. But I could easily be wrong–where would we find out what’s really going on?

          • Matt M says:

            I think that’s right.

            And that’s also exactly why university administrators have decided to start prosecuting these cases themselves. Because the police won’t, because the police are actually bound by standards of evidence.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a non-crazy version of this, but I don’t know how well it can be done. Basically, I think there are a lot of cases where the police look at an alleged rape, say “Yep, he’s probably guilty, but there’s no way we’ll ever be able to prove it,” and so the case gets dropped. And it’s not crazy for the school administration to take the same facts and decide they can do something to the accused less dire than sending him to prison for a decade–like kicking him out of the college.

            But this also creates a superweapon, and there will inevitably be people who misuse it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            “Yep, he’s probably guilty, but there’s no way we’ll ever be able to prove it,”

            This is a weird position to have, if the police think someone is guilty they will be aggressive in pursuing evidence, someone being suspected of a crime and then not charged ought to be strong evidence that either the police aren’t taking the claims seriously or the suspect is innocent. Even if they can’t prove the strongest case charges plus plea bargains or just charging for lessor offenses should be evident.

          • Matt M says:

            This is a weird position to have, if the police think someone is guilty they will be aggressive in pursuing evidence, someone being suspected of a crime and then not charged ought to be strong evidence that either the police aren’t taking the claims seriously or the suspect is innocent.

            Agreed. My prior is that if the police really believe you’re probably guilty, they are going to lean on you hard, up to and including using some of their more unethical tactics, or at the least, they’re going to press you hard to plead to a lesser offense. The police are incentivized in every way to find, and prosecutors incentivized to punish, offenders.

            In cases where the police say “We investigated, found nothing, you’re free to go,” indicates a strong probability of innocence, imho. If the police never even so much as arrest someone, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me the person is “probably guilty” and needs some sort of extra-judicial punishment.

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression is that the police quite often are pretty sure someone is a criminal, but don’t (yet) have enough evidence to arrest them. I think this often leads to various bits of police abuse of power, like planting evidence or getting someone to “overhear” a jailhouse confession.

    • Nick says:

      In the latest chapter of this mess, Ed Whelan from the Ethics and Public Policy Center posted a Twitter thread last night going over floorplans and so on of nearby homes and going through the Georgetown Prep yearbook. He concluded that there’s a home meeting Ford’s description and that she may just be confusing Kavanaugh with a guy who lived there and looked like him, naming him and sharing photos of him in the process. This is an incredibly irresponsible thing to do on its own, but the kicker is that he’s a friend of Kavanaugh and has been helping with the nomination, so now there’s concern that Kavanaugh or supporters in the Senate may have given the blessing to this lunatic move.

      • Randy M says:

        Queue narrative shift to “Trump’s judge is a rape enabler”

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        The urge to play Internet Detective can make people do some damned peculiar things. Luckily they’re not usually as vile and destructive as this.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I just hope there is no overlap with the pizzagate crowd.

          Even if everything Whelan says is true — and this is another “could be true, but has no evidence” thing, except I’m even more skeptical — why would you try to help the person who think is a false accuser narrow down her story to a specific house? She can simply deny that was the house or affirm it was the house, strategically deciding based on how it helps her.

          Sweet Meteor of Death, please come.

          • Matt M says:

            why would you try to help the person who think is a false accuser narrow down her story to a specific house? She can simply deny that was the house or affirm it was the house

            How can she do that when she’s already said she doesn’t remember which house it was?

            I think the attempt here was to bait her into trying to do something exactly like that – to respond to this in such a way as to contradict one of her earlier statements.

            Pretty easy to avoid but also pretty harmless. I don’t get the outrage about this. “How dare he impugn an innocent man who didn’t even do anything!” Well, to a lot of people, that’s exactly what Ford is doing. Why should we be outraged if this guy does it, but not outraged that she did?

            And I read his original Twitter posts and the whole while it was presented as “This is a thing that might be possible,” and NOT as “This other guy did it!”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            How can she do that when she’s already said she doesn’t remember which house it was?

            Because now that a specific house has been proposed by the opposition, that gives her the option of remembering “oh yeah, that was it.”

            I think the attempt here was to bait her into trying to do something exactly like that

            Get her testimony under oath first. Her story is so vague she can’t be locked into anything. As is, an extremely vague story with few specifics that can be responded to gives the Republicans the perfect reason to say “we don’t have information to think you are lying, but there is just not enough evidence to spike his nomination, so we confirm.”

            “How dare he impugn an innocent man who didn’t even do anything!” Well, to a lot of people, that’s exactly what Ford is doing.

            If Whelan was super super clever, this would be some 4d chess to get the media to talk about how wrong it is to make a false accusation. But, like I’ve said before, this takes the kind of super-prediction powers you don’t see outside of an Orson Scott Card novel.

            And this is some public school teacher who is going to have his life turned upside down and never started shit. Kavanaugh knew he was going under the microscope; Ford knew as well. The fact that both of their families have gotten death threats means there are lots of garbage people out there. It is horrible, but as small consolation they knew this was coming and made a choice to continue. This guy just got BTFO for having the wrong face.

          • Nick says:

            Edward Scizorhands is right. The point is not that Whelan made a false accusation; the point is that Whelan made public speculation, framed as some great revelation about the case, tarring a person who is completely uninvolved and, so far as we know, innocent. That is not at all like what Ford did, and even if he turns out to be right it’s incredibly irresponsible. If Whelan has suspicions like that, about a particular, private person no less, perhaps he should bring them to any of the dozen people involved in the Kavanaugh investigation whom he knows personally rather than announcing them on Twitter.

          • Randy M says:

            Whelan made public speculation, framed as some great revelation about the case, tarring a person who is completely uninvolved and, so far as we know, innocent. That is not at all like what Ford did, in the first place, and even if he turns out to be right’s it’s incredibly irresponsible

            You’re right that they aren’t quite the same, because we have more insight into Whelan’s actions. He’s irresponsible, at best, and at worst. Whereas Ford may well be much worse, or may be much better, or may simply be irresponsible.

          • Matt M says:

            tarring a person who is completely uninvolved

            I guess my objection here is mainly based around this sort of phrase.

            I don’t think this guy has been “tarred” in any meaningful way. There doesn’t seem to be any critical mass of people who is angry at him. The hardcore lefties still believe Kavanaugh is the rapist. The hardcore republicans still believe Ford made it all up. Who is out there that thinks this other guy really did it and is getting away with it …. because…. why? Who is angry at him? Who is going to supposedly send him death threats and why? The immediate response from virtually everyone after this was that Whelan was completely out of line, not that “Oh, I guess this other guy IS a rapist! Let’s go after him!”

            Like, I know that there are crazies out there and I know that internet hate-mobs can form quickly and get out of control very fast… but I just don’t see any demand for one here. I don’t think he’s going to get death threats. I don’t think he’s going to get fired from his job. Etc.

          • Nick says:

            You’re right that they aren’t quite the same, because we have more insight into Whelan’s actions. He’s irresponsible, at best, and at worst. Whereas Ford may well be much worse, or may be much better, or may simply be irresponsible.

            Yes. I didn’t mean to imply that what Whelan did is worse than what Ford did (I think your analysis is right). What you say is good reason to think a parity argument doesn’t work, while what I was saying is that they’re so unalike that one doesn’t even get off the ground.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, the “let’s tally up false accusations on each side and exonerate the one with less” attitude is pretty… what’s the thing kids say these days? Toxic? That’s it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            He would have been tarred if this story had any legs. Since pretty much everyone on both sides thought it was stupid, it wasn’t an effective tarring, but not for lack of trying on Whelan’s part.

          • Matt M says:

            but not for lack of trying on Whelan’s part.

            What do you mean by this?

            Do you think Whelan was legitimately attempting to convince people that the other guy in question actually did assault Ford?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Re: death threats.

            Perhaps I should save a question on this topic for another thread, but I’m not sure what to think about this. Any time anything happens in the CW somebody gets “death threats” and this is bandied around to garner sympathy, but nobody ever acts on the death threats. And in the rare cases we can find the person who made the threats, they were never in any way capable of carrying them out (i.e., lived on the other side of the country, etc).

            It seems to me that death threats are bad, and no one should make them, but also no one should be scared of them, nor do they really have anything to do with whatever the matter at hand is. About literally any topic there exist garbage people who will make spurious threats to kill you over the internet.

          • Matt M says:

            It seems to me that death threats are bad, and no one should make them, but also no one should be scared of them, nor do they really have anything to do with whatever the matter at hand is. About literally any topic there exist garbage people who will make spurious threats to kill you over the internet.

            This seems like one of those generational divides that the geriatrics who work for newspapers and television find SHOCKING AND OUTRAGEOUS but anyone who actually grew up with the Internet shrugs at.

            As a gamer under the age of 35, I’ve been getting “death threats” since I was 12. And yet, I’m still around…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes. If .01% of the death threats made on Xbox Live on a daily basis were carried out the streets would be knee deep in blood.

          • Nornagest says:

            Learned some interesting things about my mother, though.

          • Nick says:

            Do you think Whelan was legitimately attempting to convince people that the other guy in question actually did assault Ford?

            For heaven’s sake, Matt, what other interpretation is there? His account depends on Ford’s memory being accurate aside from Kavanaugh’s identity, and names the specific person he believes Ford confused with Kavanaugh in her attempted rape. The logical conclusion is that Whelan thought this guy, and not Kavanaugh, attempted to rape Ford.

            Conrad Honcho,

            Pretty much 100% agreed on the death threats thing.

          • Matt M says:

            For heaven’s sake, Matt, what other interpretation is there?

            a. Attempting to cast doubt on Ford’s story/memory

            b. Attempting to trick Ford into revealing an inconsistency

            c. Highlighting how easy it is to make outrageous and damaging claims without any particular evidence

            Any of these objectives could have been achieved in this exercise, and none of them depend on convincing a single person that this other guy actually raped Ford.

            Once again, I have to ask who the actual constituency might be to believe something like this? The partisan left will never be convinced it wasn’t Kavanaugh. The partisan right will never be convinced the whole thing isn’t a politically motivated lie.

            Is he trying to appeal to moderate centrists? Proposing a “have your cake and eat it too” scenario wherein they can continue to support Kavanaugh AND believe sexual assault accusers (because the accuser innocently misidentified the alleged assailant)? I guess that’s plausible, but also entirely dependent on Ford agreeing and saying “Whoops, you’re totally right, I got the wrong guy! Sorry about that” which seems… uh… unlikely.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do you think Whelan was legitimately attempting to convince people that the other guy in question actually did assault Ford?

            It seems to me he was trying to throw some suspicion that way, yes. If only to cloud the issue.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            Is there any data on how often internet death threats lead to actual violence?

            Credible death threats are enough to get you some jail time if you’re caught, and for good reason. If out of the blue, thousands of strangers start sending you messages saying they’re going to burn your house down or rape your kids or murder your family, even if you’re pretty sure they’re mostly just sociopaths with an internet connection, it’s hard to imagine not taking that threat at least somewhat seriously. Most likely, you’re going to be carrying a loaded gun around, perhaps getting an alarm system and a couple of big, mean dogs, etc.

            Personally, I imagine the best way to dissuade this is by deterrence. Spend serious resources to track down a smallish subset of the chilling death threat folks, and then make a terrifying public example of them–sue them into bankruptcy and put them in prison for as many years as possible, and do this in a way that gets maximal news coverage. Telling some stranger on the internet whose out-of-context quote on Twitter pissed you off that you’re going to rape them to death is a lot less appealing, if it ends up with you spending a decade in prison.

          • Randy M says:

            Is there any data on how often internet death threats lead to actual violence?

            Make sure it differentiates between random strangers on the internet, famous people on the internet, and people who otherwise know each other but use the internet to make threats, like an ex posting a threat on FB.
            I’d expect the risk profile changes with these variables, at least.

          • Plumber says:

            This seems like one of those generational divides that the geriatrics who work for newspapers and television find SHOCKING AND OUTRAGEOUS but anyone who actually grew up with the Internet shrugs at.

            As a gamer under the age of 35, I’ve been getting “death threats” since I was 12. And yet, I’m still around…

            @Matt M,

            I would find a death threat very shocking, but I’m 50 and I was a Dungeons & Dragons (and RuneQuest, Traveller, et cetera) pen and paper “gamer”, not on-line.

      • J Mann says:

        Whelan’s post was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.* If he’s (a) friends with Kavenaugh and (b) believed this, he should have shared it with Kavenaugh’s team but otherwise held onto it until after Ford’s testimony. If he turned out to be right, maybe Ford would have offered some additional details about the house that could be verified. On the other hand, if her testimony was inconsistent with this theory, he could have dropped it without involving the other guy.

        * Kidding on the “worse” part – naming the guy is the worst part.

    • onyomi says:

      What upsets me about this case is that, before the accusations came out, I was “meh” on Kavanaugh relative to others Trump might pick, but once the accusations came out I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to see this ruin his nomination, assuming no further, more concrete evidence surfaced about e.g. a pattern of sexual abuse in Kavanaugh’s past. I feel this way because I really don’t want to see this kind of cynical (on Feinstein’s part, not Ford’s, because if her primary concern had been to keep a sexual predator off the court rather than to keep a conservative off the court, she should have brought it up earlier; as it is, the timing of the “leak” is perfect to make it impossible for Trump to clear a different choice before midterms) use of sexual assault accusations rewarded by political success.

      I also felt similarly about Trump and the “Access Hollywood” tape. I was very “meh” about Trump during the nomination process (though pretty confident I preferred him to Hillary in the general), but once that got tried, along with the subsequent string of vague “he was like an octopus” accusations, I felt very strongly I wanted the Hillary camp not to win in this way. I remember feeling somewhat similarly about certain aspects of the Obama v. Romney campaign, but not as strongly, and don’t recall any such feelings about Obama v. McCain (voted for Obama), Kerry v. Bush, or even Bush v. Gore (marginally preferred Bush, supported Harry Browne, but don’t think I would have been outraged had Gore won). So, it’s not like I feel this way every election, though maybe my own right-wing partisanship has gone up over time.

      Yet I also imagine and, indeed, have heard many Dems express the opinion that they especially didn’t want Trump to win in light of the “Access Hollywood” tape and sexual allegations because it would send the message that America doesn’t care about having a leader who treats women respectfully. And now I guess the same people especially don’t want Kavanaugh confirmed because it sends a message that teenage sexual assault is not a big deal. In other words, if I’m passing the ideological Turing Test on how Dems feel about the Trump victory and the possible Kavanaugh confirmation, it is precisely opposite to mine with respect to precisely the same questions.

      The simplest answer for why this should be is pure tribalism, though that seems a bit inadequate to me. It seems to me more about scandal and how different tribes react to them: in any given important election nowadays people are going to dig up something scandal-ish about the candidates and the opposition is going to claim that it is totally disqualifying and act surprised and outraged when the base for said candidate doesn’t find it so. This relates to my “would it be disqualifying in my mind if the same news came out about my favorite candidate” test, and I am pretty confident Republicans digging up an equally old, vague sexual abuse allegation against a Dem SCOTUS candidate would not be disqualifying in my mind, as I did not care about the Monica Lewinsky thing (though probably I would not be as outraged, maybe just vaguely uncomfortable, when my side used the same dirty trick, which is probably is a tribal problem).

      So I don’t think it’s pure tribalism, though that’s part of it; I think it might be about sexual abuse allegations in general, their relevance to politics, and the idea of “sending a message,” though these issues themselves now have tribal connotations. Broadly speaking I am against being unfair to an individual to avoid sending the wrong message, I think we are currently too credible with respect to sexual abuse allegations, and am also more Continental European in my outlook that, in general, I don’t care much about my politicians’ sex lives (I guess I am not the typical GOP voter on this last point). So maybe these are the sorts of “world view” issues that would allow these diametrically opposed emotional reactions to arise (on my understanding, Dems thinking on average, we do not give sexual assault victims enough benefit of the doubt, do not take sexual assault allegations seriously enough, should not worry about one person’s inability to sit on the SCOTUS relative to sending a bad message to millions of young women… and should care more about our politicians’ sex lives? (this last point seems a place where feminism has caused the left to become weirdly more puritan than the right in a way that is markedly different from even 20 years ago)).

      But I am still not entirely satisfied this is all that’s going on. Subjectively, it’s primarily about not wanting to reward “fake,” cynical outrage in general, and especially wrt not directly politically relevant issues like teenage sexual behaviour: I think if the Dems’ actions were more consonant, in my mind, with the care for sexual assault victims they profess (e.g. trying to disqualify Kavanaugh straight away when the letter came, rather than waiting) it wouldn’t bother me as much. But the symmetry of the case in the mind of my imagined ideological opponent leads me to suspect more than that going on.

      • Brad says:

        This doesn’t respond to much of your post, and I apologize for picking such a narrow thing to respond to.

        But on the fairness issue I don’t think it should be a consideration at this level. I thought the same thing when it came up with respect to Hillary Clinton. Fair or unfair to one particular individual, who is going to be fine regardless, is simply irrelevant when discussing filling a position that will certainly affect hundreds of millions, if not billions, of lives.

        • albatross11 says:

          Brad:

          I think we care about the quality of this appointment to the SC, but also about what happens to the process of appointing people to the SC in the future. Creating superweapons is dangerous, and we should be careful not to do so without really carefully thinking it through.

          Though as best I can tell, nobody is carefully thinking it through in terms of long-term impact. The only question is what wins a current political advantage, and the long-range thinkers are maybe considering how this will play in the 2020 elections.

          • Brad says:

            The long term impact to the process is not exactly the same thing as fairness to the individual. They might overlap in this particular case, but I think it is much better to frame it in terms of the latter which is consequential enough to matter at this scale.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think the Democrats think this superweapon can’t be used against them, that the Republicans won’t be able to drag a $100 bill through a trailer park to find someone willing to assert an unprovable allegation against one of their nominees.

            This seems foolish, of course.

          • BBA says:

            There’s a growing generation gap on the left. The older generation’s “continental European” perspective on Clinton’s misdeeds is giving way to the younger folks’ more purist (puritanical?) view on feminism in both theory and practice. Giving some nice speeches and appointing RBG to the high court used to be enough to forgive Bill’s personal misconduct, now it isn’t, and I don’t think either of the Clintons will be invited to speak at the 2020 convention.

            Are we giving too much credence to allegations? The case against Keith Ellison is looking pretty flimsy, and although nobody’s going to the mat to defend him, it isn’t hurting him much with the electorate either.

            I’m more of a misandrist than the typical Democrat, and I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I say: That which can be destroyed by allegations, should be.

          • Beck says:

            @BBA
            That which can be destroyed by allegations, should be.
            That sentiment seems like it would be little tough on e.g. the careers and reputations of male high school teachers. Or were you specifically referring to people involved in politics?

          • BBA says:

            Mainly referring to politics/media/entertainment (which are all the same thing).

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The Continentality of the older generation was not much in evidence during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

          • Matt M says:

            I think the Democrats think this superweapon can’t be used against them,

            I think they’re right. It isn’t working on Keith Ellison. It didn’t seem to work on Bill Clinton.

            Kavanaugh’s crime isn’t allegedly abusing a woman. It’s allegedly abusing a woman while being a conservative. That crazy Senator from Hawaii has all but admitted this.

            This type of thing won’t work in reverse. The media will ignore it.

          • Plumber says:

            “..I think they’re right. It isn’t working on Keith Ellison. It didn’t seem to work on Bill Clinton.”

            @Matt M,<

            I don't know who "Keith Ellison" is but I think we can agree that Bill Clinton is a scumbag. 

            “Kavanaugh’s crime isn’t allegedly abusing a woman. It’s allegedly abusing a woman while being a conservative….”

            @Matt M,

            You hit the nail on the head for me (assuming that by “conservative” you mean another libertarian/plutocrat), while my once-upon-a-time-Republican wife (until she grew to understand that they want to destroy my pension and wised up) is following the accusations about Kavaugh’s personal life avidly, I don’t much care about that. 

            I care about how he’s ruled on cases that are important to me, which is more than enough to make me not want him on the court (though I admit his “silver spoon” background doesn’t anything to make me like the guy!).

            If I learn he’s a good father and faithful husband that tithes I may hate him less, but I still don’t want him to have a gavel.

            Speaking of “conservatives”, in my lifetime there’s only two Presidents that I’m going to call actual conservatives, Ford and George H. W. Bush (his son was a radical).

            So to be clear, the Presidents of my lifetime:

            Johnson = very Radical

            Nixon = Radical

            Ford = Conservative

            Carter = Moderate

            Reagan = very Radical

            Bush (elder) = Conservative

            Clinton = Radical

            Bush (younger) = Radical

            Obama = it depends on if the ACA. survives, so too soon to tell.

            Trump = campaigned as a Radical, but way too soon to tell.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The fact that you don’t know Keith Ellison’s name is evidence of how little the media is covering the accusations against him.

            The accusations are not really proven, and even listening to Republicans I’m not really swayed by them, but the story has been completely buried.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Matt M:

            I think they’re right. It isn’t working on Keith Ellison. It didn’t seem to work on Bill Clinton.

            Ellison is actively bleeding, it’s just lost in the news cycle behind the potential failure of a SCOTUS nomination. Probably would be bigger news if he hadn’t lost the DNC Chair election, but that’s my speculation.

            Bill Clinton is an interesting case – in a lot of ways I can see him as a Trump precursor. His personal brand was one that tolerated a degree of personal impropriety, but this notably tarnished those close to him. It’ll be interesting to see if Trump will see a similar proximal effect 5-10 years down the line.

            And of course, there’s Al Franken. There’s quite a bit to dig into there, but it certainly merits mention.

            Plenty more examples, if you bother looking.

            This type of thing won’t work in reverse. The media will ignore it.

            Prediction made, and falsified.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Dan,

            The existence of coverage is not nearly as important as the intensity and tone.

            Remember when that undercover guy would film Democrats and then he would always get accused of “selective editing”? That has been done dozens of times in the last few days with regards to various clips by major news outlets, but its fine.

          • Dan L says:

            The existence of coverage is not nearly as important as the intensity and tone.

            If the argument is weakened to tone policing, I’ll consider my point made. If you can reformulate that into something falsifiable – better yet, empirical – I might consider another tilt. Who knows, I might even agree with you!

            Remember when that undercover guy would film Democrats and then he would always get accused of “selective editing”?

            James O’Keefe, I assume? The less said about him, the better – let’s just say that there’s a reason he loses lawsuits.

            That has been done dozens of times in the last few days with regards to various clips by major news outlets, but its fine.

            Media has a pro-sensationalism bias, and when people mix news with entertainment the journalism suffers. But there are plenty of shades of grey here, and the answer is better media literacy, not false equivalence and hyperbole.

      • Plumber says:

        “……What upsets me about this case is that, before the accusations came out, I was “meh” on Kavanaugh relative to others….”

        @onyomi,

        I was against Kavanaugh before the accusation came out because of his anti-union decisions, but what I’m now learning about Kavaugh’s acquaintances and biography (mostly from my wife who’s following the news much more closely than I am) shows me that there’s still very much a ruling class, it goes to prep school and Yale, and I want it brought down.

        Trump is the first President in a long while who didn’t go to Harvard or Yale, but he’s a prep school Aristocrat, and all the current Supreme Court Justices went to Harvard or Yale, and Trump appointed another damn one!

        More and more the Supreme Court decides on how we should be governed, and before the middle of the 20th century American lawyers commonly were apprentices or self taught instead of going to law school, the last such Supreme Court Justice was appointed in 1941, and I would have far more respect for a Justice like that.  

        I want Justices that aren’t members of the Ivy league collegiate aristocracy, so we can get back to the “Government by, for, and of the people” ideal.

        Revoulutions seldom end well, but as we are increasingly further from a democratic republic it’s looks like it’s closer to a time for tumbrels!

        • albatross11 says:

          Plumber:

          But given that you’re getting a Harvard/Yale ruling class person for the SC, is Kavenaugh better, worse, or the same as the other likely candidates?

          I agree that there is a ruling class, and that the last couple decades haven’t exactly been a commercial for its high-quality selfless decision-making skills. I think the solution is to decentralize as much decision-making as possible, rather than to try to pick better people in whose hands we’ll continue to concentrate vast, unaccountable power.

          • Plumber says:

            “…But given that you’re getting a Harvard/Yale ruling class person for the SC, is Kavenaugh better, worse, or the same as the other likely candidates?….”

            @albatross11 Þ,

            Given that Trump seemed to have appointed Kavaugh because the man supported Trump against a labor union that was working to organize casino workers, I imagine Trump will just appoint another similar scumbag that will probably be about the same.

            “…I agree that there is a ruling class, and that the last couple decades haven’t exactly been a commercial for its high-quality selfless decision-making skills. I think the solution is to decentralize as much decision-making as possible, rather than to try to pick better people in whose hands we’ll continue to concentrate vast, unaccountable power….”

            @albatross11 Þ,

            I like the idea of power being de-centralized, but it depends on whether that power is diffused into the hands of people who are more, or are less accountable to those they have power over.

            If power is diffused, for example, so that more power is in the hands of private employers, then I’m against that diffusion because I hated working for most of those bastards(except for a couple that is who were good guys, but most were jerks)!

            If instead power is diffused into the hands of, say my old union local in San Jose, were I had a vote on who the officers were, and since I had previously worked alongside and knew many of them personally, as well as knowing many other voters, that would be cool (diffusion of power to the union officers of my current local in San Francisco is another matter, as it mostly seems they get their positions because they inherited them, or are friends with “the ruling family”, not that I have anything against what they actually do, I just miss democracy).

          • Nick says:

            But given that you’re getting a Harvard/Yale ruling class person for the SC, is Kavenaugh better, worse, or the same as the other likely candidates?

            A tangent, but we didn’t have to get a Harvard/Yale pick. Coney Barrett went to Notre Dame. Hardiman went to Georgetown. Kethledge went to UMich, for goodness sake.

            I don’t think that Trump picked Kavanaugh because he favored him in a union dispute. I think he picked him because Kavanaugh is a Washington insider with impeccable credentials and influential friends, and he made a good impression in the face to face meeting. Which is to say, we got the most ruling-class pick of Trump’s relatively diverse list.

          • Matt M says:

            Prior to all this made up nonsense, before the pick was announced, most of the leftist media seemed busy sharpening their knives for Barrett, so my guess is that part of the reason Kavanaugh was picked is because they thought he’d be less controversial and easier to get through the nomination process.

            Which betrays a stunning lack of awareness of the current state of the progressive political class. They were going to tear down any and everyone. If you think giving up on Kavanaugh will solve this issue, you’re still missing the point here…

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I was against Kavanaugh before the accusation came out because of his anti-union decisions, but what I’m now learning about Kavaugh’s acquaintances and biography (mostly from my wife who’s following the news much more closely than I am) shows me that there’s still very much a ruling class, it goes to prep school and Yale, and I want it brought down.

          I don’t disagree with you, but I also don’t see how voting down Kavanaugh’s nomination because of a sexual assault accusation is going to bring the ruling class down. And that’s without getting into the injustice of permanently branding Kavanaugh as “the man who was considered too likely to be a rapist to get a seat on the Supreme Court”.

          • Deiseach says:

            And that’s without getting into the injustice of permanently branding Kavanaugh as “the man who was considered too likely to be a rapist to get a seat on the Supreme Court”.

            Oh it’s too late for that, Original Mr X. The narrative already out there in certain circles is that he is a rapist and a perjurer to boot. That the accusation is only alleged attempted rape makes no difference, he’s a rapist, the Republicans are the party of pro-rape and rape culture, and Current Year USA is the Republic of Gilead. (I’m seeing this online and restraining myself mightily from getting into fights because anything I say won’t change their minds in the slightest and will indeed only entrench their opinions).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I know it’s already too late for the #believewomen crowd, but that’s no reason why the Senate Judiciary Committee has to rub salt into the wound.

          • Plumber says:

            …I don’t disagree with you, but I also don’t see how voting down Kavanaugh’s nomination because of a sexual assault accusation is going to bring the ruling class down. And that’s without getting into the injustice of permanently branding Kavanaugh as “the man who was considered too likely to be a rapist to get a seat on the Supreme Court”’

            @The original Mr. X,

            As I see it, justice would be if Kavaugh was voted down because of the anti-labor decisions he’s actually made as a judge.

            As for him potentially being brought low because of an unprovable accusation of him doing something in his youth that he credibly doesn’t remember, given that he likely got to where he is in part do to having a “silver spoon” birth and the background and connections that brought, I’d call that “ironic” and “bizarre” not “injustice”.

            I actually knew one (male) co-worker who accused another (male) co-worker of sexual harrassment, and the accuser did get paid by the City, but ultimately lost his job and his pension, while the accused “went through Hell” (his words) but still has his job. Most of us agreed that the accuser is a jerk and the accused is a weirdo, and the memory of that incident tends to color my impression of similar tales.

            I see that a women profesor has been accused by a male student of yours of this kind of thing so it’s not just men being accused, and I see that a second accuser of Kavanaugh has now come forward.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            As for him potentially being brought low because of an unprovable accusation of him doing something in his youth that he credibly doesn’t remember, given that he likely got to where he is in part do to having a “silver spoon” birth and the background and connections that brought, I’d call that “ironic” and “bizarre” not “injustice”.

            So what if he had a privileged upbringing? That doesn’t justify smearing him as a rapist.

            and I see that a second accuser of Kavanaugh has now come forward.

            From the article:

            She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections

            Not exactly the most reliable of testimony, then.

          • Plumber says:

            “….So what if he had a privileged upbringing? That doesn’t justify smearing him as a rapist….”

            @The original Mr. X,

            Sorry, I’m too filled with lingering 35 years of high school anger at the rich boys from the hills to feel sorry for the likes of Kavaugh, and the Janus decision is the latest to show that who’s on the Supreme Court determines how we’re ruled.

            @Matt M is right, if you think that this is about someone’s personal life you’re being naive, it’s about power and who has it.

            This is a delaying tactic.

          • CatCube says:

            @Plumber

            Sorry, I’m too filled with lingering 35 years of high school anger at the rich boys from the hills to feel sorry for the likes of Kavaugh…

            It’s hard for me to see the daylight between this and somebody saying, “You know that construction worker was accused of rape? He must be guilty, because you know all of those assholes on construction sites are a bunch of rapists–they catcall every woman who walks by, and of course that means they’re even worse in private.”

            That’s a pretty big smear to make that jump with no further evidence. It’s one thing to oppose him because of disagreements. It’s quite another to say that disagreeing with somebody justifies libeling them.

          • Plumber says:

            “….That’s a pretty big smear to make that jump with no further evidence…..”

            @CatCube,

            It is a big smear. 

            It may be true.

            It may not be true.

            There’s no proof either way.

            As I said upthread Justice would him being voted down because of his

            Agri Processor Co., Inc. v. NLRB, 

            NLRB v. CNN America Inc., 

            Southern New England Telephone Co. v. NLRB, 

            Verizon New England v. NLRB, 

            Venetian Casino Resort v. NLRB, 

            American Federation of Government Employees v. Gates, 
            .
            Miller v. Clinton,
             

            and especially his

            Seaworld of Fla., LLC v. Perez

            decisions. 

            Nope, no compassion for the man.

            He’s a scissorbill and I really don’t see that being called “rapist” as well is much of an extra slur on the scumbag. 

            Pretending that you’re going to let prayer in public schools be legal, and that the legality of abortions can go up for votes and the other things Republicans promise (but never actually do, funny that) is fine, but actually for real anti-worker, pro “property” and “employer” rights rulings is crossing a line that’s past forgiveness.

            To Hell with that guy.

          • but actually for real anti-worker, pro “property” and “employer” rights rulings is crossing a line that’s past forgiveness.

            Is your assumption that he regarded those decisions as “anti-worker” or is it only that you do?

            If he has reached a different conclusion than you have about the consequences of certain legal rules, is that past forgiveness? If so, are you willing to agree that your position is past forgiveness if it turns out that he was right and you were wrong?

            I don’t know the particular issues in the cases you cite, so let me take a simpler issue–minimum wage laws. It is my opinion that minimum wage laws make poor people worse off by pricing them out of the market—an opinion shared by quite a lot of economists, although certainly not by all.

            I’m not a judge but I do write, speak, and in the past teach about economic issues, so might have some effect in making minimum wage laws less likely. If you believe that minimum wage laws help workers, is my behavior unforgiveable? Does it depend on which of us is right?

            I’m reacting to what seems to me a very common mistake in political arguments. Person A assumes that his view of the facts, of what consequences follow from what laws, government acts, regulations, or whatever, is so obviously true that his opponent B must share that view, hence B must be in favor of the bad consequences that A opposes, against the good consequences that A supports.

          • Plumber says:

            “Is your assumption that he regarded those decisions as “anti-worker” or is it only that you do?

            If he has reached a different conclusion than you have about the consequences of certain legal rules, is that past forgiveness? If so, are you willing to agree that your position is past forgiveness if it turns out that he was right and you were wrong?

            I don’t know the particular issues in the cases you cite, so let me take a simpler issue–minimum wage laws. It is my opinion that minimum wage laws make poor people worse off by pricing them out of the market—an opinion shared by quite a lot of economists, although certainly not by all.

            I’m not a judge but I do write, speak, and in the past teach about economic issues, so might have some effect in making minimum wage laws less likely. If you believe that minimum wage laws help workers, is my behavior unforgiveable? Does it depend on which of us is right?

            I’m reacting to what seems to me a very common mistake in political arguments. Person A assumes that his view of the facts, of what consequences follow from what laws, government acts, regulations, or whatever, is so obviously true that his opponent B must share that view, hence B must be in favor of the bad consequences that A opposes, against the good consequences that A supports”

            @David Friedman,

            No your not a judge. 

            Your an articulate, thoughtful man, with strong fact based arguments who has come to different conclusions than I have.

            You have a vote that likely cancels out mine on many issues. 

            You have a voice that may convince a thousand, let’s make the stakes higher, say a million people to vote contra me.

            I’d still buy you a beer and congratulate you on beating my ideas fair and square. 

            Because that’s still not the power that the nine on the Supreme Court have.

            Once someone comes close to that much power, gloves come off.

            And that anti-democratic (small “d”) power is what’s truly unforgivable

            A better way would be to reign in Judges power to be that of someone I could vehemently disagree with but still have a beer and play darts with, but I don’t see that happening soon, so with every retirement and death of one of the Court we go through the same charade of “vetting”, but most know the stakes.

            We’re seating Kings.

            As for your example of the minimum wage, that was a well considered way to remind me that sometimes it is different ideas and not just class war.

            Thank you for that.

          • Once someone comes close to that much power, gloves come off.

            What does that mean?

            If your point is that, when enough is at stake, you are willing to approve of actions you would normally disapprove of–for instance a fraudulent charge of attempted rape in order to block confirmation–then I agree. That’s one of the implicit points in my second novel. An antagonist who is not a villain behaves in what we would normally regard as a villainous way, but he does it because he believes a great deal is at stake and that is the only way he sees of doing what he believes needs to be done.

            The comment of yours I was responding to wasn’t that you approved of a fraudulent accusation as a way of stopping him but that his decisions were “crossing a line that’s past forgiveness.” If he honestly and reasonably believed that his decisions were correct, you might want to fight him if you disagree but there is no reason to think he is past forgiveness.

            So far as the power of judges is concerned, that may be a reason to be willing to fight very hard but it isn’t something Kavanaugh is responsible for or can justly be blamed for.

            Your an articulate, thoughtful man, with strong fact based arguments who has come to different conclusions than I have.

            I don’t know Kavanaugh, but I’ve known five judges who are or were at the same level he is now—federal appeals court. One of them was my debate partner in college and we have been friends ever since. All of them are articulate, thoughtful men who can offer good arguments for their conclusions, whether or not ones that convince me. My guess is that the same is true of Kavanaugh.

      • albatross11 says:

        a. I don’t see any way anyone can know the truth about the allegations w.r.t. Kavenaugh, given the situation.

        b. I don’t want to have this kind of accusation become an automatic way to block SC nominees you don’t like.

        c. If I had to bet, I’d give it about an 80% probability that Ford is telling the truth as she remembers it, because making this allegation has subjected her to tons of abuse and unwanted attention, and she must have been able to see that coming.

        d. I’m not sure something like this at 17 is disqualifying, assuming it happened. I’m not sure it’s *not* disqualifying, either. Would you stop going to your doctor or dentist if you found out he’d committed some kind of crime at 17 and been tried and sentenced for it as a juvenile? What if it was a serious crime–say taking part in an armed robbery?

        e. I don’t have any strong feelings about who should appoint the next SC justice. I’m pretty fundamentally opposed to the role the SC plays in making policy right now, and don’t think anyone with a chance of getting elected is going to appoint people who will make decisions I would like.

        • Plumber says:

          “….I’m pretty fundamentally opposed to the role the SC plays in making policy right now….”

          You’re not alone in feeling that way @albatross11.

        • Brad says:

          Would you stop going to your doctor or dentist if you found out he’d committed some kind of crime at 17 and been tried and sentenced for it as a juvenile? What if it was a serious crime–say taking part in an armed robbery?

          That’s a somewhat different scenario. Although it waxes and wanes we do have a concept of ‘did his time, the price for his misdeeds, and then got a fresh start.’

          • albatross11 says:

            Fine, suppose you find out that, at a house party in high school, as a 17 year old, your doctor groped some girl and may have intended to do worse. Or your dentist, or accountant, or attorney. Let’s assume he was never punished for this, but he also never did anything like this again.

            Would this be disqualifying for him to continue being your doctor, dentist, accountant, or attorney?

            If he did what’s alleged, it was genuinely awful, and it would have been a reasonable outcome for him to get arrested for it. But it’s not clear to me that him having done exactly what Kavenaugh is accused of would be disqualifying now, 30+ years later.

            If it would be disqualifying, it’s interesting to ask why. What would make you decide that you could no longer have him fill cavities in your teeth or do your taxes?

            Or is there something different about making someone a supreme court justice (or president, or governor, or senator) that would make it disqualifying for them, but not for normal people you did business with and trusted with important things?

          • Matt M says:

            This is a huge tangent, but the recent controversy over the Predator movie getting delayed because some incredibly minor actor turned out to be a former sex offender really annoyed me in this respect.

            It wasn’t a Weinstein/Cosby type “He raped some girl and got away with it” thing. It was a “Hey, it turns out 10 years ago, when he was 17, he was arrested for doing something with a 14 year old, properly sentenced, did his time, and moved on.”

            Apparently this means you can no longer work in the acting profession, in any capacity, to the extent that everyone has to make a big public show of crying and apologizing to the world for the grievous error that was hiring you at all.

            Like, seriously, what the fuck? I can imagine an argument that maybe you don’t put ex-sex-offenders (even single instances, even if it happened as teenagers) in jobs where they like, work with children unsupervised or something. But they can’t be actors? Really?

          • engleberg says:

            Re: but seriously, actors?

            Yes, the whole point of actors is that they are so madly attractive and passionate that their private lives are doomed to scandalous irregularity.

          • brmic says:

            It wasn’t a Weinstein/Cosby type “He raped some girl and got away with it” thing. It was a “Hey, it turns out 10 years ago, when he was 17, he was arrested for doing something with a 14 year old, properly sentenced, did his time, and moved on.”

            He was convicted in 2010, the victim is now 24, Stiegel is 47 now, you do the math.

            Plus, you also seem to have missed the point that Munn’s initial complaint was that she wasn’t told and thus denied the opportunity to avoid working with Striegel. In other words, he’s free to work as an actor, his co-workers should be free to not-work with him.
            This is of course part of the general US approach of long-term and publicly registering sex offenders. Which, for the record, I don’t fully agree with, but which is the legal and cultural environment Munn is accustomed to.

            That said, I understand your response, because I shared it before I educated myself about the details. Given the full facts, yes, I can understand Munn not wanting to work with someone who at 37 tried to entice a 14 year old to sex.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          c. If I had to bet, I’d give it about an 80% probability that Ford is telling the truth as she remembers it, because making this allegation has subjected her to tons of abuse and unwanted attention, and she must have been able to see that coming.

          As I recall Ford initially wanted to keep her name out of the press but the letter was leaked anyway, so maybe she thought she could make her accusation without anybody knowing it was her.

          • Matt M says:

            My much more cynical read is that immediately after the “anonymous” letter was leaked, the overall reaction from the public (including most of the media) was: “Really? We’re not going to destroy this man over an ANONYMOUS accusation!”

            At which point Feinstein got on the phone to Ford and said “This won’t work unless you come forward” and presto – she comes forward! Now there’s an actual sympathetic female face (hidden behind sunglasses) they can post alongside every article. Changed the public reaction completely – and will almost certainly cause the Republicans to cave on this.

        • Eric Rall says:

          d. I’m not sure something like this at 17 is disqualifying, assuming it happened. I’m not sure it’s *not* disqualifying, either. Would you stop going to your doctor or dentist if you found out he’d committed some kind of crime at 17 and been tried and sentenced for it as a juvenile? What if it was a serious crime–say taking part in an armed robbery?

          It depends on the crime. It also depends on if he (like Kavanaugh) unequivocally denied the crime under oath within the past week: if Kavanaugh’s denial is false and he did in fact commit attempted rape 35-ish years ago, then he also compounded the offense by committing federal perjury a week ago. Although I suppose there’s precedent for perjury about sexual misconduct not being a disqualifying offense for high-level politicians.

          Another of the issue is that if he did attempt to commit rape once (and got away with it for the time being), it probably wasn’t the only time: this is obviously hard to study since we’re pretty sure most rapes don’t result in convictions, and surveys likely suffer both from Lizardman’s Constant and from a shy-rapist effect, but a quick googling tells me that the range of reputable estimates for P(serial rapist|rapist) is something like 50-90% with a cluster around 70-75%.

          So if we assume for the sake of argument that Kavanaugh did what Ford is accusing him of, that by itself would constitute a preponderance of evidence that Kavanaugh committed other similar offenses as well.

          The flip side of this is that if Ford continues to be Kavanaugh’s only accuser, then that’s at least weak Bayesian evidence of Kavanaugh’s innocence.

          • Evan Þ says:

            …but a quick googling tells me that the range of reputable estimates for P(serial rapist|rapist) is something like 50-90% with a cluster around 70-75%.

            On the other hand, Ford didn’t accuse Kavanaugh of being a rapist, but of being an attempted rapist. (Or, technically, of being guilty of sexual assault – though at a level where I’m fine with conflating the two.) I suspect P(serial rapist|attempted rapist) is lower, and I’m pretty sure that’s even harder to find reputable figures for.

      • Deiseach says:

        on Feinstein’s part, not Ford’s, because if her primary concern had been to keep a sexual predator off the court rather than to keep a conservative off the court, she should have brought it up earlier

        Being fair to Feinstein (which is not something I ever thought I’d say, given that she righteously pissed me off with her anti-Catholic “the dogma lives loudly in you” sniping), I think she sat on the accusation because it was so thin – how can you prove it one way or the other, with no third-party witnesses, and an accuser who can’t remember what year it happened or what house it was? Then somehow it got leaked to the papers and I think that forced her hand. I actually don’t think Feinstein leaked it, I’m guessing it was Ford’s lawyers themselves, possibly even at Ford’s behest. Thirty years is a long time to go not telling anyone in a position to prosecute, and I don’t see that argument about “oh but he was nominated for the Supreme Court” as being of much greater weight than when he was made a judge or worked for the Bush administration. So I have a feeling that when Ford finally decided to take that accusation out into the open, she wanted someone else – Feinstein and the Dems – to make it publicly and take all the heat, and when they didn’t, she or her lawyers went to the papers with it to force them to act. Of course, it turns out you can’t make an anonymous accusation against a nominee for the Supreme Court and remain anonymous, but I don’t think Ford was that calculating, I think she really thought she could stay hidden behind Feinstein etc. as the public faces of the accusation.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I agree that Feinstein sat on it because it was thin. Not so sure she didn’t orchestrate the last-minute leak, though.

          However at this point it’s looking like a backfire. Ford is coming up with ridiculous excuses and conditions — “I need a full FBI investigation first”. “I couldn’t possibly be ready by Monday”. “I want Kavanaugh to be questioned before me.” “I only want the 10 highly verbally skilled male committee members questioning me, not the one female lawyer they’re considering hiring.” “I’m afraid of flying”. If the Republicans let it drag out another week she’ll be down to “The dog ate my bus pass”, and they’ll be able to hold a vote with no real controversy (except from dedicated partisans) at all.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Yesterday’s “I agree to [grant myself an extension to the deadline for negotiation]” was pretty good too.

          • Deiseach says:

            That sort of behaviour is consonant with someone who didn’t want to go public and was trying to push it off on the Democrats to do all the work of accusing Kavanaugh and dealing with the media, the committee and everyone else, and it needn’t mean she’s a liar just that she is genuinely nervous and traumatised. (Whether or not the allegations are true is another thing; something could have happened at a party and after keeping it hidden from her parents and everyone else because she was afraid of getting in trouble for going to a party with older kids where there was drinking and running into the exact dangers she would have been warned about, then brooding on this for years and needing therapy to help her deal with the secret keeping, over the space of thirty years building up a story where it was Kavanaugh and another guy who were the guilty ones for whatever reasons).

            But yeah, it doesn’t help to keep delaying this testimony for one reason and another and it does make it look more like a gambit to keep Kavanaugh from being nominated until after the elections.

  15. dndnrsn says:

    RPG thread:

    For a year you’re going to live in some kind of psychology-experiment facility. You and several other people. You’ll get enough to eat, there’s a gym, you have medical care, they keep you from stabbing each other, etc. Only paper-and-ink entertainment is allowed. You’ve requested, and been allowed, to run pen and paper RPGs. You’re only allowed to have five books (we’ll count books like the PHB/DMG/MM where they’re a set as one book) plus dice, pencils, paper, etc. What books do you take?

    My picks:

    1. Delta Green, the new version, both the player’s book and the GM’s book. It’s the best horror game I’ve ever played, and contains actual mechanics to model your PC’s personal relationships. Call of Cthulhu (of which this is an adaptation; the original DG was CoC sourcebooks) had the problem that while there were mantras that the horror came from your character destroying their life to fight the unknown darkness, in practice you get a lot of PCs who are the sort of wanderers without personal ties one ordinarily finds in RPGs. DG has mechanics to show how your character’s marital relationship collapses as she drinks herself to death trying to blot out the unknown horrors she defends her family from, but can’t ever tell them about.

    2. Masks of Nyarlathotep. Most published adventures and campaigns are not that great. This one is. It’s the only published campaign with a predetermined story I’ve read that neither explicitly nor implicitly requires railroading from the GM. I’d run it using the DG rules, which would require minimal fiddling. Honestly, just this alone could last you a year, potentially. If you haven’t played this one, you should. If you haven’t run this one, you should. It’s just great.

    3. A good “old school” D&D retroclone. Probably Adventurer Conqueror King System, which is more or less a (heavy) modification of the early-80s B/X rules. It’s quick to run, but has enough character-fiddling options to please people who find playing an old-school fighter boring. It also really grounds the rules in the idea that as PCs get more powerful, they’re going to spend less time adventuring and more time being barons or running thieves’ guilds or whatever. I’d use it to run a sandbox fantasy game of some variety. Put together a kingdom, come up with some threats that mess it up so there’s an opportunity for PCs to rise in the world by fighting said threats, and then face the reality that the PCs are probably just going to be murderhobos of some variety. But a man can dream.

    4. Paranoia XP. This is the version I ran. I don’t know how earlier or later versions are. Locked in a psych experiment for a year, everyone’s going to hate each other, and this game is built around screwing over the other players. The setting of being trapped in an insane underground society might hit a little close to home, though. This game is a lot of fun, and teaches you a lot about how to run a game.

    5. Twilight 2000, 1st edition, the reprint version that includes the first 4 adventures. If anybody has the taste for another sandbox, this one lets you do a sandbox in post-apocalyptic Poland instead of some fantasy realm. Technically alternate history, since we didn’t actually have WWIII in 1995. There’s a second edition, but it just upped the crunch factor in various ways, and the first edition is crunchy enough already (I’m kind of scared of the vehicle combat rules). The four adventures are all useable as sourcebooks rather than set adventures.

    I figure that gaming 2 or 3 times a week (hey, you’re locked in, what else are you going to do) I could satisfactorily run MoN plus a couple sandbox campaigns with some Paranoia on the side, and maybe even use DG for its intended purpose.

    (Or, for those of you who are no fun: what do you really, really like?)

    • Randy M says:

      I think in the situation you described, Paranoia is required.

      That said, I’ve always wanted to try Traveller. I don’t know which edition is best.

    • Nornagest says:

      That’s a pretty solid list. Not sure I could improve on it much in practice. I haven’t played Twilight 2000 or Masks of Nyarlathotep, though, so I’m going to replace them.

      One of my picks goes to a Savage Worlds system — not so much because the gameplay’s that great as because it’s very quick and easy to build with, and in a situation like this I’m going to have players howling for my head if I take too long in prep. Deadlands would probably be my first choice, just because it’s so different from anything else you’ll be bringing, but you could make a case for 50 Fathoms or Space 1889 depending on taste.

      I think my other choice would be the GURPS core books, which I’ve shit-talked before but which it’s hard to beat for sheer flexibility. If I start getting stir-crazy later in the year, I’ll break them out and try to homebrew something that no one’s seen before.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I didn’t know there was a Space: 1889 remake. I’d only seen the GDW version, which being a GDW game, had a lot of really detailed information about military unit organization.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Nice prompt.

      My list would be:

      1. D&D 5e, because it’s the cleanest of the modern D&D editions. It isn’t perfect but it’s fun to play and DM, with a lot of neat innovations. I find myself wishing that OSR games used advantage (although that’s an easy fix). Plus if all I can bring is the PHB, DMG and MM then this edition is perfect; they’ve released less content in five years than third edition would release in five months, so I’m not missing anything.
      2. Adventurer Conqueror King, for pretty much the same reasons that you gave. I bought and really like the game although I’ll say as a DM that it goes way too far when it comes to economic simulation. It’s nice to know how large the population of a barony would realistically be but I’d rather die than roll for the price of wool in every hamlet the PCs pass through. It definitely has some warts.
      3. Rules Cyclopedia, the last of the Basic D&D line. This one isn’t for playing so much as a reference book. It’s jam-packed with so many great ideas and concepts that I find myself always coming back to it.
      4. Dungeon World, because it’s a perfect beer & pretzels game. I would never run a full campaign but as a one-shot there’s nothing that’s faster and more fun. Plus it would help train other players to DM if I wanted to sit on the other side of the screen for a while.
      5. The One Ring RPG, because it really seems to capture the heart and soul of Tolkien in a way that other fantasy RPGs really don’t. If you try to play a game set in Middle Earth using D&D rules you can sort of do it but both the players and the DM have to fight the natural rythmn of the game. Not bringing the sourcebooks would be tough though because the game was basically released unfinished; as an example, they only released rules to play Rangers or Noldor elves within the last year or two.

      Honorable mention to the Prince Valiant RPG. It’s scarily prescient, anticipating innovations in gaming decades early, not to mention fun and easy to play. I’m still bewildered that the same guy that made this went on to produce the abomination that is King Arthur’s Pendragon. He proved definitively that he could make a kick-ass, dirt-simple RPG about Arthurian romance with Prince Valiant and then spent five editions of KAP trying to disprove it.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I find that ACKS’ biggest problem is it limits where PCs can buy and even more can sell stuff. While I get the appeal of realism, it’s really helpful to dungeon-crawl gameplay to have a town nearby where they can buy plate mail and sell jewels.

        How does Dungeon World‘s instruction to improvise the dungeon play out?

    • John Schilling says:

      If we’re assuming zero prior knowledge (or at least zero preference) for RPGs among my fellow inmate-players, I’m probably going to go with 4th edition GURPS, and if you count the core rulebooks (x2) as a single book, I think I can get both a good fantasy and a good modern or SF campaign out of the remaining four allowed books – one book each for the genre rules and the specific setting. But I haven’t kept up to date about what GURPS has been publishing lately, so I’m not going to commit to the specifics on that. Leaning towards their standard Fantasy setting with the low-magic option, and maybe GURPS Traveller. But might swap the latter out for Cliffhangers, Swashbucklers, Espionage, etc.

      This will be substantially house-ruled GURPS, but I’ve been around the system from the start and I know what changes I want to make.

      If, as in real life, I have to factor in other players’ preferences and familiarities, I’m probably going to go with either Pathfinder or Call of Cthulhu.

      • Protagoras says:

        I think I’d add Magic, Thaumatology, and Low Tech to the core. Not usually a huge fan of settings books; I much prefer more GM homebrews. But despite that, I’ll be weird make my fifth item the absolutely gorgeous Guide to Glorantha that came out not too long ago (I love the Glorantha setting and pretty much hate every system they’ve ever tried to use for it; adapting GURPS rules to the setting would be a challenge, but perhaps a fun one).

        • engleberg says:

          GURPS Biotech, the 2nd Edition Deities and Demigods, the Green Ronin Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Era, and the Amber books are the only rpg books well-written enough to stand up to this test. And I’d sure want all their sources as well.

    • Plumber says:

      “…You’ve requested, and been allowed, to run pen and paper RPGs. You’re only allowed to have five books (we’ll count books like the PHB/DMG/MM where they’re a set as one book) plus dice, pencils, paper, etc. What books do you take?”

      @dndnrsn,

      Just five books? 

      Yeah, I’m going to cheat. 

      1) Dungeons & Dragons as I played it from 1979 to 1981, so the LBB’s (including the supplements), the AD&D Monster Manual, magazines, the Arduin Grimoires, All the World’s Monsters, and the Basic Set with the In Search of the Unknown “module”.

      2) Traveller, as I played it in the early to mid 1980’s
      In some way Traveller is a mirror image of old D&D for me in that while I remember D&D was glorious fun, and all sorts of it’s quirky rules, I don’t actually remember the adventures well (I somehow have the impression that Giant Spiders and Skeletons were more often the antagonists rather than Goblins and Orcs, but my memories are dim), but with Traveller it’s the opposite, I barely remember the rules at all (you used d6’s, you were ex-army, navy, marines, merchants, or scouts, the last two of which may sometimes “muster out” with a starship, and the older you made your PC the more skilled they’d be, but the more likely they’d die during character creation requiring you to start over), but I remember the planets and adventures better. Strange that. 

      3) Call of C’thullu I don’t particularly care for the 1920’s with monsters setting, but by Crom it was so easy to run!
      The rules were intuitive and making up scenarios was dead simple (just steal from Conan the Destroyer, and Young Sherlock Holmes).
      Maybe pair it with the Dreamlands supplement to give it a fantasy setting.

      4) Mythic Iceland Based on the same BRP/RuneQuest rules that Coc drew from.
      Vikings, ’nuff said.

      5) Pendragon I love this game! Character creation is a chore, but otherwise I like the mechanics and the setting, a favorite. The 1985 version with the Lisa Free art is especially near to my heart.
       I have Prince Valiant in a box somewhere as well, but I never looked at it much.

      Shout outs to the current “5e” D&D, the  ’81 BD&D “retro-clone” Labyrinth Lord, the almost-but-not-quite-retro-clone Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the fantasy swashbuckling 7th Sea, gas-lamp fantasy Castle Falkenstein, and the Steampunk game Space 1889.

    • RDNinja says:

      I’d pick Mutants and Masterminds 3e and Shadowrun 5e, because they both have a lot of complexity in character creation, so there would be a lot of replay value as you try different builds. Likewise, Gurps as a catch-all for any campaign ideas that don’t fit the other games.

      Because it’s classic and simpler, D&D 5e is another pick. And I think my last pick would be Feng Shui 2. It’s rules-light, and has a free-wheeling style that would be a good relief from combat-heavy games.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’d take

      1. some version of crunchy D&D. 3.5e or 4e likely. I haven’t tried 5e. This is largely out of nostalgia rather than because I think the mechanics are particularly sane.

      2. Lady Blackbird because I’m a hipster. It’s only a page of rules and 5-10 pages of flavor though. I’d be better off just memorizing that page of rules probably.

      3. Shadowrun because I really dig the setting. I dunno which edition. I have the 4th but haven’t actually run the damn game.

      4. Something really flexible I can use to help me basically make new RPGs. I’ve done this on the fly before once for a magical western setting off the top of my head, but it’d be nice to have some more structure. I see some people mention GURPs above. I might try that.

      I’m not sure what the 5th book would be. I’ve got a bunch of books on my shelf.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Hmmm… just five books, says you?

      1. AD&D 2e Core (PHB, DMG, MM) – My favourite D&D version of all time, plus one that I think is most amenable to different styles of play.

      2. AD&D 2e Complete Fighter’s Handbook – Seems a shame to burn a whole book on this, but I think that the expanded combat rules are really worth it.

      3. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e – Very different in style and substance to D&D, whilst still firmly in the fantasy genre. The original and best, accept no substitutes!

      4. Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd printing, with the Italian artwork) – For a change of pace and a reminder of when the computer future was cool. Also a pretty nice basic system for homebrew games.

      5. Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 40th Anniversary Edition – Worth taking because Star Wars (system’s really nice, too). Technically, two books (rules and sourcebook), but sold as a set.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Huh, usually, 2nd ed is the one that gets the least love. People who like 3rd see 2nd as the corrupt old regime they overthrew, I can’t imagine people who like 4th or 5th like it either. Meanwhile, the old school people usually don’t go any further than 1st ed and B/X or maybe BECMI; they seem to view 2nd ed as where it all went wrong and the railroad company moved into town.

        I sympathize with the former view – 2nd ed was kinda a mess – but I think the latter view is unfair. It’s not because of anything in 2nd ed’s rules that adventure design got all railroad, it’s due to trends in adventure design that began before 2nd ed was developed.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          2e did have a bad time of it, true enough.

          I blame politics: 2e was basically a Williams mandate to get Gary Gygax off the title page. Plus, it changed a whole bunch of stuff to deal with the Angry Mother Syndrome (and possibly Ms. Williams’ own sensibilities) which probably was enough to alienate a bunch of the old guard.

          The fact that TSR went under within half-a-decade or so, didn’t help.

          When WOTC came on the scene, they put out a completely new game, slapped “D&D” on it and called it good. No wonder that folks who grew up with that aren’t interested (and are prolly playing Pathfinder now).

          It’s a pity, because 2e is rather excellent. You can do pretty much everything you could with any previous edition, a bunch of expanded rules from the later 1e source books was integrated into the core (quite a bit of it optional) and to these eyes it is quite simply the best organized and laid-out set of RPG books ever (the original printing from the early 90’s; the revised edition circa ’95 was a major step back).

          Where 2e does suffer is in that a lot of the rules that were fundamental to the original game: XP for GP, morale, reactions, hirelings, were kinda shoved in the back of the cupboard; most likely – as you say – because of the adventure/setting design paradigms changing.

          It took me literal decades of playing various versions of (A)D&D – from Basic to 5e – to understand the deceptively simple idea behind the original Gygax/Arneson design. I feel 2e was the moment when TSR started to lose this understanding (given that they’d sacked pretty much all the old guard) and WOTC, of course, never had it in the first place.

          • dndnrsn says:

            To be honest, it’s possible to look at the adventures that were being published in the early 80s and think that even the old guard had kinda moved away from the original, very wargame-y design. The Braunstein, Blackmoor, etc stuff where the assumption was that the adventuring, single-PC game was linked to a larger, domains-and-battles game. Once you’re at level 10 or whatever, your character isn’t a full-time murderhobo. But by the early 80s, the C and M modules, the higher-level AD&D modules, etc are all having level 12, 15, whatever parties go out and adventure.

            Probably what happened was the original core of guys who’d been reservists or whatever who were really into university wargaming clubs was overtaken by people for whom D&D was first and wargames held no interest. Around the same time Tolkein is waxing and the pulps are waning, and the version of the game where the PCs are basically rascals at best if the players follow the incentives gets derided for not having enough “story” and the random-tables make-your-own-story approach gets set aside in favour of a model where the archetypal party is a bunch of people on A Quest. But because the incentive structure isn’t changed – they don’t add Fate Points or whatever to encourage behaving like heroes instead of murderhoboes – and the books aren’t honest in their advice for GMs and players, a lot of adventures require that you railroad in order to make PCs act like heroes in a game that still mechanically incentivizes murderhoboing.

            (Of course, this isn’t the only source of railroading)

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Interesting. I hadn’t considered the inter-generational gap before.

            My take on the matter was that Dragonlance was a hit and TSR took a sharp turn in the “multimedia arc” direction, where you’d get campaigns and novels and video games and all that jazz all exploring the same intertwined story.

            Dark Sun is, for me, a particularly egregious example, where a somewhat novel and interesting setting was eviscerated by the authors/designers before it had a chance to actually take off.

            “Hey guys, adventure idea: the guys from our upcoming line of novels are going to do all the cool, world-changing stuff, while you get to watch and maybe provide some of the crowd scenes! How cool is that?”

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s probably two reasons DragonLance and all the other stuff in that general vein – multimedia properties, metaplot, railroaded adventures, Super Cool NPCs, etc – got popular.

            One is that as great as sandbox games are, they are only one flavour; I wouldn’t want to do nothing but sandboxes for the rest of my life. Further, the games that are looked back to now as promoting sandbox play were really bad at explaining how to do that. In general, D&D books are among the worst at explaining what RPG games are, how a GM should run the game, etc, and RPG books in general are terrible at that: the books for games have bad advice, the books specifically on how to run games are usually not that great, and while there’s some amazing stuff online (I’ve gotten far more from random bloggers than I have from stuff I’ve paid money for) there’s also some terrible stuff.

            The plot-heavy books (going by this definition of plot) filled a niche that was empty. The niche of “story-based adventures/campaigns” got filled by railroad stuff instead of significantly harder to write (easier to run, but harder to write) adventures and campaigns which have a story semi-predetermined but don’t require that events happen a certain way. Tragically, there was only one Masks of Nyarlathotep, and that was for a second-tier (in terms of popularity) game.

            The other reason is that RPG adventures/campaigns may primarily be a form of fiction. I would bet that most adventures and campaigns that get purchased don’t get run – if people only purchased them to run them, they wouldn’t be profitable to write, because that’s not very many copies sold. I know that I own way more published adventures and campaigns than I can ever run, especially now that cheap .pdfs are available. The stuff that makes so many published adventures and campaigns bad – requiring that the PCs do something in a certain way, or that they not do something, requiring that dice rolls go a certain way, stuff that would send the PCs off on a wild goose chase where it’s assumed they won’t, text written to read well as prose rather than be used in a game – isn’t bad if the adventure or campaign is primarily read by someone reading it and imagining them or someone else running/playing it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @dndrsn,

            [T]he assumption was that the adventuring, single-PC game was linked to a larger, domains-and-battles game. Once you’re at level 10 or whatever, your character isn’t a full-time murderhobo. But by the early 80s, the C and M modules, the higher-level AD&D modules, etc are all having level 12, 15, whatever parties go out and adventure.

            Unfortunately, I don’t think this could have gone any other way.

            A dungeoncrawl or wilderness hexcrawl where a small group of PCs and their hirelings and retainers are exploring an unknown area full of traps and monsters in search of treasure is a completely different type of game from name-level PCs with their own personal armies building strongholds and governing domains.

            Even from a purely in-universe standpoint, while a name-level character is certainly strong enough to seize power in a barony there’s no reason to assume that he’d be any good at running it if he’s spent his entire career leaping over pit traps instead of studying courtly etiquette. From the player side it’s even worse because not only do the early levels not prepare you to play this different genre of game that you’ve unlocked, there’s no guarantee that you’d even want to.

            If I was making it I would cut the game off at name-level. You have one last adventure; carving a civilized realm out of the wilderness you’ve been exploring for the last 9 levels. If you fail, you die as just one more forgotten adventurer. If you succeed, your legacy lives on as a line of rulers and a prosperous settlement. You could even do a “New Game +” mode where your next characters are heirs to the last game’s legendary heroes and get some kind of bonus or powerful item handed down.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Unfortunately, I don’t think this could have gone any other way.

            A dungeoncrawl or wilderness hexcrawl where a small group of PCs and their hirelings and retainers are exploring an unknown area full of traps and monsters in search of treasure is a completely different type of game from name-level PCs with their own personal armies building strongholds and governing domains.

            Even from a purely in-universe standpoint, while a name-level character is certainly strong enough to seize power in a barony there’s no reason to assume that he’d be any good at running it if he’s spent his entire career leaping over pit traps instead of studying courtly etiquette. From the player side it’s even worse because not only do the early levels not prepare you to play this different genre of game that you’ve unlocked, there’s no guarantee that you’d even want to.

            If I was making it I would cut the game off at name-level. You have one last adventure; carving a civilized realm out of the wilderness you’ve been exploring for the last 9 levels. If you fail, you die as just one more forgotten adventurer. If you succeed, your legacy lives on as a line of rulers and a prosperous settlement. You could even do a “New Game +” mode where your next characters are heirs to the last game’s legendary heroes and get some kind of bonus or powerful item handed down.

            You’re probably right it couldn’t have gone another way. The wargamer tendencies mostly disappeared, but their presence lingers on. The most popular horror game started off as a D&D modification, even. There’s all sorts of stuff in different game systems that’s the result of people with different preferences all trying to use the same thing for different purposes.

          • Civilis says:

            The plot-heavy books (going by this definition of plot) filled a niche that was empty.

            I think it’s equally important that the more wargame-like and less narrative-intensive niche got a lot of competition. Wizardry and Ultima date back to 1981, and Rogue itself dates back to 1980. At this point, if I want a fantasy dungeon crawl, I have any number of options other than spend the money and time to put together a tabletop game that I might be able to spend one day a month playing, assuming I can get everyone’s schedules together. Right now, via Amazon, it’s about $100 for the three basic 5e books and a set of dice, and I’ve never seen a pencil and paper RPG run with that minimal configuration. To contrast, the base copy of the quasi-dungeon crawl RPG boardgame Descent is $71, and most AAA computer games retail for around $60. $60 will also get you at least four months of World of Warcraft.

            The one thing I can’t get with computer RPGs and similar wargame-like games is the narrative experience, especially the freedom; that’s something I can only get with a good GM and fellow players. The things I fondly remember from gaming aren’t the dice rolls, they’re the narrative events those dice rolls determined. I have no idea what number I rolled to bluff a globe-spanning steampunk authoritarian technocracy into giving in to my demands (while also conning my own allies) using my character’s skills in biology and math and a masterwork PowerPoint presentation, I just remember how it felt when they backed down.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Probably true, although I’ve never played a CRPG that did the things it’s relatively easy to do in a sandbox tabletop game. More a substitute good: not as good, but more available. Getting a group together is the hard part.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            There’s probably two reasons DragonLance and all the other stuff in that general vein – multimedia properties, metaplot, railroaded adventures, Super Cool NPCs, etc – got popular.

            One is that as great as sandbox games are, they are only one flavour; I wouldn’t want to do nothing but sandboxes for the rest of my life. Further, the games that are looked back to now as promoting sandbox play were really bad at explaining how to do that. In general, D&D books are among the worst at explaining what RPG games are, how a GM should run the game, etc, and RPG books in general are terrible at that: the books for games have bad advice, the books specifically on how to run games are usually not that great, and while there’s some amazing stuff online (I’ve gotten far more from random bloggers than I have from stuff I’ve paid money for) there’s also some terrible stuff.

            I’ll be the first to agree that Gygax probably was the last person I’d ask to explain D&D to a novice. I think Mentzer did a pretty good job with BECMI, though.

            It’s odd, in a way, because I’m under the impression that no-one really stopped to consider what exactly it was that made the game tick. Everyone kinda knew that it was a great idea, but nobody really knew why. No wonder we got so many flavours, depending on who was playing with whom.

            If I were to venture what is probably the best example of D&D as intended, I’d say Tomb of Horrors.

            No, don’t laugh. ToH was an adventure intentionally designed to test the players, as opposed to their characters. It was an exploration module that rewarded player thinking, as opposed to brute force through system mastery. It highlighted the fact that not having mechanical tests for a lot of the stuff that was introduced as skills in 3.0+ meant the players weren’t constrained in their solution space and resigned to a crapshoot when it came to roll the checks.

            The plot-heavy books (going by this definition of plot) filled a niche that was empty. The niche of “story-based adventures/campaigns” got filled by railroad stuff instead of significantly harder to write (easier to run, but harder to write) adventures and campaigns which have a story semi-predetermined but don’t require that events happen a certain way. Tragically, there was only one Masks of Nyarlathotep, and that was for a second-tier (in terms of popularity) game.

            I really loved The Enemy Within for WFRP. Not only was it a cool story, but it also provided for player failure – catastrophic failure, even. So it goes. I wouldn’t mind a chance to run a party through Temple of Elemental Evil, Scourge of the Slave Lords and Queen of the Spiders either, just to see how many make it to the very end.

            The new school seems rather fixated on “story-driven”, though it seems to me that people don’t really understand that, either, so they keep running into the same problems as everyone before them (player/GM burnout half-way through, party going off the rails, unskillful fudges to avoid catastrophic failure, and all that). Some of this stuff you can fix in play, some of it – not so much.

            I think it’s equally important that the more wargame-like and less narrative-intensive niche got a lot of competition. Wizardry and Ultima date back to 1981, and Rogue itself dates back to 1980. At this point, if I want a fantasy dungeon crawl, I have any number of options other than spend the money and time to put together a tabletop game that I might be able to spend one day a month playing, assuming I can get everyone’s schedules together.

            These days, I don’t really think of cRPGs as a substitute for old-school D&D/pen-and-paper – even, nay, especially when it comes to standard exploration/dungeon crawling – because of:

            The one thing I can’t get with computer RPGs and similar wargame-like games is the narrative experience, especially the freedom; that’s something I can only get with a good GM and fellow players.

            I’m in the middle of running a BECMI campaign that’s been going on for a year or so now. Everyone in the group has played before, but mostly newer stuff (3.0+ when it comes to D&D). Here’s the point I keep hammering on:

            “Think outside the box! Don’t focus on what’s on your character sheet, but rather on the problem you’re trying to solve. If you have to roll a die, to see if you’ve succeeded, you’ve already lost!”

            An old-school dungeon-crawl, for me, is a bounded sandbox where the players are free to try any crazy scheme they can come up with (a notable early example from the ongoing campaign involved setting a cow carcass on fire). You’re not going to get that experience with a computer, because you’ve only got whatever options the programmers thought of.

            Again, the funny thing is that “story driven” is probably better done on computer than with a live group. You get the visuals, the music, the voice acting, the writing – and if things go south you just load your last save. The game is railroaded by definition, so no worries there, either.

          • Civilis says:

            An old-school dungeon-crawl, for me, is a bounded sandbox where the players are free to try any crazy scheme they can come up with (a notable early example from the ongoing campaign involved setting a cow carcass on fire). You’re not going to get that experience with a computer, because you’ve only got whatever options the programmers thought of.

            If your goal is to have players explore a dungeon, it’s one thing to have them come up with creative approaches to specific traps and puzzles that you didn’t think of. I have fond memories of a sarcophagus with a particularly nasty undead in it that we got around by sitting our two heaviest warriors on top of the lid, Stone Shaping a hole in the side, and pouring in burning oil until the lid stopped shaking.

            It’s another thing to have the players hire a mining crew to bypass everything. We had one game which devolved into hours of the players blocking off every other entrance to the dungeon so they could feed a fire at the main entrance and suffocate the goblins inside. This was boring for most of the players and annoyed the GM who had spent time building the dungeon.

            Again, the funny thing is that “story driven” is probably better done on computer than with a live group. You get the visuals, the music, the voice acting, the writing – and if things go south you just load your last save. The game is railroaded by definition, so no worries there, either.

            I think I’m using “story-driven” different than you. Most of the “story-driven” games I’ve played have the players as the agents that define what the story is, with at most a long term objective they have to consider and only a general map to their destination with a couple of prominent routes marked rather than a set of railroad tracks that take them straight there.

            You have to establish what the players objective is. It’s very rarely “our reason for going in to this dungeon is because it’s a dungeon and that’s what we do”; either they want treasure and XP, or they have a specific plot related reason for going in. The people that want treasure and XP are vulnerable to computer games as an alternative; they can get treasure and XP there, too. Computer games don’t do player agency well, and I’m more concerned with the effect of the player’s agency on the larger plot than I am on the individual encounter level. Using player agency to come up with a cunning way to bypass a monster, trap, or puzzle rarely has the long term implications of player agency on the larger plot, and cutting some of those out doesn’t really lose much if it means replacing them with meaningful decisions.

          • DeWitt says:

            “Hey guys, adventure idea: the guys from our upcoming line of novels are going to do all the cool, world-changing stuff, while you get to watch and maybe provide some of the crowd scenes! How cool is that?”

            Oh man, this gets me so much, too. Dark Sun is(mostly) an excellent setting, the boxed set and most of the worldbuilding splats are absolutely top-notch amazing, but god damn if most of its adventures don’t boil down to ‘eat your greens, listen to mommy and daddy, and maybe you get to attend the big boy show one day.’

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I agree that one big downside to a computer RPG is that it only handles what the programmers thought of. OTOH, if the programmers did think of it, the upside is that a CRPG is likely to handle it consistently.

            The closest I think you could get to a sandbox RPG in a computer game would be NetHack. This game let you dip your sword in poison with expected effect. It also let you kick a sink until a magic ring popped out, polymorph into a xorn to eat said ring to gain its magical effect, or wield a cockatrice corpse to turn everything into a statue. Just be careful not to be too encumbered when going down the stairs, and for gods’ sake, remember to wear gloves first.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Civilis

            I suppose it comes down to what you mean by sandbox vs story-based.

            I think of a sandbox as being like, well, a space full of cool toys and things to do and look at. The players can do what they want, and the PCs wander around running into stuff the GM planted and random stuff nobody knew was coming. There are adventure hooks they can take or leave. “We’re a band of adventurers who want XP and treasure” often is the starting point. Maybe they will get involved in some adventure hook with a story, like, a war breaks out and they side with one combatant over the other and swing the balance. Maybe they ignore all that stuff and just go around fighting monsters. Maybe they become bandits. Maybe they will decide to become merchants, taking advantage of their combat skills to cut down on the need to hire caravan guards. Maybe they swing from one thing to another. The story, such as it is, is visible largely retrospect (and there’s a strong chance that it will be the story of a bunch of murderhoboes going around murderhoboing).

            A story-based game has the objective predetermined on a lower level: anybody adventuring is going to get XP and money, but are you going to do that by dungeon-delving or by getting involved in the war between two kingdoms? A story-based game is more likely to start with “you are involved in the war between two kingdoms” or “you are on one side in the war between two kingdoms.”

            Story games vary much more. A plotted-out “the PCs do this then they do this then they do this” railroad is a story-based game, but so is Masks of Nyarlathotep – which people often call a sandbox, because some level of railroading is so ingrained that something where no railroading is needed seems wide-open. It’s not wide open, but the PCs can do things wildly different ways from one play through to the next, in different orders, and there’s never any need for the GM to fudge dice because so-and-so NPC must survive, or whatever.

            MoN isn’t a sandbox – if the PCs just ignore the beginning hook and all the clues they find at it and go off and become stock market investors because it’s the 1920s and the market will never go down? That’s a failure of the campaign (and clearly the players did not want to go on a globetrotting adventure, preferring investment for some reason). But I ran it after running a far more “things must happen in this order and this NPC must survive” campaign and it felt extremely different, even though I didn’t understand why at the time.

            (Also, how did your PCs end up doing something that most of the players didn’t like? Did one or two players just browbeat everyone else?)

        • Nornagest says:

          2E was where I started playing D&D, back in 6th or 7th grade, and I have fond memories of it. It gets a bad rap for being spotty and incoherent, and it was, but on the other hand its highs were very high; if you had a good eye for gameplay and a certain amount of ruthlessness w.r.t. applying Rule 0 you could hack a system out of it that was almost as flexible as 3E and a lot faster-playing and more flavorful. I know I’ve gushed about the 2E Monstrous Manual before, for example, which despite the warts is still one of my all-time favorite sourcebooks (partly thanks to Tony DiTerlizzi’s art, but the text is also very strong).

          On the other hand, if you tried to do everything by the book, you’d keep tripping over edge cases and weird design decisions, especially once you started bringing in optional rules. And its splatbooks are a lot worse than the core system — I like some of the ones that’re written as design references, but I don’t think any of the crunchier ones were playtested at all, and even some of the fluff stank pretty badly.

    • Civilis says:

      1. A comprehensive one-volume encyclopedia, with a broad reference across a variety of fields. They generally don’t make these any more, but one from thirty or forty years ago will do.
      2. The biggest art book I can find that has a lot of good photographs and paintings of landscapes.
      3. A comprehensive reference book with a history of weapons and warfare, with lots of illustrations.
      4. A big atlas, preferably one with a lot of historical maps.
      5. A comprehensive book on mythology.

      The problem with this exercise is that it matches nothing like any real-world RPG setup. The closest we could get was college, where you might be lucky and get 6 hours a week for a game, and half of those players will get bored and drift off after the first month because there are other things they can do. As a working adult, I’m lucky to get in one game a month. In this case, you’ve got a captive audience you can count on to be there week after week, and as long as they’re willing to play, you’ve got time for a campaign of epic. You also have no idea what they want in a game or how they fit together as a group. For example, Paranoia can be an awesome game, though it’s one that with the wrong players can exacerbate group tensions (much like Diplomacy); the last thing I want is someone I’m stuck in close proximity with for another 11 months not speaking to me because I sold him out to Friend Computer.

      Give me pencils, paper, and dice and I can improvise a rule system that should work for any but the most hardened grognard (who would have brought his own books). I can’t know what the players are willing to play in advance, but I can probably make something up. What I can’t do is fill in a lot of the fiddly details, hence the reference books. “How many people do I need to hire for the siege crew?” [checks book on warfare] “So, how often should I donate to the temple?” [checks book on mythology] “How far does the kingdom’s power extend?” [makes comparison to the historical maps in the atlas] “What’s the land here like?” [picks out a scenic landscape from the art book] “What sort of chemicals does a leather maker require?” [hopes there’s something in the encyclopedia]

      Added:
      (Or, for those of you who are no fun: what do you really, really like?)
      The most fun I’ve had has been with either homebrew systems or systems where the actual system came up so rarely as to be inconsequential. I’m (very) not fond of the Savage Worlds rules cruft, and the combat-heavy campaign I was in did not go well, but one of the top games I played in was one in which we used that system basically entirely for the occasional attribute and skills check.

      • dndnrsn says:

        1. A comprehensive one-volume encyclopedia, with a broad reference across a variety of fields. They generally don’t make these any more, but one from thirty or forty years ago will do.
        2. The biggest art book I can find that has a lot of good photographs and paintings of landscapes.
        3. A comprehensive reference book with a history of weapons and warfare, with lots of illustrations.
        4. A big atlas, preferably one with a lot of historical maps.
        5. A comprehensive book on mythology.

        The problem with this exercise is that it matches nothing like any real-world RPG setup. The closest we could get was college, where you might be lucky and get 6 hours a week for a game, and half of those players will get bored and drift off after the first month because there are other things they can do. As a working adult, I’m lucky to get in one game a month. In this case, you’ve got a captive audience you can count on to be there week after week, and as long as they’re willing to play, you’ve got time for a campaign of epic. You also have no idea what they want in a game or how they fit together as a group. For example, Paranoia can be an awesome game, though it’s one that with the wrong players can exacerbate group tensions (much like Diplomacy); the last thing I want is someone I’m stuck in close proximity with for another 11 months not speaking to me because I sold him out to Friend Computer.

        Give me pencils, paper, and dice and I can improvise a rule system that should work for any but the most hardened grognard (who would have brought his own books). I can’t know what the players are willing to play in advance, but I can probably make something up. What I can’t do is fill in a lot of the fiddly details, hence the reference books. “How many people do I need to hire for the siege crew?” [checks book on warfare] “So, how often should I donate to the temple?” [checks book on mythology] “How far does the kingdom’s power extend?” [makes comparison to the historical maps in the atlas] “What’s the land here like?” [picks out a scenic landscape from the art book] “What sort of chemicals does a leather maker require?” [hopes there’s something in the encyclopedia]

        Clever answerI had it in my mind that other books were available, but I didn’t really convey that in my answer. Do you think that miscellaneous fine detail like that is really essential? Does it improve, say, a medieval game to know the % of the population that’s urban, how large urban centres are, etc?

        • Civilis says:

          I like to be able to get into the details because I’ve had a number of players that liked that level of detail, and it’s better to have that capability and not need it than need it and not have it.

          It’s also not entirely for detail. One of the things I like doing is using visual cues rather than flat text descriptions. If the party arrives at a farming village and asks what the land around the village is like, I’d rather pull up a picture of, say, the landscape of Ireland than try to convey what they’re looking at through a word dump. A good photo or painting will bring up emotional responses without me having to explicitly state them. You can set a very different scene if the picture you use has a very heavy fog versus one taken on a clear day. It also invites the players to use some creativity; if it ends up in a fight, I might not have explicitly mentioned that the fields are walled off, but good players might take the picture to ask ‘how close is the nearest wall, and how high is it?’ to see if they have any tactical options. Let the players determine what details are important. Finally, I can convey that this is a fantasy world by bringing in pictures from elsewhere in the world, especially some of the photogenic places in Africa or Southeast Asia, and those are often hard to describe.

          To get back to your original question, looking over my bookshelf, I’d grab the following RPG books (or sets of Player’s Guide / GM’s guide or equivalents):
          1. D&D 3.5: comprehensive fantasy. If need be I can strip out rules to simplify it.
          2. GURPS 2.0: reasonably generic system. The long character creation shouldn’t be an issue.
          3. Star Wars D6: decently easy to play Space Opera.
          4. Mutants and Masterminds (I think I have the 2E version): Superhero games are the hardest besides fantasy to implement with a generic system, and I know M&M enough to run it.
          5. The Dark Eye: bringing this one not because the rules are good but because they are different and it’s one I’d like time to experiment with.

          All of this is going to depend on the players, but the experimental setup is perfect for running the long term epic games. As an example: start the characters off as 1st level D&D 3.5 chars on a wilderness adventure. Let them develop some personality and history. Once they’ve accomplished something, have the local nobility recognize them by granting the group charter to found a settlement in the new land. Transition them away from a combat focused campaign, perhaps by having them recreate their characters in GURPS (don’t worry about duplicating the combat abilities, just look at the skills and the statuses they’ve earned). You’ve got the perfect opportunity to set time aside if people need their characters to spend some time solo, and with a non-combat-focused campaign and points-build systems like GURPS it’s ok if the characters get a little out-of-sync experience wise. Let them now run the settlement for a bit. If the need for adventurers comes up, have them roll up a set of apprentices / proteges / perhaps even their own children in 3.5 and have those go off and adventure. By the time the year-long experiment is up, you might have the settlement into a city, the original characters might be figures of legend, and their great-grandchildren may be setting out into the wilderness on their first adventure.

      • aristides says:

        I had a similar idea to Civilis, so I am going to shamelessly steal his best ideas.

        My first book would be the Hero System core book. In my opinion, the Hero System is the best generic system out there, if you are only allowed the core book. It can be easily customized to any home brewed setting, and insure that all the PCs are relatively balanced between each other. I could easily create 5 simultaneous games with the Heros System in 5 completely different settings: Medival Fantasy, WWII, modern day city, near future scifi, sprawling space epic, with a week of prep. The only downside to the Hero System, is if we do not have the character creation software or at least a calculator, the PCs will also have to spend a week on Character creation.

        My next four books were going to be reference books, and since Civilis already listed some, I’ll steal all of his books except the art book. I can make do with describing the setting without pictures, though I agree they are useful for immersion and coming up with ideas. The other four will help me create the best game possible.

    • Dack says:

      It’s only a year, I’d rather have 5 complimentary books to run one super campaign than 5 different systems.

      1. D&D 3.5 core (PHB/DMG/MM)
      2. Eberron Campaign Setting
      3. D20 Modern Core Rulebook
      4. D20 Star Wars Revised Core Rulebook
      5. The World’s Largest Dungeon module

      • dndnrsn says:

        What are you taking from d20 Modern? My memory of it is kinda negative.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        The World’s Largest Dungeon? Really?

        I skimmed the book, and found nothing of value in the bits I did read. I am really curious what you liked about it.

        • Dack says:

          What are you taking from d20 Modern?

          It is a large amount of compatible source material in one book. I considered listing Pathfinder Core Rulebook instead, but decided that that wasn’t really covering much ground that 3.5 core didn’t already have handled.

          The World’s Largest Dungeon? Really?

          It’s the biggest one-book published adventure I could think of. I haven’t actually read it as of yet, just had a couple of people recommend it.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Sidetrack: “The World’s Largest Dungeon” could be a cool premise for fiction. Note that I know a fair amount about print sf and only a little about gaming, so I’m not basing anything on the game, just the title.

          A cave/dungeon complex which was sufficiently large would have regions that were ecologically different from each other. The rocks, plants, animals, and monsters would vary in some reasonable way. It would have layers of history, as different cultures modified various sections again and again.

          Is there any print sf like this?

          • Plumber says:

            Off the top of my head Journey to the Center of the Earth by Verne, and At thr Earth’s Core by Burroughs, and hot damn I want to read a modern take!

            Oh, I suppose Salvatore’s Homeland in an “in the Underdark” tale, but I didn’t finish reading even three chapters of it.

            The Buried Life by Patel is a steampunkish take on a mostly underground city, and City of Endless Night by Hastings is a 1920 novel about a future isoated, undergrounand, shielded Berlin still ruled by the Hohenzollern’s

          • engleberg says:

            Well, if you are willing to totally lose ‘underground’, the rgp based on Niven’s Ringworld is the best SF rpg I’ve ever read and chock full of ecological differences and such.

    • Dan L says:

      Good list. For my choice of retroclone / sandbox I’d probably go with the 2017 edition of Stars Without Number, which I’ve been having a blast with lately. (Maybe cheating because it’s mainly sold as .pdf, but physical version exist, I swear!) The gameplay is pretty standard retroclone in a scifi setting, but well over a hundred pages are dense tables full of sandbox-generation leads and adventure hooks, with a solid faction system to run in the background.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’ve skimmed but haven’t played SWN. I’m very impressed with Silent Legions, by the same author, an attempt to combine mostly-Lovecraftian horror with an OSR-styled game and sandbox generator.

  16. baconbits9 says:

    I recently saw the trailer for the movie “Lizzie” which appears to depict Lizzie Borden as a lesbian who is acting in some noble (or sympathetic) way. Can’t say I know a ton about the actual murders, but if Wikipedia’s description is accurate it seems like a pretty gross departure from any serious interpretation of events. It also sounds pretty social justice oriented. Are there obvious examples of men accused of similar crimes being portrayed favorably (I’m sure there are, I’m asking what they are and what era they are from).

    • Matt M says:

      I recently read an article about a (cancelled) video game project where you played as Jack the Ripper, re-creating his murders with a huge amount of violence and gore.

      And then the twist was that all of his victims were vampires and thus his actions were highly necessary.

    • Evan Þ says:

      John Brown?

      (Obvious confounding factors apply.)

      • Matt M says:

        Che Guevara?

        • Evan Þ says:

          Once you include government officials, we can include a whole lot of people still portrayed favorably in certain circles, down to even Mao and Stalin and Hitler.

          (And yes, Brown did claim to be Commander-in-Chief of an underground government organized by himself and some collaborators. Given how his raid failed, the government never met again, and AFAIK Brown never even mentioned it in court, I don’t treat that as more than a game.)

        • hyperboloid says:

          I’m no fan of the Castro regime, but for the sake of historical accuracy one should remember that credible accusations of war crimes against Che Guevara are few and far between. Despite what you might believe, Joe Rogan’s podcast is not a scholarly source on Latin American history.

          The most serious black marks on Guevara’s reputation are the trials at La Cabaña where he presided over the administration of “revolutionary justice” to supporters of Fulgencio Batista’s regime, overwhelmingly members of the military and police. Different sources give different figures for the exact number executed. Che biographer John Lee Anderson gives a figure of 55, this source from a Cuban dissident organization counts 105. It was certainly not many more than this.

          Two tribunals operated at La Cabaña, one for military defendants, and one for civilians.The military tribunal issued the vast majority of the death sentences, though a small number of civilians were also executed on charges of having been agents of Batista’s secret police.

          Guevara himself sat on neither panel, but did serve as commandant of the prison and therefor singed every death warrant. By all accounts the trials had little in the way of due process and it’s impossible to say with any certainty that any given diffident was guilty, and if so what of. Nevertheless, Batista was a brutal dictator who had purged the officer corps of those not loyal to him, so it is likely that few in the higher ranks of the army and police did not have blood on their hands.

          Che was a man who did not lend himself to easy moral evaluations. On the one hand, he was an incredibly brave man, driven to risk his life on behalf of some of the poorest and most wretched people on earth. On the other hand, he never really had a coherent plan of how to do that.

          He embraced an extremely naive form of Marxism that led him to believe that once the brief initial bloody work of revolution was done society would, almost over night, undergo a peaceful moral transformation into a communist utopia. When this stubbornly failed to happen he didn’t call in the secret police to hunt down counter-revolutionary wreckers; Instead he simply left to continue the revolution elsewhere.

          He killed people of course; not many people, and most of them weren’t very nice people, but he was a man of violence. Nevertheless, If he had embraced different ideas and left Cuba with a better form of government (or at least one more friendly to the US) no one would be calling him a murderer today.

          His real crime wasn’t putting anybody to death, it was being on the wrong side of history.

          • Matt M says:

            His real crime wasn’t putting anybody to death, it was being on the wrong side of history.

            I feel like this, and almost everything else you said, could be claimed about virtually any war criminal throughout history.

          • a reader says:

            @hyperboloid

            for the sake of historical accuracy one should remember that credible accusations of war crimes against Che Guevara are few and far between.

            For the sake of historical accuracy, there is evidence of Che Guevara killing people even in Che Guevara’s own writings. For example, according to that Jon Lee Anderson you mentioned, whose biography of Che Guevara is sympathetic (although it doesn’t ignore the dark sides), Che Guevara mentioned in his war diary his first killing: he shot their guide in the head, because he was a traitor. About this case and that of a a 19 years old boy executed in La Cabaña as a traitor, because police made him speak, I wrote in more details here (point 8).

            Regarding La Cabaña executions, Che presided the appeal, so he had the power to confirm the death sentences or not.

            Yes, compared to the millions killed by his role models Stalin and Mao, the ~ 100 victims of Che Guevara seem few – but compared to most serial killers or mass murderers, he killed more (maybe comparable in numbers with the Norvegian far right terrorist Breivik).

            But I agree that “he was a man who did not lend himself to easy moral evaluations.” As I think I said before, in an older open thread, he had many qualities of a hero, but the disastruous historical impact of a villain – because he dedicated himself to the wrong cause.

            Regarding Pinochet vs Fidel Castro, don’t forget Chile has/had a substantially larger population than Cuba, so if you count not killings/year but killings/population, Fidel Castro > Pinochet. So, judging just by the number of victims, let’s agree both deserve the same place in hell.

            Regarding Batista’s brutal dictatorship, it was actually unequal. Sometimes very brutal: Fidel’s first comrade Abel Santamaria died under torture, after allegedly loosing an eye. Sometimes surprisingly weak/indulgent (probably for appeasing the Americans, embarrassed by such a “friend”): after organizing a paramilitary troop and attacking a barrack (Moncada), Fidel was freed by Batista after only 2 (two) years in prison!

          • Matt M says:

            but compared to most serial killers or mass murderers, he killed more

            Keep in mind, the original comparison here was made to Lizzie Borden

          • albatross11 says:

            Any idea why Castro’s version of Communism turned out to be generic police state + leftist rhetoric, instead of Mao/Pol Pot style piles of skulls?

          • DeWitt says:

            Castro both gave his (very broadly defined) opposition the choice to flee before death, and a ton of people took him up on it. Stalin and Mao didn’t, and the logistics of moving so many people wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think there might be something to larger countries, population and geography, turning to brutality more easily as they need more tools for repression an obedience. It is also easier to kick people off an island and not let them back in (look at the fiasco when they tried to return) than to prevent an exile base rebellion if they have just been moved across a river or other, lesser natural feature. Perhaps also a lack of competition, Pol Pot was gaining power when Laos and Vietnam were in turmoil, there were threats everywhere (or at least potentially), and something similar could be said for Stalin and Mao who came to power after World Wars where brutality was selected for in some ways.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            For any political tendency, “authoritarian police state” is more common than “piles of skulls.”

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            Depending on your definition of “pile” this isn’t accurate for communism. Cuba is pretty much the best case scenario there, and tens of thousands seems like a decent sized pile to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            By the standards of “governments you’d want to live under” it’s a big pile. By the standards of “authoritarian dictatorships” it’s a very small pile, because there’s some dictatorships that produced tens of millions of skulls. The question “why do we treat Castro as being better than Stalin, why do we treat Che as being better than Heydrich” has a simple answer: magnitude.

          • a reader says:

            @albatross11:

            Any idea why Castro’s version of Communism turned out to be generic police state + leftist rhetoric, instead of Mao/Pol Pot style piles of skulls?

            Probably because Cuba copied the soviet system in the time of Khrushchev & Brezhnev, so it became something like an Eastern European country transplanted in the Caribbean.

            Reading about Cuba under Fidel, it strikes me how similar it was to Romania under Ceausescu, from food ratios to pioneers to high school students sent to harvest the crop to the interdiction to slaughter calves.

            @dndnrsn: Very small?!? Cuba, when becoming communist, had around 6 or 7 million people, so Fidel couldn’t produce “tens of millions of skulls” even if he wanted.

          • Matt says:

            Don’t forget Castro’s interventions in Africa. Keeping the Derg in power in Ethiopia enabled them to send their enemies out to the desert to starve in the famines of the 80s.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @a reader

            True, tens of millions would not have been possible. But Cambodia had a population less than ten million, and…

          • a reader says:

            Pol Pot and Mao are extreme cases even among dictators. I’d say that by the standards of “authoritarian dictatorships”, Fidel’s is an average pile, comparable, for example, with Pinochet’s, as people discussed before.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If we cut out the heaviest outliers, and honestly I am chiding myself for being lazy talking about authoritarian dictatorship (the case that the most murderous ones were totalitarian instead being easy to make), yeah, Cuba probably isn’t that far away from the average.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m specifically interested in the piles of skulls at home. Foreign policy that leaves piles of dead bodies is another thing, and one that I think is much less of a signature of truly horrific totalitarian regimes.

          • Matt says:

            Ok, but that lets HItler (and arguably Stalin) off the hook for a huge chunk of their state-sponsored murder. Though maybe you’re stretching ‘at home’ to include German camps in Poland and the like?

            Certainly Cuban intervention in Africa is less authoritarian.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt

            I don’t know that one can count atrocities in land that one is in the process of taking over as “foreign policy” – the mass murder of Jews, the millions of dead Soviet POWs, Soviet civilians, Polish civilians, were all part of a greater plan to expand eastwards, committing ethnic cleansing and genocide on an enormous scale. Their plan was to take other people’s home, kill them or deport them (to somewhere they would probably die in large numbers anyway), and then claim that home.

        • cassander says:

          @hyperboloid

          >that credible accusations of war crimes against Che Guevara are few and far between

          The man was a leading figure in a revolutionary communist regime that murdered tens of thousands after coming to power. You might as well argue that there were no credible accusations against Goebels on the grounds he didn’t personally murder jews.

          Che was a man who did not lend himself to easy moral evaluations. On the one hand, he was an incredibly brave man, driven to risk his life on behalf of some of the poorest and most wretched people on earth. On the other hand, he never really had a coherent plan of how to do that.

          He had a very coherent plan, the same as every other communist revolutionary. Violently seize power and set up another totalitarian communist regime to purge the body politic of anyone resisting your “progress.” That’s not a good plan, but it’s not incoherent.

          He embraced an extremely naive form of Marxism that led him to believe that once the brief initial bloody work of revolution was done society would, almost over night, undergo a peaceful moral transformation into a communist utopia.

          People who believe that don’t sign up to dole out revolutionary justice.

          When this stubbornly failed to happen he didn’t call in the secret police to hunt down counter-revolutionary wreckers; Instead he simply left to continue the revolution elsewhere.

          In other words, he went to spread his murderous ideology to more places even after he saw it totally fail. How on earth do you see that as a moral act?

          Nevertheless, If he had embraced different ideas and left Cuba with a better form of government (or at least one more friendly to the US) no one would be calling him a murderer today.

          THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT! Of course he wouldn’t have murdered people if his ideology didn’t call murder! How on earth is him CHOOSING a violent, murderous ideology somehow letting him off the hook for being a violent murderer?

          >His real crime wasn’t putting anybody to death, it was being on the wrong side of history.

          Bull fucking shit. I suppose that was stalin’s crime as well, eh? And Mao’s? How many communists ever saw the inside of a jail cell for their crimes? How many had one tenth the legal troubles of, say, members of pinochet’s regime, which, I must remind you, killed fewer people than literally every single communist regime that ever existed, including Castro’s?

          • Jiro says:

            killed fewer people than literally every single communist regime that ever existed

            The Sammarinese Communist Party didn’t kill anyone when it ruled San Marino.

            Of course, San Marino has a population of 33,000 and covers 24 square miles.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @cassander

            You’re ranting about a lot of people who are neither Che Guevara nor Fidel Castro. The fact that you’re trying to change the subject right off the bat doesn’t say much about your argument.

            Fidel Castro began as a liberator and turned into a brutal dictator; to say the least I have no particular fondness for the man.

            He denied the Cuban People their fundamental human rights for decades. To defy one empire he made a common cause with a far more brutal system of oppression. One feels odd defending him. But if one is to condemn a man on the charges of which he is guilty, one ought also to defend him on charges of which he is innocent. Just I as I would defend Franco or Pinochet in similar circumstances.

            And Fidel was certainly innocent of being Stalin; he of course was guilty of being Fidel and that ought to be bad enough.

            You say that Castro’s regime killed tens of thousands, I’d like to see a scholarly source on that (and Le Livre noir du communisme can be called scholarship only by devaluing the word beyond the point of meaning). The Cuban regime has certainly imprisoned or expelled tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dissidents, it has arrested it’s citizens without trial, it has tortured political prisoners and held others in unconscionable conditions without recourse to the courts.

            Nevertheless, it has actually killed relatively few people, at least in comparison with other Latin American dictatorships.

            The Cuba Archive lists a total of 6334 deaths attributable the Castro regime since 1959. This includes 2273 executions, and 1009 confirmed or suspected extrajudicial killings. The rest are due to hardship in prison, accidents while trying to exit the country, and battlefield causalities at Bahía de Cochinos and during Escambray rebellion (the so called Lucha contra los Bandidos), and a number of other causes other than outright state sanctioned killing.

            To compare to the Chilean case, the Rettig report compiled by the government to investigate the crimes of general Pinochet’s regime found 2115 extra judicial killings by the Chilean state. There were no legal executions in Chile at the time, as the death penalty had been abolished in practice. The Castro regime has existed so far for 59 years, Pinochet’s junta ruled for 17.

            Using only suspected or confirmed extrajudicial killings we find that Chile under Pinochet directly killed a bit more than 124 per year against Cuba’s toll of a bit more 55. That is to say roughly 64 percent as many people in less than one third the time.

            Given Cuba’s nature as a closed society, I doubt that the Cuba archive is truly comprehensive; and no government that wants to call itself truly legitimate should ever murder even one of its citizens. 3282 state sanctioned killings is 3283 too many. But there seems to be little bases for your claim that tens of thousands were killed by Castro’s government. Even the Black Book only estimates between fifteen and seventeen thousand.

            Again, Fidel was not Stalin. As for Che, he wasn’t even Fidel.

            How on earth is him CHOOSING a violent, murderous ideology somehow letting him off the hook for being a violent murderer?

            The point is that in Che’s hands Communism was not a particularly violent or murderous ideology. A man is responsible for his own actions and not the actions of others who happen to share his creed, in whole or in part. If you can not accept that, then your mind is just as lost to totalitarian thinking as that of the most fanatical Stalinist.

            We should think of Che Guevara the same way we think of men like Yamamoto, Robert E. lee, or Rommel. Personally honorable, but on the wrong side of history.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Jiro- the Republic of Cyprus is quite a bit bigger than San Marino (de jure 3,500 square miles and 1.2 million people, de facto more like 2,400 square miles and 900,000 people), and had a Communist government for a few years recently which AFAIK didn’t kill anyone- or certainly didn’t kill any more people than is typical for the government of a small European country not actively at war with anywhere, I can’t be certain that nobody was killed by Cypriot police during that time.

            EDIT: There was certainly a high-profile incident where 13 people, including the head of the Navy, were killed in an accidental explosion at a naval ammunition dump during the Communist administration. I don’t know if this counts as the ‘government killing people’, I’d say it doesn’t.

          • cassander says:

            The Cuba Archive lists a total of 6334 deaths attributable the Castro regime since 1959. This includes 2273 executions, and 1009 confirmed or suspected extrajudicial killings.

            I see 9,200 executions and deaths in prison, plus tens of thousands of people who drowned trying to get away. You don’t get to wave away the deaths of people who took enormous risks desperately trying to flee the country as if the regime isn’t directly culpable

            Using only suspected or confirmed extrajudicial killings we find that Chile under Pinochet directly killed a bit more than 124 per year against Cuba’s toll of a bit more 55.

            Killings in regimes are usually front loaded, dolling out an average per year is misleading and you know it, especially when you leave out that Pinochet stepped down to allow a non-violent transfer to democratic government. Using that fact to argue that his killing was worse is deeply suspect.

            The point is that in Che’s hands Communism was not a particularly violent or murderous ideology.

            One, there is no such thing as non-violent communism. Two, even if there were, Che’s hands aren’t exactly clean. That he didn’t personally murder people with his bare hands doesn’t excuse him any more than it excuses Goebels.

            We should think of Che Guevara the same way we think of men like Yamamoto, Robert E. lee, or Rommel. Personally honorable, but on the wrong side of history.

            We treat Che much better than any of those individuals. If you put up a Che poster and a Robert E Lee poster, which one do you think you’d be asked to take down first?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Various celebrated pirates, highwaymen, gangsters, etc. For some reason the first one who popped into my head was Billy the Kid – isn’t he generally portrayed as either a hero or a tragic figure?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Nathan Bedford Forrest, probably best known for founding the KKK, is portrayed favorably in Turtledove’s alt-history Guns of the South. (He’s still racist, but certain events offend his code of honor to the point where he fights some arguably even worse white nationalists.)

      • John Schilling says:

        Nathan Bedford Forrest, probably best known for founding the KKK

        But almost as well known for disbanding the KKK (it didn’t stick, alas) when it turned out to be a hotbed of racial bigotry and violence.

        Forrest’s actual history leaves room for multiple interesting interpretations of his character, depending on whether one reads his various transformations as real growth, mere adaption, or cynical camouflage.

    • AG says:

      Manga/Jdrama/anime Nobunaga Concerto makes the warlord a lovable shounen hero inspiring the people around him to be better people, which means that they have to go to some hilarious lengths to make his historical massacres justified for the character. (Basically, that his ruthless doppelganger did it in his name.)

      There’s also the casting of Spartacus and his men as progressive heroes in various adaptations.

      One of my favorite picture books growing up was The White Stag by Kate Seredy, which makes a King Arthur-esque mythology out of Attila the Hun’s lineage and life.

    • hyperboloid says:

      From what I can tell the movie is based on the premise that Borden was a victim of sexual abuse by her father. It’s not an original idea, nor it should be said an entirely implausible one, and has been picked over by true crime authors for decades.

      Are there obvious examples of men accused of similar crimes being portrayed favorably

      Jesse James for one. In fact a whole slew of outlaws and gangsters have gotten much the same treatment in popular culture.

    • Vorkon says:

      I suppose there’s Cannibal: The Musical, which portrays Alferd Packer in a heroic light, but I’m not sure if that counts, since it’s by the South Park guys, and is pretty clearly tongue-in-cheek. (While chewing, of course.)

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Would a fictional evil character count?

      Piers Anthony wrote For Love of Evil, in which the protagonist literally takes over the job of Satan. It was one of the most compelling storied I’d ever read (although to be fair, I was in high school at the time).

    • fion says:

      I thought the film Legend, which is about the Kray Twins, was too sympathetic to them, especially to Reggie.

  17. Plumber says:

    I’m looking for another news source. 

    Typically I watch a little PBS Newshour, sometimes Washington Week, a bit of local news on broadcast television (I don’t have cable, satellite or streaming), 

    I skim the Washington Post opinion section, I read a bit of The Atlantic Monthly, and I pick up The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times when something looks interesting, with particular attention to the columnists Douthat and Krugman. 

    I used to regularly read bits of The Wall Street Journal, but I’m finding doing that harder than it used to be, so I want a suggestion on something to fill that gap.

    I think I’m pretty wall covered for mainstream centrist opinion, and when I want a more leftist view I’ll pick up The Nation, and when I want a populist-right view I’ll pick up The American Conservative, but what I lack without the WSJ is current center-right views. 

    Obviously I have a bias for “legacy media”.

    Suggestions? 

    • DragonMilk says:

      I generally like Bloomberg for business news and ArsTechnica/Wired for Tech news.

      Day to day headline “news” is a waste of time, imo

    • Nick says:

      National Review is center-right, but I’m pretty sure it has more “here’s what you should be outraged about today” content than the WSJ. I still read it off and on.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I’m rather persnickety about what I can trust, so I stick with CSPAN.

      As DragonMilk says, most daily headlines are skippable. I find they’re vastly skewed toward eyeball grabs, so the more sensationalist, the better. But I’ve learned they’re also consequently much less believable, or the article has a much more watered down thing that actually happened that the headline exaggerated, so if I read daily news at all, I check the headlines and just assume there’s something much more boring that explains each one.

      Once I have a confident feeling that a given source is biased, I keep it around in case I want to check for their side of some hot story, on the premise that if there’s a legitimate angle, they’ll find it.

      Overall, most of my news is online. For center-right, I suppose I’d go with National Review, or The American Interest (Walter Russell Mead seems to gather good writers, and writes well himself).

    • AG says:

      The Week magazine’s print edition is good, though its website is about the same horrid quality as most online news outlets. That’s because the articles in the print edition are an aggregator. The format is “[gives the basic facts], [here’s what news outlets said], [here’s what editorials said]”, often deliberately juxtaposing both left and right-leaning sources for each section. Good for getting the basic facts, and a springboard.

      What I like especially is that they make a point of covering bits that might go under the radar because of The Hot Issue of the Day, out of the rigid format within the magazine. There’s a “boring but important section,” international news, and such. And because it’s an aggregate at the end of the week, there’s a little more time for takes to cool.

      But, seriously, the website is a waste of time, it’s basically nothing but inflammatory editorials and clickbait.

      • Nick says:

        I like reading Matthew Walther on the online edition (which is not to say I agree with him much). But he’s certainly got the inflammatory editorials style down pat.

        We actually had a subscription to the print edition of The Week for about two years when I was a little kid. I don’t know why, since we didn’t subscribe to anything else. I’d steal it to look at the pretty, expensive houses that were on sale. Then I’d read the editorials and thinkpieces—I remember one about a woman talking about sexual harassment in the military, like a time some soldiers raised about $90 between them asking to see her breasts. When my seven year old mind had had its fill of those, I read the actual news. I really liked the “World at a glance” section, which was just about the only international news I encountered at that age.

    • SamChevre says:

      I like The Economist for cosmopolitan-right news, and it’s less US-focused than most of the other alternatives.

  18. sfoil says:

    This sounds odd, but I don’t know another way to phrase it: do plants have immune systems? I do some minor indoor gardening and I’ve noticed that undernourished plants tend to get parasitic mold on them. This never, or at least very rarely, happens to healthy plants. So they must have some means of “fighting” intrusions by foreign organisms. What is it? Am I totally off base here?

  19. theredsheep says:

    Question: what’s your opinion of patriotism? What does it mean to love one’s country? I have difficulties with the concept because a “country” is ultimately a kind of … political fiction? Abstraction? Not sure what the right word or phrase would be. You can’t point to any one discrete thing and say, “this is America.” In common use, the country we’re supposed to love doesn’t mean the land itself, nor the government.

    You could take it to refer to all the people inside it, but I don’t know more than the tiniest fraction of those people. I spent ten months in Peru in 2011-12. There were great people I knew and liked in Peru, while I don’t know a soul in, say, rural Idaho. Yet the Idahoan gets a moral claim on me from, in essence, belonging to the same administrative unit, while the Peruvian does not, or only gets a lesser claim. That’s a head-scratcher. I can accept that we have interests in common, certainly, due to sharing a government, but patriotism isn’t typically understood to mean enlightened self-interest.

    If anything, “America” refers to a culture, or ideal, or way of life. But it’s increasingly clear that there isn’t a single American culture, ideal, or way of life any more, if ever there was, and at any rate I don’t think I approve of “loving” ideas the same way one loves people. It strikes me as dangerous or unhealthy to love a thing that exists primarily in your own head–an artifact of your own imagination, with no independent existence. It’s very close to self-love, or could easily become as much.

    • quanta413 says:

      There is definitely significant spread in American culture, but I think Americans will have an obvious bias towards comprehending all the differences in that and not knowing about even bigger differences with other cultures.

      American culture isn’t a single thing, but the idea refers to a more cohesive group than people sometimes like to admit in politics.

      The administrative unit thing actually is important though. You and the Idahoan have to share some subset of law. You and a Peruvian don’t. Ignoring foreign policy for the moment, it makes sense that many actions you take politically should take into account the Idahoan and not the Peruvian.

      • theredsheep says:

        Yeah, but like I said, that’s a form of self-interest. If love of country is something you’re supposed to have as a moral good, like love of family, that’s different, no?

        • quanta413 says:

          I need you to elaborate on how this is different from love of family because I’m not quite sure I understand.

          Family much like country is something I never got to choose. I take family into account more than nonfamily partly because I’m stuck with them and partly because my family tends to be more similar to me than nonfamily. Some mixture of culture and biology has equipped me with emotions and intuitions that tend to encourage this. It’s not so different for countrymen (much more culture, much less biology though). Different in degree more than in kind. And granted, it’s a very significant difference in degree.

          I could justify the same behavior to family in a not self interested sounding way, but at least for me that would be less understandable.

          • theredsheep says:

            I know my family, I grew up with a lot of them, and even the ones I don’t know super-well are dear to the ones I do know, so it makes sense for me to love them to some extent, for the sake of those nearer ones. Once you get out into third cousins and such it starts to break down, but then everybody’s my family if you go out far enough. But if a guy doesn’t love his mother or his brothers, we generally recognize that something has gone wrong. No?

            I don’t know some guy from Idaho at all. He has no connection to me except perhaps in a coincidental Kevin Bacon way. What does it matter to me that Idaho is a state, and so is Florida?

          • quanta413 says:

            You haven’t described why there’s a moral duty to love family more than strangers. You’re noting that it’s normal. I’m saying that it’s probably normal for “self-interested” evolutionary and cultural reasons.

            And for similarish self interested reasons, people in Idaho matter slightly more than people in Peru for most things you will do.

            Are you asking for an emotional reason to care about countrymen over people in Peru in general?

            It’s hard for me to understand, because I don’t emotionally care about family as a hard rule more than strangers. I only care about the family that hasn’t done something too egregious. And even then my caring often doesn’t make much more difference than caring for countrymen. Almost all of the time whether countrymen or family, it’s more an acknowledgement of my reciprocal obligations to people and a vague “wishing them well” than anything concrete.

            Family are more important. I have obligations to them that consume more time and occur more often. But I have obligations to someone in Idaho that I don’t have to someone in Peru. And I have obligations to someone in Peru that I don’t have to a herd of wildebeest or something. And I have obligations to wildebeest that I don’t have to rocks. And so on and so forth.

          • theredsheep says:

            No, it’s normal because I know them closely, have lived with them closely, grew up with many of them, had my mother rock me to sleep as a baby, etc. To say nothing of my wife and sons; you can abstract this to “you love them as a result of evolutionary forces favoring your genes,” oxytocin, etc, but at some point you’re just explaining things away via dry language. The sun is just a really big ball of hot gas, a bouquet of flowers is just dismembered plant vaginas, families are just an evolutionary adaptation strategy, all very true.

            I think it’s fair to say that it is normal and good to love one’s family (though one’s family may not be biological depending on circumstances). Emotional bonds exist between people who live and work in close proximity. That’s what love is. But I have no relationship with Idaho man, let alone with the big ideological superstructure of nationality that binds me to him. How does one love a nonperson?

          • quanta413 says:

            You say “explaining away”. I say “explaining”. Feelings may be a motivation but they have some cause. This is probably not the right crowd to ask if you want to know why people feel a certain way about their country. However, if you want that, plenty of people will give you an opinion. It’s not really any more arbitrary to love the place or political unit you grew up in than it is to love your distant relatives.

            I don’t accept that it’s obvious that it’s morally good to love one’s family but not obviously morally good to love one’s countrymen. A strict utilitarian may weigh all people’s wellbeing equally. An objectivist may go the opposite way and love themselves. I don’t think either of these positions is right, but I don’t take think that setting a sharp cutoff at people you’ve spent time with is obvious either.

            Since you talk about emotions etc. my question to you would be, why do you give consideration to people you haven’t spent time with? Are the reasons purely rational or are some emotional too?

            How does one love a nonperson?

            I love nonpersons all the time. I love some ideas more than I’ve ever loved most people. And I mean in an emotional sense similar to the love I feel for some people, not just instrumentally because I recognize the idea is useful. I’m not sure how to explain it. I spent a great deal of time trying to understand or working with some of those ideas, but that’s not really an explanation. Do you not have the experience of loving an idea? What about a physical item?

        • Randy M says:

          Neither complete altruism nor self-interest is best; cooperation is preferable. People in your country are those you are forced, to some degree, to cooperate with.

    • John Schilling says:

      You can’t point to any one discrete thing and say, “this is America.”

      “America” is the set of people and institutions that maintains an army for the purpose of making sure nobody goes about killing or enslaving Americans and taking or breaking their stuff whenever it is convenient for them. Patriotism is the set of norms that discourages tragedy-of-the-commons defection from this arrangement.

      There’s some other stuff, but it’s all secondary to that core functionality.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      To love one’s country is really to love one’s countrymen, and the cultural values that make them lovable. Cultural values are informed by land, weather, food, dress, entertainment, monuments, and legal and moral norms.

      America in particular has a spread, as quanta413 says. There are a few markers that are fairly well loved: the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, the Statue of Liberty, Mickey Mouse, summer movies, Christmas, Mark Twain, Dr. King, Lincoln, Washington, the Constitution, fast food, cookouts, corn, bison, July 4th, due process, “rags to riches”, civil rights, guitars, fast cars, jet fighters, baseball, and others. None of these is universal, of course; they’re just examples of things Americans can say they like or are proud of, that most other people would find understandable.

      In general, across any nation, I think of the utility of patriotism as the ability of its adherents to trust people in their vicinity to adhere to norms that make it less expensive to interact. I can trade money for food with someone, and trust that they want me to like the food, while they trust me to not pay them in fake tokens, because we both feel like we have a reputation to uphold, even though we might never see each other again. Same goes for countless other transactions, from resolving disputes over a fallen tree, to arranging a million-dollar deal over a building or a bridge. I see a lot of that as stemming from national pride. “Countrymen don’t do that to fellow countrymen.”

      Without that, such trust is still possible, but noticeably riskier. You’d end up with merchants with near heroic character working trashy bazaars, or shysters requiring massive inefficient oversight when they’re seen as willing to bilk their customers, or rough-and-tumble neighborhoods where everyone stays inside after dark. Less gets done.

      • Jiro says:

        Patriotism is a way to precommit to behaving well towards other Americans.

        I’m not even joking; it does amount to that. The fact that someone can defect but “irrationally” refuses to defect despite it being Pareto-optimal is basically the same as adhering to a precommitment.

    • dick says:

      I’m an evolved monkey, with a bunch of “distinguish my clan from outsiders and care more about the former than the latter” hardwiring that, in the absence of an actual clan, pattern matches to the nearest thing available. So, I love America because that’s where I’m from and I’m programmed to do that, and I don’t fret over it any more than I fret over being hardwired to love sweet desserts and shapely butts. But I do try to remember that the human brain gets to exercise veto power, in the sense of not loving America’s fuckups, not eating cupcakes for dinner, and not cheating on my wife.

    • Viliam says:

      I think it is a fiction, but one that correlates with important things that exist in reality. So perhaps “simplification” or “first approximation” would be more appropriate than fiction.

      Some people love the culture, some people like the legal system, some people like the nature. The culture can be further unpacked: one can like songs and movies, or the way people treat each other. — And of course you are allowed to cherry-pick here, so for example your patriotism would include only the nice behaviors, or only the tasty cuisine.

      But generally it is an idea of being a part of one “team”, and the belief that the existence of this “team” makes the world a better place, I guess.

      Also, patriotism is the Schelling point for this type of “love (some of) the circumstances I was born in”. You can try to be more specific, but when everyone starts nitpicking, you will never get a sufficiently large “team”.

      The idea of the “team” also comes with some implied duties towards the “team”, such as mutual defense. It makes sense for you to defend those unknown people in Idaho, if you believe that many of them would do the same thing for you. It is a way to coordinate people who don’t even know each other, which is an awesome achievement, because coordination is hard, especially in large numbers.

      Patriotism kinda allows you to brag about other people’s achievements, but in return puts on you an obligation to follow their legacy. Identity shapes people, and this force can also be used for good.

      Personally, I think that America is awesome, and I regret that you have cultural forces that push you towards believing/professing otherwise. If those forces win, it will hurt not only you, but also the rest of the world. And sure, there are many things that are seriously wrong and need to be fixed. But compared to America, many other countries are not even trying.

      Of course, there are good and bad people everywhere. The difference is with institutions. In many places the good individuals are isolated and powerless. In some places they are allowed to flourish. Many places do not have social trust: even the good people suspect everyone of trying to hurt them, except for personal friends, because that is a reasonable assumption in those places. In some places it is normal for people to meet and do awesome things together. America is one of those better places.

      • theredsheep says:

        Possibly my feeling is tied into the general national malaise, and the feeling that America now consists of scattered and loosely allied tribes of extremists fighting for the allegiance of a bewildered crowd of moderate or indecisive people. It might make more sense to me in a smaller and more cohesive country/community where shared values can be safely assumed.

    • aristides says:

      I am very patriotic, and consider it to be a moral good. The main reason being patriotic is moral is that it encourages me citizens to do things that have a positive externality to my countrymen. Most obvious example, if my country is invaded, I would sign up for the military immediately. If I was just behaving in my self interest or my family interest, detecting might be a more effective strategy, but because I am patriotic, I never would. Since enough of my country also values patriotism as a moral good, I am confident none of my neighbors would consider invading my country. This makes everyone in the country better of than if we all defected.

      • Machine Interface says:

        That sounds like survivorship bias. Countries that preceded the idea of patriotism were perfectly able to mobilize large army through other Great Causes, or even through no cause at all other than individual self-interest (mercenaries).

        The reason we see patriotic countries able to mobilize large armies is mostly because patriotic memes have spread everywhere and so non-patriotic countries don’t exist anymore, so of course we can’t see those mobilize large armies anymore (the memes have spread so well that even the majority of fiercely anti-patriotic individuals still talk using the framework and concepts of patriotism – saying “I hate my country” is already stating that you believe that there’s such a thing as “your country”).

        It’s even debatable that patriotism alone is as powerful a motivator as past ideologies were. Modern soldiers are paid, and yet France and Germany, for all their fierce patriotism on the eve of WWI, still had to put large scale conscription in place. In contrast, almost 100,000 poor people spontaneously showed up to participate to the first crusade, as mostly unpaid volunteers.

        • bean says:

          Modern soldiers are paid, and yet France and Germany, for all their fierce patriotism on the eve of WWI, still had to put large scale conscription in place.

          Patriotism was one of the major factors that made the universal conscription system work. Spending a year or two in the military was seen as part of civic duty, in the same way that paying taxes is today. Previously, the army had been largely made out of the dregs of society, who didn’t have better options. Even during the Civil War, draftees often paid other people to take their place, and those substitutes were not people with lots of good options.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Machine Interface

          France and Germany didn’t have to put conscription in place when WWI started; they already had large-scale systems of peacetime conscription, reserves, etc. That their soldiers were largely conscripts and that they called up the reserves isn’t proof that patriotism wasn’t enough; had a continental power depended on volunteers and introduction of wartime conscription, with no peacetime conscription, they would have gotten absolutely ruined in a major war. The Brits, who had the luxury of a water obstacle, didn’t have peacetime conscription; huge numbers of people volunteered – but they had to introduce conscription when it turned out they still didn’t have enough volunteers.

        • John Schilling says:

          That sounds like survivorship bias. Countries that preceded the idea of patriotism were perfectly able to mobilize large army through other Great Causes, or even through no cause at all other than individual self-interest (mercenaries).

          Mercenary armies were never large, and almost always crushed when they went up against nation-states that could invoke patriotism. So were conscript armies, when they didn’t have patriotism to convince people to stand for the draft.

          But, “nations that preceded the idea of patriotism”, is something you are going to have to unpack. When do you think that was, exactly? From your discussion and your examples, you seem to think patriotism is a thing of the last century or two. The term goes back to the 16th century; the idea would have been familiar to Charlemagne or Caesar, and by the 18th century “enlightened” liberals were already saying that it was a silly obsolete idea that did no good. So when, exactly, was this pre-patriotic age for which you are so nostalgic?

        • Aapje says:

          @Machine Interface

          AFAIK, European military history can roughly be condensed to 4 phases. The first phase was when military technology was so limited that a commoner could hold his own. Back then all the men of suitable age would tend to fight.

          Once armor and tactics got good, an untrained man with a spear or ax became hopelessly outmatched and the military had to professionalize, where soldiers had to get expensive training and/or gear. This meant that the backbone of armies became the elite in society (which played a part in the development of nobility), as well as soldiers trained and funded by that elite.

          The cost of permanently training and equipping people was high, so we got phase 3, where mercenaries were hired more and more. This allowed even small, but rich countries like The Netherlands to become a world power. At this point, the sacrifice made by a society to fight wars was mainly taxation, not in giving up their lives.

          Then in phase 4, firearms, the agricultural & industrial revolution and greater wealth enabled larger and larger armies with relatively little training required, which made large-scale conscription a winning strategy for large countries.

    • dodrian says:

      It’s been a while since we had a good GK Chesterton quote, so allow me to supply one of my favorites:

      My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.

      Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing – say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne of the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico; in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico; for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico; to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles. Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved. For decoration is not given to hide horrible things: but to decorate things already adorable. A mother does not give her child a blue bow because he is so ugly without it. A lover does not give a girl a necklace to hide her neck. If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

      [Pimlico is a London suburb, and in a much better place now than in Chesterton’s day. Consider reading ‘Detroit’ in its place]

      Patriotism is about loving the community that you’re from or that you’re part of. I’m patriotic in that I want the country to succeed as a whole – both economically in the sense of seeing less poverty and more prosperity, and morally in the sense of seeing the bad practices/legacies dwindle.

      While I do sort of have those same desires for all countries, ‘re much stronger for the places that I’m more familiar with (the country I grew up in, and the country I live in now, which are in my case different), and I’ve got more power to influence those for good (I have a better understanding of the culture, a network of ties in place, and the ability to act in ways to make where I’m living a better place).

    • Orpheus says:

      Patriotism is a racket whose purpose is to get the gullible to act against their best interest.

      • AG says:

        On the contrary, patriotism itself is a neutral state whose value is determined by what ends it is put to. Patriotism can be used to overcome Molochian local minimums that arose from self-best-interest. Patriotism is a means of preventing defection. What is the “best” interest in a Prisoner’s Dilemma?

        It’s about the alternative that Patriotism is competing against. Patriotism may be inferior to universal egalitarianism, but it’s better than ever smaller units of tribal warfare.

        • Orpheus says:

          Nay.

          Patriotism can be used to overcome Molochian local minimums…

          Can being the operative word. Are there any examples of this actually happening? My view of patriotism is based on personal experience and observation of history. It’s all “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country (and the people smart enough to exploit it)”.
          Are patriotism and small units of tribal warfare the only options? Can’t we just live somewhere in peace without having it become an unhealthy part of our identity?

          • Evan Þ says:

            I think the only way to practicably avoid Molochian local minima is for people to identify with something else to pit against their self-interest. I don’t think that’s necessarily “unhealthy,” but it can get that way.

          • AG says:

            @Orpheus:
            Sure. Patriotism in America was used to overcome the strife between the various European ethnicities in the US (ditto for Canada). Most all of the 1st world nations have had a unification period, where one faction managed to get everyone else in the warring states under the banner.
            Patriotism is what leads many agitators to try to work within the system instead of burning it all down. Lack of a national identity is why some Middle Eastern nations will continue to fail at revolution, because they want a tribal dominance. Patriotism is what might allow “live and let live” to come to the Israel area, instead of two states continually trying to steal each others’ territory.

    • fion says:

      what’s your opinion of patriotism?

      I don’t like it, but I’m much more accepting of it than I used to be. I think you should love yourself, your friends and family, perhaps some famous people and certainly all humans. But loving your country? Why? What makes your country so great? A bunch of people you’ve never met, many of whom are ignorant, rude and intolerant, and you’re putting them above kind and humble people from other countries?

      As I said, I’ve since mellowed. Everybody needs something to hold onto and feel part of, and some need it more than others. If somebody loves their country, good for them. Who am I to take that away from them? I’m still cautious of the potential for patriotism to give rise to xenophobia or nationalism, and I’m well aware that the ruling class of a country can manipulate the patriotism of its population to justify terrible things, but I think I’d classify patriotism much as Megadodo Publications classify planet Earth: mostly harmless.

      • Aapje says:

        What makes your country so great?

        Well, for all its faults, my country is better in many ways than most countries.

        I was also influenced by its culture, so its culture fits me better than the culture of other countries.

        A bunch of people you’ve never met, many of whom are ignorant, rude and intolerant, and you’re putting them above kind and humble people from other countries?

        Those people tend to be influenced by the same culture as me, which creates important commonalities.

        Also, your statement is very individualist, yet we clearly live in a world that is in many ways collectivist, from top to bottom.

        How are you going to enforce quid-pro-quo outside of a nation/polity-structure? Personally giving welfare to poor foreigners isn’t the problem, they will take that money, but how are you going to get the rich foreigners to give money to you (or another in dire circumstances), when you or they are in trouble? How will the rich react when the quid-pro-quo gets so diluted/destroyed?

        Note that the elite in many countries are already less patriotic than in Western countries, in the sense that they are far less willing to share their wealth with their downtrodden.

        • fion says:

          Well, for all its faults, my country is better in many ways than most countries.

          I mean, you’re Dutch, right? So yeah, I’ll give you that one.

          Your points about culture are reasonable too, but I think national borders are a fairly minor factor in discriminating culture. For one thing, class makes a big difference. I, as a middle class Brit, have more in common culturally with a middle class German than I do with a working class or bourgeois Brit. Also, there’s the dominance of “Western culture” (or universal culture or whatever), so that Americans, Germans and Brits mostly have the same culture these days anyway. Obviously there’s degrees of this, and Britain>Anglosphere~Western Europe>everywhere else in terms of common culture with me, but I don’t think the culture argument gets you very far in terms of patriotism.

          The second half of your comment sounds like you’re defending the concept of a nation-state on practical grounds, which isn’t necessary because I don’t attack that. Correct me if I’ve misunderstood.

          • Aapje says:

            Your points about culture are reasonable too, but I think national borders are a fairly minor factor in discriminating culture.

            I think that you only say this because you are on the elite part of the societal divide.

            Historically, universal culture is nothing new. The Russian elite used to speak French. What did change is that the elite has grown in size. However, this kind of universal culture has never formed the basis for an (international) welfare state. On the contrary, universal culture is strongly correlated with wealth and being better educated, so it tends to exclude the downtrodden.

            When universal culture was still fairly conservative, this was consistent, but modern universal culture is heavily hypocritical, favoring many things that go against the ideals of the culture. For example, universal culture heavily promotes international travel/flying, yet also favors environmentalism.

            Universal culture transcends the state, but progressive ideals cannot actually be implemented that way. The result is the culture war that we have now: modern progressives want to implement their ideals, but not with the poor, but against them. They want the elitist benefits that go against their ideals and when this proves impossible, they tend to sacrifice the needs of their outgroup, who of course resist.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      The more a group of people have things that they “Share” [Laws, informal customs, tax liabilities] the more cooperation between them becomes necessary. Cooperation of this kind of this kind is aided when people identify with each other, and that identification likely requires some basis. (Historical, religious, ethnic, ideological [these things being somewhat related to each other as well])

      [Aside: this first part should at least explain why identification with humanity as a whole is neither necessary nor practical. Unnecessary because unless you desire one world government with identical common set of laws and a single fiscal pool, people who live closer together likely have to share more than people who live thousands of miles apart. Impractical because the fewer bases of identification you have the harder it is to identify]

      The US is extraordinarily weak when it comes to bases of identification. Partly due to it’s size and the fact that it was settled by different groups at different times and places; there are a handful of common features one might consider identifying with but they’re interpretation is so varied that even that basis might be a mutual deception.

      This is probably why US politics are so toxic right now (The within-patriotism of red and blue tribes are getting stronger while the between patriotism is weaker) and also probably why US patriotism seems to outsiders to be ‘doth protested too much’ / very affected.

      I Also know historical European commenters actually disliked the United States because it was essentially a place composed of people who abandoned long-standing identities in the name of earning more money.

      I also notice that the US military and economy strength is used as a basis for identification, this is extremely troubling as you don’t want people who share a country to stop identifying with each other just because your country isn’t the “Best” anymore.

      US patriotism and Humanism are similar in that regard, except 1. Humanism is even more counter-factual and ambitious 2. Us patriotism is a lot tackier

    • JPNunez says:

      It is a necessary evil. At the end of the day, realpolitiks apply. You need to have some loyalty to the local polity you inhabit to keep it existing. Sometimes this will mean grabing a rifle and go shoot at the people over an imaginary line for your polity to make sure your form of life keeps existing.

      The final reason for this is that the cost of switching nations is way too high for most people. Americans can move between states if they don’t like their local laws, but it is still largely the same country. Even if you had a completely open borders policy across the world and we somehow eliminated the discrimination against immigrants, most people still wouldn’t be able to just drop everything and move to their equivalent of Canada if their local Trump wins.

    • arlie says:

      As a child and young adult, patriotism appeared completely bogus to me. It seemed to feed off the same mechanisms, presumably useful to pre-civilization foragers, that cause people to root for particular sports teams because of the location associated with them.

      I can see reasons why banding together with others is rational, and how, once a nation exists, it can be prudent to team up with those assigned to the same nation by accident of birth. But I still can’t imagine gladly going to war for that nation, unless in a cause I would have volunteered for from outside. (FWIW, I was a Canadian teen during the Vietnam war.)

      But to my surpise, when Trump started pushing for what he called “fairness” in US deals with Canada, I suddenly found myself rooting for the Canadian side in a manner far more intense than with regard to his similar treatment of other allies. That was, somehow, personal. And I don’t think it’s because I anticipate negative impacts on family still in Canada, either. (I live in the US.)

      Of course the specific case is made more complex by a decades long history of Canadians feeling abused by US trade negotiators. From where we stand, fairness would be a worse deal for the US than what it already has, not yet more concessions from us for them. So his choice of language was quite loaded on our side of the border.

      I also find that when I hear about egregious actions by the Canadian giovernment, I feel ashamed. “We should be better than that.”

      So anyway, I don’t get “patriotism” either, but it appears I have some that I didn’t even know about.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I can only speak from an American perspective, but American patriotism is awesome. Our ancestors made perilous treks and endured a lot of misery to build an incredible nation at the height of science and economics, strong enough to overcome most of our old rivalries, and stable enough not only to prosper but provide stability to other places around the world. If you want a “European Union,” come on over, we already have one: our Friendsiving is going to be hosted by myself and my wife (a combination of Polish/German/Hungarian/Swedish/Norwegian), with lots of Poles, some Spanish, some Mexicans, an Irishman, a random Asian guy who was adopted by a native Southern Son, etc.

      I think Americans who don’t love America and their fellow Americans who make America possible take their lives for granted. There’s no consistent culture, but that’s a good thing, because America is an individualist society where you can create your own destiny. We also are a constantly evolving culture that’s always redefining what “America” means, so there’s never going to be a universal definition of what “America” is.

      As for other nations, most nations have something they can be proud of. But, again, I can’t really speak for them, they need to find their own paths.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Useful for inspiring people to rebel against worse and more primitive feudal or imperial types of oppression, dangerous and backward once you have established a modern democratic republic

  20. kvothe says:

    What is a good way to search Slate Star Codex? And in this specific instance I was thinking of going the collective memory route and ask does anyone remember a post on a higher income sometimes negatively affecting purchasing power (due to for instance income dependent housing, medicine and tuition costs).

    (And is this an appropriate place to ask such questions?)

    • Randy M says:

      I believe that one may have been the one reviewing Elizabeth Warren’s book.
      But it also kind of sounds like one on cost disease

    • Nick says:

      I would use google, with a search like:
      site:slatestarcodex.com "purchasing power" "income"
      The quote marks mean the search term has to be in the result; leave them off if you’re not sure about wording or something, obviously. Randy’s guess, the Elizabeth Warren book, is the first result from a blog post.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Ok, so I will preface by saying I have no expertise in anything aquatic, and that these are largely middle school musings on autonomous measures being dug up.

      That being said, how practical are the following with where technology is at nowadays?

      1. Buoy-based surveillance drones
      Premise is that for whatever reason, satellites have been knocked out in a pre-emptive space strike, so the backup is ocean-based buoys that have to be manually deployed/repositioned from time to time but each launch a surveillance helidrone (buoy has charging unit) to give a real-time feed of the movements out of the range of sonar/radar

      2. Propeller/Rudder disablers
      Submersible releases barnacle-like explosive drones that seek out propellers and rudders and explode. These barnacles attach anywhere on the ship and shift to the steering/propulsion areas.

      3. Submersible drone-launched anti-personnel (gas) missiles
      Once ships are disabled, a second set of submersibles will surface and fire a pair of missiles that fly low to the water. The first breaches the hull (my understanding that modern carriers do not have thick armor like the battleships of the past and rely on escorts), while the following missile releases a knock-out or deadly gas.

      Basically 1 finds targets, 2 stops them, 3 clears them of crew. Once done, the ships can be either boarded or destroyed.

      • Skivverus says:

        (1), I think I already had a discussion with bean on this (see the comments on the fictional navy posts; second one, if I remember right); upshot is that that the sea, while not as Big as space, is still Big. Bringing your recon with you is generally cheaper than trying to set up a fixed perimeter.
        (2) sounds like torpedoes or mines to me, which already exist.
        (3) would be mitigated by watertight (and thus close-to-airtight) doors, which don’t get counted as armor but do show still up on carriers as I understand it.

      • bean says:

        1 is dubious. There are limits to how cheap you can make your sensors, and it makes a lot more sense to send a big helicopter (or a decent-sized flying drone, or anything else that’s reusable and not geographically tethered) to sweep a bunch of different sections of water than it does to seed a bunch of different areas with a drone helicopter each. Particularly because the big helicopter can do other things, and doesn’t have to be replaced or reseeded when the battery runs out.

        For 2, are you planning to do this while the ship is underway? If so, then it won’t work. You’d do OK with a torpedo specifically set up to go for the screws (which many are anyway), but trying to cling to the hull and move around when the ship is at speed? That’s not going to end well. If the target is stationary, it’s not totally insane, although there are serious practical problems, like making sure you’re going after the right target and not a supertanker nearby.

        For 3, this is also not going to work well. First, getting a missile into a carrier isn’t easy. Second, modern ships have extensive chemical filtration systems, so you’re not going to get the whole ship with one missile. Third, particularly if you go the knockout gas route, smoke is a major hazard when fighting fires, so the crew has ready access to masks, and the ability to cut the ventilation system off.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Re fixed sensors: ISTR Tom Clancy made frequent references to a line of sensors going roughly from Greenland to the British Isles, through Iceland. They were submerged, and I think mainly intended to detect boomers (subs) and possibly ships, although ships and planes were more under the purview of radar stations.

          I have no idea whether such a system is still maintained today, ~20 years later (although I imagine so), and whether it’s still considered critically valuable.

          • bean says:

            You speak of SOSUS. It’s still there, although it’s been scaled back from its glory days. Unlike most forms of light, sound doesn’t travel in straight lines, so it’s possible for a fixed sensor to survey a large area. It was mostly intended for ASW, although surface ships could also be detected.

          • John Schilling says:

            It was more than just the G-I-UK gap, the SOSUS network was essentially global but with increased focus on critical theatres and choke points. The system was reportedly capable of tracking even quiet US submarines, in its prime. The sensors still exist, but the budget for maintaining and monitoring them has been substantially reduced and so the capability is substantially diminished.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I think SOSUS was also intended to be a complement to scouting by mobile units, not a complete substitute for it. Finding Soviet subs and following them around was one of the main peacetime missions for NATO attack subs (not just for the purposes of keeping track of them, but also for practice, to gather info on Soviet submarine capabilities, and to be in position to shoot at them if the balloon went up), and the wikipedia page Bean linked also mentions sonar surveillance by surface ships.

            In general, you want a defense-in-depth approach. Fixed sensors can cover choke points (like the G-I-UK gap) and high-value areas (like the waters immediately off the coast of the continental US) relatively cheaply, freeing up your more-expensive but more-capable mobile units to handle the rest of the ocean.

      • Lambert says:

        It seems I’m not the only one who’s been wondering about the potential of autonomous naval boats.

        I suspect the range of roles not better performed by aircraft is limited to operating for extended periods far from any friendly ships.
        Perhaps a cheap, unmanned midget sub designed to keep the enemy on its toes by torpedoing their ships when they least expect it would be viable.

        • bean says:

          I suspect the range of roles not better performed by aircraft is limited to operating for extended periods far from any friendly ships.

          There’s been a fair bit of work on autonomous surface vessels intended to trail enemy submarines. It’s easier to keep contact than to pick it back up once lost, and an autonomous vessel could theoretically be good at this.

          Perhaps a cheap, unmanned midget sub designed to keep the enemy on its toes by torpedoing their ships when they least expect it would be viable.

          We’ve had those for 150 years. They’re called mines.

          In seriousness, that isn’t a horrible plan. The big issue is that you need an AI that you’ll trust to not put a torpedo into a Danish container ship. And you’ll need a way to keep it powered for the long term. Neither are simple, but if you can make it work, it might be useful.

      • cassander says:

        1. Buoy-based surveillance drones

        Probably not a terrible idea, all things considered, though not really the sort of thing that would be particularly useful to the US navy and so, as far as I know, isn’t being developed.

        Contra bean, I think you could make some dinky little EO/IR equipped drones pretty cheaply, that the enemy would have to get pretty close to to kill. If nothing else it serves as a bit of a warning net. the bigger trouble is that they won’t stay put.

        2. Propeller/Rudder disablers

        If you can get close enough to a ship to attach these, you’re close enough to sink the ship so I don’t really see the point.

        3. Submersible drone-launched anti-personnel (gas) missiles

        Again, why not just sink the ship?

        • bean says:

          Contra bean, I think you could make some dinky little EO/IR equipped drones pretty cheaply, that the enemy would have to get pretty close to to kill. If nothing else it serves as a bit of a warning net. the bigger trouble is that they won’t stay put.

          But wouldn’t it be easier overall to make the drones slightly bigger and base them centrally? Instead of having a buoy every 20 nautical miles (probably including a couple ranks out to sea), I have a single drone base every 100 nautical miles with a half-dozen camera drones on a preprogrammed search pattern. Instead of needing 15 camera sets, you only need 6, and a failure means you send out another one, instead of leaving a gap in your coverage.

          • cassander says:

            You make a good point, it’s probably a waste to have just one drone per buoy. there’s some sweet spot on on the size/cost curve, I don’t really know where it would be. but the idea of a buoy full of cheap flying eo/ir balls made mostly out of plastic strikes me as a good one.

          • bean says:

            I think the disadvantages of making it a buoy will always outweigh the advantages relative to a base ashore. A shore base can easily fly fixed-wing drones out of any convenient field, and servicing means sending a guy or two to a few weeks of tech school. The buoy would need to be unmanned, which means that you need automated servicing (instead of having a draftee plug in a power cable) and all of those systems have to work without human intervention. And you can’t reasonably use a fixed-wing drone, which severely limits range and speed.

          • ryan8518 says:

            At that point, aren’t you just back to tiered basing scheme, albeit you are pushing more for the jumpjet operates out of every reasonably straight piece of highway model than running all of your bombers out of Barksdale. In this scenario, you’d have a number of different tiers of buoys, from just enough space to land and a storm shelter, basic fuels/consumables re-supply, basic maintenance, support depots, etc. Eventually, you end up back with your major bases though, that handle the high end contested surveillance/strike/logistic/information processing missions. I think your going to need a bigger ocean to see this happen in our world though, or at least a pair of peer competitors prepared to strategically bet the farm on sea control of the Pacific, the oceans are big but aircraft (particularly optimized for reconnaissance over combat) are big too, at least assuming you continue to fuel your drones w/ dinosaur fuel and have a logistics train to keep up. Maybe with denser battery tech you could get to a distributed system that can be kept cost effective, but re-supplying floating drone base 3224H3 is going to consume an inordinate amount of your very unsexy force sustainment budget

          • cassander says:

            I’m envisioning something quite small here, a few electric group one or two UAVs that can orbit for a few hours, land vertically, recharge with solar power, then go back up again. the point of the buoy isn’t that’s it’s superior, it’s massively inferior to an actual base, but they’re cheap and you can surveil a wide area of ocean by dropping them out the back of a submarine or destroyer.

          • bean says:

            @cassander

            I can sort of see what you’re getting at, but I think it only makes sense if you deploy it from a submarine. If I have a destroyer in the area, I might as well fly something like a ScanEagle or Blackjack off that, which lets me use a much more capable drone that can cover a large area. The restriction to battery power and VTOL means that you’re going to have very limited endurance and low speed, so you’re not able to cover a lot of sea from one buoy. Low cost means a mediocre camera, which makes the issue worse. A submarine has no way to recover UAVs, and making the buoy to let them be reused a few times and handle comms (not a trivial problem, as you know) might be feasible. But even that’s kind of a stretch.

            A more useful version would probably be a disposable buoy-mounted drone, which is designed to wait for the submarine to clear datum, then spring up and take a look at the target area. This means you can go fixed-wing and power via gas instead of battery, which is a huge boost to endurance and speed. The buoy serves as a comm relay, then blows itself up. Use it to catch the bad guys when they’re doing nefarious things because the satellites are all over the horizon.

    • Aapje says:

      I recently saw that a company has developed supercavitating ammunition which they argue could be used by ships against torpedos and by submarines against helicopters. Quite interesting.

      • bean says:

        What an interesting and completely novel idea. Or not. We’ve seen this before, and I don’t see any reason to expect them to have cracked it this time when it didn’t work last time.

    • bean says:

      And for Friday, the penultimate review from my New England trip: Mystic Seaport.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Ha, I’m tempted to check out the aquarium or go one some boat rides as I live in NYC and my fiancee is in CT. Thanks for this

  21. helloo says:

    Let’s MUNT! (make up new terminology!) (or point to existing ones that I didn’t know/remember)

    1) Examples that end up ironically enabling something that your criticizing. Not meant to be the same as unintended consequences where something ends up getting the opposite results. Those tend to be when subversions to the act ended up greater than the intended purpose, this is when the intended purpose has been lost or changed into the object of their criticism.
    Edit- removed example as I realized it’s just unintended consequences.
    Schrodinger’s cat was intended as an example to show the absurdity of the Copenhagen interpretation but ended up being the ur-example to explain the concept to laypeople despite the absurdity.
    Insults that become defacto nicknames or rallying cries possibly border the two. (ie. Yankee)

    2) General adverbs to split between intent/essence and consequence.
    Ex: + killing would be 1st degree murder while = killing is 2nd degree and – killing would be closer to manslaughter or criminal negligence.
    This is more intended for phrases unlike the above that do not really have separate terms defining them.
    The main examples are good/evil/bad and Xisms.
    So that’s + evil could describe be things like murder or sinful behaviour where the act itself is thought to be evil even if there might be circumstances where it is more acceptable. Something that is = evil might be lying where unless you’re Kant, it tends to be valued by intentions. – evil could be something that creates a consequence that is considered evil even if the act itself generally isn’t.
    Of course there’s going to be differences in belief and value, but that’s partially why such language could be helpful in understanding other’s belief and meaning in certain words. (and of course will be (mis)used to “identify” their beliefs)

    3) Works that invite understanding the author’s intent/story vs works that are not intended for interpretation of author’s intentions vs works that are meant to be interpretive but not necessarily for those interpretations to be representative of the author.
    The first would be autobiographical stories or Aesops where the author makes their intent clear and tries to engage the audience to see them.
    The second would be things like the game Civilization where there’s not meant to be a particular interpretation or intent. Not saying there isn’t any (for example expansionism) which may or may not be “fair” (does Civ endorse colonization/subjugation of natives/certain governments or nations?), but where even fair ones are not “wanted”.
    Third would be abstract art or general fiction where the author wants but does not intend for any interpretation to be representative of their own.

    • Nick says:

      Let’s MUNT!

      The word you’re looking for is neologize.

      (or point to existing ones that I didn’t know/remember)

      Hmm… PTEOTIDKR doesn’t really roll off the tongue….

      2) General adverbs to split between intent/essence and consequence.
      Ex: + killing would be 1st degree murder while = killing is 2nd degree and – killing would be closer to manslaughter or criminal negligence.
      This is more intended for phrases unlike the above that do not really have separate terms defining them.
      The main examples are good/evil/bad and Xisms.
      So that’s + evil could describe be things like murder or sinful behaviour where the act itself is thought to be evil even if there might be circumstances where it is more acceptable. Something that is = evil might be lying where unless you’re Kant, it tends to be valued by intentions. – evil could be something that creates a consequence that is considered evil even if the act itself generally isn’t.
      Of course there’s going to be differences in belief and value, but that’s partially why such language could be helpful in understanding other’s belief and meaning in certain words. (and of course will be (mis)used to “identify” their beliefs)

      There’s already a word in Catholic moral theology for the first case: intrinsically evil acts. (Just a note: lying is considered one too.) I’m not sure what you mean by the second case: can you give a different example? As for the third, I’m not sure that’s a natural category at all. Is this a foreseen evil we’re talking about? If I give a dear friend a wonderful gift and she accidentally cuts her finger on it and bleeds out and dies, I think most would agree that’s an evil consequence, but it has nothing to do with whether my act was good or neutral or evil. If the consequence could be foreseen, I think a term would have use.

      • helloo says:

        I’m not asking for particular words for every variation, but a general modifier for them.
        As in, if we borrow the killing example, maybe you say that greed is an evil of the first degree, but not the third?
        A different example of the 2nd would be healthy in regards to avoiding seafood (whereas organic diet would be 1st and carnivore diet would be 3rd – to some people at least)
        Plenty of descriptions of evil/bad are meant to point out the consequence of an act, not in the intent. At some point forseen or predictability factor to describing whether it is evil/bad in the first place, but this is regards to after that. That is giving them a saw would probably give a pass, but giving them a motorcycle – even if it is a wonderful gift with good intentions might be viewed as evil if it did cause them to die later on.

    • AG says:

      1) link turn

      2) link/internal link/impact as per above

      3) Not exactly, but in the vicinity: Distancing effect, apparatus theory
      From TVTropes, there’s Author Tract and Shrug of God.

      • helloo says:

        1) it’s not exactly link turn as that still involves arguing against the other side.
        I tried not to make any suggestions as to color other people’s minds, but this is more like “capturing the point” – missing the original point and taking it for their own use.
        Another example would be Machiavelli’s The Prince which has been theorized to be a piece of satire. But generally has been taken mostly in face value and is now used as sort of a go to guide for dictatorship or tyranny.
        They missed the absurdity or the satire or the joke and then took it as their own.

        2) these are rather weird modifiers – Eating greens is link healthy? Atkins is a impact weight-loss diet?

        • AG says:

          1) The thing you describe is the link turn being validated.
          Uniqueness: Copenhagen interpretation is absurd, but people are considering it.
          Link: I will make a metaphor to show how absurd this is.
          Impact: People will realize Copenhagen interpretation is absurd, and ignore it.
          Link turn: Actually, your metaphor will make people consider it even more.

          Otherwise, you’re looking for whatever category that flammable/inflammable or nimrod falls into, so I can’t find out if there is a name for that on a quick search.

          2) You use the terminology to reflect how far the causal chain goes.
          Link: eat greens. Internal link: greens provide vitamins. Internal link: body uses vitamins to function well. Impact: Body is healthy.
          Link: Cut carbs. Internal link: body has less carbs to convert into fat. Impact: body has less fat/weight.
          Killing someone by accident usually has a longer causal chain than killing someone by intent.
          So the further the distance between link and impact, the greater the “split between intent/essence and consequence.”

  22. albatross11 says:

    Many of you will remember this story in Quillette, which was the story, from the side of the author of a paper, of having his paper spiked for political reasons. (The alternative possibility was that it was a seriously crappy paper that got spiked because of its low quality, though the whole process of what happened was pretty weird.)

    In this post, statistician Andrew Gellman digs into things a bit to try to get to the bottom of it. His reconstructed version of what happened seems consistent with all available information and quite plausible. The big-picture version (but read his article–it’s short and worthwhile) is that journals withdrawing acceptance of publication is rare but does happen[1], that in his view both of the journal editors behaved pretty badly, but that the folks pushing back on publication were acting somewhere within normal parameters[0]. (Though their motives may have been some mix of science and politics–that’s not clear.)

    ETA: Gellman also pointed out that, unsurprisingly, the social media mobs involved in this have acted about like you’d expect, including nasty name-calling and occasional death threats to the folks who pushed back against the publication of the article. Some fraction of people, when given anonymity and added together in a mob, are just awful.

    [0] Also, the original pushback was apparently asking the magazine editor to include a rebuttal to the article by someone in the field–the editor chose to withdraw the paper instead.

    [1] I’ve never heard of such a thing in my own field, but I guess other fields are different.

    • quanta413 says:

      Have you read the e-mails Hill put up? You can find them on retraction watch. I think Hill’s interpretation of events is reasonable. Normal behavior would have consisted of talking to Hill rather than going straight to trying to torpedo his submissions to any journal.

      I do think Hill’s paper had problems that serious engagement may have really improved… That few people really bothered to engage in this is disappointing but not surprising. The referee report was perfunctory; the criticisms of those who don’t like it politically often scientifically worthless (like much of the emails or Tim Gowers post after the fact. But I already ranted about how biologically ignorant his criticism was before so I’ll spare people that again). Even though Lee Wilkinson didn’t want to argue with Hill, credit to him for at least letting the editor reveal his name and criticisms to Hill. A lot of others involved appeared to have acted rather cowardly. And over what?

      I think Gelman is showing obvious moral inconsistency, and I find it distasteful. I lost some respect for him. There’s no doubt that his criticisms of Cuddy led to the same behavior towards her that we’re seeing towards Farb and Wilkinson. Yet his behavior shows he doesn’t take this seriously. However, somehow when Steven Pinker shares a Quillette article, Steven Pinker is somehow responsible for anyone who sees it and is mean to the objects of criticism?

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        “I think Gelman is showing obvious moral inconsistency, and I find it distasteful. I lost some respect for him.”

        Same here.

      • brmic says:

        There’s no doubt that his criticisms of Cuddy led to the same behavior towards her that we’re seeing towards Farb and Wilkinson. Yet his behavior shows he doesn’t take this seriously. However, somehow when Steven Pinker shares a Quillette article, Steven Pinker is somehow responsible for anyone who sees it and is mean to the objects of criticism?

        1) Gelman’s criticism of cuddy is primarily factual/scientific. Hyperbole and snark are added, and increase as the citicized behaviour persists, but they’re not central.
        2) Gelman will readily condem harassement (in his name or otherwise)
        3) Yes, Pinker should check what he signal boosts, obviously.
        4) No, the harassers are responsible. However, Pinker should feel morally obliged to use the same pulpit he used to direct them to tell them to knock it off.

        Do you experience difficulty telling 1 and 3 apart here? It might help to re-read Pinker’s tweet: ‘Egregious: A math paper that tries to explain a fascinating fact (greater male variability) is censored. Again the academic left loses its mind: Ties equality to sameness, erodes credibility of academia, & vindicates right-wing paranoia. https://quillette.com/2018/09/07/academic-activists-send-a-published-paper-down-the-memory-hole/ … via @QuilletteM’
        Where’s the analysis, the independent contribution, that justifies ‘censored’ and ‘academic left loses its mind’?

        Normal behavior would have consisted of talking to Hill rather than going straight to trying to torpedo his submissions to any journal.

        Not in my field. Letter to the editor would be normal behviour here.

        • johansenindustries says:

          If Gellman “will readily condem harassement (in his name or otherwise)” can you post a link to his blog posts doing so with regards to Cuddy?

          He is also very obviously trying to whip up a hate-mob against the second editor to accept the paper in question ascribing the most base motives without any consideration of truth or charity. That seems hypocritical to me.

          • albatross11 says:

            What in Gellman’s writeup looked to you like an attempt to whip up an internet mob against anyone? What I read was in very calm and temperate language, not remotely like the kind of thing you use to whip up a mob.

          • johansenindustries says:

            First, of all it is worth pointing out that however reasonable his tone, he linked the Timothy Gowers posts in approval without pointing out that they were full of untruths in order to make the paper look worse than it is. By making the paper look worse than it is, you are making the editor who accepted it look worse than he is.

            I would disagree that his tone is neutral. For example,we look at the comments we see: “The NYJM episode is another story: What seems to have happened is that a boring math journal was hijacked for political purposes: an editorial board member with strong political views inserted a paper with political content into the journal, and then the editorial board as a whole was angry about it. ”

            ‘Hihjacked’ does not seem to me to be ‘very calm and temperate language’.

            He also explicitly states that he has nothing against people threatening others with ostracism unless they ostracise Rivin [the editor in question]. Which is obviously worse than persons just sending off an angry message.

            His comments in general definitely read to me as using Rivin as a scapegoat. Since, the first removal happened before Rivin got involved this seems entirely unjustified. Indeed none of his assisination attacks seems anyway justified apart from to distract against the actual facts with regards to Wilkinson.

            Being very reasonable and moderate when it comes to Hill is actually exactly what I would expect from someone trying to whip up a hate mob against another guy.

        • quanta413 says:

          To add to what johansen industries said about Gelman using editors as a scapegoat and responding to your snide question…

          I do not experience difficulty telling things apart. I believe Pinker read the Quillette story. Why is it a reasonable assumption that Pinker didn’t read what he signal boosted or possibly even ask around?

          I happen to disagree with you that Pinker’s claim is inaccurate rather than being the sort of snark and hyperbole that Gelman engages in.

          That you don’t like the Quillette story doesn’t make it less valid than Gelman’s criticisms of Cuddy. You’ll have to make an argument about academic and speech norms if you want to go there. I’m sure Cuddy doesn’t like Gelman’s tone. I wasn’t sure at first, but I consider the e-mails Hill put up pretty damning. And Wilkinson’s and Farb’s reactions are unconvincing. They dispute little. It is a little unfair to them because they were far from alone in their behavior, they’re just some of the few who Hill can confirm the names of.

          And Gelman hasn’t apologized for what happened to Cuddy. Giving vague statements like “I would condemn it if it happened” or “I didn’t see anything as bad to Cuddy as I did to Wilkinson but maybe it was there” or “I condemn all harassment” is just ass covering. Gelman is full of it on this. His hyperbole and snark are no more necessary than Pinker’s.

          Not in my field. Letter to the editor would be normal behviour here.

          Really, it would be normal behavior in your field to try to torpedo someone’s article before it was published? This isn’t letters to the editor after an article was published.

          Let me be clear. Even if my milieu turns out to be some weird corner of academia where we don’t go around trying to torpedo things before they even come out, it’s everyone else who is wrong. Letting the normal struggle be for everyone who dislikes something to sink papers before they’re published is a huge waste of time and will end up torpedoing things that would have been good contributions as well as things that would have been poor contributions.

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      I also lost some respect. I guess he thinks academia has bigger problems than political correctness, and he’s not exactly wrong.

      • quanta413 says:

        I suspect a lot of academia’s problems flow from similar causes though. Institutional structure is you’re judged essentially by peers. Except when you’re a graduate student, when your adviser has almost complete power over your career. Exiting leaves you with nothing, unlike a job having 2 years of PhD experience is worthless.

        There’s not a strong feedback loop closing things. Academics control a lot of their own funding and judge the value of their own work. Everyone else only gets to adjust the rough total flow of money academics get with some partitioning between broad categories. This set up is prone to collapse into navel gazing or status games, whether that’s esoteric literary theory, p-hacking for unintuitive cool results, string theory, or political tics.

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          Indeed, that’s why I hope fighting it on one front may help on other fronts as well, which is why I can’t seriously condemn Gelman here.

          • quanta413 says:

            Although I think openness will help, I’m not sure Gelman’s struggle will have much effect on other things. It’s whacking a symptom more than a cause.

            On the other hand, serious institutional reorganization is dangerous and risky. There’d undoubtedly be different strengths and weaknesses of a different type of organization, and it’s not obvious a priori whether any new problems would be better to have the the old problems.

            To be clear, I don’t mean to condemn Gelman. I’m more like disappointed.

        • 10240 says:

          Except when you’re a graduate student, when your adviser has almost complete power over your career.

          Is it not possible to switch advisors?

          unlike a job having 2 years of PhD experience is worthless.

          If you have already done some research and published papers, those add to your CV. And perhaps you can even do a PhD somewhere else faster than usual, using the research you’ve already done as part of your thesis? Dunno.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            One of my friends is having to transfer to a new lab now and while it’s technically possible it’s very challenging and looks bad.

            Depending on the size of the field it might not even be possible to find a PI who is willing to take you. It’s a risky move for a PI to take, because they’re burning a bridge with whoever the student is leaving in return for someone who may or may not be able to hack it.

            If you have already done some research and published papers, those add to your CV. And perhaps you can even do a PhD somewhere else faster than usual, using the research you’ve already done as part of your thesis?

            This depends a lot on the field and on when the student leaves the lab. Some fields expect a PhD to graduate with multiple first author papers, some only one or two.

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s sometimes possible, but it sucks. It’s not unusual for the outcome to essentially be as if you were starting graduate school afresh. If you’re in a program with a lot of coursework, you at least don’t have to redo that. It just sets you back to the start of research. It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to transfer a project between labs.

            I’ve heard that at some schools, it’s very hard to switch advisers at all. For the sorts of reasons Nabil ad Dajjal gives. Plus even if there’s no risk to a PI of burning bridges with your former PI, they’re going to wonder if the reason things failed was your fault. They’ll might be a little more leery of funding you. The experience could help though if your former PI is supportive… but that goes back to my “your PI has almost complete control over your career”.

            If you have already done some research and published papers, those add to your CV. And perhaps you can even do a PhD somewhere else faster than usual, using the research you’ve already done as part of your thesis? Dunno.

            This varies a lot like Nabil ad Dajjal said. Fields with a typical output of 1 or 2 first author papers for the entire PhD (6 or 7 years typically) can easily leave your resume looking little changed from when you started after as many as 3 or 4 years. Except for whatever your adviser (who you’re leaving early because presumably something is going poorly…) is willing to give you in recommendations.

            A reasonably good scenario is that you exit with a master’s. This is not necessarily a net gain compared to what you’d get by not having gone to graduate school.

            Whatever you research you’ve already done though? That belongs to the adviser you’re leaving. That’s not going to help you finish a Ph.D. somewhere else except in the sense of any skills you don’t need to relearn. You’ll have to collect totally new data etc.

    • johansenindustries says:

      Is there a mob in this case? Or is it just persons who are writing their own green-inked letters to express their displeasure of her actions, which do after all do harms to the academic system that they pay for (I can understand how even in that case it might feel like a mob, but that doesn’t make it one.)

      There doesn’t seem to be any mass-actions that I can see. (I looked at her RateMyProfessor to see if any mass-rating sinking may have taken place, but didn’t see anything that looked like that)

      I think it is important to distinguish between the two. Otherwise you get your morality completely reversed. You go to ‘one death is a tragedy, a thousand makes you a heroic martyr being evilly mobbed by grieving families.’

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, it’s important to recognize the dynamics of an internet dogpile. If you say something that gets signal boosted to a million people, and 1/1000 decides they want to disagree with you, you get a thousand responses. Even if those are all polite and calm, it’s still going to be overwhelming. Add in a large number of people who are mad and rude and feeling self-righteous, and a handful of crazies who send crazy bone-chilling threats, and the result is very nasty.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I found interesting the claim by Inkblot that the Intelligencer editor gave Hill the names of the Wilkinsons specifically because they had scientific criticism, and segregated them from the other correspondents, whom she did not reveal, who convinced her not to publish for political reasons. But because the Wilkinsons’ names are available, they are blamed by many readers of the article. (In his discussion of the Intelligencer, Hill doesn’t quite blame Wilkinson. He makes it pretty clear that a lot of people attacked the article and emphasizes people at PSU. But at the end of the piece, he sums up by saying that Wilkinson and Farb suppressed the publication. Also, by writing to the University president he puts a lot of blame on them.)

  23. DragonMilk says:

    For those of you married or about to be, how much are you spending on flowers (and if I may ask, what year)?

    As a guy, I remember food and company from weddings, but I hear girls remember decor too. So I am shell-shocked at the cost of what will be seen for a few hours. Do you recall what each of these components cost?

    1. Bride’s bouquet
    2. Bridesmaids bouquets
    3. Table Centerpieces
    4. Any other flowers I’m missing

    Thanks!

    • Randy M says:

      You mean how much did we spend on flowers at the wedding? I was married 15 years ago as of last month. I don’t recall how much we spent on flowers; I know the bride had a bouquet that I think was real. Most other decorations were fabric, and I recall her and friends putting them together. I’ve mentioned before that our wedding was relatively cheap (~$2000), which stemmed from a combination of low expectations and gifts of service (invitations, cake, food, decor).

    • RDNinja says:

      We used fabric flowers from Hobby Lobby for everything. Well under $100 total, I’m sure.

    • JonathanD says:

      For the florist, it was around $300, in 2009. Included were the bouquet (maybe 2, one for throwing?), the boutonniere, and a few display bouquets (sprays?) for the church. Two or four, I think. Centerpieces we made with cloth flowers bought on black friday. Total price there was something like $100.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I honestly don’t know all the details. I got married in 2014. We paid around $1500, which was about half of what we were told was a typical budget. We had minimal boquet and other decorations, but we did have boquetes (which I think were cheaper flowers, not roses or whatever).

    • Matt says:

      Got married in 2015.

      Our venue hosts several weddings per day on the weekends, and they keep each wedding to a very strict time limit. Part of that is that they won’t let you decorate the church, so the only flowers I purchased were the bridal bouquet and a boutonniere for myself. Maybe $100?

    • Chalid says:

      This will have a very fat-tailed distribution. Maybe “what fraction of your annual income did you spend on flowers” would remove some of the noise.