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Open Thread 112.25

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

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1,014 Responses to Open Thread 112.25

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/10/how-berea-college-makes-tuition-free-with-its-endowment/572644/

    A university which hasn’t charged tuition since 1892. The article makes a big deal of the system being fragile because it’s dependent on an endowment and a long recession could force the university to charge tuition or go under, but it still seems like they’ve been doing quite a good job of fighting cost disease.

    • Brad says:

      Are you familiar with what happened at Cooper Union?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooper_Union#Financial_support

        I didn’t, but it’s more dependent on specific pieces of real estate, which might make it more fragile than Berea.

        • Brad says:

          It wasn’t the vagaries of the real estate market that brought down Cooper Union, it was misfeasance (if not mal-) by the President and Board.

          The most difficult problem for any long lived organization is finding competent and aligned leadership decade after decade.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Don’t you get the same problem whether you charge tuition or not?

          • Brad says:

            I suppose that’s true. But I think a tuition free school is more fragile than one that charges tuition. It would take a greater degree of mismanagement to destroy the latter than the former.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            That seems reasonable, but I think tuition doesn’t cover a large part of most universities’ budgets.

          • cassander says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Depends what you mean by large. At my alma mater, which was not as well endowed as its peer institutions but well endowed in an absolute sense, financial planning was done on the basis of tuition covering faculty salaries, and nothing else. That was probably the largest single expense line, but it probably wasn’t a majority of expenditure.

          • Brad says:

            Berea College is ranked #61 on USN&WR’s national liberal arts college list and has around 1670 students. Bard College is the next rank, tied with a bunch of others, and has around 1930 students. They have a sticker price of $54,680 to Berea’s $0 and an endowment of $150 million to Berea’s $1.2 billion.

            Here’s Bard College’s 2013 990: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/141/141713034/141713034_201406_990.pdf

            It shows total expenses of $244 million (102 million of which was employee comp). It had “program service revenue” at $147 million, of which $121 million was tuition and fees (most of the rest was room and board); investment income at $14 million; contributions and grants at $61 million ($5 million of which was federal grants); other revenue at $4 million; and a shortfall of $18 million.

            So tuition and fees was about half.

  2. I have a question about current events.

    It looks as though the Saudis murdered a Saudi journalist critical of the regime inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. I can understand that a government might want to kill a critic. But why do it in a way that makes their guilt effectively undeniable? Wouldn’t it be simpler to assassinate him in a way that would be correctly interpreted by other critics as a threat but where their responsibility could be more or less plausibly denied?

    The same puzzle applies to the failed assassination in England. There are lots of ways to kill someone. Why use a nerve agent that hardly anyone but the Russians had access to, thus making it pretty obvious who was responsible?

    There must be some explanation of this behavior, but I can’t think of any.

    • Erusian says:

      Those are two different cases. For Saudi Arabia: You need to have the proper military-intelligence assets to assassinate someone. Saudi Arabia does not. The Saudi military is not especially good. It mostly survives on expensive toys, geographic barriers, powerful allies, and weight of numbers. Despite US support, Yemen being right on its doorstep, and a blockade that has limited Iranian support to what can be flown in by plane, the Saudis have not even managed to push the Yemeni Revolutionaries back from their common border. Indeed, they still conduct military operations into local Saudi Territory.

      Russia does have those assets. And Russia kept plausible deniability. While it was found that they probably killed him, they could not fully prove it or bring actual judicial charges. It’s certainly the theory that makes the most sense but they have no smoking gun. Russia can argue someone else got their hands on it, they were framed… This is actually part of the point. You want to be as brazen as you can get away with because that sends the message that countermeasures don’t work. They can kill you even if you do basically everything to protect yourself and make sure the finger will point at them. And they will get away with it.

      Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, apparently was careless enough the Turks have tapes that prove they definitely did it. It’s important to note that they needed to lure him to an embassy, a place they know they have control of. I’m guessing that they didn’t have the assets to operate in Ankara.

      • They lured him to a consulate, as I understand it, not an Embassy. That may matter. I’m not sure whether the Embassy, both Embassy and Consulate, or neither, has extraterritorial status. If it does, and if I correctly understand the status, Turkish law would not apply to a a crime committed inside it.

        Of course, Turkey could still take the position that if the Saudis are going to kill people in their extraterritorial bit of Istanbul they are not welcome to remain there.

        • Erusian says:

          You’re right. It was in Istanbul, not Ankara. But neither consulates nor embassies have extraterritoriality exactly. Instead, they’re protected by international treaty which prevents search of premises, arrest, etc.

          At any rate, consuls have lower status than diplomats. They cannot be compelled to testify but they can be arrested and charged with felony crimes. Their only immunity is if the felony was committed in the course of their duties or official acts. If the Turks can prove that the Saudi consular officers killed him, then Saudi Arabia’s only recourse would be to argue that the killing was part of the consular duties (‘official acts’) and so immune. Otherwise, they could be sentenced. Of course, practically that would be playing very hardball.

          • Of course, practically that would be playing very hardball.

            My casual impression is that Turks tend to play hardball.

          • Erusian says:

            Yeah. Turkey’s trying to gain influence in the Middle East. They have been rather aggressive in that. Wouldn’t surprise me if smacking Saudi Arabia falls into that program.

          • Erusian says:

            To expand a little, Turkey’s in a somewhat awkward position because of its history. The Turks are… well, Turks. As in, the same people that live in Central Asia, Northern Iran, Southern Russia, etc. The Turkish myth is still believe their race arose on the banks of a river in Turkmenistan.

            Nobody else around them is or has a similar background. It’s on the western extreme of that culture group. And while there is a contiguous region, Russian and Iran control parts of it that effectively cut Turkey off. This is a very precarious position. The Uighurs are the people on the eastern extreme. And that’s after the Chinese enacted a virtual genocide on their relatives living further east. The people on the southern extreme were persecuted by the Taliban et al. The people on the northern extreme were mistreated by the Russians. Tribal nomads have a long history of being mistreated and by striking so far west the Turks isolated themselves from many of their natural allies.

            How do you deal with the fact everyone around you has a different culture, way of life, and ideas about religion? (As they still do.)

            Their original solution to this was militarism and imperialism. I’m not saying the Turks were unwillingly forced into empire by any means. Like all conquerors, they desired the wealth and privileges of conquest. But it did effectively solve their problem. There were basically no Arab states that were a serious threat. The Europeans were all the way behind the Balkans. The Russians were on the other side of a difficult mountain range. The Persians were also behind some natural barriers and the Ottomans could call on their cousins if they needed to.

            This worked pretty well until 1919. And even then, military action kept the Turks from losing their state entirely. But they were now surrounded by hostile states and cultures again. Fortunately those powers kept tearing themselves apart, first in World War 2 and then the Cold War, which gave Turkey room to maneuver. But after the end of the Cold War, they’ve been in a unipolar world. So will the US really back them because they’re still a decent counterweight to Russia? Maybe. Will Russia embrace them? Maybe, but being in thrall to an expansionist state with a common border is… unwise. Will China back them because they’re needed to keep their pan-Asian trade open? Maybe, but the Turks are… not happy about the treatment of the Uighurs and suspicious of the reasons behind Belt and Road. Will the EU embrace them? No, even before their political issues and fall away from the democracy the EU didn’t want to bring Turkey in. Will the Arabs let them in? No. They have some support from their coethnics in the Caucus’s and on the other side of Caspian Sea. But they’re too weak or distant to matter. And imperialism is frowned on these days.

            So what do they do? They try and play regional power politics mixed with western style foreign investment and sphere of influence interventionism.

            They’re trying to cast fact the Turks are so different as an advantage. The Turks have no interest in inter-arab ethnic tension. They have no interest in religious disputes. They have little interest in government types. And they’re willing to use their military, one of the best in the region. They’re also willing to help with trade and technical assistance. Turkey is actually the wealthiest country in the Middle East in absolute terms, and their economy is relatively diverse and advanced. It’s also fairly well integrated with western markets. Turkey wants to prove to the Arab states and Balkans that they are a better, more loyal, more effective, and less demanding partner than any other power. That will in turn help them expand that influence and hopefully form a coalition behind them as a regional power.

            Foreign internvention and norms enforcement, especially against other regional powers, is a very effective signal to anyone sitting on the fence. If Turkey can really punish Saudi Arabia for this (even if they require western help) then that sends a strong message: Partner with us. We don’t assassinate people on your soil and we can and will punish anyone who does. It also hurts one of their regional rivals. Likewise, taking a strong humanitarian position, they prove they are both capable and willing to use their muscle towards humanitarian ends.

            Or at least, that’s my impression.

    • Montfort says:

      I read somewhere that a western intelligence official (speaking off the record, of course) claimed the Saudi thing sounded like they meant to drug and kidnap him, and then overdosed him by accident. Not sure how much I believe that claim, and kidnapping him from the consulate is hardy all that much more deniable than killing him, anyway, unless you torture him into confessing he came along willingly or something.

      The Skripal deal, I imagine, is Russia not actually wanting it to be too secret. If the message you want to send is “Russia can and will retaliate if you betray us, even decades later”, you need a public attack that makes headlines, like, say, poisoning someone with an exotic radioactive isotope. Ideally one that succeeds and is maybe a little more mysterious than this one, but near-death via nerve agent is still pretty chilling if you’re considering turning double-agent for the UK.

      • Lambert says:

        Do we have proof he’s dead?
        Hiding a killing and hiding a kidnapping look pretty similar.
        And if they accidentally killed him in the course of an attempted abduction, why not stick to plan A and take the body wherever you were planning to take him alive?

        • Montfort says:

          On Saturday, the Turks claimed to have retrieved recordings from the victim’s apple watch (allegedly transferred to his phone that was with his fiancee outside). It’s not clear to me if that’s how apple watches work. (I hadn’t read that claim when I posted, though).

          Other than that, all we know is that his fiancee claims he never came out of the building and the Turks say they have video of all the exits and he never emerges.

          But if the saudis had “only” kidnapped him, I wonder if they might find it helpful to admit it and put some legalistic spin on it, if only to lessen the controversy currently going on.

          • The online discussion account I’ve read argues that the Apple watch story is pretty much impossible. The obvious guess is that the Turks had bugged the consulate and prefer not to admit it.

            But it’s also possible that they don’t have recordings of what happened, just the observation from outside, and are bluffing.

    • Plumber says:

      @DavidFriedman

      “…..There must be some explanation of this behavior, but I can’t think of any”

      I suspect you can’t think of any reason because you don’t have enough brutal tyrant inside you to think like them.

      They want to be feared.

      It’s not enough for dissidents to be exiled, they want potential “troublemakers” to learn what defiance will mean and to be fearful.

      • That I understand.

        But if a critic of the regime just happens to turn up dead on a street in Istanbul it will be pretty obvious to other critics who is responsible, while at the same time the Saudis don’t have to make embarrassing explanations to their Turkish hosts.

        • Plumber says:

          True, but “just happens to turn up dead” is less grisly than tortured and dismembered, I know which would make me more fearful!

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      This incident also rustled my spidey senses. Bear in mind, I have extremely low confidence in all my predictions here, but the “official story” so far is so insane I cannot believe it.

      Thus, I am starting off by giving 50% chance to “Other” as an explanation.

      1% Chance: Official Story. There were 15 paramilitary people that chopped up this guy in the Saudi Arabian building.
      14% Chance: Saudi Arabia killed this guy in a totally normal way. Like injecting him with a shit ton of phenobarbital and KNO3.
      35% Chance: Turkey is mad at SA and is using this guy (dead or alive) to run a disinformation campaign against SA.

    • Anatoly says:

      There are plausible explanations in both cases, I’m inclined to believe them though not strongly:

      1. SA wanted to kidnap the journalist and something went wrong. They have a history of this behavior.

      2. The Skripal attempted murders may have been botched in the sense that the GRU agents planned for Skripal and his daughter to die at home (they applied the agent to their doorknob when they were out). The victims came back home and immediately left to go to a restaurant (and apparently washed their hands at the restaurant which probably saved their lives). If they victims died at home it’s possible nobody would have realized nerve agents. The British intelligence knew to test for that particular nerve agent because the victims were discovered alive and in a condition that betrayed the kind of agent used.

      Another explanation says that the agents’ behavior, the botched disposal of the bottle that ended up killing someone else, all these hint at rampant incompetence on the part of this particular branch of Russian secret services. They probably used a sample of Novichok stored since Soviet times, nobody knew well how it works, they timed the attempt badly w.r.t. the daughter’s visit etc.

      • Aapje says:

        The recent spy attempt by GRU on the OPCW was amateur hour as well. The idiots kept a receipt from a GRU compound to the airfield, had passport numbers with one digit difference, had phones that were first turned on near the GRU compound, their laptop shows other ‘work’ locations like a visit to Lausanne at a moment where a WADA-official got hacked and a visit to Kuala Lumpur in a spot where many organizations are located that investigate MH17. They also got picked up from Schiphol by Russian embassy personnel, for extra lack of plausible deniability.

        PS. GRU got some hefty cut backs a few years back, which supposedly led to a lot of experts leaving. Furthermore, they may be stretched thin, with all the Russian crimes that need covering up. Of course, by doing it this badly, they create new things that need covering up.

        • Deiseach says:

          The idiots kept a receipt from a GRU compound to the airfield

          Well, how else are they going to prove it was a work-related trip when putting in their expenses claims? 🙂

    • dodrian says:

      Surely the assassination attempt in England was more about Putin sending the message that defectors of the regime will never be safe. Even though the whole world knows who did it, Russia is big enough (and nuclear enough) that it doesn’t face much in the way of retaliation.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      If the Saudi government did it, their best move is to find some patsies to blame it on ASAP. “Oh we caught Mohammed and his brother Mohammed who were employed at the consulate and they totally murdered this guy in violation of everything we believe and completely contrary to the orders and wishes of the government and the royal family and they’re going to be executed over this tomorrow so sorry everyone look away now.”

      What I am suspicious of is the calls from the media/Democrats to sanction or punish the Saudis in some way over this when nothing’s been proven yet. This looks like pretty naked partisanship trying to derail any relationship Trump might have with KSA and using this as an excuse. There’s already been an excellent excuse to do that: Yemen. The situation in Yemen is, IMO, the worst humanitarian situation in the world right now. I don’t know anywhere else children are literally starving to death because of the military actions of a foreign state. And we’re going to be selling them more weapons! But nobody talks about Yemen.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ve seen some Twitter commentary to the extent of “The Saudis have been despicably evil for decades and nobody cared, but now since they killed one journalist all of a sudden the media is interested in taking a second look at them,” and I find the whole idea rather convincing.

        Special pleading. I don’t care about this case at all. As you say, what’s going on in Yemen is orders of magnitude worse, and the late night talk show set hasn’t demanded Trump denounce them over that.

        • albatross11 says:

          The outrage-driven media culture in the US is really bad about getting the importance of the story right. It’s one of many reasons why that culture (and a lot of mainstream media right now) is probably making us dumber rather than smarter.

      • Your tactic is one option, but I see two problems with it. The first is that rulers want to appear powerful to their own people, and this looks a lot like backing down under foreign pressure. The second is that if the Turks want to pick a fight, they can argue first that the crime occurred on their territory so they are the ones who should try the case and impose punishment, and second that the patsies the Saudis offer are not consistent with the evidence the Turks have. I presume the fifteen man death squad at some point went through customs or something similar, or least moved through spaces with surveillance cameras.

  3. Basil Elton says:

    Okay, can anybody please explain me how to find a good primary care physician in the Bay Area, or for that matter in the US in general?

    I’m kind of new to both, and my insurance company’s site offers a gazillion of names and addresses scattered over the map. It was all fine for one-off issues like a glasses prescription, but my understanding is that normally people here have one doctor – or hospital? – who works with them, knows them, has their medical history etc. So now I’m trying to find one, and obviously it’s too serious a matter to pick a random/closest/the one I heard of. Google suggested medicare.gov with some rating and comparison system, but based on my experience with yelp I wouldn’t trust it much either. So any advice, explanations or links to guidelines would be greatly appreciated.

    • Brad says:

      First I narrowed it down to the most convenient locations then I picked the most recently graduated from medical school. I ended up with my second choice because my first wouldn’t give me an appointment for several weeks. I’d guess that it doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of outcomes. Mostly you want someone you’ll feel comfortable with.

      • Basil Elton says:

        So you’re saying you searched by a doctor? I thought it might make more sense to determine a good hospital first, and then find a physician within it. Idea being that hospital is sort of one-stop shop for primary care, specialized care, lab tests, and anything else you might need, and it’s much more convenient to have it all in the same place where your primary care physician is… am I missing something? I feel like I am because why there’d be so many individual practices otherwise…

        • Brad says:

          The only people I know in the US that have a “their hospital” are: 1) pregnant, in which case it refers to where they intend to give birth or 2) have some ongoing serious chronic illness (e.g. cancer).

          Further, while there’s been a lot of consolidation such that many physician practices were bought by nominally non-profit hospital groups, those affiliations are AFAICT mostly financial arrangements. The physicians aren’t generally located in or even necessarily especially near any of the hospitals in the group and you don’t need to be a patient of one of the affiliated doctors to use those hospitals.

          It sounds like you come from a country with a much better organized health care system. Here’s a giant, uncoordinated, free for all.

          • Basil Elton says:

            Huh, luckily I’m none of those. Thank you, that kind of clears it up.

            About better organized – not at all, just much more centralized. Which is often just a different flavor of chaos.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Health care practices are not centralized in hospitals like this. Well, they are: a lot of doctors do have offices in hospitals where they run their general practice. However, you can set-up shop practically anywhere.

          You can run a practice anywhere. Particularly common are medical office buildings or complexes where you can find a dentist, a fertility doctor, GPs, whatever. There are also separate medical supply shops. There is one in a strip mall next to the Pizza Hut I go to.

          Even within hospitals, doctors often work for themselves, not the hospital. And even if they “work” for the healthcare system, your insurance system will still search by individual doctor.

    • arlie says:

      I asked for referrals from other people with the same insurance (i.e. coworkers) and finally found one I really liked, after a series of doctors (simply picked from the inusrance provider’s list) that I didn’t much like.

  4. Mark V Anderson says:

    Interesting this news piece saying that the German party AfD wants students to spy out teachers expressing political views in the classroom, which they aren’t supposed to be doing. I find it interesting because of the parallels with my country, the US. In the US, school teachers are overwhelmingly on the left, and I think that they quite often push their own opinions on their students. OF course the teachers themselves consider themselves to be teaching common decency.

    So I can definitely understand the AfD here, assuming that German teachers are overwhelmingly against the AfD, which is likely. The news piece claims this spying is similar to when the Stasi or the Nazis had spies to ensure that teachers were following the government line. But in a way, this is the opposite, because the spies are ensuring that the teachers are NOT following the government line in schools, since the AfD is not the government (yet).

    • Argos says:

      In general, German teachers are allowed to express political opinions. They are however not allowed to advertise and promote their views, especially if other views are being excluded. I think the examples that the AfD cites are one teacher who did not mention the AfD when discussing all the other major parties, and one teacher encouraging the students to take part in an anti AfD protest. The AfD is probably right in that that happens often and that the “proper” channels, i.e complaining to the ministry of education, would not change anything.

      However, the analogy to the Nazi/Stasi regimes is still somewhat accurate, because one such site in Hamburg (eac site is only for one German state) would have allowed the names of the accused teachers to be posted publically but that I think was scraped after some considerable outrage.

  5. baconbits9 says:

    Local sign of labor market tightening.

    Our grocery store typically has a board with the positions that are open for hiring on it, it is usually, but not always, up and typically has 1-3 positions on it. Today there were signs posted saying

    “Hiring all positions, weekdays, nights and weekends, no experience needed”. First time in the 9 years I have been going there that I have seen something like that there.

    • Brad says:

      In my subjective experience waiters and waitresses at restaurants have gotten significantly worse as the unemployment rate has fallen.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Yeah, I remember the first time I got mediocre service after the recession. It cheered me up.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Hmmm, we got mediocre service at the prime rib few weeks ago, I didn’t associate it with anything.

          • toastengineer says:

            What does it mean to be “at the prime rib?”

          • baconbits9 says:

            The Prime Rib is a restaurant in the Philadelphia area, I wouldn’t have mentioned it except that Nancy is a Philly local (unless my memory is worse than I thought).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Yes, and south Philly at that.

            I assumed the Prime Rib was a restaurant, but I don’t remember the place– I may well have gone past it, but I don’t do steak houses, they tend to be too expensive for me.

            So, recognizing it as a restaurant might have been subliminal memory, or it might have been my skill at guessing meaning from context.

          • Yes, and south Philly at that.

            If you happen to walk past a big old house at 48th and Chester, see if you can see any apple trees. I planted them forty-some years ago.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            That’s interesting– it’s only about 8 miles from where I live, but it’s totally unfamiliar territory. All the street names were unfamiliar.

            I was guessing it was well north of me, but it’s actually just about straight west.

  6. Le Maistre Chat says:

    As mentioned in a previous OT, I am hosting a tabletop RPG campaign online. System is the Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons clone Adventurer, Conqueror, King. Setting is historical fantasy in the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean (Greek Heroic Age/Egyptian New Kingdom). Venue is a Discord server.

    First session is today at 3:00/6:00 Pacific/Eastern. It starts in media res outside a bandit cave near the bay 12 miles northwest of the mouth of the Kairatos, where Eumedes, a follower of King Minos who lives at Tylissos 12 miles south of the bay, recruited you at the inn of Knossos’s port town.

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.facebook.com/joy.denebeim/posts/1889730011114911

    An optical illusion that works for some people, but not others.

    Sorry, I can’t find a non-facebook link for it.

    • Nick says:

      It seems to rotate when I’m not quite looking at it, but not when I’m looking directly at it? Is that the illusion?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t think so. I can’t get it to rotate even if I’m looking in a different direction, and other people seem to find it obviously rotates.

      • 10240 says:

        For me it rotates if I move my eyes. If I stop moving my eyes, it slowly stops rotating.

        • cassander says:

          I have the same response. I think that means we might be witches. Or everyone else is!

        • toastengineer says:

          Similar for me; as I move my focal point around the image I get the impression of rotation, but only while my eyes are moving.

          EDIT:
          After a minute or so of looking at the image, I no longer get any effect.

      • Nornagest says:

        For me it rotates very slowly even if I’m looking directly at it, but faster if I’m not.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      This might work as survey fodder.

    • Aapje says:

      I’m getting intermittent rotation (and also different speeds). Pretty weird.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        For me it seems to rotate strongly if I move my eyes, and very slightly if I focus on one spot.

        But what is the red ball on the left doing? Motion illusion aside, as a matter of artistic composition it would have been a more aesthetically satisfying image without it; if it was just the flat purple wall in the background on both sides of the double vortex thing. But would it still work to generate the effect, or does the red ball need to be there for that to happen?

    • A1987dM says:

      If I make no particular effort to keep my eyes still or to move them, the hyperboloid spins but the ball doesn’t, but with a bit of effort I can make both spin by deliberately quickly moving my eyes across the page or make them both stay fixed by deliberately keeping my eyes as still as possible.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It tends to spin, but I can stop it with what feels like an effort of will. Sometimes parts of it will spin and not other parts — the ball, the right background, and the top and bottom parts of the hyperboloid can spin separately. The speed varies, but the direction never does — it always spins towards the white half-hexagons.

    • fion says:

      Ooh, I like it!

  8. Manx says:

    My psychiatry practice is now ready to start receiving patients!
    https://www.mdlaurabaur.com/

    I am currently only licensed to practice in the state of NY, however I am applying for a CA state license and should be able to do telepsych to that region within 4 months.

    About my practice:
    Hi, I’m Dr. Laura Baur. I’m a psychiatrist with interests in literature review, reproductive psychiatry, and relational psychotherapy. I take a personal interest in evidenced-based medicine and taking the time to perform problem-specific literature review and analysis. I have done research on the prescribing practices of psychiatrists for women of reproductive age and care that women receive adequate and appropriate treatment during this delicate time.

    In addition to scientific rigor, I also value forging a strong therapeutic alliance. I take a relational approach to psychotherapy. This explores interpersonal relationships, including the one between the therapist and the patient. Within this framework, I also incorporate modern dynamic, interpersonal, CBT, and DBT techniques to best suit your needs.

    Disclaimer regarding treatment in the rationalist community: If you are a member of the NYC rationalist community, I cannot treat you. If you are adjacent to the NYC rationalist community (for example in EA or other related ventures), I cannot treat you. If you think there is a reasonable probability (say >5%) that you will join the NYC rationalist community, I cannot treat you, and treatment will be transferred if this becomes an issue. If you are a member of the CA rationalist community and are friends with my close friends, I cannot treat you. If you are uncertain of whether this applies to you, I am happy to discuss prior to beginning treatment. I am happy to take referrals from our community, providing the individual is very unlikely to join the community or come to community events. I look forward to hearing from you.

  9. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    It’s commonly said that if people do not remember history, they are condemned to repeat it. Is this true at all? If so, how true?

    • Brad says:

      I don’t feel equipped to answer for history qua history. I’m sure the usual suspects will be along shortly to relitigate the mid 20th century. However, in an area I do feel equipped to answer for—the tech industry—it is absolutely true. The nosql debacle is proof positive of that.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        NoSql. Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh x infinity.

        (Not that there aren’t proper applications of it.)

        • toastengineer says:

          I’ll take the bait – my understanding is that NoSql is basically the practice of storing your database as just a bunch of data in the same way you store it when you’re working on it, so if you’re writing something in Python you’d just store all your data as a giant dict of objects and just JSON that dict out to disk every so often and read it back in when you crash.

          If your database is small enough that you don’t need the whole “it’s literally two x86 instructions per record per value searched to SELECT FROM” thing, what’s the downside here? I’ve heard plenty of “we said Customers and Orders were a 1..[1…] relationship and now we have to create fake orders with fake products just to make our cupon spamming system work” horror stories; doesn’t it make sense to put off designing a “proper” relational database until you really know the problem domain?

          I ask as someone whose Database Design classes in college were 14 parts “here are the rules for writing and manipulating these flowchart symbols” to 1 part “oh, and this is what that symbol represents BTW.”

          • johan_larson says:

            NoSQL has several different dimensions. Not all systems provide support for all of them.

            First, it allows for complex data models. In traditional relational systems, all data has to be broken down into two-dimensional tables with defined columns, and each cell containing one or zero values. Some NoSQL systems let you stare more complex data directly, maps of arrays of lists of objects of … and on it goes.

            Second, it allows for relaxed consistency, which generally allows systems to operate faster and scale out more easily. In a relational system, if you stored some date and the transaction completed, the data will be retained even if the database system crashes. With relaxed consistency, it might not be.

            Third, it allows for flexible (or even no) predefined schema. Remember those tables I talked about? If you want to store anything in a relational system, you need to match it up with a table and line up the fields with defined columns. If things don’t match up, it won’t work. That’s what it means to have a defined schema. In a NoSQL system, in contrast, you can pretty much store whatever you want, with no schema checks. This is awfully convenient if your data is inherently variable or the fields you use changes over time.

            All three of these things are useful to actual developers. I can see why they want them. But these features also have drawbacks and tend to push issues of reliability to the levels of the system above the database. Sometimes that’s fine; you don’t need reliability, you just want speed. But I suspect the typical developer doesn’t realize how much he is giving up in reliability to get the conveniences of NoSQL. He thinks he’s killing snakes with great vigor, and doesn’t realize that some of them are dragon-tails.

      • pontifex says:

        NoSQL wasn’t a debacle. Most of the designers of those systems are very familiar with the history of the field and have read extensively about what came before.

        Of course, by the time the marketing department gets done with any product, it’s the cure for whatever ails you. It is then bought by PHBs who think it’s “webscale.” Welcome to capitalism.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      This question is something I’ve been wondering about for a while, but I was inspired to bring it up by a podcast about Japanese atrocities in WW2.

      They’re done their best to conceal the atrocities and never apologized for them. They don’t teach them in school.

      Nonetheless, contemporary Japanese don’t seem to be atrocity-prone.

      Also, is there a short description of what happened with NoSQL? What lessons should be learned?

      • Brad says:

        The short version is that the industry tried a bunch of different models for storing data in the 50-90s, but by the height of dotcom 1.0 a consensus had developed that datastores governed by a relational algebra, accessed via sql, and with ACID guarantees*. This consensus was the hard won product of decades of pain resulting from earlier models.

        As we moved into the mid oughts the problem was the CAP theorem and technological limits on horizontal scaling. Certain companies that had to deal cheaply with enormous amounts of not highly structured data (read: google) decided that the only choice was to throw away the overhead of relational databases and go back to an older, simpler model.

        That particular decision was not wrong. For the use case they designed it for, it represented the correct trade offs. The great failure to learn from history came when both inside and especially outside these web giants developers started to use these brain dead kv stores for everything. They did so because they sold as fast and scalable, and of course your mom and pop website is going to be the next amazon and so needs to able to scale to handle petabytes of data.

        If all those ‘but mongo db is webscale’ types had understood why relational databases had come to dominate in the first place (i.e. understood the history of their choosen profession) then probably they wouldn’t have made decisions that caused more than a decade and counting of unnecessary developer pain.

        * If you didn’t want to be pay big money on Sun + Oracle, needed speed, and were willing to live dangerously you used MySQL which wasn’t ACID.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s a recurring pattern in recent tech where Google starts doing something because it works for the scale and the problems they work at or because it fits Google’s culture or just because it happens to be trendy on Google’s internal lists. And then everyone else starts doing the same thing because Google is doing it.

          I get the impression that open floorplans are another case of this, for example.

      • Machine Interface says:

        I understand that, while the Japanese don’t have the “duty of remembrance” culture that you find in Germany or France toward specifically WWII atrocities, that doesn’t mean no “memory work” was done to reach the current state — but it was mostly accomplished as negative historical work.

        That is, right after WWII, Japan went through a period of agressive de-militarization of minds and culture: every aspect of culture had to emphatize that war and violence were bad; documents with warmongish contents were banned and often destroyed, many martial arts were banned, shogi (Japanese chess) was considered for a ban (though eventually avoided it), Japanese war movies were all on the theme of “war is bad and horrible because it’s bad and horrible *for us*, the Japanese people” — these movies contain very little focus on the suffering of the non-Japanese, they’re from a fully Japanese-centric perspective, yet they’re completely and earnestly anti-war.

        Thus the Japanese version of WWII is basically “we went to war and were destroyed, let’s never do this again”.

        • toastengineer says:

          Looking at how slavery-guilt has fucked the U.S. up, I have to wonder if a “duty of remembrance” is actually that good of an idea.

          Just from the few Japanese Youtube videos I’ve watched, I get the impression that the average Japanese person is aware that the atrocities happened; people still go to visit the old chemical weapons factories for example.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Also, is there a short description of what happened with NoSQL? What lessons should be learned?

        That is actually right in one of my areas of expertise.

        The short description is… well, it’s complicated. And the lessons to be learned… again, it’s complicated, and most people learned the wrong lessons.

      • AeXeaz says:

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

        Also, almost all of the textbooks used in Japanese schools teach the atrocities – one of the big controversies in the last ~20 years was about the “New History Textbook” which was used by something like 0.05% of the junior high schools in Japan.

      • Yakimi says:

        They’re done their best to conceal the atrocities and never apologized for them. They don’t teach them in school.

        It’s 2018 and people still believe what a cursory Google Search would readily demonstrate is false.

        The we-did-nothing-wrong-school is called the revisionist school even in Japan. It’s not the mainstream consensus and its proponents are quite conscious of that.

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612232/the-8-dimensional-space-that-must-be-searched-for-alien-life/

    Argues that even if there are some moderately noisy alien civilizations, we’ve only looked at t a tiny fraction of the available evidence.

    This may still leave the Fermi paradox in place if you assume at least some civilizations should be spreading out dramatically, but it seems plausible to me that spreading out dramatically might be even harder than it sounds.

  11. johan_larson says:

    It’s easy at this point to find articles where firefighters complain about drones interfering with their work. Waterbomber operators tend to be very quick to ground their planes when drones are reported in the area of operations. Here’s one such article:

    https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/07/24/425652212/in-the-heat-of-the-moment-drones-are-getting-in-the-way-of-firefighters

    Why aren’t the emergency workers just shooting these drones down? Some problems really can be solved with shotguns.

    • John Schilling says:

      Shotguns don’t have the range to hit a drone operating at typical drop heights. Also, the shotgunner would have to be standing in or dangerously near a forest fire.

      Putting AMRAAMs on the water bombers seems like overkill.

      There may be a kinetic solution to this problem, but the hardware for it hasn’t been developed yet. I believe suitable systems are in development in other contexts; whether they will cross over to the aerial firefighters is an interesting question.

      • Brad says:

        ISTR that the just signed reapportion bill for the FAA orders the agency to investigate both digital and analog methods for bringing them down.

      • Controls Freak says:

        I believe suitable systems are in development in other contexts; whether they will cross over to the aerial firefighters is an interesting question.

        Very much this. Right now, systems are being developed with the goal of countering large numbers of fast moving, aggressive drones. Example demo from last month. No one is up to that goal yet (including the guys in the video), but you can see from their choices how they’re headed that way. Aerial firefighters want to head in the other direction. They’d be happy with the current ability to detect/track/target a single slow moving, non-aggressive drone, but they don’t want to pay for anything that big/dangerous which could have other varieties of collateral damage.

        • johan_larson says:

          Aerial firefighters want to head in the other direction. They’d be happy with the current ability to detect/track/target a single slow moving, non-aggressive drone, but they don’t want to pay for anything that big/dangerous which could have other varieties of collateral damage.

          What’s the best solution available now?

          • Controls Freak says:

            If I was buying for a fire department? Well, I’d say, “Nothing, because we have no legal authority to use it yet.” But, if the legal authority magically appeared, I’d probably go soft kill. Having not actually tested any of the systems out there, AUDS meets my constraints for ‘has the sensors I probably want, has already integrated detection/kill, specs seem not silly, looks to be available for purchase.’

            If I’m under a Buy American constraint, probably L3’s Drone Guardian. I can trust that they’ve done the detection/integration stuff well, though I can’t tell if they’ve gotten their effector up to snuff yet.

            If my boss is a hard kill fanatic, I tell him to avoid the silly nets/water cannons/etc. that some folks are peddling and stroke his ego by telling him to buy that first system I linked. I’m not sure there’s anything out yet below that for hard kill that makes much sense. Lockheed was developing a laser system a few years ago, but I’m not sure whether it went anywhere, so I’m not sure whether the power requirements will end up being reasonable.

    • Matt M says:

      Fear of a lawsuit I would assume.

      Do they, as of now, have the legal authority to destroy private property because it’s “in the way?” What about injury/damage occurring to whatever the drone might happen to fall on?

      • johan_larson says:

        If nothing else, I would expect there to be case law granting emergency personnel broad discretion in doing things like destruction of property and trespassing when trying to deal with a clear and present emergency. And a big forest fire is certainly that, particularly if it’s anywhere near a built-up area.

        My worry would be the feds. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was some federal statute or regulation against interfering with aircraft with wording broad enough to cover drones and suddenly shooting down a drone, even with good reason, might get you ten years in federal prison. And the FAA might decide to enforce such a regulation for no higher purpose than turf protection.

      • LesHapablap says:

        You can google “what happens if you park in front of a fire hydrant” for lots of photos of firefighters destroying car windows to access hydrants:

        link text

        Since it is very much illegal to fly a drone near firefighting aircraft, there is no way the firefighters would be worrying about a lawsuit for shooting* one down. And what, they’d be sued for the cost of a drone?

        The FAA is far more likely to go after the drone operator than the one shooting* it down.

        *Literally shooting with a shotgun or rifle would be very unlikely to make any sense for reasons outlined above. Plus it would often be illegal

    • The Nybbler says:

      That article is from 2015. There are some incidents, but there’s far more articles than incidents.

      The FAA is now in the process of solving the problem by making it illegal to fly an unmanned aircraft without registration and a certificate proving you’ve taken a test. I am sure this will solve the problem once and for all.

  12. Deiseach says:

    Okay, I’m not sure if this comes under the heading of culture warring or not. But I want, in light of L’Affaire Kavanaugh, to talk about weaponisation of sexual abuse claims for political ends and could it happen/has it happened, because here in Ireland we have just recently had a report from the Disclosures Tribunal, set up to investigate a whole mess of a scandal that started in 2014 but has roots further back. I’m sorry for what is going to be a wall o’text dump but the detail is necessary.

    Background information on the accusations that kicked the whole affair off here in Wikipedia, but very short précis: our national police force is An Garda Síochána (literally The Peace Guard). Individual police officers are called Garda (plural Gardaí). There have been allegations of minor corruption, particularly in a certain area of the country, but in general the police are fairly well trusted, or at least as much as any other modern police force. But Ireland has long had a culture of “pull”, where it’s “who you know, not what you know” and “knowing someone on the inside will get you favours”. We get this a lot with our politicians (from local representatives on up) who are seen as “parish pump politicians” (I think the corresponding American term is “pork barrel”) and who, amongst other allegations, allegedly lean on our police force to do favours for constitutents – such as having driving penalty offences quashed. This will be very relevant.

    Okay. Back in 2007-16 we had a law’n’order (amongst other things) government, and our Minister for Justice and Equality was one of the “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” types (he is a former lawyer who has specialised in family law) and was seen as particularly close to the then-Garda Commissioner (that is the head of the national police force, appointed by the government) and both of them were the “tough on crime etc.” types. This made for what was seen by some as much too cosy an arrangement, a mutual admiration society. But hey, it’s good to have the Minister and the head of the cops working well together, right?

    Remember those allegations of corruption? Well, naturally the Commissioner denies any of this stuff, and the Minster backs him up. Unfortunately, a police sergeant named Maurice McCabe (along with a second guard) stirred up the hornets’ nest in 2012 with allegations that the Gardaí are misusing the system to fiddle with the driving penalty points and reduce or even disappear penalty points for some drivers. McCabe has a track record of being someone who complains about abuse/corruption, he’s made complaints over the years about corruption within the force. He has a reputation, therefore, as a troublemaker. (Good timeline of the whole freakin’ mess here).

    Things get nasty.

    The Commissioner rejects out of hand any of these allegations. The Minister backs him up. There is an internal inquiry which goes nowhere much – the report produced backs up the allegations, but the Minister alleges that the whistelblowers refused to co-operate (this isn’t true, by the way). McCabe is now identified as an enemy by the authorities here. We now have to jump back in time to 2006.

    In 2006 McCabe made complaints to the police authorities about two colleagues. This is complicated by the fact that earlier McCabe and one of these men and their families had been on friendly terms, but whatever friendship had cooled and naturally drifted apart by the time of the complaint. Later that year the family of this colleague made a complaint based on an allegation by one of their daughters that years earlier McCabe had behaved inappropriately with her as a child:

    The incident was claimed by Ms D to consist of Maurice McCabe gyrating against her from behind while both were fully clothed, over a very short time, others being present just outside of the room. No groping or manual interference or putting hands under clothes was ever alleged. It is common case that while making this allegation, Ms D was experiencing a very troubled adolescence.

    Other sources report this as claims of “In the complaint she alleged he had tickled and behaved inappropriately towards her while she played hide and seek with his children a decade earlier.”

    This is investigated but the state prosecution service decides there’s nothing there. Okay, being cynical, you could say that sure, he’s a cop, they’re not going to turn on one of their own. But remember, McCabe is already getting a reputation now as someone who can’t keep his mouth shut, who will make complaints against colleagues if he thinks corruption or abuse of power is going on, so he’s not really getting special treatment in his favour. And over the years, up to 2014 at least, he makes a steady series of complaints about corruption in locations where he has been stationed as a police officer and about the national system.

    Jump forward to 2013. Miss D, the complainant, is in counselling and continues to accuse McCabe. Thanks to mandatory reporting, the counselling service has to pass this complaint of historic abuse to social services, which then pass it on to the state child protection service. And this is going to cause a lot of trouble later on, due to human error and a screw-up in registering the exact complaint and what is kept on file. This is where the roots of weaponising sexual assault allegations are planted.

    Thanks to a fuck-up by the counsellor filling out the report, they manage to mix up the details of two separate clients, one of whom has made a much more serious complaint of alleged “digital penetration of her anus and her vagina” which is a rape offence. For some reason, this gets filled in for the complaint against McCabe, who is now – by the reading of the state child protection service – accused of child sexual abuse.

    Jump forward again to 2014. Due to an unfortunate series of scandals, of which the McCabe allegations are only one, the public feel like the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and Equality are lying liars who are lying to them, so we get another enquiry (we have a whole selection of tribunals, inquiries, special reports and anything you might wish going on for decades in Ireland – nobody ever goes to jail for them, but we sure have them in plenty). When this reports back, it doesn’t quite say “yeah, they’re lying liars who are lying” but it results in the ‘resignation’ of the Commissioner (with strong implications that he’s been thrown under the bus by the government of the day to save their own skins, including a civil servant being sent to his home with a ‘the revolver is in the library’ message from the Taoiseach). This doesn’t help, as the Minister for Justice and Equality is himself forced to resign. Naturally, both parties are very pissed-off.

    Meanwhile, we have a muck-raking crime journalist (whom I absolutely despise) who is very much in the tank for the cops, and he gets a sensational interview with Miss D who repeats her claims there, and also makes a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. By a bizarre coincidence, at the same time the state child protection service also decides to process the fucked-up complaint from the counselling service and notifies the police authority of the rape accusations. Despite the D family eventually sorting out that no, that was not what Miss D was claiming, the wrong information still remains on file. Social services in 2015 open a file on the McCabe children as being at-risk, in 2016 a letter is sent out to the McCabe family about this. All this is being thrashed out in public due to lawyers for both sides sending letters and counter-letters to each other, as well as everyone and his dog going public on the matter, also the leaking of a report in 2016 about investigation by a commission into complaints about corruption made by McCabe. The muck-raking journalist I mentioned earlier did radio interviews alleging that this report indicated McCabe had lied about certain things (and so he was the lying liar who was lying and the cops and the Minister were pure as the driven snow).

    Naturally, the plain people of Ireland begin to think this is all a campaign by the police authorities to destroy anyone who dares step out of line and become a whistle-blower. We get yet another tribunal set up in 2017 and here’s their report.

    Turns out, at the time all these fucked-up allegations about McCabe the Child Sex Abuser were made, the police commissioner had been telling everyone that McCabe was a child sex abuser in order to render his allegations and testimony unreliable:

    Public disquiet was added to by the protected disclosure made in September 2016 by Superintendent David Taylor, the former garda press officer for the period 17 July 2012 to 31 May 2014; he left office officially on 10 June 2014. He quickly ensured that his supposedly confidential disclosure was made as public as possible. He met press people. He interacted with concerned public representatives. He claimed that he had been tasked by Commissioner Martin Callinan to use every opportunity possible to brief the media negatively about Maurice McCabe. He also claimed that Deputy Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had, tacitly or otherwise, acceded to this strategy. The allegation to be spread, according to Superintendent David Taylor, was that Maurice McCabe was a child sex abuser, had been investigated by fellow gardaí and was thus motivated by revenge against the gardaí in making complaints about garda corruption, misconduct or malpractice.

    To keep the scorecard clear, here’s the situation:

    2012 – Report into initial whistleblower complaints about abuse of the penalty points system
    2014 – Guerin Report about the dossier provided by the whistleblowers, leads (indirectly with other scandals) to resignation of Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice and Equality
    2015 – O’Higgins Commission set up to review accusations of corruption from 2009 that McCabe made about police in area he was stationed. Legal teams for McCabe and new Garda Commissioner get into spat, new Minister for Justice is allegedly informed via email of all this (she later says she doesn’t remember this email)
    2016 – Report of O’Higgins Commission is leaked, new Garda Commissioner and new Minister for Justice and Equality embroiled in accusations they have it in for McCabe due to all that’s happened and that new Garda Commissioner has been carrying on tactics of ex-Garda Commissioner in smearing McCabe’s name
    2017 – we get Commission of Inquiry into the alleged smear campaign, a third Minister for Justice after the new Minister steps down/moves sideways/is replaced, and a resignation from the new Garda Commissioner.

    Oh, and a second allegation by a different guard that the police authorities had maliciously involved the state child protection service with fake allegations of domestic abuse/child abuse in order to screw him over!

    His domestic partner had made allegations to gardaí that he had been abusive towards her and more. Were such allegations made or were they forced out of her by improper pressure from the gardaí, and if so how did that happen? Did he make threats against her, and if so of what kind?

    This time round, a social worker turned up at this guy’s house to check “Hello, I’m here to see if you’re abusing your partner’s kids”. Separate report into whole mess, allegations are shown to be false.

    So that’s how two separate accusations of domestic/sexual abuse were weaponised against people for political/internal political ends.

    To those who say that such things in the wake of the Kavanaugh case can’t or won’t happen – they’ve happened in my country, why do you think America will be immune?

    • Deiseach says:

      Posting this separately to avoid making the wall o’text even longer.

      The second fake accusation is even more interesting, because it sounds like one of those TV Movies of the Week.

      Policeman and old flame meet up again and hit it off once more. She breaks up with her husband. He makes a transfer request to be moved near her, but doesn’t mention this as the reason to his superiors. He also doesn’t mention that his new/old squeeze’s brother is on trial for hit-and-run death of a guard. When his colleagues find out about this, they’re rather upset to say the least. The guard later claims that he has been subjected to bullying and unfair treatment.

      Course of true love not running smooth, he and partner get into rows where there are allegations of all kinds of threats and carry-on. She goes to police and makes complaint, but later withdraws it. Social workers get involved as described.

      Guard and partner make serious accusations of malicious interference. Report of Commission of Inquiry says that these allegations are not true and both the police and social services acted appropriately, but it also points out that allegations against guard were not true and that such accusations are upsetting to innocent people.

      So whether we believe “the police had it in for me and used the pretext of a domestic dispute to coerce my girlfriend into making much more serious allegations” or “the police acted as they were bound to when investigating a complaint made by a woman alleging serious threats and abuse, and social services were involved because of mandatory reporting”, the whole Hashtag Believe Accusers movement is open to unintended consequences and abuse. We see it here, where (at the most charitable to the authorities) a nasty row between a couple escalated into vicious fighting and accusations by the woman of all kinds of threats against her and her family, and was used to drag in the authorities, and ended up being more than the complainant wanted and caused a lot of distress to them. The report was very reprimanding of the guard and his partner there for making allegations of malice that were not true:

      This is only one example of how upsetting accusations against responsible people were found to have no foundation. This process, by the tribunal, has been one of serious and damaging allegations of professional misconduct being discovered through enquiry and through public hearings to have been completely unfounded. In this report, why there was no basis for making the allegations, the changes of mind and of emphasis, and the contradicting evidence, are set out in full. That is what an enquiry by tribunal is about. Had the accusations made been true, an extremely serious state of affairs would have been uncovered. In respect of this matter, it was not. That does not mean, however, that the process was not called for. This process of enquiry by public tribunal was started in good faith by the Oireachtas. It is only in consequence of the tribunal hearings and this report that there has been a full appraisal of the facts.

      At the same time, it’s clear that a complaint made of alleged abuse went a lot further than the original complainant wanted, and rebounded to cause them distress and embarrassment, because taking the accusation on face value (and these were backed up a series of texts exchanged between the partners where the woman alleged he made this, that and the other threat) put wheels in motion that caused an investigation of “is there possible risk of physical/sexual abuse going on here?” At best, and it’s not very much best, you have a case where an angry and aggrieved woman made an exaggerated complaint to get her boyfriend into trouble (based on real row and real intemperate language used when they were fighting) but that the allegations of being in fear of her life couldn’t have been true, given that she moved back in and she was still living with him afterwards. At worst, if the pair were telling the truth, she was coerced into making much stronger claims by malicious authorities.

      And even more so in the McCabe case, where it’s pretty clear a fuck-up caused by human error and an unfortunate series of coincidences was maliciously used to blacken the guy’s name, both by the police and the muckraker journalist, opportunistically taking advantage of what was alleged in therapy about events years beforehand. And in the McCabe case, it’s also clear that the counselling service and the state child protection body were both operating on BelieveAllWomen/BelieveAccuser lines, so refrained from challenging or digging into the accuser’s story too much because that would not be sensitive to the victim (who seems to have had genuinely troubled childhood and mental issues).

      The involvement of the journalist shows how media manipulation is all part of the game as well.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        If the people in power are corrupt and unchecked, anything can be weaponized. It is very much not clear to me why that means we should not take claims that sexual assault has occurred seriously. A corrupt cop can weaponize a broke taillight or a speeding ticket, but it doesn’t mean we we don’t think citations for actual broken taillights or excessive speed are illegitimate. It also does not mean we think the underlying problem, that broken taillights and excessive speed are dangerous, warrants no investigation.

        If people speed through my neighborhood each morning, the fact that corrupt cops can give out illegitimate tickets in Mexico or St. Louis doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put a stop to the speeding in my neighborhood.

        Yes, sexual harassment and assault prevents some unique problems in adjudication. But before those can be addressed, it first has to be acknowledged that the existing process does not adjudicate them adequately. That’s what #MeToo was about, showing the scope of the issue.

        • gbdub says:

          What’s the correct level of seriousness to apply to a plausible accusation 40 years old with no corroborating physical evidence or witnesses, and no contemporary reports, in a context where “weaponization” is much more likely than a random accusation in the public?

          That seems like an honestly hard question such that it ought to be very hard to call someone who differs on the answer evil (or even “unwilling to acknowledge the inadequacy of the system”)

          Honestly, I think we already take such accusations more seriously than we would a similar accusation of any non-sexual crime.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Honestly, I think we already take such accusations more seriously than we would a similar accusation of any non-sexual crime.

            Yes, this is definitely true. Perhaps a murder accusation would be taken more seriously. I keep hearing how the cops don’t take rape seriously. Perhaps that is true, but I think the media takes rape disproportionately seriously over other crimes.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems to me that the police takes into consideration how hard a crime is to solve. As far as I can tell, rape investigations seem to rather hard for them.

            I think that the media (and citizens) are more prone to ignore that and merely look at how annoying the criminality is.

            So that would give you a mismatch.

        • If the people in power are corrupt and unchecked, anything can be weaponized.

          Part of the issue now, not limited to sexual accusations, is that “the people in power” are not well defined. It could be the police and other legal authorities. But it could also be anyone online who can spread a story to lots and lots of other people, with potential serious negative consequences to the target.

          That’s always been an issue–hence defamation law. But much improved communication technology makes it more of an issue.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          it first has to be acknowledged that the existing process does not adjudicate them adequately.

          Do you think that was the case with Kavanaugh? That the allegations were not adequately adjudicated?

          It seems to me that everyone listened, the SJC investigated, the media investigated, the FBI investigated, and all that was found was other people saying they never saw anything like this and that Kavanaugh never acted like that.

          Is it simply that you won’t be satisfied with anything less than a guilty verdict on Kavanaugh? Have we gone beyond even “guilty until proven innocent” and are simply at “guilty?”

      • dndnrsn says:

        This second example – when’s it from? There’s an earliest-possible-bound you can set for “believe women” or whatever hashtag as an influence.

    • dndnrsn says:

      So, I’m terribly confused, but:

      1. Internal and “external” politics are completely different beasts. Imagine if the accusations against Kavanaugh had been in a context of “a bunch of his colleagues think the guy would really screw things up terribly” instead of the polarized context of the Supreme Court.

      2. It seems like “known false allegation” and “wacky bureaucratic screwup” are very different things also.

      3. It kind of sounds here like the guy was gotten rid of for being not a team player (thus, a jerk, an asshole), internally at least? There seem to have been a few cases like that in the US (the stuff with Avita Ronell reads like this, the allegations against Michael Kimmel are pretty blatantly like this, I suspect what happened with Jeffrey Tambor was like that – someone is a problem in some way, but cannot be gotten rid of by other means.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m not surprised you’re confused, this whole mess has been dragging on for a minimum of four years but with roots going back to 2006. Basically, McCabe was – depending on your viewpoint – the only clean cop in the place who blew the whistle on corruption, incompetence and dodgy dealings amongst his colleagues wherever he found them/a troublemaking nuisance dragging the good name of the force into disrepute.

        It was his bad luck that he made some allegations at a time when (a) there were a whole constellation of accusations about dodgy dealings within the police and (b) as I said, a very, very close and cosy working relationship between the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner at the time who both presented themselves as tough on crime and cracking down hard. Naturally, when you’re trying to sell an image like that, you don’t need someone inside the police pointing out where the Emperor has no clothes.

        The problem in large part was that both these parties took such accusations very personally and pretty much did decide to go after McCabe on that level. The abuse of the position for the Commissioner was lucking in to the you-wouldn’t-believe-this-coincidence-in-a-novel false sexual abuse charge just at the time when he needed to find something to make McCabe look dirty or at least unreliable and non-credible. He misused (to say the least) his authority to know about this accusation against McCabe, and then used it to smear his name by telling people likely to become involved in the investigations triggered by McCabe’s allegations that the guy was (quote) “a kiddie fiddler” and also that he’d sexually abused his own family.

        The police didn’t invent the fake accusations (though again it was bizarre and unfortunate coincidence that the accuser was a daughter of a former police colleague that McCabe had lodged a formal complaint against, so it could look like she was instigated by her family to invent the charge, though this wasn’t so) but they took advantage of it to conduct a campaign to discredit McCabe and the allegations about corruption and interference he was making. How much the Minister knew of all this, we’ll never know, but he certainly was on the Commissioner’s side in going after McCabe.

        So the topics I was addressing with all this were two things I’ve seen in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh affair:

        (1) Such accusations were not used, and will never be used, for political purposes and/or as part of a smear campaign, anyone raising them is doing so honestly and out of principles, not taking partisan advantage.

        Well, the McCabe case in my country shows otherwise.

        (2) Women should be believed unquestioningly, and any examination of their claims is not “due process”, it’s trying to get the offender off the hook (because rich cis white male patriarchy)

        The second case, where thanks to a domestic dispute turned nasty the partner of the other policeman made a complaint, shows the pitfalls there. Having claimed she was in fear of her life/her family’s lives from threats he made, they subsequently made up and she moved back in and was living with him. Nevertheless, the accusations she made triggered an enquiry where he was (at least notionally) investigated as a potential abuser/sexual abuser of her children.

        That was plainly not her intention in making the complaint originally but once you make such a complaint things are no longer in your control. The guy there thought this was motivated by malice against him, but in this case it seems to have been honestly what was required under the regulations.

        Again, “believing all women” requires “no woman will make a complaint/exaggerate a complaint under the influence of anger or revenge seeking” and again, here we see that’s not so. In fact, the complaint triggered a much more serious accusation than originally intended or foreseen, and again this was in part due to mandatory requirements to take such complaints seriously and investigate all potential abuse.

        And in McCabe’s case, the original accusation arose out of something said in counselling by a troubled young woman who made an accusation naming him for an alleged offence committed several years back, and the service were mandatory required to put the process in motion. That the responsible authority then fucked up the entire investigation again demonstrates not to take accusations on face value – no “well this is an accusation made by someone credible, it must be true” kind of reasoning, much less “an official investigation can never screw up and ruin someone’s name”.

        Long story short: do not dump due process for the sake of Hashtags, this can lead to bad outcomes you never intended.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I guess this just seems different enough from “imagine some fake accusation was made against a potential judge/senator/whatever” – this is more a perfect storm of internal problems. It’s a very non central example of a false accusation made for political reasons.

          (Also, it seems a lot more British Isles cringe-comedy than serious American TV drama, if you know what I mean)

          • Deiseach says:

            Also, it seems a lot more British Isles cringe-comedy than serious American TV drama, if you know what I mean

            You wouldn’t at all mind if your former employer was using information that should be confidential from your employment with them to blacken your name, and even more so that information was wrong in the first place? That seems more “cringe-comedy than serious drama” to you?

            The political angle came in because this was politically-charged (complaints about the police force are going to reflect on the particular Minister for Justice and by extension the government of the day) and there’s some evidence the Minister(s) for Justice knew about the smear campaign and tacitly approved it. Rather than doing their public duty and being willing to root out any rottenness, they preferred that it be dealt with by claiming the accuser was a Bad Person and so all their complaints were untrue.

            I think that’s a serious state of affairs for my country, but naturally you will have a different opinion since it’s no skin off your nose.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I mean that the weird chain of screw-ups and misunderstandings makes it seem a little… Not played straight? The version for American TV audiences would be a lot less confusing.

  13. dick says:

    I missed the publication of this article analyzing Trump’s inheritance. The gist of it is that Trump inherited far more from his father than he’s generally claimed (around $400M in adjusted dollars), that his father propped up his real estate business by pulling favors and covering losses and paying him an allowance into his 50s, and that most of the transferred wealth was untaxed and probably illegal.

    Let’s skip the part about how the NYT is a mouthpiece of the Democrats and the article was probably ghost-written by George Soros and Robert Mueller. My questions: a) had anyone even read this or heard about it being published? It seems like it got lost in the Kavanaugh debacle. And, b) if it’s true, would it change anyone’s opinion? It contradicts one of Trump’s main selling points, but it seems like most on the left pretty much assumed this anyway, and I don’t think much of the right considers inheriting wealth or dodging taxes to be much of a sin.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trump became head of paternal grandmother and father’s company — Elizabeth Trump & Son, now known as The Trump Organization — in 1971. Given that, it is hard to distinguish what his father made and and what he made, after that point. Certainly he and his family pulled out all the stops trying to reduce tax liability in the transfer of the estate; I rather doubt this failed to come to the notice of the IRS.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I’ve heard and seen stuff about this in various media. I know that my father, a respectable person who only consumes respectable publications on respectable paper, has remarked multiple times about the sheer scumminess of it (he’s not wrong).

      I don’t think this is going to change anyone’s opinion. The right will either rationalize it away or revel in it, the left can’t really turn the knob much higher.

    • cassander says:

      and I don’t think much of the right considers inheriting wealth or dodging taxes to be much of a sin.

      One of those is not like the other…..

      Putting that aside though, the relentless inflation adjustment of all those numbers does not strike me as a good sign. They’re clearly reaching to make them as large as they can. Which is not to say that trump didn’t inherit a lot of money, he did, but breathless exaggeration of that fact won’t convince anyone of anything they didn’t already believe.

      • The article was pretty explicit about converting figures to present value–what that amount would be worth now if it had been invested at the market interest rate. The one place they cheated a little was in comparing Trump’s claim of how much his father had lent him, I think a million, to their figures on how much he had been given. His claim was put, as he had put it, in terms of the amount then, everything else in terms of present value now.

        But given how much larger the latter was than the former, it didn’t make much difference.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The article just says “equivalent” and “today’s dollars” without defining its terms. It wasn’t explicit at all. Why do you believe it was NPV? Does anyone ever do that? Does anyone do that without saying so? I’m disappointed that they don’t say inflation somewhere, but if they were using NPV without saying, I’d call that lying.

          Anyhow, the few examples where it gives both numbers are inflation:

          May 4, 2004, … Donald Trump’s cut: $177.3 million, or $236.2 million in today’s dollars.

          In one six-year span, from 1988 through 1993, Fred Trump reported $109.7 million in total income, now equivalent to $210.7 million

          • Looking over it again, I think you are correct and I was wrong. The only place where they say they are doing a present value calculation is at the end, when they report how much Donald Trump would have if he had invested everything his father gave him as it was given in an index fund.

      • Chalid says:

        Regardless of their motivations, it’s the right thing to do. Every number in every news story should always be inflation-adjusted. If anything, the red flag when numbers aren’t inflation adjusted.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It would be good if it were so common as to have a symbol for inflation adjusted dollars that everyone was familiar with.

          And many other numbers need to be have percentage of GDP presented along with IA$.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m tempted by the idea of not just having the original figures, and clearly marked inflation adjusted figures, but also clearly marked inflation-adjusted figures as of when the article is currently being viewed.

          • gbdub says:

            I endorse this idea, certainly for any kind of writing like this. Keeps people from taking advantage of the ambiguity.

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t “real” vs “nominal” supposed to serve this function? Or do only economics geeks know what that means/use it?

        • I don’t think they were just inflation adjusting, although I would have to go back to the article to be sure. I think they were putting everything in present value.

          What’s the difference? Suppose the inflation rate is 5%, the market interest rate is 10%. Inflation adjusting a dollar paid ten years ago is done by multiplying it by 1.05^10. But its present value is 1.1 ^10, because that is what you would have if you put the dollar in the bank at market interest and waited ten years.

          If the question is how rich people were in the past or how relatively expensive something was, inflation adjusting is appropriate. But if the question is whether an investment was worth making, to compare the amount you got out today with the amount you put in at dates in the past you want to use the present value to today of the latter.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Heard of it all over the place. I have seen many insinuations that it was illegal, but no one has really made a compelling case that it was, and an inheritance that large, even if made to look small with accounting tricks, would clearly have been IRS audited at the time.

      • The authors claim some of it was pretty clearly illegal. For a lot of it, it would be hard to draw sharp lines.

        My daughter is also my editor. If I wanted to transfer money to her while avoiding gift tax, I could do it by overpaying her for her services. But there isn’t a clear measure of what I ought to pay her, so proving that would be hard. Fred Trump, according to the article, used the equivalent of that for some of his money transfers.

    • Matt M says:

      Count me in the “Trump has been super famous for several decades now, therefore the fact that it took them this long to find this and they’re only bothering to get to it now is super suspicious and makes me suspect it isn’t worth caring about,” camp.

    • John Schilling says:

      I definitely heard about it at the time, but didn’t consider it terribly important because it was only conformation of the obvious. The exact number of dollars Trump inherited or quasi-inherited from his father is of no interest to me unless it genuinely is small enough to justify the “self-made man” narrative he likes to peddle, and that was never very likely. The exact method he used to launder the transactions, both to minimize tax liability and to minimize narrative contradiction, similarly unimportant unless it’s something the IRS can use to put him in jail, which is also unlikely. He inherited a lot of money, turned it into more money, and tried to pay as little tax as he could get away with. Already knew that, already beyond caring.

      I’d still like to know his actual net worth, today and in early 2016, but it doesn’t seem like anyone has those numbers.

    • I read most of the article, found it interesting, and commented on it, I think somewhere online. It’s arguing two claims:

      1. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, transferred his wealth to his children in ways that evaded most of the gift tax or inheritance tax that was due on it. Given that the tax rate was 55% at the time and he was very wealthy, that involved a lot of money. The authors argue, I think correctly, that at least some of the devices used required cooperation from the recipients.

      My favorite, although not one of the more important ones, hinged on the fact that the IRS recognizes that majority ownership of real estate is worth more than minority ownership, actual amount aside. Fred Trump owns 100% of some real estate. He transfer 49.8% to his wife, gives .4% to his children, retains 49.8%. He and his wife each hold only a minority interest, which reduces the amount they are held liable for when the property is given to or inherited by their children.

      But most of it consisted either of getting his real estate assets assessed at far below their real value (according to the article, which I see no reason to doubt) or transferring money to his children (and I think one nephew) by doing business with a firm they owned on terms deliberately very favorable to that firm.

      2. They are arguing that Trump deserves much less credit for business success than he claims, since he got a lot of money from his father. By their calculation, if he had simply invested everything his father gave him as he got it in a mutual fund he would have ended up with about $1.6 billion.

      He claims to be worth about $10 billion. If that’s true, than he is a successful businessman, even if less successful than he claims–he’s beaten the market by a good deal. But nobody really knows how much he is worth and it’s probably in his interest to exaggerate it. I saw a figure from Forbes which was significantly below ten billion but well above 1.6 billion.

      So my guess is that he really has been a moderately successful businessman, which is inconsistent both with his self-presentation in one direction and with the view of many of his critics in the other.

      It’s a long article, but interesting.

      • 10240 says:

        Given that the tax rate was 55% at the time and he was very wealthy, that involved a lot of money.

        Wow. Who wouldn’t try to evade a 55% tax?

    • nkurz says:

      It’s a great article, although I think it’s more of an indictment of US inheritance tax law than of the Trump family. I’d be somewhat surprised if the financial machinations of most other successful dynastic family weren’t equally convoluted and immoral. Contrary to frequent pedantic corrections, I think the difference between “tax avoidance” and “tax evasion” is more a matter prosecutorial discretion rather than a some bright moral line.

      One of the main strategies presented in the article is assigning unrealistically high and low valuations to properties being transferred within a family. In the absence of a market valuation, this does seem like a legitimately difficult problem. To achieve a fair value, it seems that one needs to be willing to buy or sell the property at the assigned value, or to believe in the possibility of an impartial expert appraiser. Are there other countries that have solved this better? Are there ways to sidestep the need to assign a value at time of transfer while still collecting a “fair” tax?

      • ana53294 says:

        The problem with valuation is even worse with IP. A building can be sold, or rented, and you can derive its value from the income you can obtain.

        But a lot of the more valuable businesses’ major asset is IP. How is it valued? How can we know whether it is valued fairly?

        • One possible solution would be for the assessed value to be posted publicly at the time it becomes relevant and for the owner to be obliged to sell it at, say, that price plus ten percent to anyone who wanted to buy it.

          • ana53294 says:

            At the same time, there are legitimate reasons why somebody may be willing to sell something to a bid lower than the highest one.

            For example, the inventor of a cold fusion patent may be unwilling to sell it to the Saudis because they’re afraid they’ll table it.

            Or a farmer may be unwilling to sell his land to an oil-drilling consortium, but is willing to sell it to the nice family who wants to farm it.

            I do think that people should be able to choose whom they sell their property to.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Also, there are legitimate complaints regarding transaction costs. If I sell my home, I’ll need to spend several weeks looking for a new one, plus a day or two moving. That won’t be figured into the assessed value that I’m nominally getting for it. You could say that’s the added ten percent – and maybe ten percent’s a good figure for my time, but maybe not. For instance, if you tried to buy it during the busy season at work, or right before I go on a two-week international trip, my time is suddenly going to be worth a lot more.

            And that’s without bringing sentimental value into consideration, or other unique concerns like “well, this’s the one wheelchair-accessible five-bedroom house in town.”

            This is an appealing idea, but I’m afraid there’re too many problems to make it the standard method of valuing owner-occupied homes. Perhaps we could limit it to commercial or rental property, where I don’t really think those concerns are present to such a great degree?

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Evan

            Won’t the buyer have similar transaction costs? If you are valuing a house at $200,000 the buyer has to pay $220,000 plus their own moving costs, say $10,000 worth can you really claim that the house is worth $200,000 when someone is willing to pay $230,000 for the right to own it? Further more at low tax rates it is fairly cheap to price people out of buying it. A 10% tax rate would mean adding $55,000 to the sale price would cost $5,000.

            You can also set the schemes up where the owner has right of refusal for an additional tax bump. Say you value your house at $200,000 and someone agrees to buy it for $220,000, you can then refuse to sell it by adding another 10% in tax liability on top of the $220,000, valuing it at $242,000. Of course now someone could offer $264,000 but at that point you are getting over a 30% premium on the house according to your original evaluation.

    • pontifex says:

      It’s funny to watch the cognitive dissonance about taxes sometimes.

      I remember having conversations with people outraged that Google was paying only a single-digit percentage of taxes on their revenue. They weren’t angry at the politicans for creating vague and loophole-ridden rules– they were angry at the company for minimizing its taxes.

      Then I would switch the conversation to their own taxes. Did they take the standard deduction even when the itemized deduction saved them money? Did they hire someone specifically to minimize their taxes? Immediately the arguments would all go into reverse like a car switching from 4th gear directly into reverse.

      • Matt M says:

        Indeed. There’s also the annoying habit of people referring to fairly standard, well known, and long-established deductions as “loopholes” as if there’s some sort of chicanery involved when a corporation obeys the rules literally as written.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          The main “loophole” that tech companies, and all other companies, “exploit” is that corporate income taxes are paid on profits, not on gross revenue.

          And tech companies are far far far less corrupt about that “loophole” than, for example, the movie and music industries. Hollywood accounting…

          • Matt M says:

            But that’s not a “loophole,” that’s an intentional and obvious feature of the tax code.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            an intentional and obvious feature of the tax code

            For the people who bitch and moan about tech companies that chose to reinvest revenues into more tech or more staff “paying zero income tax”, it appears to not quite so “obvious”.

            Whenever I see such complaints (and I think I’ve even seen it here on SSC), I have to grit my teeth and think really loudly “just how stupid are you?” at whoever made the complaint.

  14. Douglas Knight says:

    I love it when people write wikipedia articles contradicting each other, often sounding like passive aggressive exchanges between the authors:

    In 2003, American scholar William Taubman reported that he had interviewed some eyewitnesses who said that Khrushchev had brandished his shoe but not banged it. He also reported that no photographic or video records of the shoe-banging had been found.[4] However, in his biography of Khrushchev, he wrote that he accepted that the shoe-banging had occurred.[5] There is at least one fake photograph, where a shoe was added into an existing photograph.[6] However, the Italian public broadcaster RAI has published footage that it says shows the shoe during the incident.[7]

    Here is Taubman [4], an essay about eyewitness memory, 40 years after the fact. I especially like this quote:

    I can assure you that every camera in the booth was trained on Khrushchev, waiting for him to use the shoe. He only put it on again and left. None of us missed the picture — which would have been a serious professional error. The event never occurred.

  15. Plumber says:

    Upthread I just did a post:

    “@Nick

    “I’ll be voting in November. There’s an issue on the ballot that I’m not sure how to vote on…

    …I take it that the amendment isn’t about drugs so much as the prison population. Ohio prisons are pretty overcrowded….”

    At the San Francisco Hall of Justice the smell of confiscated marijuana used to often be so volumnous and overpowering that it would waft up from the basement through the elevator shafts and you could smell it even on the 5th floor near the Police Chief’s Office. 

    After the law allowing medical marijuana  passed, even before the law allowing recreational use passed, gradually the busts got less and you didn’t have that stench from the property room and at the same time the inmate population got less and less until the 800 bed County Jail#3 on the 6th floor closed down reducing my work load a lot (there’s still #4 on the 7th floor so my job still exists), so yes decriminalizing at least one drug has reduced the San Francisco Jails inmate population even at the same time the State forced inmates the county Jails to house inmates that had previously been in the State Prisons.

    Another plus side is that after my Dad’s death it was easy to hire movers by telling them “You can keep any weed or pills you find”

    Some downsides are that on the sidewalks now the stink of weed is very common (more so than tobacco cigarettes), there’s now billboard ads for pot dispensaries, marijuana use correlates with schizophrenia, and stupid stoners get on my nerves”

    and after I wrote it I realized something:

    Besides emptying out County Jail #3, decriminalizimg pot correlates with the massive increase in tents of the homeless. 

    It’s not quite one-for-one as the medical use of marijuana was allowed starting in ’96 (so a ways back) but the tents starting appearing around the same time full billboards for “420 prescriptions” with marijuana leaves on them came around and cops stopped bothering arresting people smoking pot in front of Police stations “because they always have a card”.

    Thoughts?

  16. dndnrsn says:

    Hello and welcome to the latest installment, the eleventh, of my effortpost series on Biblical scholarship. We continue to look at prophecy (so far: Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah), and this time will look at Ezekiel. This is one of the most important prophetic books, and while much of its content will be familiar to those acquainted with the other prophetic books, Ezekiel is distinctive in holding concerns that can be linked to to the “Priestly” strand of the Hebrew Bible, rather than the “Deuteronomistic” tendencies one generally sees in the prophetic books.

    The usual caveats: This is about secular Biblical scholarship, rather than questions of theology or philosophy. I’m not an expert in this, though I did study it in university. My goal is a 100/200-level survey of the scholarship, but if anyone has further questions, I’ll see what I can do. I’m not doing much in the way of summaries, except for short books: there’s not enough room

    A quick rundown of the historical background: Judah found itself caught between two competing imperial powers, tried to play one against the other, and it didn’t work out. Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians in 597, and some of its elites, including its king, were exiled. Further attempts to free Judah from foreign rule didn’t work out either, and in 586 the city was destroyed by the Babylonians, and more of its elites were taken into exile (with others fleeing, largely to Egypt).

    The prophet Ezekiel was, beyond being a prophet, also a Zadokite priest. He was exiled to Babylon as part of the first deportation. He was a grown man at the time of his exile – a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. It would appear that he did not begin to prophesy until he was in Babylon. He experienced the destruction of the Temple when Jerusalem was levelled in 586 and the early years of the exile. It should be noted that he would have remained aware of events back in Judah after this point, as there was communication between the people still there and the exiles.

    In its form, the book is quite complex. While it follows a fairly clear division between oracles of judgment against Jerusalem and Israel, oracles of judgment against the nations, and oracles of restoration, the material within this tripartite form is varied and sophisticated. The book of Ezekiel includes colourful visions, symbolic actions, and oracles. There are also varied literary forms, including allegories and legal arguments.

    The visions and symbolic actions merit some attention. Visions such as the inaugural vision of the prophet in chapter 1 (in which he sees God’s dazzling throne-chariot) would be influential in later Jewish mysticism due to their often bizarre nature. One less bizarre, but still significant (both for religious reasons and for our scholarly purposes), episode is the vision of the valley full of dry bones in chapter 37. Ezekiel declares that God will raise these bones from the dead. This appears to be metaphorical in nature: it’s a metaphor for the future restoration of Israel. There was no tradition of a belief in the resurrection of the dead in Judaism. Some scholars have made an attempt to link this vision to Zoroastrian burial practices, as Zoroastrianism does have a tradition, from the beginning, of such a resurrection. However, this is a bit of a stretch, and would likely require that the vision not be original to the prophet, given the comparative timelines of Israel and Zoroastrianism.

    Meanwhile, the symbolic actions are unusually strange in Ezekiel. A good example would be chapter 4, in which Ezekiel is told to build a model of Jerusalem under siege, lie on one side of his body for 390 days and then the other side for 40 days (to represent the punishment of Israel and Judah, respectively) while eating bread baked over human dung. Symbolic actions such as this have long been the object of speculation by both scholars and religious commentators. It is unclear whether they are meant to be figurative or literal, or how exactly the actions described were carried out. Some scholars have likened them to a form of street theatre. Also worthy of mention is that the only prophecy in the book that fully came true was the destruction of Jerusalem: all of the other predictions were either unfulfilled or only partially fulfilled.

    In theme, the book centres (as is unsurprisingly common with prophecy in this era) on the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile. The central question: why did God allow these things to happen? Further, is there a future for Israel? Ezekiel’s answer is that God allowed these things because of the people’s sins, especially their failure to protect the sanctity of the Temple. There will be a restoration, however: the covenant is not null and void.

    Especially important to the book of Ezekiel is the prophet’s identity as a Zadokite priest. More than the other prophets, Ezekiel is really into the language of purity and impurity. He doesn’t differentiate between moral and ritual laws, and alludes to Priestly material from Leviticus. There is a preference for precise dating that is characteristic of the love of detail and organization one sees in the Priestly material of the Torah. This shouldn’t be overstated: he still has an interest in what we would consider moral behaviour (in addition to idolatry, improper worship, and so forth, the wicked also oppress the poor and behave in a generally unjust fashion; the good behave well towards the less fortunate). Ezekiel has much in common with the other prophets: like Jeremiah, he criticizes prophets he sees as false, for example. However, compared to the other prophets we’ve looked at, Ezekiel has more of an interest in purity and impurity in the sense we saw back in the Priestly material.

    Ezekiel can be read as a defence of “Zion theology.” Favoured by the Zadokites, this school of thought saw God’s selection of Jerusalem as the holy city as being extremely important, and saw this as providing special protection to Jerusalem. Obviously, the destruction of Jerusalem would call this into question. Ezekiel’s position, apparently influenced by the Holiness code, is that Israel is being judged and punished for violating the covenant. However, this does not invalidate the covenant itself: the covenant still stands. There will be a restoration, and things will be better than the status quo ante. Furthermore, Zadokite priests would be very important in this restored future (it appears this was influential later, during the Second Temple period; some scholars think Ezekiel was extremely important in the historical development of Judaism, but unfortunately that is outside our scope here; it will be discussed briefly in the background to the New Testament).

    Ezekiel’s big innovation was a doctrine of individual responsibility. The covenant and most of the prophets are about group actions and group responsibility; Ezekiel is different and insists on personal responsibility and accountability. Ezekiel’s answer to the question of whether the presence of some righteous people could save others who are unrighteous is that they would be able to save themselves, but no one else, not even their family members.

    There is rough consensus on the date of composition: it must, at least, have been written down before the fall of Babylon, as it does not predict this (and presumably would have, had it been written later). Rabbinic tradition is that the book was written down by a group of early postexilic scholars. Many modern scholars agree with a similar theory: that the book has been edited and various parts are wholly or partly the product of writers other than the prophet; they posit a “school of Ezekiel” inspired by the prophet. This would explain Ezekiel’s complexity. Some scholars go a bit further and link this group to the group that produced the Priestly source material in general – it is possible to see Ezekiel as influencing P in the same way that many scholars think other prophets influenced D.

    However, there is no consensus on authorship: the alternative theory is that Ezekiel was written down early in its history, perhaps by the prophet, and was meant to be written down from the start, rather than (as seems to be the case with the other prophetic books) having at its core something spoken, then later written down, by the speaker or someone else. This theory explains the complexity as an intentional part of the writing process, rather than being introduced into something previously oral by the process of editing and transmission. Scholars who support this view see Ezekiel’s complexity as intentional, structured, and ordered. This view doesn’t deny that there has been editing and expansion, likely by the prophet’s followers, but thinks that most of the book is original to the prophet himself.

    So, in summary: Ezekiel prophesied from the time of the first deportation until after the second, and witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. The book is complex in its form and content, and is concerned with the destruction of Jerusalem and the questions this raises. Ezekiel, clearly taking more of an interest in purity concerns than the other prophets, presents an explanation in which the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile are punishments for infidelity to the covenant, but the covenant has not been rendered null and void; additionally, he introduces ideas of individual responsibility, at odds with much else of what we have seen. Finally, scholars disagree on the exact provenance of the document: while there is consensus on its dating, and most scholars recognize the role of some post-prophet group in editing and expanding the book, they differ significantly on the degree to which they think this happened.

    (As always, if I’ve made some kind of mistake, let me know – ideally within 55 or so minutes, so I can edit)

    • SamChevre says:

      In addition to weird visions and bizarre street theater, Ezekiel has some amazing(ly crude) rants.

      Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses. Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in bruising thy teats by the Egyptians…

      • cassander says:

        Lately I’ve been using “you’re bad and should feel bad” and “hates freedom” as my standard jocular insults, but I might have to put “multiplier of whoredoms ” into the roster.

        I’m curious about “Your flesh is the flesh of asses”, though. Obviously asses in this context is donkeys, but it feels like there’s some deeper meaning there that’s not making it through in translation.

        • Nick says:

          Obviously asses in this context is donkeys, but it feels like there’s some deeper meaning there that’s not making it through in translation.

          Donkeys aren’t kosher, are they? Would that matter?

        • a reader says:

          @cassander:

          Obviously asses in this context is donkeys, but it feels like there’s some deeper meaning there that’s not making it through in translation.

          Other translations are more explicit – see here:

          https://biblehub.com/ezekiel/23-20.htm

          New International Version
          There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.
          […]
          Christian Standard Bible
          and lusted after their lovers, whose sexual members were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of stallions.
          […]
          GOD’S WORD® Translation
          She lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose semen was like that of horses.

          The translation with “the flesh of asses” appears in King James Bible.

          • johan_larson says:

            What does the Hebrew word that is variously translated as “flesh”, “genitals” and “sexual members” mean, literally? Would “penis” be at all inaccurate?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @johan_larson, I don’t speak Hebrew, but going by the interlinear it seems to be “emission-flesh,” i.e. “the part of the flesh from which emissions come.”

          • SamChevre says:

            Strong’s has it as the same word used for flesh everywhere in the Hebrew Bible, and notes that it’s among other meanings a euphemism for “penis”. I think the English equivalent is just “meat.”

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The Hebrew in this case is “basar” which literally means “meat”–it’s still in use in modern Hebrew to refer to the meat you eat.

    • Aron Wall says:

      There was no tradition of a belief in the resurrection of the dead in Judaism.

      What about in Isaiah 25:7-8?

      On this mountain he will destroy
      the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
      the sheet that covers all nations;
      he will swallow up death forever.
      The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
      from all faces;
      he will remove his people’s disgrace
      from all the earth.
      The Lord has spoken.

      So I don’t think it’s completely obvious that the resurrection in Ez 37 is metaphorical. Maybe if you assume it has to mean one thing OR the other, but visions can be more multivalent than that. The chapter does keep harping on the raising from the graves bit, and one thing national restoration (by itself) doesn’t do is bring back the people who were killed.

      Also worthy of mention is that the only prophecy in the book that fully came true was the destruction of Jerusalem: all of the other predictions were either unfulfilled or only partially fulfilled.

      This doesn’t seem right, given that there are propecies of several countries besides Judah being conquered by Babylon and then later gathered back at restored. In one bit he says that Egypt is going to be restored in the future, but it’s going to be a small nation that won’t ever amount to a world power again…

      it must, at least, have been written down before the fall of Babylon, as it does not predict this (and presumably would have, had it been written later)

      But it does indeed redict the restoration of Jeresulam, so I guess you’ll admit this is a genuine predictive success (in the sense of something surprising that was in fact predicted in advance)?

      I do admit however that the 9 chapters at the end where Ezekiel gives an elaborate plan for a future Temple that was never built is somewhat inscrutable… it lays down some symbolism for the Book of Revelation, though.

      • dndnrsn says:

        1. Isaiah 25 falls within the chunk in 24-27 which scholars call the “Isaiah apocalypse” (though it isn’t technically apocalyptic; there seems to be general consensus that one doesn’t see 100% pure real-deal apocalyptic content until the apocalyptic material in Daniel, which is quite late). This material is post exilic; I don’t know the degree to which scholars put any confidence in whether it predates or postdates Ezekiel. Some scholars read it as metaphorical anyway: it appears in the context of talking about the people as a whole, with references to individual dead being metaphorical.

        The argument can be made that metaphorical imagery led to a more literal belief; I think scholars tend to see this appearing for the first time in Daniel as well (and the individual resurrection of the dead, or at least the righteous dead, seems to be considered to be one of the things you need for true apocalypticism). Prior to this the attitude appears to have been the same as one generally finds in the ancient Mediterranean religions, or at least as one will find a bit later on in the Hellenistic/Roman world: some combination of “you are part of the corporate entity of your people, so if you want an afterlife, have some kids” and “there’s an afterlife but it’s just this crappy netherworld; not super great to be there; enjoy your life while you have it.” (The mystery religions seem to have been an exception; we don’t know enough about them, but they seem to have had some focus on individual happiness in the afterlife; caveat: my knowledge of the Mediterranean of the relevant periods and the mystery religion is entirely in the context of a backdrop to Israel/Judaism/early Christianity)

        2. The prediction regarding Egypt in ch 29 is that it will be ruined and desolate for 40 years, and that the Egyptians will be in exile during this period (29:8-13); this doesn’t appear to have happened when Egypt was conquered. When it was conquered, it wasn’t by Babylon (who attacked Egypt in 668, but failed to conquer) but rather by the Persians (in 525); Ezekiel predicts in 29:17-20 that it will be the Babylonians.

        3. I think the scholarly position on this is that Jerusalem was restored, but it was pretty shabby, and the focus early on was on survival rather than the Temple. Plus, it’s restored as a province of yet another empire, which kinda sucks. So, the prediction was only partially correct (I think that the scholarship has the Temple as being pretty impressive by the first century – but it only gets completely finished under a decade before the Romans wreck it). Restored Jerusalem was pretty scrappy: we’ve seen a bit of that in the later Isaiah books, and we’ll look at it again in both the prophets and the writings.

        • Aron Wall says:

          This material is post exilic

          And we know this how? Because it mentions the resurrection of the dead and the return from exile?

          • dndnrsn says:

            24-27 tend to have in common with later prophecy less specificity than in earlier prophecy. There’s cosmic destruction imagery, which scholars seem to think is part of the development of the apocalyptic genre (a growing interest in eschatology in the Second Temple period), and allusions to creation myths, which likewise scholars link to developing apocalypticism.

            This is by comparison to developments we know were happening, so that’s a bit shaky. Otherwise, scholars point to the shift from the specific and historically bound oracles against the nations prior to this section, to the different tone of 24-27, then the shift from prophesies of restoration with a cosmic flavour back to (more historically bound, specific) prophesies of judgment against Samaria and against Jerusalem.

            I suppose the argument, simply put, is that the tone (and so on) of 24-27 is different from the chapters preceding and after that chunk, and based on what we know of the development of certain ideas, it would make more sense to place this stuff a bit later. It’s not impossible that it’s earlier, and was influential in the development of those ideas rather than derivative (I will cop to knowing a lot more about apocalypticism in its final form than in its development) but it is less likely.

  17. angularangel says:

    Hmm, here’s a troubling thought – perhaps social imbalances are sticky enough, that the only way to change anything is to push so hard that things imbalance in the opposite direction, at least temporarily. Wouldn’t that be pleasant. Might explain some things though… -_-

    • angularangel says:

      That is to say, the force required to change things is very high, but the force required to imbalance things in the opposite direction is only marginally higher. Thus, barring exceptional delicacy, it’s almost certain that any attempt to change things that is powerful enough to succeed will be powerful enough to imbalance them in the opposite direction. Imagine moving a big heavy fridge to the right spot, to exactly the millimeter. Not gonna be easy, is it? Especially when you’re one of millions or billions of people also pushing the fridge around, and everyone else is pushing or pulling unpredictably, and also the floor moves too, just to make life difficult. :/

      • angularangel says:

        And also the fridge changes it’s weight randomly, and nobody can agree on where it is exactly, and also it’s tied by ropes to a million other fridges undergoing the same process. It’s a miracle we do as well as we do, really. :/

      • Thegnskald says:

        I think this approach to the problem may be confusing the map with the territory a bit, in treating social issues as something about which dimensional analysis makes sense.

        But insofar as you are treating it as dimensional in nature, perhaps a better analogy to express what I think is the basic idea is a balanced scale – balancing the scales aren’t going to bring them level with one another, it will just keep them from moving further apart.

        My major concern with this line of thinking is that it normalizes overreaction, and treats issues caused by overreaction as part of the cure. We don’t need to worry about declining male college attendance, because it is necessary to move the inherently sticky needle, for example. And if the right ever takes over society, it is fine if women have even less rights than they did a century ago, because the needle is sticky and we need to change the way people think.

        There is a… history, with justifications for why short-term injustices are necessary, and how they get cranked up if the long-term objectives aren’t reached. It isn’t a pretty history.

        • angularangel says:

          Oh, I’m putting this up as explanation, not justification. I think Hoopyfreud down there has the right idea, or at least part of it.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        In engineering parlance this is an “unstable system,” (technical definition which mostly jives with the colloquial one) and can be controlled by the proper application of feedback. The trick is all in designing and implementing the controller. If you do it carefully enough, you can even avoid bad transient effects, and do so more easily than in a stable system.

        The bad news is, that’s hard.

        The good news is, you’re surrounded by unstable systems that very smart people have figured out how to tame.

        • angularangel says:

          Mmm, sounds about right. Care to share any examples? This sounds very interesting.

          In terms of social progress, my first suggestion would just be to learn more about how it works, and to share that knowledge with others. It’ll be easier for us deal with the system if we understand what it is and how it works.

          Though, in this case, the system is “All of human thought”, so that might be complicated. XD

          On the other hand, if people understand more about it, they’ll hopefully serve to create feedback mechanisms of their own accord? I can dream. XD

  18. albatross11 says:

    Cool link: A video explaining the Prisoner’s dilemma (and sneaking in some other basic game theory ideas). I’ve explained this idea to my kids a bunch of times, but I’ll probably show them the video because it gives a better sense of how you think of this using a payoff matrix, rather than just with a verbal example. (It actually matters how the payoffs work.)

    Somewhat related: This video explains some voting paradoxes surrounding Arrow’s impossibility theorem. Very accessible and seems like a reasonable treatment to me. (But I know at least one serious voting theory guy (Jameson Quinn) hangs around here sometimes–I’d be interested to hear his take on it.)

  19. Nick says:

    I’ll be voting in November. There’s an issue on the ballot that I’m not sure how to vote on:

    Issue 1
    To reduce penalties for crimes of obtaining, possessing, and using illegal drugs
    Proposed constitutional amendment
    Proposed by initiative petition
    To add a new section 12 to article XV of the constitution of the state of Ohio
    A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass

    If adopted, the amendment would:
    * Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or education programming.
    * Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.
    * Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months.
    * Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence.
    * Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state-administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds.
    * Require a graduated series of responses, such a community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations.

    I take it that the amendment isn’t about drugs so much as the prison population. Ohio prisons are pretty overcrowded; the numbers I’m seeing for last year say they’re 30% over capacity or more, with 50,000 inmates in a system designed for about 38,000.

    Specific advice is helpful, but since this is an open thread, I’d like to see broader discussion: does jail time for drug crimes reduce offenses? Are current American laws too harsh? What if any would be a better amendment than this?

    • Lillian says:

      Well there’s always the classic example of Portugal, which decriminalized drug possession way back in 2001 and has since enjoyed large drops in drug abuse and addiction rates. Then there’s this fun chart showing that the war on drugs has basically been a gigantic waste of money. Also while evidence on the deterrent effect of prison sentences is fairly thin on the ground, my understanding is that due to hyperbolic discounting you get 95% of the deterrent effect from the first 10 years of a given sentence. Moreover, longer sentences tend to decrease the further deterrent effect of prison on those who have been released, and makes it more difficult for them to reintegrate into society. Both of these effects encourage further criminal behaviour, such that longer sentences tend to be counter-prouctive at reducing crime rates.

      All of this points to shorter sentencing generally being much more effective from a social policy standpoint. Therefore i encourage you to vote in favour of this proposal, and to encourage other voters to do so as well.

      Also morally speaking, i think it’s fundamentally wrong to imprison people for acts which have no victim. There is no injured party when someone gets high on heroin, except perhaps for the user. In order to justify treating them as criminals, there would have to be some pretty convincing evidence that doing so produces a net social good that offsets the very significant costs of enforcing prohibition. No such evidence has been forthcoming as far as i can tell.

      • Loriot says:

        It’s not quite victimless, since someone has to pay for the constant trips to the ER. But imprisoning people is also very expensive, so I’m not sure where that works out.

        Of course, the ideal solution would be to rehabilitate drug users if possible.

        • The trips to the ER are mostly a result of the laws against drugs use, since they are mostly due to the poor quality control in an illegal market. Medical grade heroin, as best I understand it, is a pretty safe drug, having been invented as a safer substitute for morphine.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            As far as I understand, heroin may have originally been *marketed* as a safer, “less addictive” substitute for morphine, but turned out to be nothing of the sort. (not a chemist, but I am given to understand that the only chemical difference from morphine is the addition of two acetyl groups, making it more fat soluble, and thus giving a more powerful rush when injected.) Nonetheless, what you say about the risks being largely a result of its illegal status rather than its inherent pharmacological properties that it would continue to have under a legally regulated market, seems very likely.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Loriot:

          It’s not quite victimless, since someone has to pay for the constant trips to the ER

          First, what David Friedman said. But secondly, it’s still important to note that heroin has an unusually narrow therapeutic window (i.e. difference between the minimum amount needed to produce the desired effect and the amount at which you get dangerous side-effects). This argument has a lot less force with, say, cannabis or most psychedelics.

          the ideal solution would be to rehabilitate drug users if possible.

          Not sure if I’m misunderstanding you here, but I would say that as long as we’re talking about drug users (as opposed to abusers, i.e. people whose use of the drug has become problematic), a better solution is to leave them alone, unless and until they present a realistic danger to themselves or others, or voluntarily decide to seek help in quitting. That’s already what we do with alcohol, a drug which is by very plausibly more dangerous than some of the currently-illegal ones.

          • Controls Freak says:

            as long as we’re talking about drug users (as opposed to abusers, i.e. people whose use of the drug has become problematic)

            I’ve mentioned here before that a big problem is that we have hardly any clue what genetic/socioeconomic factors cause a person to start using a drug, switch from one drug to another, or move from being a mere “user” to an “abuser”… or worse, what factors could be used to get an “abuser” to stop abusing. I’ve posited that this might be one of the reasons why folks have said, “Better to just make it illegal and try to reduce consumption/initial use.” I also think it poses a direct problem to the type of hard distinction you’re making.

            Think prescription opioids users -> heroin abusers. The transition from the former to the latter is complicated and shrouded in mystery. No one currently thinks that we can just flood the world with the former and not end up with some quantity of the latter… and worse, once they’ve made the transition, we have basically no way of getting them back. I think this is a pretty tough problem for a neat clean distinction between the two categories.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Ok, sure there isn’t a clear bright line; a person who often drinks to the point of throwing up at a weekend party has more of an alcohol problem than someone who never has more than a half-pint of beer on any given night, without being a full-blown alcoholic who pours a whisky for breakfast every morning, but the point is that enough users of most drugs are sufficiently far from the ‘so out of control as to present a clear and substantial danger to themselves and others’ end of the spectrum that imposing state intervention on all of them is almost certainly a waste of resources that could be focussed on helping the problematic minority get their act together.

            I should also have been clearer that I do not mean to imply that there should be no more restrictions on where you can sell or use opiates than there are on where you can sell or use candy – by all means, make them something of a hassle to access, and maintain restrictions on advertising, sale to children, public use / intoxication etc… just as long as they are accessible enough to undermine the illegal market (and of sufficiently higher quality than the illegal market equivalent that almost no one will buy from anyone but the regulated legal market).

            I am deeply skeptical of the hypothesis that the current system, which basically funnels all the profits of the industry into the hands of criminals and terrorists while making the drugs themselves much more dangerous to use than they would otherwise be, actually saves more lives than it costs.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Of course, everyone wants to deflect to alcohol. Alcohol is also a dangerous drug. We tried prohibiting it for a reason. This prohibition worked, in the sense that it significantly curtailed consumption and improved health outcomes markedly. This prohibition was also different than prohibition of other substances. It had problems; current prohibitions have problems; but their problems were substantially different in kind. Merely making reference to alcohol and assuming that your interlocutor is going to lockstep nod their head, “Yes, we turned back from alcohol prohibition, therefore other prohibition is bad,” isn’t going to cut it.

            enough users of most drugs are sufficiently far from the ‘so out of control as to present a clear and substantial danger to themselves and others’ end of the spectrum

            But what causes the former users to become the latter users? Is it just a Poisson process? If we have more of the former, do we just get more of the latter?

            imposing state intervention on all of them is almost certainly a waste of resources that could be focussed on helping the problematic minority get their act together.

            But how? Like I said, we have approximately zero clue how to take these folks and convert them back to the benign folks. There is not a single heroin rehab program out there that even bothers to use a metric of success like, “Stops using heroin.” Instead, it’s, “Presents a clear and substantial danger to themselves and others slightly less often.”

            You’re still falling squarely within the crosshairs of my original critique. If we have no clue what process turns casual users into dangerous abusers and no hope of turning them back, what meaningful policy tools do we have besides, “Do our best to reduce initial use and overall consumption”?

            EDIT: In regard to your last paragraph, I am not trying to ignore the problems that stem from prohibition. Rather, I’m trying to get people to be realistic about the negative effects that will follow if it is removed. Too many people appeal to “treatment” as if it’s a magic word that instantly fixes all problems that will come from increased consumption.

            To go back to prohibition of alcohol, it’s interesting to note the timeframe involved. Automobiles were still a relatively new invention. Not everyone had them; they didn’t go all that fast. It’s hard to account for peripheral effects, so the primary metric available to them was things like health outcomes. They weighed that against the various negatives (and considered some of the unique aspects of alcohol) in deciding to turn back from prohibition. I’m curious how the debate might have been changed, had it happened half a century later… if they could have another direct measure, like deaths due to drunk driving, to counterbalance some of the negatives.

          • cassander says:

            @Controls Freak

            Of course, everyone wants to deflect to alcohol. Alcohol is also a dangerous drug. We tried prohibiting it for a reason. This prohibition worked, in the sense that it significantly curtailed consumption and improved health outcomes markedly. i

            My understanding is that it did not do this, that consumption declined but that deaths increased, even before you count all the murders.

          • Is it just a Poisson process? If we have more of the former, do we just get more of the latter?

            My guess is that a big part of it is that some people are more inclined to addiction than others. Alcohol is legal for adults, widely available to teenagers, and not very expensive. Yet most Americans are not addicted to alcohol.

            If that is correct, than as drugs become more available the number of addicts increases much less rapidly than the number of users, as fewer and fewer people remain who are inclined to addiction but not yet addicted. And the argument also suggests that, to some degree, different addictions substitute for each other, so as you get more heroin addicts you will get fewer alcohol addicts or gambling addicts or sex addicts.

            But that’s all speculation. I don’t know if there are good data on the question or not.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @cassander

            Death rates from cirrhosis and alcoholism, alcoholic psychosis hospital admissions, and drunkenness arrests all declined steeply during the latter years of the 1910s, when both the cultural and the legal climate were increasingly inhospitable to drink, and in the early years after National Prohibition went into effect. They rose after that, but generally did not reach the peaks recorded during the period 1900 to 1915.

            This is not surprising, as National Prohibition was a Constitutional Amendment, and only possibly after widespread support for local policies and culture which accomplished similar goals.

            EDIT: That article also talks about murders, and treats it as somewhat overblown.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @DF

            You’re basically describing a Poisson process, and ascribing it to yet-undetermined genetic factors. It still leaves the exact value of the consumption-elasticity uncalculated, but preserves directionality and policy uncertainty/uselessness.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nick

      “I’ll be voting in November. There’s an issue on the ballot that I’m not sure how to vote on…

      …I take it that the amendment isn’t about drugs so much as the prison population. Ohio prisons are pretty overcrowded….”

      At the San Francisco Hall of Justice the smell of confiscated marijuana used to often be so volumnous and overpowering that it would waft up from the basement through the elevator shafts and you could smell it even on the 5th floor near the Police Chief’s Office.

      After the law allowing medical marijuana passed, even before the law allowing recreational use passed, gradually the busts got less and you didn’t have that stench from the property room and at the same time the inmate population got less and less until the 800 bed County Jail#3 on the 6th floor closed down reducing my work load a lot (there’s still #4 on the 7th floor so my job still exists), so yes decriminalizing at least one drug has reduced the San Francisco Jails inmate population even at the same time the State forced inmates the county Jails to house inmates that had previously been in the State Prisons.

      Another plus side is that after my Dad’s death it was easy to hire movers by telling them “You can keep any weed or pills you find”

      Some downsides are that on the sidewalks now the stink of weed is very common (more so than tobacco cigarettes), there’s now billboard ads for pot dispensaries, marijuana use correlates with schizophrenia, and stupid stoners get on my nerves.

      • and stupid stoners get on my nerves.

        In my experience that’s less of a problem than the alcohol equivalent.

        My chief complaint about alcohol is that I get in a conversation with someone about something interesting, he keeps not following my points and I keep trying to restate them so he will, and eventually I realize that he has drunk enough to be unable to think clearly, not enough to be obviously drunk.

        I can’t remember anything similar happening with marijuana.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman

          “…My chief complaint about alcohol is that I get in a conversation with someone about something interesting, he keeps not following my points…”

          Ah, this explains why no one is taking up my offer to have a beer with me, I did suggest coffee as an alternative people!

          • I would be happy to have you drink a beer while I have a coke zero. The problem is that you are in San Francisco, I am in San Jose, and I rarely get up that far.

            If you ever get down here we would be happy to provide you–and as much of your family as you want to bring–a medieval dinner, that being one of our hobbies.

          • Plumber says:

            Thanks @DavidFriedman</b, that sounds really nice (and I absolutely understand not being able to bear the drive).

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I am currently reading “Uncommon Grounds”, a history of coffee in history and society. And one of the most interesting things that it covers is the huge social change that happens in a society when it replaces beer with coffee. It may just have been a temporal concidence, or entirely both driven by an underlying factor, instead of one driving the other, but it’s a notable transformation, and it just kept happening at the same time.

            Substitute coffee for beer, and people start… talking. To each other. And thinking! And talking about what they think. To each other. Very dangerous.

          • Gazeboist says:

            When was that? Did it relate to the reduction in the water sanitation problems that I’ve seen cited as a reason for (relatively light) beer being the beverage of choice in the first place?

      • Gazeboist says:

        Wait, hang on, did they close Jail #3, leave Jail #4 open, and not renumber them?

        • Nornagest says:

          My guess is they might have skipped renumbering them because renumbering everything that refers to Jail #4 would have been a gigantic pain in the ass.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nornagest

            “My guess is they might have skipped renumbering them because renumbering everything that refers to Jail #4 would have been a gigantic pain in the ass.”

            In their INFINITE WISDOM!!! the Sheriff’s department re numbered their jails back in 2009….

            ….and when I started working in the jails in 2012 that change was still a giant pain.

            Having a bunch of ex-Soviet co-workers (they know central steam system boilers) and their tales was a clue, but working for The City and County of San Francisco has really opened my eyes to the deficits of central planning (sorry Scott Alexander and “Moloch”), not that I’m pro completely free markets either (my years working in non-union private industry cured me of that)!

            Warning: Extended utopian musing/ranting/wishlist:

            As ever, my preferences are for strong small local governments where most political power rests that have New England style town halls, existing State government is weak, or divided up (California is too big), a Swiss Confederation style national givernment (the wrinkle with that is war, it took the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States to defeat fascism, I don’t think a Swiss confederation could do it), most older people are small business owners and/or teachers, teenagers and young adults are apprentices/”interns”, that go to trade schools as well as work starting for most at age 15 of 16, boys go mostly into blue-collar skilled trades for all but the frail and feeble minded, girls mostly into professions (accountants, lawyers, nurses and the like), National Guard style “weekend warriors” service is mandatory for most young and middle ages adults, farm labor in the tomato fields between Gilroy and Hollister (or local equivalent) is also mandatory, maybe a couple of weeks every other year, the few who do it more are very well paid (like tar sands oil field workers and Alaskan fishermen), late 20’s and middle-aged adults belong to strong guilds/unions which administer a strong welfare state, or there’s a Utah model church based welfare state if the majority are believers (in whatever faith, except Dianetics, I mean c’mon!, though my preferences are Catholic or Orthodox for the rituals, or Anglican cause even at 92 the Queen is smoking hot!), city blocks are laid out in hexagons not squares, no one under 26 years old is allowed to drive a motor car or truck in peacetime, bicycles, 1960’s Lambretta scooters, and 1970’s Norton Commando Motorcycles, are common, with a sprinkling of 1965 Dodge Coronet motor cars as well as the Czechoslovakian Tatra 603’s that are only driven by full adults, all motor vehicle manufacturers must sell quality-but-not-too-expensive replacement parts for every part of every motor vehicle sold in the last 100 years, lots of trolleys as well, at least one cafe/diner that serves good beer, coffee, tea, and corned beef sandwiches per one hundred people, more bookstores and public libraries, Doctor Who and Star Trek are back on broadcast television (cable and streaming are not acceptable substitutes!), the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons bluebook Basic Set is back in print, Susanna Clarke publishes another book, Chicago Faucets brand plumbing fixtures are more common, more brass and bronze, less plastic, and dogwalkers keep their pets off my lawn.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Why hexagons?

          • Nick says:

            Why hexagons?

            Sidestepping the High Modernist error of evenly-spaced rectangular grids, I presume.

          • Gazeboist says:

            The trouble with weak states and strong towns (and likewise with weak feds and strong states) is that you’re left without an overarching power enforcing civil rights* at the lower level.

            I generally think of this as a strong, slow fed setting a baseline from which faster states vary, with the primary responsibilities of the fed being (1) fully national projects such as defense, transit, and communications, (2) mediation of disputes between states, and (3) protection of individuals from abuse by states. It’s possible to have states protecting individuals from abuse by towns, but then why do you have a federal government in the first place? You can get most of the same benefits if the states just negotiate with each other directly, in the same way that the UN and related organizations are more a place for diplomats to meet than another layer of governance.

            * Civil rights here meaning, essentially: property, public participation and withdrawal therefrom, and due process.

            ed:

            And I think a grid of hexagons will adjust better to not quite being able to fit the terrain, where a rectangular grid gets kind of dumb at the edges.

          • cassander says:

            @Gazeboist says:

            The trouble with weak states and strong towns (and likewise with weak feds and strong states) is that you’re left without an overarching power enforcing civil rights* at the lower level.

            There is no reason to assume that, on average, a federal government is more likely to support civil rights than a local government and plenty of reasons to suspect that it won’t. Local governments will, of course, have greater variance than a national government, but that can be for good or ill. Oppressive local governments are much easier to escape than oppressive federal governments, and while jurisdictional competition is weak, it’s far from non-existent. During the middle of the 20th century, something like 2/5s of the black population in the southern US moved out of the south.

            I generally think of this as a strong, slow fed setting a baseline from which faster states vary,

            this bespeaks a whiggish notion of history that I don’t think is justified by the history of the US, or anywhere. History, at least moral history, isn’t progress. It’s a random walk that gets retrospectively labeled progress. A powerful federal can push that walk, but it’s just as likely to lock in something bad.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The last thing I would ever want as a technical professional would be having to work my way up through some [censored] guild system and kiss up to a some craft master from the age of 14 to 34, and then have to spent the rest of my life kissing up to a panel of old men who the last time they worked at the coalface coding was still done with hand hex coding, who are personally invested in doing to me what their old men did to them. And I say that even as I am now old enough and experienced enough to be one of those old men.

            I would rather work for a chain of sociopathic corporations in predefined limited boss/employee or customer/contractor relationships. And given the choice, most other people good at tech and STEM do too.

            Take your idealized job-controlling guilds, and jam them up [censored].

            “Utopia”. my ass.

            (I have strong opinions about guilds and anything that stinks like a guild.)

          • Gazeboist says:

            I’m sorry, deliberate experimentation in search of better law is Whiggish now? Whiggish in the same way that sitting around and assuming they will come into being by magic is? Or is it Whiggish to think that legal systems forbidding heritable slavery are superior to those that permit it?

            The whole reason to keep the federal system slow and prevent it from changing the law everywhere at once is that the nation as a whole should not be so arrogant as to assume that new law is always superior to old. But the reason the law can be changed in the first place is that some laws are, in fact, better than others.

            The past is not special. If you acknowledge that a change in the law has been a good thing at some point, you must acknowledge that it might again. If you acknowledge that a change in law has been a bad thing at some point (and I do), you must acknowledge that a degree of caution is advisable before setting it in stone (and I do).

          • Plumber says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            “Why hexagons?.”

            To have “wye” intersections instead or “cross” intersections for traffic calming (you always have to do slight turns) and I think it will lower the likelihood of “tee” collisions. 

            @Gazeboist
            “The trouble with weak states and strong towns (and likewise with weak feds and strong states) is that you’re left without an overarching power enforcing civil rights* at the lower level…”

            I actually agree with you on that a lot as the Great Depression, the Second World War, and Jim Crow (especially regarding voting rights) were all deep problems that required an activist Federal government, but both Sacramento and Washington are very remote, and while the aristocratic Hawaii, the libertarian New Hampshire, the socialist Vermont, and the theocratic Utah (of my imagination, each state could change forms on a plebiscite), may be sized right to be “laboratories of democracy” as I said in my earlier post California is too big, Los Angeles County alone has more people than 40 states, and I like our rulers to be up close and our votes to count more. In my lifetime I’ve never seen a Governor in person and I’ve seen exactly two Presidential candidates: Jesse Jackson up close when he gave a speech right on Adeline Avenue in my old neighborhood near the border of Berkeley and Oakland (pedestrians were allowed, but they closed the street to motorists), and Walter Mondale from a great distance in San Francisco that same year, and neither won.

            In contrast this last year a City Councilman running for re-election in the little town I moved to knocked on our door and asked me what issues mattered to me. I liked that, it reminded me of a union meeting. 

            Mostly I want more self-government (yes, some anarchist or libertarian will say “How about complete self-government?” but anarchy to me sounds like Somalia and libertarianism like plutocracy) in a society that starts and stays with more equal property ownership I imagine something more libertarian could work well but I don’t think that could last for many generations (yes I know that the mid 20th century U.S.A. welfare state that I usual advocate a return to as a less utopian and more achievable goal only lasted a few generations as well but I understand that things more like that still exist elsewhere in the Anglophone and in Europe).

            @cassander
            “…During the middle of the 20th century, something like 2/5s of the black population in the southern US moved out of the south….”

            Just an anecdote: Most of my neighborhood friends growing up had grandparents that came up from the south, often the grandfather had been a Korean war veteran, and instead of having birthday parties at their parents apartments the grandmother would host at her house, and more than once I saw pictures of white men on the wall: John and Robert Kennedy, the same as on the walls of the houses of the Catholic girls I would later date (though looking further and seeing pictures of either Martin Luther King Jr. or the Pope would probably tell you which). Unlike at their grandparents house the apartments of my black friends patents didn’t have pictures of Kennedy’s on their walls (and usually not MLK either), instead it would posters of the “Great Kings of Africa” which would have a little biography on it, so I actually learned about Hannibal crossing the Alps before I knew much about the Roman Empire. 

            (I now realize that not sounding like Abraham Simpson taking about “onions on your shoe” is difficult for me)

            @Mark Atwood
            “The last thing I would ever want as a technical professional would be having to work my way up through some [censored] guild system and kiss up to a some craft master from the age of 14 to 34, and then have to spent the rest of my life kissing up to a panel of old men who the last time they worked at the coalface coding was still done with hand hex coding, who are personally invested in doing to me what their old men did to them. And I say that even as I am now old enough and experienced enough to be one of those old men.

            I would rather work for a chain of sociopathic corporations in predefined limited boss/employee or customer/contractor relationships. And given the choice, most other people good at tech and STEM do too.

            Take your idealized job-controlling guilds, and jam them up [censored].

            “Utopia”. my ass.

            (I have strong opinions about guilds and anything that stinks like a guild.)”

            Wow! 

            Well, one man’s Paradise is another man’s Hell!

            For what little it’s worth I found that the level of teaching of ?

            (for example) trigonometry was better at my plumbing apprenticeship night classes than at my high school (and by better I mean that they taught it at all), the “panel of old men” controlling whether you got to become a Journeyman was the “Joint Apprentice Training Committee”, half appointed by the contractors, and half appointed by the union, and yeah you really didn’t want to cross them, but after I did my five years apprenticeship I could go to union meetings and vote for the union side of the JATC (I could vote for most everything else at the union meetings after my first year as an apprentice, but not that).

            In general the guys in their 60’s who were still working with their tools were the nicest to @Nancy Lebovitz
            “Why hexagons?.”

            To have “wye” intersections instead or “cross” intersections for traffic calming (you always have to do slight turns) and I thing it will lower the likelihood of “tee” collisions. 

            @Gazeboist
            “The trouble with weak states and strong towns (and likewise with weak feds and strong states) is that you’re left without an overarching power enforcing civil rights* at the lower level…”

            I actually agree with you on that a lot as the Great Depression, the Second World War, and Jim Crow (especially regarding voting rights) were all deep problems that required an activist Federal government, but both Sacramento and Washington are very remote, and while the aristocratic Hawaii, the libertarian New Hampshire, the socialist Vermont, and the theocratic Utah (of my imagination, each state could change forms on a plebiscite), may be sized right to be “laboratories of democracy” as I said in my earlier post California is too big, Los Angeles County alone has more people than 40 states, and I like our rulers to be up close and our votes to count more. In my lifetime I’ve never seen a Governor in person and I’ve seen exactly two Presidential candidates: Jesse Jackson up close when he gave a speech right on Adeline Avenue in my old neighborhood near the border of Berkeley and Oakland (pedestrians were allowed, but they closed the street to motorists), and Walter Mondale from a great distance in San Francisco that same year, and neither won.

            In contrast this last year a City Councilman running for re-election in the little town I moved to knocked on our door and asked me what issues mattered to me. I liked that, it reminded me of a union meeting. 

            Mostly I want more self-government (yes, some anarchist or libertarian will say “How about complete self-government?” but anarchy to me sounds like Somalia and libertarianism like plutocracy) in a society that starts and stays with more equal property ownership I imagine something more libertarian could work well but I don’t think that could last for many generations (yes I know that the mid 20th century U.S.A. welfare state that I usual advocate a return to as a less utopian and more achievable goal only lasted a few generations as well but I understand that things more like that still exist elsewhere in the Anglophone and in Europe).

            @cassander
            “…During the middle of the 20th century, something like 2/5s of the black population in the southern US moved out of the south….”

            Just an anecdote: Most of my neighborhood friends growing up had grandparents that came up from the south, often the grandfather had been a Korean war veteran, and instead of having birthday parties at their parents apartments the grandmother would host at her house, and more than once I saw pictures of white men on the wall: John and Robert Kennedy, the same as on the walls of the houses of the Catholic girls I would later date (though looking further and seeing pictures of either Martin Luther King Jr. or the Pope would probably tell you which). Unlike at their grandparents house the apartments of my black friends patents didn’t have pictures of Kennedy’s on their walls (and usually not MLK either), instead it would posters of the “Great Kings of Africa” which would have a little biography on it, so I actually learned about Hannibal crossing the Alps before I knew much about the Roman Empire. 

            (I now realize that not sounding like Abraham Simpson taking about “onions on your shoe” is difficult for me)

            @Mark Atwood
            “The last thing I would ever want as a technical professional would be having to work my way up through some [censored] guild system and kiss up to a some craft master from the age of 14 to 34, and then have to spent the rest of my life kissing up to a panel of old men who the last time they worked at the coalface coding was still done with hand hex coding, who are personally invested in doing to me what their old men did to them. And I say that even as I am now old enough and experienced enough to be one of those old men.

            I would rather work for a chain of sociopathic corporations in predefined limited boss/employee or customer/contractor relationships. And given the choice, most other people good at tech and STEM do too.

            Take your idealized job-controlling guilds, and jam them up [censored].

            “Utopia”. my ass.

            (I have strong opinions about guilds and anything that stinks like a guild.)”

            Wow! 

            Well, one man’s Paradise is another man’s Hell!

            For what little it’s worth I found that the level of teaching of ?

            (for example) trigonometry was better at my plumbing apprenticeship night classes than at my high school (and by better I mean that they taught it at all), the “panel of old men” controlling whether you got to become a Journeyman was the “Joint Apprentice Training Committee”, half appointed by the contractors, and half appointed by the union, and yeah you really didn’t want to cross them, but after I did my five years apprenticeship I could go to union meetings and vote for the union side of the JATC (I could vote for most everything else at the union meetings after my first year as an apprentice, but not that).

            In general the guys in their 60’s who were still working with their tools were the nicest to me and the most eager to teach you the craft (one old guy had been an independent contractor and said he joined the union to teach because his kids didn’t want the business). The guys who had recently been apprenticed themselves were usually nice to me as well, but many of the middle-aged Journeyman were real jerks to the apprentices despite that many times your apprentice would later become your foreman or union jobsite steward (I was never foreman, but I was steward on jobs with guys I worked with when I was their apprentice, and I had jobs where the foreman had previously been a classmate of mine).

            I think it depends on if you like to vote, or to vote with your feet which you’d prefer, but for myself I hate moving.

            Oh, and I really don’t think trying to quickly implement my “utopia” would be a good idea as with a few exceptions I think quick radical societal changes usually don’t go well, especially for the generation implementing them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re Mark vs. Plumber on apprenticeship:

            I’m reminded of a conversation I had with an Orthodox Jewish woman. In Judaism, husbands owe sex to their wives rather than (as is more commonly the case) the other way around.

            I’ve never gotten an answer about how it worked out in practice, so I asked her.

            She said that good people can make anything work, and bad people can make a misery of anything. I don’t agree with her that the rules absolutely don’t matter, but I think her point is worth remembering.

          • Deiseach says:

            The last thing I would ever want as a technical professional would be having to work my way up through some [censored] guild system

            You already are. If you’re in any kind of a job past “move these boxes from here to there” reliant on the strength of your back, you’re working within a guild-derived system. Learned [technical profession] and got qualifications in it, which you put on your CV when applying to a job to prove to the employer you knew your arse from your elbow? Qualifications backed up by more than “dodgy online outfit which gives out certs in return for paying a fee”? Started off in a junior role, as you put time in and got experience moved up via promotions to more senior role? What do you think you’re doing?

          • In Judaism, husbands owe sex to their wives rather than (as is more commonly the case) the other way around.

            I can’t speak to her variety of Judaism, but according to Maimonides a woman who refuses sex to her husband is a “rebellious wife.” The husband cannot force her but he should divorce her and she forfeits her ketubah, the money she would normally get if divorced or widowed.

            On the obligation the other way, again from Maimonides:

            For men who are healthy and live in comfortable and pleasurable circumstances, without having to perform work that would weaken their strength, and do nought but eat and drink and sit idly in their houses, the conjugal schedule is every night. … for sailors, once in six months; for disciples of the wise, once a week, because the study of Torah weakens their strength.

            Under Islamic law, the wife is obligated to have sex with the husband on demand, unless there is some reason such as menstruation or illness not to. From at least one Sunni source:

            One should make love to one’s wife every four nights, as is fairest, since the number of wives one may have is four … though one should make love to her more or less than this, according to the amount she needs to remain chaste and free of want for it, since it is obligatory for a husband to enable her to keep chaste.

            So the rules are not identical between Jewish and Islamic law, but closer than one might think.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Learned [technical profession] and got qualifications in it, which you put on your CV when applying to a job to prove to the employer you knew your arse from your elbow? Qualifications backed up by more than “dodgy online outfit which gives out certs in return for paying a fee”? Started off in a junior role, as you put time in and got experience moved up via promotions to more senior role? What do you think you’re doing?

            Most of this bears only the slightest resemblance to a guild system. There’s no formal apprenticeship, no board of masters setting rules for the profession (including on schedules of advancement and such), no restrictions on who can practice, etc. I don’t think “can advance via promotions” (though I never have) and “university degrees help” is enough to make it guildlike. As for those degrees… many computer science degree programs aren’t even accredited, and I’m guessing most hiring managers don’t know which.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            David, that’s interesting. I’ve seen it said several times that in Orthodox Judaism, men owe sex to their wives. What’s more, the woman I was talking to didn’t correct me.

            I wonder whether there’s a common misconception, even among Orthodox Jews.

          • Brad says:

            Here’s the Shulchan Arakh* on–
            If a husband refuses sex:

            If she says that he has erectile dysfunction and cannot have intercourse with her, and she requests a divorce, and he contradicts her, some authorities say that she is believed (Rem”a: even if they have not been married for ten years), and we force him to divorce her immediately, though he does not hive her the Ketubah. If he divorced her without being coerced, he must give her the Ketubah. Rem”a: Some authorities say that even though he can have intercourse with another woman he still mist give this woman her Ketubah; since he cannot have intercourse with her she can say, “I have given myself to you, what more can I do for you?” When is this the case? When she does not demand the Ketubah. If, however, she demands the Ketubah, she is not believed, and we do not even force him to divorce. Rem”a: Some authorities say that these days when some woman are impudent, she is not believed. Nevertheless, if there are reasons to suspect (or circumstantial evidence) that she is telling the truth, she is believed. If we suspect that he cannot have intercourse with her because she has a narrow womb and she is a virgin, or that he cannot have intercourse with her because he is aged or weak, we rely on this we do not force him to divorce her. Some authorities say that even in cases where we do not force him to divorce, we still do not force her to make peace with him, and we do not consider her to be a rebellious wife. Instead, we allow time to pass such that they either make peace or wait ten years without children. The same applies if he betrothed a woman and she may not marry him or another, he must divorce her. If she claims that her husband refuses to lie with her or have intercourse with her, it is judged as if she said he had erectile dysfunction.

            if a wife refuses sex:

            A woman who refused to have sexual relations with her husband is called “rebellious”/moredet; she is asked why she rebelled. If she says: I despise him and cannot knowingly have sex with him–Rem”a: and specifically seeks a get without her dower–but if she says: he should give me a get and my dower, we suspect that she has her eyes on another, she has the status of a moredet who wishes to torment him (Beit Yosef citing Responsa Ran; Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud)–if the husband wishes to divorce her, she does not receive her dower at all. She may take her extant worn clothes, whether they are among the assets that she brought [into the marriage] for her husband and he is responsible for them, or whether they are milog assets for which he is responsible; she takes nothing of her husband’s. Even if she took the shoes on her feet or the kerchief on her head, she removes them and gives them to him. Anything he gave her as a gift, she returns. Some say that she does not even get the tzon barzel assets, except for whatever she seized. And some say that she does not even get the milog assets except for whatever she seized (Beit Yosef citing Responsa Ran in the name of Rashba). If she rebelled against her husband in order to torment him, and says: “I am tormenting him thus because he did such-and-such to me,” or “because he cursed me,” or “because he fought with me,” or the like, we send her away from the court and tell her: “Know that if you continue your rebelliousness, you will lose even the 100 mana of your dower.” Then they make proclamations about her every day in the synagogues and study halls for four weeks–Rem”a: some say that the proclamations need not be made every day, but only on Shabbat (Ran and Hagahot Maimuniyot, and it is also implied by Tur), and this seems to be the predominant opinion–saying: “This woman so-and-so rebelled against her husband.” After the proclamation she is sent to the court a second time: “If you continue your rebellion, you will lose your dower.” If she continued rebelling and did not return, she is advised that she will lose her dower, and will not have any dower at all. She is not granted a get until 12 months have passed, and she gets no alimony all 12 months–Rema: even if she is pregnant (Beit Yosef citing Responsa Rashba); yet what she produces belongs to her, though he gets usufruct (Tur). If she dies before receiving the get, her husband inherits her–Rem”a and is obligated to redeem her [if she is captured] and bury her (Tur). After 12 months, her husband has no duties toward her, nor she to her husband. Since she caused the loss of her dower, she gets none of her prenuptial stipulations [for rights within the marriage], since he may divorce her without giving the dower, but retains her at his will (Divrei Harav, also implies by Maharin no. 20). This is the routine prescribed if she rebelled in order to torment him. Rem”a: After 12 months, it does not matter if she returns to him. Rather, she has lost her dower, and if he wishes to retain her, he must write another. However, within 12 months she may return to him and is entitled to her dower. If he dies within the 12 months, she gets her dower from his inheritors (Ran on Ketubot ch. 5). If he wishes to divorce her within the 12 months, he gives her the tzon barzel assets, her dower, and everything that he stipulated to give her (Beit Yosef citing Responsa Rashba). Some say that nowadays, since one may not marry two wives, we do not wait twelve months if he wishes to divorce her. If she does not want to divorce, we allow him to marry another woman (Mordechai at the end of Ketubot ch. 5, citing Raavan). Some disagree, stating that he must not be permitted to marry a second woman (ibid. in the glosses; Responsa Rashba no. 860; Maharik no. 63). This is the predominant position. This all applies to a married woman. A betrothed woman, however, who rebels against her husband and refuses to move into his home may be divorced against her will. Alternatively, he may marry another woman, and is given permission to do so (ibid.). It seems to me that this all applies within 12 months. After 12 months, if he wishes to divorce her, she must accept the get even against her will, or else he is permitted to marry another woman, for a woman does not have the power to chain him forever. This seems correct to be the correct ruling. Some say that even within 12 months, if he transgressed and married another woman due to [the first wife’s] rebelliousness, we do not compel him to divorce [the second woman] (Maharik no. 29). Even if she was a menstruant or ill, and thus unavailable for sexual relations–Rem”a: and there is no difference whether she began her rebellion before or after she took ill (Ran on Ketubot ch. 5; also implied by Mordechai citing Raavyah and by Hagahot Alfasi), but some disagree (idib., citing Maharam)–or even if her husband was a seaman with a six-month season, and even if he has another wife. Similarly, a betrothed woman whose time came to consummate that marriage, and she rebelled to torment him and did not consummate, is considered sexually rebellious. Some say that even a sister-in-law who does not wish to consummate levirate marriage in order to torment [the brother-in-law] is subject to this prescription.

            *Maimonides is extremely well respected, but his rulings aren’t always followed. The Shulkhan Arukh, which is to say either the Karo or Rama rulings, is almost always authoritative on any question it addresses.

        • Matt M says:

          Maybe it’s like Seal Team 6, and they want to keep higher numbers to scare the criminals?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I figure it’s like that time we tried to get Hitler to believe we had over a hundred airborne divisions.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M

            “Maybe it’s like Seal Team 6, and they want to keep higher numbers to scare the criminals?”

            Oh Matt M, you should know that the board of supervisors in their INFINITE WISDOM!!! don’t want the morans cherished guests to be scared, instead they’re to be given cable television and sold cookies and potatoes chips.

        • Plumber says:

          @Gazeboist

          Wait, hang on, did they close Jail #3, leave Jail #4 open, and not renumber them?”

          Not yet, and please don’t give them the idea!

      • engleberg says:

        Re: marijuana use correlates with schizophrenia-

        I read a Patrick Cockburn thing recently, he described patients on the schiz going to hospital, getting better, getting out, getting a celebratory (insert dose) of pot, going nuts and back into schizophrenia. Is that widely known, accepted as real?

        • Plumber says:

          Some studies conflict (as always), but basically marijuana use seems to trigger schizophrenia in people with a genetic predisposition, especially those who use pot in adolescence, if you don’t have a genetic predisposition and don’t try pot until your in your late 20’s or older it’s pretty safe, but the younger regular use is started the more dangerous it is, and use has triggered psychotic episodes in some.

          As anecdotes, using “medical” marijuana did seem effective in treating my Dad’s pain, but also brought on madness, but he had a brain tumor, basically if he used it he felt better within a couple of hours, but his connection with reality the next day was worse and he’d be more likely to get violent, but he’d been a smoker for decades, and yeah he was always weird.

          My brother was also a regular smoker (and user of other “street drugs”) and for a time he believed he had psychic powers and was “out there”, but he’s the one who got a college education and a white-collar job with the State of Maryland after he graduated and moved there.

          His wife is still a regular user (for pain she says), and other than an out of ordinary desire to spend time doing artistic paintings it seems to have no ill effects

    • Nick says:

      Thanks, everyone!

  20. BBA says:

    Sentient beings of SSC, I give you the terrifying production of uncertainty:

    [name redacted] didn’t remember the event in question, but remained open to the possibility that it had occurred.

    “It wouldn’t have been a matter of consent/non-consent. But maybe coercion? Maybe I put them in a situation where they did not feel like they could say no? Or were drunk and I did not pick up on that inability to clearly consent? I think I did something wrong, even with the consensual safeguards intact, but it gets to be a bit messy of a question.”

    He seemed to believe his accuser, and even wanted to apologize.

    He shared an email with The Daily that he sent to the site’s moderator’s requesting his name be removed that also included his message to his accuser.

    “Of course I want my name taken down of off this site. I AM scared. But I want to say sorry. I have always made sure to make my sexual encounters … consensual, but this advance was not. I want to say I am sorry I made you feel this way, but that sounds a bit like gaslighting. Your feelings are right.”

    “I am sorry I did something that I thought was okay, but wasn’t. I am sorry that I put you in a position where you did not feel like you can say no. I know this won’t rectify things, and make the trauma or experience magically go away. But I just want to communicate (semi-directly through this proxy) my shame and regret for doing this to you.”

    I have no idea whether or not this person is guilty of the misconduct he was accused of, and if you take him at face value, neither does he. Or maybe he knows he’s innocent, but feels compelled by morality or social pressure to #BelieveWomen and confess. Or maybe he knows he’s guilty and figures he can wrap himself in wokeness to remain in good standing with his peers. Regardless, it appears the only acceptable way to respond to any allegation is with this kind of ritual self-flagellation, and maybe even this is not good enough.

    I’m one of the few people here who thinks Title IX is a good idea (even if it’s often poorly executed) and #MeToo is a worthy cause to dislodge the patriarchy and end the epidemic of sexual assault… but this story makes quite the appalling vista to behold, doesn’t it? It may be better (by some metrics, to some people) than the status quo a few years ago, but that doesn’t make it any good.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I have to say, that sort of confession turns my stomach more than the site itself does. If you’ve so bought into the narrative that you won’t even advocate for yourself, a large part of me feels you deserve whatever you get. It’s one thing if you act this way _after_ being put through Room 101 or a Kafkaesque court system, but to accept the likelihood of your own guilt from the outset is just horrifying.

    • I’m sure the self-flagellation is what he’s supposed to do but it’s not going to help him.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Why would any person on Earth self-flagellate if it’s not going to help them?
        This helps explain why so many men admire Trump.

        • albatross11 says:

          Because they believe the ideology they’re espousing, and that ideology tells them that for someone in their position, accepting guilt regardless of their memory or any evidence is the morally correct thing to do. Some people doing this will be pretending to believe it, but probably many will accept the moral principle that says that when a man is accused of sexual assault or rape by a woman, the only acceptable behavior is to accept guilt and apologize.

          Now, I think that’s not a very good moral principle, personally. But lots of people disagree with me, and some of them believe strongly enough to follow this moral principle even when it leads them to falsely accept guilt. And honestly, this isn’t any crazier than the older rule that said that the woman should accept guilt for somehow leading the man on if he forced himself on her–it’s just crazy in a new and different direction.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I am, I must confess, baffled by the idea of the old system, there.

            It implies treating women as having far more agency than the new one, which supposedly involved stripping away all the infantilization of women and treating them like equal adults in out society.

            Not to mention how close the idea of seduction skews to the idea, in general, of words-as-violence.

            There is a political axis sitting there that I don’t have a name for.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Because they believe the ideology they’re espousing, and that ideology tells them that for someone in their position, accepting guilt regardless of their memory or any evidence is the morally correct thing to do. Some people doing this will be pretending to believe it, but probably many will accept the moral principle that says that when a man is accused of sexual assault or rape by a woman, the only acceptable behavior is to accept guilt and apologize.

            But why does any man accept that ideology? Altruism is already atypical human behavior, and this ideology is about altruistically upholding principles that look designed to maximize male pain.
            (No, I can’t explain the old “guilt for getting raped” rule either. Shame, sure, but guilt is incomprehensible.)

          • BBA says:

            Maximizing my own pain and guilt has always come naturally to me. It’s something like two parts clinical depression, one part being raised Jewish.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Because people don’t always develop values as a response to incentives.

            What these people’s conception of justice is, is mostly opaque to me, but it doesn’t seem strange to me that they’d develop it.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Meanwhile, another suicide.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Oh, I didn’t realize BBA’s comment was only for you.

        • sentientbeings says:

          I want to say something about degreees of freedom and hidden variables, but I haven’t had enough coffee yet to piece it together.

      • Matt M says:

        His accuser should be charged with attempted murder.

        • sentientbeings says:

          My intuition is that ideally she should face a penalty, but I do not think a charge of attempted murder would be correct.
          I think that people who advocate or condone public, no-evidence accusations do not understand the extent of the problem. It’s not just a problem for those publicly wrongfully accused, but also for those who are privately wrongfully accused, since those people live with the constant threat of the accusation becoming public. Imagine living in a state of life-long high-anxiety due to the threat of an Implacable Man. It is not difficult at all to see how such a threat could quietly destroy a life or lead to suicide.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, here in the US, we recently sent a girl to jail for sending a guy text messages telling him that he should kill himself, didn’t we?

            While this isn’t exactly the same, it does strike me as “about equally malicious.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            1) Yes, I think many women do not understand how men feel about rapists. Some believe there’s a “rape culture” that tolerates, condones or encourages rape, when in fact men generally want to murder rapists, and are only held in check by our desire to not murder men falsely accused of rape. They casually threw these accusations at Brett Kavanaugh. But if you had convinced me he was a rapist, my response would not have been “therefore no appointment to the highest court in the land for you, you’ll have to stay where you are on the second highest court in the land.”

            2) There should also be severe penalties for nerd-sniping people with TVTropes.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Matt M

            I remember that case, but I think it was wrongly decided. I think it is an example of identifying a thing as wrong, even criminal, and then pigeonholing it into an existing classification because we lack an appropriate one. I think that method and general way of thinking is likely to have negative long-term consequences.

          • Lillian says:

            I mean, here in the US, we recently sent a girl to jail for sending a guy text messages telling him that he should kill himself, didn’t we? While this isn’t exactly the same, it does strike me as “about equally malicious.”

            Deliberately insisting that a young man kill himself when he is in the middle of attempting to do so but expressing doubts about going through with it, strikes me as significantly more malicious than spreading vicious slander about him.

            Anyway there’s a difficult balancing act here, wherein we want to punish filing false reports, but we don’t want to discourage people from filing true reports for fear of being disbelieved and punished for filing a false one. Generally i would err on the side of being very hesitant but not entirely unwilling to prosecute people for false filings. That is to say, only do so for the most egregious cases. Without more information i cannot say whether or not this particular one would qualify.

            The real problem here i think, is not really the false report. The problem is that an innocent man, when accused, could not believe that the reality of his innocence would safe guard him. The consequences of such a belief becoming widespread are potentially disastrous. John Adams can explain why:

            “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.

            But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, ‘whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,’ and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @sentientbeings

            How are you defining public? Because a norm of never telling anyone you’ve been raped unless you have evidence doesn’t seem much better.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because a norm of never telling anyone you’ve been raped unless you have evidence doesn’t seem much better.

            SB was specifically referring to accusations. “Telling people you’ve been raped”, does not constitute an accusation unless you name names.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @John

            A norm where people tell others they were raped but not that their boyfriend did it seems roughly as bad, still.

          • I’ve wondered about whether there ought to be symmetry in the university context.

            Suppose one accepts the idea of finding a student guilty of sexual assault on a preponderance of the evidence–probability more than .5. That implies that if you don’t find the accused student guilty you have just found the accuser guilty, by the same standard, of a false accusation. Given that the consequences of being found guilty of sexual assault in the university context are very serious, wouldn’t it be appropriate to impose some punishment comparable to that imposed if the case goes the other way? I have seen no university propose doing that.

            A more sensible approach, in my view, would be to use a higher standard of proof for the initial accusation, the same higher standard to be applied to the accuser, with many cases falling in the range of probability where neither is found guilty.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            In that comment, my public vs. private distinction is that it is announced indiscriminately, rather than directly conveyed to individuals. Also embedded in that comment is the assumption that the mechanisms in play are reputational/extralegal. Mind you, I am not saying there are no such mechanisms worth employing.

            I don’t know where you got the impression that I suggested a norm by which no one should report a rape or assault except when already having evidence on hand. Much of the point of reporting is to gather exactly that evidence in a timeframe that makes it reasonably possible to do so. I don’t think anyone would argue against taking an accusation “public” by bringing it to the police in a timely manner.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @sentient

            There’s a lot that fits in the gap between “individual” and “reputational,” though. A boss, a friend group, a club, a family. Everyone’s reputation is dependent on their social networks, and I don’t think that actively limiting the spread of a rape accusation in order to prevent damage to the accused’s social networks is a reasonable ask, especially in the case of intimate partner or workplace violence.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Not actively spreading to uninterested third parties is not at all the same as “actively limiting.”

            One of the issues in play is a kind of preference falsification and potentially an availability cascade.

            Let’s say a false charge cannot be substantiated, is perhaps plausible, and that most people do not believe it. Let us also assume that some non-trivial number do believe it, and some non-trivial number have sufficient doubt to take caution and avoid the person on account of uncertainty, and that everyone knows that. Let us further assume that those who do believe the accusation will act to penalize the accused, and to a lesser extent act to penalize the skeptics and the disbelievers. In such a scenario, a portion of the skeptics and disbelievers will falsify their outward beliefs (or just remain silent) in order to protect themselves from retribution by the accusers’ side. This public representation of the state of belief does not match reality, and will cause people to further update both their actual beliefs, professed beliefs, and actions taken in light of those beliefs.

            I do not see how this sort of situation could do much to help victims of assault. I do see how it could create a larger incentive to lie, and a quiet portion of the population who know that and increase their (internally held) skepticism of accusations.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Clear and convincing, perhaps?

            @sentient

            I’m in complete agreement with you in principle, but I want to understand your criteria for “uninterested.” My take is that generally the only institutions (aside from the police) that should be informed are those that both the accuser and accused have a substantial relationship to or are seeking support from. It’s generally true that this precludes going to the press, but as far as I know most of the people who write articles and give interviews about being raped without having proof don’t name their rapists (with notable exceptions – *koff* Duke Lacrosse *koff*), and it’s only celebrities who get walloped by that kind of thing. While I agree that that’s probably a problem, it doesn’t have much of an impact on your average rape victim on the street. So is there anything that this average victim should be doing differently, according to you?

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            I agree with your characterization, with an amendment. It is not only the press, but social media that matters here – online social networks are not quite the same as ordinary meat-space or more traditional networks, which largely fit the “substantial relationship” standard or something akin to it. Online social networks are particularly vulnerable to the failure mode I described. Who is most likely to employ online social networks to publicly promote an accusation? Probably college students. It could be argued that certain large communities, like universities, have an interest in members’ accusations, but I think that for most large communities of that nature, they cross the threshold into being too large for “interested” to reasonably apply, and “substantial relationship” will have to be enough.

            I don’t think there is anything the typical victim should do differently than your description.

            Since I’ve got your attention, I might as well mention that I like your username.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @sentient

            I think social media is a cancer, and I think the failure mode you describe is fundamentally a problem with social media rather than anything else. But I do agree it’s a problem.

            Thanks, by the way!

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Your opinion is not ubiquitous according to the recent SSC poll.

        • 10240 says:

          IMO if you commit suicide, that’s 100% your responsibility, no matter what causes it. Any other person is only responsible for whatever they actually do to you (including what they would have done if you don’t kill yourself, i.e. if they were going to kill you anyway, only then they are responsible for your death).

          Why attempted murder, btw? I presume you are getting the murder accusation from the suicides, but if we agree with that, it’s actual murder, not attempted.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m just gonna come out and say it – that post was a quick emotional reaction to a story I found highly upsetting, does not reflect my truly held beliefs about these sorts of situations, and I regret making it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M: +1

          • In Imperial Chinese law, causing someone to commit suicide was treated as a very serious offense, comparable to killing someone. And that included cases where the guilt of the person in question would seem weak or nonexistent to us. A son who pushed his parent into suicide by theft or acts of turpitude was subject to immediate strangulation. If the theft or act of moral turpitude had been committed at the parent’s orders, the penalty was reduced to three years’ penal servitude.

            There was a high profile case in the U.S. a few years ago where pretty serious punishment was imposed on someone for actions that may or may not have been responsible for the suicide of someone else–with support for such punishment pushed by a range of people up to and including the President.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Contrarian position: This may be a healthy response. If someone came up to me and said I had wronged them in some way, my response would be to ask them why they felt that way and try to make it right. Unless they were obviously unhinged or obviously wrong.

      The unhealthy response is posting crap on a website rather than facing someone who wronged you. In other contexts, this is seen as obviously true: for instance, small restaraunt owners get peeved when people post negative yelp reviews instead of first complaining to the restaruant owner and giving them a chance to apologize and make them right.

      I don’t think our attitude on sexual assault is very good right now, but part of a healthy culture on sexual assault is going to be that it can happen sometimes due to communication breakdowns or norm misunderstandings between otherwise well-intentioned people, and immediately saying “oh no, that didn’t happen, and you are wrong to feel that way” is not a helpful immediate reaction.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The idea that something can be simultaneously sexual assault, and also innocent, is missing in general.

        A lot of the people involved in these discussions have a tendency to believe human beings spring forth as moral beings, rather than morality requiring a learning process, complete with mistakes. Neither side is innocent of this, either.

      • albatross11 says:

        Remember we live in a partially adversarial world, with occasional crazy people and sociopaths and parasites and lots of people who are usually not any of those things, but who sometimes act like if for awhile.

        If you accept guilt and make restitution for anything you’re accused of, as the day follows the night, there will be people who figure out how to use that to extract concessions from you, or to knock you out as a rival in a power struggle, or just to get even with life by screwing with you.

        • BBA says:

          Bad-faith actors are rarer than you think. I find it completely believable that everyone in this story is being sincere.

          What puts my stomach in knots is, there’s no way to tell whether anyone’s lying here, and the story would be completely identical no matter what the underlying truth is. Speaking as a man: I’m afraid of being falsely accused, I’m even more afraid of committing assault without realizing it, and to be put in a situation where either of those could be true and I don’t know which, that’s the stuff of nightmares. And of course the situation for women is much much worse.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m afraid of being falsely accused, I’m even more afraid of committing assault without realizing it

            But the latter is completely and entirely within your control, while the former is not. This seems very contrary to typical human behavior, in which we tend to disproportionately fear things we can’t control over things we believe we can (i.e. why people are more afraid of terrorism than of chairs).

            The only plausible explanation here would seem to be that the definition of assault will change, after the fact, but your past behavior will continue to be judged by everyone, including yourself, by the updated/modern standard (which, as far as I can tell, does seem to be actually happening in society right now).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The problem being, we don’t have a word for “an honest mistake experienced by one party as traumatic.”

            I think the charitable interpretation is that BBA doesn’t want to hurt anyone. I, too, am more afraid of inadvertently traumatizing someone than of being falsely accused of sexual assault, mostly because other people’s malice is easier for me to deal with than my own moral failings.

            I’m curious as to whether this is more common among people who, like me, are comfortable with physical intimacy only in the context of a committed relationship. Not referring only to sex/romantic partners, but I feel too vulnerable for non-casual physical contact (a hug, for example) with anyone but close friends. If I were to make anyone feel violated, I’d be horrified.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @A Definite Beta Guy:
        I endorse your position.

        I will add that communication around issues of sex, desire, sexuality and sexual morality are broadly dysfunctional, most especially in America. The fundamental contradiction of an America that has embraced both a puritan and libertine attitude towards sex simultaneously is fundamentally flawed.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It’s not just the US. There’s a sexual culture where, on the one hand, the “having sex is OK!” side of sex positivity won. But the “sex is nothing to be ashamed of” side didn’t win. People will go out and find people to have casual sex with, but they won’t do the crucial negotiating-boundaries-and-consent step, and they drink for liquid courage to make the approach (more for men, in a heterosexual environment) or to feel comfortable doing something that makes them uncomfortable (more for women, in same).

          On university campuses, you’ve got a sexual environment that’s really hostile to young women especially: there’s the above, there’s the increasingly lopsided sex ratio making men “more valuable” on the market (and thus letting them get away with more caddish behaviour), and there’s a lot of guys who don’t have anything to define their masculinity by except how many women they can get in the sack (meaning they are likely to approach this with an attitude of gamesmanship, rather than sportsmanship, to say the least).

          It would probably be for the best if there were some sort of “misconduct by negligence” setup, where it could be acknowledged that it is possible to harm someone without intending to, and establishing that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure they aren’t harming someone else.

          It’s made more confusing and complicated, though, by what I think of as “vulgar sex positivity” (“if it’s done by consenting adults, it’s good”) – the only way that a binary switch between good, consenting and bad, nonconsenting can deal with stuff that’s consensual but also bad (a lot of random hookup sex) is by either saying that it wasn’t really consensual, or that it was actually good. So either caddish, jerk behaviour is coded as criminal-level wrongdoing, or it’s coded as good, kind behaviour (when it’s neither).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:
            But isn’t this what “yes means yes” and “enthusiastic consent” is all about? Pushing a norm where people are unashamed to talk about their actual sexual desires?

          • John Schilling says:

            If so, then the people doing the pushing are pushing not pushing in the right places.

            More problematic, they seem to want to punish people for violating norms, before they’ve actually implemented them as norms.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            Arguably, that’s just an effective way to go about implementing norms. Sure it’s a little pour encourager les autres, but it gets the job done.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub

            In theory, yeah, they’re part of that, but I don’t think the whole picture is being addressed. Tacking verbal consent on makes things better, I suppose. But how does one define “enthusiastic” – after all, the sort of person who would say “I knew they wanted it based on their body language” is the sort of person who will interpret any “yes” as “enthusiastic.”

            The onus is all put on the initiator, too. I’ve been told by a woman in the habit of having sex with random guys off the internet that she would find it off-putting were a guy to seek affirmative consent. Personally, I’ve always been extremely fastidious with regard to this sort of thing – and I’ve had women react with amused shock that I sought verbal consent instead of just sort of going for it.

            I don’t think that, say, the awful sexual ecosystem on campuses is going to be fixed by throwing affirmative consent in there. I asked for consent because I was afraid of accidentally hurting someone (and did it without being introduced to the concept of “affirmative consent” – I was just doing what I figured was the nice thing to do). Someone who doesn’t particularly care about hurting other people is just going to factor it in as another hurdle to jump before they get laid.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It would probably be for the best if there were some sort of “misconduct by negligence” setup, where it could be acknowledged that it is possible to harm someone without intending to, and establishing that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure they aren’t harming someone else.

            Yes, an awful lot of this problem would be easier to tackle if a man could acknowledge he behaved negligently with regards to consent (i.e., “I shouldn’t have had sex while I or my partner were intoxicated”) without having to admit to rape, with all the connotations that word has. Kind of like we don’t call someone who’s guilty of manslaughter a murderer.

        • albatross11 says:

          It strikes me that one way our discussions are flawed is not having a rich enough vocabulary. There needs to be a clear distinction in our language between forcible rape and some situation where there was a lot of ambiguity and one participant ended up doing some stuff they didn’t want to do because they felt pressured into it[1]. This is similar to the way we need a distinction between “I spike your drink to get you drunk so I can sleep with you while you’re incapacitated” and “we get drunk together and wake up naked in bed the next morning.”

          Reusing the same words (rape, sexual assault) for all these situations makes it harder to think straight about what’s going on. Ideally, the result of you forcibly raping me is that you get to spend the next several years in prison. Ideally, the result of you somehow pressuring me into sex when I didn’t really want to, without any threat of violence or anything, is that I stop going out with you or we work out how to interact in ways so this doesn’t happen again.

          Sometimes, the bad event isn’t even about consent so much as deception or acting in bad faith–you convince me you care about me to get me into bed, and later on it turns out you just wanted into my pants. That’s also bad behavior, but trying to put it into the same category as forcible rape will lead you badly astray.

          [1] This has happened to me, and I’m a heterosexual male who has never been in a sexual relationship with anyone I could not easily overpower in physical terms.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, I would argue that “yes means yes” and “enthusiastic consent “ pushes come from a place of attempting to push people to actually communicate, rather than simply trying to parse all the bad behavior into fine distinctions so that people can feel OK even though, say, their partner has no memory of the sex and now feels emotionally disturbed by it.

            I recently read a story about someone who was sexually assaulted by someone who was drunk and when they finally had the courage years later to state this finally publicly, the assailant contacted them, apologized, said they had no memory of it, confessed their alcoholism and ongoing recovery from it and wished to make amends. That brought tremendous relief and closure to the person who was assaulted.

            So, it’s not as if these kinds of nuanced conversations can’t be had. But it’s very hard when the people being assaulted are essentially told that asking for acknowledgement of their assault will break the judicial system or prevent people from engaging in romance.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearCub:

            It’s probably also harder if the person being asked to acknowledge that they weren’t paying attention to their partner and pressured her into sex she didn’t want wasn’t being asked to confess to a felony. That’s why we need to make the clear distinction.

          • 10240 says:

            We have perfectly good vocabulary for these things (assuming we don’t want to start to use criminal vocabulary, that is): asshole, sleazy, got her drunk, pressured her, drunk hookup, regrets what she did while drunk, etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve been seeing a shift from enthusiastic consent to affirmative consent, since sometimes consent is something like kindness to a partner rather than enthusiasm.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @BBA

      So, sexual assault is quite common (though, to be pedantic, it’s endemic rather than epidemic). However, do you think that the current zeitgeist is actually going to change this? There are places where everyone is ostensibly on board with anti-sexual assault, believe survivors, etc, such as lefty activist groups – which have their own problems with sexual assault, harassment, abuse.

      Whether or not someone gets hit for doing something bad (or, less commonly, hit for something they didn’t actually do) depends on many factors than what they did and whether they did it: what I saw back when I was in school was, the guy at the college who everybody finds obnoxious who sticks his hands up a few girl’s skirts is widely known as “rapey” whereas the charming, funny, popular guy who habitually targets women who are very drunk (maybe not rape by legal definition, but certainly by a social definition, and certainly enough that the university might get involved) is maybe whispered about.

      • Matt M says:

        *insert Tom Brady Saturday Night Live sketch here*

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I wonder if they could get away with that sketch today.

          Then again I have no idea what’s on SNL these days. I couldn’t watch it any more after they went full “DRRRRRUMMMMMPPPPFFFFF!”

          • Matt M says:

            The 2018 version of this sketch still has Tom Brady, but since he’s a rich white privileged male, he’s in the role of “harasser” and the “not harasser” is a transgender Muslim refugee.

          • Lillian says:

            @Conrad Honcho: Matt Damon played a very angry Brett Kavanaugh screaming, “I’m not backing down you sons of bitches! I don’t know the meaning of the word stop!”

            It was pretty funny, but you probably should keep staying away.

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        Uhm. Yes. I do believe it is possible to mostly stamp out rape. The science says that rape is common because a very small minority of men get away with doing it again and again, and their victims mostly do not report, and the investigations, when they happen, are usually.. kind of desulatory. – Rape kit tests having backlogs measured in years says very damming things about our law-enforcement priorities.

        So a shift in culture to an equilibrium where more victims report, and the police put some actual effort into investigating, ought to be able to stop most rapists before they rack up a list of victims as long as your arm, which is what currently happens. Which would, in turn, very directly cut the number of offenses, a whole bunch.

        • John Schilling says:

          Rape kit tests having backlogs measured in years says very damming things about our law-enforcement priorities.

          It says next to nothing about law-enforcement priorities, because similar backlogs exist for most other classes of criminal investigation. Including ones with physical and/or documentary evidence. I think we’ve been through this here before.

          And calling it a “backlog” is misleading, because that implies a queue of some sort and a plan to clear each entry sooner or later. Really, it’s a RINO(*) queue, where some fraction of reports – of every class of crime – are deemed not worth a cop’s time to investigate when they are fresh but impolitic to explicitly roundfile. The duration of the backlog averages half the mean time between excuses to clear out the files.

          * Random In, Never Out

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            ,, Which says terrible things about law enforcement priorities. In order for the cops to end up with a rape kit to process, some woman got up after her rape and went straight to the cops, do not shower, do not pass go. Its clear-cut, no bloody doubt that there was a rape here, and you have physical evidence, which is going to make prosecution lots easier. Effectively roundfiling those by the thousands if what people mean when they speak of rape culture, because it means the cops just are not interested in catching rapists. – And when outside money gets applied to chewing through those backlogs, it is amply demonstrated that, yes, they do represent real, serial, no-kidding, no fake accusations here, rapes, because, well, the number of distinct dna profiles recovered is a whole lot lower than the number of kits processed. When seven women turn up with the same dna traces on them, and the police *ignore* all seven, frankly, that is an argument for burning the local police department to the ground and starting over. The Detroit backlog had at least 750 serial rapists in it, because that is how many men showed up in more than one dna kit.

          • John Schilling says:

            Again, it’s not just rape. Report a burglary, go through the trouble of collecting fingerprints, and there’s a fair chance that it’s going to be roundfiled. Embezzlement, get the bank records, makes prosecution lots easier, but often there’s no prosecution anyway. Yes, these do represent real no-kidding crimes, and sometimes when you go through the records after the fact you find that you had dots that could have been connected to identify a serial rapist/burglar/embezzler/whatever years ago.

            Murders with a body and kidnappings with a ransom note, the police will pretty much always do an immediate investigation and try to find someone to prosecute. Every other class of crime, every one, is hit-or-miss on that front. This tells you nothing about police priorities, other than that they consider murder and kidnap-for-ransom to be more serious than all the rest. That you only care or even know about this when it is rape, tells us something about your priorities. That’s it.

          • Report a burglary, go through the trouble of collecting fingerprints, and there’s a fair chance that it’s going to be roundfiled.

            We were victims of burglary in Chicago about thirty years ago. The two things I remember about interacting with the police officer who spoke with us were that she made it clear that she assumed the only reason to report a burglary to the police was to get the documentation needed for an insurance claim and the comment, I think by her, that the cost of criminalizing marijuana was decriminalizing burglary.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Thomas Jorgensen

          I didn’t ask whether it was possible or not possible to eliminate rape, sexual assault, etc. BBA posted:

          #MeToo is a worthy cause to dislodge the patriarchy and end the epidemic of sexual assault…

          And my response was to ask whether the current zeitgeist (me too, etc) would actually do anything.

          “Can we fix X?” is a very different question from “will Y fix X?”

          I think it is evidently possible to reduce rates of sexual assault; that they are higher in some places and times and lower in others would point to this.

          • BBA says:

            I don’t know that it’ll work, in fact I doubt anything can work. But it’s better than the status quo ante.

          • dndnrsn says:

            1. Why do you doubt anything can work? I can think of plenty of ways things could be improved.

            2. How many things do you apply this reasoning to? That seems very maladaptive reasoning.

      • LesHapablap says:

        From another angle, would it be possible to end regular assault? Growing up I have been assaulted many times, more times than I can count or remember, and also assaulted other people. That’s just normal childhood and adolescence as far as I can tell, especially for kids with siblings. Assault risk reduces through your twenties when you stop going to crappy parties and bars.

        Sexual assault is obviously very different, but is it different in a way that means it can be reduced?

        A relevant Calvin and Hobbes: link text

        • gbdub says:

          I think that’s a good comparison – I’m not sure exactly what an ideal prosecution percentage for sexual assault would be, but it probably isn’t 100% (keep in mind that “sexual assault” covers a lot of territory).

          For assault, you probably don’t want to prosecute every time someone gets shoved in a bar. But you do want to prosecute when someone gets beaten up to the point of significant injury. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to change the law to make shoving not illegal.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I suspect the fundamental problem is the view modern society has that “Whatever consenting adults do is good,” and its corollary, “If it wasn’t good, it wasn’t consented to.” This leads to all bad sex getting redefined as rape, and also results in the sort of self-flagellation we see here (because if she felt unhappy afterwards, clearly that was bad, and therefore it can’t have been consensual, and therefore I’m a rapist, even if the woman gave every appearance of consenting at the time).

  21. The_Scarlet_Herring says:

    I no longer receive email notifications for new posts. I get an error when I try to re-subscribe via email. Is anyone else having this problem?

  22. Le Maistre Chat says:

    A History of Dragons

    Mesopotamian civilizations depicted 3 or 4 creatures that could be called dragons.

    Bašmu was an ordinary giant snake.
    Mušmaḫḫū, seen here on an Early Dynastic I (2800-2600 BC) inlay. It looked like a seven-headed sauropod (not sure how to interpret the lines coming out of its back).
    Mušḫuššu, seen here on Babylon’s Ishtar Gate. It’s first documented in Middle Babylonian (Kassite, Late Bronze Age) art and looked rather like some kind of dinosaur, though it could just be a composite of horned viper, lion and raptor.
    The ambiguous case is the Usumgallu. It matches our familiar concept of a dragon in having four legs plus wings, but the wings were feathered and the head purely leonine. It first turns up in art of the Akkadian Period (late 3rd millennium BC).

    At some stage, Mesopotamian monsters were systematized as offspring of Tiamat, the primordial sea goddess: this was famously recorded in the Enuma Elish, the myth read on Babylonian New Year’s, a Chaoskampf about the origin of the universe and her defeat by their patron god.

    Now we must note that the Chaoskampf is a story that appears in every Indo-European culture for which we have a decent corpus of tales. The earliest attested are Hindu and Hittite mythology. In the Rigveda, oldest of all Hindu scriptures, the Thunderer Indra slays Vritra AKA Ahi (“snake”, same as in Iranian – note that he’s identified as an Asura and not a Naga). At the Hittite spring festival, they read the myth of the god Tarhunt slaying Illuyanka, depicted here.
    I’ll note the Iranian version of this theme here, because the Iranian languages are closely related to Sanskrit (Rigvedic and Old Avestan are pretty mutually intelligible). Azi Dahaka (later Zahhak) is a serpent with human attributes and three heads. Rather than an elder being, he is the slayer of King Yima, a primordial man (compare Hindu Yama) whose rule of the world is subsequently overthrown by Fereydun, who cannot kill him because snakes, insects and the like emerge from his wounds, so Azi Dahaka is chained up until the end of the world (like Satan).

    In Greek mythology, we find killing a drakon associated with Zeus (Typhon son of Gaia had a hundred serpents for arms, more for feet, and human and beast heads on his shoulders), Apollo (Python… obviously just a big snake), Heracles (the Lernaean Hydra, whose serpent body branched into nine heads), Cadmus (the dragon of Ares), Jason (seen here losing to the serpentine Colchian dragon), and even lesser heroes. In the Iliad, we find the multi-headed serpent as a simple heraldic sign.
    Then there’s the drakaina, which is the same word in the feminine gender. However, while a drakon was a big snake, a drakaina had a different appearance. Generally, they were depicted with a woman’s upper body emerging from the serpent’s neck.
    Is this iconography reminding you more of the Hindu nagas than the medieval and modern Western dragon?

    In Germanic mythology, the Thunderer Thor is prophesied to slay the Midgard Serpent and die from his venom. Other Germanic dragons are also serpentine, as the term wyrm hints at.

    I’ll leave you with Slavic dragons, for which the oldest name seems to be zmei/zmiy/zmaj. Note that this is just the otherwise-feminine word for “snake” in the masculine gender… some sexual dimorphism! The Russian version is an antagonist, while in the Balkans they’re regarded as benevolent beings and loanwords from Greek (lamia) or Iranian (azdaja) are used for their enemies. Slavic dragons always have 3-12 heads (except in art of St. George) and seem to have the body type familiar to us, with four legs and wings.

    • Nornagest says:

      There are several dragons besides Jormungandr in Germanic mythology. The dragon Fafnir (who you might know from Wagner’s Ring Cycle) shows up in the Volsunga saga as an avaricious dwarf who came into possession of the cursed gold of Andvari; he killed his father Hreidmar to secure it for himself, then hid it in the wilderness and eventually grew into a gigantic serpentine form, the better to guard it. (If this reminds you either of Gollum or of Eustace Scrubb, that’s probably not a coincidence.) He breathed poison, not fire, and met his fate at the hands of Sigurd, the prototype for Wagner’s Siegfried.

      The dragon Nidhoggr, a word that’s usually glossed as “Malice Striker” but also carries connotations of contempt, gnaws at the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil. When he gets bored of that, he chows down on the worst sinners according to the Norse worldview: murderers, adulterers, and perjurers. Might be some echoes of this in the lowest circle of Milton’s Hell (and it now comes to me that “serpent” and “dragon” are interchangeable there). Anyway, at the end of the world, he’ll finally manage to chew through the world tree’s lowest root and it’ll die.

      And there’s a dragon in Beowulf, although it’s not very well characterized compared to Grendel and his mother and mostly exists to give Beowulf something to die gloriously against. It was awakened when a slave stole a cup from its hoard — there’s your Tolkien parallel again. The Gesta Danorum contains a dragon that might be related, allegedly slain by the Danish king Frotho I.

      Finally, although it’s not Germanic, I feel like the Tarasque deserves to be mentioned somewhere. A French dragon looking kind of like an ankylosaurus with a lion’s head, it was attacked with the best military technology of the time to no avail, then tamed by St. Martha and ignominiously slain by a peasant mob. There’s shades of both Godzilla and King Kong here for me.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, I knew about Nidhoggr and Fafnir. They’re standard giant venomous snakes; though I could have noted Nidhoggr as being interesting for chowing down on the worst sinners and being involved in the end of the world, and Fafnir for having started out as a dwarf.
        A Norse dwarf is of course a black elf (svartalf), and when I get into medieval romance it’ll be interesting to note that there’s a subplot in the overstuffed Italian romantic epic Orlando innamorato* that claims changing into a dragon is part of a fae’s life cycle.

        Beowulf’s dragon is so different that I should have cited him. He “flies by night encircled by fire” (lines 2273-4), which is unusual for the time it was written. It’s the full-fledged six-limbed firedrake of heraldry and St. George art. He’s also called “he who on the high heath kept watch over a hoard, in a steep stone barrow” (lines 2211-13), which is standard dragon stuff perpetuated by Tolkien and CS Lewis, as you note, but “barrow” evokes the treasure hoards of (un)dead northern chiefs.

        *Published 1483-1495 by poet Matteo Boiardo, who apparently took traditional material about Charlemagne’s wars against Muslims as the basis for his Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I’m not sure how else to explain the presence of the Chinese Empire with its sorceresses and giants, monsters from Greek mythology, play-by-play of a joust between a regular cavalier and a giraffe rider, and much more.

        Yes, the Tarasque! I’d like to know where the French got the idea for a soldier-proof lion-headed Ankylosaurus for St. Martha to tame. Medieval hagiography populated the Roman Empire with some weird stuff, but usually it’s easier to trace an inspiration.

        • Nornagest says:

          When I was writing this last night, I was more focused on the literary parallels, but in terms of the evolution of the dragon archetype, Fafnir’s interesting to me mostly because of the gold — he and Beowulf’s bane are the first instances I can think of where a dragon comes with accompanying hoard. (There’s the Golden Fleece, I guess, but that was just one object.) Fafnir’s also unusual in that his hoard has a well-defined origin that ties into his story; the only other case of that I can think of, in mythology or modern literature, is Smaug. Frotho’s dragon also has a hoard, but it doesn’t say where it comes from.

          The barrow of Beowulf’s bane is an interesting one, too. Germanic myth is full of mound-dwellers, often guarding treasure that falls to the hero that defeats them, but they’re usually undead and/or troll-like — for example Grettis saga has one that likes to run around at night and break the gable-posts off people’s houses, apparently for fun. (Its gaze also causes PTSD, but that’s another story.) A dragon in a barrow is unusual. Might be worth mentioning that the lines between undead and other monsters in early myth are pretty fuzzy — early werewolves and vampires, for example, are closely related. There might be a Fafnir-like backstory there that’s been lost.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            When I was writing this last night, I was more focused on the literary parallels, but in terms of the evolution of the dragon archetype, Fafnir’s interesting to me mostly because of the gold — he and Beowulf’s bane are the first instances I know of where a dragon comes with accompanying hoard. Fafnir’s also unusual in that his hoard has a well-defined origin that ties into his story; the only other case of that I can think of, in mythology or modern literature, is Smaug. Frotho’s dragon also has a hoard, but it doesn’t say where it comes from.

            Right. The treasure hoard seems to originate with Fafnir; not only is it defined as part of his origin, but his slayer appears both in the Niebelungenlied and a Norse saga, so the story probably goes back to the breakup of proto-Germanic (unlike Beowulf’s bane).
            A couple of times in Greek mythology, a dragon is assigned to guard a particular golden artifact (the vanilla dragon guarding the Golden Fleece, and Ladon the hundred-headed guarding the Golden Apples). Indian nagas can be associated with treasure, but that just comes from living underground rather than being tied to their origin.

            I was interested in the evolution of the archetype because of a recent tendency to treat the Beowulf’s bane/heraldic dragon in an ahistorical vacuum, with fiction speculating how they could have evolved, which seems much less interesting than discovering things like “a drakon and drakaina were basically nagas.”

            Germanic myth is full of mound-dwellers, but they’re usually undead and/or troll-like — for example Grettis saga has one that likes to run around at night and break the gable-posts off people’s houses, apparently for fun. … it’s worth mentioning that the lines between undead and other monsters in early myth are often pretty fuzzy — early werewolves and vampires, for example, are closely related.

            Yes, they are. I don’t have a citation handy, but one can see attempts to rationalize the confusion in Slavic folklore: some said werewolves, magicians and apostates in general are cursed to rise up as vampires.
            Note that you don’t see “walking dead” in Classical tales. Achilles appears as a barrow ghost in the Trojan War cycle, obviously related to draugr but quite distinct to the “barrow wight” it became or the Slavic vampire. And ghost stories in their familiar form are first preserved from the Roman era.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Oh yeah, I read that! He has a very interesting thesis, and I too am surprised that it didn’t get critical review: either picking apart his shaky truth claims with better data or just denunciations.

      • Protagoras says:

        Whenever I see Fafnir mentioned, I remember how much I miss Fafblog. Which was authored by a large stuffed rabbit named Fafnir rather than a dragon named Fafnir, but dragons in some legends shapeshift, so you never know.

    • JulieK says:

      Interesting! There’s a discussion in the Talmud about whether it’s possible to own a statue without transgressing the prohibition on “graven images.” According to one sage, a statue of a “drakon” is assumed to be an idol, while artistic 3-D representations of other beings can be okay in some cases.

      • SamChevre says:

        Might this be tied to the serpent on a pole story in Numbers and Kings?

        And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

        Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign….He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

        A fiery serpent and a “drakon” seem quite related.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I wonder if the fiery serpent of healing was Egyptian in association. Graven images of dragons have stronger associations with the enemies of characters Middle Easterners and Greeks worshiped idols of than something they’d want to fall down and worship, though exceptions can be documented.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            There are bronze serpents associated with Canaanite sites, including two from the Holy of Holies of the temple at Hazor, apparently dated from 1400-1300 BC and 1300-1200 BC respectively. I know snakes were sometimes associated with immortality in the Near East (probably because of their shedding their skins), which might suggest a connection with healing?

          • engleberg says:

            Re: images of dragons have stronger association with enemies-

            (My impression is) European dragons were souped-up rattlesnakes- poison souped up to fire, wings and claws tacked on, scales hardened to repel ordinary swords, basically a tough enemy snake. Chinese dragons are souped-up salamanders- so camouflaged they are actually part of the geist of their surroundings, maybe enemies, maybe friends.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Eugene Dawn: Yeah, healing, even unto the point of conquering death, was the main positive association of snakes in the Near East. Gilgamesh loses the elixir of immortality to a snake in an etiology for “Why do snakes shed?”, after all.

            @engleberg: Interesting thought. And a naga is just a cobra, souped-up or otherwise.

          • John Schilling says:

            European dragons were souped-up rattlesnakes-

            Except that rattlesnakes are strictly New World creatures. There’s definitely snake symbolism in dragons, but actual European snakes aren’t terribly impressive (asps are venomous, but mostly small and quiet) so I’m thinking you may need to go back to a Near Eastern origin that survived migration to Europe.

            Anyone know what sort of big scary snakes were hanging around in ancient Mesopotamia?

          • Lillian says:

            The Egyptian, Arabian, and Caspian cobras are not found in Mesopotamia, but they do inhabit areas the Mesopotamians would have interacted with. Additionally horned vipers look very draconic, and while they don’t like Mesopotamia proper they can be found in the areas immediately around it like the Syrian Desert, the Zagros mountains, and the southern reaches of the Armenian highlands.

            Also, dragons may have also have taken some inspiration from crocodiles. These also cannot be found in Mesopotamia, but are plentiful in both Egypt and India, with whom they had trade links. The recent story of a Ugandan man who went hunting for and killed the crocodile that ate his wife is pretty much a dragon-slaying tale, complete with the part where the man has a weapon forged specifically to kill the beast.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @John Schilling: What she said. Mountainous parts of Iran have cobras, horned vipers and pit vipers.
            Many species have been locally exterminated in the fertile parts of Iraq and Syria since the Early Bronze Age: leopards, elephants, whatever species of monkey Humbaba had, etc. The grey wolves and small brown bears have survived, at least.

        • Gazeboist says:

          That feels like an attempt to make Judaism retroactively always monotheistic. Depictions of a lesser member of the pantheon are explained away as objects created on the instruction of the singleton deity, which were then mistakenly worshiped.

  23. Viliam says:

    Thinking about the left-wing and right-wing and SSC comments…

    The whole concept of “left and right” is so frustratingly pseudo-useful. You cannot dismiss it, because it seems to work quite well in everyday life: people do identify as left and right, etc. On the other hand, a system based on an assumption that e.g. a libertarian is pretty much the same thing as a religious fundamentalist, seems quite useless for debating the topic rationally. Yes, people have invented various 2- and 3-dimensional classification, but at the end… even Scott here thinks in terms of “left-wing” and “right-wing” debaters. And so do most people.

    Furthermore, “left” and “right” are relative; they both mean “more in this vague direction than the average”. So when your subculture’s average is not the same as the whole population’s average, then global leftists become local rightists, or vice versa. There are no absolute values, so when someone who is “more X” than you accuses you of being “Y”, and you say “actually, I also identify as X, only less extreme than you”, there is no way to determine who is correct. Which one is more important: how do you identify, or how other people categorize you? If it’s the former, this becomes completely chaotic, because different people are differently calibrated (you can identify as “X”, while being “more Y” than someone who identifies as “Y”). If it’s the latter, it depends on who is judging you (e.g. if you ask a SJW, everyone else is a Nazi).

    Thinking about myself… in my country, I would be classified as “right wing”, because I think that the communist regime was evil, and that people shouldn’t be hanged for e.g. making a startup. In USA, I would be probably classified as “left wing” by most people, because I don’t like wars or religion. However, even in USA I would be classified as “right wing” by SJWs, simply because I am not one of them.

    Speaking about SJWs… I think they are usually considered to be an “extreme left”, which would kinda imply that they have the attributes of “left” (whatever those are) in extreme amounts. But I think this is not true.

    For example, supporting gay rights is considered a left-wing agenda in USA. And I think it would be awesome if gays could have equal rights also in Muslim countries, and in Africa. For a SJW, this is a problematic opinion. For me, it is a straightforward expression of my sincere beliefs. Does that put me politically “even further left than SJWs”? That would be a good news in context of the recent affirmative action on SSC!

    What am I actually trying to say…

    I am worried that efforts to “balance left wing and right wing” will in real life turn into appeasement of SJWs. Because from their perspective anything non-SJW is right-wing, so any opposition to SJWs will be interpreted (and loudly complained about) as a local dominance of right wing, even if the opposition actually comes from people who by any non-SJWs standards would be classified as left-wing or centrist (or “something orthogonal to the left-right axis” in those multi-dimensional political diagrams).

    Another source of confusion is that the actual debate is not representative of the actual opinions of debaters. For example, if something is taken for granted, no one will bother to talk about it. But those things taken for granted, and thus invisible in the debate, don’t have to be politically neutral. Perhaps we debate right-wing stuff more, because we take the left-wing stuff for granted?

    How does one even determine what is the fair proportion of “left” and “right”, considering that both words are relative? Any group of people will have 50% who are “more left-wing” than the average of that group, and 50% who are “more right-wing”. So are we aiming for the same distribution as the general population? (Which one: Bay Area, USA, or the whole planet?) To do that precisely, we would need to attract more Mormons, and perhaps more people controlled by the Communist Party of China, because they seem underrepresented at the moment.

    • Plumber says:

      @Villiam,

      “SJW”

      I’ve probably banged on this drum before, but the more I learn about those who are usually called “SJW’s” (ridiculous stunts at Reed college, et cetera), the more I think that if they were really pro “Social Justice” that they should be out providing shade for the tomato pickers in the fields between Gilroy and Hollister instead of with their efforts to scold other students about “awareness”, but since I’ve never actually talked to one who’s under sixty years old and a “SJW” what do I know (or maybe someone who’s called a “Warrior for social justice” in a eulogy different than a “SJW”)?

      I guess the folks chanting outside the building most Fridays count I suppose.

      As for whether your views are considered “left” and “right” around here it mostly seems to correlate with how many people are within a square mile of where you sleep, and I’m curious about places where that’s not true.

      • Brad says:

        but since I’ve never actually talked to one

        “SJW” is extremely rarely used a self descriptor. It’s also rarely used as social constructed individual attribute. That is a group of friends might all agree and say that so-and-so is their religious friend, but they’d rarely say so-and-so is their SJW friend.

        No, instead it some combination of slur and strawman. Also a dash of motte and bailey. Finally, the term itself is also something of a shibboleth.

        All of which is to say, you aren’t likely to meet one because it’s mostly a construct of the online right rather than a concrete phenomenon out in the real world.

        As for whether your views are considered “left” and “right” around here it mostly seems to correlate with how many people are within a square mile of where you sleep, and I’m curious about places where that’s not true.

        I don’t think that’s true at all. There’s at least a few quite right leaning posters that live in big cities. At least one right here in Manhattan with me.

        • Statismagician says:

          “SJW” is extremely rarely used a self descriptor. It’s also rarely used as social constructed individual attribute. That is a group of friends might all agree and say that so-and-so is their religious friend, but they’d rarely say so-and-so is their SJW friend.

          I’m suddenly really curious about this – my intuition is that because the social justice movement cares so much about so many things, they’re a lot better at filtering anybody not explicitly in the group out of their social circles than e.g. Christians, who care less about fewer. I wonder how you’d even study that?

          I don’t think that’s true at all. There’s at least a few quite right leaning posters that live in big cities. At least one right here in Manhattan with me.

          Correlations at r < 1.00 exist, news at 11; also base rates, obvious demographic moderating factors [cities also skew heavily for 'percent of people likely to be interested in rationality], and by-definition unequal sample sizes. Come on, we all know this is pretty true at the population level.

          • Brad says:

            As for whether your views are considered “left” and “right” around here it mostly seems to correlate with how many people are within a square mile of where you sleep, and I’m curious about places where that’s not true.

        • Nornagest says:

          I agree with your first sentence but not your second. It’s a real thing, not a strawman and only secondarily a slur, but it’s not generally used as a self-descriptor. The people it describes — when it’s not being used as a rough modern synonym for “pinko”, at least, and that does sometimes happen — don’t have a name for their clique, and if pressed would describe it in terms of “basic human decency” or something like that (often that exact phrase); it just so happens that their standards of basic human decency cover their cliquemates and only them. They do, however, have a concept of “social justice” and think of themselves as fighting for it: I wouldn’t introduce someone as my SJW friend, but I might say “this is so-and-so, he’s into social justice” if I thought I had a sympathetic audience. And that would mean pretty much the same thing.

          I get the impression that it has some regional correlations, too. I’ve met far more on the West Coast than the East, even in cities that I rarely visit. I see a lot of differences between West Coast and East Coast left-leaning politics, actually; East Coasters seem a lot less PC, more direct, more technocratic and more nationalistic on average. That might just be that I’ve spent a lot of time in Washington DC, though, which is a direct, technocratic, and nationalistic kind of place.

          And there are definitely strong age and class correlations.

          • Nick says:

            I agree with your first sentence but not your second. It’s a real thing, not a strawman and only secondarily a slur, but it’s not generally used as a self-descriptor.

            This. I graduated last year from a Midwestern* liberal Catholic university—SJWs totally exist. And this is not representative, but at a Catholic university, they very much are cloaked in the language of social justice, which Catholics got to first thank you very much, even though some were virtually indistinguishable from an irreligious SJW. Which is not to say they’d self describe as a social justice warrior.

            *students are generally from Ohio, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and Michigan. A few are from the rest of the country, and around 10% are international students.

            ETA: To be clear, Brad, if you’d prefer we just not use the term SJW, I’ll just not use it. I don’t know about the folks attacking them, but for me that means replacing my usage with the more awkward “social justice folks.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, the dude who chased the money changers out of the temple with a whip could plausibly be considered a social justice warrior.

          • Nick says:

            Well, the dude who chased the money changers out of the temple with a whip could plausibly be considered a social justice warrior.

            And that’s why Catholics got to it first.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I saw a few people describing themselves as Social Justice Warriors, but not so much lately.

          At least some of it was probably a result of social justice turning out to have an anti-Semitic streak.

          • Brad says:

            I had remembered you saying so before. It’s for that reason I put extremely rarely rather than never.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            social justice turning out to have an anti-Semitic streak.

            Elaborate?

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that there’s a fair number of people who are broadly in the SJW ideological space who are also pretty strongly anti-Israel, due to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This isn’t anti-Semitism, although I imagine being anti-Israel is a comfortable position for someone who dislikes Jews in general.

            I don’t know if Nancy’s thinking of something else, though.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I thought the new hotness was that pro-Israel was coded anti-Semitic because that’s where the anti-Semites want all the Jews to go.

          • gbdub says:

            It feels like the population American “SJWs” contains a few actual anti-Semites, and a much larger population of people naive about how actually anti-Semitic Palestinians, and some of the pro-Palestinian groups they (the American SJWs) cozy up to are.

            The American progressive left in general seems to have some serious blind spots when it comes to anti-Semitism from POCs as well (e.g. Farrakhan)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Sometimes being anti-Israel gets extended to being anti-Jews.

            https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40407057

          • Brad says:

            It’s true that sometimes happens. But it’s also true that sometimes zionists appropriate and burn the Jewish commons by mislabeling rhetoric that is anti-Israel or even just anti-Likud as anti-semitic.

        • JulieK says:

          Dear Commentariat,

          Can we please try to avoid blanket statements attacking “SJWs”? They rarely lead to useful discussion, and tend to make more left-leaning people feel unwelcome here.

          Signed,
          A conservative commenter (according to that guy who analyzed the political leanings of people here)

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            There’s not a better label I can think of for a specific strain of (broadly on the left) thought, so it can be useful as a label. But it’s very easy for it to turn into a blanket statement about a very broad group of people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’ve got an SJW following me around on Reddit, posting nasty stuff about me, occasionally sending me nasty private messages, and amusingly sometimes getting his alts banned at least from the SSC subreddit. I’ve gotten worse from SJWs in the past, for having the temerity to openly disagree with them and their ideas. I’m not going to pretend the class doesn’t exist or that no individuals are members of it, just because those whose beliefs are closer to their ideas than mine are upset by it.

          • Viliam says:

            Can we please try to avoid blanket statements attacking “SJWs”? They rarely lead to useful discussion, and tend to make more left-leaning people feel unwelcome here.

            I think it is perfectly possible — and maybe even quite common — to be left-wing and dislike SJWs. (Just like it is possible to be right-wing and dislike religious fundamentalists.)

            And I think that admitting this openly makes the debate more meaningful than assuming that statements against SJWs must be automatically aimed against the left in general. Seems like we should do it using some term other than “SJWs”, but an absence of a generally understood better word should not be a reason to skip the whole debate.

          • Brad says:

            It may be possible, but it isn’t very common. In fact, throwing around the term “SJW” is one of the strongest right wing signals. Right up there with owning a gun.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            It’s a right-wing tell to use it publicly. I’ve had a couple of lefty-activist types use it in private about people who were unpleasant to them who they knew from the lefty activist stuff.

            (Oddly, owning a gun might be less of a right-wing tell in Canada? That’s at least the stereotype my head is throwing up, of someone who is likely rural but not necessarily a Tory voter)

          • Matt M says:

            In fact, throwing around the term “SJW” is one of the strongest right wing signals. Right up there with owning a gun.

            That’s certainly my reason for doing both!

          • Nornagest says:

            Oddly, owning a gun might be less of a right-wing tell in Canada? That’s at least the stereotype my head is throwing up, of someone who is likely rural but not necessarily a Tory voter

            It’s not so much of a right-wing tell in a lot of places in the US, either. Habitually carrying a gun often is, and owning certain types of guns can be, but I know lots of left-leaning people who have a revolver in their desk or a shotgun in their closet. Especially older ones.

            But Brad lives in New York, and I only know one New Yorker who owns a gun. He’s a libertarian with trollish tendencies and a MAGA hat.

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “SJW”. How was it vocalized—ess jay double-you?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, like that. That’s how everyone I’ve heard use it in earnest has said it.

          • Matt M says:

            I only know one New Yorker who owns a gun. He’s a libertarian with trollish tendencies and a MAGA hat.

            You know Donald Trump?

          • Nornagest says:

            Donald Trump isn’t a libertarian. And for that matter I don’t know if he owns a gun.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Where would he get a gun that fit in those tiny hands?

          • Brad says:

            @Nornagest

            It’s not so much of a right-wing tell in a lot of places in the US, either.

            http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/the-demographics-of-gun-ownership/psdt_2017-06-22-guns-01-09/

            That’s a pretty strong signal.

          • Nornagest says:

            About 2:1? I’d buy that, but it sounded like you were talking about something stronger. Your phrase was “one of the strongest right-wing signals” and correlations stronger than that come up all the time.

          • albatross11 says:

            If he has a gun, I’m sure it’s gold-plated.

          • Plumber says:

            I absolutely believe that gun ownership correlates with voting Republican, but both correlate with living away from the City.

            My boss:
            Republican,
            gun owner,
            commutes in from Sonoma County.

            To me it makes sense to own a gun if you live in a rural area, and it also makes sense to think more “left” when you see more extremes of wealth and poverty cheek-to-jowl.

            Show me a man’s neighborhood and you show me his politics.

          • toastengineer says:

            A firearm is genuinely necessary safety equipment in parts of the U.S.

          • JulieK says:

            Maybe try to focus on criticizing a specific behavior, rather than blanket condemnations?

          • JulieK says:

            Now I want to have a question about gun ownership in the next SSC survey.
            There are a lot of right-leaning commenters here, but not many classic red-tribers, I think.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There are people on the left who own guns, though I expect the proportion is lower than on the right.

        • Plumber says:

          @Brad

          “….“SJW” is extremely rarely used a self descriptor. It’s also rarely used as social constructed individual attribute…”

          That was my original assumption as well, snd except for the strangely genteel “Occupy” protests that I’d pass during my workday a few years ago, there’s been nothing like the mass anti-war demonstrations that closed the Bay Bridge off in 1991or the riots snd street fights that happened in Berkeley causing me to see burning cars and dozens of riot police when I’d leave work that year, and that was small scale compared to the riots of the decades before the ’90’s.

          After 2016 a “right’wing rally” met a “counter-rally” at the U.C. campus, and a short scheduled fistfight happened, but that was nothing like the scale of the protests of the past.

          In a previous thread I was told that I live “in the center of the SJW movement….

          …..that’s taking over”, but if that were true shouldn’t there be more “warriors” um… …warring around here?

          The only “left” group I ever commonly see is a small group that peacefully chants the names of some of those that have bern killed by police on Fridays, hardly “warriors”.

          I don’t want to see again the street violence that used to be more common, but if all the tales of a big “movement” of “warriors” that “centered” on where I live were true, wouldn’t I?

          I have read of a spate of silly antics recently shutting down classes at elite universities, but I don’t think that many commenters realize how incredibly peaceful times have been since the mid ’90’s compared to before, not just that they’re less big protests and the ones that they are are more peaceful (yes I remember the broken windows in Oakland in 2011, I’m not saying there’s none, I’m saying there’s less), but that there’s less of all kinds of violence, I used to year gunfire monthly in the 1980’s, but I haven’t in years even before I moved out of Oakland in 2011, in room 303 at work there’s a chart that someone wrote on a chalkboard of how many murders there’s been in San Francisco each years from 1969 to 2009, with a big spike in 1977, but mostly a steady climb from 1969 to 1993, and then a dramatic drop till a low in ’99 with low numbers (compared to the ’70’s to early ’90’s) afterwards; and while I certainly see more street beggers now I haven’t been mugged since the ’90’s.

          In reading more old posts of our host and the accompanying comments there seems to be a rising tide of people speaking of “SJW’s”, so how do I square what seems to be more complaints about warriors when there’s less war?

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe a nice way to proceed is that if you want to criticize an idea or argument or action, you attribute it to a specific person or set of people who made it, rather than “leftists say X” or “SJWs do Y.” It may be that they are making an argument common to many other people in their broad intellectual movement, and that’s reasonable to point out, but do it with a recognition that not everyone in that movement thinks identically.

          • SamChevre says:

            I think that it’s plausible that there’s less private violence, but note: private violence is what you get when the government isn’t on your side.

            When I note the social justice movement as winning, I’m noting that the government is whole-heartedly on their side; you don’t need to do private beatings if getting a government contract, not being sued by government agencies, not having the NY DOI try to put you out of business, etc, requires that everyone publicly go along with what you want. In other words, it’s every library that has drag queen story time; every company that has a diversity and inclusion policy (that includes women, but not Catholics or Baptists); every school that treats smoking worse than homosexuality.

          • Brad says:

            In reading more old posts of our host and the accompanying comments there seems to be a rising tide of people speaking of “SJW’s”, so how do I square what seems to be more complaints about warriors when there’s less war?

            The population of frequent commenters here is not randomly sampled. Many years ago now Scott wrote several fairly angry posts about certain kinds of feminists. Although, at least based on what he chooses to write about, Scott has moved on those posts and the people they attracted and repelled, plus the endowment effect, play a big role in shaping the commenting community.

          • no one special says:

            Plumber:

            One way to square this circle is to make the claim that SJWs are “extremely online” people, and that this phenomenon mostly takes place online. The Genesis of the term “Social Justice Warrior” originally comes from message board culture, derived like so:

            The “Keyboard Warrior”: some asshole who like to argue a lot on the board. known for spewing pages of response text when someone sets him off.

            The “God Warrior”: A keyboard warrior with a specialization in “defending” his religion from online atheists.

            The “Social Justice Warrior”: a keyboard warrior with a specialization in “defending” the marginalized from “oppression”. (In quotes, because on message boards, no one could get you fired or evicted. This predates the twitter mob.)

            There may be some overlap with the people who actually organize and attend things that happen in meatspace, but it’s probably not a large overlap.

          • Plumber says:

            @no one special
            “…originally comes from message board culture…”

            That explains so much!

            Thanks!

          • toastengineer says:

            Well, I don’t think anyone ever accused them of attempting to start an actual hot civil war.

            Mostly the worst things they do is try to take control of important institutions and use those positions of power to force their ideals upon people, usually at the cost of damaging the work the institution is supposed to be doing.

            Off the top of my head, take the crap happening with the Linux Foundation (see: two years ago, recently.)

    • Statismagician says:

      I don’t think the social justice people are actually a political group at all. The kinds of things they want done aren’t political issues but rather social ones, and all their attempts to translate goals into political terms tend to come out looking silly, impractical, or counterproductive. It’s like… I don’t know, some wacky postmodernist cult, complete with elaborate rituals, an overactive shunning process, and total moral certainty that the received dogma is completely correct. Because this is America, and if anything is left un-politicized for even a single second the Declaration of Independence becomes void and we revert back to being a British colony or something, and since the people on the Right already have something in the ‘non-political source of unity/motivation’ space, they slotted into the corresponding void on the Left that opened up when socialism became a dirty word.

      Basically, the social justice people are [more the kind-of-thing that includes] a religion; the right already had one, so the Left got this one by default. I suspect a lot of the recent nonsense maps very closely onto what happened when the Christian fundamentalist movement became politically important, but I haven’t had the time to investigate this properly. Thoughts?

      • Plumber says:

        @Statismagician

        “I don’t think the social justice people are actually a political group at all. The kinds of things they want done aren’t political issues but rather social ones……
        ……Thoughts?”

        My thoughts are that all the examples of “SJW’s” I’ve seen that so many complain about have been some young bloggers and some shouty students at elite universities, nether of which much effects me, but I’ll gladly dogpile on elite universities and loud college students (turn that damn stereo off families live here!).

      • Viliam says:

        some wacky postmodernist cult, complete with elaborate rituals, an overactive shunning process, and total moral certainty that the received dogma is completely correct.

        I used to study cults for a hobby, and the similarities are obvious once you know where to look. Go through the Lifton’s eight criteria, most of them will hit you in the face: black-and-white thinking, scientific facts that are too sacred to be scientifically examined, obsession with confessing your sins (checking your privilege), theory over personal experience, need to maintain purity and control the environment…

        It is what you get when you combine left-wing keywords with the fanaticism of a religious zealot.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      that people shouldn’t be hanged for e.g. making a startup.

      I’m extremely curious what country you live in that has a large fraction of people who support death by hanging for starting a business.

      • Viliam says:

        It was an exaggeration.

        However, hanging people for being successful farmers was historically a reality, e.g. in Soviet Union.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      SJW will never become prevalent on SSC. That is the one ideology that is disliked by almost everyone here, rightists and leftists both. I presume this is because Scott isn’t very fond of them either, so your average SJW will not enjoy reading many of Scott’s posts.

      There is a right/left divide on SSC, but on other things than identity politics. There is some economic divide — those who believe more in the free market, and those who believe in more state control. And also there are some of the other traditional left/right divides (at least in the US), such as immigration, drugs, sex, religion. Some of these last items are closer to SJW territory, but nothing like the more radical SJWs running around in the wild.

      I do think SSC does have fewer leftists than rightists amongst the commenters, so I would like to see more leftists too, even though I am probably a bit more on the rightist side myself (more on the economic issues than the social issues). I am not very interested in hearing the same thing all the time — we need a variety of commenters.

    • Baeraad says:

      For example, supporting gay rights is considered a left-wing agenda in USA. And I think it would be awesome if gays could have equal rights also in Muslim countries, and in Africa. For a SJW, this is a problematic opinion. For me, it is a straightforward expression of my sincere beliefs. Does that put me politically “even further left than SJWs”? That would be a good news in context of the recent affirmative action on SSC!

      Steelman: it doesn’t put you further left, it puts you in the position of caring about one leftist concern and not about another one. Ask an actual SJW, and they’ll tell you that they care about gay rights and about respecting other people’s culture, and that the fact that those two ideals are often in conflict doesn’t mean that you should just throw one out the window.

      I have a multitude of complaints about how they go about striking that balance, and certainly about how they insist on believing that no one could possibly go about it any other way, but I don’t think it disqualifies them from being “extremely left-wing” in principle – it seems to me that someone who wants to see all the various goals and ideals of the left honoured if possible is more left-wing than someone who cares about some of them but thinks that others are unimportant.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        And I think it would be awesome if gays could have equal rights also in Muslim countries, and in Africa. For a SJW, this is a problematic opinion.

        I have read this multiple times, and I still I am not sure I am parsing what the heck is meant by it. Intersectional feminism does not hold that “homophobia is fine and even desired for non-traditionally Western, Christian societies”. It’s even a running internal debate about whether traditional female gendered garb is inherently oppressive, which tends to put second wave feminists in opposition to third wave intersectionalism.

        It sounds to me that @Villiam may have been reading anti-“SJW” straw/weak man arguments and taking them as being representative.

        • Baeraad says:

          I do have to agree that I keep hearing anti-feminists claim that feminists luuuuuuuuv Muslims, but I’ve yet to hear any feminist express more than grudging tolerance for Muslims.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It used to be an issue in SJW rhetoric, but you don’t see it so much anymore.

            In general the SJ movement has been broken; we passed peak SJ nearly a decade ago in the terms that matter, which are argument-makers.

            It just takes time for the same arguments to circulate through society more generally. And no movement ever truly dies while the generation that birthed it lives.

            Honestly, I think the beginning of the end was Sarah Palin, when the feminists who actually believed in feminism saw how their movement had been perverted by the political movement it had been harnessed to. The argument-makers correctly pointed out that the treatment of Palin was terribly sexist, were ignored or painted as gender traitors – and quietly started disappearing from the movement.

            What is left is a zombie of a social movement, deprived of brains, and stumbling along on sheer inertia.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thegnskald:
            Who on the left do you actually like? What positions do you admire that you say are on the left?

            Because you claim to be part of the coalition of the left, but I don’t know that I’ve seen you espouse a single positive position that I would consider left.

            The idea that the treatment of Palin somehow broke intersectional feminism is, well, weird.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Baeraad:

            but I’ve yet to hear any feminist express more than grudging tolerance for Muslims.

            I think this is simply false. What you are describing applies to traditionalist attitudes prevalent in many Muslim societies, but people like Malala Yousafzai and the various Saudi women’s rights advocates are celebrated within the feminist movement. Their religion is essentially seen as a non-issue, even as the fact that broad traditionalist trends are pushed by religious figures is seen as an issue. The two separate things can be disentangled.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            I don’t agree with anyone. Didn’t as a libertarian, don’t now either. Frankly, I find the groupthink thing pretty off-putting, and it was a major part of my leaving the left in the first place as a teenager.

            I would say that, broadly, I regard the modern popular left as being a stagnant pool of cached thoughts. I have described my attitude towards popular leftism as being a Funko Pop ideology – collect all the correct ideas, now only $9.99! Watch the new Ghostbusters movie, it is Feminist Approved, and only misogynists criticize it! Love the new Star Wars movie, only misogynists criticize it! Elect this politician, only misogynists would criticize them! Don’t elect this politician, only misogynists would do that!

            I am leftist, yes. I am simply beyond skeptical of the increasingly monetized and politicized identity groups that seem to count for “leftism” anymore. Fuck that shit.

            And I am increasingly fed up with the “leftists” here, who, from the perspective of somebody who disagrees with everybody, like whining children threatening to take their toys and go home it their special needs of not having their values challenged aren’t accommodated.

            But eh, if you want to conclude I am a witch, you are free to. It isn’t like I am not aware of where the Funko Pop version of ideology comes from, WHY everybody is desperate to collect all the Right Ideas before somebody notices they aren’t showing proper appreciation of the proper franchises. All while the ideas in question start to change, and nobody notices DC has turned into Marvel, and the policies being pushed are indistinguishable from those that let innocent black men be thrown in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

            You are free to think I am a witch, or to suspect it, or whatever this line of questioning is supposed to be. I’d just suggest you think about what “Support the cause or you are a racist misogynist!” is turning the cause into.

          • Baeraad says:

            I think this is simply false. What you are describing applies to traditionalist attitudes prevalent in many Muslim societies, but people like Malala Yousafzai and the various Saudi women’s rights advocates are celebrated within the feminist movement. Their religion is essentially seen as a non-issue, even as the fact that broad traditionalist trends are pushed by religious figures is seen as an issue. The two separate things can be disentangled.

            I haven’t heard any celebrating, no more than I’ve heard any condemnations. Or, indeed, any of that luuuuuuv anti-feminists keep insisting is there. :p

            What I have heard basically amounts to, “right-wingers hate and fear Muslims to a bizarre and morally objectionable digree.” Which is a sentiment I agree with, as it happens.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thegnskald:
            Your answer is elucidating.

            You recently stated that no one here is “pro right wing ideas” and only “anti left” and you found this frustrating. But I ask you to simply say what you are in favor of, and you refuse.

            I’m not accusing you of being a “witch” as I don’t know of any “burnable” ideas that you hold. You have multiple times in the last week refused to say much of anything at all about your own positions, other than that you hate everyone else’s.

            There is this tactic, where you never take any positions and simply criticize everyone else. As nothing is “perfect”, you always feel that you have won the argument. Not sure if that’s what is going on, or something different.

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe instead of talking about what groups we’re members of, we could talk about what ideas we have? I’m less interested in whether you prefer the red or blue hat than what you actually think about some real thing.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            Fascinatingly, I have recently been feeling like Brad has been doing this all along, because I have recently been quite surprised by how libertarian he actually is, since he started revealing more of his positions.

            And it isn’t that I hate everyone else’s positions, but that is a fairly subtle and distracting argument.

            My broad positions:
            Capitalism is a corrupting and impersonal force which is only acceptable because everything else we have tried is worse. Rentier classes dominate the market and political processes and we need to fix that (but everybody misidentifies the rentiers as the public faces of corporations, and I half suspect CEO salaries are mostly to distract people from the people who own the companies). Sexism is a problem, but sexism against men is a bigger problem than sexism against women, and the cultural forces that enabled us to recognize and start correcting sexism against women actively prevent society from acknowledging sexism against men. Poverty is a complex problem, and while I believe the issue is a disconnect between effort and reward in our social structures, I don’t see an easy fix.

            The major “policy” I am interested in right now is something I brought up twice without much comment; we need a corporate-left, infectious self-owning corporations designed to use democratic processes and incentive alignments to give power to workers.

            Government is both necessary and, for a given value of good, good. The fundamental flaw with the NAP is that it assumes systems and individuals should follow the same ethical framework, whereas, if my suspicions about the relationship between incompleteness and ethics is correct, multiple competing and incompatible ethical systems are necessary to ensure even an approximation of ethics.

            What are you looking for? I don’t feel like I have made a secret of any of these positions, I just make a conscious effort to talk about other people’s ideas most of the time.

            ETA:

            Oh! I almost forgot. The position I hold most strongly: the universe is a fractal, the metric is conserved, there is scalar symmetry, and we will all probably die being crushed in black holes as our scale is crushed to pave the way for the next scale larger than us to begin forming the building blocks of the observed universe. Time is likewise a scalar; there was no big bang, and in no meaningful sense did the universe begin, even though it has only existed for a finite period of time, because as you approach the origin point things happened faster and faster.

            I am pretty sure that is a left-wing position? I feel like the Big Bang is more hierarchical and right-wing, and steady state theories are more libertarian.

          • Civilis says:

            I do have to agree that I keep hearing anti-feminists claim that feminists luuuuuuuuv Muslims, but I’ve yet to hear any feminist express more than grudging tolerance for Muslims.

            Does Women’s March board member and featured speaker Linda Sarsour count as a feminist? She’s usually the go-to example from the right of the ‘leadership’ of the progressive left siding with Islam over non-intersectional second-wave feminism.

            [One of the things that worries me about the perception of this site’s commenters as increasingly right wing is that I get frustrated because I don’t see arguments that seem really common on the right being presented even when relevant.]

          • Baeraad says:

            Does Women’s March board member and featured speaker Linda Sarsour count as a feminist? She’s usually the go-to example from the right of the ‘leadership’ of the progressive left siding with Islam over non-intersectional second-wave feminism.

            I’ve never heard of her and I therefore don’t care.

            Really, my standard is the same for both the horrible evil things anti-feminists claim that feminists are saying, and the beautiful wonderful things that pro-feminists claim that feminists are saying. If I have to go look for it, then they clearly didn’t say it very loudly. What feminists say, for good or ill, inside their own little clubhouses is as far as I’m concerned entirely their own affair; it is the messages that filter out into wider society and its assorted subcultures that are the real fruits of feminist labour, and it’s on those that I will judge the movement.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            What I have heard basically amounts to, “right-wingers hate and fear Muslims to a bizarre and morally objectionable digree.” Which is a sentiment I agree with, as it happens.

            It’s objectively not bizarre (and ought not be morally objectionable!) to fear people, to any degree, who manage to be half of terrorists at 1% of the population and are responsible for most rape and significantly disrupt the lives of people-in-general and not just women with the risk of being a homicide victim in Western countries where they’re in the mid-to-high single digits.
            If feminists were allowed to be for a total ban on male Muslim immigration, it would be more attractive to rational women.

          • Civilis says:

            Really, my standard is the same for both the horrible evil things anti-feminists claim that feminists are saying, and the beautiful wonderful things that pro-feminists claim that feminists are saying. If I have to go look for it, then they clearly didn’t say it very loudly. What feminists say, for good or ill, inside their own little clubhouses is as far as I’m concerned entirely their own affair; it is the messages that filter out into wider society and its assorted subcultures that are the real fruits of feminist labour, and it’s on those that I will judge the movement.

            You think you have a great idea what the anti-feminists on the right think, but it sounds like you don’t care what their actual arguments are, because it would require looking for them. To me, this is an incredibly bad way to understand issues. How do you know you’re not in a bubble?

          • S_J says:

            @Baeraad

            I do have to agree that I keep hearing anti-feminists claim that feminists luuuuuuuuv Muslims.

            I think this is a blurring of categories, caused by political groupings. It is also rooted in memories from previous cultural/political antagonisms in which the group referred to as anti-feminists felt that they were on the losing side.

            My short version of this: there was a long time period in which traditional Western religious groups were attacked, culturally and politically, by feminists and feminist-adjacent. Most of the attacks had heavy rhetoric that sounded like “Christianity oppresses women”, or “Christianity enables evil people to oppress women”.

            Maybe it was a direct assault on the old religiousity, or maybe it was an assault on cultural patterns that oppressed women.

            Those who are friendly towards cultural conservatism remember this, and notice that the political group that is currently feminist-adjacent is full of people who are afraid to look Islamo-phobic.

            Thus, the opponents of the feminist-and-feminist-adjacent politics regularly complain that the ‘feminists and their friends aren’t in favor of increasing women’s rights in Islamic countries’.

            Whether or not the complaint is valid, it is a complain that is easy to make.

            (As a case in point: in my area of the United States, a female doctor with an Arabic-derived name was recently charged with performing hundreds of instances of Female Genetic Mutilatation on young children. The news stories usually failed to mention the religious affiliation of this doctor. None of the news stories and few of the opinion pieces in the major newspapers of the area said anything about ‘this is an instance of religion being used to oppress young girls.’ Feminists may decry the practice, but the feminist-adjacent appear to be very afraid of being blamed as ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ if they do anything to reduce/filter immigration from parts of the world where this practice is common. Do I conclude that feminists love Muslims, or do I conclude that feminists only care about oppressive religion when it is not a religion that is important in the Western-European cultural tradition?)

          • I looked up Linda Sarsour on Wikipedia. It seems clear that she is a feminist, is thought well of by other feminists and progressives, and is very critical of Israel. I don’t see any evidence that she either supports or criticizes the treatment of women in Islamic societies.

          • Civilis says:

            I looked up Linda Sarsour on Wikipedia. It seems clear that she is a feminist, is thought well of by other feminists and progressives, and is very critical of Israel. I don’t see any evidence that she either supports or criticizes the treatment of women in Islamic societies.

            Sarsour is well known on the right for her feud with prominent right-wing critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali where Sarsour said of the genital mutilation victim (as well as another female critic of Islam) “I wish I could take their vaginas away- they don’t deserve to be women”. This article also suggests that Snopes investigated the claims as well. [I have no idea about the political leanings of the source; I picked one that seemed fair and not right-wing.]

            Yes, I don’t see evidence that Sarsour’s endorsed Islam’s treatment of women specifically, but I would expect a lot of rationalization to consider someone “feminist” that is defending Islam in general terms against a woman who’s entirely justified complaint about Islam is specifically rooted in her abuse as a woman.

            Someone risking their life to say “I am a woman, and I was abused in this way specific to women, and I want to end those practices so no other woman experiences them” has a very strong claim to be a feminist. On the other hand, if you’re going to fall back and say that support for Islam without prominently and vocally questioning the treatment of women in Islamic cultures is justifiable in terms of intersectionality or other group power dynamics, that’s a valid position to take, but in that case you may as well be honest and admit that you’re placing women behind whatever other group you think takes precedence.

            Sarsour is a woman on the political left and is willing to use feminist arguments to support Islam (or at least argue against the West); the question is, is that enough to make her a feminist? And if it is (and I’m assuming it is, since she’s identified as a feminist), what does that say about the feminist movement?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Civilis:

            Someone risking their life to say “I am a woman, and I was abused in this way specific to women, and I want to end those practices so no other woman experiences them” has a very strong claim to be a feminist. On the other hand, if you’re going to fall back and say that support for Islam without prominently and vocally questioning the treatment of women in Islamic cultures is justifiable in terms of intersectionality or other group power dynamics, that’s a valid position to take, but in that case you may as well be honest and admit that you’re placing women behind whatever other group you think takes precedence.

            That’s exactly it. The Left doesn’t want to admit that it has rules requiring women to submit to men socially constructed as POCs. If Ayaan Hirsi Ali is drummed out of feminism for opposing the religion that mutilated her genitals and tried to force her to marry a stranger, “feminism” no longer means “maximize the power of, or give exactly 50% to, women.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Le Maestre Chat:

            Which person or people on the left has these rules? “The left” includes roughly half the world, most of whom presumably don’t have any such implicit rules. Can you maybe point to a human being, here or elsewhere, who has such rules?

          • Civilis says:

            That’s exactly it. The Left doesn’t want to admit that it has rules requiring women to submit to men socially constructed as POCs.

            I don’t think it’s even that nefarious. The left, like the right, is an amalgamation of groups with different objectives. It’s politically advantageous to the groups on the left to cooperate, and so they pretend the obvious differences don’t exist to present a united front, with the disagreeing groups each expecting to win when the time comes to reconcile the differences.

            The problem is that it makes compromise outside of the left coalition impossible. If the left feminists were to cooperate with the second-wave feminists outside of the leftist block to condemn Islam, the pro-Islam faction in the block would take it as a betrayal and split the block, which is shaky enough as it is with the disagreements between leftist block members such as the hardcore feminists versus the T part of the LGBT coalition.

            To get back to the original post, each group on the left and the right is trying to position itself so that in the event of a compromise, it compromises the least, so nobody compromises at all. All positions are held based more on how they benefit the group long term rather than on principle; if your particular cause is viewed as incredibly important to you, you can pass off a minor compromise as a major one. At the same time, minor compromises of your position to keep allies are allowed as long as you don’t admit they are compromises at all.

          • Reading more about Linda Sarsour, mostly in the Snopes piece, she either doesn’t understand Sharia law very well or is disingenuous in her description of it. There are certainly parts of it that only apply to Muslims, such as the rules against alcohol and pork, but other parts apply to everyone in a Muslim ruled society.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Is that sharia law as expressed by the Koran or sharia law as expressed by eg the Ottoman legal system?

          • Matt M says:

            I’m with Civilis on this one. The fact that so many people here had no idea who Sarsour was is shocking to me, and is pretty compelling evidence that this is not a “right-wing space”

          • dndnrsn says:

            I would bet the right-wingers here aren’t the kind who watch Fox News on the regular, by and large.

          • Matt M says:

            She’s not even a Fox News thing. More of a Twitter thing.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Isn’t there a general consensus here that not only is twitter a toxic shithole, one should actually not go there?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I think Sarsour is at least an order of magnitude more culturally relevant than Richard Spencer or Milo Yiabopolis based on how many people agree to have her at events.

          • Plumber says:

            @Baeraad
            “I’ve never heard of her and I therefore don’t care…”

            Beautiful put.

            +1!

            @Civilis
            “….How do you know you’re not in a bubble?…”

            Speaking for myself I assume that I’m in a bubble as they’re many news stories I don’t want to learn anything about (grisly crimes against children) and many things that I don’t care about (lost hikers).

            How I determine what’s common knowledge is,
            First: Are the guys at work talking about it instead of sports and the latest grisly crime?

            Second:
            When I get home does my wife talk about it assuming that I know anything about what she’s talking about?

            The recent Kavaugh hearings passed both of those tests, many other things discussed in this Forum don’t. 

            @Matt M
            “I’m with Civilis on this one. The fact that so many people here had no idea who Sarsour was is shocking to me, and is pretty compelling evidence that this is not a “right wing space””

            Probably not surprising, but I’ve never heard of her, but I’m usually not very interested in either feminism or stuff overseas, except about places where I learn non-Californians are living longer, in which case I how wonder how they do that.

            @Gazeboist
            “Isn’t there a general consensus here that not only is twitter a toxic shithole, one should actually not go there?…”

            Done and Done!

            @idontknow131647093
            “I think Sarsour is at least an order of magnitude more culturally relevant than Richard Spencer or Milo Yiabopolis….”

            But I’ve heard of them (in one case someone posted clickbait on “Is it okay to punch Richard Spencer?”, so I looked up who the Hell he was, and in Yiaboplis’ case because I could hear helicopters flying overhead for hours and I looked up why, and apparently a riot was scheduled on campus because he was going to speak at UC Berkeley, so I looked him up (assuming I’m remembering the right Greek, the name started with a “Y”).

          • Is that sharia law as expressed by the Koran or sharia law as expressed by eg the Ottoman legal system?

            Neither. The Koran by itself isn’t adequate to get Islamic law from and the Ottoman system bent the traditional Islamic legal system in at least two ways: The Kanun, which was a set of legal rules that came from the Sultan, and giving one of the four schools of law a monopoly in the core areas and a favored position elsewhere.

            Islamic law (I think fiqh is a more accurate label than shariya) provides legal rules some of which apply to non-Muslims in a Muslim-ruled polity.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’d heard of Sarsour recently because I pick up some rightwing outrage-bait on Facebook. I have no idea whether she has any importance otherwise.

          • Gazeboist says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I suppose “Islamic law as expressed by the Koran” is roughly equivalent to “Jewish law as expressed by the Torah”, ie, not terribly useful if we’re discussing what actual members of the religion would do with relevant judicial powers.

            As to the actual substance, I’m aware of extra taxes for non-Muslims, but not anything further. What is there?

          • @Gazeboist:

            The case of Jewish law and the Torah is in some ways better, in some ways worse. On the one hand, the Torah has considerably more actual law in it than the Koran. On the other hand, Rabbinic law as it developed was, in my judgement, more clearly inconsistent with Torah law than Islamic with the Koran–in part via the the claim that there was an Oral Torah, transmitted verbally by Moses but not written down and passed down in tradition, which explained how the written Torah was to be interpreted. That doctrine was used to justify interpretations pretty clearly inconsistent with the plain meaning of the text. Other justifications were offered for other clear deviations from actual Torah law. That approach was rejected by the Sadducees and later the Karaites.

            On the question of the application of fiqh to non-Muslims. The tax on non-Muslims is an obvious example. But there are also rules in fiqh specifying the penalty for offenses against non-Muslims and the contexts in which a non-Muslim witness did or did not count for determining a verdict.

            The traditional system was more tolerant than most modern law, inasmuch as it allowed for four different schools of Sunni law and allowed members of the tolerated religions to settle conflicts among themselves by their legal rules rather than the rules that applied to Muslims.

          • JulieK says:

            @DavidFriedman:
            Based on what do you conclude that there was not in fact an Oral Torah, passed down by tradition?

          • @JulieK:

            I’ve had the opportunity to observe the amount of distortion produced by oral tradition over a period of less than fifty years—I’m the central figure in one of the best known SCA “historical” accounts. The Mishnah, which is the nearest thing we have to a written text of the contents of the oral Torah, was written about sixteen hundred years after Moses is supposed to have delivered the oral Torah to listeners.

          • JulieK says:

            Oh, so if I’m understanding correctly, your position is not “I don’t think there ever was an oral tradition,” but rather “I don’t think the oral tradition could have been transmitted error-free for 1600 years?”

            (I was surprised by your initial comment, because while I expect a Christian might say “The Pentateuch is the word of God, while the Talmud is a Jewish fraud,” I wasn’t sure why an atheist would prefer one to the other.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oral traditions mutate really, really fast. I’d be surprised if an oral tradition continued unaltered for 16 years, let alone a hundred times that.

          • Matt M says:

            Did you hear? Jesus said “Love thy neighbor, purple monkey dishwasher.”

          • albatross11 says:

            I’d expect oral tradition set to verse to be more stable. Also oral tradition that already makes a good story (though things that don’t make as good a story will tend to mutate in that direction.) Both of those work as a kind of error-correcting code.

            I think quite a bit of Jesus’ teachings were oral tradition for a few decades before they were written down (though in a literate culture, so there were probably notes people had), and that’s one reason we have persistence of stuff like the parables and the beattitudes/Sermon on the Mount–those fit a kind of structure that made mutations somewhat easier to notice. For all we know, Jesus spent many hours lecturing to his disciples about detailed theology, but that stuff was confusing and didn’t stick in their heads very well. There are a bunch of places in the New Testament where it talks about Jesus talking to the disciples and them not really understanding what he meant–presumably a lot of other times, they didn’t catch enough to eventually write down what they were all confused by. And as time went on, those memories got fuzzier, and existing practical and theological issues became more pressing and clearer.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A lot of the “confused disciples” stuff is in Mark, though, and could reflect one of at least two different theological/institutional biases, rather than the disciples being confused. I also don’t know whether you can call the region a literate society at the time: maybe 10%, tops.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s difficult (read: impossible) to generalise about how fast oral tradition does and doesn’t change, because different societies have different rules. Some adopt an “anything-goes” attitude, whereby additions or changes are accepted in the interests of making a better story; others expect people to learn their traditions word-for-word and to repeat them without any deviation. And of course, plenty of cultures have different levels of strictness expected depending on the perceived importance of the subject matter.

            Also, I think “oral tradition” is a potentially-misleading phrase when applied to the Gospels, because they were all written down within living memory of the events they describe, whereas “oral tradition” is usually associated with transmission over much longer periods of time (the 1600-year period between Moses and the Talmud, for example, or the 500-year period between the Trojan War and the Iliad). “Oral history” (like what modern oral historians collect) would probably be a better term.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The textual history of the Gospels is a bit more complicated (read: confused) than that. Some of the stuff probably got written down pretty quickly, other stuff is just straight up fiction, etc, and it’s very difficult to tell what is what. Most of the scholarly reconstructions are really overconfident.

            “This stuff that’s been written down now is actually oral transmission of stuff from someone really important super long ago that just never got written down before” is a claim made on behalf of multiple religious works. I don’t know many cases where it’s remotely the most likely story.

          • JulieK says:

            Oral traditions mutate really, really fast.

            Even if you have thousands of scholars whose full-time job is to discuss with their colleagues the oral tradition they received from their teachers, and to pass it on to their own students?

          • @JulieK:

            I’m dubious that the original oral tradition existed, still more dubious that the Mishnah is based on what Moses told the Israelites a very long time earlier.

            I have a chapter in my current book project on the problems that arise when God is the legislator. One solution, common to the three systems I discuss (Jewish, Muslim, and U.S. Constitutional law) is to interpret around rules you don’t like. The oral tradition gave the legal scholars a blank check to do so. Rather like the Living Constitution.

            I don’t assume that the Pentateuch came from God, only that it was a written text and the Jewish legal scholars claimed to believe that it came from God. Their attitude to God correcting their interpretations was “Butt out,” as demonstrated in the story of the Furnace of Akhnai.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JulieK

            Prior to modern communications, storage, etc technology, having more people involved could increase the rate of change.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Re: the reliability of oral law, my understanding is that there is some (limited) archaeological evidence that practices codified in the Mishnah were performed more or less the same way even hundreds of years earlier. The main examples are a ketubah from the Elephantine papyri dating to 440 BC, the mikveh at Masada (120 years before the Mishnah) being constructed according to Mishnaic standards, the existence of tefillin from a century or two before the Mishnah, and a few others.

            Of course, only a very small number of observances can be archaeologically verified in this way, and there are also places where the practices differ; the Passover letter from Elephantine has some differences from later practice.

            I’d be interested in a study of what the archaeological and textual record from post-Exilic, 2nd Temple Judaism suggests about the evolution of the Oral Law, and which practices are attested going back a long way, and which are more innovative.

          • John Schilling says:

            Even if you have thousands of scholars whose full-time job is to discuss with their colleagues the oral tradition they received from their teachers, and to pass it on to their own students?

            By the end of the Babylonian Exile, the total Jewish population was ~40,000 plus some shepherds who had been hiding in the hills. You might get two thousand semi-professional clerics out of that, but their full-time job will be mostly tending to local pastoral affairs. Maintaining the purity of oral tradition will have been a sideline for almost all of them, for a very long time.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            This reminds me of a bit from Pirkei Avot (the sayings of the fathers, a collection of proverbs): Do not use the Torah as a spade to dig with or as a crown to raise yourself above others.

            https://torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos-chapter4-7b/

            Now, it’s reasonable to view advice as a description of what people generally don’t do, and I’ve literally never of a Jewish culture where Torah scholars supported themselves by doing something else. I may be missing something.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz, I’ve read that in the late Second Temple period, rabbis were expected to have another trade to support themselves with. For instance, Paul was a tentmaker, and I’ve seen references to “Rabbi Jochanan the shoemaker.”

          • JulieK says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I think there must have been unwritten law already at the time when the Torah was written, because the written Torah, on its own, would be incomplete and inadequate as a comprehensive legal code. Consider Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them as a sign on your arm, and they shall be totafot between your eyes.” Did the original lawgiver want everyone to decide for themselves what to put on their arm and head?

            The oral tradition gave the legal scholars a blank check

            Not really. Let’s say you were a scholar 2,000 years ago, and you said, “According to the oral tradition I received from my teacher, the correct interpretation of the verse is XYZ.” Your colleagues will reply, “We studied with the same teacher, and we never heard that tradition.”

            Besides, Judaism already has a different mechanism that is much more similar to a blank check, namely to ability to enact rabbinic law. Many familiar Jewish practices, like the prohibition of eating fowl with milk or the prohibition of buying and selling on the Sabbath, are rabbinic laws.

            @dndnrsn

            having more people involved could increase the rate of change.

            Even if the people regularly get together and discuss their disagreements, as in the story of the Furnace of Akhnai?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve read that in the late Second Temple period, rabbis were expected to have another trade to support themselves with.

            The two bottlenecks would have been the early Second Temple period, when a relatively small Jewish community was trying to recover from the Babylonian Exile, and the early Kingdom of Judah following the collapse of the United Monarchy.

            Neither of these had the demographic support for thousands of full-time Torah scholars. Dozens would be a more realistic number, along with maybe thousands of officiators-of-weddings/collectors-of-sacrifices/blessers-of-crops type priests or rabbis, and whether or not the latter are also part-time tentmakers they aren’t devoting more than a tiny fraction of their lives to ensuring that a comprehensive oral tradition is passed forward.

            The Kingdom of Israel would have been a better bet for a post-UM preservation of oral tradition, but whatever they had that wasn’t shared with their hick cousins to the south was lost with the Ten Tribes.

          • JulieK says:

            @John Schilling, @Nancy Lebovitz, @Evan Þ:
            You’re right, many Torah scholars were probably like Hillel, who spent part of each day chopping wood in order to feed his family, and the remainder of the day studying Torah.
            Some scholars were independently wealthy, like Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi and Rabbi Elazar ben Charsom.
            And then you have [the future] Rabbi Akiva, who was poor, but at his wife’s urging, left home for 24 years in order to spend that time studying Torah full-time.

          • JulieK says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:
            This actually ties in to one of SSC’s favorite topics, cost disease!

            Blogger Yechezkel Hirshman writes on the topic of Hillel being considered extremely poor [my additions in brackets]:

            If he could earn enough to cover his most basic needs in a few hours a day, why is that called being poor? Okay, so he had no extravagances – but he didn’t need any. He could meet his daily basic needs in a few hours a day. A poor person is one who cannot meet his minimal needs. It doesn’t seem like he was in debt. Yet, so many of us that work all day long are in debt. Aren’t we poorer than Hillel?

            What were his working hours? What did he do? Did he go to college and have a degree in accounting or engineering and work part time in an office?

            I don’t get that impression. It seems to me that he did not have any formal vocational training and hired himself to do odd jobs like shlepping or handywork. But, does this mean that although he was an unskilled laborer, he could nevertheless meet his minimal needs in a few hours? Did he pay any taxes on the money? Bituach L’umi and Mas Briut [social insurance taxes, health insurance taxes]?

            Who is included in the term “anshei beito” – his family members? Is that just his wife, or does it include his children? How many children did he have at that time and how old were they? Did poor people support their [grown] children then? Did he have to pay tuition for his children? Did he have to buy diapers? Did they wear costly glasses that break and get lost? Did they get cavities in their teeth or need braces?

            Where did he live? Did he rent or own? Did he have a mortgage? Did he have to pay arnona [city taxes] and mandatory insurance? If somebody trips over their own feet in his house, could they sue him? How much did he pay for Gema”ch? (גמ”ח = גז – מים – חשמל ) [gas, water, electricity] Did he have a washer, dryer, and refrigerator that soak up electricity?

            Was he not able to get along without these things and still meet the typical living standards of lower income people of his time and place?

            If anybody knows Hillel’s secret* about how to “work for a living” and meet all of our most basic needs and yet be able to spend most of our time in the bais midrash [study hall] like it says in Rambam, Talmud Torah 3:7 and Shulchan Aruch Yorah Deah 246:21 (also Orach Chaim 156:1; see Mishna Berura s.k. 2 and Biur Halacha) – please tell it to us.

          • JulieK says:

            @John Schilling:
            Judaism puts the number of top-level Torah scholars in the early 2nd Temple period at 120, and since they weren’t all in the same generation, the number who flourished at any given time would have been pretty close to your estimate.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JulieK

            Even if the people regularly get together and discuss their disagreements, as in the story of the Furnace of Akhnai?

            With premodern communication, information-storage, and transportation technology, how plausible is it that everyone would be able to do this? Everyone in a given region, sure, that might be plausible. But this would still lead to heavy divergence between regions – consider, for example, how much stronger the difference between dialects used to be in most places. Presumably something similar would happen for doctrine in the Diaspora. Stories about how everyone was on the same page are, whether in religious or political contexts, either projections of later unity back in time, or if there’s no later unity, nostalgia for an imagined past.

          • JulieK says:

            @dndnrsn:

            I didn’t mean that all Jews were on the same page- manifestly they weren’t. I was only speaking of all the rabbis (aka chachamim, Pharisees, etc.). And of course even they had some disagreements- the whole Talmud is basically “Rabbi A says this, while Rabbi B says that.” And you’re right about the challenges of keeping in touch as the Diaspora got more dispersed- that’s why Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi took the radical step of codifying the Mishnah, recognizing that the old system of entirely oral transmission was no longer tenable.

          • the whole Talmud is basically “Rabbi A says this, while Rabbi B says that.”

            That’s the Mishnah.

            The Talmud is “The Mishnah says X. Commenter A says that really means not-X except under special circumstances the Mishnah didn’t mention. Commenter B says “that really means not-X except under (a different set of) special circumsances the Mishnah didn’t mention. Commenter C … “

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            The textual history of the Gospels is a bit more complicated (read: confused) than that. Some of the stuff probably got written down pretty quickly, other stuff is just straight up fiction, etc, and it’s very difficult to tell what is what. Most of the scholarly reconstructions are really overconfident.

            The textual history of the Gospels is better-attested than that of any other ancient text; we have far more examples, and from a far earlier period, than for any secular writings of the period.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X

            I know; I studied this in university. I’m talking about stuff like attempts to “reconstruct” Q (beyond just noting stuff shared by Matthew and Luke but not Mark and saying “that’s Q”), etc.

    • Civilis says:

      There’s a study that’s been discussed by a number of online commenters on the right called “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” that I was interested in getting people’s opinions on that touches on the themes in this thread. The study breaks the American population down into seven groups, Devoted Conservatives, Traditional Conservatives, Moderates, Politically Disengaged, Passive Liberals, Traditional Liberals, and Progressive Activists.

      Here’s how the study profiles “Progressive Activists”: Progressive Activists have strong ideological views, high levels of engagement with political issues, and the highest levels of education and socioeconomic status. Their own circumstances are secure (they feel safer than any group), which perhaps frees them to devote more attention to larger issues of justice in society around them. They have an outsized role in political discourse, even though they comprise a small portion of the total population (about 1 in 12 Americans). They are highly sensitive to issues of fairness and equity in society, particularly with regards to race, gender and other minority group identities. Their emphasis on existing power structures leads them to be very pessimistic about fairness in America. They are uncomfortable with nationalism and ambivalent about America’s role in the world.

      For comparison, here’s how the study profiles “Traditional Liberals”: Traditional Liberals reflect the liberal ideals of the Baby Boomer generation. They maintain idealistic attitudes about the potential for social justice in America, yet they are less ideological than Progressive Activists, and they are not as intolerant of conservatives. They have strong humanitarian values, and around half say that religion is
      important to them. Traditional Liberals are significantly more likely to say that people “need to be willing to listen to others and compromise.” They are the most likely group, along with Progressive Activists, to handle conflict by “getting to the heart of the disagreement.” Overall, Traditional Liberals respond best to rational arguments and are inclined to place more faith in the viability of
      American institutions, even if they are disillusioned with the country’s current direction.

      Does the split in the article make sense to the people here?

      • Plumber says:

        @Civilis,

        “There’s a study that’s been discussed by a number of online commenters on the right called “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” that I was interested in getting people’s opinions on….

        ….Does the split in the article make sense to the people here?”

        The split between “Progressive Activists” and “Traditional Liberals”?

        Um sure sounds plausible, that PDF was really hard to read on my phone so I’m sure there’s nuances that I missed, but of all the “profiles” Jamal the “Passive Liberal” felt the closest to me, but still not that close, and of the listed opinions I agreed with, the “Devoted Conservatives” were the ones most likely to agree with me on six issues,  the “Progressive Activists” on four issues, and the “Politically Disengaged” on one issue, so I don’t feel like I map well with any of the listed “tribes” very well.

        In terms of how I actually vote, I vote for Democrats because the issues that I agree with them are more important to me than are the issues that I agree with Republicans, even though I apparently agree with “Devoted Conservatives” more than “Progressive Activists”.

        A Pew Research Center’s test that had a buch of similiar slots had me pegged as a “Disaffected Democrat” which sounds about right, wheras the “Political Compass test” which seems to be British, has me at “Economic Left/Right -7.75” so an economic leftist, and “Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -1.54” which has me at more liberal and less authoritarian than I feel.

        I’d love to see an SSC quiz/list to see how people fit

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          The problem with most of these tests is that they mostly reveal more about the test maker than the people taking the test. I vaguely scanned through Civilis’ link, and my impression was it was written by a left winger doing a poor job of understanding how the other side feels. I also suspect that a majority of SSCers would not feel at all comfortable in any of its 7 categories because most of the beliefs are black and white and un-nuanced, such as “Men and women
          have different roles.” One can answer this as a signal that one is on the right or left, but an intelligent answer requires several paragraphs, not agree or disagree. Maybe all such polls are inherently un-nuanced.

          In the link from Plumber, the first question is:

          If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.

          This is a great example of a bias pretending to be a question. I stopped at that point.

          • Plumber says:

            Mark V Anderson

            “……This is a great example of a bias pretending to be a question. I stopped at that point”

            Wise move.

            The Pew “political typology“,

            and their

            political party” 

            quizes seem about as good as I’ve found if I go by “what to I disagree with less” for my answers, but even then it’s like throwing darts as to how I’ll answer, as the questions are still pretty bad. 

            Other on-line quizzes seem to mostly match me up with no-chance third parties.

            Not an quiz on-line quiz, but one interesting to me division of political typology had the electorate divded like so:
            …we can break the electorate into four types, based on their position in the four quadrants 

            Liberal (44.6 percent of those who voted in 2016): ‘liberal on both economic and identity issues’

            Populist (28.9 percent): ‘liberal on economic issues, conservative on identity issues’

            Conservative (22.7 percent): ‘conservative on both economic and identity issues

            Libertarian (3.8 percent): ‘conservative on economics, liberal on identity issues….

            and that “We should understand that voters are not ideologically coherent, but instead have different mixes of left and right views across different issues…“.
            Okay, a warning extended political rant below:
            The study of 2016 voters concluded that In both parties, the donor class is both more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues, as compared to the rest of the party” and it continued: “..although the parties are divided on economic issues, there is more overlap. Particularly in the Republican Party, there are a wide range of views on economic issues, now that the party has expanded to include more and more populists who were formerly Democrats….

            In his response to the study, Jonathan Chait wrote:

            “…..Libertarians don’t exist.
            Well, obviously, they exist — just not in any remotely large enough numbers to form a constituency. It’s not just hard-core libertarians who are absent. Even vaguely libertarian-ish voters are functionally nonexistent.

            The study breaks down voters into four quadrants, defined by both social and economic liberalism. But virtually everybody falls into three quadrants: socially liberal/economically liberal; socially conservative/economically conservative; and socially conservative/economically liberal. The fourth quadrant, socially liberal/economically conservative, is empty:

            The libertarian movement has a lot of money and hard-core activist and intellectual support, which allows it to punch way above its weight. Libertarian organs like Reason regularly churn out polemics and studies designed to show that libertarianism is a huge new trend and the wave of the future. Sometimes, mainstream news organizations buy what they’re selling. But the truth is that the underrepresented cohort in American politics is the opposite of libertarians: people with right-wing social views who support big government on the economy….”

            Looking at that same study, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s take was:

            “….looking at the smear of red across the top two quadrants and the fist of blue in the lower left, stare a while at the chart’s lower right-hand quadrant, home of social liberals and fiscal conservatives. It’s astonishingly empty: The ideological groups that occupy this space — consistent libertarians, globalist Democrats, socially liberal deficit hawks, pro-choice and pro-immigration supply-siders — are vanishingly rare within the American electorate.

            But they are not at all rare in the country’s power centers, in New York and Washington and Silicon Valley, and in similar centers across the Western world. And therein lies a taproot of every recent form of populism.

            On both sides of the Atlantic, if you tried to build a consensus politics based around what voters actually want, it would be very moderately culturally conservative and very moderately economically liberal, and it would sit low in the upper left quadrant of our chart — the place where Trump won voters who had previously voted for Obama.

            But on both sides of the Atlantic, if you sought to place the elite consensus on the same chart, it be much closer to the emptiest of quadrants — the land of austerity and open borders, free trade and the permanent sexual revolution, the Simpson-Bowles plan….”

            For most of my adult life a “moderate” was defined (by the likes of KGO radio, Newsweek,  and Time Magazine) as a “fiscal conservative, social liberal” and Michael Bloomberg has often been listed as one.

            Fine. 

            That’s a “moderate”.

            But it’s not what the majority of American voters want!

            Ezra Klien wrote in his fine essay “No one’s less moderate than moderates”: “….The other problem is that the term “moderate” makes it sound like there’s one kind of moderate — which is where the idea emerges that there’s some silent moderate majority out there waiting for their chance to take back politics. But someone who believes in punitively taxing the rich and criminalizing homosexuality is not going to form a coalition with someone who believes in low taxes and gay marriage, even though both of these voters would look moderate on a survey…”.

            In looking at the polling Fox news writer F. H. Buckley acknowledged:

            “..On economics, 73 percent of the voters were left of center on the issues but“…We’re a socially conservative country, as the Voter Survey Group measured these things, but it’s only a 52 to 48 percent split….”

            To put it plainly, the majority of 2016 voters didn’t want “Entitlement Reforms” to gut parts of the remaining welfare state, and they didn’t want “Immigration Reform” to increase immigration, both things championed as “moderate positions” not too long ago, those are things the donor class wanted.

            I remember some in 2008 expressing amazement that the same “progressive electorate” that voted for a black man for President would also vote to ban legal gay marriage in California, and I wanted to knock them on the head and tell them (basically my brother and his wife when they lived in Berkeley, and he went to San Francisco State) to “Come with me to where I live in Oakland, down to East Palo Alto, or to the construction sites I work at in San Jose and speak to voters there, you’ll find out”.

            Yes Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote, but Romney-to-Clinton voters were outnumbered by Obama-to-Trump and Obama-to-nobody voters.

            It wasn’t just a “demographic surge” that got Obama elected in 2008, it was an economic collapse (remember?), and as the economy recovered cultural and social issues came to the forefront, and I’ll remind you that during the campaign Trump was “less likely to be considered a conservative than any other recent Republican presidential candidate…”.
            The pictures of children in cages?

            Yeah that’s Trump being brutal, but it’s also him keeping his promise

            Even though the polling indicates that they’re more of the Nation than I guessed they still aren’t enough “liberals” to win by themselves, in 2016 enough white “populists” switched their votes to Republicans, and enough non-white 2008 and 2012 voters didn’t vote at all (and a surprising number of older Hispanic men supported Trump, in California at least “Mexicans” have been here for generation).

            Unless the economy tanks, or an unpopular war is on-going, they will be no 2006 style “Blue Wave”, I predict a very slim majority for Democrats in the House, if that, the Republicans will retain the Senate, and Trump will be re-elected.

            The Democrats going for “fiscal conservative, social liberal suburban moms” is a fools errand, because there’s not enough voters like that!

            The only way for Democrats to win is to get back populists or convince non-voters to vote.

            And who are non-voters?

            The poorer and the less educated.

            Good luck with that! 

            I hope I’m wrong, but I see six more years of Republican rule.

            Don’t blame me Democratic Party, I told you to nominate Jim Webb!

            Do you even want to win?

            You know in 2009 you could have put the effort into card-check that you did into the ACA and re-create the New Deal coalition, but you didn’t did you?

            It’s very simple: Campaign on popular positions, work the change, campaign in it, and don’t campaign on and work for unpopular positions! 

            President Obama almost had the Democratic Party commit political suicide by agreeing to a ‘grand bargain’ with Speaker Boehner to cut Social Security Insurance spending, until Republican back-benches saved a Democratic President from destroying his own party!

            So you’d cut the.most.popular legacy of any Democratic President ever?!!!

            That is.how you win?

            Imagine if you had Republican Presidential candidates campaigning on fiscal responsibility and “immigration reform”?

            Oh wait…

            I don’t have to, because they did and they lost! 

            Wow!

            Who’d think that unpopular positions are unpopular? 

            Oh yeah, 9/10th of EVERYBODY! 

            Yes, yes, you “need” donors to campaign…

            Do you really? 

            I think 2016 just showed that a candidate with a strong message that resonates with the voters that actually exist in both the primary and in the general election can go further than a donor supported one, else Jeb Bush would be President. 

            You need to firsr understand who voters actually are and what they want, that was Trump’s genius, he crafted a message for voters, not donors, Sanders on the D side just recycled an old message, but it was clear he wasn’t a donors puppet and the kids hadn’t seen it before, so he got far, learn from that! 

            Yes I understand that your campaign staffs are young idealistic or ambitious college students and if you don’t champion their values they won’t work for you, but guess what, most voters can’t relate to them and they can’t even get their peers to vote, staff enthusiasm alone doesn’t win!

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Plumber

            Ok this post surprises me for a lot of reasons.

            I got no replies to my message, then I get a very long reply.

            The long message is when the thread is almost dead. I wonder who will read it. At least I am, anyway.

            I am always hearing about posts with lots of links disappearing into ether. How did you get this one to post?

            I don’t really understand your segue into the rant on libertarianism. Do you agree with the guy who says it basically doesn’t exist? And do you think this is a good thing.

            I took the two surveys you thought were the best. I was labeled Core Conservative on one and Conservative Republican on the other. I don’t think very accurate.

            I thought I had seen 18% of folks describing themselves as libertarian in 2010, although I can’t find the link now. I think it all depends on how you define libertarian. I think the core belief is that government generally works less well than private initiative for the benefit of society, and I wouldn’t be surprised to get 50% or more of people agreeing with that.

            I’m not sure what you are saying at the bottom. You seem to be making a point about the who the people support, but I can’t tell what it is. By the way, I think the widely spread picture of kids in cages turned out to have been taken during the Obama administration. Just shows that though a picture tells a thousand words, there’s no telling if they are lies or not.

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            “Ok this post surprises me for a lot of reasons.

            I got no replies to my message, then I get a very long reply…”

            That’s because it took me a while to write, and as I read more of the links I supplied I changed tracks.

            “…I am always hearing about posts with lots of links disappearing into ether. How did you get this one to post?…”

            On my phone with copy and pasting quotrs and then by putting it into my e-mail tab first, editing it there, and then more editing after I posted it until the timer ran out.

            “…I took the two surveys you thought were the best. I was labeled Core Conservative on one and Conservative Republican on the other. I don’t think very accurate… “

            I had a similar feeling on taking the tests, but what’s important isn’t how well they measure what one believes, it’s how well they predicts how one votes

            “….I think it all depends on how you define libertarian. I think the core belief is that government generally works less well than private initiative for the benefit of society, and I wouldn’t be surprised to get 50% or more of people agreeing with that….”

            I’ve little doubt that worded like that the majority of Americans would say that “government works less well than private initiative?” most would agree, but ask instead “Are you in favor of getting a smaller Social Security Insurance check in order to cut the size of government? ” and “Are you on favor of more open borders?”

            Go ahead, I’m confident that the majority of voters when polled not on overall size but on what their spending priorities are on indivual programs pretty much actually reflect current budgets, put simply Americans want to get Social Security and so a ton of money goes there, and they don’t want open borders.

            “…I’m not sure what you are saying at the bottom. You seem to be making a point about the who the people support, but I can’t tell what it is”

            Not who what the majority want, essentially as I read the polling, first to get a sense of political typologies, but then to find majority beliefs, I got angry at being lied to for decades with editorialists and pundits who’ve been pitching a narrative about what’s “mainstream”, “centrist” and “moderate”, with “fiscal conservatives, social liberals’ held up as the “compromise”.

            Lies!

            I’ve been told at this Forum when I reported the views of the majority of my co-workers, that I’m “in a bubble”.

            Then I looked at the issue-by-issue polls.

            Somethings have become more libertarian over the years, for example the majority want marijuana use de-criminalized, which it now effectively is (at least in California), but a false story about what is the “center” has been peddled for decades and now I’m pretty ticked off.

            “Social liberal, economic conservative” is an elite opinion that fits Peter Thiel, but it is the opposite of majority opinion as most American voters are not educated, prosperous, and young.

            Both Democrats and Republicans say that the majority agree with them, and they’re both half right.

            On an issue-by-issue basis more American voters agree with Democrats on economic issues, and more American voters agree with Republicans on social issues. 

            The Republicans seem to understand this better than the Democrats, that is why they stopped campaigning on tax cuts, the Democrats opposition to the Kavaugh appointment, on the other hand, has created a voter backlash“, that dims the probability of the predicted mid-term “blue wave”.

            San Francisco isn’t Scranton, and the ‘hard-hat vote’ dismissed as “niche” and a “relic” is in fact still significant.

            Neither Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush is President, the donors and their agenda lost at the polls (though they win when it comes to actually enacted policy).

            Learn from those who voted for Obama and then Trump, I thought Hillary was going to win because I believed the pundits lies and ignored what I heard out of the mouths of those I worked with as I thought “well the polls say the majority….”.

            Never again!

            I’ve a better idea of which side of “the bubble” is which now.

            As I said in my earlier post the fight over the votes of “moderate middle class suburbanites” is a fools errand, it is the working-class that are swing voters in large numbers.

            Am I clear?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I think our discussion is interesting, but soon 112.25 will be harder to find. I don’t know if comments will actually be cut off.

            Am I clear?

            Some clear, but I’m not sure if you have one message.

            You say voters agree with Dems economic message, but Repubs social message. I hope that isn’t true, because I lean libertarian. But I also think you are being too definitive. American voters are not that consistent. As you said, what they believe depends on how you ask it. But also, what they vote for depends on how it is presented. Trump and Sanders both were popular because they attacked the establishment. Their particular issues weren’t really that important.

            And you say you won’t believe what the pundits say the voters believe. Well that’s probably a good idea, because the pundits don’t know any better than the rest of us. As you say, that was proved in the last election by the victory of Trump. But Trump just barely won, he got fewer votes, and just got over the top in electoral votes. So you can’t say the pundits were wrong that Trump won, because of course no one can predict the result when it was so close. The pundits that were really wrong were the ones who said Hillary would win handily.

            So I don’t disagree with you about abandoning following the pundits. But I do disagree that you have figured out the answer yourself.

            And as far as living in a bubble: I think we are all in a bubble when it comes to presidential voting. You are in CA hippie land and work with mostly blue collar workers. I live in far left Minneapolis, but work with more conservative professionals in the suburbs. We both read SSC, which is one more culture. We both live with feet in more than one pool of political thought, but in comparison with the innumerable different political cultures in the whole country, there is no way we can know them as a whole.

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Thank you very much for your response! 

            Every point you made in your last post seems very likely true to me and I can’t argue with your points (especially now that the coffee has worn off, I’ve had my blood pressure pill and I’m less cranky).

            I hope to have a longer response (especially since I just picked up a book called “American Political Parties and Elections” which I hope to dive into and mine for ideas), but I wanted to let you know that I’m grateful for the conversation. 

            I’d like to get into what life circumstances correlate with one’s politics, but for now (I think I’ve posted this before) one of the biggest correlations that I’ve noticed is that the further ones lives from the City (and the longer ones commute) the more conservative one tends to be, and I’d like to discuss (well, really make up stereotypes based on anecdotes) other correlations. 

            Thanks again. 

          • the further ones lives from the City (and the longer ones commute) the more conservative one tends to be

            What do you mean by “conservative?”

            The literal meaning is opposition to change. By that standard the people worried about global warming are the conservatives in that issue, although the people not worried about it are more likely to be labeled “conservatives.”

            For the modern political sense, one big problem is that the term gets applied both to traditionalist/social conservatives and to libertarians, two very different groups that happen to have been allies of late.

            For a sample of one, I don’ think I have ever had a regular commute of more than fifteen minutes and have lived most of my life in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose and New Orleans. But I don’t know if you would count me as a conservative, a radical, or both.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman
            “What do you mean by “conservative?”

            The literal meaning is opposition to change. By that standard the people worried about global warming are the conservatives in that issue, although the people not worried about it are more likely to be labeled “conservatives.”

            For the modern political sense, one big problem is that the term gets applied both to traditionalist/social conservatives and to libertarians, two very different groups that happen to have been allies of late.

            For a sample of one, I don’ think I have ever had a regular commute of more than fifteen minutes and have lived most of my life in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose and New Orleans. But I don’t know if you would count me as a conservative, a radical, or both.”

            Dang it, it’s past my bedtime (too weak to resist interesting discussion)!

            Anyway, “correlate” not “always”, but by dictionary definitions I’d peg you as a liberal (or “classical liberal”) as to if your a (dictionary) conservative, in times of increasing State power, yes you are (or would be) a conservative, but when your a (dictionary) progressive or radical is when you’re advocating change rather than slow it down (the chief difference between a “progressive” and a “radical” being if you want the change or not) , but if the change you want is to be something that previously was than one is a ‘reactionary’ (which is tricky because often the ‘golden age’ longed for is imaginary or from a child’s eye view NOT THAT I KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT!!! Note self depreciating sarcasm).

            But in this case I was using “conservative” mostly for the cultural/social axis, which I don’t guess you are, unless it’s SCA traditions.

            My new favorite “political typology’ was (I think) first articulated in 1981by the Cato Institute (PDF), and divedes people into those who favor those who are anti-statist intervention in the free market, and pro intervention on one axis, and those who are pro traditionalist culture and those pro cultural changes on another axis, and in this scheme (regardless of the dictionary meaning) a “conservative” is an economic anti-statist cultural traditionalist, who ally with “libertarians” on economics and “populist” on social issues, and are in political opposition to “liberals” (not to be confused with classical/dictionary liberals) who ally with libertarians on social issues and “populists” on economics.

    • Gazeboist says:

      On the other hand, a system based on an assumption that e.g. a libertarian is pretty much the same thing as a religious fundamentalist, seems quite useless for debating the topic rationally.

      Worse, actually: a libertarian is the same as both a religious fundamentalist and a civil rights activist, depending on the subject being discussed.

    • arlie says:

      I think it would be interesting to experiment with clearer naming on SSC.

      Get specific – people who trust businesses. People who trust governments. People who favour role assignment/limitations based on gender. People who want equal outcomes (by gender). People who want equal opportunity (by gender). Same 3 categories based on race, national origin, religion, and parental wealth. People who expect GDP growth to benefit primarily the poor. People who expect GDP growth to benefit primarily the rich. (And ditto for tax cuts, and various other policies – but seperately.) People who expect armed civilians to deter/prevent crime. People who expect an increase/decrease in deaths correlated with gun availability. People who favour free speech, even speech they disagree with. People who favour suppressing (some) speech they don’t like – with specifics. People who favour suppressing all speech they don’t like (with specifics). etc. etc.

      No use of terms like “red tribe” or “feminist” or “reactionary” or “religious maniac” or whatever. And you get to define yourself – but be laughed at if you post things that blatantly contradict the claimed trait.

      It’s not practical, but I find it to be an amusing thought experiment.

  24. Plumber says:

    I just read about an Initiative, Proposition 7, that if passed will end Daylight Savings t crime in California.

    I can’t remember being this eager to vote!

    I’ve no idea how this maps to “tribes” but anyone who votes to end this sleep stealing law is my brother or sister.

    • Gazeboist says:

      The only proper change to timekeeping is to admit that the sun does not in fact rise between 5:00 and 7:00 at every longitude in the world and do away with timezones entirely. Greenwitch remains a reasonable spot for the Prime Meridian, though, mostly because it’s sensible to land the International Date Line in the middle of the Pacific to the extent you can.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      Finally!

      As a libertarian, I am – for perhaps the first time – in full agreement with you. Both personal experience and (minimal) research suggest that losing an entire hour of sleep is not great for people, and everyone doing it at once is not necessarily great for traffic safety that morning (or possibly a few mornings after as people adjust). And realistically, that’s usually what happens. I wish we’d done this years ago.

      … I’d be curious what opponents of the change think, though? The arguments I’ve heard are mostly pro standardization with the other states, since almost all of them have it, and power efficiency which may or may not still lean in favor of Daylight Savings. I haven’t done much research, though; I could easily be missing something.

      • 10240 says:

        My sleep times are completely irregular, the time I go to sleep often changes several hours back and forth compared to the previous day, and as such a one hour adjustment is negligible. But even people with more regular schedules than me I observe often go to bed 1–2 hours later in the weekend than on weekdays, and then readjust by Monday, so a one hour adjustment shouldn’t be a significant problem.

        Also, permanent DST (i.e. summer time), which is most commonly proposed in initiatives for abolishing DST is totally illogical: it’s winter time that tries to at least roughly match the local solar time. At least abolishing DST and switching one time zone to the West would be better terminology than “permanent DST”, but there is also no rationale given for switching time zones.

      • Plumber says:

        @Rebecca Friedman

        “Finally!

        As a libertarian, I am – for perhaps the first time – in full agreement with you…”

        For myself I can’t imagine what I wouldn’t politically compromise to get to drive to work at dark o’clock in thenmorning less.

        If the Stomp-on-puppies-ban-rainbows-and-ban-icecream Party is the only ones who will deliver an end to the twice a year clock change, they have my vote!

    • Basil Elton says:

      That would’ve been great! That’d be at least one measurement at least one state of the US will be doing right. Well, partially, because AM-PM notation isn’t going anywhere, but nevertheless.

      And +1 Rebecca’s question about reasons for not doing it – are there any? IIRC originally the idea was to maximize usage of natural lighting and save on electricity, but seriously – with LED light bulbs, and also with electrical cooling, heating, cooking, computing, industrial equipment, even goddamn cars, how can this reasoning possibly make any kind of a sense?

      • sentientbeings says:

        It would be two states – Arizona does not have DST (except, I think, on Navajo lands). The movement to get rid of DST has been gaining momentum in a few other states as well.

        • gbdub says:

          As an Arizonan, I love not flipping, but I wish we stayed on DST rather than Standard (or just move to Pacific time) – in the summer it gets bright (and hot) way too early, and in the winter it’s dark too soon.

          • 10240 says:

            What about starting a campaign to start work/school at an earlier clock time, rather than stay on DST? It would be more logical.

          • gbdub says:

            Because time zones / daylight time are a pretty well established coordination mechanism for getting everybody on the same clock, and as long as we’re talking about monkeying with that, might as well talk about where the current setup places daylight.

            Might as well use the tool we have rather than voluntarily take on a massive coordination challenge.

      • AG says:

        It really is silly, because companies could always voluntarily shift their work hours as needed to fit the daylight cycle, instead of pegging to hours that then shift as the federal government decides.

        Is it really that hard to convey to workers and customers “we have these hours in Q1, these hours in Q2, etc.”?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Coordination problems are generally a bitch. So yes, that is an issue.

          As a for instance, do you want to employ people who have school age children? You have to coordinate with the school schedule.

          • Matt M says:

            Am I crazy or do most employers absolutely not coordinate with the school schedule?

            I ended up having to basically get to school an hour early in high school because school started an hour after both of my parents had to be at work.

          • Brad says:

            Short of lengthening the school day, which the teacher’s unions would never accept, or shortening the standard work day, I don’t think there is any way to coordinate the two.

            My friends all pay for after school care of one sort or another and some of them for before school care also.

  25. johan_larson says:

    Maybe my gaydar is broken. I have heard it said, repeatedly, that the famous volleyball scene in the movie Top Gun is gay. And not just a little bit gay. Gay right in the face. But I don’t see it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I can see why gay men would like this interlude of buff young dudes glistening in the sun. But so would hetero women. So I’m thinking it’s not gay. Commentators just couldn’t be bothered to search through their vocabularies for “camaraderie” and “virility” and “strutting”. They picked up “gay”, decided it sort of fit, and went home early.

    True, there are two brief sequences where one player puts his arm across the shoulders of his team-mate. But surely that can’t be enough to classify the scene as gay, when they spend so much time doing other stuff. There’s a heck of a lot more that is athletic or competitive. Classifying the scene like that would be like insisting that every movie with a Jewish actor is a Jewish movie, which is clearly nonsense.

    But maybe I’m mistaken. Help me out. Show me on the video where the gay is.

    • Gazeboist says:

      My guess is that it’s “gay” the way “lesbian” porn is “lesbian”, though obviously to a lesser degree. There are markets for gay porn and erotica in the homosexual male and heterosexual female demographics, and these markets are actually somewhat distinct, at least in terms of materials produced targeting them. In both cases, though, the product is generally “gay” or otherwise categorized in reference to the male homosexuality depicted therein, as is the general convention for erotica; the same convention is then exported to fiction that is not explicitly erotic.

      You’re right that the question is “who is this display for” and not “what is being displayed”, but it’s in a Watsonian sense rather than a Doylist one. To the extent that the actual existence of a romantic/sexual display is read in by the audience rather than written by the writer, well, it’s been standard practice for decades at this point to treat virtually any display of affection or value in fiction as a romantic/sexual display so long as the audience and the maker of the display are a plausible couple. That is, if you think the characters in the scene might, hypothetically, be gay (or rather, bisexual, if I’m correctly remembering the rest of Top Gun), then standard practice is to assume that they are, because they display themselves to each other and/or show individualized affection to each other.

    • Men used to act around each other in a way that would be unusual today. They would hold hands and just generally touch each other. The 80’s is right around when that started changing. Calling Top Gun is just a projection of our culture to back then.

      • Matt M says:

        Perhaps worth noting that there are plenty of cultures in which this sort of thing is still typically normal and not at all some sort of secret indication that they’re probably gay.

      • John Schilling says:

        The 80’s is right around when that started changing.

        Not coincidentally, right about the time actual homosexuality was becoming generally accepted outside of enclaves like SF.

        Gay rights, or straight male bonding. Pick one. Sigh.

        • albatross11 says:

          I wonder how much of this comes down to our media culture, rather than the tolerance. I feel like every kind of closeness between people has this sort of potential of being seen as somehow sexual in nature, and this is an unhealthy obsession of movies, TV shows, news media (especially celebrity scandal news media), etc. This is deeply broken and destructive of a lot of the stuff that holds people together and makes life worth living.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Albatross has it, although I think the media focus is a product of the obsession, rather than its cause, and is far from the only place it shows up.

        • AG says:

          No, no, no, no, no, that’s such a false binary it’s embarrassing.

          The solution is less homophobia, not more. You think gay people are more miserable because all of their same sex friends could potentially be into them? And yet, gay men don’t exclusively hang out with a single lesbian woman, because adding anyone else could lead to romantic complications. Straight people can learn to deal, just as men and women can be friends, or a gay man can have zero feelings for his straight best guy friend, shocking, I know.

          The secondary solution is much more implausible in this age of hypersensitive boundaries, but it’s to relax the segregation of the platonic and the romantic. Who fucking cares if someone thinks you should be banging your best friend? Why should that influence the platonic way you feel about each other?
          Consider the very salacious shows. I use Spartacus not because of its setting, as it actually has very modern sensibilities, but the gist is that people don’t blink an eye at whether or not people are having sex with each other or not. The presence of gay couples has no bearing on there also being strong physical affection between platonic friends.
          (In some ways, this is an ironic take on the enthusiastic consent standard. As the skittishness around physical affection comes from the promotion of romantic ambiguity, switching to a state where you’re only romantic if you state it clearly should be better, right?)

          • John Schilling says:

            Who fucking cares if someone thinks you should be banging your best friend?

            If the “someone” is the woman you should actually be “banging”, then you probably care that she mistakenly thinks you are gay and so does not signal her receptiveness to a romantic invitation.

            Or if the “someone” is anyone who might know such a woman, and won’t bother to make an introduction because they think you’re not interested in women.

            Actual human romantic relationships beyond the one-night-stand or Tinder/Grinder fuckbuddy level, are often mediated by third parties. So it is kind of helpful for third parties to be able to properly assess sexuality. Anything along the lines of “heh, heh, look at Teh Gay!”, directed at straight male bonding, is anti-helpful and should be discouraged.

            Consider the very salacious shows. I use Spartacus not because of its setting, as it actually has very modern sensibilities

            You understand that these shows are fiction, and do not accurately model or represent human behavior, right?

          • Gazeboist says:

            No, no, no, no, no, that’s such a false binary it’s embarrassing.

            The solution is to stop assuming I’m banging everyone I pay any individual attention to.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Gazeboist

            No, no, no, no, no, that’s such a false binary it’s embarrassing.

            Were you trying to quote and respond to AG, ironically echo him, or what?

            Whatever it is, it’s strongly antipersuasive.

          • Gazeboist says:

            It was meant as an echo. Rereading, it’s pretty clear that AG and I are actually in agreement, and AG just framed it in a weird way. I saw what looked like someone chastising someone else for missing the issue of relevance while themselves missing that same issue in an almost identical fashion, to which I generally react poorly. I apologize for that reaction.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If the “someone” is the woman you should actually be “banging”, then you probably care that she mistakenly thinks you are gay and so does not signal her receptiveness to a romantic invitation.
            Or if the “someone” is anyone who might know such a woman, and won’t bother to make an introduction because they think you’re not interested in women.

            I don’t think you even need to bring third parties into it. It’s generally pretty awkward when someone mistakenly thinks you’re hitting on them, so people are naturally going to change their behaviour to stop that sort of situation arising.

          • AG says:

            @John Schilling, Gazeboist

            No, the point of relaxing the line is the people care less about those perceptions. Oh, look, A and B over there are having physical affection that could be romantic or plantonic? If that puts me off of asking A if he’s available, then that’s on me, not on the ambiguity of the actions.

            Let more people make more introductions to more people. Less Guess Culture surrounding propositions. Lessen the embarrassment of getting rejected for any reason, including asking out a person of the wrong sexuality.

            The reason I bring up fictional shows is because it shows how straight male bonding is not mutually exclusive from “look at Teh Gay!” I said this the last time this subject came up, but a lot of “look at Teh Gay Subtext” is rooted in how gay content was censored from media by the Hays Code, and so gay coding (the thing driving the interpretation of certain physical affection as gay romance) became the thing. The solution to this is not Enforce More Hays Code, it’s to return to having even more open portrayals of gay relationships, such that fans no longer are so starved for representation that they look for coding everywhere.
            Secondly, the show reflects how fans can certain differentiate between “look at Teh Gay” and “yes we know these characters are actually straight.” You had an open gay couple performing the same actions of physical affection as the platonic pairs, and wow, you didn’t have people insisting that the straight characters actually weren’t. As you say, fictional is fictional. Plenty of what you see of people supposedly promoting physical affection as gay know perfectly well that it’s just fantasy, and do not apply the same standards to real life.

            Otherwise, you wouldn’t get so many lesbian sheep jokes.

            Thirdly, “Look at Teh Gay” is only the flipside of a wildly oversensitive “Look at Teh Het” (all physical affections getting segregated into “always romantic” and “never romantic”) so you can’t fix the former, as it will continue to be derived from the latter. I can’t work up any sort of outrage over your worries about slash fans when the same mechanism is just as, if not more, active for supporting…incest ships. Yep, that sure is gonna cause problems in real life. /s

            You might as well start diatribes over how Rule 34 is ruining peoples’ love lives.

        • dick says:

          Gay rights, or straight male bonding. Pick one. Sigh.

          Hang on. Straight men calling each other “fag” for being too intimate is the fault of the gay rights movement? Do I have this right?

          • LesHapablap says:

            In my experience women are much more likely to do this than men, possibly because a woman implying a man is a homosexual (either teasing or otherwise) is less likely to be read as an invitation to violence compared to when a man does it.

          • rlms says:

            Your experience is weird, dude.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Yeah I thought of lots of examples of men doing that after posting that. Still very common for women to do the same though.

        • gbdub says:

          I don’t think the “problem” is gay rights, but rather that increasing acceptance of homosexuality has created in some a sort of overreaction where people, thinking they are being “woke” and helpful, assume same-sex bonding that might be ambiguously erotic as actually gay. “Oh, look at the closeted homosexuals, the poor dears, society’s oppression has forced them to declare they are straight but I can see through it #pride #ally”

          The one that annoys me most is not Mav and Goose but Sam and Frodo.

          Anyway the same sort of over-woke-reaction seems to be a side effect of trans acceptance, with some people being quick to assume gender nonconformity is necessarily a sign of being transgender.

          • Nornagest says:

            That might be part of it, but I feel like something else is going on. As the Top Gun example shows, there was a widespread tendency to eroticize male same-sex bonding as early as the 1980s, long before being publicly woke was cool outside a few small communities. The most common explanation is just “homophobia”, but it seems implausible that the ’80s were more homophobic than, say, the 1940s, when sodomy laws were still widely enforced yet that sort of bonding would have been common and seen as normal.

            My best guess is that it has nothing to do with acceptance and everything to do with awareness. If you’re straight and the culture says that homosexuality is some sort of distant, bizarre aberration, you don’t need to signal being straight, you can just do what you feel like and people will assume it. When the culture says it’s common and you might know a few people that’ve come out, then if you want to be identifiable as straight — and there are plenty of non-homophobic reasons to want this — you suddenly need behavioral markers of straightness. And that’s still true — it might even be more true — if you and everyone you know agree that it’s totally cool to be gender nonconforming or whatever.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Welp, our son’s playing with his sister’s dolls. We better start calling her our other daughter and start transgender treatment ASAP, rather than seeing if he gets bored of dolls after a few days.”

          • Nick says:

            if you want to be identifiable as straight — and there are plenty of non-homophobic reasons to want this — you suddenly need behavioral markers of straightness.

            Just to nitpick, but the problem is stronger than this. You not only need markers of straightness, you need to have relatively few markers of gayness.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Men used to act around each other in a way that would be unusual today. They would hold hands and just generally touch each other. The 80’s is right around when that started changing. Calling Top Gun is just a projection of our culture to back then.

        No this isn’t true at all. I grew up in the sixties. I can’t even imagine two boys holding hands back then. Anyone with the absolute lowest level of social skills knew this rule. Your status would plummet to the bottom.

        I don’t know that it was ever part of American culture that it was okay for males to touch or hold hands. To a certain extent this was okay in sports, but you better not enjoy the touch! Someone holding hands or being physically close would show they were from some other culture.

        • What about hugging? To me, that feels more natural between men than holding hands. Most obviously to express sympathy by one man for something bad that happened to another.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Maybe hugging is more natural, but I don’t remember that ever happening in my childhood (except for fleeting hugs in sports). Hugging certainly wouldn’t bring down your status like holding hands would, but I think it would indicate you were less macho than most. Even now I think the more common way for men to express sympathy to other men is verbal, not physical.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The pictures I’ve seen of casual affection between men were much earlier. The 20s or 30s, I think.

    • Beck says:

      I’m with you on ‘not gay’. Or at least, no gayer than normal.
      Jokes aside, I think some people don’t get how homoerotic a regular day at the barracks would look to an outsider. Behavior like the shirtless strutting and hanging on each other in the video is common enough that it doesn’t work as an indicator of whether the men displaying the behavior are gay or not.
      (I’ve been out for a long time, but if Terminal Lance is still making jokes about it, I assume it hasn’t changed much)

    • gbdub says:

      I mean, if the oiled up slow motion shirtless dudes weren’t enough, there’s the accompanying music

      I’d say it was the right time
      To walk away
      When dreaming takes you nowhere
      It’s time to play
      Bodies working overtime
      Your money don’t matter
      The time keeps ticking
      When someone’s on your mind
      On your mind
      I’m moving in slow motion
      Feels so good
      It’s a strange anticipation
      Knock, knock, knockin’ on wood
      Bodies working overtime
      It’s man against man
      And all that ever matters is, baby
      Who’s ahead in the game
      Funny but it’s always the same
      Playing, playing with the boys
      Staying, playing with the boys
      After chasing sunsets
      One of life’s simple joys
      Is playing with the boys
      Said it was the wrong thing
      For me to do
      I said it’s just a boys’ game
      But girls play too
      My heart is working overtime
      In this kind of game
      People get hurt
      I’m thinking that the people is me
      If you wanna find me I’ll be
      Playing, playing with the boys
      Staying, playing with the boys
      After chasing sunsets
      One of life’s simple joys
      Is the boys
      I don’t wanna be the moth around your fire
      (With the boys)
      I don’t wanna be obsessed by my desire
      (You’re shining, you’re smiling)
      (I’ll see it now)
      With the boys
      (I’m staying, you play too rough)
      Playing, playing with the boys
      I’ll be staying, playing with the boys (with the boys)
      After chasing sunsets
      One of life’s simple joys
      Is playin’ with the boys
      Staying with the boys
      Playing
      (Playing with the boys)
      Playing
      (Playing with the boys)
      You got me playing
      (Playing with the boys)
      You got me, you got me playing
      (Playing with the boys)
      Playing
      (Playing with the boys)
      Playing
      (Playing with the boys)

  26. Statismagician says:

    Mea culpa: In the last open thread I was very uncharitable towards Hoopyfreud on a culture-war topic. That was wrong of me and I apologize for it.

    The reason this is here and not there is that the site software kept eating my posts for the last couple of days, but has apparently stopped. Also, I tried to call it the ‘board software’ originally, which I think is interesting in a history-of-the-internet kind of way.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      No worries. The bailey is often argued, so it’s understandable.

      • Statismagician says:

        Additionally, all of the actionable suggestions you made were so eminently reasonable that I’d assumed they were pretty broadly standard; updates are underway on this.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I think that broadly standard is accurate, but there’s a not-insignificant minority of people for whom I think that standard does not hold. This is true for anything, obviously, but (if we can analogize to murderism) “rapism” of this sort isn’t limited to the people who commit rapes, and I think this creates something of a climate of fear.

          Similar attitudes about aggravated assault seem to have been mostly extinguished – domestic violence, for example, is seen as reasonable almost entirely by the tiny minority who engage in it, and almost never by the victim’s support network. It does happen, of course, but I think it’s much rarer than in the case of rape, and I perceive it to be continuing to decline. Hopefully rape follows the same pattern.

          All of the above in the context of America and countries with similarly non-patriarchical (in the sense of a literal patriarch) mores, of course. Many other places haven’t “gotten there” with regards to domestic violence, let alone rape.

  27. J Mann says:

    Speaking of rightward drift, does anyone know what happened to Iain? He was one of my favorites, so I hope he just has had better things to do lately, rather than being ill or sick of our *@!#.

  28. angularangel says:

    Hmm, a random thought – how did the Soviet Union score on social atomization, specifically? Did they have the same problems as first world countries? Or did they manage to invent exciting new problems? :/

    • Statismagician says:

      It would have been hard to study this properly given the apparently huge prevalence of black- and grey-market solutions to Soviet problems. Something retrospective done now could work a bit better in some ways, but that approach obviously has its own problems.

  29. Mitch Lindgren says:

    Scott, I was surprised to see you write in the most recent open thread that you’re going to try to practice “affirmative action for leftist commenters” to keep the comments section from drifting too far right. The reason this was surprising to me is that you’ve previously denied that this was a problem in the SSC subreddit’s culture war thread, which I think is much worse than the blog comments. I have stopped participating in or even reading the CW threads because I think they’ve devolved into a pseudo-intellectual version of /r/The_Donald, and I consider myself fairly moderate. Most of the out-and-out leftist commenters abandoned the subreddit long ago.

    Do you still believe the problem is exaggerated, or do you now see it but consider it beyond your control?

    • ManyCookies says:

      In the subreddit’s mild defense, their view on Trump himself is not particually rosy and could be described as “Enemy of my enemy” at best.

      I agree that the CW thread is a bad look. But I think it’s just way easier for Scott to directly affect these comments, whatever course corrections are needed here are gonna be less drama filled and rather milder, and the comments here are more visible to passing visitors than the subreddit and matter more for optics.

  30. Matt M says:

    Deiseach,

    How much are you getting your hopes up for a potential Liverpool title run?

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh Matt M, don’t tempt me! How many times has it been “This year for sure”? There’s always a fly in the ointment, and we still have this tendency to concede stupid goals late in the second half. The last couple of matches played should be cooling down any over-heated expectations.

      I’ll be happy for a top three finish!*

      *Lies, all lies: all the years we were languishing in mid-table obscurity and I would have snapped your hand off with the offer of a Top Six finish – but now that the siren song of “we could finally finally win this” is floating over the waves, of course I want us to be top of the table!

      • Matt M says:

        I was just curious. As a casual American observer I keep hearing that they are the favorites, but I kind of figured the true fans were cynical enough to take the “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach, which you seem to have confirmed.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah well you see, we have the glorious past which has kept us wrapped in opium dreams of things that were and things to come, but as you say, reality always comes along to bite you in the end. EDIT: We’ll always have Istanbul, though!

          Manchester United with their dominance all through the 90s and 00s really rubbed the salt into the wound of Liverpool’s decline, and while Chelsea have established themselves as this generation of fans’ bete noire, I can’t quite dislike them the same way as the Red Devils who swaggered their way to title after title. The fun part is that now, with Jose Mourinho (ex-Chelsea) being in charge of United who are perhaps facing their turn for a slow fall and long decline from days of all-conquering glory, I can enjoy their misery with a clear conscience once again in a ‘two for the price of one’ style 🙂

          But all this talk of winning the title this year makes me nervous, because we’ve had similar winning streaks in the past and something always happened to derail it at the last minute – the tragedy of the ending to the 2013/14 season, when it all went down to the last two games and the infamous Steven Gerrard slip proved that the Football Gods are cruel, capricious, and love nothing better than to sup on the tears of the disillusioned!

          Honestly, how did that happen? Leading up to the end, though Manchester City had a game in hand – just needed to draw against Chelsea, and surely they could beat Crystal Palace pulling up and that was it, the job done – and then the terrible irony of fate – Stevie’s slip let Demba Ba score, and once they got that first goal Chelsea went on to win that game, and the game after that against Palace was now a ‘must win’ from what had been ‘just turn up for the 90 minutes’ affair, which saw Liverpool manage to lose a 3-0 lead to a 3-3 draw. And that was it. From “nothing left to do but to engrave the name on the trophy” to “also-rans”.

          This parody video is pure cruelty and not as funny as it thinks it is, but it’s painfully accurate (and hey, at least you don’t have to listen to the Plastics – and the fans of every other team playing against Liverpool – spending the next year chanting about your captain).

  31. Nick says:

    What’s so great about procreation, folks? (I’m fulfilling my duty as rightwing traditionalist by asking.) Are you okay with not individually reproducing? How about with your tribe not reproducing, or your nation—not without a radical change in values, anyway? Suppose we really do hit sperm count zero—are you okay with being the last generation on Earth?

    We’re awfully contrarian here, but I don’t think I’ve seen any voluntary extinction or antinatalist views. Do they have a point? What’s so great about procreation?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      There are definitely anti-natalists here, although they’re more vocal on the subreddit. Plus a lot of nominal natalists who are de facto DINKs / Childfree.

      I’m not one of them so this question isn’t really addressed to me, but I will say that I’ve moderated my position somewhat on procreation on a national level. It’s pretty clear that my countrymen are unwilling or unable to continue to perpetuate themselves into the future. That’s tragic but ultimately not a bad thing; nobody has a right to exist, and if we aren’t willing to fight for our existence we don’t deserve it. I’m more focused now on making sure that my own descendants have the best possible opportunity rather than helping distant cousins.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems like this is likely to be a self-correcting problem–the Mormons and Orthodox Jews and traditional Catholics shall inherit the Earth.

        • Plumber says:

          @albatross11

          “…..the Mormons and Orthodox Jews and traditional Catholics shall inherit the Earth”

          A world of Catholics, Mormons and Jews?  I’m not a believer, but I think I’m okay with that, as long as those three faiths are at peace with each other and if one-in-hundred or so can still be something else without war (maybe like Islam’s olddhimmi system?), I can only remember one Mormon I’ve known, but he was a great guy, there’s one Orthodox Jew (who was born in the Soviet Union) on our crew at work and he’s really cool, we’ve got a few who are Russian Orthodox, a few Protestants, and across the hallway in custodial they’re some Buddhists, but the majority of my co-workers both in engineering and custodial are Roman Catholic and I’m comfortable with them.

          The apprentice on the crew has had three kids in five years, maybe his progeny will take over?

          I can think of worse worlds.

          I just hope one of those faiths adopts the “Gospel” music that came from the McGee Avenue Baptist Church in Berkeley, California when I was growing, up, or let’s a minority keep that tradition as I’m fond of those tunes.

          • Don’t forget the Amish. Traditional family sizes and modern medicine produce a population doubling time of about twenty years–even after allowing for ten to twenty percent loss in each generation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I was in Salt Lake City a few weeks back. Cleanest city I’ve ever seen. You could eat off the sidewalks.

            If the Mormons inherit the earth, at least it’ll be clean and orderly.

    • Björn says:

      I find anti-natalism in a first world nation very silly. Since the advent of working contraceptives and social security nets, population levels in the first world are shrinking anyhow, or at least they are only kept stable/expanding because of immigration. It doesn’t matter in the big picture wether some middle class intellectuals decide they need to accelerate this process by a tiny number. Besides, maybe middle class values and intelligence deserve to be passed to the next generation.

      What I find much more relevant is offering contraception to people in poor countries. Many people there don’t want to have 9 children, and it causes many humanitarian and ecological problems that globally population levels are still increasing with high speed.

    • Deiseach says:

      Are you okay with not individually reproducing? How about with your tribe not reproducing, or your nation—not without a radical change in values, anyway?

      Me personally – very okay. The world has sufficient of my paternal family’s genes, it certainly doesn’t need a new generation of fucked-up. And I would have been an absolutely terrible parent, thus adding the environmental straw to the genetic camel’s back of fucking up your offspring.

      My nation – we seem to be doing okay. While in common with everywhere else, our fertility rate is decreasing (1.8 births per woman in 2017), our population is growing (for most of my life, it held steady around 3 million, by the last census in 2016 it was 4.75 million). This probably has to do more with decreasing emigration as employment prospects improved than anything else, but it’s strange to see the upward trend when for decades it was stagnant.

      My tribe? That depends on what you mean by that – white people? I don’t think white people (however you define the term) are on the brink of extinction as yet. Socially conservative/fiscally liberal traditional Catholics? That may be a different story, but I still wouldn’t say the Church is dead quite yet 🙂

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I think I’d be happy to reproduce. I don’t think it’s particularly important that anyone else does. I’d also be happy to observe a slow decline in population, and don’t feel a need to have a “replacement level” number of children – Matt might call me out for “painful economic sacrifice,” but I strongly suspect that it’s better than the alternative, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

      • Nick says:

        I think I’d be happy to reproduce. I don’t think it’s particularly important that anyone else does.

        Clippy philosophy detected.

        I’d also be happy to observe a slow decline in population, and don’t feel a need to have a “replacement level” number of children – Matt might call me out for “painful economic sacrifice,” but I strongly suspect that it’s better than the alternative, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

        I’m not sure what you mean here—you’d prefer having a smaller number of children for aesthetic reasons?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t really understand what you mean by “clippy philosophy.” I find interacting with children rewarding, and if I were to have a child I’d want to do so for the sake of parenting them, not for the sake of procreating.

          I’d prefer population stabilization at a current or even slightly-lower-than-current level for aesthetic reasons, yes. A world in which populations continue to increase at current or near-current rates for the next 200 years is probably materially better off in aggregate than the one I described, but not one I’d prefer to live in, especially if population *eventually* levels off anyway. I’d rather go through the pain of peak population now than further along in the cyberpunk future.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t really understand what you mean by “clippy philosophy.” I find interacting with children rewarding, and if I were to have a child I’d want to do so for the sake of parenting them, not for the sake of procreating.

            I’ll let someone else explain that one. 😀

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Well now I’m just peeved. Googling has yielded only Microsoft memes and AI memes. If nobody explains by tomorrow, will you?

          • Statismagician says:

            I’m guessing it’s children as the metaphorical paperclips? Which seems like a hard position to defend on either scale or consequential grounds, regardless of preferred defensive structure. Population growth does not work the way the Guardian thinks it does, or at least needn’t.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            That was my assumption, but I don’t understand what Nick is trying to say about what I said…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think he is saying that one way to interpret your claims is that you want to tile the universe with copies of yourself, but not others. Obscure, insidery joke that stops being funny when you have to explain it. But I have no idea why he didn’t just explain it.

          • Nick says:

            I think he is saying that one way to interpret your claims is that you want to tile the universe with copies of yourself, but not others. Obscure, insidery joke that stops being funny when you have to explain it. But I have no idea why he didn’t just explain it.

            Good Lord. Yes, that was the joke. I didn’t want to be the one to ruin my own joke. 🙁

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Ah. Ok. I think I get it now, and that’s what I meant to respond to – I don’t value my lineage, but the chance to parent. Maximizing progeny seems like a very bad strategy for fulfilling that desire. I think I got hung up on misinterpreting tone – it’s funny now, if that helps.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:
            The problem is that the joke needing explanation is what makes it not funny, so the joke was already in the bin. Might as well stuff it down in the bag and take it out to the street. 😀

      • I’d also be happy to observe a slow decline in population, and don’t feel a need to have a “replacement level” number of children – Matt might call me out for “painful economic sacrifice,” but I strongly suspect that it’s better than the alternative, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

        Why for aesthetic reasons? Humans are beautiful. Humans make beautiful things.

        Other things are beautiful too–I would not prefer a world with no trees or deer or birds. But we are nowhere close to that.

    • proyas says:

      I believe that AGI will be created by the end of this century, that it will, for lack of a better term, “take over” the world and relegate humans to second-tier status in most or all important ways, and this belief informs my views on the importance of human procreation.

      Human procreation is good and necessary because humans are needed to create AGIs in the future. In particular, procreation of people in advanced countries (including China) is good since they comprise the majority of scientists and technicians, and since their countries collectively maintain international order. Though birth rates are declining in advanced countries, their populations will stay big enough to field enough scientists to create AGI.

      Once AGI has established dominance over the Earth, the continued existence and biological evolution of the human race will serve no purpose (though I hope our species continues on anyway). Even the smartest human will be dumber than an AGI. Moreover, by the time the first AGI is created, it’s certain that billions of humans will have had their genomes sequenced, allowing for the construction of a database of all existing human genetic variation. Paired with futuristic “cloning labs,” again for lack of a better term, it would become possible to make any human if so desired. At that point, procreation for the sake of perpetuating specific human genes will become obsolete since the genes will be saved in the database. Humanity could become homogenized and/or entire groups could become extinct, and it would be of no real consequence since the full range of human genetic variability would still exist as computer code, and it would be possible to use cloning to “resurrect” anyone in the database. Redheads will never die out.

      Note: I don’t have children but would like to for the experience (it’s always been a goal of mine and defies rational explanation) and yes, to perpetuate my genes. If I can’t find a woman to procreate with, I’ll resort to using an egg bank (from an evolutionary perspective, this might actually be the superior option since I’d have access to higher genetic quality women than I could probably ever attract the old fashioned way) and surrogate mother.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m pro-children, but not pro-children for everyone. I’m married and have children,and I’m glad of that, but I think that (for example) my parish priest is doing something more important than having chidlren.

      A society where only 1/2 of people are married, all children are born to married people, and the average married couple has 6 children would work just fine.

    • Statismagician says:

      My grandmother used to say that the point of having children was that they turn into pleasant adults, which I think may have been more profound than I first thought.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I am absolutely not OK with my tribe/nation not reproducing.
      I don’t get the “sperm count zero” thing at all. There are parts of the world that have had absurd population bottlenecks on the Y chromosome: 64 per cent of European males were descended from just three Bronze Age males. Yet here we are.
      I have gone through complicated mixed feelings on personal duty to procreate, though.

      • Nick says:

        If you read the article, it’s attributed to plastics causing decreasing sperm counts.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yes, but couldn’t some state ban plastics and then their men scoop up all the women before we all go extinct?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How long would it take for sperm counts to recover?

            My guess is that it will take some moderately expensive medical intervention– repeated for generations– for sperm counts to recover in individuals.

            The outcome could be that people below some income/government aid level are unlikely to reproduce.

      • Lillian says:

        I have gone through complicated mixed feelings on personal duty to procreate, though.

        Ultimately it’s a free rider problem. Whether or not your tribe successfully procreates itself is independent of whether or not you personally procreate. This in turn means that your personal participation, while desired, is not strictly speaking required. So you can give in to your feelings, spare yourself the pain and disgust. Things will sort themselves out one way or the other regardless of what you do, so you can sit this one out, there’s no harm in it, let those who are happy and eager for it handle it. You know you want to.

    • I am no longer reproducing, given my age, but I wouldn’t be okay with not having reproduced and am looking forward to the birth of my third grandchild.

      My tribe is not very well defined but I would be unhappy at the thought of there being no more people more or less like me.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      I have a sort of intuitive appreciation for anti-natalism on a personal level, being inclined to pessimism and nihilism as I am, but intellectually I don’t really buy it. My pessimism and apathy is counter-balanced by the fact that I really like kids, and think it would be fun to raise a few, but on balance I suspect I’ll remain childless.

      I don’t particularly care about my “tribe” or “group” however-defined, but I have friends and family of whom I have thought, “I’m glad they’re having kids”, because I think it’s a good thing for the world to have more such people. I guess if you defined my “tribe” by an affinity for those kinds of people, then I’d be sad if that “tribe” disappeared. Otherwise I am completely indifferent to other peoples’ reproduction: people should do it if they want, and not do it if they don’t.

      It’s hard to separate my feelings about being the last generation from utilitarian considerations of how terrible I think that would be in practice, but philosophically speaking I’m not too perturbed by it. I like people, and I think it would be a waste of opportunity that we didn’t get to do more, but some generation has to be the last and it would at least be kind of cool to be here at the end. No FOMO about the future.

    • Baeraad says:

      Not only am I okay with being the last generation, I draw a wistful little sigh at the idea. Yes, God, please. Let the whole sorry mess just end, as quietly and undramatically as possible. Sentient life is an awful idea. Those of us who are the happiest and most successful are the ones who behave the most like stupid animals – the more human you are, the more you will suffer and the less you will accomplish. Enough already.

      But I know that no one’s going to see things my way, so going around expressing those views feels entirely too much like trolling.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m ok with not reproducing. I have no children for the simple reason that I don’t want any.

      The prospect of people like me fading away is a bit sad, but not something I would consider disastrous. There are many good people who are not my people. And who exactly are my people is kind of fuzzy.

      The prospect of having the entire species disappear strikes me as an obvious disaster, worth taking dramatic action to prevent. But that is an exceedingly remote possibility.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nick

      “What’s so great about procreation, folks? (I’m fulfilling my duty as rightwing traditionalist by asking.) Are you okay with not individually reproducing? How about with your tribe not reproducing, or your nation—not without a radical change in values, anyway?….

      …..What’s so great about procreation?”

      Since my son’s are only 13 years old and two years old I don’t think I know yet individually!

      As for “tribe”? 

      Um…

      Politically my father was to the left of my mother (but my dad was very far left), my wife is definitely to my right (but she’s increasingly left with the realisation of where the pension is coming from) and I suspect our sons will be something in-between, and that they likely won’t completely share my views doesn’t particularly bother me as I wish my sons well and I think for an individual having the views of your neighbors is probably the healthiest choice.

      Ethnically?

      As I remember it (and I’m not going to call my mom and check, and I can’t call my dad) where my greatgrandparents were born was one in Austria, one in Germany, two in Ireland, one in Poland, two in Kansas (one of which had an English surname the other surname I don’t remember), and one was born in New Jersey with an Irish or Scottish surname (unless he was born in Massachusetts as his family was supposed to come from there, as did the English surnamed Kansas for that matter). My mother (and her mother) were born in California, my father was born in New Jersey, so I’ve mixed Californian and Atlantic coast ancestry, and their ancestors trace the lineage to the British Isles and Europe, my sons are born in California but their mother isn’t and she visibly doesn’t have much if any British, Irish, or European ancestry, so in terms of passing that on as I don’t plan on having kids with a different women that ship has sailed! 

      My surname is Irish or Scottish, and “Irish-American” is resilient beyond ‘blood’, as when I first came to my current job with the City and County of San Francisco our boss (an ex-cop) hosted an annual St. Patrick’s Day lunch despite the majority of the crew being born in either the Philippines (as my former boss was) or the Soviet Union (the boiler room is “the Russian Empire”), and I was the only one with a (probably) Irish family name who knew of Irish ancestors, but they weren’t hosting the lunch for me, they’d been doing it for years left over from when the crew did have many Irish Americans. 

      For some reason San Francisco doesn’t have unions march on Labor day anymore but instead they are in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, so to my amusement the biggest “old country” represented by my union in green shirts (judging by faces and family names) is China.

      I grew up in a mostly black neighborhood and on the walls of my friends grandparents was often a print of a painting of three somber faced men: John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., so one African-American and two Irish-Americans.

      I once read that if Americans spoke the languages of their ancestors German and Yoruba would be spoken more than English.

      In elementary school me and my classmates were all taught of “the pilgrims” coming to America on the Mayflower, and I doubt that even a tenth of us could trace ancestors to passengers on that boat.

      Culture and history transcend “blood”, yesterday me and my wife went to some of the “all-city-yard-sales” in the nearby City of El Cerrito that were mostly inside and on the parking lots of Christian Churches, and judging by their faces most of the parishioners ancestors came from east Asia. Think about that: Faiths from mostly Protestant Europe, speaking English, in a Spanish named town, with Asian ‘blood’.

      The American “tribe” or “nation” isn’t passed on by “reproducing”, the ‘melting-pot” is real.

      In a hundred years I expect to see someone with a Somalian last name eating corned beef and cabbage (which is actually more Polish then Irish, but eh… it’s good) and voting for Democrats and going to a Catholic church if they live in the City or near suburbs, or voting Republican and going to a Protestant church if they live in the country or far suburbs, speaking English and complaining that the new neighbors from Uruguay don’t. 

      Not that different from the United States in 1918 actually.

      • link textte>I once read that if Americans spoke the languages of their ancestors German and Yoruba would be spoken more than English.

        Interesting question. German is likely. Blacks are 12.4%, Irish 12%. But neither group is pure blooded of their ethnicity–African Americans apparently average about 17% European ancestry. I don’t know what the figure would be for self-identified Irish Americans. “White” Americans seem to average less than 1% African but several percent native American. And the Wiki article claims that:

        However, English Americans and British Americans are still considered the largest ethnic group due to a serious under count following the 2000 census whereby many English and British Americans self-identified under the new category entry ‘American’ considering themselves ‘indigenous’ because their families had resided in the US for so long or, if of mixed European ancestry, identified with a more recent and differentiated ethnic group.

        And then there is the question of language. British Americans would include some whose ancestral language was Welsh, Cornish, or Scots Gaelic. I would expect the language of most of the Irish American ancestors, if you went back far enough, to be Irish Gaelic, although for some it would be English or Scots Gaelic.

        But I think the problem is worse for Yoruba. Currently, by a little googling, only about three percent of the population of Africa are native speakers of Yoruba. It’s true that they are concentrated in West Africa, which is where most of the slaves came from, but they must still be only a fraction of that population. Assuming the ratio for slave ancestry is similar, it looks as though Irish speakers, English speakers, and possibly Spanish speakers (tracing a considerable fraction of the ancestry of present Hispanics back to Spain) probably outnumber the Yoruba speakers.

        Interesting tangle.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman,

          The “Plurality ancestry in each state” map that you linked to was fun snd surprising in a couple of places, I would have thought that North Dakota and Washington State would be more Scandinavian than German.

          It’s fun for me to imagine a drive if each state did speak the language of the plurality of ancestors, you could start driving in an English speaking Maine, go to Irish Gaelic New Hampshire and Massachusetts, through Italian New York and New Jersey, then an African Maryland and Virginia, then through a lowland Scots, or Scottish Gaelic West Virginia, then a very long drive through “Germany”, and after passing through an English Utah, finally a Spanish Arizona and California.

          That would be cool!

          • You can’t get it by language but you can get a little of that by restaurants. You can practically do it walking in Chicago alone.

            To judge by motel owners, on the other hand, America was entirely settled from India.

    • fion says:

      I would love to have children because I love children and family. I also suspect the world would be better with more people like me, but also better with fewer people in general. I would be perfectly happy if my nation stopped reproducing, and I don’t consider anybody my tribe. In general I think the world would be a better place if happy, intelligent people (rare as they are) had more children and miserable or average-or-lower intelligence people had fewer.

      I am sympathetic to antinatalists, and I’m even sympathetic to extinction. Suffering is what’s bad, and a never-born person doesn’t suffer. I would consider it a bit sad for humans to go extinct, just as I would consider it a bit sad for staghorn coral to go extinct, but that’s just an emotional bias rather than any considered opinion.

  32. sandoratthezoo says:

    What are the “correct” index funds to buy for passive investment? (And why?)

    • J Mann says:

      I really like the Vanguard Target Funds and similar products from other companies.

      Basically, they invest in a mix of a US and international stock and bond index funds, setting the ratio by when you think you’re likely to need to money, (so the 2020 fund has a less volatile mix than the 2050 fund, for example), then rebalances over time. That way I can mostly set and forget my investments, and don’t worry about my distribution of stock, bond, US and international investments.

    • ana53294 says:

      The ones with the lower cost fees. Vanguard has the cheapest funds in the industry.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Okay, but Vanguard has a ton of funds. Which ones?

        • ana53294 says:

          You may do as J Mann suggested above, and buy a bunch of funds that invest in stocks and bonds for the whole US market and for the whole world.

          I think your investement strategy should take into account which currency your retirement expenses are in. So, if you are European, it may be a good idea to hedge for currency risk by also investing in some euro-denominated indices (because most European currencies are pegged to the euro).

          The US market is the most stable one, and European markets show slower growth. So I think any investment strategy should include some index for the whole US market.

          I personally prefer ETFs, because they don’t have a minimum investment, and I am just starting. They do get a different tax treatment than funds, at least in Spain. But if you use a buy&hold strategy, most of those differences don’t apply to you.

      • Brad says:

        At really small differences in expense ratios execution performance starts to matter more.

        • ana53294 says:

          Do they track the same index differently? How can I evaluate how faithfully they do it?

          • Steven J says:

            “Do they track the same index differently? How can I evaluate how faithfully they do it?”

            The statistic you are interested in is called the “tracking error”, measured as the standard deviation of the differences in return between the index fund and the index it tracks. It should be reported along with all of the other statistics for the fund (returns, expenses, turnover, etc.)

      • Evan Þ says:

        Last I looked (a couple years ago), Fidelity had slightly lower fees than Vanguard; did something change?

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          The only change I know of is that Fido now offers a range of funds with an ER of zero. Though Vanguard has traditionally been the main instigator in driving expenses down, they’ve had a lot of competition for some time now. The good news for the OP is that there are a lot of index funds now which are cheap enough and diversified enough so that there’s not a lot riding on the choice between them.

    • cassander says:

      The ones with the lowest fees, because they will all give the same returns. Vanguard is usually the best.

      Depending on your age, a target date fund might be a good idea. These funds will gradually shift your portfolio from higher risk, higher yield investments to lower to protect you against a sudden downturn. Fees for these are higher than index funds, so if your target date is a long way off they aren’t worth it, but they’re the best passive, idiot proof investment you can make.

    • Brad says:

      In theory a market weighted basket of the largest possible universe of investable securities. This market portfolio should then be levered or delevered to match risk appetite rather than the more common tactic of varying the debt/equity composition.

  33. gbdub says:

    Probably not a terribly surprising finding

    In new study, people rate news stories that support their preexisting views more “newsworthy”. Interesting flavor of confirmation bias.

  34. helloo says:

    Most of you are probably familiar with Darwinian evolution and one of the early alternatives suggested Lamarckian inheritance.
    A simplified summary of Darwinian evolution is that small beneficial changes occur randomly in offspring at birth which can boost survivalbility and probability to pass down those traits to the next generation which eventually results in differing long term changes in a species.
    Lamarckian suggested that organisms might be able to pass down characteristics that were acquired though the environment/lifetime to its offspring.

    However, when humans talk about inheritance outside of biology they tend to mean wealth and capital (both social and physical).
    Isn’t wealth and capital Lamarckian though?
    And isn’t inherited wealth a rather stronger indication of survivalbility than most beneficial mutations?
    This doesn’t discount the impact of genetics and the whole nature vs nurture debate, but doesn’t this make natural selection rather murkier in humans?

    Ok, very few species do anything of the sort of physical inheritance that humans do… but quite a few do another – knowledge.

    I suppose these kinds of inheritance can still be modeled weakly by genetics (and luck) as I have no idea how it could be tracked and studied otherwise.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Natural selection has always been about the interaction between genes and the external environment, and genes play just a part in the causality of an organism being able to survive and reproduce (e.g., the genetic disposition of being startled by snakes raises a human’s chance of survival, but still plays a smaller role than the non-genetic factor of snakes unexpectedly being in your sleeping-nest, which sharply lowers it). “Inheritance” is best thought of a simply another abiotic factor in the human habitat.

      Ok, very few species do anything of the sort of physical inheritance that humans do…

      That human beings are able to control their external environments in rather extreme ways is unusual, but not unique. Ants and anthills, beavers and dams, bees and beehives. Many organisms are able to alter their external environment for the benefit of their offspring.

      The Lamarck vs. Darwin debate was about one thing: How the characteristics of the organism changes, not the external environment the organism lives in.

      • helloo says:

        Natural selection does imply that the genes which propagate play a role in determining the organisms ability to survive and reproduce.

        Some example of the things I’m trying to discuss:
        Are there any systems that would study Lamarkian inheritance that can be applied here/being used?
        If we use genes as a proxy for intergenerational non-genetic inheritance, there’s a number of other things we need to consider that wouldn’t be the case for natural selection. We would need to understand that any gene itself is not the cause for its increasing prevalence in the organism gene pool. It just is a proxy for a group that gained the knowledge/wealth. Traits might not even emerge from it. There might be increased/decreased flow than would be expected from natural selection. Etc.

        Not sure if your examples apply for the “benefit of their offspring” besides base survival. There’s not exactly many rogue ants or hiveless bees in the pool and male ants/young queens are noted for their wings as which they stop benefiting from their nest much. Not sure about beavers.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble understanding what you are trying to ask.

          Lamarkian inheritance isn’t really a thing; traits that are passed down to offspring are because of genes, not because of acquired characteristics, so Lamark was essentially incorrect (with epigenetics being the poorly-understood exception).

          If you want to talk about external environmental factors (e.g., inheritance in the sense of human economics), its probably a bad idea to use genes as a conceptual “proxy”, since they are drastically different concepts and behave in totally different ways. “Monetary inheritance” and “genetic inheritance” are unrelated concepts that happen to share a word.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Perhaps at the extreme ends of the wealth spectrum the Lamarckian model works, but genes are better correlated with success. Its better to be 6’6” than to be raised in an upper class household if you want to make the NBA, its better to have a 130 IQ if you want to work at Goldman Sachs.

    • quanta413 says:

      I think your example of knowledge is good, although the abstract rules of “inheritance” for knowledge are very different than for genes.

      Inheritance of language is kind of Lamarckian. But rather than exactly 2 parents per child, there are many “parents” per “child”. And there’s a lot of horizontal transfer between individuals in the same generation.

      For clarity’s sake I wouldn’t call cultural inheritance or wealth inheritance genetic. Rather the model has an evolutionary component in the sense of something reproducing itself.

  35. JulieK says:

    So, what dark secrets are in your high school yearbook?

    Mine included a section predicting what everyone would be doing in 20 years. They deliberately made absurd predictions for each person.

    It was foretold that I would graduate with honors from Harvard medical school, and then become a housewife. (The first half of this prophecy was considered realistic, and the second half absurd.)

    The joke’s on them- I never went to medical school (I did get a master’s degree in biology), and spent a number of years as a stay-at-home mother before getting a part-time job in an unrelated field.

    I sometimes have midlife-crisis moments and wonder why I didn’t fulfill my early potential. But I don’t think I could have handled the sleep deprivation of medical school.

    • Matt M says:

      Mine included a section predicting what everyone would be doing in 20 years. They deliberately made absurd predictions for each person.

      I don’t think these made it to our yearbook, but we definitely did this informally in High School. I was predicted to be a James Bond-style supervillian.

      Like you, I have also fallen well short of expectations 🙁

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      It sounds like you did well for yourself. I come into contact with a lot of people at different stages of the med school route and there’s more than a few who would probably trade places with you.

      Anyway:

      I haven’t looked at mine in nearly a decade, but from what I remember the senior superlatives were completely nonsensical. Somehow I got “most politically active,” which probably doesn’t sound crazy to you guys but would make anyone who knows me IRL crack up laughing.

      I probably had some dumb in-jokes, my friends and I were idiots. Tons of people whose names I didn’t even know at the time also signed so it would be hard to deny knowing any specific person in high school despite keeping to myself.

      I remember that this one weird kid wrote his number and what might have been solicitation in mine and a few other guys’ yearbooks. Still not entirely sure what was up with him, I think he might have been gay for pay to finance his drug habit.

      • Deiseach says:

        I probably had some dumb in-jokes, my friends and I were idiots.

        I hope none of those in-jokes then turn out to be the same as slang phrases on Urban Dictionary twenty years later!

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I would be more surprised if Urban Dictionary still exists in twenty years.

          One frightening thing about this whole debacle has been that I had always tacitly assumed that being a virgin in highschool was a defense against this sort of accusation. I always figured that someday the notches I put in my bedpost in college could be my undoing but figured that my non-existent sex-life during highschool was safe.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the trouble with the virginity comment was that for various reasons people didn’t believe it – the assumption seems to have been “Oh come on, he was a jock, he was one of the rich popular set, those guys have no trouble getting laid so he can’t have been telling the truth”. The correlation seems to be “the only reason to be a virgin is because you’re an incel, that is, too unpopular/ugly/weird to be able to get a girl”.

            Nobody considers volcels! Or the influence even in the 80s of Catholic guilt on guys who might have wanted to ‘go all the way’ but were held back at the last hurdle by both their own nagging consciences and their potential partners’ reluctance/refusal to consummate the relationship.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed, I didn’t really see that reaction coming. I would have bet anything the media would have gone with “Mock the loser for being a pathetic virgin in high school!” plan rather than “Assume he’s lying because athletic prep school males can’t possibly be virgins!”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            The problem isn’t just with people who are voluntarily celibate, it’s also that judging opportunity to have sex in hindsight is not as straightforward as it might seem.

            If you looked in my yearbooks you’d see a picture of me on the homecoming court dancing with a cute Dominican girl. Ask someone who didn’t know me or who only met me years later if I was sexually active in highschool and they might guess wrong.

            But I couldn’t have gotten laid back then if my life depended on it. It’s not like I didn’t try, if anything I tried way too hard, but it just never happened.

            I wouldn’t want to be in the position of finding character witnesses to how unfuckable I was in highschool.

          • John Schilling says:

            One frightening thing about this whole debacle has been that I had always tacitly assumed that being a virgin in highschool was a defense against this sort of accusation.

            Being a virgin is a defense against an accusation of actual rape, but Kavanaugh wasn’t accused of being an actual rapist. Being accused of attempted rape and saying “but I’m a virgin!” can be interpreted as a confession of being a pathetically incompetent rapist. And I’m pretty sure most of Kavanaugh’s critics would be quite happy with that interpretation.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @John Shilling,

            He was accused of attempted rape, of organizing and participating in at least ten gang-rapes, and of indecent exposure.

            Virginity is not a defense against attempted rape or indecent exposure but it is absolutely a defense against being a serial gang rapist.

            Beyond that, nobody who I’ve spoken with in real life has been anywhere near as careful with their terminology as you’ve been. The charge, in the public imagination, is not attempted rape. It’s that he is a rapist, full stop.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And indeed it appears Kavanaugh’s claim to be a virgin was in the context of responding to the Avenetti claims. Transcript

            MacAllum:[…] Did you ever participate in or where you ever aware of any gang-rape that happened at a party that you attended?

            Kavanaugh: […] We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years there after.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            With the caveat that I don’t find the Swetnick claims credible, it’s worth noting the actual question Kavanaugh was accused of:

            “you and Mark Judge, at multiple house parties in the Washington, D.C., area during the 1980s, would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol and drugs to allow a train of men to subsequently gang-rape them.”

            In other words, the original accusation was only that he helped get the women drunk; the claim that he participated only came a few days later after Swetnick’s identity became publicly known. So the virginity defense doesn’t even answer that claim!

            But, I think John is right, and what happened was that most people focused on the Ford accusations since those were the most credible.

          • Plumber says:

            @Eugene Dawn
            “…..I think John is right, and what happened was that most people focused on the Ford accusations since those were the most credible”

            In my case I’m only aware that they were other accusations that dogpiled on Kavaugh, but I know even less about them than what little details I know about Ford’s accusations, from what I saw of Ford and Kavaugh’s testimony they both seem to be credibly recounted their memories, as for “what really happened” given the circumstances described I’m doubtful that a fuller investigation could find out.

            I did, however, find Kavaugh’s claim, given his background, that he got through Yale with “no connections” ridiculous and very uncredible, but that could be my bias since I was against many rulings he’s already made as a Federal judge (I just did a web search of Kavaugh+union+labor which told me what I wanted to know).

            I didn’t think it was possible for me to respect broadcast press and the Senate less, but here we are, and that I (and I presume most) can now easily just search for and find actual policy ramifications would’ve made things better, but judging from this stupid circus apparently not.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I sometimes have midlife-crisis moments and wonder why I didn’t fulfill my early potential.

      Given how children with a parent staying at home tend to be better-adjusted than children whose parents are always out working, I suspect you made the right choice.

    • SamChevre says:

      Wait wait what? I can’t imagine that the sleep deprivation from medical school is worse than that of small children. (Maybe it’s just having had three under three, but I thought sleep deprivation didn’t get worse than “mother with small children”.)

      • JulieK says:

        Good point. 🙂 I guess for me one goal was worth the sacrifice and the other wasn’t. And think how much harder it would be if I were doing a residency and also a mother of young children.

      • b_jonas says:

        Yes, but medical school and then residency lasts for at least eleven years, often twelve, and doctors keep being sleep-deprived even as a young specialist. You can raise three small children and get past the sleep-deprived part quicker than that.

  36. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    No one publishes statistics on this, so I only have anecdotal evidence to go on, but…

    Has anyone else found that female software engineers are overwhelmingly non-white?

    I’m not even sure what political narrative this supports, but the trend is fairly glaring unless I’ve seen a very skewed sample.

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t know, but that would agree with the pattern (which I think is common) that women are more likely to be in STEM fields in countries with less gender-equality.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Has anyone else found that female software engineers are overwhelmingly non-white?

      It’s often noted. But I think what’s actually going on is a combination of a high non-white (i.e. Asian) population in software engineering in general, combined with a greater proportion of female software engineers being foreign-born.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        It’s often noted.

        Do you have any examples you can link? Not trying to be difficult, just that I haven’t seen it before and it’s tough to search for (lots of discussion race and gender but not race x gender).

        You may well be right about what’s actually going on; with one person’s level of anecdata, it’s pretty hard to distinguish “non-white”, “foreign-born”, and “Asian”. The way I phrased it was basically just picking one of a few indistinguishable possibilities.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Mostly in private discussions among “witches” in the field. You don’t see it much talked about openly. You do see the foreign born part talked about, though. A quick search finds this IEEE Spectrum article claiming an astounding 70% of men in Computer & Mathematical professions in Silicon Valley are foreign born, and nearly 79% of women.

    • Nornagest says:

      Not non-white, IME, but non-native. About the same fraction of my Russian and Ukrainian coworkers are women as my Indian and Chinese ones, but on the other hand I haven’t seen many native-born Indian-American or Chinese-American woman engineers.

      I have worked with female American-born engineers before (one was even my boss for a while), but it seems a lot rarer than the immigrant case.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Support Patriarchy to get more female software engineers?
        (To my knowledge, all those countries are sort of in the middle of the “traditional gender roles” spectrum, between the whitest people in the world on one side and non-basketcase Islamic countries on the other. China I know the least about, though.)

        • John Schilling says:

          Simplistically speaking:

          Modernist societies responded to the post-WWII social and economic realignment by saying that hey, it, looks like women can do “men’s work” just fine and it doesn’t destroy the fabric of society to let them do so, so in the interest of fairness women who don’t like their traditional roles can do whatever they want. Result, a modest number of women decide they want to take up software engineering and other STEM jobs, and a lot more women decide to become lawyers and journalists and veterinarians and whatnot.

          Semi-traditionalist responded to the post-WWII social and economic realignment by saying that, huh, it looks like we can’t defeat compete with the Nazis Yankee Capitalists unless we tap into some of our distaff human potential, so in the interests of victory women who don’t like their traditional roles can do “men’s work” that directly contributes to that victory. Result, a rather large number of women decide that STEM jobs like (especially) software engineering are less objectionable than being housewives in patriarchal countries.

          Hardcore traditionalist societies still haven’t responded to the post-WWII social and economic realignment. Result, women are still barefoot, pregnant, and chained to the kitchen.

          China I think falls somewhere in the semi-traditionalist part of this scale.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Simplistically speaking, that probably captures it. Russian and Ukrainian women supporting traditional gender roles are reacting against Marxism, while India is still semi-traditional rather than… anti-post-traditional. China I guess is in the same boat as one or the other, though obviously you can’t be an open reactionary against the Communist Party.

          • helloo says:

            China has had the norm of both parents working especially in the “middle classes” for a while now. Like everywhere else, there were some jobs that were deemed “not for women” but less or differently restrictive than most western states at the time.
            In fact, it’s recently become a trend for the women of the household to stop working – though the cause (no longer needing dual income, changing market, increased bias, etc.) is disputed.
            Not exactly the link to note this, but first one I found in English -https://journals.openedition.org/temporalites/3773#tocfrom2n2

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            @Schilling thanks, that makes sense.

            @nornagest My office isn’t long on foreign whites in general, so I couldn’t pick that up. I do have a sense that Asian-American women still outnumber white American women, but that’s based on a tiny sample.

        • ordogaud says:

          I don’t think patriarchy is the relevant variable here. I think it’s more like skilled immigrant workers are more concerned with maximizing earning potential than finding a career path that has personal meaning/fulfillment.

          I think that holds true for both genders, I think it’s also true that male immigrants are much more likely to be a programmer/doctor/etc. then a social workers/art teacher/etc.

  37. Loriot says:

    Does anyone have a good summary of the arguments for and against charter schools? Preferably in the style of an adversarial collaboration.

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t have a good summary, but my understanding is that the main issue in comparing their effectiveness to that of public schools (and this is also true of private and parochial schools) is matching the quality of students. Basically, this comes down to:

      a. How smart are the students. Take two identical schools, give one a student body with an average IQ of 90, the other one with an average IQ of 110, and it will look like the second school must be much better, in pretty much every way. (Test scores, college admissions, graduation rate, etc.)

      b. Will the students do homework as assigned? Some kids have parents who will lean on them to do their homework, and yell at them if they get bad grades. Others don’t. This probably matters some. Just requiring some pain-in-the-ass administrative process for the parents to apply on behalf of their kids is probably a reasonably effective filter here–parents who DGAF won’t apply, parents who care a lot will, and those parents will also do any leaning on or yelling at their kids required to help them succeed.

      c. Will the students be disruptive or misbehave at a level that makes it hard to get any learning done? Private schools can inform parents that little Johnny will need to look for a different school next year; public schools mostly can’t. One disruptive kid can run a denial-of-service attack on a whole classroom.

    • AKL says:

      This study from Brookings may come close.

      IIRC correctly the main takeaways are:
      – There is very compelling evidence that charter schools actually do improve outcomes in Massachusetts
      – Massachusetts is somewhat unique in this regard
      – The impact of charters both (a) on students in charters, and (b) on the entire student population writ large, is highly dependent on the regulatory scheme

  38. arlie says:

    I’ve recently noticed a number of news articles talking about geoengineering [vs effects of climate change] as now being inevitable. This might be a real change, or it might be some algorithm having decided I’m interested in the topic and/or my favourite news source being the only one newly interested in the topic. But let’s suppose this editorial trend is real.

    I’m afraid this led to me remembering a 1956 novel by John Wyndham, called The Death of Grass.

    Why would there be such a change _in reporting_?

    Are we any more capable of organizing good geoengineering than we are of organizing measures to avoid human-induced climate change in the first place?

    My priors are that for primarily political and organizational reasons, we’re incapable of addressing the problem in ways that aren’t extremely likely to create new problems, while most likely not solving the original one. (In the novel cited above, attempts to combat a disease of rice ended up with the problem spreading to all grass-descendants – i.e. all grains, throughout Europe and Asia.)

    Also, that the change in reporting indicates a real political trend, which may or may not be strong enough to lead to real action.

    Comments?

    • Loriot says:

      For a long time, activists refused to talk about geoengineering out of the fear that that would lessen the impetus for climate change preventation efforts among politicans. Now that it is obvious that adequate prevention efforts aren’t going to happen anyway, we have to figure out what we can do to at least mitigate the impact.

      I wouldn’t say it’s a new trend though – I think the tipping point was more like 5 years ago.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My 2¢ is that we passed peak outrage on climate change a while back.

      I’m not qualified to comment on the quality of the evidence in favor of AGW, and frankly I’m not interested in getting sucked into that interminable argument. But whether or not you believe the IPCC, it’s pretty clear that the measures being pushed by the media and academic community have never made much sense if the goal was actually stopping or mitigating climate change as they describe it.

      Tons of money for speculative green energy, but nothing whatsoever for nuclear power. A laser-like focus on de-industrializing the West and lowering western standards of living while shrugging at the industrialization of China and India. Pushing childlessness, public transit, vegetarianism, and a bunch of other perennial left-wing ideas. Whatever the actual facts were, the motivation was pretty clearly a power grab by the left.

      Now that obviously hasn’t worked. People aren’t going to voluntarily lower their standards of living and submit to elite aesthetic preferences, and the government is still sufficiently democratic that they can’t be forced to. So the political opportunists are slowly giving up hope and losing interest. Soon the people who are actually interested in solving the problem will the the only ones still pushing and their suggestions will be much more palatable.

      • Matt M says:

        I’d also give some (indirect) credit to Trump here, in that his outrageous (by mainstream left standards) behavior gives them so many targets to aim at, it was bound to direct focus and anger from other right-wing outrages (of which, inactivity on climate change is but one of many).

      • RobJ says:

        Whatever the actual facts were, the motivation was pretty clearly a power grab by the left.

        I think that’s pretty ungenerous. There were plenty of mainstream media articles for a long time suggesting nuclear power as the best way to counteract climate change. There has also been plenty of focus on entering international agreements to help limit the effect of industrializing China and India, etc. The reason green energy ended up getting all the money (in the US at least) is because it’s the one climate activists could get traction on. Too much pushback on nuclear energy from NIMBYism and the factions of the left that are still 100% anti-nuclear energy.

        As for “Pushing childlessness, public transit, vegetarianism, and a bunch of other perennial left-wing ideas,” that seems irrelevant to me. Interest groups will push their agenda wherever and whenever they can. If they can latch on to something people care about they will do that. It’s as if you’re confusing competing interests on the left for a conspiracy on the left.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s as if you’re confusing competing interests on the left for a conspiracy on the left.

          I’ve repeated said that while I can’t prove the existence of a conspiracy regarding climate change, it is awfully convenient that the proposed list of solutions to it is nearly identical to a list of things the left has already been demanding for decades anyway.

          • As shown by my favorite cartoon on the issue.

          • RobJ says:

            I think that’s mostly just partisanship doing it’s thing. But I guess it is hard to come up with right wing solutions to climate change, which would make sense of why much of the response on the right has been denial (or minimization) of the issue rather than different solutions. I mean, for low wages we can point to right wing solutions (restrict immigration and globalization) and left wing solutions (increase minimum wage and strengthen unions), but it’s true that for climate change it’s always been pretty one-sided.

          • Nick says:

            Crunchy Cons are far enough from the conservative orthodoxy to take climate change seriously, although I don’t know what solution(s) Rod himself would endorse.

          • Matt M says:

            But I guess it is hard to come up with right wing solutions to climate change

            Mine is “this is going to happen slowly enough that we can sit back and the market will come up with the needed adaptation solutions, as necessary”

            But “do nothing and let the market handle it” isn’t very sexy, for obvious reasons. And it isn’t particularly appealing to non-libertarians either.

          • ana53294 says:

            right wing solutions to climate change

            What about “stop subsidizing agriculture, liberalize agricultural imports, stop subsidizing oil, electricity production, and any and all subsidies that increase consumption of goods that contribute to climate change”?

            It would be a radical solution (cutting a lot of important and expensive government programs), but it would be a radical right-wing solution.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I mean, there are easy conservative solutions to climate change. One simple one is a total reform of the tax system (a revenue neutral change of sorts) that reduces income taxes etc in exchange for a per ton pigouvian tax on carbon.

            That is the kind of conservative technocratic Romney-like approach one would take. But I’ve never seen anyone on the left propose something even similar and sell it to moderates in the Senate like McCain or Graham. That we dont see such things makes me feel like there is a rebuttable presumption that fixing climate change isn’t the primary goal.

          • cassander says:

            @idontknow131647093 says:

            But I’ve never seen anyone on the left propose something even similar and sell it to moderates in the Senate like McCain or Graham.

            It’s worse than that. it was proposed in washington and the left came out against it.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Cass, that story is worse than I even thought because you could double sell it as enviro policy and making the tax code more progressive.

            One of the appeals of a carbon tax is that it is similar to a sales tax/VAT and operates as a flat tax, which is superior for budgeting because it makes you recession-resistant.

          • @Matt

            Mine is “this is going to happen slowly enough that we can sit back and the market will come up with the needed adaptation solutions, as necessary”

            And what it you’re wrong? I think a lot of people aren’t willing to risk huge amounts of people dying on the vague hope that libertarian solutions will save us in the end.

          • dick says:

            It’s worse than that. it was proposed in washington and the left came out against it.

            Really interesting, if depressing, article, thanks for posting it.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Carbon taxes at a level where you can noticeably cut other taxes have the general problem that they would work really really well at eliminating carbon emissions, so you would have to revert to the old taxes in…. 7 years. That is how long it would take to replace all the fossil fuel plants with reactors, all the cars with electrics, and all the fossil fuel-driven industry with arc furnaces.

            So any arguments about their superiority as revenue generating mechanism is rather besides the point -they would be extremely temporary. (or rather, stay on the books forever, but not raise money for very long)

          • baconbits9 says:

            And what it you’re wrong? I think a lot of people aren’t willing to risk huge amounts of people dying on the vague hope that libertarian solutions will save us in the end.

            Having the government do it doesn’t mean we aren’t risking huge amounts of people dying while holding onto the vague hope that this time they are going to figure out a complex situation and handle it well.

          • albatross11 says:

            Slow-motion disasters have the property that most people will get out of the way of them. There may be some people who can’t do that for some reason, and they’re probably a good target for some kind of help from the government or from private charities. But if we’re talking about gradual changes over the course of a lifetime, so that what crops grow well on a given farm changes from the time a young man takes over his dad’s farm until he passes it to his son, the farmer has a fair bit of time to adjust which crops he plants, to invest in irrigation or tiling, etc. Individuals will respond to the problem, and markets will clear, and things will probably work out okay.

            That’s very different from either a sudden disaster, or from something so far-reaching that adaptation is impossible.

          • Matt M says:

            One of the appeals of a carbon tax is that it is similar to a sales tax/VAT and operates as a flat tax, which is superior for budgeting because it makes you recession-resistant.

            IIRC this is not the case. There was one jurisdiction that had significant issues with this (I think maybe it was BC, Canada, trying hard to remember).

            I think the story was that because the tax was supposed to be revenue neutral, but also essentially operate as a “sin tax” on carbon, what happened was that as companies reduced their CO2 emissions in response to the tax (as intended) this resulted in less revenue being generated from the carbon tax, and therefore, other taxes had to be constantly adjusted (typically meaning raised) to make up the shortfall.

          • Matt M says:

            I think a lot of people aren’t willing to risk huge amounts of people dying on the vague hope that libertarian solutions will save us in the end.

            I don’t believe the current IPCC estimates involve “huge amounts of people dying.”

            We’re talking about a few percentage points of curtailed GDP growth. Nordhaus’ own models indicate that “doing nothing” is a better option than extensive government action to limit warming to less than 2 degrees C. They also have indicated that current warming trends are expected to provide net benefits to humanity for the next few decades (at which point, things will start to get worse) – which gives us a hell of a long time to look for and develop technological and innovative solutions.

            As has been recently discussed elsewhere, the hysterical apocalyptic scenarios mindlessly parroted in popular media are not in line with the scientific and economic models.

          • Matt M says:

            Having the government do it doesn’t mean we aren’t risking huge amounts of people dying while holding onto the vague hope that this time they are going to figure out a complex situation and handle it well.

            And yes, this is worth reiterating.

            I’ve seen tons of Twitter comments suggesting that the latest rounds of IPCC reports show that the only way to fight climate change is to “dismantle global capitalism.”

            I’m not a historian, but as far as I can tell, most coordinated attempts to “dismantle capitalism” involve a non-trivial amount of deaths.

          • Matt M says:

            Slow-motion disasters have the property that most people will get out of the way of them.

            Yes, exactly.

            Scott Adams refers to this as the “theory of slow moving disasters” – basically that if you have time to see the disaster coming – you have about as much time to slowly react through adaptation rather than some sort of massively huge intervention.

            He claims that humanity has never been significantly harmed by a slow moving disaster, but I have not attempted to verify.

          • Nick says:

            I’m not a historian, but as far as I can tell, most coordinated attempts to “dismantle capitalism” involve a non-trivial amount of deaths.

            Matt, I think this is what dndnrsn was talking about here. Isn’t there a more charitable interpretation of dismantling capitalism?

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Carbon taxes at a level where you can noticeably cut other taxes have the general problem that they would work really really well at eliminating carbon emissions, so you would have to revert to the old taxes in…. 7 years. That is how long it would take to replace all the fossil fuel plants with reactors, all the cars with electrics, and all the fossil fuel-driven industry with arc furnaces.

            I think that’s an extremely optimistic assessment of how quickly a carbon tax would work, but let’s say it’s accurate. So what? Is there not a crisis that needs addressing immediately? Do you have so little confidence in the existing government programs that, 7 seven years people will refuse to pay taxes to support them?

            As has been said by others, As has been said by others, when someone insists that they’ve discovered a huge crisis that just happens to require doing a number of things they’ve wanted to do for decades, it’s not unreasonable to question their motives. This goes double when they reject seeming solutions to the problem that don’t line up with those long held positions, and when they seem unwilling to compromise on unrelated issues (like the overall level of taxation) in order to get what they want. I will start treating global warming like a crisis when the people who call it a crisis start treating it that way.

          • People in poorer countries aren’t necessarily going to have luxury of adapting like we are. That’s where you get your deaths from. This is what drives me crazy about libertarians. You are completely unwilling to support any government intervention so it doesn’t matter whether it’s needed or not, you will always give the same answer and won’t bother to even consider otherwise. Having a carbon tax is not some revolutionary act of communism. It’s not going to be a disaster. At worst, you very slightly bring down GDP growth. If global warming is bad enough, then we’ll irreversibly change the planet. And one of those positions has a hell of a lot more evidence than the other. What’s more important, protecting your ideology or the entire planet?

          • John Schilling says:

            He claims that humanity has never been significantly harmed by a slow moving disaster, but I have not attempted to verify.

            The Bronze Age Collapse seems to have been a slow-moving disaster, playing out over at least two generations. And I think the near-total destruction of human civilization would constitute “significant harm”.

          • albatross11 says:

            How about the colla