THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 110.75

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887 Responses to Open Thread 110.75

  1. Le Maistre Chat says:

    The Hittite Empire (or New Kingdom) was founded by Suppiluliuma I. His father, one Tudhaliya (exact numbering is controversial) had a reign so bad that the uncivilized Kaskas who inhabited the central and eastern thirds of Anatolia’s Black Sea coast sacked the capital, Hatussa. His heir, “Tudhaliya the child”, was killed by a group of officers that likely included his brother Suppiluliuma. Suppiluliuma secured Hattusa and ordered the construction of circuit walls around the 180-hectare settlement. It’s said that he spent the rest of his first 20 years on the throne securing the central Land of Hatti (classical Cappadocia), before fulfilling his dream of conquering other lands that had been ruled by Hatti generations ago.
    On his second raid into Syria, he crossed the Euphrates at Malatya in the northern mountains, easily recovered the region of Isuwa, then turned south to strike at Tushratta, the Hindu king of Mitanni (also called Hanigalbat, perhaps its name in the indigenous Hurrian language: Mitanni apparently derived from Sanskrit maryannu, “young warrior”) at his capital Wassukanni (undiscovered by archaeology). Suppiluliuma successfully sacked it and recrossed the Euphrates on the plains of the Fertile Crescent, where most of the local princes were quick to submit: Aleppo, Alalakh, Nuhassi (in central Syria) and Amurru (Amorites). The army penetrated as far as Damascus, but were attacked by Egypt’s vassal the prince of Kadesh, whose forces were overwhelmed by the Hittite chariotry.
    Both Tushratta and the prince of Kadesh sent letters to Akhenaten at Amarna, but the pacific king sent no known response. At this point only the state of Carchemish (on Euphrates at the Syro-Turkish border) and the region downstream to the mouth of the Khabur remained pro-Mitanni. Yet Suppiluliuma returned home to deal with domestic problems, not returning for 12 years. Meanwhile, Tushratta was assassinated by a rival called Artatama, who saw the trust he’d placed in the Egyptian alliance as an unforgivable blunder. He had the help of the king of Assyria, a vassal of Mitanni whose independence Artatama had to recognize. It was for naught, though, as when Suppiluliuma returned to besiege Carchemish it only remained loyal to Artatama for 8 days.
    The fame Suppiluliuma’s deeds won him can be seen by an extraordinary incident that occurred while he was encamped before Carchemish. A messenger arrived from Egypt with a letter from the queen, saying:

    “My husband has died. I have no son. But of you, they say, the sons are many. If you would give me one of your sons, he would become my husband. Never shall I take a servant of mine and make him my husband. I am very afraid.”

    Some sources (cf. Gurney) say this queen was “almost certainly Ankhesenamun”, Akhenaten’s third daughter and King Tut’s widow, but some say a different daughter or even Nefertiti. In any case, this violated an immemorial Egyptian custom bluntly restated by Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III: “From time immemorial no daughter of the king of Egypt is given to anyone.” So Suppiluliuma was stunned.

    “Such a thing has never happened to me in my whole life!”

    He sent an envoy to make sure this was for real, which lost valuable time and earned a scolding letter from the queen. He did send his son Zannanza, but he was murdered en route, probably on the orders of whoever the queen was very afraid of being forced to marry.

    • Viliam says:

      He sent an envoy to make sure this was for real

      Well, the message sounds a bit like an ancestor of the Nigerian 419 scams.

      “From Ms. Ankhesenamun, Egypt. Dear sir, SEEKING YOUR IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE. Please permit me to make your acquaintance in so informal a manner. This is necessitated by my urgent need to reach a dependable and trustworthy foreign partner. This request may seem strange and unsolicited but I will crave your indulgence and pray that you view it seriously. My name is Ms. ANKHESENAMUN of the Egypt. The former King of Egypt, my husband, has recently died, may his soul rest in peace. (…) Thus, if you are willing to assist me to protect the Kingdom of Egypt from rebels, you can contact me through a caravan to enable us discuss the modalities and what will be your descendant’s share of the country for assisting me. I must use this opportunity and medium to implore You to exercise the utmost indulgence to keep this Matter extraordinarily confidential, Whatever your Decision, while I await your prompt response.”

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I credit this post with getting me to learn the proper pronunciation of Suppiluliuma. (And also, I’ll probably not soon forget the basic characteristics of the Hittites. If Ubisoft ever decides to set an Assassin’s Creed game there, I’m ready.)

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      When Suppiluliuma learned that his son was killed en route to Egypt, he responded by raiding down the Levantine coast. Nothing south of Byblos remained part of the Empire after the campaign, and the Canaanites taken as slaves carried a plague that swept through Hattusa, killing the king and shortly afterwards his heir Arnuwanda. So around 1322 BC a younger brother took the name Mursilis II, after King Mursilis I of Hatti who had gone as far as sacking Babylon*.
      With Hatti, Kizzuwatna (classical Cilicia) and the Syrian conquests secure, Mursilis turned his attention to the west, where the king of Arzawa had been so presumptuous as to correspond with the king of Egypt as a peer during the Amarna Period. Here much is unclear because place names are disputed. Mursilis left a detailed account of the campaign, which kept his army away from home two full years and involved subduing Arzawa together with Mira, Seha River Land, Kuwaliya and Hapalla, which probably took him from the western border of Cappadocia to the Aegean but did not involve the Troad, Miletus, or classical Lycia on the Mediterranean. Hittite rule remained secure on this flank for Mursilis’s lifetime, but whether directly appointing governors or installing local princes sealed with marriage alliances, each new king found the western vassals rebelling at least once in his reign.
      In the north, Mursilis recorded campaigns against the Kaskas for his Years 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, 24, 25 & 26. The Year 7 campaign was particularly intense as it involved having to reconquer the province of Isuwa and a plot by Horemheb of Egypt to turn Carchemish independent when the viceroy died while meeting with his brother Mursilis for a religious festival.

      *Rather than being able to conquer it, he created a power vacuum filled by the Kassite Second Dynasty of Babylon and the Hindu/Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni and was assassinated upon returning to Hattusa. You win some, you lose some.

      Muwatallis II inherited from his father Mursilis II a secure realm. He’s the king from whom we have a letter to Alaksandu of Wilusa (1270s BC), lauding how Wilusa has always been Hatti’s loyal friend. There was no conflict with the Egyptian kings Ramesses I or Seti I. But Seti had campaigned in Canaan, whose borders shaded vaguely into Amurru, and it’s unclear who controlled Amurru exactly when. Conflict finally came in Year 5 of Seti’s son Ramesses II (1274 BC), at the famous battle of Kadesh.
      Note here that Muwatallis’s army included Piyama-Inarash of Wilusa (relation to Alaksandu unknown), the Drdny (Dardanians) Lk (presumably Lukka, later classical Lycia) and a unit of Ksks (the fighty Kaskas).
      One other deed of note is that Muwatallis moved the capital from Hattusa to Tarhuntassa (location unknown). He died two years after the battle of Kadesh and his son took the throne name Mursilis III.

      Mursilis III ruled for seven years (1272-1265). He moved the capital back to Hattusa, lost Hanigalbat to the Assyrian army, and treated his uncle Hattusilis, a hero of the Battle of Kadesh, as a threat. This led to his overthrow, which Hattusilis (III) justified thusly:

      “For seven years I submitted [to the king]. But at a divine command and with human urging, Urhi-Tesub sought to destroy me. He took Hakpissa and Nerik from me. Now I submitted to him no longer. I made war against him. But I committed no crime in doing so, by rising up against him with chariots or in the palace. In civilised manner I communicated thus with him: ‘You have begun hostilities with me. Now you are Great King, but I am king of only one fortress. That is all you have left me. Come! Istar of Samuha and the Storm God of Nerik shall decide the case for us!’ Since I wrote to Urhi-Tesub in this manner, if anyone now says: ‘Why after previously making him king do you now write to him about war?’ (my reply would be); ‘If he had not begun fighting with me, would Istar and the Storm God have now subjected him to a small king?’ Because he began fighting with me, the gods have subjected him to me by their judgement.”

      Mursilis III fled to the court of Ramesses II. Hattusilis sent a letter demanding that Ramesses II extradite his nephew. This letter precipitated a crisis in relations between Egypt and Hatti when Ramesses denied any knowledge of Mursilis’s whereabouts in his country and the two empires came close to war. However, both kings eventually decided to resolve the issue by making peace in Year 21 of Ramesses II. An extradition clause was also included in the treaty. Mursili III soon thereafter disappears from history.
      Hattusilis III reigned peacefully by Hittite standards for 30 years, corresponding with Ramesses, the king of Ahhiya (see e.g. the Talagalawa letter), of Babylon, etc. Relations with the last seem to have deteriorated somewhat after the death of his friend Kadashman-Turgu (who had promised an alliance if the Egyptian crisis had erupted into war), as we find Hattusilis writing to his successor Kadashman-Enlil “you never write any more.” He passed the empire to his son Tudhaliya (usually “Tudhaliya IV”).

      “Tudhaliya IV”, like his father, had been dedicated as a youth to the service of Ishtar of Samuha and he seems to taken special interest in his religious duties. When he fought the Assyrians, his vassal of Isuwa abandoned him in his hour of need and the King of Ugarit ceased to send taxes, entering into independent correspondence with Assyria.
      Tudhaliyas passed the empire to his son Arnuwanda III, who died after two years on the throne (~1209-1207). Arnuwanda was succeeded by his brother Suppiluliuma II… who was destined to be the last ruler of the empire.

      NEXT: Bronze Age Collapse

      • Nornagest says:

        ‘You have begun hostilities with me. Now you are Great King, but I am king of only one fortress. That is all you have left me. Come! Istar of Samuha and the Storm God of Nerik shall decide the case for us!’

        That’s pretty badass.

        Also, I like how extradition drama goes back 3200 years.

    • Chlopodo says:

      Mitanni apparently derived from Sanskrit maryannu, “young warrior”)

      This doesn’t appear to be right. From what I can find, Mit(t)anni~Metani and Mar(i)yan(n)u(i)~M(a)-ar-ya-na were both names used to refer to more-or-less the same people, and the latter is related to Sanskrit, but they are otherwise two distinct, separate, unrelated names.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        You’re right; I need to check what source I was repeating for that.
        This place and its people had a bunch of names, and at this temporal distance we’ll probably never know why. The realm was called Hanigalbat in Assyrian cuneiform (which I assumed to be a rendering of a Hurrian place-noun) while the Egyptians preferred Naharin (from the Assyrian for “river”, if Wiki can be believed). “The Hurri” was preferred in Hittite cuneiform, and that’s more properly a people group than the land or set of all the king’s subjects, and maryannu referred just to the ruling class. So where the people got mitanni, I don’t know.

  2. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reduce homelessness in the US by 50%. How will you do this?

    • johan_larson says:

      I think I would do two things. First, make it somewhat easier to institutionalize the mentally ill, particularly in cases where they do not appear to be able to support themselves, as shown for example by chronic homelessness. By all means fund the mental hospitals sufficiently to keep them decent places, but also consider less drastic solutions. I suspect a portion of the mentally ill would be functional in society if they would only take their meds. Ok, so let them live independently as long as they check in periodically with a mental health officer for a blood test.

      Second, override zoning legislation that keeps property underdeveloped when the homelessness rate gets out of hand. The limit might be 0.1%; whenever the homelessness rate in a county gets beyond that level HUD would be empowered to allow the construction of new housing, probably as apartment buildings or condos. The new housing wouldn’t have to be free or even cheap. By all means let it sell for market rates. As long as the total supply expands, there should be more housing available at the bottom end of the market as people shift upwards.

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson,

      Some ideas to reduce homelessness in the United States:

      Raise taxes on above median incomes, and corporate gross sales substantially, have individual and corporate payments to wages to American citizens be deductible up to the median income.

      Substantially increase inheritance taxes on inheritances valued over two million dollars that are received by one individual, unless that individual immediately passes that inheritance above that amount on to another American citizen.

      Eliminate Federal student loans, subsidize paid apprenticeships instead.

      Eliminate education requirements for most government jobs, train workers for those jobs with apprenticeships instead. 

      Greatly expand government jobs.

      Greatly expand building maintenance and repair budgets.  

      Criminalize sleeping on the streets. 

      Hire more cops. 

      Build more jails. 

      Build more public housing. 

      Use eminent domain to seize properties to build even more public housing on. 

      Greatly expand the maintenance budget for public housing. 

      Expand the budget even more.

      No, even more than that. 

      Eliminate mortgage interest deduction.

      Gradually eliminate home loan aid on higher end housing, make the total aid less every year.

      Eliminate Prop 13 protection in California for non-housing properties and corporate owners. 

      Exponentially increase taxes on homes that sell for more than their previous selling price, and have those taxes due at the moment of sale, but have deductibles for homes that sell for less than current market rates.

      Raise taxes on gross rents, with deductions for housing with less than market rate rents.

      Start jailing employers of “undocumented immigrants”, reward immigrants who turn their employers in, more if they’re other “undocumented immigrants” with the same employer besides the ones who dropped the dime.

      Change immigration laws so that priority goes to those who are married to, and have a child with an employed or rich American citizen, and that child has at least two American grandparents. 

      Curtail other immigration.

      Build “addiction treatment centers” that consist of free clothes, food, alcohol, and opioids for those who stay inside, and don’t bother to revive those who fall unconscious due to overdoses.

      Bury and cremate the dead.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        Bury and cremate the dead.

        What?

        • Randy M says:

          Even the dead should have somewhere to live!

        • Plumber says:

          I’m assuming that free alcohol and o pioids for those that agree to stay inside “addiction treatment centers” will result in more overdose deaths.

          • yodelyak says:

            Wouldn’t it be enough to either bury OR cremate the dead? I mean, points for thoroughness, and maybe you intend it as a kind of make-work stimulus program…

            Anyway, agree with @Alex Zavaluk “bury and cremate” made me double-take, and distracted from rather than clarifying that yes, this policy of free addiction treatment centers will increase mortality.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps if you reduce the nutrients of the human body to ash first, and then place the ashes underground, it could work as fertilizer and improve crop yields?

          • Plumber says:

            “…distracted from rather than clarifying that yes, this policy of free addiction treatment centers will increase mortality”

            @yodelyak,

            Sorry I wasn’t more clear.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        I think really this proposal relies on two things primarily, which have historically been shown to just be bad policy:

        Raise taxes on above median incomes, and corporate gross sales substantially, have individual and corporate payments to wages to American citizens be deductible up to the median income.

        In our current fiscal situation, any idea that raises most of its funds from something other than “regressive” taxes is missing the mark. Things like a VAT, payroll tax, or Wide-based sales tax are the only way to markedly increase government income (and they also have the benefit of not being as distortion-creating as non-flat taxes like corporate taxes). This is how Europe funds its states.

        • fion says:

          This is how Europe funds its states.

          Do you have any numbers on that? I was under the impression that most of Europe had higher income tax and corporation tax than America.

          And why does payroll tax not have the same pros and cons as income tax? I know little of economics, but from a quick google they sound very similar.

          • johansenindustries says:

            In the UK, it seems that income and corporate is around a third (I would have guessed the other way round): https://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn09.pdf

            If national insurance is a payroll tax, then the difference is that one is a tax on being employed and employing others (‘a tax on jobs’) and one is a tax on income. Which probably isn’t helpful. Its dominant quality is its regressiveness, income taxes go up in (more) proportion of your income. In contrast, (ignoring national insurance two/three bands), you pay a set amount of national insurance based on being employed and which band you are in.

          • fion says:

            @johansenindustries

            Ah, ok. Thanks. So is payroll tax what Americans call national insurance or is national insurance an example of a payroll tax?

            The idea of regressiveness being a feature rather than a bug seems bizarre to me. We have people working full-time and living in poverty and @idontknow131647093, you want to tax the poor more and the rich less?

          • johansenindustries says:

            I’m afraid that it has been too long since I’ve looked into these issues. I was wrong on almost every issue. (e.g. national insurance (in the UK) isn’t really regressive but mostly a flat income tax.)

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Europe generally has lower corporate income tax rates, and higher income tax rates (at the top) than the US.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_rates

            (Note this doesn’t include local taxes which are non negligible in the US and some other countries)

            However, revenue from income and corporate taxes as a % of GDP seems to have a pretty hard cap at about 18-21% of GDP. You can’t squeeze more juice from that orange. Rather, if you look at the chart you will see most EU countries have a pretty substantial VAT. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway all have a 25% VAT. VATs are regressive, but they are also revenue machines. You can’t fund a welfare state without one (or an equivalent thereto, a payroll tax is like 1/3 of a VAT, a sales tax is like 1/2, etc). The problem with raising income tax rates is the Laffer Curve wherein increasing marginal rates on the rich doesn’t substantially increase revenue. Raising taxes from 10%>15% on the poor does not have this problem, indeed it might actually force them to work more in a perverse way.

          • Eric Rall says:

            So is payroll tax what Americans call national insurance or is national insurance an example of a payroll tax?

            A bit of both. “Payroll tax” is an overloaded term. As a technical term in tax policy, it refers to a type of income tax. It differs from regular income taxes in that a payroll tax only taxes wage income (as opposed to non-wage income like interest, dividends, capital gains, and corporate profits), it usually has a flat rate (at least much flatter than normal income taxes) with no deductions, and it often has a cap on the amount of taxable income. In this sense, NI is a form of payroll tax.

            But when Americans say “payroll tax”, we’re almost always talking about FICA (the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax), the federal payroll tax which (nominally) funds Social Security (our equivalent of National Insurance pensions) and Medicare (a kinda-sorta-single-payer health care scheme for retirees). It’s not really a true payroll tax (in the first sense) anymore, since the ACA (Obamacare) made the portion of the tax earmarked for Medicare also apply to investment income over a certain amount and to wage income over the regular FICA limit, and made the Medicare portion’s tax rate progressive rather than flat.

          • fion says:

            Thank you all for your explanations.

            @idontknow131647093

            Can you explain what you mean by “payroll tax is like 1/3 of a VAT, a sales tax is like 1/2, etc”?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @fion

            A VAT is essentially a tax on everything of value a company produces. It taxes wages, capital, etc etc. Lets say we track production of some I-beams. You import the iron ore and other materials, the VAT taxes the total purchase price (which is one argument for why US-EU trade isn’t really free trade). Then it goes to the ore processing plant and is turned into iron. The VAT then taxes the difference in value of the inputs vs. outputs. Then the next place forges it all into steel I-beams and that sale is taxed in the same way.

            Payroll taxes and sales taxes are not literally “fractions” of a VAT, its just they approximate some % of the taxing power of the VAT with similar economic incentives being in play.

          • rlms says:

            To what extent is Canada a welfare state? It appears to have low sales taxes.

            Of course, tax increases are only one option. The US and UK government spending pie charts look pretty similar, except that defence and welfare spending are 12%, 6% and 6%, 12% respectively. But muh hegemony!

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @rlms
            I think Canada spends about the same relative amount as USA on welfare, and its programs are pretty similar. This actually places USA above Canada in terms of its expenditures, although it counts private donations as well. Either way, it suggests USA is more charitable.

          • Matt M says:

            I remember reading some sort of study that ranked the overall all-in tax burden of every US state and Canadian province on the same list.

            Surprisingly enough, although Quebec was up there with California and New York, some of the Canadian provinces were in the bottom quintile. Alberta and Saskatchewan were down there near the bottom along with the rural red states you’d expect.

          • Anthony says:

            My new boss, who lives in Vancouver, BC, was stunned at how high property taxes are in California. Looking it up, in the City of Vancouver, an occupied residential property pays about 1/4% of assessed value. In most large urban jurisdictions in California, it’s about 5 times, that, though the assessed value is typically about half the current market value.

    • Lambert says:

      Homelessness or chronic homelessness?
      Statistics suggest that most homelessness is on a timescale of weeks.
      Changing rent, insurance and employment regulations to reduce the number of people who are left homeless for a couple of weeks before finding a new home/job might work, even if it increases the total man-days of homelessness by making housing less affordable and employment more scarce.
      E.g. making firing/redundancy take longer to go into effect, making it take longer to evict tenants etc.

      • johan_larson says:

        This is concerned with chronic homelessness, the folks who end up on the street or in shelters long-term. I’m not so much worried about people who end up living in their cars for a week or so.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m not convinced that there is a significant population that lives in shelters long-term. Roughly half of the homeless are mentally ill and/or drug addicts and get thrown out of shelters; that’s you’re long-term street population. The other half are basically functional but had a run of bad luck, usually a lost job or an abusive husband. They’ll usually work their way out of the homeless population in a few months if they’ve got access to a shower, laundry, phone/internet, and a locked room in the meantime.

          If you want to cut down on the average size of that down-on-their-luck, temporarily-sheltered population, then as others have pointed out you’re going to want lots more SROs and boarding houses. With convenient transportation to the social and economic networks these people need to help rebuild their lives, and with the ability to ruthlessly exclude the more antisocial drug addicts and mentally ill homeless.

    • John Schilling says:

      Redefine “homelessness” so that shelters, RVs, friends’ couches, and the like all count as “homes”. Tweak as needed to get the numbers down by 50%.

      Otherwise, are you asking me to get half the street people into shelters, or the shelter-dwellers into apartments? Those are two very different problems.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Make boarding houses legal.

      This is tentative– I’ve heard they are legal, but they at least seem to be very rare.

      • Matt M says:

        My assumption is that it falls in the “technically legal but regulated so harshly as to be unprofitable to operate legally – therefore the only ones that exist still have to operate under the radar” category.

        • Rob K says:

          There’s one around the corner from me in Boston.

          I can understand why people fight them – they seem to have a policy of being out of rooms during certain daylight hours, so there’s usually a small group of guys, who I’d guess are often in the mostly-functional alcoholic range, hanging around on the stoops just chilling. Sure to skeeze out yuppies.

          But at the same time, it’s just that – they just hang out there, don’t harass anyone (my wife confirms they don’t bother women walking alone) or cause any problems. I don’t know what these guys means are – based on age I’d guess some are social security eligible, the rest maybe disability or something – but it’s possible that they’d be hard up for housing but for something like this, and it sure seems a hell of a lot better this way.

      • Brad says:

        In NYC there are essentially no old style rooming houses left—i.e. room and board and no long term lease or the underwriting that comes with it.

        The closest thing that still exists are SROs—private with kitchenettes and shared bathrooms. I’m not sure whether it would be legal to build new ones, but developers aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to do so.

    • Brad says:

      To echo what others have said “homelessness” is an overloaded term. In my opinion the official definitions, and therefore the statistics flowing from them, are deceptively far off from what one would expect.

      Anyway, if you want to cut “sheltered” homelessness in half you need to reduce the price of housing. To do that you need to break the back of the NIMBY/”good schools” lobby. Good luck.

      If you want to cut “unsheltered” homelessness in half you need to figure how to make loitering, street begging, public urination incarcerable offenses again and/or re-institute involuntarily commitment for more than the tiniest of edge cases.

      • Matt says:

        Anyway, if you want to cut “sheltered” homelessness in half you need to reduce the price of housing. To do that you need to break the back of the NIMBY/”good schools” lobby. Good luck.

        There are places all over the country where house prices are incredibly cheap. Can this problem not be solved with bus tickets?

        • Matt M says:

          There are places all over the country where house prices are incredibly cheap. Can this problem not be solved with bus tickets?

          The permanent homeless class doesn’t want to live in such places.

          If you offer them a bus ticket, they’re going to ask for one to San Francisco or LA, not Dayton, Ohio.

          • Matt says:

            If our solution is constrained by “Beggars can be choosers” then there is no solution.

          • Matt M says:

            Any place willing to “solve” homelessness by convincing them to leave has no motivation whatsoever to limit the choices of where they might go. If anything, the motivation is to allow them to go wherever they want – because that decreases the odds that they’ll come back (or refuse to leave in the first place).

        • johan_larson says:

          Can this problem not be solved with bus tickets?

          Some of it could be, but often places with really cheap housing have no jobs. The trick is making sure there is affordable housing in places where there is actually work available.

          • Matt says:

            That seems like a very difficult trick that has had essentially no solution for decades. How many plates shall we break before we decide that juggling is just too hard?

            What percentage of the sheltered homeless have jobs now?

          • johan_larson says:

            Keep in mind that I am not asking for the total elimination of homelessness in America. I’m asking for a 50% reduction.

            If we for the sake of argument accept the figures from this page, the US has 0.17% homelessness. Halving that gets us 0.08%, the level of Poland or Italy. This should be possible.

          • albatross11 says:

            It is rumored that many cities solve their homeless problem with bus tickets before high-profile events. The police round the homeless up, give them a bus ticket and a sandwich, and make it clear that they’d better not show back up anytime soon. Someone else’s problem.

            But this doesn’t exactly scale for the country as a whole….

          • Matt M says:

            But this doesn’t exactly scale for the country as a whole….

            One-way plane tickets to the democratic socialist country of your choosing!

          • Plumber says:

            “…What percentage of the sheltered homeless have jobs now?”

            @Matt,

            In San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley what I see is a great deal of tents and beat-up RV’s near “recycling centers” and scrap metal yards, so I presume that their income comes from collecting aluminum cans and the like.

            15 years ago I knew many that worked in “silicon valley” (especially in and near Palo Alto) who had jobs but slept in vehicles parked on the street or at construction sites , but I don’t know the situation now.

          • Plumber says:

            “Keep in mind that I am not asking for the total elimination of homelessness in America. I’m asking for a 50% reduction.

            If we for the sake of argument accept the figures from this page, the US has 0.17% homelessness. Halving that gets us 0.08%, the level of Poland or Italy. This should be possible”

            @johan_larson,

            You have a big heart.

            The list you linked to should shame and sadden Americans.

            You’re less likely to be homeless if you live in our neighbors Canada and Mexico! 

            But I’m not sad.

            I’m angry!

            I’m angry because I can remember when it wasn’t this bad.

            I’m angry because I listened to my parents and grandparents tales about how for decades there wasn’t mass homelessness in the United States of America.

            I’m especially angry at two Americans who I blame for using their pens to make it this way:

            Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. 

            “Welfare as we know it” kept people off the street! 

            This is lame.

            This is shameful. 

          • Matt M says:

            You’re less likely to be homeless if you live in our neighbors Canada and Mexico!

            And yet, Mexicans still risk life and limb to come here. Weird.

          • Matt says:

            Plumber:

            You’re less likely to be homeless if you live in our neighbors Canada and Mexico!

            According to the source for the Mexico data, which lists the percent homeless for several countries, there is:

            No information available on the definition used by
            National Ministry of Statistics and Geography
            (INEGI)

            That is, they don’t reveal their definition of homelessness.

            The same source lists Canada’s ‘percent homeless’ as .44% and the US’s as .18% – very nearly the same as the 0.17% in Johan’s original source.

            Speaking of the original source, its number for Canadian homeless is based on an article that makes clear that it’s only counting the unsheltered homeless of 30,000 per night. Adding the 50,000 sheltered homeless per night gives a value of 0.22%.

            For the US, the percentage of unsheltered homeless and sheltered homeless are (according to the source at Johan’s link) are 0.06% and 0.17%, both smaller than Canada’s.

            A lot of the problems comparing country-to-country are definitional.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Anecdotally, when I’ve visited the US, I’ve noticed more street homelessness than one would expect in a comparable Canadian city.

          • Matt M says:

            US cities are not really themselves even comparable. The situation regarding publicly visible homelessness is very different across different cities. As far as I can tell, the major factors are weather, and local political climate.

          • Plumber says:

            “And yet, Mexicans still risk life and limb to come here. Weird.”

            @Mark M,

            I think it’s reasonable to assume that competition from Mexicans that are able-bodied, ambitious, and clever enough to get to the U.S.A. makes it harder to get an income and housing for hard case Americans. 

            I also think that remittances sent to Mexico from relatives in the U.S.A. acts as social welfare in a nation that is more religious and has larger families than ours.

            What’s most instructive, I think, is to compare Utah to other U.S. states.

            Less homelessness, more social mobility, a ‘middle-class-majority’, Utah just looks more like the non-confederate regions of the U.S.A. did in the mid 20th century.

            Somehow Utah has escaped the “dixiefication” that is turning the U.S.A. into a third-world nation.

            How do they do it?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            That’s kind of what I mean. Victoria, BC and LA both have a very mild climate and are on the Pacific (so heroin). Vancouver is worse than Victoria, but I gather SF is worse than LA. In Victoria, you walk through the touristy parts of town, and there’s panhandlers, and you go a few blocks and you’re in a slightly sketchier part of town. In LA it’s like that, but considerably moreso.

          • Plumber says:

            “According to the source for the Mexico data, which lists the percent homeless for several countries, there is:

            “No information available on the definition used by
            National Ministry of Statistics and Geography
            (INEGI)”

            That is, they don’t reveal their definition of homelessness.

            The same source lists Canada’s ‘percent homeless’ as .44% and the US’s as .18% – very nearly the same as the 0.17% in Johan’s original source.

            Speaking of the original source, its number for Canadian homeless is based on an article that makes clear that it’s only counting the unsheltered homeless of 30,000 per night. Adding the 50,000 sheltered homeless per night gives a value of 0.22%.

            For the US, the percentage of unsheltered homeless and sheltered homeless are (according to the source at Johan’s link) are 0.06% and 0.17%, both smaller than Canada’s.

            A lot of the problems comparing country-to-country are definitional.”

            @Matt,

            Well that changes my interpretation considerably.

            “Anecdotally, when I’ve visited the US, I’ve noticed more street homelessness than one would expect in a comparable Canadian city.”

            @dndnrsn,

            My impression of Ottawa and Montreal when I visited them in 1989 was that they had considerably less beggers than the San Francisco bay area.

          • ana53294 says:

            Having beggars in the streets during daylight does not necessarily mean there are homeless people. In Spain, at least, there is a certain ethnicity that tends to live in caravans or even decent homes, but still beg.

            Reducing beggars may be impossible without racially disparate outcomes (I don’t know what the ethnic make-up of American beggars is, but this is the case in at least Spain). So in order to fight beggars, you also have to change the disparate outcomes doctrine.

          • Plumber says:

            “….I don’t know what the ethnic make-up of American beggars is….”

            @ana53294,

            In living near Berkeley and Oakland, California since 1968, working there until 2000, “Silicon Valley” 2000 to 2011, and San Francisco 2011 on, the majority of beggers were twenty-something whites in the 1970’s (the “hippies”), then a great deal of middle-aged black men in the early 1980’s that far outnumbered the young whites, beggars of other demographics gradually increased during the subsequent decades, and then a flood of more beggers, both young, old, male and female after 2008.

            I still see mostly black faces begging on sidewalks, except on busy sidewalks in Berkeley where it’s mostly young whites begging, elsewhere young whites mostly beg from street medians.

            Grey-haired whites are the majority of beggers at the entrances and exits of freeways, ten years ago they carried cardboard signs reading “Will work for food”, but now their signs usually read “Hungry and homeless please help”.

            I only see people of Asian descent begging in San Francisco, never in Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto or San Jose. 

            Also, a great deal of tan Spanish speaking middle-aged men gather outside of lumber yards, trying to get hired to do manual labor, but they seldom ask for money without work.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There was a sudden shift in center city Philadelphia couple of months ago from almost all black men to a high proportion of white men. I’m not sure, but it seemed like at least half. The proportion of white men seems to be dropping back.

          • @: ana53294

            I conjecture that the ethnicity you are referring to are Romany.

          • INH5 says:

            And yet, Mexicans still risk life and limb to come here. Weird.

            Mexican illegal immigration has been net negative for a decade, so it seems likely that most Mexicans that still cross the border these days are seasonal workers who plan to cross back after harvest season or whatever is over. Not the sort of people who would be chronically homeless if they lived in the US.

            Central American immigration has been net positive, but from what I understand that’s more of a refugee problem than an economic migration issue.

          • albatross11 says:

            Note that if you’re here to look for work, then being homeless is probabl going to lead pretty soon to your returning to Mexico/El Salvador/Honduras/etc.

            If you’re here because your hometown has been taken over by gangsters and you’re afraid to go home, you’re probably willing to stay here even if you’re sleeping under a bridge. Even a really shitty life’s better than being murdered.

          • Anthony says:

            For chronic homelessness this isn’t as much a problem – drug addicts and the mentally ill generally don’t have jobs. The question is whether the welfare agencies can pay the landlords directly to house the people, and how much welfare provision there is for addicts and the mentally ill, relative to the price of housing. Including utilities, which makes Detroit and other northern cities less attractive.

        • Brad says:

          There are places all over the country where house prices are incredibly cheap. Can this problem not be solved with bus tickets?

          No. The sheltered homeless are sheltered because they have work, another source of income, or a robust social network. Most aren’t going to have those things at the other end of a bus ticket. There are some exceptions in the another source of income bucket, but I wouldn’t think 50% of the total.

          • Matt says:

            I misunderstood, then. I thought “sheltered homeless” meant they were staying in a homeless shelter, which requires no work, source of income, or any sort of social network. The requirement for that generally is simply that you be willing to follow the shelter rules, right?

            Are you saying that homeless people who live in homeless shelters are unsheltered homeless, in your telling?

            If so, that’s confusing.

          • Brad says:

            I agree the terminology is terrible, that was my first point in this thread.

            Anyway, “sheltered” homeless does include those living in government shelters but this is a small percentage of the total population in this group. There are more people without “fixed, regular, and adequate” housing not in shelters or on the street than in either of those situations.

          • Matt says:

            Ok. I took the earlier clarifications that we were only talking about the long-term homeless as given in your comment, and thought you had reduced those folks to ‘sheltered’ vs ‘unsheltered’ to indicate which ones were on the streets.

          • Brad says:

            Yep.

            Unsheltered => living on the street / tent / car.

            Sheltered =>
            1) living in a shelter
            2) living on a (possibly proverbial) couch
            3) living in a hotel
            4) Etc.

        • Plumber says:

          “….Can this problem not be solved with bus tickets?”

          Apparently not.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        It seems like anything we do to help the long-term homeless is going to be almost completely unrelated to the stuff we might do to help either the short-term homeless (folks who were just keeping their heads above water when they had a run of bad luck), and that’s still not so closely related to the stuff we might do to help people who can’t afford decent housing close to work and so are living in an RV or their friend’s couch or something. At least three separate groups with three separate sets of solutions, and probably little overlap between them.

        The long-term homeless you probably have to forcibly institutionalize, though hopefully in less horrible places than some kind of long-term mental institution in the 50s. Basically the police have to arrest you for vagrancy and then put you into some kind of mandatory keep-them-off-the-streets institution. Probably this would require changes to laws and maybe to the constitution, because it sounds exactly like the sort of thing that would end up going to the Supreme Court.

        The short-term homeless are basically why you want to have shelters. Make them as decent as you can, keep them safe so people are willing to go there rather than sleep on the street, etc. (But most of this set is probably crashing on a friend’s couch or in a friend’s garage.)

        The folks who can’t afford a house close to work need low-cost housing, but people who own high-cost housing don’t want low-cost housing nearby. Part of this is fear of bringing crime, dysfunction, dumb students, etc., into town, and it’s not crazy, even though the social effect is pretty bad. Everything you do here will piss someone off, so it’s hard to fix.

        • Brad says:

          The short-term homeless are basically why you want to have shelters. Make them as decent as you can, keep them safe so people are willing to go there rather than sleep on the street, etc. (But most of this set is probably crashing on a friend’s couch or in a friend’s garage.)

          This is related to the first problem. Most of what makes shelters unpleasant is the presence of people there that belong in jail or mental hospitals.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I just looked up some pictures of homeless shelters and I don’t think this is true. I was expecting private dorms or bunk rooms, similar to what you’d find in a prison with possibly two or more people to a cell, but instead the homeless shelters pretty much all consisted of masses of beds or bunk beds placed in a single, open, gymnasium-like room, with little space in between them. I don’t see how these would be preferable to the privacy of a tent.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Privacy might be a consideration, but my impression is that security is the major concern. Theft is a serious issue when you own little and have virtually no way of replacing losses, and the group of people most likely to steal from a homeless person are other homeless people.

          • Matt M says:

            homeless shelters pretty much all consisted of masses of beds or bunk beds placed in a single, open, gymnasium-like room, with little space in between them. I don’t see how these would be preferable to the privacy of a tent.

            Quite similar to some of the hostels that young people love so much in Europe, right?

            And hostels are fine, because the person in the bunk next to you (probably) isn’t a mentally ill heroin addict.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            It also happens in the military that large numbers of people are made to sleep in the same room, and in the past it was common for people to share even the same bed. Ishmail is made to share the bed of Queequeg in Moby Dick.

            The differences are psycho-symbolic. Humans will endure having their thumbnails ripped off by their tribal elders if they have been primed to think the experience both common and desirable. In the military, there is often a feeling of comradery among the recruits sleeping together, and those who can’t cut it are allowed to opt out. In backpackers, there is a youthful aplomb among the participants and a sense of desirability engendered by the grandness of their shared experience. They are explorers of a foreign land where the occasional hardship only adds to their sense of adventure.

            For homeless people there is no dignity. They are tired, worn out, self-loathing. They are the greatest losers of society and they have no status above even insects, or so they must feel. To pack them together into an open air room without any choice in the matter is only to remind them, both visually and symbolically, of their wretchedness and deprive them of any sort of dignity. It is not something from which they shall ever gain reprieve, but something which will beset them until the end of their days. It is to say that they are human insects to be squashed like bugs.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Are you asking for policies that would actually pass (cynical me thinks status quo is generally intractable) or if you had an authoritarian hand that still abides by the Constitution?

      If the latter, it’s rather simple. I assume you mean the rate rather than total number. Per your link, 44% did paid work, and it’s conceivable that 6% of the other 54% (1/9 of the remainder) are willing to work and perhaps unable to due to their homeless status. Additionally, 39% are female, so there’s a gender skew.

      If other cities are anything like NYC, then one can do the following which is currently too hard of a coordination problem, and in order to meet your objective, is going to go a bit dystopian since you did not specify other constraints:

      1. Stop housing people in the city where sometimes the government is paying for hotel rooms. Instead, establish housing centers near major train stations in Long Island or Upstate New York.
      2. Housing centers have a token rent that ticks up based on length of stay, which is a debt to the state that the individuals must pay eventually.
      3. Provide dedicated train service (2 times in morning going into city, 2 times in evening going out) that again has a token fee added to their debt balance. Homeless individuals are assigned passes, everyone else has to pay full fare.
      3. Strictly enforce loitering and sleeping in public state-wide, particularly in cities. First time offender penalty is small debt added, second time is larger debt, third time is isolation jailing at the suburban centers.

      The above addresses the economic issue of housing and provides a reliable way for the homeless to commute, along with a “permanent” address in case of mail, getting basic things like an ID for work, etc. My thesis is that while mental illness is indeed a huge problem, at least half of homelessness is due to economics alone and this soft landing system will soften the blow and shorten the duration of any homelessness. Also, technically, if one is housed here and working, they are not homeless anymore eh?

      4. Isolation jailing consists of 0.5m x 0.5m x 2m horizontal blocks (think of mini hotels/sleep pods in japan or mideast airports) that people are locked in. In shifts, they are let out for 20 minutes in the morning for a oatmeal and a banana, 20 minutes at noon for rice and beans, and 20 minutes in the evening for an egg and potato.
      Each individual also has 4 five-minute breaks during the day, and one 15-minute break (for drinking water, shower, toiletries, etc.). Only cold water is available.
      Punishment Pods contain an emergency pee bag and automatic reading light that automatically turns on at 7am and turns off at noon for lunch. It is on again from 6pm to 9pm. Each also contains a screen with only educational materials for reading, though novels written before 1850 also count as educational. Music selection within pods within reading light hours is limited to classical music before 1850 as well. All pods are also video-monitored, as are pod areas.
      Pods are cleaned once a week, and are gender-segregated, including security guards. This is because each pod contains a blanket and residents are otherwise naked to save on fashion costs and make residents that they dun goofed. Any personal possessions are withheld for the duration of the sentence.
      It is illegal to assign punishment pods as punishment for anything but third-striking.
      Prisoners are also subject to once a week tests on Saturday evenings that reward them with banana bread and more time off on Sunday. These tests are studies conducted by universities.

      5. Housing units contain Practical Pods with the same features as the Punishment Pods except they are flex sized based on family size from 1m x 1.5m x 3m, to 1m x 3m x 4.5m which allows for sitting up and personal possessions. And each family is free to move in and out of pods as needed – they are moreso the bedrooms and privacy centers. Tests are optional with rewards being monetary reduction of debt or even credits (credits can be redeemed after a certain threshold for a Paradise pod stay).
      The mess hall contains the same food selection with the additional selection of apples, oranges, cereal, mac & cheese, grilled cheese, and spaghetti and meatballs.

      6. Paradise Pods are 3m x 7m x 7m honeymoon suites with full Netflix/Amazon/etc. movie selection, bath tubs, and food delivered from local restaurants. Stay is competitive based on ratio of Practical Pods to nights available, though poor performance overall will mean no one gets paradise.

      7. All this should be cheaper than the current homeless shelter costs in NYC (on an ongoing basis) due to the usage of standardized pods, meals, and cheaper land in suburbs. Edit: NYC spent about $1.7bn on about 62,000 people, averaging 27,419 per person annually. I can personally live on less than that.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        There’s the problem that torture of this sort – and I don’t feel particularly reticent to call this torture, but culture war at me away if you want – doesn’t seem particularly likely to help those on the receiving end get *better* at not being homeless. Then you just get a group of people that society is perpetually keeping alive in prison for the crime of being broken shells. Forced sterilization is probably a more humane and less expensive way of achieving this end through dystopian means, even though it’s roughly as repugnant.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think forced sterilization is less repugnant than jail pods. However, I doubt it would change anything. It’s not clear to me how many homeless people reproduce and if they did, it was probably before they were homeless.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I don’t feel like the majority of the homeless population were born to homeless parents and lived their whole lives that way…

    • engleberg says:

      Civil defense shelters could double in brass to cut homelessness. Start with small towns, build ten times as much shelter as you need per town, work your way towards cities but don’t expect to ever get there, given the price of land in a city. Provide basic food, shelter, internet, medical care. One room with bath per citizen, door that locks on the inside, one national guard sentry watching the shelter. Note that this is the more practical as you did not give a time limit.

      • Lambert says:

        One bath per capita? That’s better than an awful lot of university dorms I’ve seen.
        2 toilets and a shower per four people is more reasonable.

        • engleberg says:

          I think shared bathrooms are a false economy even for colleges- it’s been a long time since land grant colleges were turning out militia officers with an engineering education. Less discipline in students, less fun in shared bathrooms.

          And sharing a bathroom with your neighbor, much less with the homeless, would not be a vote winner.

        • DragonMilk says:

          My freshman college dorm consisted of 8 guys sharing 1 bathroom that we had to clean ourselves

    • Jaskologist says:

      Reintroduce vampire populations back into their native city habitats.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If I had a way that wasn’t morally repugnant, I’d be working towards a Nobel Prize, not writing blog comments. I’ll spare you the repugnant ones; they’re mostly obvious.

    • Drew says:

      The solution to homelessness seems easy enough: Ensure that everyone can get somewhere to live, and then pass public-nuisance laws targeting people who voluntarily camp in cities.

      The real bottleneck is that any region that gave out generous benefits would get swamped by homeless people from other regions. If California offered such a guarantee, then Texas could just give their homeless people greyhound tickets and be done.

      The solution is to force states to pay the costs associated with having their citizens become homeless somewhere else.

      I’d do this with a federal law saying, “Your ‘home’ county is the county that you lived in 10 years ago. That county is financially responsible for you. If you end up homeless in another region, then that region can bill your home county for 80% of your upkeep costs.”

      A couple patches would be prohibiting states from discriminating based on region-of-origin when offering services. And a rule saying that if counties go bankrupt, or dissolve, the liability goes to the state.

      The goal is to reverse the incentives that cause places to push their homeless out of state. They can, but they’ll likely end up paying for whatever services the homeless find most attractive. It would almost certainly be cheaper to pay for housing.

      And, I use a 10-year limit (instead of birth) to make sure that the states that host people actually get them up on their feet.

      • Plumber says:

        “The solution to homelessness….”

        @Drew,

        That….

        ….actually seems the closest to politically feasible and far less morally repugnant than most ideas for solving homelessness that I’ve seen.

        Well done!

        • Anonymous` says:

          This one was the one that gave me a physical “that’s morally repugnant” response. It would allow California to waste Texas’ money with their showy, expensive, ineffective-at-actually-helping-the-homeless moral signaling.

          • Plumber says:

            While I agree that my part of California just isn’t effective at treating homelessness, making the counties of “Texas” (rural and small town U.S.A.) pay the tab for housing those that they chase away to San Francisco (especially their youths) sounds like a fine idea to me.
            if “Texas” can do it cheaper, stop sending ’em here!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Texas is not sending them; California is presenting an attractive nuisance.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Plumber, suppose Texas is perfectly happy to pay to feed them beans and rice every day. (Might not be the case, but let’s suppose it to make a clearer illustration.) But, California insists on feeding them prime rib every day. Should Texas have to pay the bill?

          • albatross11 says:

            As an aside, this seems related to the issue of people from poor states with stingy benefits moving to richer states with more generous benefits. Think moving from Mississippi to Illinois, or Texas to California.

            On one side, this can undermine the ability of the rich states to provide the generous benefits. On the other side, allowing states to have different policies is pretty basic to how the US works, and allowing free movement across state borders is absolutely essential to how the US works.

          • Plumber says:

            “…suppose Texas is perfectly happy to pay to feed them beans and rice every day. (Might not be the case, but let’s suppose it to make a clearer illustration.) But, California insists on feeding them prime rib every day. Should Texas have to pay the bill?”

            @Evan Þ,

            That sounds like a great idea!

            By deliberately making care more expensive that may discourage Nevada from having their mental hospital give their parents bus tickets to here.

            Unfortunately, with @Drew‘s proposal, San Francisco can only charge the steak dinners to There Be Dragons County, Texas for a maximum of ten years after which SF has to pay the full tab.

            It’s almost as if the proposal is designed to incentivise counties to have school, welfare and mental health systems that have people not be homeless in the first place, and if they do become homeless to get them on their feet instead of chasing them away to live on the streets of west coast cities.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Plumber, the problem is that if they somehow gather up the money for a bus ticket, they’ll all be wanting to go to California anyway for the prime rib. Texas won’t be able to stop them unless it locks them up.

          • Plumber says:

            “…the problem is that if they somehow gather up the money for a bus ticket, they’ll all be wanting to go to California anyway for the prime rib. Texas won’t be able to stop them unless it locks them up.”

            @Evan Þ,

            If There Be Dragons, Texas doesn’t like paying San Francisco, California with prime rib prices to care for their indigent that come here they can damn well step up and make it attractive to stay, with free alcohol or something, or better yet raise their children to have a place in their society (and they reverse is true as well).

      • arlie says:

        Hmm. This proposal is reminiscent of something that used to be standard. The destitute were the responsibility of their home parish, in England some centuries ago. And “home parish” meant where they came from, and they’d be sent back to it. It would be interesting to look at how that worked out, if there’s data enough recorded.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I noticed that similarity, but I think it was much easier and faster to establish residency in a new parish and become its responsibility. Adam Smith describes how that system led to all sorts of unintended consequences, with parishes effectively closing their borders for fear that people coming from other parts of the country looking for work would lose their jobs and become the parish’s responsibility.

          I think Drew’s idea of requiring long periods to change one’s residency would make the system work a whole lot better.

      • albatross11 says:

        ISTM that the result of that policy is that very poor counties get bankrupted.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Stop the no-kill policy at shelters.

    • Darick Kowalski says:

      Anyone else ever read Righteous Dopefiend? It gives you a real sense of the agency of the “homeless”, the economy they live in, the labor they perform, and most importantly the limits to systemic efforts to provide relief. There may be an alternative approach to this “problem” which refuses to even acknowledge a reduction in the rate of homelessness as a metric of success, and instead focuses on improvements to social services and other resources that would make living on the streets less of a struggle. For example, one huge misconception is that homeless people don’t work or don’t want to work – this is completely untrue, there is an entire network of under-the-table “employers” that provide the homeless with the opportunities to earn the relatively small amount of money they need in order to survive and fulfill their drug habit. One service that could be provided might be some form of commitment-free employment that would allow the homeless to earn a wage on an ad-hoc basis. The rationale behind such a program would not be to rehabilitate the homeless, although the avenues to do that could be integrated and made available – rather, the program would operate under a principle of radical generosity and acceptance of the agency and humanity of the homeless, outside the bounds of homogeneous society.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t think it is unreasonable or illiberal to not want people sleeping on the streets, stations, alleyways, parks, and so on where the rest of us are trying to go about our lives. Even if they genuinely wish to do so.

        • brmic says:

          Why?
          What exactly is the problem with the unusual use of the commons in a way that does not harm anyone else?
          In the words of our host: We were here first

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Because it does harm other people.

            I’ll give an example that I have more knowledge about: public libraries.

            The women on my mother’s side have been librarians since before World War II, and got to see the Detroit public library system fall apart in real time. While the internet definitely reduced people’s need to go to the library, what really drove people away more than anything was the fact that libraries became de facto homeless shelters. I certainly wouldn’t renew my library card if I had to deal with homeless people defecating and masturbating openly.

          • Matt M says:

            It does harm everyone else – by depriving them of the use of the commons.

            I have no particular objection to the homeless who live under an overpass and don’t panhandle. Fine. Whatever. I wasn’t planning on hanging out under that overpass myself, and they aren’t bothering anyone.

            But when formerly nice public parks are taken over by tent encampments, and when I can’t walk three blocks outside of my apartment without someone aggressively demanding money, we’ve lost the “they are’t harming anyone” argument…

          • Brad says:

            When an entire subway car has one person on it and the rest are even more packed than usual because it reeks of shit, that is harming other people.

            When an already crowded sidewalk is made even more crowded because large parts of it are being taken up by the sprawling bodies and belongings of people living in the streets, that is harming other people.

            When parks are unable to be played in because they are being used as bedrooms, dining rooms, and bathrooms, that is harming other people.

            When people can’t walk down the street because they are being constantly hassled for money, that is harming other people.

            At least in my city, we have pretty generous programs available to provide food and shelter. The least people who aren’t going to contribute can do is not make the lives of those that support them worse.

            And if they want to return to a state of nature and think post-agricultural life sucks I hear there’s you can head into the woods in many different parts of the country and not be hassled. Most of Alaska, to name one spot.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Because it’s a rivalrous use of the commons which interferes with its intended use.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            That would be the “grizzly food” option.

          • Brad says:

            What can I say, I find the whole agriculture was a mistake meme complex pretty dumb.

            Scott’s essay is characteristically nuanced on the issue but brmic’s invocation of it much less so.

          • quanta413 says:

            Agriculture is the necessary invention for basically all inventions after, and I almost fear the “agriculture was terrible” memeplex.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            I’ve seen people argue that agriculture caused oppression/the patriarchy and that hunter-gatherers had full equality.

          • Nornagest says:

            From what I’ve read a lot of forager tribes are non-hierarchical, but that doesn’t mean “equal”. It’s kinda like high school: no one’s got a title, relatively few people care whose kid you are, and material inequality is mostly limited to how cool your clothes are, but there’s absolutely social status, and probably most of what you do in a day goes towards navigating the status system in one way or another. A system like that is probably non-oppressive given a certain technical sense of oppression, but that doesn’t make it a fun place to live.

            It’s probably worse than high school, actually, because while status there feels like life and death, in a forager tribe it really is.

          • Lambert says:

            Evidence seems to point to patriarchy being associated with use of ploughs, as opposed to hoe farming or hunter-gathering.

            https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/hoe-cultures-a-type-of-non-patriarchal-society/

            These cultures also seem economically egalitarian, but that’s probably just because hoe farming traditionally needs next to no capital, and is unable to provide the kind of surplus food needed to support any kind of upper class. Generally, there’s nothing for the ‘haves’ to have.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lambert

            Economically egalitarian is not the same as socially egalitarian, though.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            It’s probably worse than high school, actually, because while status there feels like life and death, in a forager tribe it really is.

            Thanks Norn. It has been bugging me to see various theoreticians talk about the lack of hierarchy in hunter /gatherer tribes. I never thought that made sense given the nature of humankind. Your comparison to high school sounds right to me.

          • brmic says:

            My point was precisely that Brad seemed to go for restrictions beyond the kind of behaviour we already disallow: Public defecation/masturbation (seriously?), agressive panhandling, errecting tents in public parks. I agree we should have those and enforce them.
            However, I also notice some more dubious ‘harms’ being invoked, such as limiting the available space on sidewalks: fine, if prams and bikes and placards for business evoke the same response, otherwise not so much. The same argument applies to public parks: If families with their children or seniors occupying them bothers you as much as groups of homeless sitting quietly in their corner, fine. But I fail to see the harm in someone merely sleeping there and note that apparently this is fine with most people as long as the person sleeping there is a young, middle class backpacker.

            If everyone is on board with carefully looking for harm instead of going by a squick response, we’re all on the same page. If anyone isn’t, and wants to argue that we should distinguish taxpayers from non taxpayers or that it’s a problem in need of a solution that certain (but onloy, you know ‘certain’) groups get more out of the commons than others I’d disagree strongly, and the essence of my disagreement is the abovementioned ‘We were here first’.

          • johansenindustries says:

            If everyone is on board with carefully looking for harm instead of going by a squick response

            When you dismiss wariness and worry differing between crazy homeless and middle-class backpacker as as a ‘squick’, is that because the crazy fellow won’t definitely stab/mug/rape you, the middle-class fellow won’t definitely not stab/mug/rape you, or that the crazy man is no more likely to stab/mug/rape** you that the middle-class fellow, or that causing others a reasonable worry is not a real harm? Or something else that I can’t think of.

            (* speaking for myself, I am against a middle-class backpacker, but I’m super-conservative nervous so I might be an exception.)

            (** or molest/flash your child, leave aids-infected needles about, I can’t come up with an exhaustive list.)

            It also does not follow that just because society owes the homeless something for making them obsolete that the thing owed is the public parks and the busy streets rather than the deserted underpass.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @brmic,
            Your reasoning here is very weird for several reasons:

            1. It’s plainly obvious that “we” (i e. local governments) don’t disallow public urination, defecation, masturbation, etc. because you can see homeless people doing them all the time. Some places are worse than others in this regard, San Francisco being particularly infamous, but even in more well-run cities it’s not hard to find a homeless person dropping trou. I’m sure that you’ve been to a city before so it’s weird that you think it’s necessary to invoke sinister hidden motives here when the behavior itself is on daily public display.

            2. I strongly suspect that the people who are homeless now would do even worse in a hunter-gatherer tribe than they do now. A huge number are suffering from some sort of mental problem or have cooked their brains with drugs and alcohol. In a tribe with limited resources they probably would have been cast out or put to death as liabilities to the survival of the group. It’s only in our modern society which produces so much more than we could possibly consume that these people could survive purely on charity. It’s weird that you think that these people have been harmed in any way by civilization when a moment’s thought reveals the opposite.

          • brmic says:

            when the behavior itself is on daily public display.

            I have never seen anyone masturbating in public, and don’t recall any defecations. I’ve seen public urination, but at a ratio of something like 20 club going teenagers and 40 small kids to one person I would classify as homeless based on looks. Though of course some ‘clubbers’ might have been well groomed homeless persons.
            Believe it or not.
            Just out of curiosity, what are your observations?

            Also, for defecations: Until now, I always assumed I was seeing dogshit everywhere, based on size and dogs observed in the act, but of course it’s possible this was homeless people all along. Is that your theory?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Are American/SF homeless people such huge perverts? I’ve never seen a homeless person masturbate or drop trousers in Amsterdam, London, Berlin, etc.

          • Plumber says:

            “…I have never seen anyone masturbating in public, and don’t recall any defecations…..”

            @brmic,

            Fortunately I’ve seen no masturbating, but unfortunately I’ve seen public defecation (most recently at 6th and Harrison Street in San Francisco about a block and a half from my usual work place).

          • Nornagest says:

            Public defecation/masturbation (seriously?)

            I’ve seen public masturbation at least twice (once in the BART stairwells at the Civic Center station, which is about as public a place as places get) and defecation more than that. Usually in San Francisco, but also in Oakland and Portland.

          • John Schilling says:

            I have seen neither, ever, anywhere in Greater Los Angeles, and conspicuous public urination is quite rare. Presumably there’s a culture gap between the LA and SF homeless populations, and possibly lax enforcement in SF is the reason.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sounds plausible. I’ve never seen either one on the East Coast. Haven’t spent as much time in LA in the last ten or fifteen years, but I’ve never seen it there either.

          • a reader says:

            @Lambert:

            Evidence seems to point to patriarchy being associated with use of ploughs, as opposed to hoe farming or hunter-gathering.

            https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/hoe-cultures-a-type-of-non-patriarchal-society/

            It perplexes me how people can perceive hoe culture as non-patriarchal and egalitarian when there are so obvious red flags. I copy here the comment I wrote there a while ago:

            ———
            Interesting article, but:
            – “in a hoe culture, a wife supports her husband.”
            – Men “spend most of their time in leisure”
            – “Hoe cultures are much more likely to be polygamous than plow cultures.”

            This looks like a Paradise for men, not for women!

            Do you know any real cases of women to voluntarily abandon civilized society to live in hoe cultures? I can give you a case of a man (white, cis-hetero and macho) who was really tempted to abandon civilized world with its responsibilities to live for a year in the hoe culture of Easter Island:

            Easter Island! The imagination stops in its ascending flight to turn somersaults at the very thought: “Over there, having a white ‘boyfriend’ is an honor”; “Work? Ha! the women do everything — you just eat, sleep and keep them content.” This marvellous place where the weather is perfect, the women are perfect, the food perfect, the work perfect (in its beatific nonexistence). What does it matter if we stay there a year; who cares about studying, work, family, etc. In a shop window a giant crayfish winks at us, and from his bed of lettuce his whole body tells us, “I’m from Easter Island, where the weather is perfect, the women are perfect…” (Che Guevara, “The Motorcycle Diaries”)

            Unfortunately for the future of Cuba, the ship for Easter Island had already sailed when young (and not yet communist) Che Guevara and his companion reached the port – otherwise the history may have been different…
            ———

            These cultures also seem economically egalitarian [,,,] Generally, there’s nothing for the ‘haves’ to have.

            There is obviously something for the ‘haves’ to have: more women! Hoe culture is usually polygamous and the men buy their wives from their families. The article actually said that:

            Hoe cultures are much more likely to be polygamous than plow cultures. Since land is basically free, a man in a hoe culture is rich in proportion to how much labor he can accumulate — and labor means women. The more wives, the more labor.

          • I don’t think I have ever seen public masturbation or defecation, and urination very rarely. I’ve lived in San Jose for the last 24 years or so, before that in Chicago, before that New Orleans, before that L.A., …

          • Aapje says:

            @a reader

            How does a (young) man then acquire the capital to buy wives?

          • a reader says:

            @Aapje:

            According to that article:

            hoe cultures tend to practice bride price (the groom compensates the bride’s family financially for the loss of a working woman) or bride service (the groom labors for the bride’s family, again as compensation for taking her labor.)

            So, apparently, the young men who don’t have “capital” to pay the price, pay in work, like Jacob for Rachel in the Bible.

            But I don’t know – and the article doesn’t say – what kind of work, if men work so little there. Maybe they clear some land parcel (that’s one of the few works that men do in hoe society) or maybe they give them what they hunt.

          • Lambert says:

            The experience of a man in a Hoe Culture probably depends quite a lot on how good he is at avoiding being killed by a big sharpened jade club.

          • INH5 says:

            2. I strongly suspect that the people who are homeless now would do even worse in a hunter-gatherer tribe than they do now. A huge number are suffering from some sort of mental problem or have cooked their brains with drugs and alcohol.

            I imagine that the addicts may well have been better off in a hunter-gatherer tribe for the simple reason that there probably wouldn’t be enough drugs or alcohol to cook their brains. There also is some admittedly very sketchy evidence that the modern urban environment may increase the incidence of psychosis.

          • a reader says:

            More evidence that patriarchy didn’t appear with the ploughs – some hunter-gatherers were more patriarchal than any agricultural civilization:

            Among the Hiwi of Venezuela, and the Ache of Paraguay, female infants and children are disproportionately victims of infanticide, neglect, and child homicide.19 20 It is in fact quite common in hunter-gatherer societies that are at war, or heavily reliant on male hunting for subsistence, for female infants to be habitually neglected or killed.21 22 In 1931, Knud Rasmussen recorded that, among the Netsilik Inuit, who were almost wholly reliant on male hunting and fishing, out of 96 births from parents he interviewed, 38 girls were killed (nearly 40 percent).23

            https://quillette.com/2017/12/16/romanticizing-hunter-gatherer/

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Approval of Blade Runner/Judge Dredd towers as necessary, starting with priority construction in the path of anyone who has ever complained about “the vistas” or “character of the neighborhood” more than masses of lower class people having housing they can afford. A ring of Stalin era brutalist apartments around the Hollywood sign, in particular. Also the infrastructure and mass transit spending necessary to get good fast trains going so people can live further away from in-demand spots

      • engleberg says:

        On the contrary, the reverse course of digging giant holes where nobody minds and putting apartments in the walls of the holes would be less Stalinist and more useful.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      After thinking about tent cities I realized the only problems with them were:

      1. They are unpleasantly visible and intrusive.
      2. They are difficult for the law to manage.

      Otherwise they are far superior to traditional homeless shelters, which pack huge numbers of people (strangers to one another) into open air rooms and thus deter all but the most desperate.

      Tent cities are a humane solution which also happens to be relatively cheap. The two problems they present can easily be remedied. For the first problem, the municipality simply needs to set aside lots of land for the purpose of erecting tent cities and then build fences around them. The lots can be located in obscure regions where normal people are unlikely to go, and the fences can obstruct the vision of even chance passersby.

      For the second problem, tent cities are only unmanageable because the denizens build wherever they want with no fixed addresses, making their society opaque to the hierarchical authority of the state. To remedy this, the lots could be partitioned into smaller lots, each destined for the construction of a singular tent, so that the tents would be built in orderly rows with each homeless person assigned his own spot. This would allow police to come in and identify and evict certain homeless persons who are known to be problematic, and thus enforce the law. To further abet such law enforcing services, cameras could be positioned at the top of high poles overlooking the expanse of the tent city, recording the daily activity there, so that abuse cannot go unnoticed. If one homeless person avers a gang of homeless people (acting as a local mafia, say), tore down his tent and stole his possessions, the police have a way to confirm his allegation. That way authority does not devolve to some local, mafia-like group, but remains in the hands of democratic society.

      This set-up would be extremely cheap compared to homeless shelters we have now, as the staff would not have to be as large, nor would there be any cost for infrastructure besides the fence and surveillance system. In terms of space it would be about equal to traditional homeless shelters. The humanity of this approach is it allows the homeless a modicum of privacy in their own tent, and also allows them some open-ended freedom, which is to say, freedom within certain parameters, much like the rest of society enjoys, rather than the more authoritarian style of life of homeless shelters where strict rules organize all conduct. I cannot identify any problems with this approach, save one, which is context-specific, which is that in colder regions the tents would not provide adequate shelter against the cold, so that they would only be viable year-round in warmer climes.

      • For the second problem, tent cities are only unmanageable because the denizens build wherever they want with no fixed addresses

        As it happens, I spend two weeks a year in a tent city where most people have fixed addresses—ours has been the same for many years.

      • Matt M says:

        The lots can be located in obscure regions where normal people are unlikely to go

        This won’t work, because homeless people also don’t want to be in obscure regions that are far away from public services, transportation, and normal citizens to beg for change from.

        The homeless are going to set up their tent city in the centrally located downtown park unless you pay big men with weapons to keep them out by force. You either have the will to do that or you don’t.

        And if your big men with weapons prevent the downtown city, the next highest preference for most homeless seems to be “stay downtown but find an isolated place to sleep” rather than “set up a tent city out in the middle of nowhere.”

      • Randy M says:

        I might mention in again in another more active thread, but the discussion of tent cities reminded me of Slab City.

  3. fortaleza84 says:

    Since culture war topics are apparently permitted in this thread, I have an interesting story to relate. I have a family member who submitted a scholarly paper/book in a journal/publisher devoted to literature. The submission was accepted with the proviso that it must be revised to discuss at least one black person if possible. Apparently many publishers have an unwritten rule these days that every scholarly book/article must feature at least 1 black person if possible.

    What’s also interesting is the issue of unwritten rules. Why is it that a lot of society’s rules are never formally acknowledged? The obvious answer is that many such rules are unfair so it’s easier to pretend that they do not exist. It’s a bit like the problem of common knowledge. These types of quota systems are private knowledge in the sense that most people are aware at some level they exist. But evidently they are not common knowledge, i.e. everyone knows them; everyone knows that everyone knows them; and so on.

    One possible result of the development of General Artificial Intelligence is the development of an oracle type machine that converts private knowledge into common knowledge. That would pull back the curtains over human hypocrisy, wide open and forever.

    • Well... says:

      Unwritten rules are fine in casual social contexts if there is gradualness, flexibility, and forgiveness in their enforcement, so that first offenses aren’t punished as severely as repeat offenses, so that any “ruling” can be appealed at least as easily and casually as it was issued, and so that someone who comes out the other end isn’t stigmatized disproportionately to the seriousness of the offense. For instance there’s no law about saying Thank You after someone gives you something; it’s just What You Do. If someone gives you something once and you don’t say Thank You, they ought to give you at least a second chance to prove you’ve been properly socialized in some way before writing you off as someone they don’t want anything to do with.

      I don’t think unwritten rules are good in more formal contexts such as in the acceptance of manuscripts for publication, where there already exist explicit written submission guidelines. I also don’t think they ought to be honored in the moderation of online communities. And obviously in actual law. In those kinds of contexts unwritten rules seem ripe for abuse of power.

      I think a lot of rules are never formally acknowledged mainly because they arise naturally out of the complex nuance of social interactions, especially when the consequences of breaking a rule are fairly small and hard to quantify anyway. Besides, they probably just start out as a preference that some critical mass of people coincidentally hold in common, apparently unrelated to whatever formally brings them together.

      I don’t see AI handling unwritten rules very well. In a way, a lot of the algorithms that have come under fire for being “biased” are really just implementing their own unwritten rules that people don’t like, or else failing to uphold the unwritten rules that people do like. Maybe that was your point?

    • brmic says:

      Apparently many publishers have an unwritten rule these days that every scholarly book/article must feature at least 1 black person if possible.

      1) The reported evidence is insufficient for that conclusion, so, what is this assumption based on?
      2) This is manifestly not true in all cases where single persons are not typically discussed in scholarly work, which I’d guess is the vast majority of them. So why aren’t we talking about the outliers, i.e. the unusual sciences where this is a plausible requirement?
      3) I can easily imagine many cases where I’d want at least one black person included. Lots of stuff related to modern culture, to sports or statements about US american demographics. Not that I’d agree the requirement makes sense in each case any of these matters is discussed, but that I can imagine scenarios and scholarly work, where asking for the explicit consideration of black examples is a reasonable thing to do.

      Why is it that a lot of society’s rules are never formally acknowledged? The obvious answer is that many such rules are unfair so it’s easier to pretend that they do not exist.

      That’s apparently the first answer that came to your mind, which doesn’t make it obvious. Have some epistemic humility.
      The first answer that comes to my mind is simply that they’re not rules, but guidelines. As such, working them out to full decision trees that everyone can agree to/live with is often a a lot of work, and if nobody is volunteering it may not get done. Also, sometimes it might be impossible because there is not actually one ruleset everyone agrees on.
      In the present case, I can, if you’re interested offer you thousands (at a charge of $5 per article after the first ten to cover my anguish) of scholarly articles which do not conform to your ‘rule’ of discussing at least one black person. Will that be enough to convince you your ‘rule’ is a stupid headfart?
      Will we then be shocked and dismayed to discover the apparent society wide ‘rule’ is the editorial policy of a single journal devoted to contemporary literature (if it’s not merely an editorial decision in a particular case) which possibly quite openly admits, that it attempts to increase consideration and visibility of black authors and therefore asks for such to be included where appropriate (i.e. not when the topic is author X , because then it would be pointless to add a black author Y just for the sake of it).

    • dick says:

      What’s also interesting is the issue of unwritten rules. Why is it that a lot of society’s rules are never formally acknowledged? The obvious answer is that many such rules are unfair so it’s easier to pretend that they do not exist.

      My workplace has an unwritten rule that you should brew a new pot of coffee if you take the last cup. How would we go about formally acknowledging that? What would be the value of doing that, how many people would be involved, and what difficulties would we encounter? Where exactly would we write it?

      • AG says:

        Making such rules explicit is a big tenet of 5S (Sort/Set/Shine/Standardize/Sustain). Minimum quantities of consummables and protocols for when quantities fall below are hashed out by a regular meeting of people who frequent an area. The guidelines are posted on a 5S board and made available on the work network. Depending on an area, often there are daily/weekly/monthly task checklists that must be signed off on, as well as regular inspections (scheduled to be done anywhere from weekly to quarterly).
        This allows people to voice their complaints and feel heard, and getting all employees of the area on the same page, so no one can use the excuse of not having heard of the unwritten rule.

        This all requires corporate/management buy-in and enforcement, of course. Half-hearted 5S implementation leads to lower workforce morale.

      • Nick says:

        I think it’s pretty easy for unwritten rules to develop by an interaction of common courtesy, reasonable social expectations, habit, and so on. Ozy had a blog post with a concept called “covert contracts”:

        One very common form of entitled thoughts is “covert contracts,” a concept which I learned from the Red Pill and intend to rescue from the horrible misogynists who currently own it. A covert contract is when you make up a deal inside your head where if you do something, then in return someone else will do what you want, and then never tell the other person that this is the deal.

        Examples of covert contracts: “if I never disagree with you then you will like me.” (This one I am annoyingly prone to.) “If I do the dishes then my housemate will sweep the floors.” “If I refer you to my company, then you’ll do really well on the interview and impress my boss with your good judgment.” “If I spend lots of time trying to solve your personal problems, then you will be my friend.”

        A lot of these unwritten rules are similar to covert contracts: “If I make a new pot of coffee when I’m done, so will everyone else.” But the ones Ozy is talking about are fundamentally unreasonable, coming from a place of entitlement. They list a few of the problems with them:

        1) The other person might not even want the thing you’re giving them. (Maybe your housemate doesn’t care about the dishes. Maybe your attempts to solve other people’s problems are actually busybody meddling.)
        2) The other person has literally no idea that this contract exists, and therefore will only fulfill it by coincidence or telepathy.
        3) You didn’t give the other person a chance to say “no” and they might not want to take this deal. (Maybe they aren’t sure if they’ll be able to do well on the interview. Maybe your housemate really fucking hates sweeping.)
        4) The other person thought they were getting a favor for free and is going to be really annoyed at you when they discover that you in fact made a deal with them under false pretenses of doing a favor.
        5) Sometimes the contracts are just balls crazy. (If someone likes you on the condition that you never disagree with them, you don’t want to be their friend.)

        (numbering mine)

        Unwritten rules can obviously suffer from (2), but I don’t think they generally suffer from the rest. Often they’re just pretty reasonable. Suppose Bob started yesterday at my workplace and didn’t follow the coffee rule, and I happen to notice. “Why didn’t you start a new pot, Bob?” I’ll ask. “Why should I?” he’ll ask back. “Well,” I’ll explain, it’s pretty annoying to wait several minutes preparing your coffee when you could have had it immediately. If you don’t make coffee when you’ve emptied the pot, you’re inflicting that experience on someone else. Granted, you aren’t inflicting it on yourself, but this sort of rule is delicate, and if it’s flouted you might find it happening to you regularly. So not only does it serve someone else in the short term, it serves you in the long term. You should do it for the same reason you hold the door for other people or flushing twice in the bathroom.” “Wow,” Bob will say, “I never thought of it that way,” and then we’ll go back to not working.

        Ozy has a lot to say about covert contracts, but earlier in the post they talked about “basic expectations” and things being just “understood.” They say that these are “literally all stuff you learned in kindergarten, it’s ‘play fair’ and ‘don’t hit people’ and ‘be nice.'” I think the coffeepot rule is a lot more like the stuff you literally learn in kindergarten than weird “If I do the dishes my girlfriend will totally know to sweep the floor.”

        • gbdub says:

          I mean, the real reason for the coffee thing is that starting a pot of coffee is relatively quick and easy. Waiting for the pot to finish brewing takes a lot longer.

          “Last cup starts the new pot” minimizes “standing around waiting for the brew process to complete” time for everyone.

          Or, as the meme lifted from an ESPN ad (Terry Tate, office linebacker) posted in my office says: “YOU KILL THE JOE, YOU MAKE SOME MO’!”

          • Matt M says:

            What does it say about me that when I found myself in a situation where I would have been the last to finish the pot, I would instead, pour myself half a cup, so that technically, there was still some left, and therefore I was not obligated to make another?

          • Matt says:

            What does it say about me that…

            Do better.

          • Nick says:

            What does it say about me that when I found myself in a situation where I would have been the last to finish the pot, I would instead, pour myself half a cup, so that technically, there was still some left, and therefore I was not obligated to make another?

            You’re giving people grounds for complaint, if nothing else.

          • Incurian says:

            That should count as finishing the pot. If there’s less than a cup left, you’ve finished it, because the question isn’t “is there coffee left?” it’s “can the next guy have a cup?” Otherwise you could just leave a drop in the pot and claim you hadn’t finished it.

          • Matt M says:

            Ah, but the next guy can have just as large of a cup as I just did!

          • baconbits9 says:

            And if no one drinks the half a cup by the time you finish you can have a quarter cup, then an eigth of a cup, all the way down to one drop.

          • Nick says:

            I have to share an anecdote from my office. There are similar unwritten rules that if you’re, say, the last to use a roll of toilet paper you should put out a new one, or if you use the last napkin you should refill the thing and so on. Well, we have a coworker who cuts corners and avoids work at just about every opportunity, and one day he finished the last doughnut in a box someone brought to us. When we asked him if he was going to take care of it, he replied, “Well, it’s not my box!”

            Since then we’ve made sure to return doughnut boxes to whomever we got them from so they can dispose of them as they wish.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            You’re giving people grounds for complaint, if nothing else.

            I see what you did there.

          • Brad says:

            What does it say about me that when I found myself in a situation where I would have been the last to finish the pot, I would instead, pour myself half a cup, so that technically, there was still some left, and therefore I was not obligated to make another?

            Nothing we didn’t already know.

          • AG says:

            m i n i m u m q u a n t i t i e s

            You draw a sharpie line or something on the pot, below which it must be refilled. Then Matt M can take a half/quarter/eighth cup if he wants, so long as it’s just to the minimum quantity line, which leaves enough for the next person to have the actual last cup.

          • Brad says:

            I think it’s probably a better bet to fire the omni-defectors than try to correct their behavior through ever more rules.

          • Plumber says:

            I sometimes empty the break room coffee pot, and I never make more, I don’t even know where to coffee beans are, and I don’t even remember how to make coffee (I’m usually a tea drinker), though I suppose someone has a YouTube video on it.

            I am, however, the guy who buys and brings in the box of donuts for the crew on Friday, so that may be why I’m forgiven for not making coffee.

          • Nick says:

            I am, however, the guy who buys and brings in the box of donuts for the crew on Friday, so that may be why I’m forgiven for not making coffee.

            As long as you dispose of your box afterwards.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I am, however, the guy who buys and brings in the box of donuts for the crew on Friday, so that may be why I’m forgiven for not making coffee.

            Wait till they find out you are tying to thin them out with diabetes and heart disease so you can buy their houses cheap.

          • Randy M says:

            Or at least leave half a stale donut in the box for a week so no one needs to.

            thin them out with diabetes

            Doesn’t it usually work out the opposite?

      • Ninety-Three says:

        My workplace had exactly that written on a piece of paper near the coffee machine. It involved less than a minute’s work from one person and created no difficulties. This was a very poor example to pick if your point was that acknowledging unwritten rules is hard.

    • The Nybbler says:

      A lot of these rules are simply made up on the spot. A high-status person notices a low-status person doing something the high-status person doesn’t like, and retroactively invents a rule and informs the low-status person they are breaking it. Everyone around agrees, because the low-status person is low-status, and loses more status as a result of this interaction. The rule is then like an ASBO; it’s enforceable only against the low-status person.

      • arlie says:

        *sigh* I’ve certainly seen that. I don’t think it’s all that common outside of groups of children, and extreme disparities of status.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        This + also high class people preserving power by knowing the institutional quirks of their industry/field and transmitting them to their children and those they want to choose to benefit, ensuring they can fit the niche more easily than a middle or lower class person working up to the position who isn’t familiar with the culture

    • Gazeboist says:

      One possible result of the development of General Artificial Intelligence is the development of an oracle type machine that converts private knowledge into common knowledge.

      No, it isn’t.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Why not? It seems like a pretty bold claim to rule out such a possibility and I would be interested in understanding your reasoning.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Scott just had a post about this.

      Making the rules explicit turns into Excess immediately.

    • J Mann says:

      Balko does good work, thanks for the link.

      • albatross11 says:

        Excellent link!

        Several threads I noticed in the studies he summarized (obviously I didn’t read them, though some look pretty interesting and I had read a couple):

        a. There’s a lot that looks to me to be broken in the US criminal justice system. Things like plea bargaining, long delays till trial where if you can’t make bail you stay in jail, policing for a profit/civil asset forfeiture, police being judged by how many arrests they make, relatively low clearance rate for a lot of crimes, false convictions, etc.

        All that stuff seems to land harder on blacks than whites. Probably, this comes down to the fact that when you’re caught in a broken social system, people with more resources/connections/intelligence/family support/etc. and higher social standing can avoid getting ground up in the gears more often.

        The real mystery here, to me, is policing for a profit. If your goal is to collect maximum amounts of cash, why go after blacks (who are on average poorer) rather than whites (who are on average richer)? Is it just racism on the part of the cops? Expectation that the richer, better-connected whites will fight back more effectively? (But there are plenty of poor and unconnected whites to hit up for fines, too.)

        The Fryer study was interesting to me in that it suggested that the police treat blacks worse than whites in comparable situations everywhere except in shooting. One plausible explanation for that is that they figure that macing someone or smacking them with a stick is relatively unlikely to get any kind of investigation, so they can do what they like there, but shooting is something they’ll only do in really dire and scary circumstances (they think they’re about to die) that don’t involve a lot of voluntary racial bias.

        b. Some of the stuff described seems like it reflects a generally higher rate of blacks both committing crimes and being more broadly tangled up in dysfunction/misbehavior. But it’s often pretty hard to untangle that from discrimination by police/prosecutors/teachers/school admins/etc., in terms of deciding what to punish and what to let slide.

        In particular, higher rates of school suspensions seem consistent with higher crime rates and higher rates of parole violations and higher rates of being put in solitary in prison. But from the outside, it’s hard to know when/whether any of that includes some racial bias.

        c. The places where we can untangle that are usually places where we can check the outcome of what the police did.

        So if searches done on blacks yield fewer drugs/weapons than searches done on whites, that’s actually evidence (though not 100%) that the police are behaving irrationally–over-searching blacks relative to whites. There may be other reasons why this pattern appears, but the obvious reason why your searches of blacks work out less well than your searches of whites is that you’re over-eager to search blacks relative to whites.

        d. The death penalty stuff was interesting because it raised a kind of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t issue that comes up a lot in this kind of study, where you expect to see some racial bias and that’s what you’re going to make your headline/main claim of your paper/etc.

        The data we have says that the death penalty is applied in a racially biased way, but it’s a pretty complicated one. When blacks murder whites, they are much more likely to get the death penalty than when blacks murder blacks. In general, murdering a white person is a lot more likely to get you executed than murdering a black person.

        Now, here’s the interesting thing: suppose we fix this bias, so that murdering blacks gets you the same probability of execution as murdering whites. What happens to the death penalty statistics? Suddenly, blacks (who commit murders at seven times the rate of whites, and 90% of the time murder other blacks) become disproportionately represented on death row. All those papers get rewritten to show that the death penalty is racist in a much more direct way.

        It’s not clear to me that there is any way to run death penalties for murder, plus have blacks commit murders at 7x the rate of whites and 90% of the time murder blacks, that won’t lead to *some* kind of apparent racial bias.

        • Matt M says:

          Expectation that the richer, better-connected whites will fight back more effectively? (But there are plenty of poor and unconnected whites to hit up for fines, too.)

          I have to imagine it’s this. Stuff like civil asset forfeiture is so egregiously offensive, the only way I see them getting away with it for so long is being very careful to only target it at the powerless or the unsympathetic. And while those traits don’t correlate perfectly with race, they’re probably a reasonable enough proxy.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          One shouldn’t use conditional expectations to quantify racism. Or gender disparities.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya:

            Can you unpack that a bit?

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s a reference to Ilya’s own field of causal models. Which is a conceptual and technical improvement in theory.

            It pushes us back to try to write down causal models of what’s going on and fit those to data. Causal models of some phenomena are better for making inferences than raw probabilities in the same way that the standard model of particle physics is more powerful than a giant collection of probabilities for particles before and after a collision in a collider.

            Obviously we don’t know yet how to make a model like the standard model for a new area of inquiry other than the hard way. I’m just giving an extreme example of how much it can help to have a causal/mechanistic model of what’s going on.

            Odds of agreement on what the causal model should be in this case are pretty slim, and the data we have often suck though. I’m not sure it’s much of an improvement in practice for this sort of issue yet because of that.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I agree that it’s difficult to agree on the right causal model. But pushing the argument from “how do we quantify racism” to “what is the right causal model” is a big conceptual improvement. For three reasons:

            (a) You can try to learn the causal model, there’s a rich literature on this.

            (b) There’s lots of background information on the model we can get from subject matter expertise. For example, we know biological sex is generally assigned randomly at conception, and is (for all practical purposes) not caused by anything other than this random assignment. However, biological sex causes a lot of other stuff downstream.

            (c) If we agree on the model, we have reduced something previously vague to a math problem.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Ilya

            I largely agree. I just don’t expect to see an effect for at least a couple decades if an effect ever happens. Cynically, I think the most likely outcome is approximately no effect on politics during my lifetime. I think power dynamics will be the driving force for any changes.

        • JPNunez says:

          This assumes that the death row people who got convicted actually did the crime, though. Even if you somehow make sure that white people who -apparently- did equivalent crimes are punished with equivalent terms -up to death sentence-, this doesn’t ensure you aren’t punishing the wrong people. Biases against black people not only make them more likely to be imprisoned if accussed only when they are actually guilty.

          And ending the death sentence only hides the problems. You are still incarcerating people for most or all of their lives, sometimes by mistake.

          There’s no fixing this on the punishment side, really. The legal system can be improved -death sentence should be eradicated- but in the end it is only receiving the output of the rest of the society’s biases.

    • Aapje says:

      Note that a lot of that evidence can partly or fully be explained by non-racist causes. For example, the lesser clearance rate of homicides of black people could partly or fully be due to black people being less cooperative with the police, the homicides of black people more often being gang-related (perhaps with omerta and intimidation/killing of witnesses making people wary of cooperating with the police) and such.

      In general, a major confounder is that black Americans are substantially poorer and less educated than white Americans and we know that poor and less educated people tend to act worse and get treated worse. I would personally be very interested in studies that separate out whites into two or more groups (perhaps based on income or postal code), preferably creating a group of white Americans that is similar in income and education as black Americans. The one study that Balko linked to that used such a methodology found that class has a far larger impact on outcomes than race.

      I would say that the evidence I’ve seen seems most consistent with:
      – some bias against black people in basic policing, although less than generally claimed by progressives (and also the same kind of bias that also happens to men, young people and such, which the people who object against the policing of black people rarely object to).
      – very little or no bias against black people in shootings.
      – substantial bias against black men in the justice system, but little or no bias against black women (the level of discrimination against men seems substantially higher than against black people, although black men of course get both and thus are worst off).

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        One thing that I don’t think is fair to police is to say that if X population is 10% of the population it should receive 10% of the policing, even if it is victimized in 30% of violent incidents. In fact, that is dereliction of duty by the police. Indeed, they should be putting even more than 30% of resources in those areas because you are getting more bang for your buck.

        These stats, therefore, indicate that Black areas are slightly underpoliced because they should be experiencing police interactions at significantly higher rates than the crimes are committed at, just based on intelligent deployment of resources. One anecdote that may explain this is a policy of “containment”. In Chicago, for instance, there are a few college campuses that are near high crime areas. Those colleges have high police presence, likely in an attempt to prevent spillover of rapes/murders/robberies from harassing students.

        • cassander says:

          When the police start policing black communities, they usually get accused of being racist.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah. 10 out of 10 black community leaders would thoroughly reject the claim that they are being underpoliced.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            The amount of policing that people enjoy having and the amount of policing that constitutes efficient use of public resources are different things though. Rich white neighborhoods like having a few black and whites nearby during the late hours in case some buffoons throw eggs at their houses, this does not mean its a particularly good use of police.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Rich, well dressed, and erudite blacks are still not treated equal to whites by American law enforcement

        • Aapje says:

          True, but the evidence suggests that a large part of the unequal treatment between all blacks and all whites is class-based.

          Furthermore, the evidence suggests that men are treated far worse than women of equal station, than black Americans are treated worse than white Americans of equal station.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Maybe he’s right, but there is definitely grounds for skepticism. Not long ago, there was a study about excessive frisking of Blacks by the police in New York going around Facebook. The study said that Blacks were frisked more often, even though they were found with contraband less often. That sounded pretty convincing to me, until I clicked on the hyperlink to the study itself. I found out that these weren’t actual counts of contraband found, but adjusted amounts based on some theory or other to adjust for selectivity or something like that (sorry my memory isn’t better to remember exactly what they said). But the study available to the public didn’t have the details of these adjustments. This made me very suspicious.

      It may be that this study makes completely reasonable adjustments to its data because of some weakness of the underlying data. But it also possible that the assumptions the researchers make are assuming the conclusion, and ensuring that their study will prove racism. I am sure some of the studies done to prove racism are indeed bogus, but I don’t know if this New York study was one of those. The trouble with such political subjects like this, where 99% of the researchers WANT to prove racism, is that it is hard to determine how many finesse the data to make it go there.

      My guess is that “driving while Black” is a real phenomenon — that Blacks get pulled over more often than Whites on meager evidence. But I have little trust of the studies out there. And to the extent that Blacks get pulled over excessively, it might make sense for the cops to do so — if they find more problems with Black pull-overs than White ones. It is a bad thing for the innocent Blacks, which are surely a majority, but it does make sense for the cops to go with the probabilities. I think cops should try to police in a color blind fashion; but I can see why they wouldn’t.

      For example, one issue we’ve all heard a lot about recently is that Blacks are killed by cops by a far disproportionate percentage to their total population. But I have also heard that of the people that kill cops, Blacks are the culprit by an even more disproportionate percentage. I am not sure if this second piece of data is true, but if so, it certainly makes sense that cops of more wary of Blacks.

      I have no data in this post, so you can disregard my comments. But I just want to explain why I am skeptical.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there are a couple issues here:

        a. There’s an expected result (some kind of anti-black bias) that most researchers and reviewers expect to see, given their priors. That creates an incentive to find some kind of anti-black bias somewhere in your data.

        b. When the data don’t readily support that, there’s a big temptation to take a walk down the garden of forking paths until you can find *some* criterion on which there appears to be the kind of bias you’re looking for. The death penalty statistics are a good example.

        That’s not saying there’s no anti-black bias in the justice system–I’m sure there’s plenty. But I think the incentives facing researchers encourage them to reach to find statistical evidence of it whether it’s there or not.

        • Aapje says:

          and:

          c. There is an incentive to not look for confounders that explain disparities based on reasons correlated with, but not determined by race.

          d. Studies get set up to search for the expected cause, not for other causes. The result is different kinds of discrimination can exist, but that some kinds get studied a lot, while others, that don’t fit the narrative get neglected. The result can be that the one-sided narrative gets reinforced as a ton of evidence for the narrative is uncovered, but not the evidence for a more complete narrative.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Rather than hypothesize about potential research misconduct, why don’t you guys actually go and read disparate impacts papers, and see what they actually do?

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya:

            Fair enough–I certainly don’t know the literature here. Let me explain the issue I’ve noticed in popular reporting on race, gender, and other bias:

            1 Death penalty bias

            It’s commonly reported that the death penalty is administered in a racially biased way in the US. When you dig down, this turns out to mean that when you murder a white person, you’re a lot more likely to get executed than when you murder a black person.

            From available crime statistics, blacks commit murder like seven times as often as whites[1], and 90% of the time, murder other blacks.

            So, imagine some alternative world where we impose the death penalty for murdering blacks with the same probability as for murdering whites.

            We now get blacks being seven times as likely as whites to be executed. The headline changes–not to say that we’re no longer imposing the death penalty in a racially biased way, but rather to say that we’re imposing it in a racially biased way because now blacks are way over-represented on death row.

            2 Bias in Mortgage Lending

            Suppose there’s an algorithm that uses all available information about borrowers to make the best possible estimate of their foreclosure rate. A lender uses this and establishes some predicted foreclosure rate above which he won’t lend to a person.

            Let’s also suppose that, for complicated social network/values/etc., reasons we can’t untangle, blacks in similar situations tend to end up in foreclosure more often than whites. (I think this is true, and it’s certainly plausible.)

            On careful investigation, it turns out that this algorithm, while it’s never explicitly given borrower race, is inferring borrower race from the data it *is* given. So the headline is that the algorithm is racist–it’s giving blacks with a given income, wealth, job history, etc., a loan less often than whites with the same income, wealth, job history, etc.

            We now change the algorithm so that it is race blind–it is no longer inferring race from the data and using that in its predictions. Problem solved! Only now, people who were at higher risk of ending up in foreclosure are now getting loans when they’re black. An analysis of the data now shows that this racist predatory lender has blacks getting foreclosed on at X% higher rate than whites.

            It looks to me like the starting point in this stuff is the expectation of finding bias in a particular direction. And in a complicated world where races/genders/etc. don’t all have the same outcomes, it’s always possible to find such bias when you look at enough comparisons, and there’s probably no way to alter things so that there’s not a bias somewhere.

            [1] This is from arrest data, so it may be skewed by racial bias, different police resources applied to black vs white murders, ability to avoid suspicion, etc. But it’s what we’ve got, and it’s hard to imagine the numbers being off enough to change the basic picture here.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            You might be interested in reading my paper on this (it’s been discussed in slatestar comments before).

            The real problem is nailing down what the right sort of bias is. Once we figure that out, it’s a math problem to make it go away.

            The person discussing with me, Chris, was confused on this point, I think. The sort of bias we are trying to nail down is not “statistical bias” (expected error of an estimator), nor “confounding bias” (preferential treatment assignment in the data), but has more to do with the fact that the data generating process itself is unfair in some way (for example, African Americans having longer criminal records due to “predictive policing” or “preferential hassling” by cops).

            What you are getting at with the algorithm “inferring race” even if race is not in the data is “proxy variables for race” (such as zip code in a segregated city like Baltimore). And what “proxy variables” get at is “causal pathways from race to outcome we don’t want.” Quantifying the right sort of unfairness bias in terms of pathways like that is what the paper is about.

            At any rate, you will be glad to know that lots of people are having a conversation about disentangling all this. Or at the very least make ethical commitments different political groups have explicit in mathematics.

            Fairness criteria that condition on sensitive features are wrong and bad, and should not be used.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya,

            Thanks. Actually, I am glad to know that. It’s way too easy for me to read popular discussions of stuff like this and assume that everyone is doing the same dumb things as the journalists writing clickbait.

      • James C says:

        It is a bad thing for the innocent Blacks, which are surely a majority, but it does make sense for the cops to go with the probabilities.

        The issue comes when you consider that there’s a non-zero chance of being killed every time you meet a cop. This applies both to white and black, but if black people are twice as likely to be stopped then they’re twice as likely to be shot, regardless of any criminal behavior. So yes, it can be a bad thing to just go by the probabilities.

  4. Matt M says:

    In the past, I’ve made the assertion that social media websites who engage in discrimination against conservatives might be investigated for fraud, given that their executives have made public statements declaring no such discrimination exists.

    Some suggested that these public declarations were not legally actionable. That they were not the equivalent of advertising or of any particular guarantee, just one man’s constitutionally protected speech.

    I might offer, as a counter example, the fact that apparently, the feds are vigorously investigating Tesla for fraud – seemingly based on a single ill-advised Tweet from Elon Musk.

    • J Mann says:

      Securities fraud is a special case – the argument is that by making a statement of fact that he knew to be false, Musk was trying to shift his stock price to punish short sellers.

      If the media websites are part of publicly traded companies, and if the statements are both false and material enough to shift the stock price, then maybe.

      • Matt M says:

        I must suggest that everything any CEO does is (or at least should be) done with the intention of raising their company’s stock price (which is, practically speaking, how you “punish short sellers”)

        Let’s just say that I could sufficiently prove the following points:

        1. Twitter disproportionately censors conservative speech
        2. Jack Dorsey has publicly claimed Twitter does not censor conservative speech
        3. Jack Dorsey has access to internal statistics, reports, policies, etc. that would indicate #1 is true
        4. An admission that Twitter disproportionately censors conservative speech would affect its stock price in a meaningful way

        Would allegations of fraud be appropriate?

        • albatross11 says:

          Matt M:

          It seems like that standard would allow the government to punish almost any speech made by the CEO of a publicly traded company. If the CEO of Smith and Wesson gives a speech about how gun control wouldn’t stop the surge of murders in Chicago, but has internal access to statistics about gun violence and sales that could arguably lead him to conclude that it would, then can the SEC prosecute him, given that he was trying to raise the stock price of his company with his falsehoods?

          This is a terrible way for things to work out, as well as a pretty clear abuse of SEC rules to suppress speech. But it seems like it follows the same reasoning you’re using w.r.t. the CEO of Twitter.

          • Matt M says:

            How do you compare this to, say, the CEO of Volkswagen being punished for lying about emissions?

            He was held responsible for his company lying about the nature of its product.

          • AG says:

            The CEO of Volkswagon was lying directly about the technical specs of the product VW sells, and violating regulations unrelated to securities fraud.

        • JPNunez says:

          This is ridiculous. Conservatives ain’t more censored on twitter. If anything, Alex Jones being personally unbanned from Twitter by Jack himself, and only being actually given a kick out of twitter once Jones stupidly started yelling against Jack publicly which caused Jack to stop supporting Jones, proves that Jack has been personally gaming the system for the side of conservatism.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Jack probably doesn’t want the censorship to be carried out as zealously as those beneath him; if he censors too heavily it will damage the amount of traffic that occurs on his website.

            However, the decision to elevate or punish people on twitter based on behavior outside of twitter is something that should within his control.

            Also, a good example of twitter’s general Bias can be found in how they handled “Bluecheck Watch”/”Verified Hate” — which essentially did little more than archive examples of verified twitter users [sometimes called blue check marks] making abusive [sometimes, exterminationist] statements about non-protected classes. Both accounts got taken down by twitter.

        • arlie says:

          From my cynical POV, CEOs routinely lie, both personally and via agents, such as advertisements, labels, etc.

          The goal is generally to increase profits and/or increase the stock price, though sometimes quite indirectly.

          And none of it constitutes actionable fraud, for reasons I’ve never quite understood.

          I suspect they have to do with Business replacing God in the American pantheon 🙁

        • Well... says:

          Realistically, how do you imagine #1 could be proven? Even if one had access to the data, one would first need to find definitions of conservative and non-conservative speech that all observers can agree on, and which can be applied to all tweets. Am I wrong?

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. It would be quite difficult to do objectively and scientifically.

            That said, it’s not at all hard to find a very moderate Prager U video that has been restricted and demonetized by Youtube, and compare it to a far more extreme left-leaning political video.

          • Well... says:

            IANAJ, but if you were going to say this was a case of false advertising, I’d think you would need some objective criteria to say the two videos are equally extreme, and that the left/right paradigm is a valid construct underlying the comparison, since the far-left video probably never comes out and says “we are far-left”. (I can’t remember whether Prager uses a label for his political views. It’s been a few years since I listened to talk radio.)

            Meanwhile I would think Youtube will come back and list a bunch of reasons why the Prager U video broke certain rules, and maybe even why the extreme left-leaning video didn’t.

          • Matt M says:

            Meanwhile I would think Youtube will come back and list a bunch of reasons why the Prager U video broke certain rules

            Which would be a victory in and of itself, given that currently they notably don’t do this.

            They just tell you that you’re in violation of the rules. If you’re lucky they say which rule you violate, but they don’t really explain how. “These 5 of your videos have been de-monetized because they are in violation of our offensive content policy” contains virtually no actionable information at all.

            Getting them to specifically quantify what they count as “offensive” and why would be quite revealing, I think.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, if you want to make a legal challenge against the big internet players for censorship, I think you’re going to need to either do something involving antitrust/concentration of market power or “common carrier” status (if I understand correctly, when I’m just carrying other peoples’ messages, I’m way less likely to be liable for what they say than when I’m exerting editorial control).

        Personally, I don’t see any way to challenge Twitter for banning Alex Jones that doesn’t trample all over the first amendment. The government requiring someone to give me a platform seems almost as much a violation of free speech as forbidding them from giving me a platform.

        And I also have big qualms about the idea that when like half a dozen big companies get together, they can effectively kill a media outlet/operation that was spreading ideas they disliked. Alex Jones probably wasn’t adding much to the world with his widespread visibility and access, but I don’t trust those (or any) half a dozen big companies to decide what I’m allowed to read/watch/hear. And it’s very easy to see how a small number of companies could be pressured by the US (or Chinese) government to suppress some information sources. You can see some of that in what happened with Wikileaks several years ago. I don’t have a great solution for this, though.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m not interested in punishing them for not giving Alex Jones a platform.

          I’m interested in punishing them for lying about the nature of their product offering (specifically, that they promise to give anyone a platform, but actually exclude conservatives – this could be remedied by simply requiring them to be open and transparent about their censorship policies)

          • James C says:

            Most of these companies don’t have censorship policies, they have bans against rude or offensive behavior. That’s why they’re quite arbitrary and opinion based as to who gets the boot.

          • albatross11 says:

            Right, the tricky bit is that what seems like it’s unacceptably rude or offensive depends a lot on your starting beliefs and assumptions. Where do you put the Damore memo or _The Bell Curve_? Is that unacceptably offensive or a reasonable (if maybe uncommon) expression of views? That’s something that gets different answers from different people!

          • Matt M says:

            A lot of informal experimentation has proven, to my satisfaction, that it’s remarkably easy to transform a “reported but found to be non-violating” tweet into a violating one by simply changing the race/gender/sexuality mentioned.

            I’d be quite interested in hearing Twitter defend, in a court of law, why “kill all men” isn’t hate speech, but “kill all women” is.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            The usual defense is that such a statement against men cannot be serious, since men are never specifically targeted.

            Interestingly, my newspaper recently had a story about femicide, which some feminists seem to push as a narrative, by greatly exaggerating the extent to which women are targeted for being women (and not counting anything as ‘menicide’).

          • Matt M says:

            I know what the “usual defense” is from the SJW crowd.

            I want to see a corporate executive in a suit argue that in front of Congress, in front of a judge, or in front of a skeptical (i.e. Fox News) journalist.

            There’s a reason that we have yet to hear that particular defense from Zuckerberg/Dorsey, and that all we’ve heard instead is “No, there is no bias, we promise.”

        • arlie says:

          There’s a pretty clear solution, actually – communicate via sites whose policies you like. If no such sites exist, create them.

          That’s a straight up libertarian answer, and in the case of conservative opinions, it actually works, as evidenced by the creation of talk radio shoes, Fox news, etc. – even a conservative wikipedia analogue, IIRC. The people involved aren’t financially incapable of managing it, and suppliers are willing to sell to them.

          Now it’s likely that some conservative opinions are so dreadful that even normal conservative outlets won’t host them, and some of their proponents are probably too marginal to manage to create their own outlets. (Even paper newletters may be beyond their level of organization.) They may also have massive difficulties with advertising-based funding, if opinions expressed are repugnant enough to draw boycotts. At worst, the opinions are lawsuit bait, or even tend to draw criminal charges.

          That’s a separate problem, and not one many people care to solve. Libel is actionable. Discussion that appears to plan criminal activity is actionable. etc. etc. If that’s what you want to do, withoput consequences, then I can’t say I care. Also, of course, this problem applies to those sufficiently offensive to most other people regardless of their relationship to the left/right political divide. (Of course it’s predictable that those moderately conservative will tend to have higher tolerance for extreme conservatve opions than those moderately left wing, and vice versa. Still not a problem.)

          The problem of concentration of power is real though. As long as the average person prefers the big players, there will be a small number of big players, and if you pwn them, you pwn most of the population. I can’t fix that, short of changing human nature. (Anti-trust type actions might help, in principle. In reality, not so much.) Meanwhile I personally have a small ISP, and use a small social networking site which, AFAIK, doesn’t attempt to predict what I’ll want to read – it just does what I tell it to do. Eventually those options will disappear – the ISP is already having difficulties with its suppliers. Maybe something new will then appear that serves a similar function, but on the other hand, maybe I’ll be SOL – no choices that don’t have an AI deciding what to show me based on maximizing the supplier’s ad revenue and/or promoting whaetver owners, managers, and governments want people to believe.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s not a solution to fraud, at all, actually.

            Why should social media platforms be allowed to false advertise? Why should their executives be allowed to testify in front of Congress saying “There is no bias,” if there is, in fact, bias?

            Look, I’m a huge libertarian. If these sites came out and said “Yes, we discriminate against conservative opinions. If you don’t like it, tough shit. This is our platform and we can have whatever rules we want. Deplorables are encouraged to go elsewhere,” then I’d shut up about this. But even libertarian ethical systems do not countenance fraud.

          • arlie says:

            @Matt I don’t think Twitter’s behaviour is significantly more fraudulent than many other corporate behaviours that are routinely accepted. Misleading advertising and labelling are effectively standard practice. And if I were going to attack that, I’d probably start with labelling and advertising of foods and health products.

          • Matt M says:

            Foods and health products aren’t labeled?

            I’m eating a protein bar as I type this and the entire back half of the bar packaging is filled with “nutritional information” in a very small font. Seems labeled to me.

            And if it turned out something they claimed on the label was wrong, they’d be in trouble for it, and none of the right-thinking progressives would be denouncing this as an untenable assault on free speech.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t know the rules in the US, but in Europe, specific health claims on food labels are not allowed unless there is scientific evidence for them. However, of course there are a large number of subjective claims that can be freely made.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      How do you define discrimination?

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t – but I’m sure the feds have a way. I’ve heard this “disparate impact” thing is pretty popular…

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          If you don’t wish to define what discrimination is, why are you talking about discrimination against conservatives? What is it that you mean when you say that?

          • Matt M says:

            That political statements by conservatives are more likely to be deleted than political statements by liberals.

            That conservative individuals are more likely to be suspended/banned than liberal ones.

            Etc.

            The way it stands today, these companies have policies that read as political neutral, but are enforced in such a way as to disproportionately impact conservatives. They say they ban “hate speech” – but only against protected minority groups, not against whites. They say they ban “the promotion of violence” which justifies deleting videos about gun sales and maintenance, but not antifa recruitment stuff.

            Etc.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Discrimination has a casual social definition [“A discriminating customer”, “Indescriminate”] and then a quasi-legal definition that exists because certain variations of the social definition are outlawed. [others not so much]

            A similar distinction might be drawn between someone saying that the sharing of certain kinds of data without commentary is hate speech, versus having a set of emotional and incendiary statements described as ‘hateful’

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “That political statements by conservatives are more likely to be deleted than political statements by liberals.”

            Okay — but again you can’t use conditional expectations, for usual reasons. In particular, you have to argue that conservative political statements are more likely to be censored than liberal political statements, _ceteris paribus_.

            And vigorously asserting or repeatedly memeing that “the ceteris is paribus” is not very convincing.

            A recent example of this is reddit banning a bunch of subreddit used by Trump supporters that were basically used to coordinate harassment attacks, doxxing, etc. The reaction from the Trump-supporter reddit was to say that reddit is being selective, and left wing subreddits are guilty of similarly sketchy things. But that’s a lie, basically.

          • Matt M says:

            But that’s a lie, basically.

            Maybe. But in this case it’s not.

            It’s trivially easy to find people calling for violence against white men on Twitter (and going unpunished). Most of them are blue-checkmark journalists.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            The example I gave is reddit banning right-wing subreddits coordinating harassment, doxxing, etc.

            Anyways, the larger point is, let’s be clear that what we are complaining about actually makes sense.

            And to be clear, my point about complaints about “the gender pay gap” and friends is exactly the same.

            The other suggestion I have is: say _in advance_ what your hypothesis about unfair conservative censoring is, and we can look for evidence together.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Matt M:

            It’s trivially easy to find people calling for violence against white men on Twitter (and going unpunished). Most of them are blue-checkmark journalists.

            To be clear – are you actually claiming that blue-checkmark journalists (~0.01% of Twitter accounts) are responsible for a majority of this bad behavior? Or would you like to rephrase this claim?

          • Matt M says:

            They are responsible for a majority of such bad behavior that I see, although that’s certainly because their bad behavior gets signal-boosted such that I will see it, while random nobodies shout into the wind and go ignored.

          • Dan L says:

            Sounds like a pretty typical filter bubble then. You should definitely be accounting for the fact that your impression of media behavior is being skewed by ~four orders of magnitude.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      It might be a violation of implied warranty of merchantability, though I’m not a lawyer. I.e. if said company’s self-image contradicts the spirit of its policies.

      • Lambert says:

        You’re not buying twitter. There’s no mutual consideration (quid pro quo), so I’m pretty sure that kind of legal protection does not apply.

        • Matt M says:

          You’re not buying twitter.

          Shareholders are.

          That’s what Musk is being investigated for – misleading shareholders. Nobody is alleging he harmed owners of Tesla vehicles in any way.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      A lot of these fraud statutes allow for a private right of action so there’s nothing stopping you from testing your legal theory. Although I think the deck is kind of stacked against you.

      Here is Zuckerberg’s (apparent) statement:

      I want to share some thoughts on the discussion about Trending Topics.

      Facebook stands for giving everyone a voice. We believe the world is better when people from different backgrounds and with different ideas all have the power to share their thoughts and experiences.

      That’s what makes social media unique. We are one global community where anyone can share anything — from a loving photo of a mother and her baby to intellectual analysis of political events.

      To serve our diverse community, we are committed to building a platform for all ideas. Trending Topics is designed to surface the most newsworthy and popular conversations on Facebook. We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives.

      This week, there was a report suggesting that Facebook contractors working on Trending Topics suppressed stories with conservative viewpoints. We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product.

      We have found no evidence that this report is true. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it.

      In the coming weeks, I’ll also be inviting leading conservatives and people from across the political spectrum to talk with me about this and share their points of view. I want to have a direct conversation about what Facebook stands for and how we can be sure our platform stays as open as possible.

      The reason I care so much about this is that it gets to the core of everything Facebook is and everything I want it to be. Every tool we build is designed to give more people a voice and bring our global community together. For as long as I’m leading this company this will always be our mission

      Note that he doesn’t actually deny that Facebook censors conservative views. I would guess that this statement was carefully drafted and vetted by lawyers.

    • Matt M says:

      Not really social media, but a similar scenario.

      Let’s say that the ideas proposed in this article actually did happen. And that there was no transparency. Google continued to claim that its search results were the unbiased result of popularity via linkbacks (or whatever their current methodology is, I’m not really sure). But actually, behind the scenes, this methodology was intentionally distorted for partisan political purposes.

      Does this rise to fraud? Why or why not?

      • engleberg says:

        The law allows for salesman’s puffery because the law has a minimal chance of proving mens rea in the mind of a salesman and de minimus non cura lex. But if you have proof of intentional dishonesty, an overt act, and a pile of dollars worth a lawyer’s fee, you have a case.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Also because a lot of puffery consists of claims that should be obvious to a reasonable person are not intended to be taken literally: even the proverbial moron in a hurry of trademark law fame should understand that a certain brand of gasoline doesn’t actually put a tiger in your tank, and that a certain energy drink won’t actually cause you to sprout wings and fly.

          • Matt M says:

            So what?

            Your position is that an average person should understand that when a company says “We do not engage in political bias” that what they really mean is “We don’t have policies directing political bias but our policies on other things will be carried out in such a way as to favor some political groups over others?”

          • Eric Rall says:

            Your position is that an average person should understand that when a company says “We do not engage in political bias” that what they really mean is “We don’t have policies directing political bias but our policies on other things will be carried out in such a way as to favor some political groups over others?”

            My position is nothing of the sort. I was scanning new commands and replied to engleberg’s comment out-of-context. I agree that the “clearly not to be taken literally” aspect of puffery is irrelevant to what you were talking about.

    • rlms says:

      I believe Musk is being investigated under SEC Rule 10b-5, which is not applicable here unless you invested in Facebook or wherever on the basis of Zuck or whoever’s statements, and those statements (and/or the discovery of the falsehood) caused changes in share price and thereby economic loss on your part. AFAIK none of those conditions are met. But, even if they were I don’t think you would have a strong case; I don’t think it’s reasonable to read public statements about censorship policy as contradicting terms and conditions that say your use of a service can be terminated arbitrarily.

  5. fion says:

    I have a question about probability, specifically in estimating the probability of very unlikely events. The recent book review got me thinking about this, and linked to this post, which I found interesting but didn’t answer all my questions.

    Learning about rationality has taught me to beware of saying things like “one in a billion”. Scott’s example in the linked post is that somebody says there’s a one in a billion chance an incumbent will lose an election. We rightly ridicule whoever came up with that because there can be no way they’ve got that much confidence in a model.

    But, also as explained in the post, we also mustn’t go too far the other way. A lottery of a billion people has a one in a billion chance of any one person winning. The person who buys a ticket in that lottery and says “I’m 99.9999999% sure I won’t win” is not at all overconfident.

    Scott says in the linked post that it’s all about your prior. Your prior on an incumbent winning an election is something like 50%; your prior in Bob winning the lottery is 1/10^9, and it’s reasonably clear in these examples, but I don’t know how, in general, you know what your prior should be. What about a big asteroid hitting the Earth? I’ve heard that’s on the order of one in a million each year. Does that mean I’m 99.9999% sure that an asteroid won’t hit this year? Do I have 99.9999% confidence that the factoid I heard came from actual experts originally? Do I have 99.9999% confidence that the experts didn’t drop a minus sign from their calculations? Do I have 99.9999% confidence that the scientific establishment isn’t being masterminded by the illuminati to lie to us? (The tempting answer is that your prior on this is “one divided by however long it’s been since the last asteroid.” But how confident am I in the time since the last asteroid hit?)

    I think reading about rationality for a few years has made me underconfident. Or at least, it’s made me overly-wary of saying “I’m certain about this” or even “I’m certain to one part in a million about this”. I’ve seen how easily I and others can be wrong about stuff like that, but I know there are some cases (like lotteries) where I really should be “one in a million” certain. How do you know which cases are which? (And do you trust your ability to judge which cases are which? Do you have 99.9999% confidence in that ability?)

    • fion says:

      Also, here are some small-probability questions. I’ll be interested to know what you think, and how much your answers vary.

      Suppose I am to race Yohan Blake in a 100m sprint tomorrow. What is the chance I’ll win? (I suppose you’ll need to factor in the possibility that I am Usain Bolt…? I’m not, but how much do you trust me?)

      What is the chance that Barack Obama will be on the ISS at any point in the next year?

      How likely is it that large aliens will climb out of the Pacific Ocean and start terrorising coastal cities in the next week? How about the next 10 weeks? Is it 10 times as large? How many weeks do I need to make it before your answer is “50%”?

      Based on the data available when the discovery of the Higgs boson was announced, how likely is it that the particle was just random noise rather than a genuine discovery? (I’ll give you a clue, it was a “five sigma” discovery, which corresponds to slightly less than one in a million. Is that your answer or do you factor in the chance that they made a mistake in their stats?)

      I mean, in a sense this is silly, because the answer to all of these is “negligible”, but it still bothers me that I don’t really have an intuition for very improbable events.

      • johan_larson says:

        I think the most honest answer for some of these is simply that we don’t have enough information to estimate the probability. We have never had aliens climb out of the Pacific and start terrorizing people, so we can’t build a direct model. And we haven’t experienced any similar events, so we can’t build an extrapolative model either. The honest answer to the question of what the probability of this event occurring is, “Probably low, since we’ve never seen it happen within the span of several hundred years for which we have good records. But we can’t be more specific. It could be one in a million, or maybe one in a billion; we just don’t know.”

        • fion says:

          But probabilities are about lack of information. How can we not have enough information to estimate a probability?

          When you say “could be one in a million, or maybe one in a billion,” my brain converts that to “about one in two million”.

          It’s like, say my friend has taken dozens of packs of cards and mixed them up. Perhaps he’s shuffled them, perhaps he’s deliberately taken out all the aces, I don’t know. I don’t watch. He then takes 52 cards from his big pile (again, could be random; could be chosen) and asks me what’s the probability of a randomly chosen one being the ace of spades. I feel like your logic says I should say “Well it could be zero (because there might be zero ace of spadeses in there) or it could be one (because the entire deck might be made up of ace of spadeses); we just don’t know.” Meanwhile, I’d say “one in fifty-two”. If we were betting men, I think I’d make more money here than you.

          • brmic says:

            For one, saying 0 or 1 are possible values does not mean someone wouldn’t pick 1/52, these are just statements about the range.
            And, as above and below, this is a scenario where outside factors can easily end up dominant. In this case whether ‘your friend’ preparing the cards knows about the rules. If he does, he’s likely to try to set it up so you can’t lose, which in this case means removing all aces of spades (because he’s not sure he has 52 of them) akin to the problem of meeting in New York, without time and place being specified.

          • fion says:

            @brmic

            saying 0 or 1 are possible values does not mean someone wouldn’t pick 1/52, these are just statements about the range.

            Indeed. And as such, they are less helpful, and will lead to less winning than “1/52”.

            this is a scenario where outside factors can easily end up dominant

            That’s beside the point. The point I was arguing was that “I don’t know what the probability is” doesn’t stop you from saying “the probability I assign to it is X”. You should always be able to quantify your uncertainty. If you can’t, you quantify your uncertainty in your uncertainty and in doing so you’ve quantified your uncertainty.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Say you have two boxers about to fight, who have never fought before. The gambling community is split on who is the better fighter, so the odds are presented as 50/50. Once the fight happens and boxer A wins, we now know that the odds were more like 90/10 in favor of boxer A. Boxing is just that type of sport.

            If you have a fair coin and you know the odds are 50/50. Flipping the coin once does not change the odds of the coin like it does in the boxing match.

            In rough bayesian terms this means that the prior probabilities in the first example for boxer A winning would be 50% .90, 50% .10. For the coin flip, the prior probabilities of a heads are 99.8% .50, .1% .90, .1% .10, indicating that there’s a .2% chance of it not being a fair coin.

            So even though in both cases the chance of boxer A winning or flipping a heads was 50% before the event, after the event the probability can update differently depending on how you set up the distribution of prior probability. This is sort of tangential to what you’re asking about but I hope it helps.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        On the question of a race, sprinting is fairly low variance, there’s not a lot of room for a runner to “get lucky” and outperform someone significantly better (and I know you’re not a medal-winning sprinter because you admitted this a small-probability question). So the odds that you’ll win are approximately the odds that Blake becomes seriously ill or otherwise incapacitated. I’m too lazy to research that but I’m sure we could learn by talking to the right insurance company.

        • fion says:

          Ok, you’re right that illness or injury on Blake’s part dominates the chances of me winning. But imagine neglecting that probability. Imagine you’re just considering the chances of me (a fit and healthy non-sprinter with a PB of 12.5 seconds) beating Blake (a fit and healthy sprinter with a PB of 9.69 seconds). You say it’s low variance, and I agree; that’s exactly why I picked this example. The probability is tiny. But is it one in a million? One in a billion? How good would the odds need to be before a rational person should bet on me?

          • brmic says:

            The point is precisely that ‘neglecting that probability’ is wrong. It is dominated by the chance of your illness or injury, then by extraneous factors like Blake’s sponsors intervening, the race becoming impossible because someone got wind of it and put it on social media and now there’s thousands of spectators and no one to hold them back, sudden hailstorms tomorrow, an injury or equipment malfunction mid-race.
            If the platonic ideal of that race were to be repeated billions of times (yeah, I’m a frequentist) we might get a handle on the probability of that platonic race, but crucially, it doesn’t have much bearing on the real world. Because in the real world it’s totally dominated by extraneous factors. Which in turn means, we can’t form good intuitions based on real world observations because there is way too many cases where due to extraneous factors we don’t get to see the event/it’s outcome play out.

          • fion says:

            @brmic

            The point is precisely that ‘neglecting that probability’ is wrong.

            Well, of course it’s wrong if you want to estimate the true probability of the event, but if P_total = P_small + P_large, it’s still a question that makes sense to say “what’s our best estimate of P_small?”. Sure, P_small << P_large and P_total ~ P_large, but we can still try to estimate P_small. All I'm asking is: what is "P_small?".

            You can add in all the P_medium's you like to try to avoid the question, and these will still dominate over P_small, but I can keep coming back saying, for example:

            "What is the probability that I beat Yohan Blake tomorrow given that:
            -Blake is judged fit and well by two doctors both a day before and ten minutes before the event
            -Blake's sponsors don't find out
            -nobody else finds out (Blake, me, the two doctors and however many independent timers/videoers are necessary all manage to keep it secret from everybody else)
            -The weather forecast both a day before and ten minutes before the event shows no sign of precipitation or wind
            ?"

            Sure, let's include the probability of an injury of equipment malfunction mid-race, as long as there was no sign of it beforehand.

            If the platonic ideal of that race were to be repeated billions of times

            Even if you’re a frequentist, you can estimate the probability of an event without repeating it many times. Your brain does this anyway whether you like it or not. There is a wager that could be made that would result in the rationalist sitting on top of a mountain of utility and everybody else going “but how did you get there? We don’t know the probability?”

          • Tarpitz says:

            Then it’s dominated by the probability of a mid-race injury, or Blake letting you win. The probability of you “actually” beating Blake in a fair race in which he tries to win and doesn’t suffer some freakish mishap isn’t low: it’s zero. Or rather, it allows for only existential, philosophical kinds of doubt.

      • Andy Bethune says:

        Odds that Blake false-starts and is thus disqualified are calculable I suppose. But as to the general chance of you winning the race… your point still stands.

    • Brad says:

      Unless there’s a relatively straightforward mathematically procedure to calculate the odds — as in the lottery, highly unlikely is about as good as you are going to be able to do. Saying something like one in a billion is generally an example of false precision.

      • fion says:

        I don’t think I agree that saying “one in a billion” is generally an example of false precision. What if you say “one in a billion plus or minus an order of magnitude“? That’s certainly not precise!

        • Matt M says:

          It might still be falsely more precise than you have any particular reason to be.

          In the case of alien invasion, it would seem that we honestly don’t know. It could be one in 10^6 or one in 10^18. We have no particular reason to believe we can even get within an order of magnitude.

  6. 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.

      • b_jonas says:

        That would be confusing though. It is common practice that a young couple can marry before they have a significant income, and their older family members pay for most of their wedding.

    • theredsheep says:

      Both my wife and myself are very practical people who didn’t bother with lots of decoration. The Orthodox Christian ceremony has no role for bridesmaids, though my brother stood by as best man in spite of also having no official role either. We had a few flowers here and there, all provided for free by my father who grows orchids as a hobby. So $0. Not a representative sample, obviously.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Skipped flowers at our 2009 wedding, table centerpieces were potted plants (herbs) in decorative pots. Total cost around $100 + several hours labor.

    • dick says:

      Less than $100, maybe $0, I think we just picked them from the yard. But we did a pretty good job of eschewing conventions and just throwing the sort of party we like, and our values include thrift and DIY, so the whole affair was pretty inexpensive. It’s very liberating to remember that it’s your wedding and you can break whatever rules you like!

    • beleester says:

      Got married this year. According to our budget spreadsheet, our total cost for flowers and decorations (including various non-florist decorations like fairy lights, fabric flowers, etc) was $365, for a wedding with about 100 people.

      We didn’t have a bride’s bouquet, we found a Jewish tradition about the bride carrying a prayer book and decided we liked that. I think the quoted price for a bridal bouquet was $40-60?
      Wrist corsages for the bride, bridesmaids, and mothers : 7 at $15.95 each
      Boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, and fathers: 7 at $5.95 each
      Decorations for the bimah (if you’re not Jewish, the equivalent would be altar decorations): $175 total.

      Our florist quoted us a range of prices, we went with the low end on most things (my wife isn’t really into flowers), except for the bimah decorations where I convinced her to splash out a little.

      For the table centerpieces, we went with fabric flowers from Michael’s, on sale, and borrowed the vases from a friend who recently had an event.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Got married five years ago with a pretty standard, relatively expensive wedding. Flowers were a few hundred dollars.

  7. 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.)

  8. 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.”

    • 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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,