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Open Thread 114.25

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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833 Responses to Open Thread 114.25

  1. Gita says:

    There is a mistake in the article “Things That Sometimes Work If You Have Anxiety” and I am not able to post any comment there. Under medications, where the author refers to azathioprines – he meant to write azapirones. Please fix.

  2. Nick says:

    I’m sure this has been discussed before here, but I don’t recall seeing anything. So what do people make of empathy?

    I’ve heard about Paul Bloom’s book, and from more than one reader that I ought to check it out. I probably will, but since I’m in the middle of reading eight hundred other things, I made do with this Vox interview.

    The gist is that empathy is about feeling what other folks feel, and while this is a tool appropriate for certain, limited circumstances, it’s often used for the wrong ones. In particular, it’s used in moral reasoning, where it can get you bad results, because 1) empathy doesn’t scale well—it’s hard to empathize with more than one person at a time—and 2) empathy is super biased—it’s easier to feel for family and friends or fellow white people or whatever, biases which we don’t necessarily want to appear in our moral reasoning.

    Empathy is not to be confused with understanding, which can be and often is dissociated with empathy. Bloom believes that we can be rationally compassionate even where we don’t empathize—giving others’ concerns weight or value without taking their emotions on—and that this is a more reliable guide for moral reasoning.

    I was particularly interested in Bloom’s claims that empathy is pretty exhausting, and that it can produce adverse outcomes. He points out that when a friend comes to you anxious or depressed, she doesn’t want you to be anxious or depressed too. The exact opposite is probably more helpful: being a calm sounding board or an upbeat entertainer. I’m not sure this is always true, or at least not obviously so, since commiseration is a common thing. But I’ll grant that people don’t always know what’s best for them, and commisery is definitely an easy state to fall into if not the best one. As for being exhausting, this is plainly true of feeling bad in general, and it gives you the perverse incentive to avoid suffering people because you’ll feel their suffering too.

    Personally, the practical takeaway feels terribly obvious to me, and I wonder if I haven’t just heard similar advice before, maybe Bloom’s research trickling through the rationalsphere. It’s generally easy for me to dissociate empathy from understanding and compassion; if anything, it’s employing empathy that I have trouble with. I’ve been suspicious for a long time, for instance, of the sort of interaction between friends where Alice comes to Bob angry or frustrated, and Bob empathizes, agreeing forcefully what an injustice/terrible event/jerk that was, and only making Alice angrier or more frustrated. Bob has certainly proved he knows how Alice feels, but it seems to me like he’s otherwise made her situation worse, not better. I worry that empathy is the naive or easy approach here, gaining loyalty or whatever at the expense of real progress. By contrast, I know how to be the calm, rational friend; I’m not so good at letting them know I do actually understand their emotions.

    So is this insightful or obvious? Should we all be Against Empathy? What will the followup books be: Against Happiness; Against Fun; Against Love?

    • It seems ridiculous to me. There are many times I’ve gone out of my way to be nice to someone because I empathize with them. For example, instead of leaving some work for the next shift because I wanted to go home, I remember when someone did that to me and it made me angry. Being a good person for abstract principles just doesn’t motivate someone to the extent that a visceral emotional experience does.

      • Nick says:

        Bloom acknowledges that in the interview:

        I think when it comes to moral reasoning, empathy is just a bad idea. It just throws in bias and innumeracy and confusion. But yes, when it comes to moral motivation, empathy can be used as a tool. If I want to get you to help the baby, I can say, look at the baby’s family, I could do that. If I want you to lynch African Americans in the South, I can say, look at these white women who’ve been raped, feel their pain, let’s go! It is a tool.

        My point is that there are better and more reliable tools.

        (I tried to capture the main points of the interview, but my post was long as it was and this point I passed over. So the interview is still kind of required reading, at least if I’m not just going to be quoting parts of it at every person who chimes in. I don’t know, maybe trying to summarize here is kind of misleading.)

      • Deiseach says:

        Being a good person for abstract principles just doesn’t motivate someone to the extent that a visceral emotional experience does.

        Well, I’d class your example as “common courtesy” or “having consideration for other people”, and yes, remembering when someone did the same thing to you is a good spur to behaving in a better manner. But “when someone did that to me it made me mad” does not require that you get mad again every time and relive the original event before you do the empathetic thing.

        Where I get off the empathy train (or rather, don’t even embark in the first place) is what seems to be the common demand to show or demonstrate empathy: that you must be as upset, moved, and outraged as the person suffering the injury, harm or inconvenience; that you must react in a manner as though you yourself were hurt, or else you’re cold, fake or mean and don’t care. Even if you behave well but do so in a calm manner, it’s not good enough, you’re not being *empathetic*, you’re not showing you *care* by mirroring the emotional reaction.

        Phooey!

        • You’re definition of empathy seems to be a strawman. No one thinks that you have to feel exactly the same as the other person to experience it. Think of something like me touching a really hot stove as a child. I don’t have to literally feel that exact same feeling in order to experience a negative sensation when I’m avoiding touching the stove. In the same way, I don’t have to literally be as depressed as someone who is suffering from depression in order to feel empathy.

          • Deiseach says:

            For you it may be a strawman, for me it’s how I’ve experienced demands for empathy. “Cry those tears or I don’t believe you care!”

    • rubberduck says:

      I read the book, liked it, and agreed with the author’s main points. However, the book really flattered my own biases, since I’ve never been very empathetic* to begin with, so I’m not sure how objectively I can look at it.

      Also, there was a thread about empathy the last OT (or the one before) and Bloom’s book was specifically mentioned, if you’re interested.

      *Empathetic in the sense of feeling other people’s emotions, not in the understanding/compassion sense.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      He points out that when a friend comes to you anxious or depressed, she doesn’t want you to be anxious or depressed too.

      While I agree with this point, I don’t think this is sufficient or necessary for empathy.

      I will take as an example interactions I have had with my daughter as she made her way through college. She is extremely bright, but is quite hampered by various mental health challenges, including ADD, panic attacks, general anxiety, depression and perhaps more. She graduated in 3 years with straight As, but had various episodes that were extremely debilitating. There were many times that I would drive 4 hours to take her to lunch and bring her something she needed or just give her a few hugs, then turn around and drive home. Or I would come up on a Friday and leave on Sunday. Or I would just talk her through a panic attack.

      It took a bit before I understood that she did not need me to validate her emotions, rather I only needed to validate that she was having them and that they were debilitating for her. Being anxious with her didn’t help, but acknowledging that she was actually anxious did help. Trying to make her see that there was nothing to be anxious about would have been harmful. Taking a “tough love” approach would have been quite harmful indeed. It would have been quite unremarkable if I had come to resent all of the work I needed to do to help her through college, but because I have also have many mental health issues, it was easy for me to empathize with her struggles. I did this without actually entering the same emotional state as her.

  3. HeelBearCub says:

    Interesting article on long term persistent effects of education. When I say long term, I mean 250 years long term.

    Basically, the Jesuits has some 30 missions in South America until 1767, when King Charles III of Spain kicked them out. They saw education as part of their divine mission, whereas the Franciscans, who were the more dominant force in SA, did not. This education ended when the Jesuits were expelled from the continent.

    The paper detects, among other things, a 10% drop in poverty for each 100km closer to the mission, persisting until this day (with effects attenuating as overall education rates improve in the surrounding areas.) That is damn impressive if it holds up to scrutiny.

    • nkurz says:

      It does seem like a solid paper. I like the way they used Franciscan missions (which had less emphasis on education) as a control. To note, the full text is available if you follow the link in the article and then click on PDF.

      One question I was left with was how to discern the difference between a positive benefit to the local population versus a “brain drain” of the surrounding area. It doesn’t discredit the paper, but it would give a different flavor to the evidence, and as far I can saw there was nothing to favor or disfavor this interpretation.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Hmmm, it feels like there wouldn’t be any mechanism for brain drain to occur in 16th century South America, but I can’t really back that up.

        • nkurz says:

          If not clear, I mean “brain drain” in the sense that natives of a more intellectual bent might gravitate toward the intellectually oriented Jesuit missions, leaving the areas farther from the missions relatively devoid. The paper seems to assume that the missions changed the nearer locals for the better, rather than rearranging them without raising the median. It seems likely that (at least to some degree) the missions did create an new more educationally focused culture, but it made me wonder how one would go about measuring this. A parallel might be the urban/rural divide in modern America: how much of the difference is self-selection and how much is difference in opportunity?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I know you meant this, but it still feels like it requires an urbane, mobile culture. I don’t have that sense about South America in that time, but I could be wrong…

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Very interesting study!
      This seems intuitively true, especially insofar as the Jesuits were giving universal-ish primary education to Natives who’d have otherwise been illiterate and innumerate (with the Franciscans thinking that’s not a huge deal). I think some people are going way too far on the “education doesn’t have positive effects” position, because four years of universal high school has such weak effects. Low-hanging fruit, etc.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        What’s really interesting to me is how long the effect has lasted, and how it only attenuates (and not fully) as the societies reached near universal education. Assuming the study is valid, it has fairly large implications.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Elaborate on that?
          Attenuation as education became near-universal would be expected if K-8 education had huge positive effects. “Not fully” would imply that literacy, numeracy, and the sort of socialization children get in primary school created the sort of skills that let those the Jesuits educated pull themselves “into the middle class” (I’m hugely oversimplifying) and then intergenerational transfer of those skills/habits being important.
          Can’t think of anything else off the top of my head.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It shows that simple educational effects persist long after the source of those effects is eliminated. Or, to put it another way, a disparity in education can have population level effects far into the future, still detectable (though attenuated) even after education has been universalized.

            That has implications for poverty research in general, and specific marginalized populations.

    • FLWAB says:

      That reminds me a paper that came out a few years ago: Robert Woodberry’s “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” He found that the presence of Protestant missionaries in Africa had a lasting positive impact on life expectancy, lower infant mortality, higher literacy and educational enrolment, more political democracy, lower corruption, higher newspaper circulation, higher civic participation and other factors. It was specifically Protestant missionaries that had a noticeable effect: the proposed cause was that Protestants wanted their converts to be able to read the Bible so they built schools and printing presses and emphasized literacy. They even helped different people groups create written versions of their languages, as they believed (and many still believe) that it is vital for everyone to be able to read the gospel in their own tongue. Woodberry claims that in modern African countries “you can explain about 14% of the variation in current GDP based on the historical prevalence of Protestant missionaries. You can explain about half the variation in political democracy based on the historical prevalence of Protestant missionaries.”

      As far as I understand it the paper was accepted fairly well by the academic community. It would add more evidence to the idea that education, and particularly literacy, can have long lasting effects.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Seems more like evidence of the effects of Protestantism specifically than education generally.

      • Salem says:

        Isn’t this confounded by the imperial country? Isn’t this just a more politically correct way of saying that the British Empire was way better for its subject peoples than the French, Belgian, Ottoman, or imperial native rule? The only other Protestant country to scramble for Africa was Germany and they were very late in the game.

        Edit: or to put another way, Britain and (to a lesser extent) Holland exported Protestantism and good institutions. France, Spain, Portugal – and non European empires like Oman – exported other religions and bad institutions. I’m Weberian enough to see a causal link between Protestantism and the good institutions, but surely it’s in the home country, not the colony.

      • broblawsky says:

        How well does this correlate with literacy in general?

  4. theredsheep says:

    Just out of idle curiosity: are planetary romances like John Carter (okay, not exactly like John Carter) still written/read? Possibly that’s a silly question, because Disney believed there was enough of an audience to fund that studio bomb back in 2012 or so, but it was under the radar for me till then. Anybody here like that sort of thing? I read the first few books last year; they got repetitive after a while, but they have a certain goofy charm, and I can see how they’ve been influential.

  5. BBA says:

    Today is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and the 29th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s also the centennial of the end of the German Empire, somewhat overshadowed by those later events.

    All coincidental, surely, it’s just weird that one date has seen so many significant events in Germany.

  6. proyas says:

    Here are highly detailed book notes of Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave, which was published in 1980 but predicted many of today’s major political and social issues, as well as the rise of key technologies like the internet. Toffler is better-known for his earlier book, Future Shock.

    https://www.militantfuturist.com/the-third-wave-the-most-accurate-futurist-book-ive-read/

  7. DragonMilk says:

    Alright, what short of autocracy can be done about US infrastructure? Seems so few Americans realize that third world countries are getting better trains and airports these days.

    1. Ridiculous Costs
    The NYT reported $3.5BN/mile for track, or 7x worldwide average, as France, for instance, lays theirs for $450MM/mile.
    2. Age of infrastructure
    NYC still uses subway cars from the 50s, the top US airports were built in the Roaring 20s and touched up in the Depression era, while the Eisenhower highways have yet to be completed.
    3. Slow mass transit
    The Acela Express averages 68mph, despite its 150mph advertised top speed, with metro north trains going about 30mph due to safety concerns. NYC subways average 17mph. Meanwhile, trains in China are much preferable to driving, clocking in well over 150mph safely.

    The above doesn’t even take into account delays and construction. As an autocrat, I’d have a national sales tax in place to build high speed trains using German or Chinese engineers and foreign guest workers via eminent domain to build it. Don’t advertise it until the construction is completed.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Scott did two posts on cost disease last year that are an excellent summary (even professional economist blogs linked to them).

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost-disease/
      https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/17/highlights-from-the-comments-on-cost-disease/

      There are many reasons, and each tribe will want to blame the reasons coming from the opposition tribe.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Correct! I thought the article he linked to be especially informative regarding infrastructure.

        Practically speaking, how does the US get there, though, or does it take an autocrat coming in and iron-willing his way to modern infrastructure?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          1. Things that government does are expensive because we have all sorts of checks and balances on government spending to make sure it isn’t wasted, and all that compliance to prove you aren’t wasting money wastes a lot of money. How do other countries get around this and can we copy that?

          2. The specific structure of American unions is different than foreign unions. I forget exactly how but I remember pointing this out last time (maybe in a third thread?) how there will be lots of extra manpower on the job doing nothing but required by union contract. I expect this is hopeless to fix but maybe someone else can see something I missed.

          3. There are a lot of people with veto rights over projects, and you need to buy all of them off. These rights include property rights and environmental concerns, and it’s hard to distinguish those without mind-killing politics. I expect we could encroach on those rights just a little bit and save a lot but I don’t know whose ox is being gored and if it turns out to be mine I can’t promise I won’t holler. One thing would be for everyone to submit objections immediately, with legal penalties for people late-submitting court objections, so at least once a project is green-lit, that’s it, forever hold your peace.

          • Brad says:

            Re: #2

            NY MTA employees* are overpaid even before taking into account benefits and breathtakingly overpaid when those gold plated benefits are taken into account.

            Nominal wages are sticky and there’s likely nothing that can be done about that for decades at the soonest. On the other hand for our money we should have the hardest working, most qualified, most efficient transit workforce in the world. We absolutely do not.

            Work rules and job protections are where politicians need to push back. The deal needs to be “we’ll provide political cover for your members’ physician’s pay with a high school diploma, but you need to stop featherbedding, stop protecting deadweight, and stop insisting on work rules that make it impossible to get anything done.”

            * both official employees and de facto employees — i.e. those people that work for construction companies but their union negotiates with the MTA

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            Work rules and job protections are where politicians need to push back. The deal needs to be “we’ll provide political cover for your members’ physician’s pay with a high school diploma, but you need to stop featherbedding, stop protecting deadweight, and stop insisting on work rules that make it impossible to get anything done.”

            This is absolutely true, but totally unlikely to happen. those rules are the place where there’s the greatest asymmetry in knowledge between the workers and the politicians and public, so it’s hardest to know where the most important rules are and the unions can always fall back on pleasant sounding justifications for any particular rule (safety will work on basically anything transit related). Worse, many of the rules do result in substantial increases in compensation (e.g. overtime abuse) so the only way to promise something income neutral is a large increase in base pay that changes something implicit to something explicit, which is the opposite of what most politicians like to do.

            In the long run, I think the only option is scott walker style union crushing, which will make possible the sort of work rule reforms you mention.

    • Salem says:

      Clearly the answer is we need higher taxes. Combined, the various levels of US government spend $7.6tn per year, which is not enough to repair potholes, but if we have one more tax increase I’m sure they’ll invest the money wisely in infrastructure. Preferably the tax should be on something phoney like “capital gains” because Lord knows there’s too much investment going on.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The problems here have little to do with engineers, and I take offense at the implication 🙁 . US workers are, likewise, fine, and while you can import cheaper labor, you can probably get most of the effects and less of the Qatari-slave-labor bad press by squashing union rules about who has to do what job.

      The US has a ton of arcane standards that need to be complied to. Compliance costs a fucking mint, and it sucks. Bidding on government contracts sucks. Eminent domain sucks slightly less than the fact that all the towns and suburbs any of this goes through whine about it until they get a bone thrown at them, but it’s still political seppuku.

      But more importantly, the Chinese government isn’t afraid to bleed for the trains. In the US, we produce marginal solutions at inflated cost because politicians only build public transportation when the voters are screaming for it – and harder than they scream about taxes, at that.

      Finally, old infrastructure is fine. Less so in bridges and dams and roadways (which won’t get funding until they start to collapse), but for trains and airports? Keep ’em. Americans have NO idea how nice these bits of infrastructure are, relative to how bad they could be, relative to the cost to replace.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Go with Spanish contracting teams with Hispanic workers then!

        Engineers was moreso a plug for contractors. It’s in Europe that these projects are *actually* done cheaply. China is not actually that cheap anymore, it’s moreso they have the fastest and longest-spanning train tracks today.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      Clear lines of authority are not incompatible with democratic government. Spain – which is generally not accounted an unreasonable standard of government competence to live up to – manages to do really quite well at this. European wages, cheaper high-speed rail construction than China. And this is not because Spain is an easy place to build rail in – just take a peek at a topographical map

      Seriously, something is just really wrong with the way things get built in most countries. Its not an iron law of nature, we are fucking up really badly somewhere.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        What man has done, man can aspire to. Even to the point of imagining passenger rail in the US that’s not a boondoggle or nightmarishly bad.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Agreed on Spain – it’s moreso my cynicism regarding the US political process that I ask what short of autocracy in the US would it take to get Spanish-style projects done here.

        Trump came in on a promise of $1trn of infrastructure that theoretically had bi-partisan support, yet…well I’m taking a couple hours to go door to door between my apartment and my fiancee’s that’s just about 32 miles away.

    • Aging Loser says:

      Two points that I think are relevant:

      (1) If all of the young men sitting in the classrooms of fake colleges in NYC stoned and looking at their phones were instead getting trained on the job by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, road-crew contractors, construction companies, etc., maybe the subway system wouldn’t be such a mess, there wouldn’t be sidewalk-bridges covering half the sidewalks in the city, medium-sized buildings wouldn’t take a decade to go up, sewer-pipes wouldn’t take years to replace.

      (2) Sometimes there are Metropolitan Transportation Authority job-postings up in buses and on the columns in subway-stations. These jobs are always so precisely defined, with precise tests to be taken on precise dates, that it’s very unlikely that anyone ever begins working for the MTA as a result of looking at these postings. And yet any of these jobs could be learned by almost any of the young men sitting stoned in the classrooms of fake NYC colleges looking at their phones, if they were allowed to learn the job while doing it.

      Making/fixing/maintaining-things jobs seem all to be located in various distant corners of a vast maze that no human being would ever want to enter; it’s far more likely that a human being would simply sit stoned in the classroom of a fake college looking at his phone.

      (Correct; I don’t know what I’m talking about. These are just my impressions.)

      • cassander says:

        (1) If all of the young men sitting in the classrooms of fake colleges in NYC stoned and looking at their phones were instead getting trained on the job by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, road-crew contractors, construction companies, etc., maybe the subway system wouldn’t be such a mess, there wouldn’t be sidewalk-bridges covering half the sidewalks in the city, medium-sized buildings wouldn’t take a decade to go up, sewer-pipes wouldn’t take years to replace.

        Lack of labor is not holding back american construction projects.

      • Jesse E says:

        Seems like you’re more interested in making young men whose choices you dislike do things you’d prefer them doing than actually figuring out a way to actually build infrastructure

        • Aging Loser says:

          The “making” part doesn’t apply, Jesse E, but you’re right that I’m primarily bugged by the dreary scene of 18-22 year olds (both sexes) wasting years of their lives. Of course I have no idea how to actually build infrastructure, and maybe a huge public works program would be kind of communist and oppressive and whatever.

      • Plumber says:

        @Aging Loser

        “Two points that I think are relevant:

        (1) If all of the young men sitting in the classrooms of fake colleges in NYC stoned and looking at their phones were instead getting trained on the job by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, road-crew contractors, construction companies, etc., maybe the subway system wouldn’t be such a mess, there wouldn’t be sidewalk-bridges covering half the sidewalks in the city, medium-sized buildings wouldn’t take a decade to go up, sewer-pipes wouldn’t take years to replace.

        (2) Sometimes there are Metropolitan Transportation Authority job-postings up in buses and on the columns in subway-stations. These jobs are always so precisely defined, with precise tests to be taken on precise dates, that it’s very unlikely that anyone ever begins working for the MTA as a result of looking at these postings. And yet any of these jobs could be learned by almost any of the young men sitting stoned in the classrooms of fake NYC colleges looking at their phones, if they were allowed to learn the job while doing it.

        Making/fixing/maintaining-things jobs seem all to be located in various distant corners of a vast maze that no human being would ever want to enter; it’s far more likely that a human being would simply sit stoned in the classroom of a fake college looking at his phone.

        (Correct; I don’t know what I’m talking about. These are just my impressions.)”

        Despite such jobs being ones that get you killed (yes, she was in the same local union as me, we were asked to contribute to help support her now orphaned child), believe me they are no shortages of applicants in the City and County of San Francisco for them.

        Maybe it’s different in New York City, but here there’s plenty of work that needs to be done, and also willing hands to do it when the money is budgeted to pay for the wages, which are less than what I got per hour in the private sector (but they give me sick and vacation days, which the private sector didn’t),  and for the tools and materials (which are in short supply).

        If you want to see more young men (and a few young women as well) doing the work then please lobby your municipality to budget for it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t think there’s any shortage of MTA or city workers. You pay your fee, take your exam, and if you pass you get put on a waiting list to be hired. It’s headcount-limited, not applicant-limited.

        • Aging Loser says:

          Those fees have to be paid, and the test-taking applied for, online, I believe, which would already put the possibility of it near to if not beyond the border of my own zone of viable options. (But then again, this summer I stopped in at a Costco to ask about working there and was told I’d have to apply online. And most people seem to order things such as shoes and movies online and send photographs to each other online and so forth — all things that are beyond me.)

          Second, the job-postings give one no sense of whether you have to gone through some kind of technical program at a vocational school in order to be able to pass the tests — the job-titles themselves are often incomprehensible, just as most of the job-titles for the various sub-varieties of what I’d guess is basically secretarial office-work are incomprehensible, and just as the titles of academic articles and lectures are incomprehensible.

          Basically everything is incomprehensible or nearly so today.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s headcount-limited, not applicant-limited.

          Thirding this, when I worked for the local council the reason there were fewer workers was not “lack of demand”, it was all part of the general recruitment embargo and cost-cutting due to the austerity years. The general workers were being let naturally reduce by retirement and no new hires were made, even though (this being during our economic slowdown) a lot of people were interested in applying for such jobs.

          Like everything else, when local and national politicians campaign and get elected on “trimming the fat” or “cutting out bureaucratic waste” or “reforming the public service”, it includes things like “no new hires” for the general operatives as well as (or indeed instead of) the management layers. And then people wonder why the potholes in the roads are not getting fixed, or the grass in the public green spaces being cut!

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s worth noting that there’s a pretty common situation where:

            a. The grass isn’t getting cut, the potholes aren’t being filled, the streets aren’t being swept.

            b. There is a loud demand by various politicians that we urgently need more funds.

            c. The last three times those funds were raised (higher taxes, bond issues), there were lots of prestige projects and patronage jobs, but somehow the grass still wasn’t being cut and the potholes were still going unfilled.

            d. The voters’ refusal to vote for the urgently needed revenue is proof that they don’t care about grass/potholes, or that they’ve all been hypnotized by evil anti-tax Republicans. Because it certainly couldn’t be the case that they’ve rationally recognized that more money won’t be used to actually do any of that stuff.

          • Deiseach says:

            c. The last three times those funds were raised (higher taxes, bond issues), there were lots of prestige projects and patronage jobs, but somehow the grass still wasn’t being cut and the potholes were still going unfilled.

            Oh, this definitely happens. But there’s a limit on how much local funding you can raise, and people don’t seem to quite recognise the disconnect between “we want commerical and domestic rates and charges to be as low as possible, but we also want a high level of service”. If you want one, you’re not going to get the other.

            Case in point: local council ran a waste collection service for which they charged. Wasn’t much of a takeup as people went for commercial services instead. Service stopped. Then the commercial services all upped their prices since now the local council were out of the game, they were the only alternative. People then complained that they weren’t getting their cheap local council service any more.

            No, because when it was running, you didn’t want to pay the charge as you preferred to get the “initial sign up cheap offer” from the private company and didn’t bother reading the small print. Since not enough people used the service, it was uneconomic to provide it. Since nobody wanted to pay for a service they personally weren’t using, it was dropped. And then there was no cheaper public alternative to the price hikes for very good reasons why not!

          • John Schilling says:

            Obligatory Simpsons reference.

          • Brad says:

            It’s also worth noting that public sector demands for ever more money cut across the usual political alliances. Although it’s sometimes portrayed in a negative light as some kind of hypocrisy there is a certain amount of fiscal conservatism even among many of the “woke”.

            There’s a pretty decent pedigree for this. FDR, patron saint of the American economic left, opposed public sector unions. And if you think about it, it makes sense. When the transit union goes out on strike to fight against having to contribute to their extravagant health care benefits the people that are most screwed aren’t investment bankers, it’s dishwashers that make far, far less than the train conductors.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I don’t think you would get the desired effects with your auto cratic pushes. Car ownership rates are much, much higher in the US than most countries. There are more than twice as many cars, buses, trucks etc per capita in the US than in France, and those cars tend to be larger and more comfortable. In terms of actual trip time I bet most of the US would come out ahead of these countries as well as driving door to door is quite fast in comparison to walking to a train stop, waiting for a train and then walking again in lots (but not all) of situations.

    • Nornagest says:

      There is a genre of social commentary that looks at America, identifies places where it does things differently than Europe, and condemns them for not being more European. Rail is a great example. The US has one of the best rail systems in the world — but it’s optimized for freight. This is great because otherwise the enormous amount of goods shipped cross-country would have to go by truck (at an enormous cost in money and carbon) or by ship around the continent and through the Panama Canal (probably not much more expensive, but it’d take a lot longer). But it funges against passenger rail, because that occupies the same track but its usage patterns are very different.

      One way around this is to lay dedicated track, for example for high-speed rail. And there are a few urban corridors where that might thrive if you solved the cost-disease problems: Los Angeles to San Diego and Boston to DC, mostly. But to do that right you’d need dedicated track, better designed than the Acela’s. Anywhere else there’s too much empty space for it to be economical. There’s a true high-speed rail line being “built” in California — has been for a decade, though right now all that’s been built is a couple of stations and a few miles of track around Fresno — but it’s not going to go anywhere, and if it does it’ll be a gigantic boondoggle.

      • cassander says:

        >but it’s not going to happen, and if it does it’ll be a gigantic boondoggle.

        trust me, it won’t happen AND it will be a a gigantic boondoggle.

    • BBA says:

      When America builds more slowly and less efficiently than China one can point to America’s burdensome labor and environmental regulations crippling development.

      When America builds more slowly and less efficiently than France, there’s clearly something else going on because they are the undisputed champions of absurd overcomplicated regulation and there’s no way in hell we’re beating them at that now.

      • Nornagest says:

        they are the undisputed champions of absurd overcomplicated regulation

        I’m not sure we can say that in general. You can walk into a little cafe in Paris any day of the week, look in the back, and find a slab of butter just sitting out by the stove, slowly softening, getting hunks carved off it by the cooks whenever they need to sautee something. No way in hell that’d fly in the States.

        • Machine Interface says:

          My general impression is that US and Europe food standards differ not only in quantity (with Europe generally having more) but also in nature — even as Europe bans more things, they also allow things that are banned in the US.

        • onyomi says:

          It’s a misconception that butter, unlike e.g. olive oil, needs to be refrigerated for safety, as is also the case with farm fresh eggs (apparently if washed too vigorously in processing they can lose their seal against germs).

          • En route to Pennsic this year, we visited with friends who have hens. They gave us some eggs, which kept just fine without refrigeration at Pennsic until they were all eaten up.

          • LesHapablap says:

            All eggs at the supermarket are unrefrigerated here in New Zealand, and they often have tufts of feathers stuck to them. They also last way beyond the “best before” date.

        • The Pachyderminator says:

          I work at a bakery in St. Louis, Missouri where we keep a dish of butter sitting out at all times for customers to use when they get their slices of bread. No health inspector has ever complained.

  8. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Let’s say I am temporarily working in an shared office environment that is very dry, because it’s winter and they have heat on. I cannot bring in a humidifier because reasons.

    Is there something I can do to keep down the static discharges and not have my skin turn to paper? I’m thinking solutions in the category of “drape a damp washcloth over the back of my neck” and easier / less disturbing to colleagues.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Lube yourself up.

      Moisturizers will help, as well as vaseline on any particularly crack-prone areas (lips, nostrils, hangnails, genitals – though I assume those are warm and sweaty enough).

      Static discharge is tougher, but if it’s really a problem you can wear a grounding strap. You’ll look a little silly, but you won’t crackle.

      • arlie says:

        If standard lotions and lip balms aren’t doing enough, try Aquaphor. (Yes, there is a version not intended for babies.) And no, I don’t work for them; I just have somewhat intractable cracked lip issues, and found it also works for dry-cracking-hands-in-the-winter etc.

    • Randy M says:

      not have my skin turn to paper?

      I can see why this would be a problem for you, Mr. Scizorhands

      I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Maybe drink lots of water?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        According to my dermatologist, drinking water, while not bad, doesn’t help much with dry skin. Outside your body is practically a separate biome from inside. (Plus having to go piss every 45 minutes is distracting to my coworkers.)

        I am dunking my head in the sink [1] regularly to dry to keep my external humidity up. CeraVe as a base, Vaseline on particular trouble spots. Will report back.

        [1] Some of you probably think I need to go soak my head regularly anyway.

    • AG says:

      Lotion bottle at your desk?

  9. j1000000 says:

    When people say things like “he was off his medication” or “he needs to be medicated,” are there actually people who are, say, schizophrenic or otherwise seriously mentally ill, and medication solves the issue and they’re normal again? And the patient looks back and says “Woah, that was weird, but I’m ok now!” Or is it just that the meds basically sedate them?

    I guess to be clear my underlying question is for an actual description of how this works, and the rate it works. Whenever people say things like we need a culture of that promotes mental health, I assume they’re talking about therapy and medication for everyone, and Scott’s writeups of the studies make it seem like that would have a limited success rate. But I don’t know if that’s only relevant to non-serious bipolar, or if it’s true for all mental health issues.

    (And I know Scott has written a lot of posts about a lot of aspects of my question, I just haven’t seen them all and the ones I have seen I can’t thread together in my head)

    • Randy M says:

      Based on what Scott has written before (and my possibly faulty memory of it) the main trouble treating schizophrenic patients is that they neglect to consistently take their medication when not under direct supervision, either because of side effects or because under the medication they feel normal and thus think they don’t need it, or they forget once and then get paranoid about the pills, etc.

      Which isn’t to say, of course, that all schizophrenia is easily treatable with medication. People respond very idiosyncratically to depression and anxiety medication, I think. I don’t know how predictable schizophrenia is.

    • John Schilling says:

      are there actually people who are, say, schizophrenic or otherwise seriously mentally ill, and medication solves the issue and they’re normal again?

      I think it’s not so much “normal again” as “a little bit off”, vs. clearly dysfunctional. And it’s not a simple matter of sedation, though some of the side effects overlap with sedatives. Many of the relevant medications really do seem to cause a significant improvement in the symptoms and may address the underlying cause of some fairly serious mental illnesses. But not to the extent of restoring full normality, and as Randy M notes not to the extent of reliably ensuring the self-discipline to keep taking them when not under direct supervision.

    • gbdub says:

      I mean, bipolar is a serious mental illness, and going off your meds for that without serious care is definitely a bad idea. I haven’t experienced this from the inside, but living with a person with bipolar, the trouble is they are basically normal while properly treated, but if they stop treatment they will eventually (not immediately) end up in a manic or depressive episode. The insidious part is that this will take a while (although it can happen fast if they drop the meds cold turkey) and, while they are entering and in an episode, they stop being able to think rationally about being sick. That is, they don’t realize, “I’m getting sick, I need to seek treatment”, because their ill-brain is telling them what they are experiencing is “normal”. After the episode / after treatment, they will be back to, “damn I was really messed up then, good thing I took my meds”. It can be easy to slip up once they are feeling better – do I really need my meds today? Haven’t had an episode in a year… But it’s a lot harder to get back on the wagon in the throes of an episode so maintenance (and someone supportive to encourage maintenance) is critical.

      Lots of variation across the illnesses and everyone experiences the illnesses differently of course. Don’t know any schizophrenics personally.

    • Slicer says:

      “Woah, that was weird, but I’m ok now!”

      Close, actually. It’s more like “I can actually think mostly straight and mostly function in society now”. It really does solve the issue in that respect. It’s not perfect, though, and finding the right medication sometimes involves trial and error.

      I have a schizo friend. Trust me. The meds work.

  10. rlms says:

    Members of Likud have interesting takes on the Pittsburgh shooting.

    From the same site: the White House considers a white paper on Iranian regime change written by a wacky twitter troll. The interesting part is that said troll seems to be a Saudi shill against Qatar (to the extent of organising an anti-Qatar rally), which I wouldn’t have expected.

    • Brad says:

      Naftali came over supposedly to pay his respects but while he was here spit all over the dead on twitter.

      These days not only do I not consider the Israelis or their leaders to have any moral authority to speak on behalf of the Jewish people, I consider them an outright enemy of American Jewery.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        This makes me think of Jacob Levy’s piece on identity politics and liberty:

        https://niskanencenter.org/blog/defense-liberty-cant-without-identity-politics/

        One could distinguish two different kinds of identity politics. There’s one that is liberty-friendly as Levy says, in which people informed and motivated by their own subgroup’s history fight for the interests of that subgroup broadly conceived, by fighting for measures which protect them *and also* make everyone else freer. There’s another in which people motivated by their subgroup’s history fight for the interests of that subgroup narrowly conceived, at best indifferent to anyone else’s freedom and actively hostile whenever it conflicts with their subgroup’s interests.

        American Jews have spent a lot of our history engaging in the former. The present Israeli regime consistently engages in the latter.

        • Brad says:

          Interesting article, thanks for linking it. In addition to the discussion that you linked it for, I also like the part about the pundit’s fallacy and Trump’s election being mis- and overused as a piece of evidence. I’ve made similar points here by not as compactly.

          • AnonYemous2 says:

            In addition to the discussion that you linked it for, I also like the part about the pundit’s fallacy and Trump’s election being mis- and overused as a piece of evidence. I’ve made similar points here by not as compactly.

            I think it’s natural that something so juicy will be overused by pundits, and it’s not surprising; pundits argue in a realm of conjecture. Some factual, real event, even if its meaning is based on conjecture and interpretation, is a game changer in that sense. Trump doubly so, because so many people don’t like him; you can use that to attack that thing you don’t like, and if you’re right about it being bad then no harm done.

            Speaking of people not liking Trump, that’s the first thing that gets left out of the analysis. Trump barely won? Yeah, but he should’ve gotten crushed. Trump got blasted when he was “politically incorrect”? No, Trump managed to survive gaffes that probably should’ve ended him outright. Oh yeah, and by the way…Trump won by 80,000 votes, but also, Trump won states that Republicans haven’t won in a long time. I don’t recall if he actually needed Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, or whichever state (states?) I’m talking about, but either way it was clearly a big shift, not just business as usual with a sprinkle of luck dashed in.

            Anyways, as one of the commenters kind of points out, the reason Trump won was more because Democrats abandoned the white working class (or seemed to) in favor of appealing towards minorities. In my opinion, this is even more meaningful because once they adopted the intersectional strategy, they couldn’t stop; otherwise they’d be considered racist and lose a lot of their base. It’s not so much that they can’t appeal to the white lower classes and minorities (many of whom are also lower classes) at the same time…but online left people who say they should do that get called racist a lot, as far as I can tell; I imagine the Dems would have similar issues. Of course I could be wrong about all this, but uh…well, that’s just the perils of doing punditry.

          • Brad says:

            I’m afraid there may be some level of meta-irony here that went over my head.

            Did you intend to provide an example of exactly the fallacy that was under discussion? Was that the point?

          • AnonYemous2 says:

            I’m afraid there may be some level of meta-irony here that went over my head.

            …no, just a level of regular argumentation that apparently went over your head. Maybe meta-argumentation, who knows.

            Anyways, the point is that the “pundit’s fallacy” isn’t much of a fallacy, because punditry is all guesswork and opinion anyways. In order to establish that “Trump’s election proves X” is a fallacy, you’d have to prove that Trump’s election didn’t prove X, or at least probably didn’t prove X; or maybe not, but this is what the article writer did, saying that Trump won by 80,000 votes and seemed to be hurt by being un-PC. But my point was that you can interpret that information in many different ways as well. That doesn’t mean that my interpretation is right or anything, and I did acknowledge that, yes, a lot of people will be eager to use such a juicy event to advance their own narratives whether or not it fits them, which means you will get a lot of misuse. But I don’t think that the article writer did a good job proving that most people who do this are misguided either.

          • Brad says:

            In order to establish that “Trump’s election proves X” is a fallacy, you’d have to prove that Trump’s election didn’t prove X, or at least probably didn’t prove X;

            The null hypothesis is, and should be, privileged.

          • AnonYemous2 says:

            The null hypothesis is, and should be, privileged.

            or maybe not, but this is what the article writer did,

            It’s kind of pissing me off that I’m writing thoughtful posts that pre-address your potential criticisms and you just kind of ignore them. If the author thought that the null hypothesis should be privileged, then they wouldn’t have bothered to write all of that.

            So I’ll be short too: what do you think the null hypotheses is in this case, and in general, how do you think it can be disproven in the realm of punditry?

          • Brad says:

            The null hypothesis is that we don’t know why Trump won, or maybe there is no real why in the first place. To disprove it you need a mountain load of data and some sharp data analysis skills. If the data doesn’t exist or you don’t have those skills, too bad. You don’t just get to start weaving a narrative based on your own personal understanding of the gestalt. Or I suppose you do get to, but no one should treat it as anything other than potentially entertaining fiction.

            Here’s a less fraught example that may make my meaning clear: why did the Red Sox win baseball this year?

          • AnonYemous2 says:

            The null hypothesis is that we don’t know why Trump won, or maybe there is no real why in the first place. To disprove it you need a mountain load of data and some sharp data analysis skills. If the data doesn’t exist or you don’t have those skills, too bad.

            I mean, by this logic, punditry itself is pretty much a fallacy. If no one can attempt to prove something by argument, and you can only do it with statistical analysis, then plenty of punditry is meaningless. Maybe you’re not taking this argument that far, but the point is, while you can’t prove something to be true just by arguing, you can at least try, and in the process get closer to the truth.

            You don’t just get to start weaving a narrative based on your own personal understanding of the gestalt. Or I suppose you do get to, but no one should treat it as anything other than potentially entertaining fiction.

            I mean, look at the article that we’re discussing; the guy makes claims about white supremacy and so forth, based not on data per se but on historical events and our understanding of them. Since we cannot go back and conduct statistical research of those days, is the guy doomed to be an idiot who is creating nothing other than potentially entertaining fiction? And that’s not even to say that I agree with his arguments, but they aren’t just entertaining fiction either.

        • AnonYemous2 says:

          i came back from the dead to reply to this thread

          uhh, the Israel vs. American Jewry deal is obvious: Israeli Jews are pretty dang conservative, and American Jews are pretty damn progressive. American Jews (heck, even Max Blumenthal, who wrote the article) can do some pretty wild things too; difference is they aren’t leaders of much because Jews are 1% of America. Which of course doesn’t excuse any of the shitty behavior in that article.

          The Niskanen center is…a higher class of piece than I’d usually expect from that brand of viewpoint, but still pretty poor. The main issue with lionizing identity politics is that, well, a targeted injustice against a certain race is in fact identity politics, which means they started it first. Not just in some playground sense, but in that they, the people who generated that targeted injustice, created a definition of an identity group (which is how they target that injustice). So the “liberty-friendly” versus the other type is the wrong distinction; the question is simply which side is attempting to define an identity group.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          I’d argue the opposite. American Jews no longer stand for a broader subgroup standing against injustice, the non-Orthodox community seem much more like a general interest group that is interested in its own way of organizing the world; whereas Israeli Jews are standing as a bulwark for most of the world against the interests of tyranny.

          Membership in the BDS movement is, to me, one of the strongest signals that you have lost the plot. We are talking about boycotting a relatively free state that has been under threat of genocide since its inception because a small number of people have refused to accept the outcome of a war they instigated and lost. BDS is the modern equivalent of advocating that Alsace-Lorraine need to be returned to Germany, and Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico should be given to Mexico. Its a delusion wrapped in special pleading.

          Not that Israel is the perfect actor, but its just I find that there are a lot of people that seem to think winners=bad when it comes to international relations. Whether or not you won a war has no moral value. Germany did not go from moral supremacy in 1939 to depravity in 1945.

          • Aapje says:

            BDS is the modern equivalent of advocating that Alsace-Lorraine need to be returned to Germany, and Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico should be given to Mexico.

            You are being silly. It’s more like if France kept taking more and more pieces of Germany and Germany was: “stop it and give that back!”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You are being silly. It’s more like if France kept taking more and more pieces of Germany and Germany was: “stop it and give that back!”

            Israel has given back territory (Golan Heights, Sinai Peninsula), and it doesn’t seem to have had any effect.

          • Brad says:

            Israel is famous throughout the world for standing up to Putin, Xi, Kim, Nazarbayev, and other powerful tyrants.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Israel never withdrew from the Golan Heights and Netanyahu has in fact said:

            The Golan Heights will always stay in Israeli hands. Israel will never leave the Golan Heights

            The Sinai Peninsula was indeed given back to Egypt, which is actually quite friendly with Israel, so I don’t really get what you mean by “doesn’t seem to have had any effect.” Did you expect the Palestinians to care that land where Bedouins live was given to Egypt, while their own land keeps being taken?

            Imagine the US taking Ontario from Canada by force and then giving Texas back to Mexico. Do you think that the Canadians would see the latter as a reason to stop demanding Ontario back?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Oh yeah, my bad with the Golan Heights thing. But–

            The Sinai Peninsula was indeed given back to Egypt, which is actually quite friendly with Israel, so I don’t really get what you mean by “doesn’t seem to have had any effect.” Did you expect the Palestinians to care that land where Bedouins live was given to Egypt, while their own land keeps being taken?

            It’s not just the Palestinians, it’s pretty much the entire Muslim world (and quite a few Western fellow-travellers) which hates Israel. I’m sure there are people in that category who say things like “Hey, look, Israel gave back the Sinai to secure good relations with Egypt, maybe if we try treating them nicely and stop threatening to wipe their country off the map, we can convince them to give back other pieces of land as well,” but from what I can tell, such people seem to be very much in the minority.

            Imagine the US taking Ontario from Canada by force and then giving Texas back to Mexico. Do you think that the Canadians would see the latter as a reason to stop demanding Ontario back?

            Imagine that Canada has elected an openly genocidal government which officially disavows any notion of peaceful Canada-US co-existence, and routinely fires rockets across the border to try and kill as many American civilians as possible. Why an earth should the US be expected to give anything whatsoever to people who openly seek to kill them?

          • Aapje says:

            idontknow131647093 was talking about people in the West who support the BDS movement. You somehow made this about what Arabs believe which was not the point under discussion.

            Also, your framing of disliking Israel policies as “hates Israel” is quite typical framing where any and all criticism is framed as irrational hatred. Would you describe yourself as ‘hating Palestinians?’

            Your second objection is also the typical mindkilled response, where Palestinians are equated to Hamas, conveniently forgetting about the PA. Even if Hamas were the only thing that mattered, Israel has committed many crimes against Palestinian civilians, yet apologists count the crimes against Israeli civilians as disqualifying Palestinian claims (including those that haven’t committed these crimes*), yet do not the crimes against Palestinian civilians as disqualifying Israeli claims.

            It’s the typical double standard that makes these discussions so tiresome.

            * Israel has often committed collective punishment, so apologists usually defend this unethical behavior.

          • AnonYemous2 says:

            Even if Hamas were the only thing that mattered, Israel has committed many crimes against Palestinian civilians, yet apologists count the crimes against Israeli civilians as disqualifying Palestinian claims (including those that haven’t committed these crimes*), yet do not the crimes against Palestinian civilians as disqualifying Israeli claims.

            I’m not going to jump into this argument as a whole, but for the most part Palestinians who commit violence against Israeli civilians are lionized, whereas Israelis who commit violence against Palestinian civilians are looked on quite poorly (within their own respective nations). You can maybe counter by saying that some Israeli soldiers have probably committed violence against Palestinian civilians and soldiers are generally lionized, but Palestinian terrorists specifically target civilian targets, commit mass murders, and then get parks named after them, and so on.

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

            This is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about (and actually, I thought it was less favorable to me than the Wikipedia article describes). A Palestinian stabs an Israeli soldier and then gets neutralized; the friend of that soldier then shoots him. He gets 9 months in jail. OK, maybe it should’ve been worse, but imagine the reverse situation: the guy who stabbed them gets away and returns to Palestine. Does he get arrested for assault? Probably not, and not just because of jurisdictional issues. (BTW, I’m not saying they should shoot him so he can’t go back or anything, he should’ve been arrested. Just saying, look at the difference in treatment.) So you really can’t take the two situations to be the same.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            aapje, i’d argue you are being silly.

            You are being silly. It’s more like if France kept taking more and more pieces of Germany and Germany was: “stop it and give that back!”

            If indeed that happened no one would care, particularly if the land France was retaking was on their own side of the Rhine. Also the Germans denied France had a right to exist and also regularly elected Hitler wannabes.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            idontknow131647093 was talking about people in the West who support the BDS movement. You somehow made this about what Arabs believe which was not the point under discussion.

            When judging the actions of Israel, we have to take into account the attitudes of the people they’re interacting with. Westerners who fault Israel for not making peace with a bunch of people who have no interest in peace with Israel are (as charitably as I can put it) dangerously naïve.

            Also, your framing of disliking Israel policies as “hates Israel” is quite typical framing where any and all criticism is framed as irrational hatred. Would you describe yourself as ‘hating Palestinians?’

            If you look at the way Israel and Israelis are referred to in large swathes of the Arab world, I think it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that, in many cases, Arab dislike of Israel goes beyond “disliking Israeli policies” into outright hatred. Hence, for example, the Palestinians electing a ruling party whose founding charter openly calls for genocide against the Jews.

            Your second objection is also the typical mindkilled response, where Palestinians are equated to Hamas, conveniently forgetting about the PA.

            Firstly, Hamas is the majority party on the Palestinian Legislative Council, so it’s not as if their positions are extreme by Palestinian standards. Secondly, when discussing the attitudes of a country as a whole, it is indeed the leadership which is most important. Even if we suppose that a majority of Palestinians just want the conflict to end (a supposition for which I’ve never seen anybody even try to offer evidence, BTW), if the Palestinian leadership is pro-conflict, then unless the ordinary citizens do something to make them change their policies, Palestine as a country is pro-conflict.

            Even if Hamas were the only thing that mattered, Israel has committed many crimes against Palestinian civilians, yet apologists count the crimes against Israeli civilians as disqualifying Palestinian claims (including those that haven’t committed these crimes*), yet do not the crimes against Palestinian civilians as disqualifying Israeli claims.

            As AnonYemous2 said, Palestinians who kill Israelis are far more likely to be lionised by their home population than Israelis who kill Palestinians are.

  11. johan_larson says:

    Anyone have a take on the recent Lion Air crash in Indonesia? I can’t decide whether the problem poor maintenance causing a critical sensor to malfunction or over-automation causing the aircraft to misbehave in a way that is difficult for a human pilot to fix under pressure.

    • bean says:

      Interesting. My suspicion was that we were seeing something similar to Air France 447 had happened, but it looks like this might be at least partially an error on Boeing’s part. Their philosophy has traditionally been to give the pilot ultimate authority, so the bit where the pilot has to turn off the power boost to the controls to stop this happening is weird. That seems like the sort of thing Airbus would do. At the same time, their engineers aren’t stupid, so there might be more going on here with the auto-pitch system. The article singles out a Quantas Airbus that had a similar issue, and I suspect that Boeing would have known about that. I certainly wouldn’t rule out a maintenance issue causing the improper activation of the auto-pitch system. Lion Air has a bad reputation for safety even in Indonesia, a country not generally known for having an aggressive aviation safety culture.

      Disclaimer: I used to work for a company that built airliners, so I’m inclined to blame the operators. That said, I’ve also heard a lot of stories of companies outside of the US/Europe/other first-world countries doing really stupid stuff with their planes.

      • gbdub says:

        Air France 447 was kind of the opposite problem, no? The computer decided it didn’t know what was going on and handed control back to the pilots, who stupidly rode a stall for 3 and half minutes into the ocean when a few seconds of nose down attitude would have saved the day. The auto stall correction system that self-disabled in that case but would have saved their asses is exactly what seemingly should have self-disabled (or been more easily disabled) in the Lion Air case.

        • bean says:

          Hence “suspicion was”. Yeah. Air France was a minor systems failure and a major airmanship failure, while this is looking like a major systems failure and a minor airmanship failure.

    • John Schilling says:

      So, this is the sort of problem that instrument-rated pilots are supposed to be able to solve almost without thinking. Instruments malfunction, computers are abysmally bad at figuring out which of several conflicting instrument readings is the result of an instrument malfunction, and that’s a big part of the reasons we are going to keep on needing human pilots for the foreseeable future. If these pilots couldn’t handle that, then bad on them.

      But it needs to be possible for the human pilots to do their job without actively fighting the computer, which means there needs to be an “off” switch on the autopilot that genuinely reverts the aircraft to the closest possible approximation of direct pilot input to the flight control surfaces with a single push of an obvious button. As bean notes, the early descriptions suggest that Boeing may have made that needlessly complex or obscure. OTOH, the early descriptions are being filtered through nonspecialist reporters who may be missing something important.

  12. Aging Loser says:

    A couple of weeks I put “Democritus” where I should have put “Demosthenes”. The point was that Athenian patriot Demosthenes wanted an alliance with Persia against Macedon, while Greek nationalist Aristotle (the philosopher) arranged an alliance between Macedon and the Greek Anatolian strongman Hermias to give Macedon a beachhead for invasion of the Persian Empire. (This is just for the record.)

  13. Alliumnsk says:

    Why people who are like me (e.g. taste to math & programming) do not seem to like me more than general population? (I have F21.8 formally)

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I have F21.8 formally

      What does this mean or refer to?

      • TakatoGuil says:

        I *think* it means that they have a schizotypal disorder.

        • Aapje says:

          Either that or he owns an Oil Water Mist Extraction Unit

          • Alliumnsk says:

            Did you just assume my gender?

          • WashedOut says:

            @Alliumnsk

            You could have answered the object-level question at hand but instead chose to ask a snarky rhetorical question. Poor form.

          • Alliumnsk says:

            @WashedOut
            I wrote this under comment with ‘water extraction unit’. What else could be here? If you want to say something serious, please write under 1-st level comment (or should be it called root?parent? comment)?

          • Deiseach says:

            WashedOut, I believe Alliumnsk has indeed answered the original question: why do people, even those sharing their tastes and abilities, not like them?

            They have given us an example of why others might find them tiresome, unpleasant to interact with, or an unsatisfying companion with whom to pass time.

          • Aging Loser says:

            I think that he or she was just making a joke and now feels even worse than he or she felt before coming here hoping to feel better as a result of coming here.

          • Deiseach says:

            Aging Loser, the charitable explanation is indeed “they were trying to make a joke but it went over badly because tone is hard to communicate via online text” and I held that right up to the second comment, which was not “Sorry dude, it was supposed to be a joke” but instead was some rebuke about “if you want to say something serious”, which instead sounds like a troll.

            If they’re simply hopelessly clueless and tone-deaf in a social context, then yes, that will explain for them why other people don’t seem to want to hang out with them even though they all have similar interests/abilities.

          • Nick says:

            Okay, with the exception of Aging Loser, y’all just crit-failed at diplomacy. Aapje snarked, and Alliumsk snarked back. That’s not “poor form,” that’s not “an example of why others might find them tiresome,” and that’s not “hopelessly clueless.” That’s a completely normal response, and it’s also how we regularly treat joke subthreads.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            + 1 to Nick. “Maybe he’s talking about an oil water mist extraction unit” obviously wasn’t a serious comment, so replying in the same vein isn’t at all unusual or unwarranted.

          • beleester says:

            I agree that it was a joke and that y’all somehow missed that, but can I still complain about the quality of the joke?

            “Did you just assume my gender?” was barely funny to begin with, and the fact that it’s been constantly repeated by people who think it annoys the SJWs hasn’t done it any favors.

          • Nick says:

            I agree that it was a joke and that y’all somehow missed that, but can I still complain about the quality of the joke?

            “Did you just assume my gender?” was barely funny to begin with, and the fact that it’s been constantly repeated by people who think it annoys the SJWs hasn’t done it any favors.

            Yeah, as far as humor goes it was pretty weaksauce.

          • I read “Did you just assume my gender?” as shorthand for “You said ‘he,’ I am female, and I resent your assumption that I must be male.”

            On that reading it was an unreasonably hostile response.

            I don’t know if the reading was correct, but others may have shared it.

          • Aapje says:

            For the record, my comment was intended as jokey, mildly snarky disapproval of a question that is way under-specified and a lack of follow-up to it, leaving us to guess and/or put in effort.

            I did google “F21.8” and could not find a proper explanation. F21 does seem to be a diagnosis code for schizotypal disorder and subtypes of disorders seem to get a .n. However, I can’t find what that .8 is then supposed to refer to.

            Note that Alliumnsk had ample time to provide the actual meaning of ‘F21.8’ and has of yet refused to do so. If a person wants to be taken seriously, they have act seriously themselves and this person hasn’t, IMO.

    • Nornagest says:

      Because being good at math and programming isn’t that fundamental personality-wise.

    • Aging Loser says:

      Allumnsk — my impression is that most people don’t look for more from each other than a kind of low-key background social static, and if you seem to be attempting some deeper connection they become inwardly disturbed and back off quickly. Then one thinks, “But in that case why bother hanging out with anyone at all?”

      Someone might suggest: “Deeper connections are to be sought only with lovers!” I don’t know about this, though — I suspect that someone seeking a deeper connection with a lover is seeking what he can only experience with his mother and then only before he reaches the age of about 10.

      I guess this is why people need to imagine (or experience; the imagining might be perceptual) a Personal Relationship with God. God is the lover who won’t wander away after the initial thrill wears off.

      (I don’t know what F21.8 is, but I often feel as though I walk around in a hazy force-field with a hundred-foot radius; people are either inside of it with me or outside of it, and if they’re inside they become understandably uncomfortable. Maybe that’s how you feel.)

  14. At dinner tonight, my wife and I got into a conversation with our historian son who has been reading stuff on Japanese history and telling us about it. The subject came up of Japan, at some point during the Samurai period, having banned firearms except for the central government.

    His response was that he had never heard that except from us. A little research online supported him. As best I can tell, it’s a myth created by the author of the book Giving Up the Gun, an English professor, rejected by all Japanese historians but still widely believed, in part because it is a useful story for proponents of either gun control or disarmament.

    Here is one of the pieces I found discussing it.

    There must be a lot of such cases. I am reminded of H.L. Mencken’s hoax history of the bathtub, the belief that people in the distant past were stupid in various ways (believed tomatoes were poisonous until some brave man ate one in public, overspiced their food to hide the taste of rotten meat, …), the claim that Hoover responded to the stock market crash by cutting government spending, mass suicide by lemmings, …

  15. theredsheep says:

    So, I read The Fifth Season. It’s the second book in a row I’ve read that uses superhumans as a metaphor for racism/discrimination/etc., the first being Richard Morgan’s wretched Thirteen. This is not a new conceit–it dates back at least to The X-Men back in the sixties or so–and it’s got me scratching my head, because as a metaphor it’s singularly bad.

    Racism is irrational because there’s no essential difference between the races, or at least not enough to make sweeping conclusions sensible (I know there are people here who speculate on that, trying to stay clear of that rabbit hole). But if you’ve got people who can do incredibly dangerous things by nature, being scared of them isn’t bigotry; it’s entirely sensible. Cyclops from the X-Men spends his whole life pointing a high-powered automatic weapon with infinite ammo at whoever he’s looking at, and he puts his finger on the trigger every time he puts his hand near his face. I realize that sucks for him, but it doesn’t make people morally bad to be scared of him. Who wouldn’t be scared of that?

    I think the appeal of it is that it lets you be Nietzschean and still use “slave morality”; a reader can identify with an immensely powerful being and still get the righteousness of an underdog. But it still irked me to read Jemisin’s resentful Orogenes raging against the normal people who oppress them just because they can cause volcanic eruptions with their brains. I can see being mad at God for that, but if you’ve accidentally killed a whole bunch of people, and deliberately killed a whole bunch of other people, and felt few moral qualms about either, I have limited sympathy for your resentment.

    Okay, that turned into a rant. Uh, your thoughts?

    • albatross11 says:

      Male channelers in the _Wheel of Time_ series have a similar thing going on–basically, they’re doomed to go crazy (at which point they’ll be wandering around destroying things and killing people for no discernible reason), so being suspected of being a male channeler is likely to get you lynched or at least run out of town.

      • albatross11 says:

        Also, the sleepless in _Beggars in Spain_ get this treatment–they’re mostly super smart and don’t need to sleep. (Alternatively, they’re thinly-disguised Objectivists.) And the methusalahs in _Methusalah’s Children_, though they’re hated/pursued because people think they’re hoarding their knowledge of how to cure aging when they’re really just the result of an aggressive eugenics program. The genetically enhanced creche babies in _Friday_ are discriminated against and hated–it’s not clear what all is behind that prejudice.

    • sfoil says:

      There’s a long history of this in the genre, and earlier of course. As far as I can tell, A.E. van Vogt’s Slan is the seminal SF work on “unfairly oppressed superhumans”. The theme of normals oppressing supers pervades a lot of van Vogt’s work, actually. Apparently this struck quite a chord with SF fandom in olden times. The more things change…

      Different authors have different takes. Van Vogt takes a rather aristocratic view: his superhumans understand that baselines hate them out of an understandable combination of fear and envy but calmly expect/understand that they are destined to rule eventually and tend to be pretty stoic out of a combination of noblesse oblige and pragmatism. Heinlein ascribes the oppression to sheer smallmindedness (and liked to draw the parallel to racism). His solution was separatism via frontier settlement.

      I haven’t read The Fifth Season, so I don’t know how self-aware Jemisin is about what she’s doing (isn’t it in the first person?). But The X-Men at least isn’t above trying to get you identifying with the mutants and then wallowing in isn’t it awful how others hate you because you’re better than them? Escapism and power fantasies exist for a reason.

      • theredsheep says:

        It’s told from three points of view, one of which, for some reason, is second person, ie the narrator telling you what you are doing.

        • Randy M says:

          Has that ever been done well? I feel like some people assume that second person should be used more often, because hey, it’s there between first and third and yet hardly ever used, what’s up with that?

          But it takes a considerable contrivance to tell someone a story in which they performed the actions. It works okay in a choose your own adventure style, I suppose, but doesn’t make sense in a novel.

          • theredsheep says:

            I don’t know, I think she was just being gratuitously clever. There are a couple of other gimmicky aspects to the story. The switch in perspectives is jarring and unnecessary, anyhow.

          • dick says:

            The only story I can think of offhand that really uses it well is Bright Lights, Big City.

    • John Schilling says:

      Psychic powers are another big variant of this, particularly the model where we will soon discover that Rhine et al were right all along, that psychic powers are real, but that only some people have them to a useful degree. See e.g. Babylon 5 for a more thoughtful than usual take on this.

      Superhero comics, and movies derived therefrom, are probably the worst place to deal with the concept, because superhero comics start out as mostly petty wish-fulfillment fantasy made faux noble and as you note this subject easily degenerates to a particularly base sort of revenge/power fantasy looking for an ennobling justification. Written science fiction can do better, and has – sfoil has already brought up Van Vogt, who is dated to the point of corniness in some respects but did a fair job of explaining why people would hate and fear the capable but not intrinsically dangerous Slans and how the Slans had better things to do that petty violent revenge.

      But from your description, Jemisin owes more to DC and Marvel than she does to Van Vogt, Straczynski, et al. That’s a shame.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The first episode (ignoring the pilot) of Star Trek had a rather different take on super-humans.

    • Baeraad says:

      I couldn’t even finish that book, it was so self-satisfied in its martyred perfection.

      My problem with oppressed superhumans is actually the opposite of yours – it makes absolutely no sense to me that people’s reaction to superhumans would be to persecute them rather than immediately start sucking up to them. In the real world, every persecuted group, even imaginary ones like witches, have been seen as being inherently weak and vulnerable, dangerous only because they were so sneaky and prone to stabbing you in the back or ganging up on you – perceived as breaking the natural order of things by attacking those stronger and better than themselves.

      Mutants in the Marvel universe kind of make sense, since they come in all shapes and sizes and power levels – it would be relatively easy, I think, for a mutant-hating bigot to focus on the weak and gross-looking ones while considering the sexy ones with godlike powers to be outliers who need to be defeated because they’re sheltering the genetic trash. Not all mutants are underdogs, but mutant kind as a whole might be.

      Orogenes, though? The godlike beings who could rend the earth at will and freeze you to death with a touch? In any sane world, the normal people would be kissing their asses like there was no tomorrow – especially since they’d know that unless they kept the orogenes happy, there might not be. People bow down to strength. It’s weakness that refuses to bow that pisses them off.

      (I also read somewhere that it turns out later in the series that gur abezny crbcyr jrer FB ENPVFG gung gurl svefg rkgrezvangrq n tebhc gurl ungrq, gura trargvpnyyl ratvarrerq n arj tebhc vagb na rknttrengrq pnevpngher bs rirelguvat gurl pynvzrq gb ungr jvgu gur svefg tebhc. I read that in a review that gushed about how insightful and true to life it all was. Have I mentioned that I really hate the world?)

      • theredsheep says:

        It doesn’t strike me as that implausible just because orogenes don’t stand out visually and don’t inherit the trait consistently. And some of them are uncontrollable. It really is the case that absolutely any person could be a walking nuke in disguise. I can see that.

        Now, the book’s anger did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve read other books where freaks feel cut off from the human race–Frankenstein comes to mind–but this is the first book I can recall reading where the alienation was treated as moral growth. Especially since, by the end, Our Heroes have some blood on their hands. The part you missed by not reading to the end:

        Gur guerr srznyr ivrjcbvag punenpgref ghea bhg gb or gur fnzr jbzna ng qvssrerag cbvagf va gvzr–gjrr, V xabj. Naljnl, fur grnzf hc jvgu gur gra-evatre Nynonfgre, evtug? Gurl jvaq hc nppvqragnyyl jvcvat bhg n gbja, gura syrrvat gb yvir jvgu cvengrf sbe frireny lrnef. Gurl tb bhg ba envqf jvgu gur cvengrf, hfvat gurve fxvyyf gb uryc gurz fgrny. Riraghnyyl gur tbireazrag pbzrf nsgre gurz, naq gurve xvq (uref jvgu Nynonfgre) trgf xvyyrq va gur cebprff. Nynonfgre trgf fb znq gung, nf vg gheaf bhg, ur’f gur thl jub evccrq gur rnegu bcra ng gur ortvaavat bs gur obbx. Fb, va erghea sbe uvf xvq qlvat, ur pnhfrf zvyyvbaf bs qrnguf. Gur obbx raqf orsber Rffha pna gryy hf jung fur guvaxf bs nyy guvf, ohg fur qbrfa’g vzzrqvngryl erwrpg uvz nf n zbafgre.

        Really, they’re not “heroic” in the conventional sense. They’re driven largely by anger and resentment. And from what you’ve told me, it seems like we’re only going to see more radicalization-as-moral-awakening. Well, or would see, if I could be bothered to read the rest. I just skimmed Wiki’s plot summaries instead. Sounds sorta melodramatic.

      • RobJ says:

        it makes absolutely no sense to me that people’s reaction to superhumans would be to persecute them rather than immediately start sucking up to them.

        Doesn’t it depend on who’s side they appear to be on? If you liked the Bulls or didn’t care, sure you loved Michael Jordan. But if you were a Knicks fan, you hated him. If you were a jock in high school you loved the start quarterback. If you were a nerd you couldn’t stand him. That kind of thing.

        • theredsheep says:

          These people are born randomly and don’t inherit their power in a consistent way. Nor can you tell one from an ordinary human visually. So they aren’t consistently on anybody’s side, though their society has developed a really abusive and unhealthy sort of school for them, and employs them in an equally exploitative capacity.

        • Baeraad says:

          Yeah, but that assumes that they are on any particular side. Sure, if you live in Country A and Country B has superhumans, then you hate those evil freaks, because they’re likely to come stomp on your town at some point. But if both countries have superhumans, then I see absolutely no way that the normal people in each country will be hero-worshiping their own superhumans and pleading with them for protection against those terrible foreign superhumans.

          No, I still say it makes no sense. The whole “abused superhuman minority” fantasy is some kind of skeevy doublethink by people who want to complain about being victimised without needing to have the humility to admit to being weak

          • Lambert says:

            >But if both countries have superhumans, then I see absolutely no way that the normal people in each country will be hero-worshiping their own superhumans and pleading with them for protection against those terrible foreign superhumans.

            Really? That seems fairly plausible to me.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think he missed a double negative and meant that people would worship their own super heroes.

          • theredsheep says:

            In the novel, there’s a nominal worldwide empire, but its authority is mostly limited to hunting down and controlling the orogenes. Most decisions are made on a local level by these semi-independent midget states–can’t recall if they pay taxes or what. There’s not a lot of military beyond what’s needed to control bandits and orogenes, I guess because the periodic cataclysms destroy wealth and population so thoroughly that fighting doesn’t accomplish much. They never have enough people to exhaust the available land, I think.

            That part is relatively well thought-out; the details of culture within The Stillness are bland and unconvincing, but I can see how a society could shift to a permanent survival footing when it can all go to crap at any moment. And be really scared of the people who can cause further disasters. Still, all that only makes them more unconvincing as metaphors for racism.

            Oh, and NB that the book is dedicated “to all those who have had to fight for the respect which others get without asking.” This means basically what you’d expect; while race is completely different in this world, of the twenty or so named characters, one is gay, one is bi, and one is trans. All three are major characters. It’s handled en passant, and mostly struck me as eye-rollingly silly in its improbability rather than preachy, but yeah. Social justice, etc.

    • Randy M says:

      I too would vote for Senator Kelly, at least until he wanted to replace one threat (super-powered mutant humans) with another (super-powered mutant hunting robots)

    • Machine Interface says:

      Consider Ashkenazim though.

      Much more intelligent on average than the common westerner. As the result of which they are disproportionally represented in positions of power and prestige, and have been significant contributors to hard sciences.

      Yet there seem to be some slight degree of animosity toward them.

      • John Schilling says:

        Much more intelligent on average than the common westerner

        If by “much” you mean maybe a standard deviation but we’re not sure because it barely sticks out of the noise floor.

        Yet there seem to be some slight degree of animosity toward them.

        And has been for a thousand years, with the prevailing theory being that any present intelligence difference is a result of the sustained discrimination and not vice versa. So I don’t think the analogy really works.

        • theredsheep says:

          I think people in general don’t like large populations of culturally cohesive resident aliens. We’re more tolerant today because the only diversity we actually allow is trivial window-dressing. The main effect of multiculturalism is that Maoris can haka, Japanese can eat sushi and Muslims can wear hijab; they’re all expected to conform to the same general Enlightenment cultural framework.

    • RobJ says:

      A similar example that I was annoyed by was the HBO show True Blood from a few years back (don’t know if the same issue exists in the books they were based on). It seemed pretty clear at first that vampires “coming out” was a metaphor for gays coming out of the closet, but they were also extremely dangerous and many were outright evil, so… what exactly are you trying to say here, True Blood.

      • theredsheep says:

        Well, you could read way too much into it and call it a metaphor for bug-chasing. Or you could just call it poorly-thought-out.

        • RobJ says:

          poorly-thought-out.

          I’m sure that’s most of it. Also, just trying to have their cake and eat it, too by taking advantage of something in the cultural zeitgeist while also being as entertaining as possible.

      • AG says:

        True Blood gets much closer, though, because it exists in a world where synthetic blood tech exists, so vampires have no reason to go after people.
        There’s a concentration of evil vamps in the area True Blood takes place in because TV needs conflict to be entertaining, but that doesn’t mean that there’s the same concentration of evil vamps worldwide.

        And, actually, the vamps-gays metaphor works better than regular mutants, because of the HIV crisis.

        After all, plenty of the supernatural “creatures” pantheon (vampires, werewolves, witches) have folkloric origins that may have stemmed from viral/disease superstitions in the first place.

        • theredsheep says:

          I belong to a FB group for sci-fi writers that occasionally gets ads; one of them was about “rise of the black vampires.” It got me thinking, is there something relevant to blackness where vampires are concerned? Like, what happens when a vampire sucks sickle-cell blood? Does he get indigestion?

          • Randy M says:

            What’s the group?

          • theredsheep says:

            Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors, run by Linda Moebius. I’m not a very active member, tbh.

          • AG says:

            It depends on the function of the blood-sucking, right?

            The issue with sickle cells in humans is that it impedes the movement of the cells because of the weird shape. However, vampires don’t need active circulation. If they have no blood flow, or don’t care about sluggish circulation, sickle cells used towards that effect do nothing.
            However, as a source of sustenance, a la mosquitos or bats, the blood cells are just broken down into their chemical constituents by the digestive system, right? Do sickle cells differ on the chemical level? If not, then there’s no issue with eating them.

            Similarly, drink the blood of anemic person may be not toxic or anything, but just unsatisfying. The vampire has to consume higher volume for the same nutrient level. (That is, assume the definition of blood they have to drink is the cells, and pure plasma does nothing for them.)

            For that matter, what happens if they only consume non-red blood cells? Like, they drink some that’s nothing but platelets, or nothing but white blood cells?

            Is eating scabs like having cooked meat? Or is it like having something fermented?

            What about the effects of blood sugar?

          • theredsheep says:

            Can vampires spread blood-borne illnesses, come to think of it? If you assume a model like Dracula’s, where they feed multiple times off the same victim, a sufficiently virulent disease could really hamper the vampire by potentially killing a host after only one or two snacks.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AG

            Presumably scabs would be like what they most resemble: crackling, or that crispy-fatty gunk that builds up when you roast chicken with the skin on or a meatloaf or something. Not of great nutritional value, and vampires are divided over whether it is bonus flavour or gross.

            I can’t imagine that multiple people haven’t done vampires as being like wine snobs: “oh, you like mortals with high blood sugar? Sweet humans? Pfft. As a connoiseur, I prefer a dry mortal.”

          • theredsheep says:

            Perhaps sickle-cell just tastes weird.

            So, if a vampire sucks the blood of a werewolf … does he become a werevampire? Can he spread both vampirism and lycanthropy, with an equal chance of both?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Lycanthrope blood is considered to have been “borked.”

          • theredsheep says:

            It’s been disqualified for excessive conservatism? Not following you, and Urban Dictionary isn’t helping.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do sickle cells differ on the chemical level?

            Yes, sickle cells are caused by a single amino acid change in hemoglobin. One could imagine this interfering with vampiric digestion.

            Similarly, drink the blood of anemic person may be not toxic or anything, but just unsatisfying. The vampire has to consume higher volume for the same nutrient level.

            Blood Lite!

            For that matter, what happens if they only consume non-red blood cells? Like, they drink some that’s nothing but platelets, or nothing but white blood cells?

            I’d find vampires who don’t need the red stuff narratively unsatisfying.

            As for blood-borne diseases, I’d expect vampires could avoid spreading them by cleaning their fangs between feedings (or maybe vamp saliva would be sufficient after a short while.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @theredsheep

            Dumb pun; “bork” as part of the same sphere as “doggo” and “pupper” and so forth.

            (Speaking of conservatism, would vampires differentiate politically? “Lingering jerky notes, aftertaste of dip.”)

          • theredsheep says:

            “Dear Satan, the Bay Area dining scene is just horrid. All those damn vegans. And don’t get me started on the ones who’ve been loading up on MealSquares. You can’t afford a decent crypt either, even with centuries of interest.”

          • Protagoras says:

            Blood isn’t actually exceptionally nutritious, and vampires are generally portrayed with superhuman metabolisms that give them exceptional strength, speed, and regenerative ability. It seems safe to conclude that they are not powered by the actual nutrient value of the blood. Most likely they are powered by some sort of magical life-force transfer for which the blood drinking is a required part of the ritual. Whoever tells the vampire story has complete freedom to decide which elements do or do not influence or interefere with the functioning of the ritual.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Some vampire hunters specialize in hunting blaculas.

    • Lillian says:

      Cyclops from the X-Men spends his whole life pointing a high-powered automatic weapon with infinite ammo at whoever he’s looking at, and he puts his finger on the trigger every time he puts his hand near his face.

      This is a good description of Cyclop’s power, but it is not the best description of Cyclop’s power. You see Cyclops doesn’t generate the eye beams, what he generates is a dimensional rift to a universe of pure concussive force, which then emerges through the rift as a coherent beam of wrecking your shit. In other words, Cyclops fires punch beams from the punch dimension.

  16. Dan L says:

    You’re having a normal day, when there’s a knock at the door / a stranger on the street / a visitor at the office. You meet a man who says “Thank you for your help,” hands you a blank check, and leaves. You are absolutely certain this man is a Saudi prince and the check is real, but you cannot gain any additional information on the corresponding account.

    SSC, what do you do?

    • cassander says:

      He has a check in the one hand, does he have a bonesaw in the other? Asking for a friend…

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Write a check for one cent, then cash it.

    • albatross11 says:

      So if you think he’s evil and there are no strings attached to taking his money, then draining his account is a good thing–it makes him less powerful, and powerful+evil is a lot worse than powerless+evil. But there’s no way to know how much is in his account, so I don’t know whether the check is going to bounce if I write it for a billion dollars.

      On the other hand, I assume the average Saudi prince is good for a few million, and 20 million or so is pretty solid f–k you money, so….

      • j1000000 says:

        20 million? No way! 20 million doesn’t let you say FU if that mysterious Saudi prince comes back and says “Hope you enjoyed the money, now I need you to kill someone for me.”

      • bullseye says:

        Assuming he’s evil is a lousy excuse for robbing him, but it’s a great reason to worry that he’s actually screwing you over somehow.

    • FLWAB says:

      My main moral concern is that I have no knowledge of doing anything for his person: he may have given me the check by mistake. Assuming I cannot get ahold of him to clarify I would cash the check for 1 million, then invest the money in safe investments to garuntee a 5% rate of return, and I would never draw on the principle. That way if he wants his money back I can give it to him.

      • WashedOut says:

        That way if he wants his money back I can give it to him.

        Presumably, this would be only out of fear of reprisals against you if you refused to give it back? I don’t think he would have legal recourse if he wanted his money back, seeing as it’s basically an ill-considered gift.

        • FLWAB says:

          If he gave it to me by mistake then returning the money is the right thing to do. I mean, how likely is it that a sheik giving me a blank check wasn’t a mistake? Keep in the money would be stealing in that case.

          • Randy M says:

            Technically if it was a mistake you should probably return the interest as well.
            But I’m not sure if my ethics are that technical.

      • Nornagest says:

        This is a good answer.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This is a bad idea as you have just committed tax evasion.

        • The Nybbler says:

          There’s no federal income tax on the recipient of a gift.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Hmmmm. While I see this is correct, I wonder about the practical limits.

            Also, I wonder about how the IRS will view this.

          • dick says:

            I believe this is not true. There’s a one-time exemption for up to $16K but other than that gifts are just regular income.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dick:
            Apparently, it’s on the gift giver to pay the tax, not the recipient.

          • dick says:

            You may have missed this bit:

            If the donor does not pay the tax, the IRS may collect it from you.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can just tell the IRS (through a lawyer). Leave the money in your bank account for a while until the issue is settled. If they take their cut, they take it. It’s all found money anyway.

            You are very likely to avoid jail if you are upfront about what you is going up, accepting the chance you may lose a significant portion of the money. If you try to sneak it, things can go very bad very fast.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dick:
            Ah, yes that does seem important.

            @Edward Scizorhands:
            I was responding to the idea that you could simply the hold the money and profit off only the interest safely, which assumed that you might have to relinquish the money later. Having to pay income tax on the money puts a substantial kink in that plan.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            The unified gift and estate tax has a lower limit of $5 million (or so, it escalates through inflation). As long as you stay below that, there is no tax on a gift.

            It is true that gifts must be reported if over 16K, but that doesn’t mean tax if under the limit. And as was stated before, it is the giver who is responsible. Perhaps the recipient will owe tax if the giver can’t be located, but the recipient certainly isn’t responsible for reporting it.

          • dick says:

            Perhaps the recipient will owe tax if the giver can’t be located, but the recipient certainly isn’t responsible for reporting it.

            Yes they most certainly are, and if by some chance you forget, your bank will very conveniently take care of it for you.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Me: Perhaps the recipient will owe tax if the giver can’t be located, but the recipient certainly isn’t responsible for reporting it.

            Dick: Yes they most certainly are, and if by some chance you forget, your bank will very conveniently take care of it for you.

            Please explain this, because I think you are wrong. On what form is this filed?

    • Aapje says:

      @Dan L

      1. Google to see if other people had this happen to them
      2. Google to see how checks work exactly, for example if the amount exceeds the money in the account (because I live in a country with modern technology and thus don’t use checks)
      3. Ask for advice online…ooooooohhhhh!

      • Dan L says:

        You’re not wrong; this started as a probably-true story told to me by a friend-of-a-friend. He was working as a particularly-specialized surgeon at the time and knew exactly what the meeting must have been about, but it stuck with me as an interesting scenario.

    • Salem says:

      A cheque? I start looking for my dusty paying-in-book, while muttering under my breath that he could have paid me in something more convenient, like cowrie shells or Zimbabwean dollars.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I either shred the check or give it to the FBI.

      Prince is no guarantee of “not criminal”. Given that he hasn’t given me any information about his intentions, my assumption is that he is attempting to play upon the greed instincts of the average human in attempting to pull off some sort of scam or money laundering scheme.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Pretty much the only sensible approach.

        Accountant Sense tingling like mad: cashing the check screams “accepting consideration”. Consideration for what, exactly? What kind of contract are you entering by cashing that check?

        Getting the police involved is probably a good start – although they may not take you seriously. Destroying the check and forgetting this ever happened is a good second.

    • j1000000 says:

      I throw the check out and call the police. No amount of money would make me excited to get mixed up with mysterious Saudi princes that have an air of international crime. I know you didn’t say they’re a criminal but, um, if this guy shows up on my door and gives me a blank check for reasons I don’t understand, I don’t think he’s just some charitable bro trying to pay it forward.

    • John Schilling says:

      This one is easy. I have a sister-in-law who works as a federal prosecutor dealing with financial crimes, and who knows any great windfall I receive will in some part part go to her children’s college fund. So I ask her what I can safely do, and until I get an answer I will be very difficult for anyone else to find.

      Otherwise, I would have to hire a lawyer of my own, using my own money. Neither the gross negligence nor subtle malice of the House of Saud is any bar on my enjoying and exploiting this windfall as best I can, but there are definitely risks involved and I lack the expertise to properly address them myself.

    • Slicer says:

      I write $100,000,000 on the check. Then I call a lawyer, an accountant, and an expert in financial services (the latter two may be the same person).

      I tell them that this Saudi gentleman wants to begin an investment venture in the United States, and I say that I have a contract with him of which I am simply not at liberty to discuss with anyone. However, because he doesn’t speak much English, he’s hired me to be his representative here. I hire the three of them to open an investment fund over which I have full legal control.

      I direct the investment funding towards rejuvenation biotechnology companies.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Saudi Prince? That is going to the FBI. I have no idea what kind of crap is going on, but they can figure it out.

      I am not cashing a check from a random person for no services rendered, that’s basically stealing. It’s not a gift, the person clearly think I performed some sort of service.

      • Randy M says:

        That reminds me of Hugo Chavez paying for the heating bills of poor in the US–or the Parks and Recs version of basically the same thing when Venezuelan diplomats started throwing money around the fictional town of Pawnee in an effort to embarrass their democratic rivals.
        If nothing else, I would expect something similar in this case, although I don’t actually expect to see this case because I don’t think the Islamic world cares as much about Western opinion.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I know I am a character in a story, so I try to determine whether I am in a comedy, a drama, a mystery, or a porno.

  17. Rolaran says:

    Does anyone know if there’s a good writeup somewhere of the “building for light (clarity, truth, free information) vs. building for heat (reaction, emotional response)” metaphor for rhetoric and argument? I’ve heard a number of people here use it, and I thought it was either part of the Sequences or else part of a similar series, but I can’t find it.

    And while I’m at it, has anyone heard of/used a version of it that includes “building for smoke”, which is to say deliberately obscuring the truth and making honest discussion difficult or undesirable? I can’t remember if I came up with that myself, or nicked it from someone before forgetting who.

    • zakamutt says:

      As far as I can tell the term comes from this post by Scott. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a post focused on the method of framing for light less married to its examples anywhere, though.

  18. Erusian says:

    In unexpected political secondary effects, apparently the new composition of the House means that the House (which passes budgets) has fewer people than ever who support space exploration. Any thoughts? Maybe ways we can keep this at least somewhat isolated from political winds? I’d like to see positions on science like space exploration debated as public policy (without being reduced to a simplistic shibboleth like global warming or stem cell research became). But that seems overly optimistic, to say the least.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/midterm-election-congress-nasa-space/575320/

    • Brad says:

      I know it’s not going to be popular here, but I see a manned space as a very expensive boondoggle where the science is generally a post hoc, tacked on justification. Overwhelming the real one is “Because it’s there.” That’s fine as far as it goes, but let’s call a spade, a spade.

      • metacelsus says:

        It’s not just manned space. The main proponent of the Europa Clipper mission lost reelection. (That being said, he was also a climate change denier, so I’m not sure it’s so bad that he lost.)

      • Erusian says:

        I’m pretty neutral on manned vs unmanned spaceflight. But I do think space exploration is important. If robots do that better, robots are fine. But if the overall program suffers, that’s a problem.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t even think it’s at all a close question. The science per dollar for unmanned mission is orders of magnitude better than for manned missions. The only kind of science that manned missions are better for is learning about how humans react to space, which is rather circular.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t even think it’s at all a close question. The science per dollar for unmanned mission is orders of magnitude better than for manned missions.

            That sounds like a quantitative argument. Dollars I get, but how are you measuring “science”?

    • Nornagest says:

      NASA hasn’t completed a new manned rocket since the early Eighties, and not for lack of projects to work on. They do good work with with probes and telescopes, and I’d like them to continue that, but maybe they should leave the dick-waving to the billionaires; the billionaires seem pretty good at it, and I’m sorry to say they don’t.

      • b_jonas says:

        You’re saying that NASA does good work with the probes and telescopes. That’s good, I’d like to see the Webb Space Telescope work out, and more probes. But what do we do after those? Who’ll build the space-borne gravitational wave detectors, and then perhaps that time machine thingy based around wormholes stabilized by negative energy? Should I expect the NASA to do that too (without abandoning the telescopes and probes of course), or the Chinese, or billionaires?

        • Nornagest says:

          We can cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I just want them to stop throwing away money on manned projects that always fail to live up to their billing and frequently fail to materialize a spacecraft at all.

    • bean says:

      Maybe this means they’ll finally cancel the insanity that is the SLS!

      Seriously, I’m old enough to remember Constellation, when we were going back to the moon. Then Obama decides to cancel that, and his study committee comes up with “We’re definitely not going back to the moon. We’d like to re-run the Space Race, but to Mars, but we can’t find anyone willing to race us. Well, let’s cancel everything we have and start over. We’ll keep the capsule, and do a new heavy-lift booster that’s almost the same as the one we cancelled, with just enough difference to force us to start from scratch. Why do we need a man-rated heavy-lift booster? No, I don’t know either, but the Alabama congressional delegation will get really irritating if we don’t have one.”

      (And don’t even get me started on the stupidity of a manned mission to a Lagrange point.)

      Look. I like manned spaceflight. But we’re currently on a path that, at best, leads to us having some nice red rocks in a room in Houston next to the grey rocks we got 1969-1972, and nothing else to show for it. Those rocks are not worth that much. So if they cut the manned spaceflight budget, I’m all for it. Because it’s a program that has not been in a good place since the mid-70s, and had serious flaws even before that. Apollo isn’t coming back, people. We need to move forward, not try to recreate that.

    • John Schilling says:

      Count me with Nornagest and bean: NASA is good for probes, telescopes, and trying to recreate Apollo. And maybe some technology development, so if we can find a way to get them back to that, great. But the probes and telescopes are nice-to-haves, not need-to-haves. Recreating Apollo is worse than useless in the same way that Apollo was worse than useless; it glorifies the impractical at the expense of the sustainable.

      If you want useful human exploration and development of space, you’re going to want to bet on enthusiastic software billionaires, or the Chinese, or maybe on something that will arise from the ashes of the US or Japan after their fiscal collapse. NASA probably can’t be cured of its Apollo addiction except through a massive and sustained downsizing.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        What/why would the Chinese equivalent do so much better at human spaceflight than NASA? (Or were you referring to China’s enthusiastic billionaires?)

        • cassander says:

          It’s not that the chinese are intrinsically better at space than NASA, it’s that NASA is NASA, an institution defined culturally, historically, and organizationally by the legacy of the Apollo Program. A chinese space agency won’t be, and thus will (or at least might, the land of Mao certainly isn’t free of its own tendencies to cargo cultism) make different choices.

  19. Brad says:

    As a follow up to the DST discussion in the last OT, do public datasets exist to answer the questions: what is the median time American workers arrive and leave work and for bonus points: on a given day of the year, say Dec 21st, what is the median offset from local sunrise/sunset that Americans arrive and leave work?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I am really lazy and I am going to give a lazy answer, but it might exist. 538 has a piece talking about median start times by city, pulling from the Community Survey through the Census Bureau.
      https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/which-cities-sleep-in-and-which-get-to-work-early/
      I guess the data has GOTTA exist in there somewhere, but I can’t find it at a quick glance.

    • Steven J says:

      The American Community Survey has data on when American workers leave home and arrive at work.
      I don’t think it has data on when they return home from work.
      And the data are annual-only, so you won’t be able to see seasonal variation.
      But the data are available by metro area, so you could use variation between metro areas that do and not not observe DST to get at your question.

    • Baeraad says:

      Fun fact: I usually assume that I’m unshockable in terms of political opinion. I assume that everyone disagrees with each other about everything, and certainly that everyone disagrees with me about everything. If I saw a serious proposal to put the theory of a flat Earth into school textbooks, I’d shake my head and say that it just figured that those flat-earthers would get some traction eventually. If I saw someone arguing for the euthanisation of disabled people, I’d be very unhappy but in no way surprised.

      You know the one thing that it did shock me to find that not everyone automatically agreed with me over? The only effective scissor statement that I’ve experienced in the last half a decade?

      The fact that some people are in favour of keeping Daylight Savings Time.

      • Statismagician says:

        Oh, I don’t know, traditionalism and a(n admittedly silly, I grant you) variation on ‘think of the children,’ plus it not being obviously dangerous to non-statisticians/ER personnel explains those people decently well, I’d think.

      • Salem says:

        This is a strange one because I have heard lots of people say we should get rid of Daylight Savings, but then when quizzed it turns out that half of them mean Summer Time all year, and half mean Standard Time all year, and I once had two people come almost to blows over it.

        Once you people get it straightened out what you’re asking for, I will think about it, but for now I favour keeping Daylight Savings because I don’t know what the alternative is.

      • mobile says:

        Without Daylight Savings Time, let’s say the sun shines from 5a-7p in the summer and 7a-5p in the winter. Most of our lives are oriented after noon, meaning that we are awake and productive for more hours after noon than we are before noon. Daylight Savings Time is a way to make better use of that extra sunlight in the summer time, and at least as good of a way as redefining noon to mean one hour before the sun reaches its highest point in the sky.

      • Brad says:

        I posted in the last open thread that as of the end of DST where I live the sun rises at 6:30 AM and sets at 4:45 PM, and that I were prefer it rise at 7:30 AM and set at 5:45 PM so that I could have a chance of seeing some sunlight after work. Does that preference seem insane to you?

        • Plumber says:

          Yes, because then you have to start your morning commute by flashlight.

          Daylight savings time only works well if you have a later start time.

          The real insanity is when work begins and ends, and our commutes.

          • Brad says:

            Are you assuming I leave for work before 7:30 AM?

          • Plumber says:

            @Brad

            “Are you assuming I leave for work before 7:30 AM?”

            Wait, you don’t?

            I envy you.

            How did you get the bosses to agree to a late start time?

          • Brad says:

            I’m one of the first people in the office at 8:30. It’s what comes from working with almost all twentysomethings.

            But leaving my situation aside, the median time to leave home for work for all Americans is sometime between 7:30 and 7:59.

          • Plumber says:

            “I’m one of the first people in the office at 8:30….”

            8:30!

            That sounds wonderfully gravy.

            Now I’m doubly envious! 

            “…It’s what comes from working with almost all twentysomethings…”

            Of the 16 guys on our crew (including the superintendent), none of us are that young, they either don’t meet the qualifications, or prefer to make more money in the private sector.

            “…the median time to leave home for work for all Americans is sometime between 7:30 and 7:59”

            I had no idea!

            For most of the last two decades my official start times have been either 6AM or 7AM, but since “If you’re not early you’re late” (and the struggle for parking) most of us arrive 20 to 50 minutes before then.

            I hate it.

          • CatCube says:

            @Plumber

            It also depends on the type of work you’re doing. I work in an engineering office for the federal government, where start times are very flexible. The so-called “core hours” are 9am-3pm, where everybody is expected to be in the office, but so long as your selected 8-hour day* covers these times, you can start when you want.

            This is easily done due to the nature of the work, since while we all need to meet to coordinate things (hence the core hours), we work on problems as individuals. Once I’ve met with a mechanical engineer to discuss the locations of his equipment, and with the other structural engineers to determine general dimensions, I go back to my desk and work on the design by myself. So if I’m in the office from 8:30 – 5:30, while somebody else is 7:00 – 3:00, we can still operate just as efficiently.

            This is not the case out at our operating Projects, where the tradesmen have to work on things as teams. If a structural crew has got to pull a bunch of trashracks, you can’t have the riggers show up half an hour after the crane operator. Hence, a rigid start time.

            If I understand correctly, you’re now working on things that are probably more individual (I imagine unclogging a drain or other general building maintenance tasks generally require one person working alone), but the “culture” of your job is probably set by the median worker, which I’d guess is working on a construction site where again, you need everybody at once. So, “Plumbers and electricians show up all at the same time.”

            * That’s 8 hours of work time. I take a 1 hour lunch, where a group of us play cards. So my workday is 9 hours long, but 8 hours on the clock. I’m available for meetings at that time, even if I hate it when people actually schedule something during that time; it’s not common, but it happens when there’s just no other time available.

          • Garrett says:

            I find if funny, given that the only major cultural touchstone I know involving (not insane) work hours is Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5.

  20. Atlas says:

    I’ve just started playing a bit of Civ VI. Any tips, advice, guides people would recommend, etc.?

    • Eltargrim says:

      Zigzagzigal’s guides are the canonical /r/civ recommendation. Various tips of various importance:

      – production is king;
      – wide is much, much stronger than tall, because
      – districts are very strong, and cities = districts.
      – Emperor is where the difficulty goes from “hard” to “bullshit”, because Emperor is where the AI starts with a second settler.
      – Early military is more important than in prior games; partly because of the above, and partly because
      – barbarian scouts must die. Letting them live leads to serious problems.
      – Dark ages aren’t actually bad, the policy cards you get can be very strong.
      – AI is still dumb and still can’t 1UPT, so exploit that.
      – It’s easy to lose a religious victory by neglecting religion, so keep a close eye on that if someone is getting close.

      I’m hoping the next expansion will substantially expand on the diplomacy options. Right now I’d say Civ 6 + R&F is better than Civ 5 + G&K, but worse than Civ 5 + BNW, and I hope the next expansion fixes that.

      • Randy M says:

        I’m hoping the next expansion will substantially expand on the diplomacy options. Right now I’d say Civ 6 + R&F is better than Civ 5 + G&K, but worse than Civ 5 + BNW, and I hope the next expansion fixes that.

        This is a question I was going to ask, since I have V complete but VI just went on sale.

        But really, the last thing I need is a boost in my interest in that time sucking franchise.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I disagree slightly with the above poster, and think that base VI is superior to V complete. The systems in VI all work well together, much better than in V.

          R&F has really good new Civs, which I enjoy, but I think the governor, loyalty, and era mechanics are underdeveloped. And the AI is broken as all hell. But the game itself is really solid.

          • Randy M says:

            And the AI is broken as all hell. But the game itself is really solid.

            This seems contradictory. Is it really a game if the ai can’t come and kick over my sand castle?
            Or do you mean, doesn’t play smart but can still be challenging thanks to cheats and such?

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Yeah, what I mean is if you play against other humans, it works much better than, say, Civ V.

            The game itself is well-designed – the district mechanics, tech progression, government system, they’re all sufficiently complex as to be interesting, they interact well with each other, and they create interesting choices.

            Unfortunately, the AI can’t use them at all. It has to cheat massively to compete with the player, because it doesn’t understand district planning very well, it can’t handle civic swaps, and of course on the tactical level it remains a total moron (like it has been since the days of Panzer General, so no surprise).

          • Randy M says:

            Multiplayer Civ. On the one hand, it should be my dream game, but on the other, I just expect the downtime and false starts and so on to be too frustrating, and I don’t want to commit to the time-frame myself.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I’ve found that PBEM with a reliable group of players is really the only way. But the downside there is that the guys I’ve played with have optimized the hell out of the game, and I have to do the same or get run over. There’s not a lot of room to sandbox.

            For SP Civ, the peak of the series is still Civ IV.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            For SP Civ, the peak of the series is still Civ IV.

            Money quote right here. Civ V is just as easy to beat down the AIs as VI once you get the hang of it.

            I just expect the downtime and false starts and so on to be too frustrating, and I don’t want to commit to the time-frame myself.

            I like the downtime personally. Allows exploring various plans and forces me to think things through. Playing a turn per day or 2 is pretty non-intrusive to daily life but it is settling in for a months-long commitment.

            I’ve found that PBEM with a reliable group of players is really the only way. But the downside there is that the guys I’ve played with have optimized the hell out of the game, and I have to do the same or get run over. There’s not a lot of room to sandbox.

            Shh, don’t scare the new blood away! More greenies and a less cutthroat meta might help! A larger player population allows for more experimenting with house rules too.

          • Perico says:

            As for the best single player experience in the series, I can’t recommend enough the Civ V Community Patch. It’s a collection of mods with more content and a better level of polish than most commercial expansions. Most notably, it includes a complete rewrite of the AI, improving it to an impressive degree: strong tactics, coherent strategies, and even capable handling of complex maneuvers like naval invasions.

    • FLWAB says:

      China is great for the cultural victory. Their workers can rush wonders, so focus production on making workers and prioritize policies that give you more worker charges or cheaper workers. If you do it right you can scoop up 80% of the ancient and classical wonders which will give you a huge tourism advantage.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      Oh hey! I love Civ VI! I play under the same name in ongoing PBEMs over at Realms Beyond, which I got into because I read Sullla’s website.

      Sullla really si the best guide I can recommend – dig into his single player reports, which are short, readable, entertaining, and highly informative. If you want to see how Civ VI plays out in the multiplayer arena, his PBEM1 and PBEM4 reports are also really great (I am biased, since I have a cameo appearance in that one).

      Here are the best quick tips I can think of:

      1)Expand, expand, expand. In Civ V, you wanted to limit your growth to a few cities, because of city-based tech penalties. No such thing in Civ VI.

      2)A good city site should have at least 1 tile in the first ring with a total yield of 4 or better (ie, 4 food, 2 food/2 production, 1 food/3 production, etc.), plus some luxuries and hills for production. A city with no hills is basically useless – it will never be able to build anything.

      3)Cultivate your city’s production more than anything – you can never have enough builders making more mines.

      4)Combat strength matters more than raw numbers in warfare. A 50-strength unit is much more valuable than two 25-strength units.

      5)Try and build the core of your army in the Ancient or Classical ages, then upgrade. This is much more efficient than building new units later.

      6)Master the policy card system. The right policy cards can provide a great boost to your civ, and you can swap them all out for free every time you unlock a culture technology. Pairing production-boosting policy cards with a well-timed builder chop can let you knock out massive building projects in just a few turns.

      7)City-states can give good bonuses, but they’re also great to snack on as a cheap way to expand your civ.

      But really, read Sullla’s page. And come join us over at Realms Beyond! A few other SSCers are there, too. 🙂

      • dodrian says:

        What settings do you use for PBEM? How often do you take a turn? How long do the games last?

        I’ve always wanted to play Civ against another person, but it takes so much time when I’m just playing against the AI I can’t imagine doing it with others

        • Gobbobobble says:

          It’s not a large daily commitment but a sizeable calendar commitment, if that makes sense. If you aren’t an obsessive like I am, a game could require only ~10min/day on average. But when you need 100-200 turns to reach a conclusion and only play about 1 turn/1.5 days, it takes a while.

  21. HeelBearCub says:

    So, about the idea conservatives don’t actually wish to ban abortion, that there is no appetite to do so…

    Alabama and West Virginia enacted state constitution changes with the latest election. Alabama passed a personhood amendment that defines fetuses as persons (and therefore would outlaw abortion completely). West Virginia specifically removes an state constitutional protection for abortion and already has a law on the books that mandates jail time for anyone who performs or receives an abortion.

    Basically national abortion rights depend on whether any of the 5 conservative SCOTUS judges will actually reaffirm Roe and Casey. There is plenty appetite to ban abortion, it will be brought to SCOTUS, and abortion rights depend entirely on what those 5 do.

    • cassander says:

      Must I bring up how many times the republican party voted to repeal the ACA when they didn’t have the power to make their vote effective, then point out how they didn’t do it once when they did have that power? Politicians love meaningless gestures, they shouldn’t be taken at face value. Such laws would not last 10 seconds if they came into effect in a meaningful way.

      • semioldguy says:

        Must I bring up how many times the republican party voted to repeal the ACA when they didn’t have the power to make their vote effective, then point out how they didn’t do it once when they did have that power?

        I think this is a lot to do with posturing and setting precedent. If one party overturns the other party’s legislation at first opportunity, it opens the door for it to happen the other way around regarding their own legislation. Acting when your party alone is unable to repeal, signals that you are against it and they may hope the opposing party will reconsider or see that what they have done was bad (thus having the opposing party’s blessing in repealing it in a way).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Must I bring up how many times the republican party voted to repeal the ACA when they didn’t have the power to make their vote effective, then point out how they didn’t do it once when they did have that power?

        It

        is

        already

        done.

        The states in question have already passed the legislation, constitutional amendments, etc.

        If the SCOTUS rules that these aren’t disallowed, they are in effect.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Although I mostly agree with you, I also think that lawmakers are shortsighted enough to think that they’re not doing anything actually dangerous, and the people voting them in simply haven’t thought it through. To them, it’s all just rabble-rousing, with no danger of doing anything effective. Even though, objectively, that’s not true.

        • cassander says:

          >If the SCOTUS rules that these aren’t disallowed, they are in effect.

          Yep, and if not for the refusal of the senate to also pass the ACA repeals, they would have been laws too. Like I said, these are meaningless political gestures. they were passable as is only because they had no effect, just like the ACA repeals. In the unlikely event of a substantive reversal of roe, they’d be almost instantly re-written. Not re-written to “mandatory tax payer funded abortions for everyone”, but substantially re-written from where they are now.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am skeptical of that. I think there’s a status-quo bias–many legislators who wouldn’t have voted for those laws if they were going to take effect might very well be reluctant to vote *against* them now that they’re already there, if it looks like they might take effect in the future.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            At least at the federal level, there’s a turnover rate of about 15% per congress, and lots of states have term limits, so I suspect that they’d be even higher, on average so if the roe reversal happens in 6 years, almost half the legislature will be new. Status quo bias is certainly a thing, but that doesn’t the law will simply stand if it’s massively unpopular.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t “instantly rewrite” a constitutional amendment. What kind of nonsense argument is this.

            Sure, many Republicans have been selling the rubes on the importance of abortion and how it’s murder, even though they don’t actually believe that. This speaks poorly of them. It also speaks poorly of you, since you seem to be endorsing this approach.

            But, just because the con men and grifters know they are selling snake oil, it doesn’t mean the marks don’t believe. And that is why it will be extremely hard to claw these things back.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t “instantly rewrite” a constitutional amendment. What kind of nonsense argument is this.

            It takes precisely as long to re-write as it took to write.

            Sure, many Republicans have been selling the rubes on the importance of abortion and how it’s murder, even though they don’t actually believe that. This speaks poorly of them. It also speaks poorly of you, since you seem to be endorsing this approach.

            I search in vain for any endorsement of what they’re doing. All I find is a refusal to treat it as the end of the world, or as more meaningful than it is.

            But, just because the con men and grifters know they are selling snake oil, it doesn’t mean the marks don’t believe. And that is why it will be extremely hard to claw these things back

            If the marks do want abortion seriously restricted, well, it is a democracy after all. I sincerely doubt that they do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:

            You are really straying into strange territory here.

            They could put another amendment on the ballot. Maybe they would, although I am doubtful. Maybe it would pass, but again, I am doubtful. What they can’t do is simply remove the amendment on their own recognizance.

            So no, they can’t unwrite a consitutional amendment “as quickly as they passed it”. They didn’t pass it in the first place.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            They could put another amendment on the ballot. Maybe they would, although I am doubtful. Maybe it would pass, but again, I am doubtful. What they can’t do is simply remove the amendment on their own recognizance.

            I never claimed that they could What I claimed is that these rules will be rapidly revised, by whatever process was used to pass them in the first place.

        • John Schilling says:

          The states in question have already passed the legislation, constitutional amendments, etc.

          If the SCOTUS rules that these aren’t disallowed, they are in effect.

          But SCOTUS isn’t going to rule that, and the state lawmakers in question understand this even if you don’t.

          Many years ago, a supreme court justice (state, not federal) explained this to me, candidly admitting that a big part of his job was to play Bad Cop to the “Good Cop” of every legislator pandering to every stupid constituency that wants the government to do something stupid and will vote accordingly. Legislators craft law that appeases constituents but is guaranteed to be shot down by the courts, life-tenured judges shoot it down, legislator wins reelection by pointing out that he tried and that he’ll try harder next time.

          This is too massively useful to legislators for them to stop doing it simply because of the risk that the courts might not shoot down their blatantly unconstitutional legislation. And, really, the courts know their role in that game, and the legislators know their role in confirming judges who will continue to play that game.

          And nothing you are describing is in any way inconsistent with one more round of a game that I have been watching played for my entire adult life and understand to have been in play for a century or more before that. But it doesn’t look much like the very different strategies of legislators who are actually trying to accomplish something legally or constitutionally dubious.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Again, a fetal personhood amendment to the constitution was passed by the populace in Alabama. The West Virginia amendment was specifically about tying the hands of the West Virginia Supreme Court in asserting a state constitutional right to abortion. These amendments are designed to remove judicial impediment to making abortion illegal.

            I assume that you aren’t saying that abortion opponents are generally or broadly secretly in favor of abortion. It seems you are implying that it is just the legislators who are playing a game of false and deliberately deceptive signaling. While I am sure that this is true of some number of them, politics being coalitional, it hardly matters. To the extent that the genuine pro-life contingent is critical to the Republican coalition, they will vote as genuinely pro-life. In addition, we can see in this case that there is majority state population support for the positions. Or you saying the citizenry itself is playing this game?

            So the question simply comes down to whether you end up installing 5 SCOTUS justices who are either genuinely pro-life or genuinely federalist.

          • Walter says:

            I dunno man, it seems like you are gonna get Megamind syndrome here, where the cops and robbers games give way to someone who is sincere.

            Like, in a contest to signal how double serious we are to trying to ban abortion, it seems the women who genuinely believes it has an edge over the cunning fraud, or at least doesn’t lose every time.

            I think your buddy the judge is fooling himself about how grateful the legislators he is thwarting are to him.

          • John Schilling says:

            To the extent that the genuine pro-life contingent is critical to the Republican coalition, they will vote as genuinely pro-life.

            Absolutely. But they can’t vote for something that isn’t on the ballot, and effective abortion bans are never on the ballot. That’s not a coincidence.

            Every single time a Republican president has been able to nominate a new justice to the Supreme Court, and really every single time a Republican has run for a Presidential term in which he might nominate a justice, I’ve heard people indistinguishable from yourself explaining with passionate certainty that this time, if we don’t stop it, it will be the end. The end of legal abortion, followed shortly by the end of womens’ rights and ultimately of the United States as anything other than Gilead writ large. Because the Republican legislators are lined up and waiting, this is what they really really in the blackness of their hearts want to do, and only the shaky 5-4 pro-choice majority of the SCOTUS du jour is stopping them.

            Every single time, the prediction has proven false. And I’m not hearing anything from you, that I haven’t heard every other time that false prediction has been made. You’ve had your chance to bring something new to the discussion; now it’s pretty much time for you to go off and update your priors.

      • This is a weird hill to die on. There are two liberal Supreme Court justices in their 80’s. It’s very possible that one or both of them could die, giving the newly strengthened Republican Senate a chance to appoint very conservative justices who could easily overturn Roe vs Wade. In that case, do you think those state legislators would scramble to overturn their own anti-abortion laws? Why would they do that?

        • cassander says:

          This is a weird hill to die on. There are two liberal Supreme Court justices in their 80’s. It’s very possible that one or both of them could die, giving the newly strengthened Republican Senate a chance to appoint very conservative justices who could easily overturn Roe vs Wade.

          It’s not very possible, for the reasons John Schilling lays out above.

          In that case, do you think those state legislators would scramble to overturn their own anti-abortion laws? Why would they do that?

          Because their constituents will demand it when faced with the consequences of the bills they’ve written. Right now, they can pass laws that have no effect, and everyone can feel good about themselves. The legislators can preen, the voters can feel like they’ve done their part to fight baby murder, and no one actually has to deal with the effects of abortion not being illegal. If those laws actually came into effect they would, and they (apart from a few diehards) won’t like it.

          • theredsheep says:

            It might depend. I get the impression that Amy Coney Barrett would have cheerfully driven a stake through Roe’s heart. It’s possible that Roe’s life depends on pols consistently and selectively appointing only cynics. Or mostly cynics.

            Also, in some states abortion has been so brutally restricted as to be effectively illegal; there might be one or two clinics in the whole state. If Roe got overturned, I’m told it’s most likely that the issue would return to the states, so the situation might not change that much.

          • cassander says:

            It might depend. I get the impression that Amy Coney Barrett would have cheerfully driven a stake through Roe’s heart. It’s possible that Roe’s life depends on pols consistently and selectively appointing only cynics. Or mostly cynics.

            there are definitely true believers out there, no question. but they’re an extreme minority. Everyone else will cave once you get a sufficient number of sob stories pleading for a change in the law. The degree of caving will vary from place to place depending on the local political scene and geography, of course.

            Also, in some states abortion has been so brutally restricted as to be effectively illegal; there might be one or two clinics in the whole state.

            I am always amused to see people on the left, who dismiss such concerns in almost any other context, complaining about the harmful effects of government regulation on small businesses.

            I’m not in favor of them, but there is nothing “brutal” about these restrictions. The number of abortions per capita has fallen off dramatically in the last 20 years, it’s not suprising that the number of clinics is down. And it’s not at all clear to me that number of clinics is even a relevant figure when you can get abortions performed at a hospitals. I’m open to being convinced, but I’ve never seen any evidence that these restrictions have actually prevented anyone from getting an abortion. Having to drive a couple hours to get a procedure done that happens once or twice in someone’s life is not the sort of hardship that I get agitated about.

          • theredsheep says:

            Idunno, some states are pretty bloody big, and if you can get multiple such states in a row I imagine you’d start seeing a deterrent effect. But who knows? NB that I am pro-life, I just admit that we’ve done a great job hammering them there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Until recently, Ireland had no legal abortion plus open borders / travel with EU countries, most of which allow abortion. That might be a model for what we’d see in a post-Roe US.

          • acymetric says:

            @cassander

            I don’t mean to intrude, and obviously I’m not asking for specifics, but can you speak to where you grew up/live now (generalities, I’m not asking for a specific city or even state necessarily)? I suspect that has contributed to your take on this subject.

          • cassander says:

            @acymetric says:

            I don’t mean to intrude, and obviously I’m not asking for specifics, but can you speak to where you grew up/live now (generalities, I’m not asking for a specific city or even state necessarily)? I suspect that has contributed to your take on this subject.

            It doubtless has. I’ve spent most of my life in or near large coastal cities, usually in quite blue institutions. And, to be frank, fairly rarified ones. I don’t think I know a single adult who doesn’t have a bachelors degree, and most of my friends and family have a masters. I’m aware that the right wingers in my life are of better than average caliber, they almost have to be by definition.

            accounting for that, though I still think the fears of the left on this subject are vastly overrated, as it is on many other subjects. The left is unaware understand its own cultural power the way that fish are unaware of water, and they loves to think of themselves as victim. I’m not pro-life, but I am pro-state and local government, pro-lower taxes, pro lower regulation, and pro much of the rest of the republican agenda. Having seen republicans achieve so little on all those other fronts over the last 20 years, I find it hard to believe that abortion is the one football they’ll actually manage to kick, especially since they’ve whiffed on it a number of times before.

          • Because their constituents will demand it when faced with the consequences of the bills they’ve written.

            Why?
            As I think has already been pointed out, unless all nearby states have also made abortion illegal, the effect is only to make it a little more expensive and less convenient. That may be unfortunate, but how is it bad enough to make people committed to an anti-abortion position reverse themselves?

          • @cassander

            I don’t think you really get social conservatives. Pro life beliefs aren’t just some little quirk that they adopted to distinguish themselves from the left. They literally think it’s murder. And yes, not all Republicans think that way but Alabama for example is a very socially conservative state. You’re projecting your own beliefs on to them for why they “don’t really” want to ban abortion when it’s one of their most sacred values. Why don’t you think they’re serious about it? Because it seems ridiculous to you?

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            You’re projecting your own beliefs on to them for why they “don’t really” want to ban abortion when it’s one of their most sacred values. Why don’t you think they’re serious about it? Because it seems ridiculous to you?

            I see where you’re coming from, but this wasn’t what I was attempting to say. I don’t think that the pro-life crowd isn’t sincere. I am sure that they are.

            My argument is that there is a broad swathe of pro-life opinion that ranges from an absolutist position to something much more qualified. Right now, because there are no consequences for doing so, the absolutists dominate pro-life discourse, and everyone goes along with echoing their position because, as a simple formulation (abortion bad!) they agree. If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement. You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans. And even if you did, there’s always the state line not too far away.

          • theredsheep says:

            Depends. The southern states where abortion bans are most likely in the event of a RvW overturn tend to be pretty big. And they’re all clustered together. Even if only, say, Texas went pro-life, if you’re in San Antonio, it’s a five-hour drive minimum to cross the border of any other state, and that’s assuming there’s a clinic at some podunk town right on the border.

          • Deiseach says:

            You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans.

            And every time the pro-life side has tried getting those passed, the pro-choice side has screamed and screamed and screamed about “this is a sneak attack on our reproductive rights, they’re trying to get abortion banned by stages!” and refused any kind of compromise on the right to kill an unborn person whatsoever.

            So now the absolutists look like winning? Good.

          • Over half the population in Alabama wants abortion to be illegal in most/all circumstances, which is clearly not the moderate position. Why do you assume they will suddenly change their mind if they got what they said the want?

            @Deiseach

            That’s exactly what the pro life side is doing. They aren’t hiding it so I’m not sure what your point is.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            Over half the population in Alabama wants abortion to be illegal in most/all circumstances, which is clearly not the moderate position. Why do you assume they will suddenly change their mind if they got what they said the want?

            One, there is a world of difference between most and all circumstances and it’s misleading to lump them together. Two, bear in mind the lizardman constant with public polling. What people say in polls and their actual positions rarely align on any question more complicated than who am I going to vote for next month. Three, I specifically dealt with theses apparent high levels of support for absolutist positions when I said:

            Right now, because there are no consequences for doing so, the absolutists dominate pro-life discourse, and everyone goes along with echoing their position because, as a simple formulation (abortion bad!) they agree. If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement.”

            I stand by that line of argument. Yes, you can get people to shout abortion is murder at rallies. that doesn’t necessarily translate to them being willing try knocked up teenagers and rape victims as murders. As evidence for this assertion, I offer every politician in the last 30 years that got elected promising to cut government spending.

          • Brad says:

            @cassander
            Given:

            It doubtless has. I’ve spent most of my life in or near large coastal cities, usually in quite blue institutions. And, to be frank, fairly rarified ones. I don’t think I know a single adult who doesn’t have a bachelors degree, and most of my friends and family have a masters. I’m aware that the right wingers in my life are of better than average caliber, they almost have to be by definition.

            I’m not sure why any of would give much weight to your speculations as to how pro-life people think. If Conrad Honcho were making this argument, I might want to think hard about why he was saying it and whether I trusted it, but at least it would be plausible to that he’d be bringing insight to the table that I simply don’t have access to.

            But the general phenomenon of some guy with a background nearly identical to mine but who ended up a Trump supporter for $reasons appointing himself explainer of and/or spokesman for middle America is quite dubious IMO.

          • @cassander

            Why should I think that your understanding of Alabamans is better than what they themselves say?

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            But the general phenomenon of some guy with a background nearly identical to mine but who ended up a Trump supporter for $reasons appointing himself explainer of and/or spokesman for middle America is quite dubious IMO.

            I’m not a trump supporter, nor have I appointed myself an explainer of anyone. I’m merely pointing out that (A) we’ve seen these calls made before and seen them come to nothing, and (B) we see very similar dynamics at work in other areas of policy and there is zero reason to assume that abortion is fundamentally different from other political issues. One can gain insight in ways other than background.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            Why should I think that your understanding of Alabamans is better than what they themselves say?

            Because it’s quite well known that when it comes to polling on policy questions, what people say and what they actually think are often miles apart. I have no doubt that the alabamians are sincere in their beliefs. It’s easy to be sincere in beliefs that have never been meaningfully tested. I also have no doubt that many would prove less sincere once those beliefs were put up against photogenic victims in a serious way because they’re, you know, people.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “….I don’t think I know a single adult who doesn’t have a bachelors degree, and most of my friends and family have a masters….”

            Well like you I’ve spent most of my life in or near the coast in “blue” areas, but I don’t have a college diploma, and I’ve known far more men who seem closer to the description of our host’s “Red-Tribe” than the “Blue-Tribe”, but even more who seem a mixture to me.

            What do you want to know about those of us without college diplomas?

          • cassander says:

            @Plumber says:

            If I knew what to ask, I probably wouldn’t have to ask it! I just know that there’s 2/3s of the country that I have effectively zero meaningful social interaction with, and I know that can’t help but warp my perspective on things. the best I could do is turn the question around on you and ask what’s are the biggest things gaps in perception/attitudes/assumptions between the college going and not that you are aware of?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            He’s asserting that non-coastal Red tribe members who say they oppose abortion actually support abortion, but they just don’t know it.

            I’m not sure you can provide much insight here, as I don’t think you have indicated much of an interest in religion (which tends to be a driver of expressing these beliefs). But, I’m interested in you take on this.

          • cassander says:

            @healbearcub

            He’s asserting that non-coastal Red tribe members who say they oppose abortion actually support abortion, but they just don’t know it.

            No, I’m not, as I’ve explained repeatedly. Please don’t willfully misrepresent my words.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @casaander:

            Ummm, what about your stance is different from what I said? You think they genuinely oppose abortion now, but then won’t as soon as they would be able to actually ban it.

          • @cassander

            You can’t just dismiss every single poll that disagrees with you because sometimes they are inaccurate. For two of three of his points, Lizardmans constant and purposefully skewed polls, doesn’t apply. His other point was about mood signaling which is possible but then you would have to dismiss every single poll as mood affiliation. A poll says people want a higher minimum wage? Wrong. Democrats want single payer healthcare? Wrong. Republicans want lower illegal immigration? Wrong. If you say that every single poll is wrong, then all it’s doing is making it easier for you to use your own biases to make all your reasoning work in your favor. Polls aren’t perfect but they are better than that.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            Ummm, what about your stance is different from what I said? You think they genuinely oppose abortion now, but then won’t as soon as they would be able to actually ban it.

            To repeat what I said early, in response to this question, my argument is that there is a broad swathe of pro-life opinion that ranges from an absolutist position to something much more qualified. Right now, because there are no consequences for doing so, absolutist statements dominate pro-life discourse. Everyone goes along with echoing their position because, as a simple formulation (abortion bad!) they agree, even if they don’t buy in on the details. If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement. You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans. And even if you did, there’s always the state line not too far away.

            @Wrong Species says:

            You can’t just dismiss every single poll that disagrees with you because sometimes they are inaccurate. For two of three of his points, Lizardmans constant and purposefully skewed polls, doesn’t apply.

            I don’t. I dismiss virtually all polls on policy questions, regardless of whether or not I agree with the results, because it is easy to show that the public’s response to such polls is utterly schizophrenic and incoherent. One will get wildly different responses to seemingly neutral language changes (e.g. Do you oppose X legislation vs. do you support the repeal of legislation X) and you can see majority support for mutually incompatible policy positions. the best use for issue polling is to see how the level of support for a particular question varies over time, but that tells you much more about trendlines than absolute levels of support, and certainly doesn’t tell you anything about the degree of passion behind beliefs.

            If you say that every single poll is wrong, then all it’s doing is making it easier for you to use your own biases to make all your reasoning work in your favor. Polls aren’t perfect but they are better than that.

            I’m not claiming that they’re wrong, I’m claiming that they’re all right, and that’s the problem. And I don’t think people are being mendacious, it’s just that polling is a very blunt tool that doesn’t accurately capture people’s actual feelings. And it’s not just political polling that way, talk to any market research firm and they’ll tell you the same thing, that asking people what they want is a very imprecise tool for figuring out what they actually want.

          • Beck says:

            I’m from Alabama, and I’d say cassander’s about right. The range of opinion on abortion you find there is exactly what you find anywhere else: people at one extreme believing that it’s literal murder, people at the other extreme believing that there should be near to no restrictions on it, and the majority somewhere between.

            Anecdotally, most of the people I know are pretty uncomfortable (in some cases very uncomfortable) with it, but would stop short of an absolutist position.

          • Brad says:

            (B) we see very similar dynamics at work in other areas of policy and there is zero reason to assume that abortion is fundamentally different from other political issues.

            Like what exactly? Because here’s the other area of policy I’m thinking of, and what’s happened:

            For 40 years or so there’s been growing support for the notion that there’s a natural human right to own and carry a gun. This movement grew and grew and eventually it got enough supporters on the Supreme Court to enshrine their view into Constitutional law. When the Supreme Court did this, supporters in the states didn’t recoil from the consequences. On the contrary many supporters are pushing to have the laws be pruned back even further. The support for more and more gun rights is completely resilient in the face of photogenic victims–not wavering a tiny little bit even when an elementary school was shot up.

            Where was the “just kidding” moment your logic suggested should have happened after Heller and McDonald?

          • cassander says:

            @Brad says:

            Like what exactly? Because here’s the other area of policy I’m thinking of, and what’s happened:

            Government spending in general, regulation in general, and reduction of federal power vis a vis the states. All ideas that are core to republican’s self proclaimed identity, that are always part of their slogans, and which seem to get out votes in large numbers, and that which republican lawmakers basically never implement because supporters balk when faced with photogenic victims of such policies.

            Where was the “just kidding” moment your logic suggested should have happened after Heller and McDonald?

            Gun control is the one issue that has been broadly opposed by the left and which has seen significant rightward movement in recent decades. I’d suggest that it’s the outlier, not the other issues.

          • Brad says:

            You missed cutting taxes, which is far more effective at riling up voters than reducing federal power. So on the one hand we have emotional issues like taxes and guns where the Republicans have done what they said they would do when they get into office, and then on the other some technocratic issues most exciting to conservative/libertarian policy wonks — reducing regulation and respecting federalism where they haven’t. Which category are you claiming restricting abortion falls into?

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            You missed cutting taxes, which is far more effective at riling up voters than reducing federal power. So on the one hand we have emotional issues like taxes and guns where the Republicans have done what they said they would do when they get into office, and then on the other some technocratic issues most exciting to conservative/libertarian policy wonks — reducing regulation and respecting federalism where they haven’t. Which category are you claiming restricting abortion falls into?

            well, one, taxes aren’t over the last 40 years. federal taxes have consistently hovered at 17-18% of GDP since the korean war and neither party seriously tried to change that.

            Two, I don’t think there’s a neat distinction between policy and emotional issues like that. get the feds out of my business, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms should be a shopping list not a government agency, etc, these are emotional issues just as much abortion or taxes.
            Sure, there are technocratic and popular ways of looking at those issues, but that’s kind of my whole point, that there’s a gap between what slogans people shout and what policies they actually want, and that that gap is exacerbated in the case of abortion because of the unusual legal conditions around it.

            And it’s not just the right that’s that way. “healthcare is a right” and “no person is illegal” are sentiments that poll way better than than a trillion dollar tax increase to pay for medicare for all or an actual open borders immigration policy.

          • @cassander

            We know that Republicans don’t really care about deficits because they increase it when they get in to power. When has a social conservative got in to power and then made pro-choice policy choices? Because over the last two decades, conservative states have made more restrictive legislation that has very real consequences.

            Word order in polling only matters when people don’t really have strong feelings about a subject. If I made a poll asking if they would like their ethnic group to be genocided changing the phrasing isn’t going to suddenly make them suicidal. You have vocal groups of people saying they really really want to ban abortion and you have polling that backs it up. It’s not a coincidence that conservative states have more pro-lifers in their polling.

            If you honestly believed that polling was useless, then you should be completely agnostic about what the people of Alabama believe. But instead you indicate that they aren’t really pro life, despite their claims otherwise. As evidence you give one issue where people have inconsistent beliefs. Why should I believe you? Do you honestly think that’s convincing? Do you think that Republicans don’t really care about illegal immigration? Do you think Democrats don’t really care about gay marriage? I don’t even know how to falsify your claims.

          • cassander says:

            @cassander

            We know that Republicans don’t really care about deficits because they increase it when they get in to power.

            I never mentioned deficits, but ok.

            When has a social conservative got in to power and then made pro-choice policy choices? Because over the last two decades, conservative states have made more restrictive legislation that has very real consequences.

            No, they haven’t. they’ve made pious statements that have had very little effect on actual policy, particularly at the federal level.

            Word order in polling only matters when people don’t really have strong feelings about a subject.

            Most people don’t have firm opinions on most subjects, so what you’ve effectively said was “word order in polling almost always matters.”

            But instead you indicate that they aren’t really pro life, despite their claims otherwise.

            For at least the 4th time, no I haven’t. I’m not going to keep refuting the same point over and over again. If you want to keep the conversation going, please deal with the argument I’ve actually made several times now.

          • No one else thinks there’s a distinction between “people who say they are pro life but won’t support pro life policies if it was actually an option” and “they aren’t really pro life”. Not sure why you think that matters.

          • cassander says:

            @wrongspecies.

            No one else thinks there’s a distinction between “people who say they are pro life but won’t support pro life policies if it was actually an option” and “they aren’t really pro life”. Not sure why you think that matters.

            Still not even close to what I said. What I said is right there, you can go read it if you like, but please stop putting words in my mouth.

          • John Schilling says:

            Ummm, what about your stance is different from what I said? You think they genuinely oppose abortion now,

            Approximately 60% of Alabamans and other “non-coastal red tribe members” claim to oppose abortion in most cases, and probably the vast majority are sincere. Only about 24-36% of them oppose abortion in all cases, even for e.g. rape victims. Cassander is trying to distinguish between these two positions; you aren’t. That’s the difference.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Approximately 60% of Alabamans and other “non-coastal red tribe members” claim to oppose abortion in most cases, and probably the vast majority are sincere. Only about 24-36% of them oppose abortion in all cases, even for e.g. rape victims. Cassander is trying to distinguish between these two positions; you aren’t. That’s the difference.

            Yes, come on guys. Cassander isn’t being particularly clear about what he’s saying, but his adversaries here seem to be trying to not understand. Pro-life isn’t one position; it is a whole range of positions, just more on the side saving the fetus than pro-choice is. (And of course pro-choice isn’t one position either). But the polls mostly just ask if you want to outlaw abortion, and presumably the pro-lifers all answer yes even if they have varied beliefs as to the exceptions. Especially since abortion is the law of the land, nuance as to exceptions don’t much matter at this point as far as polls, or as far as laws passed in favor of pro-life. And I think one more thing cassander is saying is that even the responders to the polls probably haven’t even thought much about the nuances — they just know they don’t like the status quo. They will only think more about it when Roe goes away because then it matters.

            I don’t share cassander’s certainly that the more draconian laws will be almost immediately repealed as soon as Roe is over-turned. But that is the question, not whether a majority of Alabamians are in favor of treating abortion providers and recipients as equivalent to murderers, which I think is highly unlikely.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            Opposing abortion in most cases means opposing the abortions that are by far the most common, the ones that occur in the first trimester and are a choice to terminate an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.

            Life and health of the mother, rape and incest exceptions matters in debate simply because it lays out why the arguments that “abortion is murder “ is weak, but even leaving those exceptions in to forego the most sympathetic who would be effected by an all out ban doesn’t matter much in terms of the number of people effected.

            If you are saying that you think that Alabama would eventually settle on a rule that banned abortions except in the cases of rape and incest or pregnancies that threatened the life of the mother, that might be the case. Yo have said elsewhere you think that a “life of the mother” exception would be a wink and a nod, and I think this is highly tendentious. The vast bulk of current abortions would simply be illegal. Sue, you would,have your “Kevorkians” who flouted the law on moral or ideological grounds, but most physicians wouldn’t risk their licenses.

            So the question I have is, do you think that those 60% genuinely oppose the vast bulk of abortions, which are mostly first trimester choices to end unwanted pregnancies?

          • John Schilling says:

            So the question I have is, do you think that those 60% genuinely oppose the vast bulk of abortions, which are mostly first trimester choices to end unwanted pregnancies?

            Asked and answered, with actual numbers based on the best polling data I can find. You can reframe that answer any way you want, without needing my help.

            But for the most part, I do not care what these people believe. I cannot find it in me to craft the stream of not-quite-obscene invective to describe how little I care what they think,or how little I think of people who care so much what other people believe. I care what they are likely to do.

            For reasons I and others have already explained, the actions of the people with the power to actually do anything in Alabama, are much more consistent with a plan to ride a tide of perpetual outrage to perpetual electoral victory, than to actually end the (to their constituents) outrageous circumstances that enable this strategy.

            They’re professional politicians. They sincerely support and oppose many things, but they support one thing above all things, and that’s got nothing to do with abortion.

          • Brad says:

            What are polls, not to mention duly enacted laws, in comparison to very vigorous assertions backed up by nothing but speculation? A plausible story does not evidence make.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            What the politicians will do greatly depends on how people will vote, which depends on the voters’ beliefs (among other things).

            I’m sympathetic to the idea that on the margin some voters will change their minds. But the core of voters in Republican primaries seem unlikely to change, and the “persuadable” general election voter seem unlikely to vote for Democrats on the single issue of abortion. On the margin it may make some difference, but the entire party is not going to turn on a dime on this issue.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “…..what’s are the biggest things gaps in perception/attitudes/assumptions between the college going and not that you are aware of?”

            @HeelBearCub

             “…I’m not sure you can provide much insight here, as I don’t think you have indicated much of an interest in religion (which tends to be a driver of expressing these beliefs). But, I’m interested in you take on this”

            Well, since other than my wife I don’t often have face-to-face conversations with college graduates I’ll have to mostly guess and go by what my wife says about her friends as far as college graduates go, and except for one extremely strong women I worked with who was fiercely anti-taxes, and a couple of ladies I precinct walked with I just haven’t talked much politics with any women other than my wife these past few decades, so my impressions are largely of the guys I’ve worked with as a union construction worker for just over a decade, and then as a city worker for just under a decade. 

            Most of the guys I’ve known who came from “Red States” who talked politics at all have been mostly Democrats and mostly black, but most of those who I’ve worked with who drove in from “Red” counties who’ve talked politics have indeed been Republicans (sometimes I play a game in which I ask some unrelated questions, and how many miles a new co-workers commute is, and then I guess how they vote, usually I’m told I’m right).

            The loudest guy on most jobsites is usually a Republican (and often the foreman), and the exception is one guy on the job who is so left that he regards the Democrats as right-wing, but that’s rare.

            Most of my co-workers are silent when it comes to politics, or they vote the way are union tells us (usually for Democrats), because “pro-union”.

            On initiatives there’s more push back, repealing gas taxes is popular. 

            When they are political arguments they tend to be age segregated, grey hairs don’t argue with youngsters, and vice versa. The loudest political “debate” I’ve seen at work was between a pro-gun Republican, and an anti-war Democrat (this was during the Bush administration), and both were grey hairs.

            Most guys I’ve known just say “I stay out of it” when it comes to politics, those who were Democrats, usually just cited “pro-union” and left it at that, but those who were anti-Democratic Party had a variety of reasons. 

            Those who were vocally anti-abortion were indeed religious and, judging by how many kids they had, they “walked the talk” (one guy memorable said “God’s law is God’s law”), and just letting individual States decide was not their goal, they were quite clear that they felt abortion was murder, but they are a minority of my co-workers. 

            More commonly anti-tax sentiments have been cited (often by cops!) even by guys who’s salaries are directly from taxes, or who are working on building libraries snd schools for contractors. 

            N.R.A. members are often vocal, as are those who are against “welfare”, often a story of an immigrant “with food stamps, driving an expensive car” has been cited.

            One memorable new apprentice young man (who seemed Hellbent on getting injured, judging by how much he insisted on lifting by himself) engaged me by telling some story which I’d never heard of, and when I asked him where he heard that told me “You wouldn’t hear that from reading your communist newspaper”, and when I asked him “What communist newspaper?”, revealed that he meant the San Francisco Chronicle, which he based on a “Lesbian artist” that the Hearst had hired for some party, a story he heard from talk radio!!!???

            I’d say on the bigger jobs I’ve been on (hundreds of men in other trades, with about 40 being plumbers or steamfitters), usulg most never discuss politics, a dozen out of the pipe trades will be mildly pro-Democrat, a couple to a half-dozen will be loudly right-wing (and those citing abortion will just be one or two guys, more will cite taxes and guns) and no more than two will be loudly left-wing.

            Among my wife’s acquaintances, while she is anti-Trump, she tells me that most are “Too PC” and “Environmental”, so it seems among college graduates leftists are the loudest voices, so there’s the difference.

            My wages come from taxes, and I give those wages to my wife and she pays the taxes, between us I’m to the left of her, and I’m white male without a college degree, she isn’t white, and does have a diploma, but before Trump she was more likely to vote Republican (yes we’re an odd couple, it was similar musical tastes that brought us together), so we both are the opposite of what the demographics predict, but our acquaintances seem to more closely match what demographics predict.

          • @cassander

            If those positions suddenly had real consequences, the more moderate pro-lifers would fall away, not becoming pro-choice, but endorsing less absolutist pro-life opinions, and you’d get some more moderate settlement. You’d see restrictions on later abortions, requiring counseling, things like that, not total bans.

            This is what you said. If you think that Alabamans would strike up a settlement where anyone could get an early term abortion as long as they did counseling, then they don’t really care about abortion in the same way that those who say they care about the national debt and then legislate spending increases don’t actually care about the debt. I don’t see a distinction between that and them not really being pro-life. And I still don’t see why you think it matters.

          • cassander says:

            @wrongspecies

            This is what you said. If you think that Alabamans would strike up a settlement where anyone could get an early term abortion as long as they did counseling, then they don’t really care about abortion in the same way that those who say they care about the national debt and then legislate spending increases don’t actually care about the debt. I don’t see a distinction between that and them not really being pro-life. And I still don’t see why you think it matters.

            For the last time, I am NOT saying that they don’t care about abortion, or about any of those other subjects (I also have never mentioned the debt). I am saying they care about all of those things, and many others, and that lots of those cares are mutually incompatible. They believe that abortion is murder, but they also believe that the victims of rapists shouldn’t have to bear the children of their rapists. These contradictions exist in most areas of policy most of the time, all over the political spectrum, and are not resolved until people are forced to choose between them. This is especially the case for abortion, because its unusual legal status permits a greater degree of symbolic politics than for most other issues.

            In the unlikely event that roe went away, that would cease to be the case. abortion politics would no longer be almost entirely symbolic. People would be confronted with choices that had significant consequences, and would be forced to resolve their mutually contradictory beliefs. that resolution result in settlements that are considerably more pro-life than the status quo, but which would rarely if ever result in total bans, because only a minority of people actually adhere to that extreme position, even if you take issue polling at face value, which you shouldn’t, on almost any subject.

            And again, this is not an exceptional claim. It happens on dozens of policy issues. People are for medicare for all, but not for the taxes needed to pay for it. They’re for “no person is illegal”, but not for open borders. They’re for lower federal spending, but not for cutting spending on health, education, the military, the elderly, or anything else besides foreign aid. And we should expect nothing different, given the staggering amount of ignorance the average person has about policy and the extreme haphazardness which with most political opinions are acquired.

            You need to stop assuming that your outgroup is a homogenous block, stop acting like I’m making unique or exceptional claims when I say things like “voters often have mutually contradictory policy preferences”, and stop imputing arguments to me that I’ve never made.

        • John Schilling says:

          In that case, do you think those state legislators would scramble to overturn their own anti-abortion laws? Why would they do that?

          Because they want to win elections, and they can’t do that by actually banning abortion outright when even in the deepest red states most people privately want early abortion to be available in case of rape, incest, or serious threat to maternal health.

          But actually overturning their own laws would mean admitting they miscalculated, which while true is also not an optimal election-winning strategy. Pragmatically, I expect they would keep the laws, but tell their attorneys general to never question any doctor’s claims that his mifepristone prescriptions are all for acute Cushing’s syndrome, and to publicly denounce but privately cheer Planned Parenthood and Uber when they set up a free ride-sharing service to abortion clinics in the nearest town of the next state.

          Mostly, they’re betting on SCOTUS not flat-out renouncing Roe, and crafting their laws such that nothing less than a flat-out renunciation of Roe would let them take effect.

          • most people privately want early abortion to be available in case of rape, incest, or serious threat to maternal health.

            These are non central examples of abortion. You may be right, but the subject is on the general idea of abortion idea being legal, not the edge cases.

            In a state like Alabama, 58% of the population wants abortion to be illegal in most or all circumstances compared to 37% saying the opposite.. So clearly, a majority does want it illegal and a cynical state official would do so. No one is under any illusions about what would happen if abortion became illegal so I´m not sure why you think their opinions would flip over night. On what basis do you assume that would happen?

            It happens all the time that people will limit their own freedom to do certain things for their own values. Alcohol prohibition probably seemed ridiculous in the early 20th century and yet it happened by a constitutional amendment across all the states. We’re just talking about a few states here.

          • John Schilling says:

            These are non central examples of abortion. You may be right, but the subject is on the general idea of abortion idea being legal, not the edge cases.

            If your goal is to discern whether someone is trying to take effective action to implement their beliefs or just trying to signal virtue and channel outrage with them, it’s the non-central examples that make the distinction. People who want to take effective action, try to steer clear of edge cases that would raise ugly controversies costing them support or crossing the bounds of SCOTUS’s tolerance. Like, say, human interest stories about telegenic rape victims shackled to the delivery-room bed and forced to give birth to their rapists’ sons. People who are just trying to signal, can’t waste bandwidth on nuance and know that the telegenic rape victim is never actually going to be shackled to the bed.

          • I’m agnostic on whether Alabamans would make exceptions for rape and women’s health. If you think that’s what matters, then whatever, I’ll concede the point for the sake of argument. But HeelbearCub was talking about the real consequences of Roe vs Wade appeal, and 95% of abortion cases are not that. Our point is that some states would easily ban the majority of abortions. That’s what I’m arguing for.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It seems reasonable that there are a good many women who can’t afford extended travel and days off (especially if a second doctor’s visit is required). Why is it implausible that restrictions on the availability on abortion would lead to some women not being able to get abortions?

          • John Schilling says:

            Not having an abortion is almost certainly going to result in a whole lot more days off than having an abortion, very predictably and real soon.

            It is certainly plausible that, faced with that choice, some women will choose poorly. But there’s only so much you can do to fix people’s bad decisions for them, and I think you get most of the way there with education and support short of having Qwik-E-Abort clinics in every town in the union.

            As a technophile, I’d go with online one-click shopping for RU-486, same-day drone delivery, but that’s probably not practical quite yet.

          • albatross11 says:

            You could also imagine a kind of poverty trap thing happening, where you couldn’t come up with $X for an abortion now so you’d have to just accept the much higher costs of a baby later.

            But it’s important to remember that what we’re talking about in a post-Roe world is probably having abortions go from costing like a couple hundred dollars and taking a day to costing five hundred and taking three days.

            If you think abortion is a right that every woman should have, you’re not going to like that. But it’s not actually the same thing as “nobody in Alabama will be able to get an abortion.”

            If you think abortion is murder, you’re also not going to like that–you’d like it to be made impossible instead of a little more expensive and a little more of a hassle. But there’s no way to forbid Alabamans from traveling to other states, and (almost certainly) no way to prosecute them in Alabama for things they did legally in Illinois or Florida or wherever.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, how is it your business to decide whether a woman with extremely marginal resources should have a baby she doesn’t want?

          • John Schilling says:

            You were in your last post talking about “women not being able to get abortions”; that’s only relevant if we are talking about women who have already made the decision and are concerned with carrying it out. The women who decide they will keep their babies even if they could get abortions without cost or effort, have already opted out of this discussion.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            How is it your business to decide whether a woman with extremely marginal resources should keep alive a baby she doesn’t want?

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I think:

      a. There are a substantial number of Republicans (mostly rank-and-file [edited]but some leaders) who want to either ban abortion entirely or restrict it substantially.

      b. There are a substantial number of Republicans (mostly leaders but also some rank-and-file) who don’t really care all that much about abortion, but find it a handy issue for getting out the vote/getting campaign volunteers.

      I also think that there are many states where the current political landscape rewards passive very restrictive anti-abortion laws, and where, in a post-Roe-v-Wade-repeal world, the landscape will change dramatically as those laws start actually affecting people who currently are ignoring the issue.

      On the other hand, I also think that returning the issue to the states will lead to de facto legal abortion everywhere, just with an extra $200 for a bus ticket and a night in the Motel 6 if you’re in a very red state.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Just like marijuana is currently legal in Alabama?

        • albatross11 says:

          Just like divorces being legal in Nevada turned out to mean that anyone could get a divorce if they had the money to travel.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, do you predict that divorce rates stay the same after a state makes divorces legal, or do they increase?

            Saying “oh, it’s no big deal. You can get an abortion somewhere. Whatever, who cares” is callous and ignores marginal effects.

            Outside of medical necessity, the people who most need to end an unplanned pregnancy are those who will be most impacted by barriers like “$200 in travel plus 2 nights out of town”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just what I said–I think that banning abortions in Alabama will make abortions somewhat more rare because they’re harder to get, but that in practice, it will be possible to get an abortion via taking a bus to the nearest blue state.

            This may be callous, but it’s still true. That doesn’t mean it’s no big deal–it’s a big deal in both directions. Fewer women getting abortions is exactly what the pro-life side is trying to get to; women who want abortions finding them too hard to get is exactly what the pro-choice side is worried about.

            I suspect that the fact that abortion will be available to people willing / able to travel will decrease the pressure to un-ban it in a lot of states–the sort of people who organize politically are also the sort of people who can manage a few hundred bucks to handle a medical emergency, even if that involves traveling to another state. I also expect that some pro-choice groups will come up with ways to fund that travel if it’s necessary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Fewer women getting abortions is exactly what the pro-life side is trying to get to

            Technically, but not really true, but that’s a different conversation. They don’t actually support the most effective means of reducing abortions.

            As to how much of a burden $200 is and how travel abortions will be available if people “need” them, I think this is far too glib. Some people will have access, but the people who end up not having access will absolutely exist. Magically assuming that private charity will fill the need is poor reasoning. Some charity will exist, but it can hardly be assume to cover all need.

          • albatross11 says:

            Can we maybe not do the debate again where we argue over whether pro-life people *really* oppose abortion when they’re not willing to do the policies you think they should favor to decrease abortions, while leaving them legal? The next person not already on your side who is convinced by that argument will be the first.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            I wasn’t saying that that pro-lifers aren’t opposed to abortion. That’s my main thesis, that pro-lifers really are adamantly opposed to abortion and people saying they aren’t are fooling themselves. They don’t want to reduce abortion they want to eliminate it.

            But discussing the difference is a whole different conversation (as I said before) and I agree it may not be germane. Although, to the extent that legislators and citizens are genuinely pro-life, it may have bearing on the conversation.

        • cassander says:

          Last I checked, no one in alabama had much trouble getting weed if they wanted it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Last I checked, people still risk getting thrown in jail over it, too.

            It’s not “oh, it’s legal in CO, I’ll just go there”.

          • cassander says:

            people risk (a very small risk, tbs) getting thrown in jail for possession. Not for driving over the border and smoking over there. And since you can’t possess an abortion….

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            If someone kidnaps someone in Alabama, and then murders them in Colorado, Alabama will prosecute the kidnapping (as murder.) That kind of charge will get brought.

            Regardless, weed ain’t legal in Alabama, and neither will abortion be.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearCub:

            I think most people who smoke weed do it a lot more often than they get abortions, so the comparison doesn’t seem all that apt.

            [ETA] Are you predicting that Alabama will try to bring murder charges against women who go out of state for abortions? I assume that wouldn’t survive a court challenge, but I don’t really know that for sure.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            If someone kidnaps someone in Alabama, and then murders them in Colorado, Alabama will prosecute the kidnapping (as murder.) That kind of charge will get brought.

            That sort of charge will be brought and dismissed. heath V alabama was about someone who did something illegal in two seperate states, not someone who did something legal in one state (leaving it with their baby) and then something legal in the other state (aborting the baby). Alabama has no power to prevent people from leaving alabama, and no power to prosecute people who committed crimes entirely in other states.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            They were prosecuted in Alabam, and received the death penalty, for a murder (under Alabama law) that occurred in another state. There is no direct correlary to a situation where murder is legal in another state.

            I’d say it’s untested.

          • theredsheep says:

            Possibly relevant: drug-induced abortions are pretty straightforward, and most of the drugs used have other, non-abortion uses. For example, misoprostol is used to keep patients on NSAIDs from getting ulcers, while methotrexate is used to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. Mifepristone has another use too, can’t recall what. It probably wouldn’t be all that hard to sneak medical abortions even in-state, let alone through the mail.

    • Walter says:

      I feel like Scott wrote a ‘there isn’t a secret level where pro lifers are about anything other than stopping abortion’ post back in the day, right? Anyone who didn’t see this coming is just not paying any attention.

    • J Mann says:

      Alabama passed a personhood amendment that defines fetuses as persons (and therefore would outlaw abortion completely)

      HBC, just a quick technical correction. Alabama Issue 2 isn’t a fetal personhood amendment and wouldn’t outlaw abortion. It authorizes the legislature to outlaw abortion, though, so I don’t think it changes your overall point much. (But technically correct is the best kind of correct).

      The text of the Amendment states:

      Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended; to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.

      Nothing in that statute states that fetuses are considered persons under existing law, and all the local coverage I’ve seen analyzes it as clearing the way for the legislature to enact fetal personhood if Roe v. Wade is repealed, not as enacting fetal personhood directly.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful

        I guess it’s up the Alabama Supreme Court to ultimately decide what this means. But given that they are further specifically constrained from ruling that there is a right to abortion, it seems hard to see how they can say that abortion does not impinge on the fetuses right to life.

        If you have some other legal opinion to link, I’ll happily read it.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I mean, the compelling interest argument in Casey may well still hold. Like all common-law arguments, that depends on a great many things, though.

    • albertborrow says:

      SCOTUS generally doesn’t overturn it’s own decisions. This is because the principle of Judicial Review is enforced entirely by precedent and is not a constitutional power – if it started flip-flopping on its important cases, the system would slowly fall apart. There are a few notable examples of the Supreme Court doing this anyway, which puts it within the realm of possibility, but I wouldn’t call it probable. They need to:

      a) At least maintain the pretense of neutrality.
      b) Have someone with a legitimate grievance with the law as it currently is. What exactly would that look like?
      c) Keep in line with the various other rulings that might tangentially intersect with the case.

      Personally, I wouldn’t put any money on it being overturned.

      • Dack says:

        b) Have someone with a legitimate grievance with the law as it currently is. What exactly would that look like?

        A nonconsenting father?

        • acymetric says:

          That could work, but isn’t necessary. A personally disinterested but politically inclined DA attempting to prosecute the recipient of an abortion for murder (or would they prosecute the doctor?) would do the trick.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s probably pretty hard for a state prosecutor in Utah to prosecute a doctor in California for carrying out an abortion in California on a woman who lives in Utah. I can’t imagine that working.

      • synecdoche says:

        I also wouldn’t bet that SCOTUS will overturn Roe, but SCOTUS has explicitly recognized that the principle of stare decisis has less weight in matters of Constitutional law. This is long-settled. See, e.g., the discussion in Seminole Tribe v. Florida. (“Our willingness to reconsider our earlier decisions has been “particularly true in constitutional cases, because in such cases ‘correction through legislative action is practically impossible.’ ” [citations omitted]).

        SCOTUS is unlikely to overturn Roe v. Wade because of policy reasons, not stare decisis.

    • Plumber says:

      I care about other States voter suppression efforts, but banning abortions?

      If There-be-Dragons, Alabama wants to ban abortions and have public school prayers for the ghost of Jefferson Davis and Moloch they can, there’s almost a whole continent between them and me, I’m much closer to both Canada and Mexico than I am to “back east”.

      I care about how their votes effect the Federal government, and how that effects me, but what they do as part of their self-government?

      That’s their business.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Alabama passed a personhood amendment that defines fetuses as persons (and therefore would outlaw abortion completely).

      I would assume you’d at least have exceptions for life of the mother. We do allow, to varying degrees – mostly for LEOs, killing people to save others when there is no other option, after all.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      So, like, what are your actual predictions here?

      What do you think the probability of the current SC (including Kavanaugh) straight up overturning Roe and Casey is?

      What do you think the probability of Trump seating a SC that will overturn Roe and Casey is?

      Contingent on Roe and Casey being overturned, what kind of diminishment in the abortion rate are you expecting to see?

  22. dndnrsn says:

    RPG thread: how do you handle experience?

    This is twofold: how does your preferred game/do your preferred games handle characters getting better at the stuff they do? How do you apply discretion, house rules, etc to that?

    I’ve been running a D&D retroclone, and I’ve found myself giving the entire party monster XP for killing the monsters, running them off/securing their surrender, or dealing with them nonviolently if there’s a clear and present danger (if the PCs prevent something bad from happening that otherwise would have happened). This results in significantly higher XP gain than rules as written, but otherwise it’s extremely slow: gamers raised on modern stuff would, I think, react badly to “and the party killed the dragon. That’s 500xp each! You level in another 30,000 by the way.”I also give XP for treasure, 1 XP for 1 gp, secured when the treasure is liquidated, the PCs haul the gold to somewhere safe, etc. Money earned from mercantile ventures, investment, etc is adjusted by level, usually to the point of not getting any XP for that, in order to prevent the PCs from just turning mercantile activity into free XP.

    I like Call of Cthulhu‘s approach – you gain skills by using them (if you succeed at a skill, at the end of the session roll it, if you fail, you gain points) but it has the problem that it only works for games where skills are the only things you improve at, and it can feel really annoying to do the rolling at the end of the session and not get anything. Delta Green has you gain 1 point to everything you failed at at the end of a session, but this is very slow. Both have the problem that they encourage players to try to use as many skills as possible, which can get silly. I ended up just ruling that you got to spend points based on Intelligence at the end of each session on skills you had used, with a cap based on the skill’s rating: the idea was that past a certain point you don’t get more points just for using more skills, and skills that are high don’t get weirdly high boosts.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I don’t like character growth.

      Well, that’s not true; what I really don’t like are levels. Games in which you get marginally better at doing things avoid the tone change and balance problems of D&D fairly well IMO, and as such I much prefer them. Call of Cthulhu is great, and I like skill-based systems for a reason. Games that allow you to save “experience points” to buy individual abilities or boost stats work well too (as long as they avoid the number bloating of D20). As far as I’m concerned, the actual method by which these points are accrued or rewarded doesn’t really matter, though I have a preference for it being trackable by the players. One less thing on my plate, and makes them feel more in control of the game.

      Re: your point on Call of Cthulhu, I always tell players what skill they should roll. I allow them to make suggestions, but unless they can tell me what they’re trying to accomplish, I won’t let them try random shit.

    • J Mann says:

      I like milestones with occasional bonuses for exceptional solutions. I run prepared modules, but even if I didn’t, I think that gold and achieving their characters’ goals would keep my players motivated, and that leveling them every 2-4 sessions as called for by the narrative works better than having to adjust things to plan for their level

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        In my experience, any faster than every 4 sessions is too fast to be fun. Though there’s also an exception for D&D’s first two level-ups, which by Old School rules should only take 2 sessions each (2->3 is actually the fastest of all unless your players are so risk-averse they choose to just grind the same challenges as Level 1, since the XP to gain each of the first two is the same while the PCs become 1.5-2x tougher), and in 5E the XP thresholds are so low that you can go from 1-3 in the course of two combats.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Running a retroclone without dividing monster XP (which doesn’t necessitate killingt them) and giving out xp for treasure there’s probably an average of a level up every 3-4 sessions. Dividing the monster XP seems like it would cut that to more like 1 every 10-15.

          In 5th ed I think the idea is that for most classes the first couple levels are basically training wheels, and you choose an archetype at 3rd. The pure casters choose the equivalent at first, but I imagine the intent is that more experienced players will tend to take those. One of the things that’s great about the more retro versions of D&D is that you can just have the new guy (or the guy who doesn’t like rules) roll up a fighter, as opposed to the 3rd ed way of doing it, where telling a newbie player to be the guy who hits things with a different thing requires a veteran player to sit them down and explain what feats are good.

    • WashedOut says:

      Assuming you include videogames under your RPG definition…

      I like high-risk accumulation of a certain type of in-game asset to convert to XP later, so that what you actually accrue is more like “potential XP”. This is the mechanic used in the Dark Souls / Bloodborne games, which are among the best modern games ever made (in my humble but informed opinion).

      If you lose your stack of accrued souls due to death whilst exploring, you have one chance to get them back by returning to the location you died, ideally having learned something the 2nd time round. If you fail again they are gone forever. This encourages planning and forethought, and works well in these games because your ability to succeed is less level-dependent and more skill-dependent.

    • John Schilling says:

      RPG thread: how do you handle experience?

      Ideally, by using a GURPS or CoC-style skill development system and feeling smugly superior to anyone using such ridiculous antiquated concepts as “levels” and “XP”. Relatively slow development of discrete skills and maybe attributes, as they are actually exercised in the game. Awarded for overcoming challenges by degree of difficulty and without favoring any one type of solution over another – but if you fast-talk your way past a band of Orcs, you get to increase whatever passes for a fast-talk skill in that system rather than your combat aptitude.

      Practically, if I can get an RPG group together it’s probably going to be Pathfinder or 3.5e for the network effects discussed last open thread – I don’t think my gaming club has used any other RPG system in the past decade. In that case, I’m stuck with XP and levels, but I would prefer to house-rule that Monster and Trap XP are one-quarter book value. Along with a roughly similar amount from campaign objectives (including “per-episode” awards), for advancement at half the per-book rate.

      In either case, minor awards for role-playing as a way to encourage good role-playing are a reasonable idea, but they should never dominate. Skill development through down-time training should also be a minor thing – it is realistic that there should be some, and there are contexts (San Francisco to Shanghai by steamship in 1920s CoC, and just what are you doing for that month?) where you want a rule for it, but you don’t want the game to be dominated by the spreadsheet of what your characters do when they aren’t adventuring. Plus, most of the relevant skills you really do need to practice on the job.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I used to think D&D sucked, and that gaining levels was dumb, but it does let you go from zero to hero in a way that a lot of players like – it’s hard to have stuff like HP increase significantly without levels. The XP/level system also seems to make people excited about improving, rather than a slow grind. I wouldn’t use an XP/level system for something like CoC (that’s the major reason why the d20 CoC was less than satisfying) but it’s good if you want to go from fighting goblins who have stolen a farmer’s pig to punching demons in the face.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          it does let you go from zero to hero in a way that a lot of players like

          This is true, but IME it does it with a ruleset that makes most of the game’s content useless. I think that at each level bucket the challenges presented by the rules are completely different.

          At low levels, the challenges are surviving crits, hitting DCs, and managing resources. A character that can take 10 on a common check and succeed is great. A wand of Cure Light Wounds is insanely useful. Players are incentivized to focus-spend skill points and invest in equipment. Spells are few and far between.

          At mid levels, the challenges are meeting scaling bonuses in fair fights. A character that can hit or save on a 5 is great. A +3 sword is insanely useful. Players are incentivized to boost their strengths to a hyper-consistent level and cover up their deficiencies with magic items or spells. Spells are commonly used to hit challenging skill checks, and nobody without magic items for it will ever attempt to hit someone.

          At high levels, the challenge is winning the initiative roll. A character that fails a skill check on a 1 should not be using that skill. A stat or save not bolstered by a magic item is a weak point, and the GM is only likely to be able to challenge the players by exploiting this fact. Players have things they can almost always succeed at and things they almost never do.

          I blame D20 scaling for all of the above, and despise it. 5e’s bounded stats offer only a modest improvement.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Leveling up is great for taking characters from fighting kobolds to fighting demon lords. This is, after all, the reason you have a bestiary that includes every dangerous animal and supernatural creature the author could think of.
            However, you’re right that d20 implemented this in a way worthy of contempt.

          • dndnrsn says:

            d20 scaling worked pretty well for “heroic” characters being in the 5-9 range, but it ran into the problem that a lot of people think heroic is 10-15 or 15-20 or thereabouts. Previous editions had usually had some kind of “choke” on HP and saves and so on past a certain point, there hadn’t been skills (or they’d been linked directly to stats), etc.

            d20 introduced some really good things to D&D, but it also shoved some time bombs in there.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I like Call of Cthulhu‘s approach – you gain skills by using them (if you succeed at a skill, at the end of the session roll it, if you fail, you gain points) but it has the problem that it only works for games where skills are the only things you improve at,

      I’m not up on my hobby history; was Runequest the first RPG to take D&D’s percentile Thief skills and make % to succeed on skills the thing you improve at, eliminating hit dice and Vancian spell progression? It predated CoC by 3 years at the same publisher.

      • Plumber says:

        I haven’t played either since the 1980’s, but 1977 Traveller had a skill system, but it wasn’t percentile like 1978 RuneQuest, and I really don’t remember a method of improving skills after character creation in Traveller.

        RuneQuest was a lot like Call of Cthullu, the sort-of D&D based rules were very intuitive and felt more “realistic” than D&D.

        At the gaming Forums, I have often seen requests for what people (who usually know 3e/4e/5e D&D) want out of a game, and they usually seem to want 1981 Champions, or RuneQuest.

        Both RuneQuest and Traveller were great games (as was ’70’s rules D&D), and I miss them.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Traveller is alive and kicking, although Mongoose has fractured the community with its latest money-grubbing antics. Cephus Engine is the preferred version for people who don’t want to shill out for multiple rulebooks, and is free IIRC.

          RuneQuest is doing even better, with Chaosium publishing the latest edition and The Design Mechanism publishing Mythras, which arose out of RQ6.

          Honestly, it’s the best time to play either system that it’s been in the last decade or more.

          • Plumber says:

            Yeah, I did a (very) short review of the new RuneQuest rulebook and I’ve little doubt that right now is a golden age in terms of what’s available, but free-time and friends are in short supply so my game playing days are gone.

      • Protagoras says:

        Tunnels and Trolls did not have Vancian spells and was 1975, but it didn’t have skills that increased individually, and neither did Traveller as Plumber notes. I don’t really know what Empire of the Petal Throne was like, but my vague memory is that it was similar to D&D. Same for Chivalry and Sorcery, though I believe it did have the non-Vancian magic. I’m not sure Metamorphosis Alpha had character progression at all (again, some games of the time didn’t, as Plumber mentioned for Traveller). There were really only a tiny number of RPGs before 1978; consulting my memory, Peterson’s Playing at the World, and a bit of searching has not turned up any from that period that seem to have had improvement via progression of individual skills. So, yes, Runequest was probably first to do that.

        • dndnrsn says:

          According to Designers and Dragons (I think) Metamorphosis Alpha didn’t have character progression.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m not a fan of the D&D system of tying experience to each monster killed. In the parties I have seen, it leads to the players treating the sword as the only answer to everything.

      I think the best system I’ve seen is in an old system called Star Frontiers. After each stage of the adventure, each player got 1-3 experience points; 1 if they really screwed up, 2 for ordinary play, or 3 for doing something really clever or interesting.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        The funny thing – and I know it took me decades to understand this; starting with 2ed didn’t help – is that D&D wasn’t originally intended to have killing monsters be the chief mechanic for earning experience. The main source of experience was getting treasure.

        In the TSR days, at least, the experience earned for overcoming (not necessarily killing) monsters was a pittance compared to the amounts needed to level up (a 1HD monster might be worth 5-15xp, depending on edition/monster, whilst a character might need between 1200-4000xp to get from level 1 to 2). Levelling up just by killing monsters was pretty much a no-go.

        The sensible way to level up in old-school D&D is to get the maximum amount of loot out with the minimum amount of fuss. Rather than fight monsters, you want to evade them, talk to them, scare them off, whatever. For the DM, it might even make sense to award monster xp in these situations, because it won’t really swing matters too much in the players’ favour. It is, I find, one of the easiest ways to convince players that the sword isn’t the answer to everything (they still get xp if it stays sheathed).

    • bean says:

      I prefer to use GURPS. 3-5 points every few sessions means that you get useful character growth without the insanely fast progression of D&D.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Do (dis)advantages start at 5 points, or at 1? Because 3-5 sounds rather substantial for every session.

        • bean says:

          5 points is a small but notable advantage/disadvantage, and 4 is an extra rank in a skill you’re good at. 1 point is a perk/quirk, which has very minimal gameplay impact, or a level in a new skill. 5 points/session is slightly fast, but probably still slower than D&D.

    • Walter says:

      I don’t like tracking experience points. What people care about is when they level, so I just track that.

      In my usual D&D games I give levels after playing sessions equal to your current level. So you start at level 1, after one session you level to 2. After 2 more you become level 3, then it will be 3 more before you hit level 4.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Seconded. Granting exp often leads to perverse incentives and bad blood when the fools split the party and so wind up with varying amounts. Giving whole levels or skill points or whatever is better.

        (Tangent warning) It wouldn’t work for things like Adventurer’s League but IMHO AL already doesn’t work well and carrying characters across campaigns is generally a bad idea (the even worse case – directly bringing a character from one player group to another – is an abomination). I think of league play as D&D 5e’s http://www.sullla.com/Civ5/whatwentwrong.html – a well-meaning objective that bends and perverts the entire system around it. In both games the effect is to make it – development in particular – feel stunted, shallow, and sterile.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My experience has been that doing “per session” XP grants, points that can be spent, etc can mess up the incentives. If, hypothetically, players will get the same XP whether they go into a hole in the ground for the whole session or spend half of it haggling over the price of rope, a lot of players will take the safer route to XP.

          • Walter says:

            I’m kind of ok with that? Like, I’m not ‘defending’ the higher levels or something. I want the players to have them. They like leveling up, and I like it when they are happy.

            As far as haggling with rope merchants goes… I mean, the game is gonna challenge you, whatever goes on. You can’t really hide from the plot, you know?

          • Nornagest says:

            You get a level, but you have to spend it on a dip in “rope merchant”.

          • Randy M says:

            You can’t really hide from the plot, you know?

            dndrsn is twitching and hearing a train whistle bearing down in the distance…

            But, to back up dndrsn [on xp rewards], players will often play to win rather than play to have fun. So it is to everyone’s advantage if the rewards match up what you and they want to see happen.

            You might think this is less true in an RPG where everyone is less competitive, but if they are emotionally attached to a character, they may take the safe route even though they would get more satisfaction from being bold and heroic.

            It’s also a way of communicating your expectations for the tone of the game. You could give bonus experience for making you laugh–your’re going to have a zany, irreverent game night. Or you could only give XP to whoever deals the killing blow–your players will favor combat and compete with each other. Or only give experience when they are publicly commended for brave deeds. They will want to be active, and be braggarts–kind of like real knights seeking glory.

          • Walter says:

            Eh, again.

            Like, folks against ‘railroading’ are totes welcome to show me their perfect sandbox campaigns. Then they can watch the players deep dive on a rope merchant and ignore 98% of it and tell me how great simulationism is.

            I read dudes article. I also read about the games he ran. He railroads as much as anyone else.

            Every DM railroads. It is the fundamental skill of the trade. You are doing the work of a full sensorium with just some words. You are representing an entire universe worth of stuff with just a few campaign notes and an active imagination. You make up for this lack of anything substantial by gesturing at a lot of stuff that isn’t real.

            If they decide not to go to the Dungeon Of Doom, that’s fine. Don’t have uber NPCs show up and bully them around. Only a hack lets the pcs see the tracks. But the Other Dungeon is just the Dungeon Of DOom with the serial numbers filed off. If they abstain from dungeons entirely, then the corrupt watch’s station that they bust into may bear a striking resemblance to all those tombs they never crawled. I don’t do more work than I gotta.

            Like, conservation of narrative weight or whatever. Railroading is a dirty word, but the concept is absolutely critical to telling a story with a group of collaborators.

            Dunking on dude aside, like, in a good game with friends rope merchant haggling can be just as much fun as tossing dice. You gotta kind of feel the party’s mood, and push plot or step back as the situation requires. It is not something you can hard and fast about.

            Hrrngh, I was off topic there. My point is that tracking exp is like tracking encumbrance. You don’t get enough fun back to make up for the effort invested. I don’t bother with it. Players like advancing. I like them showing up and playing. The X session for X level formula is just my take on it, I imagine other DM’s have their own version.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate here. Last time we played, I gave out 5 XP per night and let them level up after 10 XP. Worked fine.
            I mentioned that “2 XP is for solving the mystery, 3 is for that fight at the end” and such, but the rate was consistent and it was fine.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Walter

            I assume you’re talking about Justin Alexander’s article? I haven’t read any of his descriptions of his games (I find reading about other people’s games to be profoundly boring except as illustrative examples); what makes you think he railroads, though?

            In a sandbox, I find the key is to toss a bunch of things the PCs might want to do out there, then ask them what they want to do, then prep that. While prepping that, I do my best to avoid thinking “this is the way it should go.” If going into the Dungeon of Doom is the point of the adventure, then the PCs should end up doing that one way or another – the King just told them “good knights, please deal with the Dungeon of Doom” and presumably the GM sold the players on the campaign concept of “you are servants of the king and he will send you on missions.”

            But: railroading isn’t so much “we’re doing the Dungeon of Doom you guys” as “the PCs will go to the Dungeon of Doom, and there they will discover that the dark wizard Mordrake is really just misunderstood, having been betrayed by his twin brother, who is in fact the King. They will side with Baron Mordrake in his war against the King, and…” Have you ever played in a really railroaded campaign? It’s not “a story with a group of collaborators” so much as it’s getting told a story. I played in a heavily railroaded campaign with an increasingly-less-newbie GM, and it became increasingly obvious that the only way we were collaborating was in stuff that had no actual bearing on the story he was telling us. The dice didn’t even get a say; the rules shifted to whatever would move the story along and he was clearly fudging dice. As the campaign went on, he was railroading more and more, as he got more and more attached to telling us a story; we got less and less collaborative input. By the end we pretty much automatically succeeded on things he wanted us to do; things he didn’t want us to do were flatly impossible. By the end of it, we were phoning it in: a good plan or a bad plan mattered far less than whether what the plan was for served the plot or not, so why bother coming up with a good plan? Now, this is an extreme example. I’ve run several published campaigns which required railroading (and I usually edited them to reduce the amount I’d have to do). It was still frustrating for both me and the players; it’s a lot easier to see the tracks than most people think.

            I’ve been running a sandbox game that’s followed completely unpredictable paths, because most of what’s happening is determined by some random tables and whatever the players are doing. It’s a lot easier for me to prep and run – both in terms of effort on my part and mental energy during the game – than more story-based stuff. There is no plot to find the players; the story only exists in retrospect. It’s not an approach I would use for everything, but the only story-based campaign I’d run again is Masks of Nyarlathotep, because it’s structured in such a way that very, very little railroading is required; a GM would have to want to railroad it to do so.

            My players like tracking XP; I think a lot of people do. Way more fun than tracking encumbrance: the numbers, ideally, only go up, and if they go down, that happens infrequently. If I was going to do another story-based game using D&D rules, I’d probably do something like what you propose, or give a level after every time some sort of climax is reached, but that would be within a story structure that everyone has signed off on. In a game where the PCs are driving themselves something has to motivate them to drive.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      In the BECMI game I’m currently running, I handle monster xp pretty much the same way: for overcoming adversity, not necessarily killing. The approach is possibly best illustrated by example:

      During the last session the party encountered three hobgoblins, killed two, one ran away. I chose to award xp for all three of them, given that the one that ran off is no longer an obstacle to the party’s goal – freeing the hobgoblins’ prisoners.

      Later on in the session, a scouting group encountered 10 kobolds who were in the middle of propping up the ceiling in the cave they were digging out. The scouts were spotted which led to the support slipping from the kobolds’ grasp and a possible collapse. The adventure anticipated the kobolds calling on the PCs for help – and attacking them when they were busy shoring up the ceiling – but in game the PCs decided to leg it before I got that far. The entrance to the cave collapsed behind them as a result. In this case, I’ll probably not award any experience for the encounter.

      This being BECMI, I award 1 xp per 1 gp – old D&D is all about the Benjamins – and I do so once the treasure is removed to an area of safety and properly valued (for gems and such), on an equal-share basis. Given that the party has so far chosen to keep the treasure in a common pool for spending purposes, I see no other sensible way of doing so.

      Aside from that, I’ve also at times awarded flat experience bonuses for role-playing and general contribution to an enjoyable game, roughly along the guidelines in the optional 2ed AD&D rules – typically 100xp per player. This is partly due to the fact that many sessions include a lot of party banter and role-play that’s great fun, but comes at a cost in terms of experience earned from normal game mechanics, per session.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I used to use milestone experience for the games I ran in undergrad, although back then there either wasn’t a name for it or I hadn’t encountered it by that name. I had found that the CR guidelines in 3.5 and Pathfinder were useless, and since the experience points were given out on that basis I chucked them both out at the same time.

      Right now, I’m running an open table game in 5e and giving experience more-or-less exactly according to the rules. The CR guidelines are actually pretty helpful if you treat them as guidelines or suggestions rather than rigid rules, so the experience points players get mostly make sense. The only big change I had to make was to increase the length of rests with the Gritty Realism variant. Outside of a dungeon, 3-8 potentially violent encounters a day stretches credulity to the breaking point.

      I’ve tried to run OSR games repeatedly but never got past two or three sessions. If I could, I’d love to try XP-for-GP and see how that changed the way players approach challenges.

      • dndnrsn says:

        So, gritty realism isn’t that punishing? How much does combat in 5th ed assume that you will take some hits? I’ve found running a retroclone that there is very little wiggle room between “PC gets hit” and “PC gets killed” because the frontline guys tend to do everything they can to boost their AC (and so the only stuff that hits them very often is stuff that hits hard) and the non-frontline guys are easy to hit and not especially durable. By the book, 5th ed PCs have high HP and a lot of “organic” healing with short rests; is the system assuming that they’re getting attrited a bit in every combat?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Gritty Realism is a very poorly named variant, because it’s only barely more realistic than default 5e and not even a little gritty. It just makes short rests take one day instead of one hour, and long rests take one week instead of one night.

          The game is balanced around an “adventuring day” where you face 3-8 encounters with space for 1-3 short rests. All of the classes are balanced around this progression, as are treasure rolls and the entire challenge rating system. If you keep that pace, tension naturally builds as the PCs’ steadily lose resources over the course of the “day” yet they’re typically not in danger of a full party wipe. The rate of attrition and recovery of resources, including hit points, is key to this.

          My problem isn’t with that pacing, I actually appreciate how well it works. My problem is that it’s hard to design adventures which make any sense when the PCs are effectively getting jumped a half dozen times a day just walking down the street. That pace just doesn’t work outside of a dungeon environment. By slowing rests, the “adventuring day” can be expanded to roughly ten days while keeping the same pace and rising tension.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Huh. I haven’t really paid much attention to the bits of the DMG talking about how to work the challenge rating stuff, because I trust my ability to eyeball an encounter and know what the party is capable of more than I trust some Platonic-ideal-of-a-4-person-adventuring-party calculation. Does 5th ed just not work for a style where getting hit is bad news? Will everything go haywire if I try to use 5th ed to play in the style I’ve been running a retroclone?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Yeah it won’t handle that play style very well at all.

            If you’re ignoring CR and trying to dissaude players from fighting whenever possible, putting them against more powerful enemies can make them fear getting hit. But those enemies were mostly designed to slug it out with PCs a few levels higher than yours, which means that your party will have a hard time chewing through their hit points. Even standard dirty tricks like the Sleep spell won’t necessarily cut it.

            Plus it means that you’re throwing class balance out the window. The Warlock for example relies on short rests to recharge his spells, but if nobody else has been hit the rest of the party will chafe at taking a hour nap two to three times a day. Long rest classes like the Wizard will be relatively much more powerful, although not to 3.X extremes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s not that I’m trying to dissuade them from fighting, but I want them to pick their battles. One of my beefs with the CR system is that it leads to an attitude towards fights where the assumption is “if we weren’t theoretically able to beat this encounter, it wouldn’t exist.” Increasingly – I think this became the norm in 4th and was carried over to 5th – encounters and larger chunks of gameplay were built on a sort of budget – which disincentivizes the players avoiding fights (why miss that sweet XP, especially if the system has various failsafes in place to reduce PC mortality?) and incentivizes the GM building scenarios that are basically some encounters linked togehter.

          • Plumber says:

            @dndnrsn

            “….Does 5th ed just not work for a style where getting hit is bad news? Will everything go haywire if I try to use 5th ed to play in the style I’ve been running a retroclone?”

            I haven’t played 3e or 4e, and I barely played 2e (and didn’t even bother buying the books when I did, figuring that my 1e books were good enough, and that it was the DM’s job to know the rules anyway!) plus my 0e and 1e experience is decades old, so take this with a boulder of salt, but many have told me that 5e “feels more old-school than other WotC D&D’s”, my own experience is that even a DM who’s never played TSR D&D can provide an experience that feels like TD&D despite never playing by the old rules themselves, but most don’t. 

            A 1st level 5e WD&D PC is roughly on par with a 3rd level TD&D PC, and typically 5e feels more like a ‘cakewalk’ compared to TD&D, but it’s not hard to make 5e feel like D&D, but it’s not the default.

            The main thing is to slow new levels way the Hell down, keep the PC’s at a lower than suggested level, at approximately 50 to 75% feels right to me.

            Using the healing rates from the 1e AD&D DMG instead is another good option, or just give the monsters magic items. 

            Typically most 5e players don’t think in terms of ambushes and checking for traps, but they’re surprisingly inventive with spells.

            If you ignore Feats and spells, 5e is surprisingly easy to learn, but with all of the Feats and spells it gets quite complex, but players are very plentiful.

    • Dack says:

      I haven’t given out xp for over a decade. You level when I tell you to level.

      • dndnrsn says:

        What makes you decide that someone levels?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t know about Dack, but when I have DMed, I level people to make the game interesting. Players like to level and get new powers. Also, I’m not going to DM for you if you are an asshat, so I level everyone mostly at the same time (although I might vary it a little to ensure that I acknowledge players making good decisions).

          To me DMing is more an excercise in cooperative story telling. I get to tell a cool story, you get to influence where it goes, build your own characters story, and do cool things with cool powers. I probably wouldn’t DM for people intent on breaking the system, or who were insistent on min maxing.

        • Dack says:

          If it’s a plot-focused game, then you probably want to level by plot milestones.
          Especially if it’s a premade or published adventure. You don’t want to out level your material…or have the PCs be underleveled for that matter.

          If it’s a more sandboxy make-it-up-as-you-go type game, then you can do every x sessions, as long as you have some sort of caveat about actually getting stuff done.

          The last option is to just go by intuition. Do you feel they have earned a level? Will it hinder/help the campaign for them to level right now? Don’t do this with new groups, you might come off as capricious or arbitrary. This way is for a group that already trusts you.

    • ing says:

      I oscillate between:

      (1) goal-based leveling (“to level up, invade the orc fortress and kill the chieftain — or decide to pursue a different goal of comparable difficulty, and you can level up for that instead”)

      (2) session-based leveling (“level up once per three sessions so I don’t have to think about it”).

      I like (2) better except that occasionally I feel like it motivates players to drag their feet and not get much done in any given session.

      In both systems I eventually get a problem where I hand out too many levels and then the game becomes unwieldy.

      • dndnrsn says:

        By “the game becomes unwieldy” do you mean slowdown in combat (a major issue in 3rd and 4th), worldbuilding problems (mostly due to magic-using classes suddenly have powers going beyond “blow up some goblins” to “resurrect the dead” or “alter reality”), or both, or something else?

    • Nick says:

      With the exception of Le Maistre Chat’s campaign, I don’t have to track xp, and we level when the DM tells us to—generally when we’ve reached a good point in the story for it. I don’t like the idea of some characters leveling faster than others, so I’m not really a fan of tracking xp anyway, though there’s appeal in knowing how close I am to leveling, like being able to know how many mooks I need to kill to get there.

      As far as the Call of Cthulhu skill thing—it grates on me that I can become better at something I haven’t actually practiced (I’ve even had campaigns where we’ve leveled multiple times with no in-game downtime), so I’m very sympathetic to the idea, I just don’t see how it works. At the very least, it means regulating downtime, something the DMs I’ve played with have not been good at. I mean, if we’re in Call of Cthulhu (bear with me, I haven’t played it…) and I didn’t use my Lore: Gibbering Horrors the last few sessions and my character hasn’t gotten to a library lately, does that mean he’s just flat out unprepared when we face gibbering horrors? That’s realistic, to be sure, it’s just very frustrating. To give a more realistic example, if my DM never gives us any damn locks to pick, does that mean my thief is shit at lockpicking?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The thing about leveling up together when the GM tells you to is that it needs the GM to have a strong sense of how characters growing in power works in adventure stories. If you look at The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf grows in power once by dying, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli only grow at the very end. So if you want to tell a Tolkien-style story in a game, Gandalf was a GMPC and those players were only told to level up at the end of a thousand-page quest that took them from Rivendell to the Black Gate.
        Or if you want to tell Conan-style sword & sorcery stories, you have to look at your canon of short stories and ask “Where are the milestones where Conan grows in abilities?”

        If milestones aren’t placed to emulate stories, you end up with a disaster like the official Wizards of the Coast Adventurers’ League, where PCs gain a level for every 8 hours their player sits at the table. So you can be going through a dungeon playing Castles & Conversations (Dungeons & Diplomacy?), your DM forces one long combat encounter on you in each four-hour session because he’s getting bored, and you’re growing in power literally every other combat room.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Le Maistre Chat

          I’m spitballing here, but:

          D&D was originally basically “hey, what if we took this wargame, but you each had one dude – wouldn’t that be cool?” and the XP and levels might have been intended to model some wargame or other having experience rules: they’re your reward for using a unit without getting it wiped out. “Campaign” isn’t a term taken from either pulp swords and sorcery fiction, it’s military terminology, isn’t it? Maybe the “D&D was originally supposed to be playing Fafhrd and Conan” vs “D&D was influenced by LotR” debate is missing something: D&D is supposed to be a single-person-unit wargame cribbing its trappings from any of those things.

          (Plus, in real life, military campaigns are often only defined in retrospect, aren’t they? “Old school” games produce stories that only exist in retrospect…)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            (Plus, in real life, military campaigns are often only defined in retrospect, aren’t they? “Old school” games produce stories that only exist in retrospect…)

            Well, yes, and “level up together when the DM tells you” seems wholly inappropriate in that model.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Merry and Pippin also level up. Part of it is involuntary, and also a reward for decency, but later, they take on challenges and eventually become leaders.

          • John Schilling says:

            And would we even notice if e.g. Aragorn stepped up from 5th-level Ranger to 6th in Lothlorien, thanks to the XP from the Moria episode?

            Hmm. Gimli and Legolas were at least keeping literal count of the number of orcs killed per battle for a good chunk of the plot, so it might be possible to do a statistical analysis and see if either of them is likely to have leveled up mid-campaign. But only a 9th-level multiclassed Fantasy/Math Geek would have the Feats to do such an analysis…

          • dndnrsn says:

            You could model this in a system like CoC’s – some of the party are just badasses from the start and their skills are so high their skill gain is negligible. Others are the opposite of badasses, and so they gain skills. This could happen if you’re using CoC’s BRP ruleset – which, by default, hands out skill points based on stats, so rolling really well is doubly good. Legolas just rolled better so he can shoot orcs in the eye while backflipping or whatever, the most junior hobbits didn’t roll so great. I think most players would piss and moan about this if they rolled up a junior hobbit.

            (Twilight 2000 1st ed had an interesting approach to this: a PC’s Military Experience Bonus, which was used to roll for skill points and some other stuff, was inverse to the total of their stats, so a character with really good stats would generally have weaker skills, and vice versa. An interesting balancing method)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy: All the hobbits level up, having started at 1. Im Sam’s case, Tolkien draws particular attention to him becoming decent at killing in Moria (it would have freaked Ted Sandyman out).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Frodo levels up in wisdom rather than in fighting ability. Would this be feasible in a game?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Nancy

            Yes, depending on the game. That said, a lot of games that try to slavishly imitate particular works of fiction through their mechanics end up missing the point of the fiction, in my opinion.

            In general, if a player genuinely roleplays a learning process for something like wisdom, it will be more saying than increasing a wisdom stat.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          So there are stories in which the protagonists go from deeply inexperienced to badass. David Eddings’ Belgariad, to some extent the hobbits from LotR. Buffy and especially the Scoobies in BtVS face ever-greater threats. Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files.

          Many more. Many of them heavily influenced by RPGs.

          But perhaps more than that, what experience is for in RPGs is other stuff.

          First of all, it’s a low-pain editing mechanism. When the character that you made doesn’t quite work for you, you can take some XP and alter their focus. Buy different skills. Shore up weak stats. It is very common in games to make a character who ends up playing differently than you envisioned. Having some slack experience to customize your character is super useful.

          Second of all, it’s a campaign pacing mechanism. It’s a cheap and easy way to make a rising conflict, in which the conflicts get “bigger” and more dramatic, the stakes higher. It’s probably also not a wonderful way to do that, but it’s better than nothing for the vast majority of gamers.

          Third, it’s a learning ramp for new players. You give them relatively simple characters and as they master those, they get more options, more abilities, more interlocking choices.

          And fourth and finally, it’s another opportunity to show rules mastery. A strategic exercise. There are players who get heavily invested in the minigame of “How do I apply experience optimally,” where that is itself fun for them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Would you let a player retcon their skills if they don’t like them? Some games, their ability to do that by applying character changes is pretty limited.

            I let them do it if it’s soon after they got the skills, or it’s something they never used, and it doesn’t seem abusive.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I certainly wouldn’t want to have a player playing a character who was deeply unsatisfying to them. The exact mechanism of remedy would depend on a lot of factors. But retconning skills is certainly on the table, if it’s not too disruptive.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Nick

        CoC assumes some downtime. In 6th ed (no idea about 7th) it says (p53)

        No matter how many times a skill is used successfully in an adventure, only one check per skill is made until the keeper calls for experience rolls. Then only one roll can be made per check to see if the investigator improves. Typically these experience rolls are made in concluding a scenario or after several episodes.

        The exception is the Cthulhu Mythos skill (so, yeah, Lore: Gibbering Horror): you don’t gain it by using it, you gain it by reading books (which sap your Sanity). In practical terms, such a skill is often kind of useless, because GMs and scenario writers and so on often don’t bother to put in stuff where using it successfully tells you “this particular gibbering horror is immune to fire but not electricity” and so on.

        If your GM doesn’t put in locks to pick, it’s still possible to find a lockpicking teacher, but this is usually handled ad-hoc, as I recall. I think John Schilling gave the example above of the travel times in Masks of Nyarlathotep – there’s rules for learning skills on board (if you shoot skeet off the edge you gain shotgun or whatever) but they’re peculiar to the campaign rather than a general rule.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This is twofold: how does your preferred game/do your preferred games handle characters getting better at the stuff they do? How do you apply discretion, house rules, etc to that?

      How I’m handling it: B/X D&D/Adventurer, Conqueror, King BtB. I don’t think it’s perfect, but we’re learning the system and I don’t want to change it before seeing it work organically.
      XP for overcoming monsters is divided among everyone in the party, with DM-controlled patron and hirelings getting a half-share, player choice whether the henchmen/dogs they control take an NPC or full PC share, and the party deciding how to divide the treasure that equals XP. I stock places where enemies live with treasure worth 3-3.5x the total XP reward for overcoming said creatures. I create a realistic “ecology” for the enemy settlement, so a Wandering Monster encounter is followed by me checking them off the total population.

      I have qualms with the sheer amount of money leveling-up involves. The treasure XP to take a Fighter from “Veteran” to “Warrior” is more than 8 pounds of gold (1 SP = 1 silver penny, 1 GP = same weight of gold, 1.7 grams). With the way XP requirements double up to Level 9, that means a king who’s Fighter 9 would have used 1,000 pounds of gold leveling up, minus the % from overcoming men & monsters. That is 24,000 cows unless I totally re-do the ACKS price list! =O
      We are playing on Bronze Age Earth, so the price of bronze plate armor, once invented, can be pegged to 9 oxen per Iliad 6. Such a king could equip an army of up to 2,400 (more realistically 1,800) foot guards BtB.

      EDIT: on reflection, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. If a “priest king” (Cleric 9) has 150,000+ GP and a Fighter 9 king 180,000+, he can distribute his wealth to create a warrior class of at least 1,500 followers, which should be able to control a kingdom of at least 150,000 people for him. Unless of course they keep the rural population in abject slavery like the Spartans, in which case you’d need ~10% of the population to be a trained, armored elite rather than ~1%. Decency triumphs over evil?

  23. honhonhonhon says:

    What’s the most affordable country to live in, with access to good internet and modern medicine? I am asking because I know I can retire in EE on a third of the money I’d need in Germany, but I am only aware of the option because it is close by; there are probably better choices.

    • cassander says:

      I’ve lived in mexico, and it was very comfortable and cheap. You can live close to the US and slip across the border for medical care if you want.

    • Aapje says:

      @honhonhonhon

      You should probably also indicate what level of safety you want.

      • honhonhonhon says:

        Good idea. I think I have an above-average risk tolerance, but I suspect that access to modern medicine and internet puts an upper bound on how bad things can be.

    • add_lhr says:

      I believe South Africa or Thailand could be in the running. From experience, middle-class life in South Africa is *very* affordable and the private medical system is top-notch. Not to mention the climate is fantastic for retirement. They also offer a retirement visa for people with foreign pensions of a certain size and some not-prohibitive level of assets. Of course Aapje is right that you will need to consider personal security, but this is not insurmountable.

      And I haven’t lived in Thailand but have always found visiting surprisingly cheap without sacrificing at all on quality of life, and they are known for their medical tourism industry.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      just go down the big mac index until you reach your limit of safety/internet and other amenities, it is surprisingly accurate.

  24. Mark V Anderson says:

    I want to talk about consequentialism. There has been on and off talk about it, but it appears to me that a lot of people don’t really understand what it means. Or at least they don’t describe it from my point of view. I will explain below my conception of consequentialism. I think this is the mainstream definition of consequentialism, but maybe I’m wrong. I’d be very interested in getting cites of folks claiming to be consequentialists whose comments contrast to mine.

    A consequentialist determines the morality of any given actions based on a judgment of the results of those actions. This moral judgment is necessarily based on the view of the person when the actions need to be taken, not based on any retrospective vision. If unexpected results occur from some action, that doesn’t turn an act that originally appeared good or bad into its opposite. If a thug had killed Hitler or Stalin or Mao when they were children; that would have likely saved millions of lives. That doesn’t turn the killer into a great humanitarian. It just makes humanity lucky. Consequences matter, but the morality of consequentialism depends on why the human actor took these actions. Pretty much like any other system of morality.

    Consequences can be very hard to determine. It doesn’t make sense for a consequentialist to examine every act he takes to calculate the results. That would be too cumbersome. It is rational for a consequentialist to usually act on basic principles, much like a deontologist. Thus a consequentialist may strive to be honest, because that usually results in better consequences than lying. But if the Nazis visit, basic honesty doesn’t mean telling them about the Jews in the basement, because in that case he DOES know the consequences. Consequentialists may use the same principles as deontologists in everyday life, but they have a higher level of morality that allows them to ignore these basic principles in cases where this will have better results.

    Consequentialists believe in acting in a way to achieve the best results, but this tells you nothing of the actual values held by the consequentialist. A nasty white supremacist consequentialist may value the deaths of minority groups, and so act in a way to achieve this goal. I don’t agree with the morals of this person, but I do think he is being rational in achieving his goals.

    Many people have used the trolley problem as a critique of consequentialism, so I will discuss this too. In the trolley problem, people are asked if they would push a fat man in the way of a speeding trolley in order to stop the trolley and save the lives of five more people on the tracks ahead. This is a good thought problem to think about consequentialism and utilitarianism. But one must dive in pretty deeply to make reasonable statements, because the unreality of the scenario otherwise makes for deceptive judgments. There are several issues that should be discussed before deciding on the answer.
    1) How certain are you that pushing the fat man to his death will save the lives of the other five? Perhaps the fat man won’t stop the trolley and the five will still die, or the five will escape without the trolley stopping, or there is another way to stop the trolley. In any of those scenarios, pushing the fat man will cause an extra death, not save anyone.
    2) The pusher may well go to jail for homicide.
    3) Even if it is certain that killing the fat man will save the others, this may set a bad precedent for others who may claim to be saving lives by killing others. In almost every case, this “ends justifies the means” calculation will be incorrect and usually self serving. Such calculations have killed many millions of people in the past. Maybe it is a better idea not to accept such calculations as acceptable even in the case one knows it is true.
    4) Another precedent that one may be setting is that of uncivility in public. If it becomes acceptable to harm bystanders for supposedly good reasons; that would greatly reduce the trust strangers have for each other, making public spaces a lot less friendly.
    After reviewing all these possibilities, a person that is a 100% consequentialist and also agrees that one death is superior to five deaths, may decide not to push the fat man. Or maybe he will decide to push. Consequentialism will not determine the answer.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I’ve been meaning to write this for some time, but I find the biggest problem with consequentialism (of whatever flavour) is that while it’s a decent ethical filter – as in: “this action is clearly worse than the alternative” – it’s actually pretty poor as an ethical guide – as in: “I should do this action and not one of the alternatives”.

      This is best demonstrated with utilitarianism, because of its “mathematical” nature – but actually works equally for all other forms of consequentialism. Assuming you are maximising utility and that there exists some number representing the absolute maximum utility achievable under a set of circumstances, create the single possible function that produces this number.

      A more abstract take: for a real number y, create a mathematical function that is the only mathematically valid way of producing this number.

      I conjecture that for any real number y, there is, in fact, an infinite number of mathematically valid functions that will give y as their result. It is trivially easy to disprove that any particular function f(x) is the only mathematically valid way to produce y, simply by producing a different mathematically valid function g(z) that also produces y as a result.

      From this it stems that for any consequence C that we may decide is optimal (a separate can of worms, that I will touch on later), there is likely an infinite number of valid paths we can achieve it. Consequentialism does not allow us to differentiate between these paths, without introducing an infinite number of other filters into the system.

      Addressing a possible objection: consequentialism could work in a full deterministic system, because determinism – by definition – implies there’s one and only one way to get to whatever is our desired state. Demonstrating how we can even have ethics (which implies making choices) in a fully deterministic system (where choices are impossible) is left as an exercise for the Reader.

      Then, of course, is the matter of how exactly we determine what the “optimal” consequence is – and again consequentialism is of no help there. Given an infinite set of real numbers, how exactly does one determine which unique number is, in fact, the “right” one – other than assuming some function and looking at what number it produces.

      In short, consequentialism – as an ethical guide – is a sleight-of-hand that lends an air of objectivity to the moral prejudices we covertly inject into the system. As previously mentioned, it is still useful as a way to check which choices don’t lead us to the results we’d like to get, given said prejudices, but it doesn’t allow us to select the single correct action from all alternatives available to us.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        You’re arguing for morality as a complete decision-making algorithm here, which I think is hardly fair. Like I said in an earlier thread, objecting to utilitarianism on the grounds that it can’t tell me what flavor of pie to eat is silly. Objecting to utilitarianism on the grounds that it treats human experience as fungible is not.

        There’s also the underlying assumption that people follow their articulated moral systems. I think people often don’t, but that they don’t like it when this is pointed out. You can agree that it would be good if you killed yourself so that your organs could be used to save lives and still not do it.

        I have my own beefs with consequentialism, but I think that this is kind of a weak argument.

        • Salem says:

          [O]bjecting to utilitarianism on the grounds that it can’t tell me what flavor of pie to eat is silly

          Well, what about objecting to utilitarianism because it purports to tell me what flavour of pie to eat, but can’t? This is sometimes called the “demandingness” objection, but it’s actually more general than that. Utilitarianism, as normally articulated, has no way of identifying a particular domain of applicability – “which pie should I eat?” and “should I push a fat man in front of a trolley?” look equally much like moral questions.

          So if you want to say “Of course we shouldn’t use utilitarianism to choose which pie to eat,” then I agree, but you need some non-utilitarian theory to explain why not, so it strikes me as a fair objection to utilitarianism.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I would argue that if multiple courses of action look indistinguishable to your moral axioms, then the decision is outside of the domain of your moral system, and becomes an aesthetic jusgment.

            By “look indistinguishable” I mean that no moral axiom is met better by any particular alternative(s).

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          You’re talking about applying moral reasoning to morally ambivalent problems – and if that’s not your intent, you need a better example.

          I’m talking about the fact that you can’t use consequentialism to make any kind of moral decision – including solving the trolley problem – without surreptitiously introducing non-consequentialist reasoning.

          The typical consequentialist solution to the trolley problem is that one should kill one man to save five, because five lives are worth more than one. This axiom – many > one – is doing all the work, but cannot be arrived at by consequentialist reasoning.

          We only get the consequentialist solution to the trolley problem – kill one to save many – by answering the underlying moral question: “is it better that one be killed to save many” outside of a consequentialist framework.

          The second, more fundamental objection, is even if we allow for non-consequentialist axioms to be introduced, it is still possible that many equivalent paths lead to the same consequence. Given that we can only choose one of them, the justification for our choice will have to come outside of consequentialism, see Repugnant Conclusion.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Your first point I agree with completely, and it’s why I dislike consequentialist frameworks so much. I see it as a much more fundamental problem than 2. As far as I’m concerned, if a consequentialist does the heavy lifting required to think through their axioms, there’s no reason why two courses of action cannot be equally desirable. At that point, it seems to me that it’s largely a question of aesthetics, not ethics, and consequentialism doesn’t preclude the existence or practice of aesthetics.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @Faza.

        Sorry I don’t understand your abstract reasoning. The point of consequentialism is to look at results to determine the best course of action. I don’t see how your infinite courses of action inform me at all on this subject. Maybe it would be clearer if I have some examples:

        1) Your child has robbed the house next door. How should you react? Should you tell the cops, tell the robbed neighbors, just discuss it with the child to try to reform him, or just keep silent? I think the best choice is based on what will yield the best result, not based on one’s strong belief in loyalty, law/order, or community spirit.

        2) Your co-worker told a very nasty racist joke, and everyone laughed. How should one react?

        3) Your neighborhood store’s owner gave money to a political group you find obnoxious. How should you react?

        4) Should you tell your children family secrets?

        5) Should you be honest about Jews in the basement to the Nazis?

        6) Should you shove the fat man in front of the trolley?

        All of these could be decided based on strongly held principles, without regard to consequences, or could be thought about based on what will happen as a result. I think the results should how you decide.

        I don’t see an infinite number of solutions to these questions. I really have no idea what you are talking about.

        • baconbits9 says:

          1) Your child has robbed the house next door. How should you react? Should you tell the cops, tell the robbed neighbors, just discuss it with the child to try to reform him, or just keep silent? I think the best choice is based on what will yield the best result, not based on one’s strong belief in loyalty, law/order, or community spirit.

          The best result for who?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            The best result for who?

            Obviously, for whoever is doing the judging. Maybe you have some deeper thoughts, but so far your questions have obvious answers.

    • arlie says:

      Thank you. Consequentialism has been mentioned a lot on SSC, but I’d never bothered to find and RTFM, as it were. You post has given me at least grade 1 level understanding – roughly what does htis word mean.

    • baconbits9 says:

      But if the Nazis visit, basic honesty doesn’t mean telling them about the Jews in the basement, because in that case he DOES know the consequences.

      At what point in history did it become obvious what the consequences of doing so would be?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Is this a trick question? Obviously ’30’s Germany. Not a hard question.

        • baconbits9 says:

          What evidence available to an average person in the 1930s in Germany would you have used to determine what would have happened to the Jews you were hiding in your basement?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Consequentialism requires precision in understanding outcomes to be able to make appropriate moral decisions. Looking back at the holocaust makes it pretty damn clear what would happen to the Jews in your basement if they are discovered, but at the time it would be much more vague. The range of outcomes would go from pretty bad to catastrophically bad, and for a consequentialist those generate huge differences.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Consequentialism requires precision in understanding outcomes to be able to make appropriate moral decisions.

            Not at all. A consequentialist makes the best decision he can based on the information he has. I’m not sure how this is different than any other part of life. As I said in my original post, it does make sense for consequentialists to follow basic principles in most cases, just like a deontologist, since it can be difficult to work out ultimate consequences in many cases. But it does make sense to go beyond these principles when the consequentialist has better information. This is just a restatement of what I said in my initial post, so I’m not sure what it is that you don’t understand.

  25. HeelBearCub says:

    Here is Kevin Drum with a great chart showing the effects of pre-registration on studies of drugs and dietary supplements and cardiovascular disease funded by the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute

    Basically before pre-registration was required, every study had a positive result. After pre-registration, no studies returned positive results.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to go quite as far as Drum here, but it’s certainly an arresting result.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      I’d love to see major universities pledge to do this with all departments.

    • quanta413 says:

      I think this sort of issue affects a lot more fields than we’ve even noticed so far. idontknow’s idea of preregistering any test of hypothesis is an interesting one.

      But we also need a way to handle exploratory research and long term bulk data collection. If you’re engineering something new, it’s often not clear exactly what you’ll be able to do with it or how well it will work ahead of time. Same thing with things like the general social survey. You ask a lot of questions in that sort of survey, and it seems like you wouldn’t want to preregister every hypothesis for it. Rather if you find a result in the GSS, then you form a hypothesis and preregister it before doing a new survey.

    • Aapje says:

      @HeelBearCub

      Thanks for the link!

      Apparently p-hacking truly is the main problem, at least for these fields.

    • brmic says:

      I couldn’t be bothered to check Drum’s source, but if you look at something like http://compare-trials.org/ it appears to be the case that complete and honest reporting would yield even worse results.

      On the flip side, contra Drum:
      – The old studies had some low hanging fruit which are harder to come buy. Maybe average effect size should be going down, unless we can out-tech the effect.
      – Some ‘hidden’ stuff is fine, just sacrificed to statistical significance, story and brevity. E.g. you have 7 outcomes, effects in the right direction on 6, what is essentially a null result on 1, and 3 of the 6 are significant. You publish the 4 most important outcomes, 3 of which are significant, one which is ‘marginally’ so. Because the journal has a character limit, you don’t really have any compelling theory as to why 3 outcomes were nonsignificant and 1 was null, except power was probably lower than it should be because money is always tight and it wouldn’t really add to the paper if you speculated any further except you’d probably have to if you reported all 7 results and every reviewer would force his pet theories on you. You’re pretty confident the effect is real in those 3 outcomes, so you’re not actually misinforming the scientific community.

  26. Atlas says:

    Open question to Scott, and actually to anyone who wants to comment on these issues:

    (This part is the actual question; I’ll post a reply to this comment with my own preliminary thoughts and reflections on the Libya adventure that Scott/people in general can feel free to skip.)

    I’d been meaning to ask this, and the recent “I Was Wrong” series is a fortuitous coincidence. I was very surprised when I read a piece of yours from several years ago where you expressed strong support for military intervention in Libya against Qaddafi’s government. My surprise was both to due to the fact that it seemed like a lapse in what I consider to be your otherwise excellent judgement about public policy and the uncharacteristic vehemence with which you attacked people who were not even opposed to the idea of intervention, but merely weren’t 100% convinced it was a slam-dunk idea. Has the aftermath of the Libya intervention had any impact on your views on 1) the wisdom of the specific intervention itself 2) the wisdom of war/military intervention/US foreign policy more generally 3) epistemology, the inside v. outside view, the value of expert (or “expert”) consensus, etc. ?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      You mean this piece?

      I don’t think that’s a very accurate description of the piece. He’s attacking an argument, not a position. The very first three words of the piece walk back the headline, which wasn’t even about Libya at all. It’s saying that if Yglesias believes what he says, his conclusion is backwards. I think Scott did agree with Yglesias, but that wasn’t the point and I’d hardly call that “strong support.” Consider this exchange:

      Deciding about military interventions based on superficial QALY calculations seems like a really bad idea. The indirect political consequences are almost certainly more important in the long run, though maybe not easily calculable.

      Okay, but if you’re going to do it (like Slate) you can at least try to do it right.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes. I’ve written about this somewhere a little, but I can’t remember which post right now.

      I continue to think that there’s a moral obligation to save people, including foreigners, from tyranny and genocide (cf. “Never forget the Holocaust”) and I get really angry when people say that doesn’t matter.

      After having it beaten into me by Reality a bunch of times, I no longer expect US intervention to successfully non-backfiringly accomplish this goal. After Iraq I vacillated between an Outside View position that intervention doesn’t work, and an Inside View position whenever a particular possible intervention comes up that surely this time we can take out the tinpot dictator and prevent a moral atrocity without it all blowing up in our face. Libya shifted me more towards a hard Outside View position.

      • 10240 says:

        an Outside View position that intervention doesn’t work, […] Libya shifted me more towards a hard Outside View position.

        What about WWII, Yugoslavia? Rwanda, Cambodia?

        • Salem says:

          Yugoslavia is a very interesting one, because I think it cuts both ways. Initially, there was no outside intervention, and Slovenia got independence pretty cleanly. Phase 2, outside intervention happened, principally in the form of arms embargoes and peacekeepers, and this was likely counterproductive, because it froze in place Yugoslav military superiority in Bosnia, turned the war into an attritional slog, and failed to prevent genocide – the Srebrenica massacre taking place in front of the Dutch peacekeepers being the most notorious example. Phase 3, outside intervention was stepped up, and played a major role in bringing about the peace agreement. Phase 4, immediate and massive intervention successfully resolved the Kosovo crisis in the short term, but caused a lot of long-term problems and is often argues to have been an overreaction.

          I think the overall moral of the Yugoslav interventions is:
          1. Outside intervention done well improves the situation, and done badly make it worse.
          2. The major Western powers cannot reliably do outside intervention well.

          • Tenacious D says:

            Salem,
            My inclination is to synthesize your morals re: Yugoslavia into one: outside intervention is more likely to be successful the less “outside” it is. The Balkans are foreign to NATO, but not nearly as much as Rwanda. Libya would be somewhere in between. Greater foreignness leads to more unknown unknowns for a mission.

            I recently watched “The Siege of Jadotville”. It’s about Irish troops on one of the first UN peacekeeping missions in the Congo who held out for several days against a much larger force before surrendering when all their ammo was exhausted. After watching, I respected their bravery but couldn’t help wondering what the point was. Is the Congo better off today because Katanga was prevented from permanently separating?

        • baconbits9 says:

          WW2 freed Western Europe and put Eastern Europe under Stalin, and freed China while paving the way for Mao.

          • 10240 says:

            Without an American (+British) intervention it would have been full Hitler or full Stalin, or perhaps half Hitler and half Stalin. Half free and half Stalin was still better.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Maybe, but it is still not nearly the wildly successful intervention that it is portrayed as.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think part of the problem is that nobody wants to look too hard at how the tin-pot dictator got to be dictator. Yeah yeah he’s evil and wicked with a lust for power and wealth and wanting to destroy his personal enemies and enslave the people, but why is he Generalissimo El Presidente with a fanatically loyal following and not just another criminal bum? Because that often involves inconvenient truths for Western intervention – either “turns out he’s our tin-pot dictator whom we helped get installed because he was willing to cut deals with our banana importing companies” or “because he brutally crushed all opposition the country is functional, even in a stumbling broken way, but take him out and it’s taking the lid off the pressure cooker”.

        We very much prefer the “good guys versus bad guys, good guys always win, happy ending” movie version of history where you cut the head off the snake and the happy grateful populace all become a peaceful democratic republic, instead of fracturing into a mess of warlords staking out their tribal territories and zealots wanting to cut the infidels’ throats.

  27. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Mixing magic with science fiction: how do you like to see it done? I ask because fast space travel is almost always magic, but what happens if you acknowledge that in-story? Do you feel “in for a penny, in for a pound” and like to see FTL ships coexist with Doctor Strange? Or more subtle?
    @Nornagest, I even remember you saying it’s preferable for fantasy space to use geocentric cosmology. 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      I even remember you saying it’s preferable for fantasy space to use geocentric cosmology.

      I’m not sure I’d I’d want to prescribe it for all fantasy settings, but it’s the best option for Standard European Fantasy: it’s flavorful, doesn’t break versimilitude, and adapts easily to the metaphysics you tend to find there. Heliocentrism raises all sorts of awkward questions if you try to pair it with e.g. the D&D cosmology, but it might work better for Weird Fiction-flavored stuff, depending on which authors tickle your fancy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Heliocentrism raises all sorts of awkward questions if you try to pair it with e.g. the D&D cosmology, but it might work better for Weird Fiction-flavored stuff, depending on which authors tickle your fancy.

        I mean, I reckon it’s a bad idea to lock yourself into geocentrism if you want your fantasy writing to be in-continuity with HP Lovecraft/Clark Ashton Smith. Otherwise you get the advantages of fitting easily with Classical/Standard European/Middle Eastern fantasy and it doesn’t bite you in the butt unless you advance your timeline to 1969 Earth.

        • Nornagest says:

          Sure. Lovecraft and friends need to be heliocentric; the entire point of the genre is that people aren’t the center of the universe*. But Standard European Fantasy has the opposite assumptions lurking in the background, even if it throws in some tentacles sometimes for flavor.

          You know what I mean by Standard European Fantasy, of course. Elves. Dwarves. Goblins. Dragons sleeping on more gold than anyone’s ever mined. Flashy battle magic. Government that’s somewhere between feudalism and absolute monarchy, but poorly defined either way. One-handed cruciform swords that everyone calls “longswords” for some reason. Busty tavern wenches. Mundane miracles. Suspiciously ancient-looking polytheism. Suspiciously modern-looking mores. No cannons.

          (*) A blind idiot god is, attended by pipers whose music is madness. It’s too bad Lovecraft didn’t live long enough to learn about Sagittarius A*.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            (*) A blind idiot god is [ the center of the universe], attended by pipers whose music is madness. It’s too bad Lovecraft didn’t live long enough to learn about Sagittarius A*.

            And Azathoth was just a twist on the old idea of the Demiurge who was stupid and blind enough to create the material universe (the twist being “and materialism is true, so be driven to madness rather than Gnosticism.”) So Sagittarius A* would just be a… mini-Azathoth.

            (It’s not perfectly clear that the canon supports materialism, Lovecraft’s personal beliefs notwithstanding. Yog-Sothoth appears like a rather Platonic deity in Through the Gates of the Silver Key.)

            Mundane miracles. Suspiciously ancient-looking polytheism. Suspiciously modern-looking mores. No cannons.

            Yeah, yeah, I know. I just have nothing to say when we’re talking about those cod-European non-Earth worlds.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s not perfectly clear that the canon supports materialism, Lovecraft’s personal beliefs notwithstanding. Yog-Sothoth appears like a rather Platonic deity in Through the Gates of the Silver Key.

            Oh, I know. But materialistic or not, a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy is a Lovecraftian enough concept to fit right into the canon, even though Lovecraft himself had nothing to do with it. I’d have loved to see what he’d have made of it. Or William Hope Hodgson, whose Green and Black Suns* are within spitting distance of the concept already.

            Odd that no revisionist Mythos writers have taken it up. Maybe it’s too I Fucking Love Science for them.

            (*) The House on the Borderland.

          • Baeraad says:

            One-handed cruciform swords that everyone calls “longswords” for some reason.

            Because they’re swords and they’re long? Don’t get me wrong, I am suitably impressed whenever some medieval weapons geek shows that he’s really done his homework and can explain the intent, use and cultural significance of a given design, but I don’t try to memorise it. It’s a sword. You hit people you don’t like with it. That’s about all I really need to know.

            Mind you, I am also comfortable referring to anything you hold in your hand that goes “BANG!” and spits out bullets when you pull the trigger as a “gun” and leave it at that, even though I know in theory that there is considerably more detail involved.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because they’re swords and they’re long?

            How are they long? They are vastly shorter than, e.g., pythons, freight trains, and national borders. They are maybe half the length of an average human being, which is our default reference for scale. And they are roughly the second-shortest entry on the list of “sword” categories.

            Neither are they particularly broad. The “problem” is, they don’t have a cool name of the form, [X]-sword; being perfectly generic median examples of the sword as optimized for use by the largest user community, everybody just called them “swords”. But a PC’s weapon can’t be generically boring, it has to have a Cool Name, with “longsword” and “broadsword” being the only things RPG designers can really crib from history to fill that role.

            The thing a medieval knight carries is a “sword”, just like the thing a 1950s beat cop carries is a “revolver” and the thing a soldier carried 1850-1950 was a “rifle”; adjectives are neither necessary nor really appropriate.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The thing a 1950s cop carried was not a “handgun”, nor was it a like referred to as a “pistol”, that’s the difference. Even “rifle” is descriptive of a specific aspect of a long gun.

            People like descriptive names…

          • Civilis says:

            Adjectives are neither necessary nor really appropriate.

            I suspect the nomenclature is heavily driven by fantasy, which itself is heavily driven by the needs of fantasy RPG players, for whom using the generic description “sword” doesn’t work and so an adjective is indeed necessary. A RPG player in the generic Western fantasy setting can commonly expect to encounter many different types of swords, and knowing the type is often very important, so if presented with the generic term, they’re going to have to ask for some sort of clarification.

            If the setting is one in which 99% of the swords are of the same general type, you can get away with setting one type as generic “sword”. In most cases, to a modern gamer, the differences between a gladius and a spatha are probably not important enough to require differing terms, even if they were important historical distinctions.

            On the flip side, your fantasy hero probably will obviously be able to recognize and react differently depending on whether the opponent has a common standard European-style one-handed sword (or “longsword”), a two-handed sword, a fencing sword, or an exotic foreign sword (assuming, realistically, they know nothing about the culture it comes from, it’s still a mark that the individual likely has a very different fighting style than the hero).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, “revolver” and “rifle” are cool descriptive names. Plain “sword” is more like “sidearm”, unless it’s two-handed and thus can’t be sheathed at your side.

          • John Schilling says:

            Even “rifle” is descriptive of a specific aspect of a long gun

            And “sword” is descriptive of a specific aspect of a lethal blade.

            People like descriptive names…

            If by “people” you mean “gamers”, sure.

            But almost all of the people who actually used long knightly or arming swords during the high middle ages, or were on the wrong end of their use, seem to have just called them “swords”. Even during the later middle ages, when actual “longswords” came into use, the traditional arming sword was I believe still just a “sword”.

          • Randy M says:

            I wonder if there is an inverse in the other emblematic element of knightly combat–the horse. D&D tends to have horse, war-horse, and more exotic (read:pretend) creatures, whereas I’d wager the medieval chaps had a large vocabulary to refer to different horse breeds.

          • Nornagest says:

            This sort of blew up, so maybe I should clarify. I don’t think it really deserves more than a single line — it’s a pet peeve, not the end of the world — but the problem is that I’m sort of a sword nerd. Calling the D&D PC’s weapon — viz. an obligate one-hander often paired with a shield — a “longsword” gives me the same sort of dissonance that a gun enthusiast feels when you call a magazine a “clip”, and for some of the same reasons.

            In the archaeology of weapons, “longsword” has a specific meaning: it refers to the slender hand-and-a-half cutting swords, with blades between 30-odd and 40-odd inches, that proliferated in the late 14th century after shields started falling out of use. It’s a longsword because it’s long relative to the arming swords (a modern term; in period they’d just be swords) of the previous 300 years, which typically had a blade length around 28 inches. Games usually call arming swords longswords, which is unambiguously wrong, and longswords bastard swords, which is correct — “bastard sword” is a Victorian term for the same thing, referring to its position between High Medieval arming swords and Renaissance two-handers — but nonstandard. On the other hand, HEMA types call what they’re studying “longsword fencing”, which is correct — the manuals they’re reconstructing their styles from were written in the late Middle Ages into the early Renaissance, when these were the most common sidearms.

            “Broadsword” is even worse: that term dates from the early modern period, after rapiers and their friends became the usual civilian weapons, and describes double-edged cutting swords wider than usual for the era, with basket hilts. Games, once again, usually use it for arming swords.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d wager the medieval chaps had a large vocabulary to refer to different horse breeds.

            Yep. Some of that vocabulary made it into A Song of Ice and Fire, though, so I’d wager it’ll become more common in later fantasy.

          • Randy M says:

            Some of that vocabulary made it into A Song of Ice and Fire, though, so I’d wager it’ll become more common in later fantasy.

            Maybe. But only if mounted combat’s popularity/complexity ratio increases.

          • bullseye says:

            In D&D, at least in 3rd and 5th edition, you can wield a longsword with either one hand or both. If the sword is strictly one-handed, it’s a rapier, scimitar, or shortsword. So I guess D&D doesn’t have arming swords?

            I suspect the various horse types didn’t make it into D&D because you’re mostly fighting underground, and therefore on foot. The Pendragon RPG, which assumes you’re a knight, does include them. (I say type rather than breed because they cared about function rather than blood purity.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m pretty sure that 3rd edition’s longswords were one-handed. “Bastard swords” (see above) could be either, but you had to take an exotic weapon proficiency (and thus burn a precious feat slot) to use them one-handed. The d20 SRD seems to agree with me.

            I’ve spend very little time playing 5E, but from its version of the SRD it looks like bastard swords have been deleted and longswords can be used two-handed for more damage. Which is a reasonable way to do it, at long as you’re in a late medieval setting. Its shortswords are piercing weapons, though, so it looks like you’d need to stat arming/knightly swords as a scimitar (which is more expensive for some reason?) or deal with its absence.

          • bullseye says:

            I have the books for both 3.5 and 5th edition.
            3.5 confusingly uses “One-handed” to mean a weapon that be used with one or both hands. Using both hands means more damage because you add 1.5xStr to the damage instead of just Str. You’re right about 3rd ed. bastard swords. A longsword in that edition is basically a bastard sword with slightly lower damage and no need for the exotic feat.
            5th ed. ditched bastard swords because it ditched exotic weapons in general. They also ditched the strength-and-a-half rule, so using a longsword two-handed has a bigger damage die instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re right, I’d forgotten about that rule.

            But the SRD also places such things as rapiers, scimitars, and whips in the “one-handed” category, so I think it’s supposed to model awkwardly swinging with both hands with some extra oomph, not to model weapons that’re designed for two-handed use. Giving the bastard sword its own unique rules would support this.

          • bullseye says:

            The rapier’s description specifically says you can’t use both hands for the extra damage. Also, in the picture (which the SRD doesn’t have), the longsword’s hilt is almost twice as long as the shortsword’s.

          • albatross11 says:

            Would a knight have normally carried an arming sword?

          • Nornagest says:

            Would a knight have normally carried an arming sword?

            Depends on the era. Arming swords would have been a knight’s usual sidearm until about 1350, although they always coexisted with other weapons. In the late Middle Ages, weaponry became much more diverse, but the arming sword was becoming obsolete at the same time.

            This is basically a response to developments in armor, which made shields less necessary (thus making two-handed weapons more practical) but simultaneously made the old weapons less effective.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I like my magitech with rules.

      Those rules don’t have to make intuitive or logical sense, but they have to exist. The more that magic is bound by rules, the better. This means that you cannot Macgyver magic unless you’re very, very good at it, and it’s not safe even if you are.

      As long as that’s the case, I’m happy to play a game where elf cyborgs throw blasts of flame at fungal life-forms from a distant star.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, space magic needs to be less prone to Magic McGuyver than, oh, Star Trek. The world has rules, darn it.

        • toastengineer says:

          MacGuyver-ing is great, so long as the rules Angus is using were established ahead of time, or are real.

    • Civilis says:

      The important part is that, unless you explain otherwise*, a science fiction setting should be one with scientists and the scientific method. There’s no reason you can’t have science and magic, but if you do, the scientists are going to want to apply ‘science’ to the magic. This rule should apply to any type of magic, be it Sufficiently Advanced Technology, phenomena such as psionics, or actual Vancian Magic.

      A lot of fantasy stories where someone from our world ends up in a fantasy world get this right, in that they frequently have the person from our world sitting down and applying scientific logic to the magic to see what they can do with it. I’ve also seen it in reverse, where a user of magic with access to modern science is shown as curiously sitting down with basic science texts to try to figure out how they relate.

      This doesn’t mean you can’t have magicians that want the status quo, and they may be in charge, but at the very least there should be some sign of that push to combine the two disciplines.

      *Warhammer 40K is a ‘science fiction and magic’ world without much in the way of scientific thought, explained by an enforced scientific stasis by the Empire of Mankind, but even there, factions like the Adeptus Mechanicus are shown as secretly somewhat pushing the bounds and experimenting (often with horrific results, this being a grimdark setting).

      • You can have straight magic with the scientific method applied–that’s what I did in Salamander. The setting is a few decades after the magical equivalent of Newton has taken the first steps to converting magic from a craft to a science.

      • albatross11 says:

        One approach to this is to rename the magic psi, and maybe put it into the hands of a guild. (“The corps is mother, the corps is father.”)

        Another is just to have some kind of parallel thing with both going on. I thought that was done pretty well in the Mageworlds books (which I thought were basically trying to do a Star Wars type story well). But those books didn’t really have any scientists onscreen, so it wasn’t obvious what the relationship was between the powers of mages/adepts and the stuff that powers starship engines or engineers civilization-killing plagues.

        • Civilis says:

          I don’t think you need to have the actual scientists onscreen. For that matter, I think you don’t need actual scientists, just moderately intelligent people raised in or familiar with a culture of science. The average anime/manga high school student should be curious enough to be incentivized to figure out how the powers of the fantasy world he ends up in work (and has the incentive that it’s something he can use to get an edge on beating the inevitable demon lord). The student also doesn’t have the superstitions that often inhibit research in a purely fantasy world.

          Ultimately, I don’t think you even need to see the research, just the end results. If magic and science/technology exist, they’re going to have to be side by side and interacting with each other, and the world will show this even if the people experimenting are off screen. Some series (the Dresden Files) hand wave it with ‘magic inhibits technology’ (or vice versa) and that’s somewhat valid, if a bit lazy, but even there that’s an effect which can be researched or utilized. If you’re going to say ‘magic inhibits technology’, you can’t only use it to explain why the main character can’t use a cell phone when that would be more convenient than magic but break the plot, it has to constantly be in play, and the character should be smart enough to remember it.

          I think this is starting to feed into Hoopyfreud’s ‘magitech requires rules’ in the post above my original comment.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This is the sort of thing Poul Anderson specialized in when he wrote fantasy. The hero of Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of Charlemagne’s Paladins magically reincarnated on our Earth, and returns to his home universe as an engineer. Operation Chaos is about the study of magic in and after World War 2.

    • Mixing magic with science fiction: how do you like to see it done?

      I’m fond of Five-Twelfths of Heaven and its sequels.

    • sfoil says:

      If you’re going to mix them, it’s usually best to have just a whiff of one or the other. In a “science fiction” setting, the existence of magic should generally be kept plausibly deniable, and vice versa for fantasy. At any rate turning them both up usually results in something silly.

      I would consider something like WH40K to be a setting which is basically magic/fantasy, with Actual Science maybe happening in a secret guild. Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is an example of the opposite.

      The gold standard is probably the Solar Cycle but not everybody can be Gene Wolfe.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If you’re going to mix them, it’s usually best to have just a whiff of one or the other. In a “science fiction” setting, the existence of magic should generally be kept plausibly deniable, and vice versa for fantasy. At any rate turning them both up usually results in something silly.

        You can’t have magic be deniable if you’re admitting that it’s how spaceship engines work. I’m thinking about how the FTL black box in your standard SF story could as well be called an Atlantean power crystal as anything else, and accepting the consequences of that.

        • sfoil says:

          Obviously it’s possible to build a setting where starships move through portals opened by wizards. I just don’t particularly like them. I’m open to having my mind changed, and settings like Shadowrun can be fun, but overall I’m not a fan.

          As far as deniability, it can be done and it tends make for better stories. Here’s an example: in That Hideous Strength, a severed human head is kept alive as part of a scientific experiment. Or is it? Actually, the “science experiment” is just a cover for keeping a demonic mouthpiece around in sort-of plain sight and convincing non-initiates to follow its instructions.

          • albatross11 says:

            This would just be screaming for a magic=alien advanced superscience reveal.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            As far as deniability, it can be done and it tends make for better stories. Here’s an example: in That Hideous Strength, a severed human head is kept alive as part of a scientific experiment. Or is it? Actually, the “science experiment” is just a cover for keeping a demonic mouthpiece around in sort-of plain sight and convincing non-initiates to follow its instructions.

            Ooh, good point.

          • Deiseach says:

            This would just be screaming for a magic=alien advanced superscience reveal.

            Well, that is the plot twist there: ‘advanced superscience’ is revealed to be demonic magic 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: This setting has fast space travel because humans invented superhuman AI, then the AI invented a black box that teleports a vehicle containing from the orbit of one astronomical object to another.
            The computer hardware is host brains for demons, and the space vehicles are passing through a dimension of evil spirits as their shortcut through 3-dimensional space.

          • Nick says:

            the space vehicles are passing through a dimension of evil spirits as their shortcut through 3-dimensional space.

            Man, how many settings have hyperspace-as-hell? I thought it was neat when I saw it in Warhammer 40k, but now I feel like I see it everywhere. Even Minecraft, come to think of it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Nightcrawler from X-Men also teleports by slipping briefly into a Hell dimension. Presumably his staunch Catholicism protects him.

          • Deiseach says:

            Le Maistre Chat, can we say Lewis is the first to use this trope, then? I remember the 90s “Event Horizon” movie and I’ve seen a lot of the use of “hyperspace-as-hell” since, but who first used this concept?

            As for Nightcrawler, isn’t he part demon himself (I can’t keep up with all the retconning). And the way Marvel write Hell/hell dimensions, it and demons strike me as more along the lines of “sufficiently advanced aliens” or “material entities with magic powers” than purely supernatural, given that human characters can also use magic and people seem to have no trouble getting into and out of hell when the plot needs it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            TV Tropes gives us an example of hyperspace-as-hell from Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House, so older than Lewis.

      • silver_swift says:

        In a “science fiction” setting, the existence of magic should generally be kept plausibly deniable, and vice versa for fantasy.

        The fantasy with a whiff of sci fi version pretty much inevitably leads to the old “fantasy world is actually the remnants of a super advanced, possibly even space-faring, civilization that inexplicably regressed to a more or less exact replica of late medieval Europe” cliche, which I really dislike.

        I recently read Red Sister and I like it a lot, but I still think the story would gain a lot in willing suspension of disbelief (and not really lose anything) if the writer had just replaced all sci-fi elements with ancient supermagic and kept it the story contained to a single genre.

    • James C says:

      My rule of thumb for science vs magic is to take it back a step and say whether the story is about organisations or people. Science fiction stories are almost always focused on large groups of people, how they interact and what impacts this has on people within and without these groups. Fantasy, at least in the modern understanding, is deeply personal and is generally works from the bottom up studying what impact people have on other people and the world around them.

      I’m sure this breaks down around the margins but does nicely put Star Wars into the fantasy bucket.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        This might be unpleasantly contrary, but…

        I’ve no idea where this distinction comes from, what motivates it, or why Star Wars is always so central. Genre is not synonymous with style or themes, and while I appreciate linguistic prescriptivism when it comes to technical terms, I have never understood why people are prescriptive about something this poorly defined. Science fiction is barely definable when it comes to creating a setting, let alone storytelling, and the attempts to do so leave me desperately clutching at Silverberg and Bradbury and Bear, hoping that they won’t be overlooked because they don’t affirm the existence of these categories.

        Gah!

    • AG says:

      Mass Effect’s version is fine. Steampunk is another approach.

      Hell, the superhero world itself is basically this. And the general consensus is “knowing the scientific explanations for things is only necessary if they’re used to allow for an interesting application of the powers.” Midi-chlorians were reviled because, in practice, the knowledge of their existence influenced nothing. In contrast, revealing that the source of Superman’s power comes from his cells absorbing certain light frequencies allows for interesting villain schemes or taking measures against said schemes.

      Conservation of detail is good.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I didn’t mind midichlorians existing, but once you had them, they created a lot of issues that would need to be addressed. Like, how you could ever have a Senator be a secret Sith. Just give him a blood test on the Senate floor.

        Long-form entertainment, like a TV show or a novel or a comic book series, can deal with those. A movie only has so many minutes.

        • AG says:

          Yeah, I think the key is to determine what the thematic purpose of a power is meant to be. The Force is about the intangible power of will, something that cannot be gamed by the mind, but felt from the heart. Midi-chlorians defiles that thematic purpose, as even if you start down a road of interesting schemes like testing and avoiding testing of people for them to check for things, that gets away from the point that The Force isn’t supposed to be about that sort of thing.

          So that might be what defines magic vs. Clarke’s Third Law, in the end. Magic is the part that is intentionally enigmatic, with the strongest observer effects.

          In that sense, anime commonly has the case of a supposedly science fiction world actually running off of magic, with all them willpower/catharsis-fuelled weapons.

          Or as per The Last Jedi, it’s not “Doctor Strange alongside FTL ships,” it’s “General Leia alongside FTL ships.”

    • beleester says:

      I like it both ways. Going full magitech has a lot of advantages. It lets you get more mileage out of your magical handwave – if you want to do the Mass Effect thing where the new discovery not only powers spaceships but also your soldiers’ weapons and armor and it also gives them superpowers, then you should pick a very general-purpose handwave, and magic fits that bill. Having everything be an application of a single handwave makes the world feel more coherent, and it also makes it look like magic has been studied in detail and applied sensibly in your world.

      It also allows you to leverage different tropes that are okay in fantasy but not in sci-fi. Nobody complains if your magic becomes stronger due to The Power of Love, but people would cry foul if the Enterprise suddenly refueled itself due to Captain Kirk’s determination.

      Plus I think the magitech aesthetic just looks really cool. Viewing magic through a technological lens can help get you away from the bog-standard wizards with staffs and pointy hats and into something cool and unusual. Why not give your magical girl a giant laser cannon (Lyrical Nanoha)? Why not wizard cowboys (Use Sword on Monster)?

      But having magic and technology be two things that are firmly “separate but equal” also lets you tell some interesting stories by comparing and contrasting them. Shadowrun is my favorite example of this – mages and technology-users are both essential parts of a running team (or a corporation), but they’ll have extremely different outlooks and approaches to problems and you generally can’t use both at once.

      I think it only fails if you don’t really do anything with them co-existing. If magic exists in the ship’s warp core but everything else is standard rockets and lasers, then you’re basically violating the “only one unicorn” rule for no gain.

    • Orpheus says:

      In a word: Warhammer 40k. I mean, if you are going to mix magic with scifi, it will probably be stupid, so you might as well go all the way past stupid and into awesome.

    • Spiritkas says:

      My favourite mix of this looks a little less like magic and more like religion with the Dune series. The magic forces are more mystical and do not involve day to day magical acts like in a fantasy series like Harry Potter.

      This is akin to how I like my Science Fiction as being a reasonable projection of the world given X or Y piece of information. Greg Bear did this well with this Eon series where we discovered a wormhole into a giant tunnel world and then we travelled down that tunnel and opened doors into other realities and wondered where the tunnel eventually ended up.

      A light touch with magic or mystical powers of foresight or limited force would make sense. Star Wars is sort of like this too Powerful move objects around with your wand style magic and do anything seem weak in comparison to big technologies like nuclear bombs or starships. I think the technology has to reasonably overpower the magic in most scenarios except for where magic can give you information not otherwise obtainable.

  28. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve noodled around with the question of whether it could make sense to send an expert to even moderately distant space. I’d like a situation that’s, say, a hundred light years away, and there’s ftl that can get the expert there in ten years. Change the numbers any way you want to get an interesting story.

    I can’t think of any situation where it’s urgent enough to have an expert on the ground, even with those modest delays and even if you have courier ships sending information back and forth.

    Other categories would be entertainers– maybe in a culture with long time horizon, though it would be hard to be sure someone would still be popular, and politicians/generals as a show of force.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Digging science seems somewhat likely – archaeology/geology/paleontology. Robots that can dig, collect samples, operate GPR devices, and explore caves on treacherous terrain are hard to build, and it’d be impractical for the scientists to send instructions.

      • John Schilling says:

        I believe it was the PI for Spirit and Opportunity who noted that, however impressive the feats of the robots in his charge, everything they accomplished on Mars would have been about a solid day’s work for a field geologist on Earth. So, yeah. More generally, fixing things when they break really calls for an on-site human, or human-level robot if we ever figure out how to build such a thing, and if you can’t fix things when they break, all but the most mind-numbingly tedious forms of exploration are probably not going to happen. Industrial activity would be particularly difficult.

        But it isn’t clear whether Nancy was asking about sending specialist human experts to a place where there are no humans, or sending specialist experts to a place where there are already non-specialist humans in residence. In the latter case, I would expect the first wave of humans will be highly capable fixers, JOATs, and polymaths, which will ease the pressure for sending experts later. But, as the human population grows, there may be a need for specialized human-wranglers.

    • sfoil says:

      There were a lot more wandering entertainers before broadcast media, because once your act got stale you just went to the next town. If your ships are faster than transmitted messages (I know, I know, but it’s been done e.g. The Mote in God’s Eye) then you might have vaudeville-esque showmen trying to stay ahead of high-latency broadcasts from “core” systems. There are other categories of people who might want to stay ahead of such broadcasts, as well.

      As far as experts, you probably don’t want them for urgent but for long-term problems. If you’ve got an interstellar civilization, then astro-engineering and terraforming projects probably have long timelines with slow changes. Delaying years or decades might be worth it to avoid finding out you made a mistake a century down the line. Alternately, they might be urgent but involve devices or materials that can only be handled, either practically or by regulation, by certified experts.

    • albatross11 says:

      I suspect really expensive, non-time-critical projects might wait around for the top expert from the home office. But I also suspect with a ten-year travel time and anything like current life expectancies, you might end up with the young expert trained by the top expert, emigrating to the new colony world with his family.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Presumably, it would be subject to the same considerations as “do I really need to send an expert half-way around the world”.

      One reason you might want to send an expert is to deal with unknown unknowns. Any kind of remote information gathering is subject to the problem of assumptions regarding what information is going to be gathered – your remote sensor suite is likely to be blind to all information outside its scope, so your remote experts will be too. If the inadequacy of data being gathered by remote sensors would become glaringly obvious to an expert on site, sending them is a good idea.

      Of course, given the scenario, it’s conceivable that we could send a sufficiently advanced AI rather than a human, but that’s still sending an expert, who just happens to be artificial.

    • helloo says:

      Isn’t a simple scenario where cost of issue delaying everything * probability of issue(s) > cost of sending an expert there during the project?

      Another possibility is that people might be much more willing to talk/deal with a local expert than with needing to send a formal request/complaint to headquarters. The whole working remote vs. office question.

  29. Hoopyfreud says:

    Apologies for the double-post, but recent experience has shown that if two unrelated topics are touched upon in a single post, one will drown out the other, and I want to avoid that.

    There’s a strain of technolibertarian thought that – as far as I can tell – puts faith in conscientious encryption as a means to preserve privacy, arguing that it is easy enough to cloak one’s identity with computers that the question of a fundamental right to privacy from other people can be mostly sidestepped; after all, the same technologies that let people spy on you mean that you have the ability to avoid their spying.

    Except that’s not really true.

    The privacy race is asymmetrical on two different levels. Technological security trumps technological surveillance, but technological surveillance trumps meat.

    It’s impossible right now to hide anything besides the exchange of information or the exchange of currency from someone dedicated to watching you. Medical history, for example. Work history, if your job involves more than producing information. Race. Sex. Age. Relationships. Desire – it’ll soon be easy, if prohibitively expensive, for Facebook to use cameras to measure how long you looked at that billboard for. Or that man passing by. Now it knows what you want. Who you find sexy. Now the people working there know too.

    I’m not too sure about advocating for strong privacy laws – that just increases the asymmetry of the cyberpunk future we’re surfing towards – but I am scared. I don’t like this dynamic, and I fear it’ll be incredibly exploitable. It feels like I’m losing something, and I can’t tell if that feeling is real or not.

    • For what it’s worth, I discussed the tension between increased privacy via encryption and decreased privacy via surveillance tech in Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 of my Future Imperfect.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      To be honest, I’ve never been particularly sold on the idea of encryption as privacy-preserving mechanism and this is unlikely to change. There are several reasons for this.

      1. Anything that’s encrypted can be decrypted – if only through the use of $5 wrench decryption. Anything you have on record can and will be read. The only way to safeguard against this is to use a lossy scheme – such as hashing – that doesn’t actually preserve the input (in the sense of the ability to read the input from the stored data).

      2. Computer networks excel at tracking and preserving data – including meta-data – meaning that everything you do will leave a trail, possibly forever (or close enough). Stored data is trivially and accurately copied, meaning that anyone wishing to track you or access your encrypted data can potentially exfiltrate a personal copy of whatever interests them to a system they control and then work on it at their leisure (to the best of my knowledge, numerous high-profile hacks involved copying databases, as opposed to cracking them in-situ).

      2a. The architecture of the internet is such that a lot of the really interesting meta-data travels on open, well-known channels and there’s no guarantee of secure route (meaning: free of threats). This is, in itself, a privacy threat – given that the very fact of Alice sending a message to Bob is something they may wish to conceal. Tor tries to work around this, but ultimately it only obfuscates the trail.

      3. A broader issue with internet architecture is that it was designed for a vastly different use case and it shows. Many original design elements assumed a high-trust environment (academic networks) – mostly because it wasn’t anticipated that any particularly sensitive information would be sent or need to be safeguarded against malicious actors. Real-world use of the internet today needs to be conducted in a zero-trust environment with malicious actors ranging from state-level to script-kiddies-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands. Unfortunately, we are very much subject to the technological lock-in described by Jaron Lanier in the very first chapter of You Are Not a Gadget – changing the internet to cope with current threat models would pretty much involve scrapping what we have and starting over.

      4. Techno-libertarians and techno-utopians are a major part of the problem. A fundamental part of the “techno-positive” mindset seems to be: “if we can do something, we should do it and should be allowed to do it”. The lion’s share of policy/laws surrounding information technologies has been shaped by this kind of thinking (because those same folks had the most knowledge/credibility about emerging technologies) – despite numerous people pointing out very real ways in which this would end in tears. As a result, some of the biggest businesses (and highest-spending lobbyists) on the planet have arisen through contributing to the problem (we all know who they are). Only recently, have lawmakers finally started to grasp what some of us have been going on about for ages, but it’s going to be a long road to travel.

      To end on a more practical note: given that in my job, I occasionally have to deal with sensitive information and that I am in a country subject to the GDPR – to say nothing of the fact, that I’m one of those people who actually values the privacy of others – I’ve recently had the opportunity to make several recommendations to management, that I submit for the benefit of everyone else: unless you’re really sure you need to store some piece of data – don’t.

    • Alliumnsk says:

      The only solution to that asymmetry that I see is than everyone should be able to monitor others. Because the powerful will have this ability unaway and

  30. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Suppose that gun control was enacted in the US, and there’s some plausible level of enforcement.

    How likely do you think it would make a difference to mass killings? How long would it take for it to make a difference? What effects would you predict for small-scale murder? Accidents? Suicides?

    • Nornagest says:

      I hate talking about guns because it always turns into sanctimonious hand-wringing, and in this case there’s the three-day rule to think about. But mass killings would probably be the last thing to be affected.

      Everything else depends on the kind of gun control we’re talking about. “Assault weapons” legislation isn’t going to have a substantial effect on anything — long arms are hardly ever used to kill people. If you want to cut down on murder, and probably accidents and suicides too, handguns are the thing you want to restrict. But they’re also what you want for self-defense, and so have the best 2A justifications going for them under post-Heller interpretations. Off the top of my head, my best shot at effective gun control might involve a training requirement for sale of handguns, a steep enough one to make buying your first handgun substantially more expensive and ensure some level of commitment (and adequate to ensure safe and competent use of the weapon, as a bonus). I think that’d have a real shot at putting a dent in murder rates, although it’d be a while before you saw any effects.

      Because I’m generally supportive of gun rights, I’d want to pair this stick with a carrot. If you offered me national CCW reciprocity and some relaxation of NFA restrictions, I’d be tempted. A lot of gun owners will balk, though, because they (not unreasonably) see any gun laws as the narrow end of a wedge. If you want a grand bargain, you’ll need to figure out a way to convince them otherwise.

      • sfoil says:

        If the suppressor and “short gun” provisions of the NFA were ditched, and there were something along the lines of the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act that applied to all citizens instead of just samurai cops, I’d be fine with a handgun registry and training requirements to purchase handguns. In theory. In practice there’s basically no way to enforce such a “deal”, reasonable-sounding regulations have been used to systematically deprive people of their rights, both sides have obvious ulterior motives, the status quo isn’t terrible, and gun legislation either way mostly appears to involve one side enforcing its will on the other rather than any sort of compromise.

        • Nornagest says:

          The last time I thought about this, I had the impression that an effective way to prevent a training requirement from escalating into a de-facto ban might be to delegate assessment to civilian groups like the NRA. They already do a lot of training, so they’ve got the expertise, and they’re incentivized to make it comprehensive because it creates a cash cow for them, but they’re also incentivized not to choke gun culture to death with it.

          Trouble is that you’d need some sort of certification process if you didn’t want to hand e.g. the NRA a monopoly, and it’d be easy to escalate that into a de-facto ban too. Maybe some sort of peer certification would work?

          • sfoil says:

            This is pretty out there, but you could have something like the MPAA or college accreditation where everything’s theoretically voluntary. Say, the NRA and some smaller organizations offer training classes, and major manufacturers won’t sell to distributors that sell to noncertified customers. The economic incentives for those involved not to kill gun culture are obvious. And I don’t know about college accreditation but the MPAA was specifically formed to pre-empt government regulation.

            I don’t think it’s actually necessary, but it’s an interesting thought. One problem is the secondary market for firearms is huge, and used guns are a lot more fungible with new production than the equivalent in movie showings and college degrees.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        My grand bargain regulatory scheme:

        Owner/Operator Licensing, all “shall issue”, broken into tiers:

        For ALL Tiers: Criminal Background Check (this is already in place for the most part), Mental Health Background Check (Depression/Anxiety/Non-Violent issues Should NOT be a bar to licensing, I don’t want people to kill themselves but I am unwilling to get them killed to prevent it), Safe Handling/Storage training, range safety, and education on relevant laws.

        NATIONAL Collector/Target Shooter: cheapest because it’s basically just the baseline stuff above and grants you no carry rights. Transport to and from ranges/gun shows/etc only and weapons must be secured in storage containers at all times during transport. Renews every 3-5 years.

        STATE Hunting License: Everything included in collector/target shooter license, plus training on carrying and moving with loaded weapons, identification of targets, backstop concerns, relevant hunting regulations for your state. Renews every 2-3 years. Grants the right to carry a single weapon appropriate for hunting a given type of game in the area where the game is found during that game’s season while in possession of the seasonal hunting license, in addition to the range/transport privileges and duties listed above. States should be encouraged to offer a de minimis “refresher” certification for people already current in another state that basically tests their safe handling skills and fills them in on the relevant local legal differences for minimum time and cost.

        NATIONAL Self Defense License: Additional training in law of self-defense, de-escalation of conflict/conflict avoidance, shoot/no-shoot decisions, safe daily carry, practical self-defense shooting drills in multiple environments. Grants national CCW for a period of 2-3 years. At this point I think basic marksmanship requirement should be part of it, but the emphasis is on basic. Most of your shots on the silhouette at self-defense ranges, that sort of thing.

        Remove Suppressors, SBR, some AOWs from the NFA Registry.

        Keep Federal NFA registry for Destructive Devices, Machine Guns, etc, but open up the Machine Gun Registry again for new entries.

        Intent is for getting your firearms license to be potentially more expensive than (due to training) but not more hassle and paperwork than, getting and maintaining your driver’s license. Keep the longer wait lists and more intrusive bureaucratic paperwork and storage requirement inspections and so on for the items still on the NFA registry after this.

        I’d like to avoid type and quantity restrictions, but maybe include something requiring an actual vault/armory for sufficient quantities of weapons and/or ammunition. Pretty sure BATFE or other agencies already have safe storage regulations for ammo, propellant, primers, etc.

        All transactions involving the sale of firearms and ammunition requires both parties to be licensed, and the licenses to be verified. I’d prefer this to mean a licensing database that’s publically accessible, since the alternative would seem to be requiring a FFL holder to act as middle man for all secondary market transactions and I’d prefer to allow owner-to-owner sales, but I’m open to suggestions here.

        Unless otherwise noted (like machine guns, DD, etc), there is no limit to type of ammunition, amount of ammunition, magazine capacity, caliber, etc that you may purchase or own under this regulatory scheme.

        EDIT: I’d prefer private training to ensure competition keeps costs down. Private certification as Nornagest and Sfoil discussed would be nifty, but I could live with government administered testing (written and practical) so long as there were mechanisms to ensure it wasn’t being used to try and turn “shall issue” into “may issue” or arbitrarily cranking the standards.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Lack of training isn’t AFAICT the problem with mass shooters, though, or indeed most perpetrators of gun homicide. Training requirements for licensing might put some dent in accidental deaths and miiiiight have a second-order effect by imposing a de facto conscientiousness filter to keep out those with poor impulse control, but they’re not going to stop the sort of person who stockpiles weapons and plans mass murder.

          What you’d want for a keyhole solution is something like: make initial license acquisition on the same order of difficulty as a driver’s license, have that give you pretty broad own-and-carry rights, and then for both acquisition and periodic renewal you have to show one of the following (besides no violent crime record, obviously):

          1. you are female
          2. you are over some age cutoff, say 40, exact value negotiable, basically whatever the criminologists say the “age out of crime” cutoff is
          3. you have a spouse (not estranged, not separated, no domestic violence complaints)
          4. you have no spouse, but have custody of a minor child
          5. you have satisfactorily completed anger management training within the previous renewal period.

          Keep guns away from lonely young men with poor anger management, who are a small minority of the population, and leave the rest free. Profiling >> security theater.

          • Nornagest says:

            As a youngish, single man, I’m dead-set against this type of scheme on identity grounds. Fortunately, it clearly fails the equal-protection test and thus would never fly.

            The point of a fairly strict training requirement isn’t to make sure everyone that owns a gun is trained in its use, although that’s a nice side effect (and will probably bring accident numbers down). It’s to prove some level of conscientiousness (probably the most important part), to provide a barrier to impulsive crimes similar to waiting-period laws but more natural and less of a pain in the ass, and to make buying your first gun for sketchy reasons more expensive in money and time and thus less attractive. It also has the advantage of working with the gun culture, the hard core of which is pretty serious about training and safety — the biggest gun nuts I know are all NRA instructors. Angry, reckless young men will wash out. This is a feature.

            I think it’d work really well, partly because it’s effectively already in place for CCW holders in a lot of jurisdictions, and CCW holders have very low rates of violent crime. Even though they’re mostly men and often young and single.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I agree that lack of training isn’t the problem with mass shooters. I’m less concerned with gun control laws as a solution to mass shooters for the same reason that the median American liberal is less concerned with expanding law enforcement and intelligence agency surveillance powers as a solution to preventing the next 9/11. I think they’re statistical outliers best addressed through other approaches, if addressed at all.

          A conscientiousness filter is a definite part of my thinking here, to include simply having to be the sort of person who can and will show up in place and on time for training, pay the fees, fill out the forms, etc. That plus the two background checks (criminal and mental health for potentially violent/unstable conditions) should catch -enough- of the people. I think being much more restrictive exceeds my personal cost:benefit ratio on this issue.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And this reminds me the New Jersey system. Here on this form just write down the name, address, and hospital affiliation of every mental health provider you have ever seen. Since birth. Oh, you don’t remember and don’t have all records from your childhood? Gee too bad no gun for you. Of course you could always leave it out and then if we find out we prosecute you for perjury.

            Which is the problem with any system which requires people to jump through hoops. It’ll be abused; it always is.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @The Nybbler

            And that is why my Grand Compromise is well outside the Overton Window. Because

            1) Most Republicans would be utterly convinced that the licensing scheme would be made as onerous/underfunded as possible so as to make it as hard as possible to use and to deny the right to as many people as possible, while the Democrats would simultaneously continue to push for further legislation as if the Grand Compromise had been no such thing.

            2) Most Democrats would be falling all over themselves to prove those Republicans were hopeless optimists.

            It’s still the compromise I’d prefer, and I think I’m being pretty reasonable when my personal preference would be to start with removing the NFA in its entirety and go on from there.

      • fluorocarbon says:

        If you offered me national CCW reciprocity and some relaxation of NFA restrictions, I’d be tempted.

        I’ve seen multiple pro-gun rights people mention national CCW reciprocity as part of a grand bargain. I live in a pretty anti-gun state. While I personally don’t like guns, I’m undecided about gun control. But CCW reciprocity seems absolutely insane to me (edit: I mean this is my emotional response, I’m not in any way suggesting people who think this are insane). To start with, it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-federalist.

        This is an imperfect analogy, but imagine that you hate the smell of incense and your neighbor burns incense all day. Sometimes the smell drifts into your open windows and you argue about it. Then your neighbor proposes a bargain, “OK, I’ll burn incense slightly less often but now I’m allowed to burn it inside your house.” Who would possibly accept that?

        I don’t know what a grand bargain would look like, but I think most anti-gun people who live in states with strong gun control would prefer the status quo over any deal with national CCW reciprocity.

        • The Nybbler says:

          But CCW reciprocity seems absolutely insane to me. To start with, it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-states’ rights.

          Once you’re infringing people’s right to bear arms in the first place, you don’t have a lot of room to complain about unconstitutionality.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            I think I communicated that wrong, see my edit.

            Could you expand on your point? Even if you think gun control is certain states is unconstitutional (which I don’t think it is), wouldn’t it be better not to do even more unconstitutional things?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I want to keep and bear arms. The governments of anti-gun states like NJ and MA don’t want me to. The Constitution says I have the right to keep and bear arms, but those states say “So what? You’ll never get 5 justices to agree before you go bankrupt and your cellmate rips you a new one”. But they’d like to be able to put restrictions on guns on people in other states, which they really do lack the power to do.

            So we have this proposed “grand bargain”, which includes CCW reciprocity. Complaining about the unconstitutionality of federally mandated reciprocity in such a bargain is a very isolated demand for constitutionality.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            Complaining about the unconstitutionality of federally mandated reciprocity in such a bargain is a very isolated demand for constitutionality.

            I honestly don’t see how it is an “isolated demand for constitutionality” in a discussion about making a grand bargain about gun control/rights. Isn’t the fact that one part of the deal may be unconstitutional (regardless of whatever Massachusetts or New Jersey are doing) important?

            I also think advocates of gun rights should be super careful about making any deal that means the federal government is constitutionally allowed to get involved in licensing. While certain state governments will always be pro-gun rights, there’s no guarantee that the federal government will be. In that case, the federal government could legislate more restrictive requirements for getting a CCW permit or make it very difficult to get one.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Isn’t the fact that one part of the deal may be unconstitutional (regardless of whatever Massachusetts or New Jersey are doing) important?

            The whole deal is unconstitutional, as is the impetus for the deal. Once the “grand bargain” path is accepted, the Constitution is already in the shredder, and worrying about any particular part being unconstitutional is cherry-picking. Of course this would mean that any sensible pro-gun legislator would insist that there be an anti-severability clause, so if any part of the deal is declared unconstitutional, the whole thing is inoperative. These are exceedingly rare.

            I also think advocates of gun rights should be super careful of making any deal that means the federal government gets involved in licensing.

            Realistically, there isn’t going to be such a deal in the foreseeable future, because there is zero trust in the other side and no viable enforcement mechanism. Most likely the anti-gun side will simply win eventually.

          • Garrett says:

            @fluorocarbon:

            Isn’t the fact that one part of the deal may be unconstitutional (regardless of whatever Massachusetts or New Jersey are doing) important?

            Sure. But the people you are talking to start with the premise that roughly all current Federal firearms laws are in violation of the constitution. That nationwide CCW reciprocity gets your hackles up is one small part of the point! It requires you to deal with the discomfort that they already deal with on a regular basis. Alternatively, if you care so much about the Constitutionality of CCW reciprocity, the right solution would be for your side to drop all Federal firearms restrictions and start the negotiation from there.

        • Salem says:

          Why is CCW reciprocity unconstitutional? Article IV section 1. Would federally mandated driving licence reciprocity be unconstitutional?

          • fluorocarbon says:

            ould federally mandated driving licence reciprocity be unconstitutional?

            Yes it would be unconstitutional. Drivers’s license reciprocity is not federally mandated in the US. Each state agrees to accept the other states’ (and Canadian provinces’!).

            Most licenses (like teaching licenses) are not reciprocal. Driver’s licenses are more the exception than the rule.

          • S_J says:

            @Salem

            would federally mandated driving licence reciprocity be unconstitutional?

            @fluorcarbon

            Yes it would be unconstitutional. Drivers’s license reciprocity is not federally mandated in the US. Each state agrees to accept the other states’ (and Canadian provinces’!).

            A trio of comments:

            (1) As a hypothetical, from the time before any Federal Court ruling had been issued about same-sex marriages:

            If the State of Oregon issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, should the State of Alabama accept that marriage license as valid?

            Would it be constitutional to require it, or un-constitutional?

            Is this a different category than CCW reciprocity, or the same type of category?

            (2) Similarly, there was a time in American history when well-off people could take a long vacation in Nevada, and be temporary-resident long enough to get a divorce under Nevada’s divorce laws. The level of proof required for divorce in Nevada included one category that had a very low bar-of-proof.

            Most other States required a higher level of proof before issuing a divorce certificate.

            Generally, the State of New York (or the State of California, or the State of Texas) admitted these divorces as valid.

            Would it be unconstitutional to require this, constitutional to require this?

            Is that different from, or similar to, the category of CCW reciprocity?

            (3) When various Southern States had laws against inter-racial marriage, it was hypothetically possible for a mixed-race couple to travel to a State that allowed such marriages, and go through the process for marriage by out-of-State residents.

            When they traveled back to their State of residence, would the State honor that marriage license?

            Would it be constitutional to require that? Or unconstitutional?

            Is this similar to CCW reciprocity, or different?

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @S_J

            I think 1 would be unconstitutional but not 2, though I’m far from a constitutional scholar.

            Note that driver’s license reciprocity is not universal. In New York State, for example, you cannot drive if you are under 16 even if you have a license from another state.

            My original comment was “it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-federalist” and I believe that is true. Anything beyond that would really just be conjecture on my part. I think the courts could go either way.

          • Salem says:

            Yes it would be unconstitutional. Drivers’s license reciprocity is not federally mandated in the US.

            I am aware it is not currently federally mandated. But that is not an argument that doing so would be unconstitutional.

            You have repeatedly stated that CCW reciprocity would, or might, be unconstitutional, but you have nowhere provided any reason why it might be. This strikes me as unfortunate.

            Congress appears to have power to pass CCW reciprocity, under two independent sources of power:
            * Article IV section 1 (the “Full Faith and Credit Clause”) gives Congress the power to define the effects in other states of acts and proceedings taken in one state. A licence to drive (or carry weapons) is almost certainly such an act.
            * 14th Amendment section 5 (the “Enforcement Clause”) gives Congress the power to pass legislation enforcing the 14th Amendment. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment incorporates various substantive rights against the states. This includes the right to travel (US v Wheeler, US v Guest) and the right to bear arms (McDonald v Chicago). So again, Congress has the right to act here.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Salem

            You have repeatedly stated that CCW reciprocity would, or might, be unconstitutional, but you have nowhere provided any reason why it might be.

            I said it might be unconstitutional and I stand by that. I should have said “yes it could be unconstitutional” instead of “yes it would be unconstitutional” when talking about driver’s licenses a few comments up. Mea culpa.

            According to Josh Blackman (pro-gun), a law professor in Texas:

            I should make clear that my reading of the 2nd Amendment and Heller protects a right to concealed carry outside the home, but I can’t envision any Supreme Court decision mandating that all 50 states must adhere to the same standard as the most lax state. Congress can’t achieve that result, through either its commerce or N&P powers. The structural protections of our Constitution–enumerated powers and state sovereignty–should not be so easily cast aside. If the Court does (as it should) hold that the 2nd Amendment protects conceal carry, regimes in dozens of states will have to be changed.

            Constitutional law is complicated. Asking a non-attorney to wade into the details of Article IV or whatever isn’t going to enlighten anyone. I can only say that there are smart people who know a lot more about the law than I do who think it would be unconstitutional as well as people who think it would be not be. Thence, it might be.

        • John Schilling says:

          To start with, it’s possibly unconstitutional and anti-federalist.

          Meh, as Salem notes it’s no more unconstitutional than drivers’ license reciprocity or the national 21-year drinking age. Probably in a grey area re the “full faith and credit” clause where a strict constructionist is concerned, but as noted in another subthread, strict federalism is pretty much, and you don’t get to invoke a zombie form for just this issue.

          I don’t know what a grand bargain would look like, but I think most anti-gun people who live in states with strong gun control would prefer the status quo over any deal with national CCW reciprocity.

          And most pro-gun people who live in states with “weak” gun control would prefer to be able to carry their guns anywhere in the Union with no paperwork whatsoever, and probably to see their gun-culture mates in e.g. Massachusetts liberated from that state’s oppressive rules no matter how much the MA gun-grabbers hate it.

          A “grand bargain” has to be a bargain, and a bargain means both sides give up something that they actually care about. If not CCW reciprocity, what do you see the anti-gun people in Massachusetts giving up? It doesn’t count if it’s not something they really care about.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            A “grand bargain” has to be a bargain, and a bargain means both sides give up something that they actually care about.

            But why does there have to be a “grand bargain” in the first place? The point I’m making is that if the choice is “bargain with CCW reciprocity” or “no bargain and keep the status quo” I think most anti-gun people would choose “no bargain.”

            I think most anti-gun people who live in states with strong gun control would prefer the status quo over any deal with national CCW reciprocity

            And most pro-gun people who live in states with “weak” gun control would prefer to be able to carry their guns anywhere in the Union with no paperwork whatsoever

            I don’t see how this is comparable to what I was saying. Maybe I’m misunderstanding? I said anti-gun people would prefer not changing current laws to making a certain deal. You’re saying that pro-gun people would like to make large pro-gun changes to state laws? I mean, that’s trivially true, but I don’t think it’s relevant.

            liberated from that state’s oppressive rules no matter how much the MA gun-grabbers hate it.

            (Emphasis added) These terms only take away from the discussion. I apologize in advance if I’m using terms like that in my post, and ask that you please point them out to me.

          • John Schilling says:

            The point I’m making is that if the choice is “bargain with CCW reciprocity” or “no bargain and keep the status quo” I think most anti-gun people would choose “no bargain.”

            “No bargain” and “keep the status quo” are two different things. Sometimes “no bargain” means losing everything in the ensuing fight, e.g. when the Gorsuch-and-Kavanaugh SCOTUS starts looking at the boundary conditions of Heller and McDonald.

          • Salem says:

            Don’t forget about s5 of the 14th Amendment John. The Second Amendment is incorporated against the states, and recognising an out-of-state gun licence is undoubtedly state action. This is right in the wheelhouse of explicitly authorised Congressional power.

        • arlie says:

          Yeah.

          My reaction to folks carrying guns is that I don’t want anything to do with them. They aren’t welcome in any premises I control. I don’t want to give them directions, or sell anything to them, buy anything from them, or even speak to them.

          My actual behaviour is tempered by the risk that they might shoot me if I dared not to treat them as Great Heroes protecting me (from other strangers carrying guns :-().

          I feel the same way even if they are uniformed members of a profession that normally carries weapons openly. (In some ways, I’m more afraid of a LEO shooting me for “bad attitude” than for some random CCW dude doing the same.)

          This is completely non-rational. I can argue against it logically myself; no need for anyone else to do so.

          But frankly, I think I’d prefer to have the gun culture states have double or triple the number of innocent casualties, rather than have it legal for one of my coworkers to casually wear a pistol at the office. Or since that scenario’s unlikely – most California tech employers would probably declare their property to be weapons-free-zones – how about random people on the streets.

          Yep, emotional NIMBYism at its best. Guns are for killing people. I don’t want to be around people with that agenda. And I’ve heard too many jokes from gun culture people about how to avoid getting in trouble after killing someone to be really sure they are any more safe to be around than so many large dangerous predators.

          My emotions do make an exception for target shooters. Not hunters – too many stories of cows, dogs, and humans accidentally shot, sometimes while wearing the brightest colours imaginable. Statistically, those may in fact be rare. My gut still thinks “there are hunters active in the area” means “stay indoors, or better yet, spend hunting season in some distant city”

          • Nornagest says:

            Yep, emotional NIMBYism at its best. Guns are for killing people. I don’t want to be around people with that agenda. And I’ve heard too many jokes from gun culture people about how to avoid getting in trouble after killing someone to be really sure they are any more safe to be around than so many large dangerous predators.

            Then you’d better give up the pretense that gun control is about getting fewer dead bodies with holes in them, because compromises like the one I proposed are how you get fewer dead bodies with holes in them. If it’s all about feeling safe or screwing a culture you don’t like, then fine, negotiating those conflicts of interest is a legitimate function of government, but you don’t get to take the moral high ground when Florida Man decides it’s really important to his feelings and culture that he be allowed to shoot seagulls from his back porch, in the suburbs, with an anti-aircraft gun.

          • gbdub says:

            I think this may speak to something important – both the pro and anti gun sides seems to have become more polarized, and I think it has something to do with increased “fetishization” of guns, combined with a denormalizing of gun ownership.

            What I mean is that, in a culture with lots of hunters and farmers and frontier folk and boys just back from the war, guns are a tool. A tool for very serious tasks, to be sure, but not something with much more moral valence than a chainsaw or a tractor.

            I suspect, but don’t really have the data to prove, that the percentage of people with the sort of visceral disgust reaction to being in the presence of a gun that arlie describes was lower.

            I also suspect that there has been an increase in the percentage of gun owners who own guns primarily for collecting, gearheading, because they saw it on Call of Duty, and fantasizing about shooting bad guys (as opposed to for hunting, serious target shooting, or because they are in a profession that requires it). Again, hard to prove, but perhaps correlated with the fact that the average number of guns per gun owners seems to have gone way up.

            Both of these attitudes toward guns seem unhealthy.

          • arlie says:

            @gbdub – also add news media that are eager to tell me (and everyone else) about every wacko that gets himself (or herself – I recall one female in this category) 15 minutes of infamy by shooting up some event or office.

            There have been maybe 4 of these incidents that could be called “local” to me in any sense, in 40 years. None were remotely local enough that anyone I knew was present. (I do have a likely 3rd order connection to Columbine – a friend had graduated from that school, and *may* have known staff who actually witnessed that incident.) My head knows I’m more likely to get killed crossing the road. My gut just heard about yet another one, and it was even within the state where I (and 39 million other people) live.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Nornagest

            Then you’d better give up the pretense that gun control is about getting fewer dead bodies with holes in them, because compromises like the one I proposed are how you get fewer dead bodies with holes in them. If it’s all about feeling safe or screwing a culture you don’t like, then fine

            I think this is a little uncharitable. Pretty much everyone, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum, cares more about the people close to them than strangers. It would make sense that people would prefer to keep their neighborhoods safe (at least in their minds) by keeping guns out than reduce deaths marginally (I think that’s what you’re implying your policy would do) in places far away. (This is why at a gut level CCW reciprocity seems like a terrible bargaining chip to me.)

            … compromises like the one I proposed are how you get fewer dead bodies with holes in them.

            This is probably going to come off snarky, but I mean it as an honest question: if there’s a compromise that will reduce the number of people killed and that gun owners are all right with… isn’t that just a good policy? Gun owners want to reduce gun deaths too, right?

          • Nornagest says:

            if there’s a compromise that will reduce the number of people killed and that gun owners are all right with… isn’t that just a good policy? Why is it part of some gran deal, gun owners want to reduce gun deaths too, right?

            This is one of those “why we can’t have nice things” situations.

            People in the gun culture want a lower murder rate. They also want to keep enjoying their culture. When they look at existing gun control proposals, they see them as attacking their culture rather than doing anything about the murder rate, and they kinda have a point: most of the stuff on the table right now is either pointless theater, or is optimized for making timid Jersey soccer moms feel like something is being done about scary black rifles and the scary white people that own them, or both. That whole genre of policies is totally ineffective at its stated goals, and we can see that in the murder rate, which has historically tracked gun restrictions not at all. But it’s pretty effective at making owning guns more of a pain in the ass, and it’s not too much of a leap to see that as the policies’ tacit goal. Especially when you can turn on the TV any day of the week and find some talking head trashing the gun culture.

            So, they’re going to interpret any new gun control proposals in the same light, as being primarily aimed at screwing them. Even if they’d actually save a lot of lives and wouldn’t infringe much on anyone’s ability to hunt or target shoot or carry in self-defense, they’ll still have really bad priors to get over, and plus they’ll see them as a step towards confiscation, which is totally unacceptable to them on an identity level. And so they’re going to resist them, unless you can convince them that you’re not attacking their culture. And they have the political power to make that stick. Fortunately, because of the history of ineffective kneejerk regulation that we’re dealing with here, there’s a ton of bones you could easily throw them without making anybody substantially less safe.

            But a few people might feel less safe. And we can’t have that, apparently.

          • gbdub says:

            @arlie – I agree… farther down the thread someone asked “what’s changed in the last 20 years”, and that (media coverage) almost has to be part of it, causing copycats and so on.

            It’s probably also not trivial that most of the people covering these murders come from the “visceral disgust reaction to guns” class. Their fear and hatred of the tool is palpable in their coverage. And I think it feeds the copycat… Look how afraid these people are of this lone gunman image – that’s what I will mimic to become legendary

            Whereas me, coming from a “basically always around guns and/or people that own them” place, I just don’t get that immediate focus on the gun. Suicide bombings, plane hijackings, or getting caught in wildfire are a lot scarier to me, presumably unfamiliarity plays a role in that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Look how afraid these people are of this lone gunman image – that’s what I will mimic to become legendary

            Yep, you can see this in lesser offenses as well, particularly vandalism. Ever seen anyone draw a Star of David? A Christian cross? A hexagon? A square root symbol? Nope, it’s swastikas and pentagrams and genitalia.

          • Nornagest says:

            My favorite graffiti exchange is the following:

            “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”

            (below, in a different hand)

            “No it doesn’t”

            …but that was on a college campus.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Nornagest

            This is one of those “why we can’t have nice things” situations. etc.

            Thank you, that was a great answer and really informative for someone who doesn’t come from a gun culture background.

          • CatCube says:

            To expand on @Nornagest above, I think an analogy from Ken White at Popehat about the level of terminology and knowledge in many previous proposals is illustrative:

            So imagine we’re going through one of our periodic moral panics over dogs and I’m trying to persuade you that there should be restrictions on, say, Rottweilers.

            Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.

            You: So what do you propose?

            Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.

            You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog?”

            Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.

            You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?

            Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.

            You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.

            Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.

            You: What the fuck.

            Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.

            You: Can we?

            This is a little hyperbolic to illustrate the point, but it is only very slightly so. This is roughly the level that many previous gun-control proposals have been on (cf assault weapons ban), so when us anti-gun control people see a new proposal it has to overcome the perception that the people proposing it are either A) stupid, B) disingenuous, or C) some combination of A and B. Consider also that many of us consider it a right on par with the right to free speech–there can certainly be some limitations, for example slander–they should be very tightly drawn and well thought out. When our opponents talk roughly like the “dog control” example above in complete seriousness…well, we’re not assuming “good faith” or “well-thought-out” on the part of our interlocuters, that’s for sure.

          • Brad says:

            Re: gun culture and “on an identity level”

            I think there’s an analogy to be made here with those on the right that over the top flip out when presented with transgender claims and requests for accommodation — the “four lights” and “I identify as a ham sandwich” type stuff.

            To some/many that are left of center the idea that owning, carrying, and firing guns is central to someone’s identity seems insane and demands that this identity be respected and accommodated highly unreasonable.

            I wouldn’t necessarily draw any conclusions from this similarity–personally I think the meta level is overrated–but maybe it can offer an aha moment of what the other guy is thinking and feeling.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad – I don’t think it makes sense to talk about “gun owner” as an identity the way “transgender” is an identity. Not saying no gun owners have ever tried but I’d guess that’s more a case of just trying to co-opt your opponents’ language.

            But you (and others in the thread) are onto something in that a big part of why “common sense gun control” gets so little traction in the gun owner community is because of the obvious contempt of gun culture from so much of the gun control movement. The demands to alter / eradicate a culture without any charitable effort to understand it.

            If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard presented as a checkmate argument some combination of “no one needs a gun”, “guns are only for killing”, “no one should want a weapon of war in their home”, or the classic “the only reason to own a gun is to compensate for your small dick”… well I wouldn’t be rich but I could definitely purchase a nice firearm to convince you of the majestic scale of my manhood.

            A better analogy to me is that a lot of gun control advocates are like that particular brand of militant atheist that likes to loudly declare how stupid anyone who believes in god is. It’s hard to expect even the most reasonable Christians to have a productive discussion about the separation of church and state if that’s who is arguing the other side.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            The point was not to analogize gun owners to transgender people, but rather to analogize the reaction of some people on the left to the existence and demands of gun enthusiasts to the reaction of some people on the right to the existence and demands of transgender people.

            Your counter analogy is attempting to relay what it feels like to be confronted by gun control advocates, but the original one was intended to get at what it feels like to be a gun control advocate.

            If you can put yourself in the shoes of the one of the guys that completely flip out when asked to refer to Chelsea Manning as Chelsea Manning then you can access some of the same sorts of feelings people experience when confronted gun enthusiasts. The “you must have a small dick” is the same kind of unhelpful over-the-top reaction as “I identify as a ham sandwich”. Those reactions bespeak not just contempt but also at least a touch of bewilderment.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The particular phrase “common sense gun control” also brings with it the natural annoyance that comes from being told, by people who disagree with you, that everyone agrees with them.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz,

      I really don’t know,

      but I want something to be tried.

      Please.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That’s the politician’s fallacy —

        We must do something

        This is something

        Therefore we must do it

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      We have quite a bit of gun control law with fairly good enforcement, so precisely what measures do you have in mind? That quibble stated:

      Mass Shootings of the Thousand Oaks, Columbine, : No effect at all from any measures short of national ban on and confiscation of all handguns and semi-automatic rifles. Such a policy would probably result in a baseline rate higher than the UK and Canada but lower than we have now. Note that here I define Mass Shooting in the sense of Ecole Polytechnique, Columbine, etc, not the various bullshit definitions trotted out anytime someone wants to create a sense of moral panic. Active Shooter/Spree Killer incidents rather than “shootout between drug dealers in which more than one or two people were shot”.

      Murder: Varies wildly depending on exact method, but I’d place the ceiling at around a 25-30% reduction. Most of this would come in the form of reduced lethality of wounds rather than a reduction in violent crime. Fewer murders, more aggravated assaults, assault with a deadly weapon, whatever the relevant jurisdiction calls it, etc. To get that 30% reduction I think it would take, again, full on bans and confiscation of most weapons with extremely heavy regulation on the rest.

      Accidents: Accidents are already pretty rare (0.15 per 100,00 in 2016 according to the CDC), but I would expect them to drop in a fairly linear correlation with gun ownership, so again, how much do you intend to restrict gun ownership?

      Suicides: I think Scott covered this in one of his earlier posts. Similar to Murder, maybe a bit more effective.

    • albatross11 says:

      It’s useful to look at some numbers:

      From this NIH document on gun fatalities, we get these numbers for 2016:

      a. Suicide (20,012)
      b. Homicide (11,256)
      c. Accidents (about 582)

      From this Vox Article on Mass Shootings, we get 456 deaths from mass-shootings.

      So in terms of actual fatalities, I think we’re down around the same order of magnitude for accidental shootings and mass-shootings. (I didn’t dig to see what definition Vox used for mass shootings.) This is still more than the number of deaths from terrorism in any year but 2001, but it’s not a huge number. But very much like terrorism, it’s spectacular and scary, and it strikes at people who have otherwise arranged their lives not to be subject to much risk of violence.

      As far as what can be done, I think the choices come down to about four things: Make guns harder for dangerous lunatics to get, pre-emptively lock up/treat more dangerous lunatics, try to get more potential dangerous lunatics into some kind of voluntary mental health care and head off the explosions, or try to find some way to make going postal less of a thing socially.

      The problem with the first option is that non-crazy gun owners will suspect that anything done in this direction is a first step toward taking their guns. And since there are plenty of people willing to say exactly that, and several other countries where exactly that happened, it’s not like they’re being unreasonable.

      The problem with the second option is that there’s going to be a massive false-positive rate, so for every mass-shooting you prevent, you’ll needlessly involuntarily commit a couple hundred people who were really only a danger to themselves.

      The problem with the third option is that it probably won’t do much about mass-shootings. On the other hand, making it a lot easier to get mental health care when you can’t pay for it will probably make the lives of a lot of not-going-to-go-postal people who just have crushing depression or anxiety and no money to pay for a psychiatrist a whole lot better, so we should do that regardless of mass shooting worries.

      The problem with the fourth option is that it looks hard, and if it can be done at all, it might require trampling on the first amendment. (The saturation coverage of mass shooters with their faces and names and manifestos everywhere seems like it’s probably setting up a societal pattern that future violent lunatics follow. But it’s not like you can actually ban coverage of these things.)

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I wonder where the NIH got their numbers, because I was -just- looking at the CDC numbers for 2016 to refresh my memory, and the overall numbers were higher while accident deaths were lower: https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate.html

        • albatross11 says:

          I don’t know. I assume there’s some difference in methodologies that accounts for it. Though it looked like the numbers were broadly similar.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Probably, it doesn’t look like a -huge- difference, I’m just wondering if it’s data sets or methodology.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          They aren’t 2016 numbers. They’re 2009-2012 averages.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        It is not clear that mass shooters are “lunatics” so much as they are lonely, angry, young white men. One can spin various plausible theories for why we might have more of those than other countries, and/or why they might feel more justified in shooting people. But whatever the cause, if you want to target a subpopulation either for help or restrictions or both, that’s the one to target.

        • albatross11 says:

          From this Politifact article, in mass public shootings (spree killings, not gang fights or robberies gone wrong), whites are the majority of the perpetrators, but slightly below their portion of the population. First cut, I think mass-shooters are almost always male, but aren’t in general much more white than the population as a whole.

          Some of the mass shooters are just long-term nonfunctional nuts, like the VA Tech shooter and the loon that shot Gabby Giffords. Other mass shooters are crazy at the time but otherwise have had functional periods of their lives, like the Aurora shooter who thought he was the Joker and killed a bunch of people in a showing of a Batman moive. (The Unabomber fits in here somehow, though he mailed bombs instead of shooting people.) Still others are people with an evil ideology, like the guy who shot up the temple in Pennsylvania recently, or the guy who killed a bunch of cops awhile back in Dallas. Some are personally bitter about life, like the whackjob that shot up Santa Barbara because he couldn’t get laid.

          I think there’s a social learning/imitation aspect to this. Greg Cochran pointed out at some point that Malay men sometimes run amok with a bloody kris, whereas Americans go postal with a Glock. For a few people who are crazy/bitter/etc., I think that social pattern kind of offers a path for how they can finally get even with life or “show them all.” I guess this gets mixed somehow into the worldview and delusions of severely crazy people who think they’re going to impress Jody Foster or fight off the evil conspiracy or something.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It is not clear that mass shooters are “lunatics” so much as they are lonely, angry, young white men.

          The Mother Jones analysis done a few years ago showed they were men all right (don’t know about young), but not so much “white” as “looked like America”; races were fairly proportionally represented, unlike for ordinary murder.

    • keranih says:

      How likely do you think it would make a difference to mass killings? How long would it take for it to make a difference? What effects would you predict for small-scale murder? Accidents? Suicides?

      I predict that regardless of the methods enacted to “control guns” that the rate of murder, assault, and wounding in the USA will always be higher than that of most of the rest of the “West” and certainly greater than most of Europe-n-Japan. As a metric – I suggest that one compare the per-capita rate of murder by feet/hands and by knives for each nation.

      If the rate of ‘people murdered by knives’ in the USA is greater than the rate of people murdered by knives in country X, then the murder rate in the USA isn’t going to approach that of country X *no matter* what restrictions on the liberty, movement, and commerce of US citizens.

      (The extreme control of firearms in Japan doesn’t prevent their suicide rate from being far in excess of the USA. Likewise, the suicide rate in the USA varies widely by gender and ethnic group.)

      (We should be asking why is this *before* we start saying this is how we change this.)

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        The simplest explanation is that the US police are, comparatively, shit at solving murders.

        Homocide clearance rates in the US are one hell of a lot lower than any other first world nation, and this matters, because it changes the calculus of premeditated murders – There is always some joker who thinks they are special, but generally speaking, the enforcer for the local dealer is going to stick to legbreaking to deal with rivals rather than leave bodies when the local po-po have a record of putting more than 95% of murderers away. After all, mr Breaker-of-legs probably knew some of those people who are now behind bars, and knows he is not that much smarter than they are.

        • cassander says:

          that sort of begs the question, doesn’t it? Why are police in america, supposedly the land of the overaggressive cops and extraordinarily punitive justice system, so shit at solving murders?

          • John Schilling says:

            At a guess, because many American murders occur within communities that don’t want or don’t trust the police to solve their murders, and the police return the sentiment. Most “first-world” nations don’t have communities like that, though this may change with recent immigration patterns.

          • albatross11 says:

            If this is right, then the murder clearance rate should be way higher in wealthy communities with good relations with the police. Is there any data either way on this?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/26tabledatadecoverviewpdfs/table_26_percent_of_offenses_cleared_by_arrest_or_exceptional_means_by_region_and_geographic_division_2012.xls

            Nowhere in the US has actually good clearance numbers.

            At a guess, the problem is exactly that the cops are under trained and over aggressive? Possibly also a tendency to fund prisons over training and investigative resources.

            Seriously, police reform ought to be way, way higher on the US political agenda.

            The homicide clearance rate in the US is falling – and this is in the face of generally lower crime rates. Wtf? The police have lower work load and they are getting worse at their jobs? That should be a national scandal.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Why are police in america, supposedly the land of the overaggressive cops and extraordinarily punitive justice system, so shit at solving murders?

            If you look at the cop-per-murder ratio, it would be hard for it to be otherwise. To solve more murders, you first need to have fewer murders.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Nowhere in the US has actually good clearance numbers.

            Regional breakdown isn’t fine enough granularity to see if the wealthy community vs poor community idea holds up.

            My suspicion is it does, because wealthy communities have few homicides and wealthy people have few enemies so gauche as to resort to actual killing (and the exceptions tend to have really good security). Places where career criminals live have the opposite characteristics. But I don’t have data.

          • Walter says:

            That one is easy. People don’t tell the police stuff here.

            Like, tv shows aside, the way you solve crimes is someone tells you who did the crime and then you arrest that person, and they take a plea because their lawyer walks them through why they should.

            Mostly, the someone who tells you what happened, who kicks the whole thing off is the victim. But in a murder, that guy is dead. So now you are dependent on bystanders. But they have been taught ‘don’t snitch’, so they keep quiet and now what.

          • John Schilling says:

            At a guess, the problem is exactly that the cops are under trained and over aggressive?

            As has been discussed here repeatedly in the past, US cops mostly have either 2- or 4-year college degrees in How to Be A Cop, or comparable experience in the law-enforcement ares of the military services, and are at least as well trained as their counterparts in most other nations. And homicide investigations are generally done by specialist homicide detectives, who outside of Hollywood don’t really have much scope for aggression. So your guess seems ill-informed re: policing in the United States.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Well, yes, no direct experience, but I was not actually thinking of the direct homocide detectives, but just general alienation towards the police making the job of everyone with a badge much harder than it needs to be.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Is there a way to cross reference these numbers against total manpower, per precinct? And then by nation? It seems as if an interesting question to answer here would be how many murders et.al. are being solved per cop. (Or more specifically, if possible, crimes solved per investigator.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Walter:

            But the clearance rate for other crimes is even lower than for murder, which doesn’t seem to agree with your model.

        • albatross11 says:

          Any idea what fraction of the people in prison for murder in those 95% clearance rate for murders countries are innocent?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            To a first approximation? None. The advent of DNA evidence did not lead to any rash of reversals of old cases, which is as good a test of the record as we are likely to get.
            European law enforcement expends a whole lot of effort on solving killings, and it works. – in some sense it is just a superior Nash equilibrium – once you have a record of nearly always solving murders, the only murders left are acts of passion and people so infested with dunning-kruger that they believe they can beat the odds, so the overwhelming majority of cases are slam dunks, and for the 5 genuine mysteries you get each year, well, it does not break the bank to just throw bodies at the investigation until it is solved. It is, after all, only five cases.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am just automatically skeptical of places like Japan, where nearly all crimes are solved by a confession. I know little about Japan, but if that were happening anywhere in the US, I would be certain that the local cops were beating confessions out of people.

          • John Schilling says:

            To a first approximation? None. The advent of DNA evidence did not lead to any rash of reversals of old cases, which is as good a test of the record as we are likely to get.

            These are murders we’re talking about, not rapes. DNA evidence is usually not dispositive even if it is available, which it usually isn’t. And to get a “rash of reversals”, rather than a dribble, you’d need one of the countries that prides itself on it’s 95% conviction rate to authorize a comprehensive reinvestigation of every potentially relevant conviction, which I’ve never heard of. And, as albatross11 note, many of those countries also have a suspiciously high 95% confession or at least “confession” rate, which makes it hard to argue that a DNA recount is needed.

            Your not having heard of a “rash of reversals” may give you a warm fuzzy, but I don’t see it as having any evidentiary value at all. If that’s the best we are likely to get, it still isn’t good enough to negate the strong and well-justified suspicion of wrongdoing.

            European law enforcement expends a whole lot of effort on solving killings, and it work … for the 5 genuine mysteries you get each year, well, it does not break the bank to just throw bodies at the investigation until it is solved. It is, after all, only five cases.

            So how are you all doing on finding the guy who shot the Prime Minister of Sweden in front of at least twenty-five eyewitnesses?

            I remain skeptical of the theory that all murders are solvable if you just try hard enough and that American police are obviously not trying hard enough.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            I do not know about Japan, but the top scorers on “Solves murders” is pretty consistently Finland and the Swiss (the year where the Swiss solved literally every single murder in the country is pretty noteworthy). Both of which have police forces with astonishingly good reputations.

            .. Actually, eyeballing this, it looks a lot like “Public trust in the police” and “percentage murders solved” correlate really, really well.

            So, yhea, as Deadpool would say, MAXIMUM EFFORT! works. Especially if you operate in an environment where everyone talks to the cops.

          • Lambert says:

            I hear that in Japan, it’s hard to get a suspicious death classed as a murder unless it looks likely the murderer will be caught. Keeping up appearances and all that.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, yhea, as Deadpool would say, MAXIMUM EFFORT! works. Especially if you operate in an environment where everyone talks to the cops.

            Still waiting for you to catch the Palme killer. Still waiting for you to do more than “eyeball this”, particularly if you are going to avert your eyes from counterexamples llike Japan.

            Nonetheless, you’ve just admitted that your preferred solution probably isn’t going to work for nations with large non-first-world immigrant populations. So either you’re endorsing the policies of Donald Trump, or you’ve got nothing useful to say about the United States.

          • DeWitt says:

            Public trust in the police isn’t a fixed matter, not even in the non-first world immigrant populations you mention. It’s an argument for declaring them all legal and free citizens as much as it is for not letting any more in, and that’s before taking into account the way the police may or may not behave.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Public trust in the police isn’t a fixed matter, not even in the non-first world immigrant populations you mention. It’s an argument for declaring them all legal and free citizens as much as it is for not letting any more in, and that’s before taking into account the way the police may or may not behave.

            Only if the only reason for the non-first-world immigrant populations’ distrust of the police is because they’re worried about getting deported. If, on the other hand, they distrust the police because the authorities back home were all corrupt and it’s difficult to shake off this attitude even after moving to a less corrupt country, then declaring them all legal citizens is unlikely to make much of a difference.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, you should be suspicious of the 95% clearance rate for Japanese murder, that for every murder the police identify a suspect. But you know who else is suspicious? The prosecutors. They decline to prosecute half of these “cleared” murders.

            There’s no reason to expect a rash of reversals even in rapes, because people don’t save old evidence. When they do, they find 15% of rape convicts are the wrong man. This also doesn’t lead to a rash of reversals, which is more disturbing.

          • They decline to prosecute half of these “cleared” murders.

            Link?

            When they do, they find 15% of rape convicts are the wrong man.

            Between 8 and 15%.

            Those figures are for Virginia, not Japan. We don’t know what the figure would be for Japan, which is what was being discussed.

            This also doesn’t lead to a rash of reversals, which is more disturbing.

            The cases were from 1973-1987, before DNA testing, the relevant evidence preserved by accident. It was discovered in 2001. The testing started in 2008, twenty-one years after the most recent of the cases.

            I don’t know what your “does not lead to a rash of reversals” is based on. The relevant bits from the article are:

            Suspect 1 was pardoned and released from prison in 2005.

            The convicted suspect was exonerated
            in 2011.

            This finding was used to support exoneration.

            and the convicted suspect was exonerated.

            Though the convicted suspect has not been exonerated yet, the state is currently reviewing the case for potential exoneration.

            Of the eight case studies described in the article, the other three are ones where the DNA evidence was not sufficient to eliminate the convicted defendant

          • DeWitt says:

            Only if the only reason for the non-first-world immigrant populations’ distrust of the police is because they’re worried about getting deported. If, on the other hand, they distrust the police because the authorities back home were all corrupt and it’s difficult to shake off this attitude even after moving to a less corrupt country, then declaring them all legal citizens is unlikely to make much of a difference.

            From a N = 1 personal anecdote where my father was an Eastern European immigrant, this doesn’t seem to hold true. Even intuitively, I don’t know whether this checks out: I’d be very surprised if perfectly legal H-1B Chinese immigrants had less trust in the police than the local black community. As best I can tell, public trust is shaped by the actual police’s behavior than by parent culture.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            8% is based on assuming that the DNA of convicted rapists decays faster than the DNA of rapists for whom an innocent man has been convicted in his place. The correct answer is 15%.

            The paper reports 33 convicts for whom the DNA exonerates them and 7 for whom it is exculpatory but insufficient, generally because of multiple rapists. Of the 33 convicts only 4 were exonerated by the state of Virginia. The case studies are not representative; they include “all four known exonerations.”

            ———

            According to page 9 of this, in 1995(?), the Japanese police arrested 1800 people for 1300 murders, and prosecuted 43% of them. In 2/3 of the cases not prosecuted, it was because the prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence. This leaves a mystery of why they dropped the other 1/3, 18% of the total. But, anyhow, (1) 95% clearance does not mean 95% conviction and (2) the prosecutors are not convinced by the 95% clearance.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @John Schilling

            Still waiting for you to catch the Palme killer

            Isn’t the Palme case a bit too special thing to wave around like that? High-level political assassinations like that are outliers in the first place, because killer might actually be a hired professional who has an idea what they are doing. (Journalists have used a great deal of ink to speculate that the Palme murderer was someone with friends in high places.) Secondly, the technology and procedures used in the 1980s are not likely reflective of the current situation. Mostly the “25 eyewitnesses” of Palme case tells us that eyewitness testimony, especially when it comes to identifying strangers, is very unreliable evidence.

            For the record, they caught killer of Anna Lindh quite soon, with the help of modern DNA forensics and CCTV.

          • John Schilling says:

            Isn’t the Palme case a bit too special thing to wave around like that? High-level political assassinations like that are outliers in the first place, because killer might actually be a hired professional who has an idea what they are doing.

            The bit where he shot the man in public in front of a couple dozen eyewitnesses would seem to argue against the “professional with a plan” hypothesis.

            Which was shaky before we got that far, because “professional assassin” is a vanishingly small category in the real world, and one that I don’t think has ever targeted the head of state or head of government of a modern first-world nation. And even in the more unstable regimes that sort of thing mostly happens as part of a coup.

            And professional assassins killing people openly in front of witnesses and then walking away, also basically doesn’t happen except in the sort of community where everybody knows that everybody keeps their mouth shut and doesn’t talk to the police. The police were called within seconds of the attack, with a patrol unit already only a block or two away and another not far from the killer’s escape route – he escaped because the initial call was misrouted by the dispatcher, which seems unlikely to have been part of a professional assassin’s plan.

            Or, of course, we can make that one more ingredient in the conspiracy theory stew, which is going to be quite tasty in a case like this. But really, it was almost certainly some random nutcase or aggrieved citizen who got lucky, or perhaps a case of mistaken identity.

    • BBA says:

      The price of liberty is eternal violence.

    • John Schilling says:

      I would very much prefer that we not have this discussion any time in the next three days, because the words “Gubhfnaq Bnxf” are printed in fifty-point bold psychic ink between every link of your post.

      But, since you ask, in the short term there would be slightly fewer mass killings by virtue of the fact that the particular suicidal revenge fantasy being peddled by the media to the impressionably stupid will be slightly harder for many of them to implement. And most of them are highly unimaginative copycats.

      Not all of them, and the original thinkers will turn to substitutes. Since guns are hardly the most effective way to turn a crowd of celebrants into a pile of corpses, and since the media will signal-boost the new techniques just as they did the old, I expect the long-term effect will be no significant change in the number of incidents but some increase in average lethality.

      As always, to get a large effect either way you need to change the media or change the society.

    • The Nybbler says:

      With a plausible level of enforcement, nothing happens. With an implausible level of enforcement and something like “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in”.

      Accidents due to firearms are small, and would become smaller. Successful suicides drop, then go back up over a few years as alternative high-effectiveness methods become known in the culture. Small-scale murder drops a little bit as criminals start using less-effective weapons to attack each other (but this is the most implausible part of enforcement). Robbery and burglary go up.

      Mass killings… I suspect the news is bad there. The killers will find substitutes, and some of them can be worse than firearms, like arson of occupied buildings and explosives.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Except we don’t see that substitution effect elsewhere in the world. Not for “disaffected mass murderer”.

        • Statismagician says:

          Are you aware of anywhere that’s tried something like this in the era of mass media? It’s really important to compare apples to apples here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The NY Times published an overview of a study yesterday.

            You can object they are using the “wrong” definition of mass murder, but that seems rather spurious to me, because what we are really talking about is lethality.

            In China, about a dozen seemingly random attacks on schoolchildren killed 25 people between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a gun.

            By contrast, in this same window, the United States experienced five of its deadliest mass shootings, which killed 78 people. Scaled by population, the American attacks were 12 times as deadly.

            In addition:

            [T]hey found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

            Now, we do see the phrase “gun deaths” which is likely to rankle some, but overall they seem to be looking for substitution and not finding it.

        • gbdub says:

          There is a large part of the world where “disaffected mass murderers” strap bombs to themselves and blow up.

          The US is unusual in the number of mass murders that are not apparently part of organized terrorist/revolutionary/civil war violence.

          Honestly the fact that some other countries aren’t seeing substitution effects seems to me like decent evidence that guns might be an enhancement effect, but probably aren’t the root cause – something else is driving an unusually large number of American young men to engage in random mass killing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not talking about the IRA, Al Queda, the Tamil Tigers or anyone else engaged in actual organized political killing. These aren’t the same kinds of issues at all.

          • gbdub says:

            Did you read past my first sentence?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, I was simply clarifying that we shouldn’t classify political as “disaffected mass murderers”, which seemed like you were trying to do.

            But I should have also acknowledged that you make a good point that people in these other countries who are engaging political violence manage to commit mass murder in other ways, but the non-political murderers do not. That is a valid point and I was remiss in not responding in the affirmative.

          • albatross11 says:

            One sideline is that if you’re a not-all-that functional-or-smart person looking to kill a lot of people, buying a couple guns is a fairly straightforward way to accomplish your goal. There may be a lot better ways if you’re smart and functional and capable of thinking clearly, but most such people don’t want to murder a bunch of strangers to get even with life. (And when you have terrorists who are planning some kind of attack, that goes out the window, and sometimes you have someone who’s smart and patient and coldly rational.)

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub – thanks for acknowledging that. It’s certainly worth distinguishing between organized political violence and “diasaffected mass murderers”. Although, thinking about it, I suspect that organized political violence absorbs a lot of potential DMMs. Notably, ISIS seems to be specifically encouraging foreign DMMs to engage in violence under the ISIS brand (a la the Pulse shooter). If that guy lived in the Middle East, I suspect he’d have ended up participating in ISIS more directly.

            @albatross11 – is a gun really easier or just more obvious? A can of gas, a match, and something heavy to block a door, or a rented U-Haul pointed at a crowd… those are cheaper, just as effective (if not more so) and do they really take that much planning? “Active shooter” is basically a meme, and that probably has as much to do with it as anything.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I agree that there is some memetic component to mass killings, but I also think there is a psychological need that is being fulfilled as well. The killer is in control of the gun, actively exerting power. Political killers are trying (however likely success is) to change the overall situation. Even political killers who engage in suicidal killings are most likely being exploited by someone else trying to accomplish a goal.

            Perhaps ISIS is absorbing some DMMs, but I don’t think they would become suicide bombers within ISIS if they were overseas. It seems more likely to me that they would become soldiers.

          • albatross11 says:

            My guess: Some things are basically tropes–everyone knows what they are, they’re familiar ideas, etc. One of these, in US culture, is a mass-shooting. It’s a familiar idea to almost everyone–most of us are horrified by the idea, but it’s still a standard part of everyone’s vocabulary.

            So when some not-very-bright, not-very-functional person has decided to get even with life/go out in a blaze of glory, that very familiar idea comes to mind immediately. I suspect the same sort of mechanism functions w.r.t. suicide. A smart functional person thinking clearly can probably come up with a couple dozen effective ways of committing suicide; a seriously messed up person in the throes of a mental health crisis is pretty likely to reach for a standard cultural trope, like shooting themselves in the US, or poisoning themselves in places where extremely lethal pesticides are available.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The reason I posted this is that my social circle includes a lot of “common sense gun control”people, and I’m dubious about it. I was mostly looking for arguments against.

      Also, I consider victimless crime laws (and owning a gun without permission is a victimless crime) to be catnip for abusive justice systems.

      • John Schilling says:

        The first question, then, is whether your social circle can be made to A: know and B: care that high-profile mass shootings account for maybe 1% of US shooting deaths and are thus a very bad basis for making legal or policy decisions. What sort of arguments you can usefully make, will depend on the answer to that top-level question.

        If they do only care about the mass shootings, then you may be in Dark Arts territory because you are dealing with a strongly non-consequentialist and non-rational position. But one true and rational point you can make, is that most of the really high-profile mass shootings occur in places where ordinary citizens are prohibited from having guns, and that active-shooter incidents generally don’t reach the level of “mass shootings” and are associated with ~30% fewer fatalities when they do occur in places where victims or bystanders might be armed.

        There is insufficient data to know how much of this is because the active shooters specifically target disarmed populations, and how much because they get shot before they rack up a newsworthy death toll. But if you walk into a crowd of a hundred ordinary American adults, probably about three of them will be armed (including e.g. off-duty police officers). The would-be mass murderer won’t know who they are, but they will all know who he is the moment he starts shooting. And, empirically, there are zero cases of armed citizens trying to engage a mass murderer and shooting each other by mistake / in the confusion.

        Addressed in more detail by Volokh Conspiracy and myself

        • 1soru1 says:

          If they do only care about the mass shootings, then you may be in Dark Arts territory because you are dealing with a strongly non-consequentialist and non-rational position.

          Assumes facts not in evidence; it is entirely rational to worry more about a new, growing and poorly-understood issue than about a long-standing, well-studied and declining one.

          There doesn’t appear to be an obvious upper bound on the annual number of gun-based murder-suicides; if 10% of the 22,000 annual gun suicides switched methods to ‘kill until I am killed’, then getting shot by a stranger could top traffic accidents and start to catch up with kidney disease or perhaps diabetes as a cause of death.

          Sometimes a terrorist threat should just be downplayed or ignored; sometimes it is the start of an insurgency or civil war that is going to be the defining influence of quality of life of a generation. And you don;t get to call anyone irrational for counting the latter as a possibility unless you have actually done the work to show that is the case.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Follow up question, what has changed in the last ~20 years to cause the marked increase in mass shootings? I was not old enough at the time to understand what the state of the world before Columbine was by my general understanding is that it marks the beginning mass shootings. So what is different from say 1970 and now that has caused the to be such a big issue? I feel that if you cannot answer why mass shootings have went up, you cannot be sure what to change to make them go down.

      • Plumber says:

        I think it’s copy-cat.

        I’m (just barely) old enough to remember when bombings were more common, which I imagine was from a similarly copy-cat effect.

        Once someone saw what was done, the idea to do it themselves festered.

      • John Schilling says:

        A big part of it is definitely the willingness of the media (including, now, decentralized social media) to signal-boost mass murder in a way that inspires copying the demonstrated recipe for fifteen minutes of fame before you ragequit the game. May also be significant that social media allows would-be killers to brag about their badassitude in advance in a way that feeds their ego for a while but can’t be sustained without going ahead and killing a bunch of people.

        And there’s also a bit of straight Islamist terrorism in the mix, but that’s usually pretty easy to distinguish if you don’t insist that all mass shootings have to be the same one thing.

        Beyond that, and somewhat more speculative, is I think the increase in the number of people who live highly regimented lives with little hope for a better future.

        In olden times, we called this sort of thing “going postal”, because reasons. And in olden times, the USPS was a federally-mandated employer of last resort for mentally almost-disabled veterans and the like who could at least sort mail in an extremely regimented workplace, at least until it was time for them to move into some sort of warehouse and run out the clock.

        Now, the cliche is “school shootings”, at a time when schools are increasingly devoted to standardized test preparation because standardized tests are what determine whether you will go to a Good College, and Everybody Knows that if you don’t go to a Good College you wind up working someplace like the post office until it’s time for you to check into a warehouse and run out the clock.

        Meanwhile, assembly-line factory jobs don’t seem to have this effect, but assembly-line factory jobs traditionally came with (and to the extent that you can still find them, mostly still do) come with a path to a white picket fence and 2.3 children who may themselves go to a Good College, so it probably has to be both the strict regimentation and the no hope combined that makes people susceptible to “here’s how to go out with a blaze of glory” messaging.

      • gbdub says:

        This is my question. Guns weren’t really any harder to get. The overall murder rate was actually higher. I doubt mental health treatment was any better. Therefore “easy access to guns”, “general increase in violence”, and “bad mental health care”, explanations you usually see discussed, don’t seem like they can be causal.

        I lean toward the copycat / slow-motion-riot (Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this) explanation.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Mental health treatment may have been worse, but I think the overall level of mental health problems was still lower. So it’s possible that the rise in mental health problems has more than outweighed the increased effectiveness of treatment, so that there are now more dangerously mentally ill people now than there were back in the ’70s.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Dagnabbit, they’ve gone and put the lead back in gasoline and paint when I wasn’t looking.

      • dorrk says:

        While “mental health” has gotten a few mentions in this thread, I’m surprised that there has been no citing of the increased presence of mood altering prescriptions drugs. Surely this is a topic that Scott knows better than most of us, and I don’t have supporting facts on this, just a general impression based on common facts that eventually leak out about shooters in these types of cases.

        Here are my assumptions (I’m also certain that my terminology is going to be suspect-to-wrong; please correct me whether I’m totally off-base or just talking about it incorrectly):

        1. Mood altering prescription drugs, while very helpful in normalizing erratic behavior, can create serious reactions in former users who have recently stopped taking them. The sudden loss of induced well-being, combined with the pre-existing condition of manic/irrational/extreme/psychotic thoughts can combine into devastatingly violent reactions (paranoia and delusions of grandeur seem to be involved in many high profile cases).

        2. Middle class young white men are far more likely to be prescribed use of these types of drugs than are other demographics, for a variety of reasons (economic, cultural, etc.).

        3. I seem to recall that many past shooters were reported to have previously sought treatment for mental health issues, the type of which were or might have been treated with mood altering drugs.

        I’m not convinced that there has been a statistical rise in mass killings overall, but there certainly has been a shift in their nature and prominence in our cultural awareness, and going back to Columbine and a bit earlier, the patterns have suggested to me that the concurrent increase in psychiatric drugs should be explored as a potentially relevant factor.

  31. Rack says:

    So I live in Thousand Oaks and have been to Borderline a couple times. Weird f-ing day, I can tell you. It’s gonna feel quite tragic around here for a while. Hard to know how to feel. Everyone I personally know is fine physically. I’ll probably end up knowing someone who knows someone more directly affected. I see no reason to believe my physical risk in this usually extremely safe community is any higher or lower than it was 24 hours ago, but I doubt things will be spun that way.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It’s horrific.

      Also, know that we have a “3 day” rule about discussing these kinds of events, so don’t take non responses as being uncaring.

      • Rack says:

        Thanks for the heads up. I’m a huge SSC fan, so I’m very sorry to violate any norms.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t think you have; the moratorium as I understand it is about politicizing tragedy. I feel strongly that reaching out to this community to share your feelings and experience without advocating for any particular response is appropriate.

      • Plumber says:

        Well there was a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh a week ago, and before that there was a mass shooting at a church in Texas with 26 killed last year, so those were over three days ago.

        And there was the mass shooting in Tallahassee Florida, on November 2nd, 2018, 

        and the one on Springfield, Missouri on November 1st, 2018,

        and the one in Detroit, Michigan on October 31, 2018,

        and the one in Vallejo, California on October 30, 2018, 

        and the one on October 29, 2018,

        and on October 28, 2018,

        two on October 27, 2018,

        one on October 26, 2018,

        and on October 24, 2018,

        and on October 22, 2018,

        and two on October 21, 2018,

        but before that there was the mass shooting on October 16, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia where four were injured with bullets but fortunately none were killed, so there was at least one three day window in which no Americans were killed in a mass shooting this last month!

        I well remember hearing the gunfire of the 1980’s, but those were primarily “turf” battles, nothing like this..

        At the time it seemed like the violent crime of the ’80’s  was just goimg to keep getting worse but eventually it slowed down.

        Nowadays tese “incidents” seem to be increasing.

        Please someone suggest a way out of many more Pittsburgh’s, 

        and Jersey City’s,

        and Chicago’s, 

        and Jacksonville’s, 

        and Lakewood’s,

        and et cetera, 

        et cetera, 

        et cetera, 

        et cetera….

        • HeelBearCub says:

          There isn’t any stricture on discussing these things, just the current event where facts are likely unknown (and false information is likely rampant).

          But it becomes hard to avoid referring to the current event. Of course, these days it seems like we are always three days from a mass shooting…

        • bean says:

          The problem is the difference between the statistical definition of “mass shooting” and the popular/media one. The former is any case where a few people get shot. The second usually involves more people getting shot somewhere that the average media viewer (or their family) might actually go by a nutjob who just wants to kill people. I suspect your list is dominated by shootings that meet the first definition, but not the second.