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Open Thread 119.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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1,266 Responses to Open Thread 119.25

  1. There is a South Bay meetup this Sunday, January 27th. I have just put it on the schedule for a second time, but since it vanished the first time I am not counting on it showing up this time.

  2. nkurz says:

    There’s an interesting interview with Stephen Pinker up on Quillette. Most of it is Pinker responding to reviews of his book Enlightenment Now, which is about the “Age of Enlightenment”, not bodhi or satori as recently discussed it the thread about the survey. But Pinker does explicitly call out Scott’s “Conflict vs Mistake” essay later in the interview, saying that Enlightenment Now is firmly on the side of Mistake Theory:

    Enlightenment Now not only engages in Mistake theory but sees it as the essence of the Enlightenment: Progress depends on the application of knowledge. Conflict theorists think this is just an excuse for reinforcing privilege: progress depends on the struggle for power, and the philosophes were woke avant la lettre.

    • Guy in TN says:

      “Conflict vs. Mistake” is one of the more baffling entries in the SSC canon to me. I’m still not sure what these terms are supposed to mean; it seemed as if Scott retconned some of the harder claims in the follow-up. I’m genuinely disappointed, but not surprised, to see it become one of the more commonly-referenced blog posts, filtering out into the mainstream discourse.

      Its just too easy, for more unscrupulous readers, to pick it up and use it as a weapon: “Oh, you’re mad? You want to fight back against this thing I’m advocating for? Looks like you’re a Conflict Theorist who has abandoned all logic and reason smh”

      • I think it’s a simple and useful distinction. One reason why you disagree with me about what policies are better is that you are in favor of the same results I am against. An alternative reason is that you disagree with me about what the results will be–expect the policy I support to produce results that I as well as you would be against.

        Minimum wage is a pretty obvious example. One explanation of the fact that I am opposed to having or increasing the legal minimum wage is that I want low paid workers to be poor, or at least am not willing to accept a small increase in the cost of things they produce as the price of making them less poor.

        An alternative explanation is that I believe the main effect of a minimum wage law is to price low-skill workers out of the market, leaving them unemployed.

        Presumably, most people who favor having or increasing the minimum wage would not favor those policies if they agreed with me about the consequences.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman,

          You nailed it.

          When values differ (“Justice” vs. “Liberty”) than arguments get heated, but when goals are agreed to (“What ways will lift more people out of poverty?”)., more reasoned discussion is likely.

          There’s also “winners and losers” and “long-term vs. short-term”.

          I think your prescriptions (more free trade and more open borders) will probably lift more humans out of poverty (as in China and India), but I also think those prescriptions will hurt more Americans in this generation than they will help, and more Canadian/Scandinavisn/mid 20th century U.S.A.-like policies will be more helpful for those I most want helped in the next couple of decades.

      • Guy in TN says:

        I think it’s a simple and useful distinction. One reason why you disagree with me about what policies are better is that you are in favor of the same results I am against. An alternative reason is that you disagree with me about what the results will be–expect the policy I support to produce results that I as well as you would be against.

        It sounds like you’re just re-describing the distinction between normative vs. descriptive claims: one debate is about what the outcomes of a policy will likely be, the other debate is what the outcome of policy ought to be.

        How do we make sense of Pinker’s reference, if this what Conflict vs. Mistake is supposed to be? Quoting Pinker and substituting in your concepts:

        Enlightenment Now not only engages in [disagreement over what the objective results are] but sees it as the essence of the Enlightenment: Progress depends on the application of knowledge. [People who debate over whether the results are good or bad] think this is just an excuse for reinforcing privilege…

        Huh? Is this really what he means?

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I agree with DF that “Conflict vs Mistake theory” is a useful distinction, but I don’t quite follow his explanation.

          In my conception of conflict theorists, they aren’t really concerned about what is the correct answer. They already know what actions to take will result in the best solutions. While these actions will help most of the people, there are always a certain group of people that will be harmed by taking this action, and they will oppose taking these actions. Thus the concept of conflict — the issue is how to win this conflict, not how to find the answers.

          I think few people are 100% Conflict Theorists or 100% Mistake Theorists, but it is useful concept to think about the different approach to ideological differences.

          Pinker sees his concept of the Enlightenment as not about conflict but about knowledge. Thus it is about Mistake Theory.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I see two main categories in your interpretation, if you would allow me to summarize:
            1. The question of what the best process is (“mistake”)
            2. The question of how to implement this process (“conflict”)

            Another perfectly fine explanation, but again, not one I think Pinker (or Scott) shares. How does Pinker’s rejection of Conflict Theory square with this? Are rational people only supposed to only ask questions in the realm of abstract ideas, and never touch the question of tangible implementation?

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            In my conception of conflict theorists, they aren’t really concerned about what is the correct answer. They already know what actions to take will result in the best solutions.

            That is one way they can look at the world.

            However, another is based on an identitarian ideology where different genders/races/etc fundamentally cannot understand each others specific needs and thus cannot act fairly for the other.

            And/or it can be a segregationist ideology where the needs are considered incompatible.

  3. The original Mr. X says:

    I don’t know if any of you have been following the story of the alleged harassment of a Native American by a bunch of school students, but if you are, it looks like the media has been (surprise, surprise) giving a completely misleading and biased account of it.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The kid’s smirk is still pretty annoying, though I don’t know whether it’s something he can help: it might just be a thing he’s got, the way some others are afflicted with Bitchy Resting Face.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If having a totally punchable face meant it was OK to be punched, there’d be a lot more busted noses and skinned knuckles than there are. But yeah, that kid does have a punchable face.

      • bullseye says:

        I don’t care enough to watch the video and form my own opinion, but it certainly looks to me like they focused on the most punchable looking kid there (considering I’ve seen a few different pictures, and they all feature that one guy).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That’s because he was inches from the vet’s face, doing his best “I’m a little shit and you can’t do anything about it“ routine.

          Really people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Precisely how far did punchable face guy move to get into the Indian veteran’s face?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s because he was inches from the vet’s face, doing his best “I’m a little shit and you can’t do anything about it“ routine.

            Well, yeah, when you invade someone’s personal space like Drummer Guy was doing, they do tend to end up inches from your face.

            “This creature is a vicious one. When you walk uncomfortably close to it, it stands there grinning awkwardly.”

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’m sure a supermodel such as yourself doesn’t need to worry, but I think a norm of “Don’t ruin people’s lives because you saw a photo of them with a silly expression” is going to be better for most people than the reverse.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I’m having trouble retrieving the part where I called for anyone’s life to be ruined, but the compliment on my own appearance is much appreciated. For one reason or another I don’t get that nearly as often as you’d expect.

      • Randy M says:

        To me it looks like an awkwardly held smile by someone in an unpleasant situation, but it could be a haughty look of disregard.

        But we’re well past reading tea leaves when we’re condemning someone for smiling wrong.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        When I said earlier that this is how things go to shit this is what I was talking about.

        Instead of being a good person yourself, you think “I could be more effective if I attack evil people,” and you calmly talk yourself into torturing people because it’s holy.

        Edit to follow-up: “This” is the mob chasing people who they think are the perpetrator in this incident — not even caring if they have the right person. There’s no time to wait on identity confirmation, if we don’t get ahead of the mob, the mob might turn on us.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Dude, you can’t possibly be that gullible.

      • AliceToBob says:

        @ HeelBearCub

        Would you elaborate? To anyone, the things that I’m confused about:

        – I scanned the NPR video online [1], and I don’t see the taunting/jeering behavior that’s alleged. A few juvenile unintelligible outbursts/howls, but that’s to be expected under either explanation. There’s what appears to be a couple seconds of what might be hand-chopping by a couple young men, but that is quickly shut down by the other students. Is there some clip where a student actually says something that crosses the line?

        – The video on the Adam Clements twitter page isn’t as clear as it could be, but it does look like the Native American group moves toward the students. It certainly explains why the young man (who alternates between grinning and looking uncomfortable/insecure) is so close to the drummer. It seems strange he would voluntarily place himself in close proximity to such a loud instrument.

        – Is WKRC, or Adam Clements in particular, known for presenting events in a rightward-biased fashion?

        – What sounds like a student at 56 seconds saying “I’m so confused!” jives with the account given by the students that this confrontation wasn’t planned by them.

        My regard for mainstream media has taken a nosedive over the last few years, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the original report is just knee-jerk coverage, and the truth is more nuanced. I’d like to know if I’m wrong, or whether I should downgrade my opinion of AP News even further.

        [1] https://www.npr.org/2019/01/20/686988268/video-of-kentucky-students-mocking-native-american-man-draws-outcry

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Say a soldier, a Vietnam vet, was processing down the national mall, solemnly, making a symbolic journey to the Vietnam War Memorial, marching with a snare drum.

          And then a group of young men gathered around him and started dancing and blocking his path, getting right in his face, inches from it, but not making physical contact, wearing Che Guevara shirts, jeering at him. You would understand instantly what was happening.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Gees, HBC, it looks to me like you are the gullible one here. This sounds more like a Vietnam vet walking directly into a crowd of kids to try to make some kind of ideological point, going out of his way to avoid the Memorial.

            We certainly don’t have enough info here, but from what I’ve seen, I wonder why you are being so ingenuous. Sorry to be so harsh, but usually you are more open-minded.

          • Have you looked at the webbed videos? Do they show the young men gathering around the Indian vet or the Indian vet going into the group of young men? That would seem to be crucial to how to interpret what happened.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It looked to me like Phillips came up to the edge of the group at first, and happened to settle on Smirking Boy as the one he wanted to confront. (If, as the current version of the story has it, his group was trying to defuse the situation between the kids and the Black Hebrew zanies, then they were right where they wanted to be and no one was in anyone’s way. If they were trying instead to move through, as HBC would have it, it’s just barely possible that a quick “coming through, please, excuse us” would have made the point more clearly than the wordless drumming.)

            Some of the kids did gradually filter in behind Phillips, mostly taking video at first. Pretty much what you’d expect when someone’s putting on a show, and the guys with him didn’t seem to be acting like they saw any sort of threat. There was a certain amount of Beavis-and-Buttheadish yuk-yukking going on at his expense, perhaps a reaction to the left-wing protest cliche of the drumming, but more likely because that’s how boys that age usually react to anything outside the teenage Overton peephole.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            You’re right that I’d understand the situation you describe, and my sympathies would be with the soldier. Ditto if you replaced “soldier” with Nathan Phillips (the drummer) and “Che Guevara shirts” with MAGA hats.

            But the scenario you lay out seems to have little connection with the video or descriptions that have emerged regarding this event.

            I’m also struck by the hyperbolic statements of Nathan Phillips [1]:

            There was that moment when I realized I’ve put myself between beast and prey,” Phillips said. “These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that…

            Phillips said he recalled “the looks in these young men’s faces … I mean, if you go back and look at the lynchings that was done (in America) …and you’d see the faces on the people … The glee and the hatred in their faces, that’s what these faces looked like.

            In contrast, the statement by Nick Sandmann (student) gives a very different, but plausible description of what happened that day [2]. Perhaps you should check it out.

            I thought this segment was particularly relevant:

            I am not going to comment on the words or account of Mr. Phillips, as I don’t know him and would not presume to know what is in his heart or mind. Nor am I going to comment further on the other protestors, as I don’t know their hearts or minds, either.

            [1] https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/01/20/native-american-leader-nathan-phillips-recounts-incident-video/2630256002/

            [2] https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/20/us/covington-kentucky-student-statement/index.html

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Dude, there are videos in that Twitter feed confirming the student’s account of what happened. Have you bothered to watch them?

        • Plumber says:

          @The original Mr. X

          “Dude, there are videos in that Twitter feed confirming the student’s account of what happened. Have you bothered to watch them?”

          I can’t speak for @HeelBearCub (or whomever you were responding to) but the likelihood of my ever watching videos on a Twitter feed are pretty damn low.

          Please write what you mean or link to an essay that’s readable, if it’s not good music or short comedy I’m not likely to endure videos and some damn protest is just about the last thing I’ll watch voluntarily, if whatever is in a video isn’t worth a text commentary then as far as I’m concerned it’s not worth my time.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            No-one is under any compulsion to watch anything, of course, but if you accuse someone of being “gullible” whilst refusing to look at the evidence, that doesn’t say much for your intellectual honesty.

          • but the likelihood of my ever watching videos on a Twitter feed are pretty damn low.

            I don’t generally watch youtube videos and the like, because I can read faster than most people talk and find text a better way of conveying information.

            But in this case the issues isn’t conveying information, it’s giving evidence. How we interpret the events depends critically on what happened, and the videos show at least a partial picture of that. If, as I think is the case, the video shows the drummer going to the group of teenagers and confronting one of them, that means that any account in which it was the teenagers who confronted the drummer is false.

          • Plumber says:

            @The original Mr. X

            “No-one is under any compulsion to watch anything, of course, but…”

            Thankfully @DavidFriedman described the content more exactly, which was much more effective, than the Uh-huh’s and Nuh-uh’s.

    • SamChevre says:

      Admittedly biased source, but video seems to line up with the story in the tweet.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Slightly off-topic: Wearing a MAGA hat is equivalent to carrying around a picket sign. Political paraphernalia’s only use is to send political messages.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The students were just returning from a political rally.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I know, they were at a right to life rally.

          But they kept the signs uphats on when some of them started arguing against someone else’s ‘rally’ (granted, a crazy street preacher, but still).

          I could see why a Vietnam vet might find it appropriate to try to divide and distract them (the crazy preacher and the MAGA-hat wearing students). Not knowing the reason why the students were there, it could look like something was about to go down.

          I don’t see malevolence in their actions, but I hope they draw the right lesson from this.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Who changes their clothes directly after a rally? There’s no taboo or rule against wearing political propaganda in public, certainly not on the Mall in Washington D.C. They didn’t start arguing against anyone else’s rally. The Black Hebrew Israelite group started up with them. And then the Indian guy went in, and I doubt his motives were as benign as he said.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It takes two to tango.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I see. So if fault can be found with the MAGA kids, find fault with the MAGA kids. If that doesn’t hold up, switch to implying that anyone involved in a situation must be at fault.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Oh FFS. They’re teenagers, of course they’re going to do things that adults would think counter-productive or stupid.

            I just hope they draw the right lesson from this fiasco! (The wrong lesson would be that they, as a group, did absolutely nothing counter-productive, and that left-wing radicals will try to set them up for no reason at all.)

            I also hope they learn, like most adults do, not to start arguing or interacting with crazies who happen to be in their vicinity, even if those crazies are arguing with you. Nor tomahawk chopping at NAs.

            Frankly the ones that I blame here are their adult chaperones who should have been looking out for their interests better.
            Why the school would have a political rally with minors at all I do not know (the rally was not specific to matters of concern to minors). It’s one thing to indoctrinate students, it’s quite another to get them actively involved in your political hobbyhorse.
            Why the school would allow unrelated political paraphernalia at a right-to-life rally that students are getting credit for I do not know.
            Why the adults wouldn’t intervene to tell them to stop arguing with the preacher I do not know.

          • The Nybbler says:

            (The wrong lesson would be that they, as a group, did absolutely nothing counter-productive, and that left-wing radicals will try to set them up for no reason at all.)

            That strikes me as exactly the right lesson. With the addition that they will be subject to an irrebuttable presumption that they are the party at fault.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I just hope they draw the right lesson from this fiasco! (The wrong lesson would be that they, as a group, did absolutely nothing counter-productive, and that left-wing radicals will try to set them up for no reason at all.)

            Why exactly would that be the wrong lesson? From the videos, it looks like the children were just standing around, not doing anything more anti-social than your average group of high-school children, and then Native American drummer guy walks into the midst of them and starts banging his drum a few inches from someone’s face. Then he goes to the media to slander the kids, and the MSM does its usual propagandists-of-the-intersectional-left routine, and now an innocent high-schooler is being treated like Hitler Jnr. for the crime of smiling awkwardly.

            If this isn’t a set-up, I’d like to know what would be.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That strikes me as exactly the right lesson. With the addition that they will be subject to an irrebuttable presumption that they are the party at fault.

            Yeah, but they deserve it, because of all that white privilege they have.

            You know, where people assume you’re evil because of your skin colour, and make statements like “No one need ever forgive him.” That kind of privilege.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It’s the wrong lesson for the same reason Rashomon. Viewpoints differ, what’s salient to one is invisible to the others.

            People in a large group can easily not realize how intimidating their large group is to those in smaller groups.

            Wearing a MAGA hat and then arguing with a crazy makes you look crazy too.

            Tomahawk chopping in the presence of Native Americans is provocative verging on instigative.

            it looks like the children were just standing around, not doing anything more anti-social than your average group of high-school children, and then Native American drummer guy walks into the midst of them and starts banging his drum a few inches from someone’s face.

            I have not watched the extended video, but my wife did. So a few things:

            1) Some of the students began arguing back at the crazy preacher prior to the Native Americans coming between them to, in their understanding, defuse the situation.
            2) Standing around with political paraphernalia and uniforms while chanting/hollering/whatever in unison (which they were doing) would tend to look like some sort of political statement to outsiders such as the Native Americans.

            You have got to be aware of how you can appear to others, and modify yourself appropriately. As a large man I have been taught this lesson. It hasn’t been a pleasant lesson to learn, but it’s one I needed to learn, and the other parties are not in the wrong no matter how pissed off I was at being wrongly considered dangerous.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Drummer Guy walked into the middle of the kids and started banging his drum three inches from someone’s face. If he found them at all intimidating, he has a very funny way of showing it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s the wrong lesson for the same reason Rashomon. Viewpoints differ, what’s salient to one is invisible to the others.

            That there are different stories does not mean there is no truth.

            2) Standing around with political paraphernalia and uniforms while chanting/hollering/whatever in unison (which they were doing) would tend to look like some sort of political statement to outsiders such as the Native Americans.

            This was the Mall in Washington D.C. If there were to be only one place in this nation for political statements, that would be it. You keep using this as some sort of strike against the students, but it’s really not.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            You have got to be aware of how you can appear to others, and modify yourself appropriately. As a large man I have been taught this lesson. It hasn’t been a pleasant lesson to learn, but it’s one I needed to learn, and the other parties are not in the wrong no matter how pissed off I was at being wrongly considered dangerous.

            You seem to be looking at this situation backwards. The kids in the video are not the ones crying in the media to ruin the lives of other people for their political views. Other than refraining from voicing their political opinions, what could a group of teenagers, and specifically the young man at the center of this, do differently in this situation?

            Not smile?

            If there are kids tomahawk chopping, that’s inappropriate but hardly grounds for the media to get involved – that should be a school discipline issue. The kid at the center of accusations literally did nothing – what should he do differently?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Not smile?

            Yes. Just like in Gone Girl.

          • albatross11 says:

            anonymousskimmer:

            Not really. If you’re walking down the street and I walk up and start a confrontation, you don’t have to agree to it at all. You may just be standing there with a dumb look on your face trying to figure out what’s going on–that doesn’t mean you did anything to be part of the conflict.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would like to see some evidence that Nathan Phillips is actually a Vietnam veteran. Apparently he’s 64 years old, which would put him at 16 or 17 when the last combat troops were leaving Vietnam in ’72. This makes his claim of service seem unlikely.

            He lied shamelessly about the kids in the video, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t lie about being a vet, too.

          • Judging by the Washington Times story, it isn’t clear he has ever claimed to be a Vietnam veteran, although that’s how he gets described.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            it isn’t clear he has ever claimed to be a Vietnam veteran, although that’s how he gets described.

            Somehow that seems the perfect crap cherry on this sundae full of fail.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            You people say these things as if I don’t know them already.

            I don’t get it. I’m trying to show how this can be a learning opportunity. You seem to be saying that the kids (and more importantly in my eyes, the adult chaperones) have absolutely nothing to learn, other than that the world is out to get them for what they look like.

            P.S. In the extended video the crazy preacher called the students out for not having any black members. Some students shouted back that they did have some black members, and a handful of them shouted “Bring out Jamal!” (as proof that they have a black member) to the students inside the circle. At this point the Native Americans were some distance away. “Bring out Jamal!” ~= “Build the Wall!” As my wife said, a comedy of errors. (She’s more on the kids’ side than I am)

            FOR THEIR GOD’S SAKE I HOPE THE STUDENTS TAKE HOME THE LESSON: DO NOT INTERACT WITH CRAZY PEOPLE!!

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That there are different stories does not mean there is no truth.

            That there is truth, does not mean that we know what it is.

            Which is the entire point of the previous comment you responded to:

            Viewpoints differ, what’s salient to one is invisible to the others.

            One of the lessons a lot of people seem to be trying to make is “don’t rush to judgment”. They’re making it on the grounds that the original posted video turned out to be an incomplete account of the incident, on grounds of a statement published by one of the attendees, plus a second video. Well: what if that statement and that video are themselves inaccurate? What if we missed a bit where the HS students were taunting the Black Hebrews or Phillips, or were harassing innocent passersby, or were bragging on their way between their protest and the Mall about how they were going to look for some other protests to gatecrash? Or the next wave of evidence after that, where the passersby were themselves looking for angry protestors to catch on camera, or…

            Obviously, there exists a point where further evidence is so likely to just uphold one of the previous narratives (ideally, one that fuses and resolves any previous narratives) that it’s no longer worth searching for more. I think most people don’t have a consensus on when that point has arrived, with the possible exception of professional investigators.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            One of the lessons a lot of people seem to be trying to make is “don’t rush to judgment”. They’re making it on the grounds that the original posted video turned out to be an incomplete account of the incident, on grounds of a statement published by one of the attendees, plus a second video. Well: what if that statement and that video are themselves inaccurate? What if we missed a bit where the HS students were taunting the Black Hebrews or Phillips, or were harassing innocent passersby, or were bragging on their way between their protest and the Mall about how they were going to look for some other protests to gatecrash? Or the next wave of evidence after that, where the passersby were themselves looking for angry protestors to catch on camera, or…

            One of the videos out there is around two hours long (I can try and find it if you want). So, I don’t think the scenario you outline is very likely. Even if it was, though, that still wouldn’t change the fact that the MSM have been attempting to destroy a child’s life on the basis of a hat and a few seconds of out-of-context video.

          • albatross11 says:

            anonymousskimmer:

            Lesson for the kids: Avoid crazy people and provocateurs trying to create a Social Media Moment to get attention.

            And for the people watching at home:

            Lesson #1: Don’t fall for the next social media outrage storm.

            Lesson #2: When mainstream journalists and political figures fall for the next social media outrage storm and and it falls apart, update your estimate of the seriousness and care with which those journalists and political figures report factual questions and approach questions of greater weight.

            IMO, this is more-or-less the big lesson from Tetlock’s work. When people write commentary on stuff like this, most people judge them on how well it agrees with their previous beliefs or with their bit of ideological bubble, and never check to see if the original commentator got the facts straight. Here we have a natural experiment–a misleading Twitter storm kicked up, with evidence that was extremely ambiguous, and that anyone could see was ambiguous. Lots of people we otherwise trust to stand between us and reality and tell us what’s what responded with the crowd of people with whom they shared beliefs, despite the obviously thin evidence, and without any particular attempt to get to the truth. Why would we expect them to do differently in the next ten cases where we won’t see any inconvenient contradictory evidence or narrative collapse? Probably they’re just as careless all those other times, but we don’t notice.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            I don’t get it. I’m trying to show how this can be a learning opportunity.

            This is going into it from the perspective of “the kids or their chaperones did something wrong, that is what resulted in the situation, and they should learn from it.” This is pure Bulverism. Not only does it exclude the possibility that the kids did not do wrong, it fails to consider the agency and/or culpability of the other actors involved and furthermore also fails to consider that alternative actions you would suggest might either not work or have _other_ negative consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe the right lesson to draw is that you shouldn’t join outrage storms based on ambiguous evidence, because you’re likely to be missing a lot of context, and a lot of the time, you’ll have the whole story wrong. And even if you don’t, you’ll probably be contributing to making the world a much worse place.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Some of the students began arguing back at the crazy preacher prior to the Native Americans coming between them … Wearing a MAGA hat and then arguing with a crazy makes you look crazy too.

            It seems that you think wearing a MAGA hat contributes to looking crazy. Do you feel the same about “YES WE CAN” shirts?

            I just hope they draw the right lesson from this fiasco!

            You have got to be aware of how you can appear to others, and modify yourself appropriately. As a large man I have been taught this lesson.

            It’s not clear that whatever lesson you learned applies here. Trying to influence how people perceive the intentions of a group seems harder than influencing how people perceive my own individual behavior. You seem to be holding this group of teenagers to a higher standard than yourself.

            Also, insisting that your life experience generalizes to this situation, and that these students should learn the “right lesson”, comes off as a little arrogant.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And I have seen my conservative circles rushing to attack the vet as a stolen valor guy, although (for the moment) the evidence shows he never claimed that himself.

            I can say “their outrage storm was not as bad as the previous outrage storm,” which is true, but it is still the same lesson: stop participating in outrage storms, and seek shelter yourself to avoid outrage storms.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And I have seen my conservative circles rushing to attack the vet as a stolen valor guy, although (for the moment) the evidence shows he never claimed that himself.

            I’m not sure whether he’s made such claims in the context of the present controversy, but he has in the past, e.g.:

            “I have a relative here who said he’d lead the way and scout ahead for us,” Phillips continued, his voice breaking. “You know, I’m from Vietnam times. I’m what they call a recon ranger. That was my role. So I thank you for taking that point position for me.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            TBH, the insistence that the kids should “learn the right lesson” looks like the just world fallacy to me: they’ve got in so much trouble, there must be something they did to set it off.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Good lessons albatross11.

            @The Nybbler

            Not only does it exclude the possibility that the kids did not do wrong, it fails to consider the agency and/or culpability of the other actors involved

            It doesn’t matter whether you did no wrong or not. People will still react to what you appear to them to be, and sometimes this will result in bad things happening.

            And yes, I do believe that interacting with crazy people (unless trained to do so, or necessity) is “doing wrong”. Given the givens the impulse is completely understandable from HS students (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATTMB4gH3sU), but still something that’s best to avoid.

            @AliceToBob

            It seems that you think wearing a MAGA hat contributes to looking crazy. Do you feel the same about “YES WE CAN” shirts?

            On a personal note I feel this way about anyone whatsoever wearing political garb (exception for actual politicians).

            Trying to influence how people perceive the intentions of a group seems harder than influencing how people perceive my own individual behavior.

            Damn right it is. That’s why you have to be extra-conscious of your actions.
            https://www.refinery29.com/en-ca/2019/01/222285/good-place-season-3-episode-11-recap-michael-new-neighborhood
            “Last week’s “The Book Of Doug” proves it’s the consequences of even people’s most thoughtful decisions are what’s keeping them from eternal paradise.
            Back in the day, giving your grandmother flowers would result in a net of 145.1 points. Now, you’ll lose 4 points for the same actions (by inadvertently supporting sweatshops, pesticides, and one CEO who committed crimes against an ill-fated racehorse and many people).”

            Also, insisting that your life experience generalizes to this situation, and that these students should learn the “right lesson”, comes off as a little arrogant.

            I’m now past 40 and had a first ‘mentorship’ experience last year; old people are gonna be old. I’ll try to limit how arrogant I come off to avoid making my father’s mistakes. Thanks for the feedback.

            @The original Mr. X
            I’ve listed the actions that members of their group took that I believe were mistakes. Their mistakes don’t come close to the mistakes that their school and chaperones made. I hope lessons are learned.

            P.S. I’m bowing out from the debate now.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ anonymousskimmer

            It seems that you think wearing a MAGA hat contributes to looking crazy. Do you feel the same about “YES WE CAN” shirts?

            On a personal note I feel this way about anyone whatsoever wearing political garb (exception for actual politicians).

            Okay, your bar for what looks crazy is lower than mine. In most settings, I don’t mind that people signal their political opinions, whether it be via speech, attire, bumper stickers, protests, or whatever.

            Damn right it is. That’s why you have to be extra-conscious of your actions.

            Last week’s “The Book Of Doug” proves it’s the consequences of even people’s most thoughtful decisions are what’s keeping them from eternal paradise. Back in the day, giving your grandmother flowers would result in a net of 145.1 points. Now, you’ll lose 4 points for the same actions (by inadvertently supporting sweatshops, pesticides, and one CEO who committed crimes against an ill-fated racehorse and many people).”

            Spoilers ahead…

            In the Good Place, the situation is that no matter how much effort is put into considering the consequences of their actions, people (like Chidi or Doug Fourcett) will nevertheless end up in the Bad Place.

            This is portrayed as an immoral state of affairs, since (as you describe) there are essentially unforeseeable/unavoidable/unintended bad effects tied to any action. Indeed, the Judge agrees with Michael that damning people for this is wrong, and that their “point system” may need recalibration.

            Your enthusiastic directive to be “extra-conscious of your actions” seems similarly flawed. It requires every individual in the group to present themselves in a way that cannot possibly be (mis)interpreted as crazy, threatening, or whatever “modify yourself appropriately” entails.

            I’m now past 40 and had a first ‘mentorship’ experience last year; old people are gonna be old. I’ll try to limit how arrogant I come off to avoid making my father’s mistakes.

            Without you elaborating, I don’t understand what age or mentorship (or your father) has to do with things. If I ever claim to impart “the right lesson”, it involves content from a limited domain where I have expertise. My opinions on the proper etiquette for political expression is something I likely wouldn’t share with a mentee, let alone declare as “the right lesson”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            One last comment @AliceToBob:
            Re: political garb
            “contributes to looking crazy”, not “makes them look crazy”.

            Primarily I’m talking about interacting with crazies, not political expression, which is frankly a lesson that every adult should pass on to every child, if only in the “stranger danger” sense. The students had already finished their political expression after all, they had just neglected to account for their still wearing political garb, and their still being in a large group.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM the message you’re proposing for kids is that they must never reveal their political views in public or engage with someone they disagree with in public, lest some bunch of assholes take some pictures and make up some lies and try to drag them on Twitter. If that’s the right lesson to teach kids right now, then it suggests some huge society-wide problems.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Edward Scizorhands says:
            January 22, 2019 at 11:49 am

            And I have seen my conservative circles rushing to attack the vet as a stolen valor guy, although (for the moment) the evidence shows he never claimed that himself.

            I can say “their outrage storm was not as bad as the previous outrage storm,” which is true, but it is still the same lesson: stop participating in outrage storms, and seek shelter yourself to avoid outrage storms.

            Except your conservative friends are right. Phillips has made statements leading the media to believe he was a Vietnam vet, like having served in “vietnam times” and been called a “babykiller” and spit on by hippies. When the media reports this as him being a Vietnam veteran, he does not correct them. His DD-214 has been found, and he was a refrigerator mechanic in Lincoln, Nebraska. Also he went AWOL multiple times.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well then, I’m glad I didn’t get involved in an outrage storm about my conservative friends. At least I got that right.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ anonymousskimmer

            Before:

            You have got to be aware of how you can appear to others, and modify yourself appropriately. As a large man I have been taught this lesson.

            Viewpoints differ, what’s salient to one is invisible to the others.

            It doesn’t matter whether you did no wrong or not. People will still react to what you appear to them to be, and sometimes this will result in bad things happening.

            After:

            Primarily I’m talking about interacting with crazies, not political expression, which is frankly a lesson that every adult should pass on to every child, if only in the “stranger danger” sense.

            So, your primary point distills to “stranger danger”. If only I’d known earlier that your aim was to convey a platitude.

            The students had already finished their political expression after all, they had just neglected to account for their still wearing political garb,

            which they should wear without fear of being exploited as poster boys for hatred, racism, bigotry, white privilege, etc. by what now seems to be sloppy and ideologically-motivated work by reporters.

            and their still being in a large group.

            while waiting for their school bus to come collect them.

    • 10240 says:

      Regardless of the narrative, what the hell is newsworthy in this ? (International news no less, I’ve seen an article about it even in Hungarian news.)

      • brad says:

        I rather agree. Fine it blew up on twitter and facebook. That doesn’t mean the Times needs to write multiple articles about it.

        • Randy M says:

          “People outraged” is a dog bites man story without the bloodshed angle.
          In other words, I agree. Although now there’s the media spin angle, but that’s also a dog bites man story.

        • Plumber says:

          @brad

          “I rather agree. Fine it blew up on twitter and facebook. That doesn’t mean the Times needs to write multiple articles about it”

          The New York Times

          Funny it never filtered to anything I’ve read and I try to read every column by Brooks, Edsall, Douthat, and Krugman, and usually there’s “Editors’ Picks” and “More in Opinion” showing at the bottom of the essay to lead me to what’s newsworthy that week but somehow once again the SSC commentariat is responding to something I’ve never heard of. 

          • nkurz says:

            brad seems right that there are bunch of New York Times stories: https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Anytimes.com+%22covington+catholic%22&as_qdr=w

            It seems like you read primarily the Opinion sections. Perhaps it will take a few days before it filters down to there?

          • brad says:

            I avoid the opinion section these days, mostly stick to “Top Stories”, “World”, “New York”, and “Business”. I used to read some of the lifestyle sections but they seem to be exclusively aimed at women in recent years.

          • Plumber says:

            @nkurz, “

            …It seems like you read primarily the Opinion sections. Perhaps it will take a few days before it filters down to there?”

            And tonight the story of the incident did filter to where I usually read.

            Three seperate showboatin’ groups meet?

            This is so many layers of stupid.

            The only thing that makes this “news” is that it was news.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Just keep in mind that if it weren’t for nitpicky gossips like us, the version of the story that finally filtered through to the sources you do follow would almost certainly have been the uncorrected one. You’re welcome.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Addendum: I just want to note how very New York Times it is to take a story where what little accurate analysis there was was done by Internet randos, and draw the lesson “Boo Internet randos”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            All parts of this story were publicized thanks to internet randos.

            No one was killed, no one got hurt, no one was even physically touched.

            As other elsewhere said this should not have been a news story, not even a social “media” “”news”” story.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            No one was killed, no one got hurt, no one was even physically touched. […] As other elsewhere said this should not have been a news story, not even a social “media” “”news”” story.

            It’s not that simple. Ridicule precedes demonization. Demonization precedes hate. Hate leads to suffering violence.

            So a lot of people are astutely looking upstream from violence, and then looking for examples of what they see elsewhere, as a potential precursor.

            (I hope and expect that people will slowly get acclimated to how much gets caught up in this net, as well as noting how much it’s affected by the mere act of looking, and adjust their priors.)

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Say, if it’s all a big “no harm, no foul” nothingburger, why is it important that the kids draw lessons from it?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The times in my life when I’ve made mistakes that could have lead to something serious are unworthy of even local news*. This is going to be the same for the vast majority of people.

            We should still learn lessons from those mistakes.

            * – possible exception is the accident that resulted in 150+ stitches, and even that’s just worthy of a minor note in a very local paper.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If one side is answerable for anything that might have happened, and the other only for what actually has (so far), naturally the ones who get the special dispensation are likely to come out better.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            One side this, one side that.

            Enough people are talking about how bad the crazy preacher was and the rigidity of the Native American, why do I have to talk about them too?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Enough people are talking about how bad the crazy preacher was and the rigidity of the Native American, why do I have to talk about them too?

            You can talk about whatever you like. However, the outrage directed against the CCH kids is already so extreme that talking about how they should examine their own behaviour comes across as victim-blaming.

          • albatross11 says:

            The interesting phenomenon isn’t that some crazy assholes were crazy assholes on the internet, it’s that lots of normal non-crazy, non-asshole people went along, some allegedly serious people with serious jobs in politics and media. Nothing we can do will stop crazy assholes from being their own crazy asshole selves. But there’s a social pathology going on that sweeps normal human beings into saying and sometimes doing seriously nasty things.

          • Dan L says:

            it’s that lots of normal non-crazy, non-asshole people went along, some allegedly serious people with serious jobs in politics and media.

            The politicians and media have the excuse that following the masses is literally their job (and if you don’t like that, find a subset with better incentives), but I still haven’t found a way to fire the electorate/consumer base. IMO while this incident was remarkable for just how low the actual stakes were, nothing about it was surprising and I don’t think it shifted my priors any.

        • albatross11 says:

          This was my thought, too. The story seems to be some mix of:

          a. Teenage boys act like assholes.

          b. Protesters try to provoke a response and then overreact= to it.

          c. Someone on Twitter is outraged.

          Why would any of this be news? Someone on Twitter is always outraged, massed teenaged boys are often assholes, and protesters commonly try to provoke a response they can get outraged about. Who cares?

          Now, the media being what it is, I don’t have a huge amount of faith that any story about this will be careful with the facts, and in fact I kind-of assume that they’ll start with the narrative they want to tell and then fill in facts to fit. That’s especially true because nobody here has much power to push back on them or anything.

          So ISTM we’ve got some ambiguous situation mixed between asshole teenagers and asshole protesters, of zero significance to the world, plus nobody we can expect to honestly untangle the situation and tell us what actually happened. What could be a less productive place to spend my time and attention?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            To be honest, I don’t even think the particular boy at the centre of this was acting like an arsehole. Given that he was pretty much minding his own business until a strange old man came up and started banging a drum in his face, I think he showed quite admirable restraint.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      As I’m reading more of this story, I wonder if the kid has a libel case against some of the media reports? Not the preacher, as he seems to have genuinely misunderstood the kids, but the media reports that went out of their way to infer maliciousness on the part of a teenager who literally just stood there.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Not just the media — his local school, parish, and diocese all hung him out to dry, and I hope he sues all of them into financial oblivion.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Being accused of a crime does not entitle one to gobs of money, it entitles one to due process, which the school said they were going to give.

          And I sure hope the tomahawk chopping students get a stern talking to.

        • brad says:

          We have the first amendment in the United States. Thank goodness.

        • What I hope is that the many people who responded to the initial story by presuming the accused guilty and verbally attacking them on that basis will learn the appropriate lesson–that they are themselves badly prejudiced.

          But I’m not counting on it.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “….will learn the appropriate lesson…”

            The lesson I learned is to wait until a story filters to my usual news sources for context, as trying to suss it out here may be head-banging frustrating.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You would think people would figure out by now “if the media says something inflammatory, wait two days before talking about it.” But no.

      • brad says:

        Unlikely. In addition to the well known “public figure” rule in defamation there’s also the matter of public concern which invokes actual malice.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I’m assuming that the inclusion of the “public figure” exemption is for completeness here, as there’s no way any of the people involved fall into that.

          As for “matter of public concern” – what matter reaches that level here? Drummers drumming? High school kids waiting for a bus? A confrontation that didn’t escalate?

          I think you’re stretching quite a bit here. If the media, however defined, can create a story of “public interest” simply by reporting on anything they want and passing it around, then that severely reduces the purpose of libel laws.

          • brad says:

            If you are genuinely interested, I suggest reading some of the cases. They should be easy enough to google given that phrase. If you aren’t that interested then you will have to take my word (or not) that the doctrine is quite broad.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            If you want to pull the lawyer card, then I would like to hear your analysis of the Snyder v Phillips criteria as it applies to this case.

            Is the fact that this took place in a public area enough to satisfy the first prong? Do you think that such a broad reading of the test will lead to any unacceptable bad consequences? I think the second prong is harder to meet or requires an even broader reading.

            Secondly, my original question is not about whether a news agency can report on some item that’s gotten popular on Twitter (that clearly is going to be covered by the 1A) – but instead the people that added malicious content (check out this tweet by former governor Howard Dean.) Calling a school a “hate factory” seems a bit much for a public concern exemption to me…

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “Hate factory” wouldn’t be actionable in any case, being so obviously a personal opinion rather than a factual claim.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            That’s fair. And maybe each individual toed the line enough to avoid libelous statements – which would be an answer to my original question.

            That it’s a matter of “public concern” and the implication of no “malice” in Brad’s response is more of what I’m responding to here.

          • albatross11 says:

            As an aside, reading blue checkmark tweets for a week is perhaps the best possible antidote to taking a lot of our elites[1] as serious, well-intentioned thinkers.

            [1] Political, cultural, and media elites.

          • brad says:

            Snyder v Phillips isn’t a defamation case. Also actual malice doesn’t haven’t anything directly to do with malice, it’s a term of art in the case law.

    • Plumber says:

      @The original Mr. X

      “I don’t know if any of you have been following the story of the alleged harassment of a Native American by a bunch of school students, but if you are, it looks like the media has been (surprise, surprise) giving a completely misleading and biased account of it””

      Now that I’ve read beyond that unreadable Twitter link you posted about the “incident”, I’m a bit angry that I know about it at all, three groups of protesters meet and noise is made?

      So what?

      Why did you want to share this?

      And if it was important to you why didn’t you give context (beyond an unreadable link)?

      • The interesting point wasn’t what happened, it was the response to what happened.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman,

          This bizarre story (bizarre that it’s in the news at all!) reached the radio on my drive to work this morning.

          While the reporters read off a statement of the high school student they interviewed the drummer at length, and asked questions like “How did you feel?”, so hardly balanced reporting.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Now that I’ve read beyond that unreadable Twitter link you posted about the “incident”, I’m a bit angry that I know about it at all, three groups of protesters meet and noise is made?

        You’re angry because you voluntarily read a news story?

        Why did you want to share this?

        Firstly, because large numbers of people were smearing a kid on the basis of inaccurate information, and I thought it right to correct the record for any SSC readers who’d been doing the same. And secondly, because the whole incident provides an exceptionally good example of the media’s current role as the enforcement mob of the intersectional left.

        And if it was important to you why didn’t you give context (beyond an unreadable link)?

        Because it is (somewhat bizarrely) a major news story at the moment, so I assumed that most people would know what I was talking about. And indeed, it seems that everybody except you did.

        Also, I don’t know why you think it’s “unreadable”. I managed to read it perfectly fine.

        • Plumber says:

          “…..I don’t know why you think it’s “unreadable”. I managed to read it perfectly fine”

          The text in the original link is far too small to read (I presume to get past Twitter’s character limit), and when I tried to “view image in another tab” it cuts off most of the text, so unreadable!

          A better way to present it is in the Brooks column, readable and with context!

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think that must be a result of your display settings, since it’s perfectly fine on my computer.

        • brad says:

          I mean if you want to know what kind of person turned this into a thing to begin with, I’d imagine you’d have to start at home. Sure you’re defending the kid and attacking the drummer instead of vice-versa, but the instinct to pore over the video second by second and then go write impassioned screeds about it on the internet is the same instinct that leads to these so-called mobs in the first place. It’s all well and good to blame the online right’s favorite boogeyman–the media–but they are trying to sell newspapers and clearly there’s a big audience for what amounts to basically gossip.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Would it be better to allow bad actors in the media to destroy a young man’s life for standing in a public place and smiling? What response is appropriate to that kind of initial malice against him?

          • albatross11 says:

            If major media companies report on a story, it seems unlikely that random comments on blogs are going to spread it any further or ignite it any more. But every time a major media source falls for something like this, does a shitty job reporting it, and later enough details come out to undermine their reporting, it costs them credibility. I feel like a lot of the prestige media in the US have been spending credibility in exchange for clicks for quite awhile now, and one consequence is leaving a lot of us with less and less faith that they’re trying to tell us the truth, or likely to figure out the truth in the first place rather than report the easiest story to write.

          • brad says:

            @Mr. Doolittle
            Can we get a solid definition of a “destroyed life” and a confidence level that the grinner will have one? Perhaps a bet?

            @albatross11
            You have the chain of causation backwards. This story became a story because of the inexplicably obsessed random commenters on blogs (or equivalent) not because of the media. The hunger for gossip is the root problem here, not the media.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Brad, the argument is not that his life will now be destroyed. It’s a question of what would have happened if there had been no counter to the original reporting. It’s that you seem to be saying that the people responding to the original stories (by “writ[ing] impassioned screeds” on the subject) were equally wrong.

            If the original reporting went uncorrected, there is a very real chance that this young man’s life would have been severely damaged and his life options heavily restricted. Even now he’s probably lost the chance to work for certain employers (a very small minority, probably no real impact on his life). If there had been no “impassioned” response to the factually inaccurate reporting – which lead to people trying to “dox” him specifically and a bunch of really nasty statements about him – what consequences would have lasted beyond the national spotlight moving on?

            After Charlottesville, identified far-right protesters were put in a list with the full intention of getting them fired from jobs (which happened to more than a few of them, as well as a completely unrelated guy in AK (IIRC)) – what do you think would happen to this guy after he gets labeled a “racist” by a similar mob?

          • Randy M says:

            This story became a story because of the inexplicably obsessed random commenters on blogs (or equivalent) not because of the media.

            Are you sure there’s a distinction? A lot of what used to be blog comment conversation is on Twitter lately, and a lot of the participants in that are people affiliated with actual news organizations of admittedly varying size and gravitas.

            Can we get a solid definition of a “destroyed life” and a confidence level that the grinner will have one? Perhaps a bet?

            Well the situation has changed with the further evidence and retractions, so likely the restrained young man will be just fine. With any sensible person acknowledging the mistake, in target if not in methods, hopefully those methods are discredited as less useful in the future by spreading stories of their overreaction and misfire.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys both argue in court, so really they’re doing the same thing. If the Innocence Project thinks a lot of people are being convicted unjustly, maybe they should start by looking at home.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, there have been a fair number of cases where random people bore huge costs as a result of a social media mob being whipped up over something they said or did, and quite often I think the social media mob didn’t have much of the story straight. So I don’t think it’s crazy to worry that getting yet another social media mob pointed at some high school kid might lead to him suffering some costs.

            He reported getting death threats, which is pretty normal for anyone caught up in a CW controversy–there’s a background level of crazy people and assholes in every movement who get into that sort of thing.

            In many cases, schools, employers, and other organizations have been very quick to discipline people for being on the wrong end of a social-media mob, without spending a whole lot of time making sure they had the facts straight, and again, it’s not crazy to worry that something similar might happen in this case. If this kid gets expelled from his private school over a bullshit Twitter controversy, that wouldn’t necessarily ruin his life, but it would be pretty shitty.

            I assume that over time, our institutions will adapt to social media mobs and stop reacting as though thousands of messages from angry Twitter users meant anything. But until then, it sure doesn’t seem unreasonable for people to want to push back on a mob that seems likely to actually screw over some high school kid for dumb reasons.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Covington school was closed today due to specific threats of violence against the school.

          • brad says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            After Charlottesville, identified far-right protesters were put in a list with the full intention of getting them fired from jobs (which happened to more than a few of them, as well as a completely unrelated guy in AK (IIRC)) – what do you think would happen to this guy after he gets labeled a “racist” by a similar mob?

            Are they now all homeless, living on the street, and bereft of all their former friends and relations? Same with the pizza place owners and the male/female cable joke guy? They all have had their lives irrevocably destroyed?

            Covington school was closed today due to specific threats of violence against the school.

            I guess all those kids have had their educations destroyed, right?

            @albatross11

            that wouldn’t necessarily ruin his life, but it would be pretty shitty.

            Sure, pretty shitty. But why is it always “mobs”, “lynchings”, “destroyed lives” and so on instead of “pretty shitty”?

            Can’t we have one tiny little corner of the internet that’s not filled with hysterical over the top rhetoric about what is at the end of the day a fairly inconsequential event?

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ brad

            Can’t we have one tiny little corner of the internet that’s not filled with hysterical over the top rhetoric about what is at the end of the day a fairly inconsequential event?

            Nice.

            Weren’t you advocating for Damore’s firing back in OT 81.25? I suppose that CW event was consequential to you, while this one isn’t, so we shouldn’t get “hysterical” about it. Would it be acceptable terminology to say his life was probably “pretty shitty” for awhile after people like you got their wish?

            In OT 97, when discussing the term “racist” and how it gets (mis)applied, didn’t you accuse a poster of “sanctimonious, bad faith posts from the Dutch alt right”? Not over the top at all.

            Instead of implying that those concerned about this event are acting badly, I’d be interested in knowing your criteria for what makes a CW event consequential vs inconsequential. joczmrdnz, d rjio gzo ocz yjjm cdo hz ji ocz rvt jpo, vn tjp vmz ajiy ja nvtdib.

          • brad says:

            Re: Damore
            I never advocated for him to be fired. I defended google’s decision to do so after it was brought up here by someone else.

            Re: the Dutch alt right
            I don’t see what’s over the top about that. I’m not suggesting that posts are tantamount to violence which is something y’all are constantly doing with this “mob” language.

            As for what makes a culture war event consequential, almost all the ones that have been posted about haven’t been. The major exceptions I can think of were Kavanagh and Roy Moore, particularly the first one. Who ends up on the Supreme Court is almost infinitely important than whether some pro life kid or a native drummer was being a jerk at some protest.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ brad

            Re: Damore
            I never advocated for him to be fired. I defended google’s decision to do so after it was brought up here by someone else.

            If true, then it’s an insignificant distinction. However, it seems false. You posted on Aug 5 in response to Matt-M:

            Brad says:
            August 5, 2017 at 3:46 pm
            They should fire him pour encourager les autres. Internal mailings are not the place for self actualization through compulsively sharing the “truth”.

            [Matt-M’s comment] Firing him would also largely confirm his point. His main objection seems to be that there is an authoritarian attitude that prevents people from raising their concerns about significant societal issues. Instantly firing him would essentially confirm everything he says.[End of Matt-M’s comment]

            It’s called work. Unless you are at zappos or that one game company it is supposed to have an authoritarian attitude and prevent people from raising their concerns about significant social issues.

            He should pursue his hobby on here or reddit like the rest of us. If he wants to do it full time he can quit and go work for a think tank or set up a blog and get a patreon.

            It wasn’t until August 7 that Damore was fired. This is reflected in a later post in that same subthread:

            Kevin–C. says:
            August 8, 2017 at 1:58 am
            Google has fired the author of the “manifesto.”

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think you guys need to go back to Damore to find a point of agreement with Brad (quibbles about hyperbole aside). In this thread he defended the principle that

            It is entirely right and proper that, all other things being equal, those who through thoughtlessness or deliberate action make those who they encounter annoyed or upset have more difficult, less pleasant lives than otherwise.

            The best evidence seems to be that the Covington students were innocent of this deliberate action, but a great many people were not, from the Indian activist to reporters tweeting and writing stories about them.

            I don’t know where Brad stands on calling out microaggressions, and it’s fair to say “ruin his life” is an exaggeration, but it seems fair to bring up this incident here.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ brad

            As for what makes a culture war event consequential, almost all the ones that have been posted about haven’t been. The major exceptions I can think of were Kavanagh and Roy Moore, particularly the first one. Who ends up on the Supreme Court is almost infinitely important than whether some pro life kid or a native drummer was being a jerk at some protest.

            Again, what are your criteria? Events that threaten the political interests of your ingroup? This selective caring is what I think Jaskologist was highlighting.

            I think nearly all CW topics raised on SSC are notable simply because it provoked someone enough to sit down and write something of (at least) reasonable quality. This peek into someone else’s thought process is usually interesting, even helpful. Those discussions that don’t interest me, I don’t engage with.

            But I don’t frame things as if I’m entitled to some online haven that’s being disrupted by hysterical and over-the-top comments regarding inconsequential events. And I wouldn’t declare a standard exists for deciding which CW topics have merit, certainly not without at least stating how merit is evaluated.

            If I did, I wouldn’t be surprised if people reminded me that this is indeed a CW thread, and that I might be exhibiting the same lack of principles displayed in past postings (on CW topics only).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I guess all those kids have had their educations destroyed, right?

            So a school has had to close due to threats of violence, and your only response is to make a snide quip? You really are a partisan hack sometimes.

          • You really are a partisan hack sometimes.

            Possibly, but I think he was making a legitimate point here–that what happened wrt Covington might well have had bad consequences but not catastrophically bad, and people were, in his view, writing as if the consequences were catastrophically bad.

            Perhaps I’m misreading him, but I don’t think he is arguing that we shouldn’t comment about such things, only that we shouldn’t exaggerate the importance of them in our rhetoric.

    • Plumber says:

      @The original Mr. X

      “I don’t know if any of you have been following the story of…”

      Well until you brought it up I hadn’t heard word one about what I think should’ve been a forgotten “incident”, but this morning on my drive to work I heard an interview with Nathan Phillips and some guy named Chase Ironsides, and while the reporters did quickly read off a statement by one student the amount of time given to Phillips and most of the questions asked of him did show a “Left-Tribe” bias that seemed to be trying to make a story where one really wasn’t, so your conclusions look valid, but please provide more context next time you decide to report on something like this.

      Thanks.

  4. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been reading lately about the British Arctic voyages undertaken during the nineteenth century into what is now the Canadian north, in search of the North-West Passage and the North Pole. One of the problems they ran into, particularly when their ships overwintered in the ice, was scurvy. They had some understanding of the disease. For example, they supplied everyone with daily doses of lemon juice. But they persisted in the belief that the disease was affected by cleanliness and exercise (not really) and missed the insight that fresh meat helped ward it off.

    It seems strange that the Royal Navy took so long to really come to grips with this. It’s not like the Britain of the time lacked a scientific establishment that could have attacked the problem. And since the disease had a single underlying cause (we now know), scientific trials should have been able to pin it down without a vast expenditure. And then all sorts of remedies could have been tested. But despite the importance of the problem, somehow this wasn’t done, or wasn’t done effectively enough, or the results were never disseminated widely enough. I wonder why.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Vitamin C is quite fragile; cooking destroys it, and so does oxygen (so their lemon juice became useless after a while). If they’d adopted the Inuit habit of eating raw seal (especially liver) and whale skin, they’d have been fine as far as scurvy is concerned. Being British, it seems unlikely they attempted this.

      • Protagoras says:

        Yes, I imagine this was a major hindrance to their figuring it out. Seemingly the same food sometimes helped and sometimes didn’t, making it natural for them to think it must involve factors other than the food.

      • albatross11 says:

        ISTR reading somewhere that there was a change in processing that caused their scurvey remedy (lime juice) to be ineffective–maybe they cooked it or something, but they destroyed the vitamin C in it.

    • bullseye says:

      Didn’t Scott post something about the history of the British Navy’s knowledge of scurvy a while back?

        • dick says:

          I was just going to post it, great article, but doesn’t it sort of answer the question you asked above?

          • johan_larson says:

            Not quite. The article describes why beliefs and practices changed. It doesn’t explain why the Royal Navy didn’t do a more thorough job of investigating the causes of scurvy and how to treat it. They had a first-rate scientific community. But they didn’t use it. They consulted with the medical establishment, certainly, but that seems to have been a pretty backward bunch until pretty much the twentieth century. It’s an odd failing on the part of the RN at a time when science was very much a part of public consciousness.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The existence of vitamins themselves wasn’t discovered until 1912. It’s a little hard to discover that scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency when you don’t know that vitamin C exists.

            Then you have the fact that humans are somewhat rare in that they don’t make vitamin C, so if you want to run an experiment using animals as analogues you are going to be confounded.

          • nkurz says:

            > It’s a little hard to discover that scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency when you
            don’t know that vitamin C exists

            This may be obvious to others, but I was surprised recently to realize that not only was Vitamin C discovered because of scurvy, the chemical name “ascorbic acid” was given because of it’s role in preventing scurvy:

            Rather than patent the process or the product, Szent-Györgyi sent batches to all researchers working on vitamin C or related problems (including Norman Haworth at Birmingham, who established its chemical nature, and then, with Szent-Györgyi, re-named it “a-scorbic” acid, since it prevented scorbutus, i.e., scurvy).

            https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/WG/Views/Exhibit/narrative/szeged.html

          • HeelBearCub says:

            the chemical name “ascorbic acid” was given because of it’s role in preventing scurvy

            I did not know this. Interesting.

            I think the “on the shoulder’s of giants” quote applies. Despite the idea that Yudowsky attempted to popularize that you can simply logic your way to scientific truth, it really does take the previous body of knowledge to allow the next discovery. It’s an iterative process, and, in some very real sense, evolutionary rather than revolutionary (even though the next great scientific success may have the effect of revolution).

    • bean says:

      Others have adequately addressed the issues from the scientific side, and I can speak to the RN side pretty well.

      The mid-19th century was not a good time for the RN. First, you had the “If it was good enough for Nelson, it’s good enough for us” attitude, which was real, if often overstated by popular accounts. And Nelson used lime juice. Second, the officer corps of the age wasn’t exactly overrun with men of a scientific temperament. It was dominated by the sons of existing officers, whose training was almost entirely at sea. This produced excellent seamen and tolerable leaders, but their knowledge of the sciences was basically limited to that required for navigation. In earlier ages, the officer corps was big enough that you got a lot of oddballs, but that wasn’t so much the case in the early Victorian navy, and those officers hung around for a long time. Those who did have scientific/technical inclinations were probably working on gunnery or torpedoes, or were part of the engineering branch, which was completely separate from the line until fairly late (can’t remember when they were merged, sorry).

      • johan_larson says:

        Maybe part of the answer is that the RN already had an adequate solution to scurvy in most situations they faced. Lemon juice lost effectiveness over time, but if you only went weeks or months between ports and got fresh provisions every time you stopped at a port, it was good enough. But it wasn’t good enough when ships were away for years, as occurred when arctic explorers overwintered in their ships.

        • bean says:

          That’s not unlikely, either. Particularly with a smaller navy, which is spending a lot less time continually at sea (blockade duty or just running about the world), scurvy is going to be a much smaller problem than at the height of the Napoleonic Wars.

  5. fion says:

    The thread on ADHD below made me aware of a distinction I’ve not really thought about explicitly before. Namely, that between getting down to work and keeping up with everyday life tasks. I have almost no difficulty preparing meals, getting plenty of exercise, getting out of bed in the morning, doing chores, keeping up with friends and family, and various other things along those lines. However, I find it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to get work done. I procrastinate a lot, and I’ve not managed to improve this. Whenever I set myself a rule, like “no slatestarcodex between 0900 and 1700 on weekdays” or “no notifications coming to my phone when I’m supposed to be working”, I just break my own rule. I’m the only thing stopping me, and that’s not enough. This week I have a deadline and a lot of work to do for it, so I came in on the weekend to get stuff done and yet here I am reading comments and posting on the slatestarcodex open thread.

    This can’t be an uncommon problem. Any advice?

    (On an unrelated note, I’ve decided I much prefer newest-first comment ordering.)

    • Plumber says:

      @fion,

      Since I’ve discovered SSC I’ve had the same problem.

      No solution yet beyond forcing myself to get a measurable amount of work done.

    • J.R. says:

      I suffer from the same affliction at times. On the chance that you break your rules and return to this comment thread, here’s what I do when I’m managing my attention well.

      The first thing you want to do is to shift your thinking from perfection-seeking to improvement-seeking. You can have self-imposed rules, but if you are coming at them seeking perfection, it is easy for things to spiral out of control. You rationalize to yourself, “I broke my rule, I can’t manage my attention so there’s no point in trying, I’m going to read this SSC post instead.” More explicitly, by having the expectation that you will adhere perfectly to rules, all transgressions are the same, so there is no difference between a 1-minute distraction and spending 30 minutes reading Meditations on Moloch for the 10th time. This is the habit of mind you should undo. The habit you want to cultivate is when you realize you have become distracted, you return immediately to the thing you want to focus on (work). The faster you return to your work after being distracted, the better. This way, you can change your relationship to distraction and feel proud when you return to your work after a small distraction, rather than beating yourself up for checking SSC again.

      One way to improve your probability of success is to erect more barriers to your avenues of procrastination. There are browser extensions that will allow you to block some websites for certain periods of time. From your OP it sounds like you have already tried them. If you’re anything like me, you have gotten creative about circumventing them, such as using another browser or checking the website on your phone where you don’t have the blocking software in place. This, too, is ok. Realize that, even if these measures don’t prevent you from using SSC, they do give you the opportunity to realize you are distracted and pull your attention back to your work. One example is that I often try to visit blocked websites even when I know LeechBlock is on out of complete absentmindedness. Hitting the “website blocked” webpage is a good cue for me to realize, hey, I’m distracted, instead of turning to my phone or opening some other browser, I should return to whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing.

      One last note: SSC is particularly dangerous for me as well. Realize that, in the absence of checking SSC, your mind will naturally wander and get distracted by something else. It just so happens that these other things are less engrossing than SSC posts, so you get distracted by these other things for shorter periods of time.

      • fion says:

        Thanks for your input.

        shift your thinking from perfection-seeking to improvement-seeking

        This makes a lot of sense, and I’ll try what you suggest, but I think this isn’t what my main problem is. The thing is that my work is difficult and not very fun. At any given instant where I’m comparing spending the next few minutes working or not working, I’d much rather do the latter. So I don’t think it’s that I go “oh well I became distracted; now I might as well be distracted for a while longer” but rather “I’ve started doing something else and hey, this is really nice!”

        Having said that, maybe I can start to treat “small distraction followed by getting back to work” as something to be proud of, and maybe that will help.

        There are browser extensions that will allow you to block some websites for certain periods of time. From your OP it sounds like you have already tried them.

        I haven’t actually, and my excuse is rather pathetic. I anticipate that I will just circumvent them as you say, or turn them off or something. After all, I’m the only one stopping me. However, I should try them. Perhaps the trivial inconvenience will save me.

        in the absence of checking SSC, your mind will naturally wander and get distracted by something else.

        Yeah, I actually wonder if I should deliberately seek out some rewarding-but-not-time-consuming procrastination activity so I can go to that when my brain feels it needs some non-work, rather than coming here and reading every new comment since I was last here.

        • Argos says:

          Typing this quickly, because my blocker allows me only 5 minutes SSC per day:

          Inconveniences matter, especially if they are strong enough. Also, I recommend setting up several of them at once, and making sure that there is at least one you do not break. This will create a mental habit of not touching that particular barrier, for me it’s the host file that saves me from spending all my time on my phone on SSC.

        • J.R. says:

          The thing is that my work is difficult and not very fun. At any given instant where I’m comparing spending the next few minutes working or not working, I’d much rather do the latter. So I don’t think it’s that I go “oh well I became distracted; now I might as well be distracted for a while longer” but rather “I’ve started doing something else and hey, this is really nice!”

          Work being difficult and not fun is what makes work, well, work.

          You mentioned in your OP that you have no problem keeping up with chores. Chores are tedious and not very fun by definition. What is the difference between your attitude toward chores and work? Is it that work is more cognitively demanding?

          • fion says:

            Work being difficult and not fun is what makes work, well, work.

            So truthful it hurts.

            But yeah, the difference is that chores are easier and more rewarding. I can spend a week at work and get nowhere or even go backwards, but when I clean the toilet, it takes like ten minutes and afterwards I’ve got a clean toilet!

    • onyomi says:

      For me the problem feels more like I can take good care of myself and my personal/social life or I can get a lot of professional work done, but it’s really hard for me to do both to a level I feel satisfied with in a single day or even a single week. Practically speaking this means alternating between periods of getting a lot of professional work done while being somewhat neglectful of goals like getting in shape and keeping in touch with family and friends and periods of taking better care of myself and my relationships but getting less professional work done.

      I believe Mark Zuckerberg’s sister wrote a book about this recently, though I haven’t read it yet.

      Regarding how to focus on work, I don’t have (diagnosed) ADHD, so YMMV, but one thing I’ve found that helps is the “Pomodoro technique,” but modified so that, instead of 25 mins, each “pomodoro” (unit of work time in which you are not allowed to engage in other activities, like checking SSC) lasts 45 mins. Do actually use a timer, as the ticking sound adds a sense of urgency. Mine is shaped like an eggplant, so I do melanzanas. If I can complete six “melanzanas” in a day I consider it a good day of work, regardless of whether I get any additional, non-timed work in.

      A benefit is that, for me at least, a lot of the difficulty in concentrating on work is in overcoming the inertia of not working. After about 45 mins of enforced work time I often find that the inertia has shifted in favor of work so now other activities have less pull. I found the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport helpful in this regard.

      • fion says:

        Thanks for the input. I have tried the Pomodoro technique, and I found it very helpful for a while, but then my subconscious seemed to realise that there was nothing stopping me procrastinating during the 25-minute stretches and I was lost. The other problem is that my breaks between them got longer and longer. I originally tried 25 on; 5 off, but during the 5 off I would often get distracted by something more time consuming and before I knew it I was doing 25 on; 35 off or something. (It also doesn’t help that I find it pleasing if the pomodoros match up with the clock, so if I miss my cue to go back to work I’ll often continue my break for another 15 or 30 minutes.

        I’ll try the 45 minute stretches and see if I get along better with it. I quite like the idea of aiming for a particular number of stretches in a day.

        After about 45 mins of enforced work time I often find that the inertia has shifted in favor of work so now other activities have less pull.

        So if you’ve been working for 45 minutes and you find that you have inertia and you don’t want to procrastinate, do you keep working or do you take your scheduled break?

        • onyomi says:

          I also have the problem of once I take a Pomodoro break it can last longer than I planned to, which is why I aim to do a certain number of Pomodoros per day rather than strictly timing the break.

          I also find 25 mins too short to gain work “inertia,” so I do 45. If I’m really into the work to the point I don’t want a break at 45 mins I don’t force myself to take one, as that feels like looking a gift horse in the mouth, though it may be against the rules of the “technique.” However, it doesn’t count as a new “pomodoro” until I take at least a very short break (could just be get up and pace for a few minutes) and reset the timer.

          The advantage of setting a goal like “6 45-minute pomodoros today” is you can consider the day a “success” so long as you accomplish that and everything else is sort of gravy. This also incentivizes you not to let breaks stretch on too long since the sooner you complete your pomodoros the sooner you can reach that point where you get to relax and say “okay, good day; if I accomplish more than this, great, but if not, I still get to feel good about myself.”

          My experience is minor logistical things like returning e-mails can be crammed in at the end of such a day but quality work of the sort that requires concentration can’t be crammed in after a day of dealing with logistics, which tend to expand to fill the time and energy available.

    • A1987dM says:

      There are browser extensions and phone apps which can enforce rules like “no slatestarcodex between 0900 and 1700 on weekdays” or “no notifications coming to my phone when I’m supposed to be working” for you. I personally use LeechBlock and Digital Detox but you might want to experiment with different ones as well.

    • brad says:

      It sounds like you work from an office? If so, that’s good, work from home probably wouldn’t work for you (or me!). What kind of set up is there at the office? Cubicles, open plan, offices? Everyone slags on the more public options, but I find dicking around on my phone or on non-work websites in front of co-workers is vaguely embarrassing and so I’m less likely to do it. There is a trade-off in that being interrupted when in the flow is more likely, but I think over all open office is net productive for me. Whatever type of office you have can you make it more public? Leave the door open, put your screen towards the door — whatever?

      Peer pressure can be very powerful. I’ve started to make pointed comments when friends pull out their phones in front of me, partly because it’s annoying but partly because I know they’ll retaliate and that’s going to help me stop doing that.

      • fion says:

        Yeah, I work in an office with seven other people, one of whom can see my computer screen. When i first arrived I felt super-awkward about dicking around when people could see, but the more comfortable I’ve got the less I care, unfortunately.

        Actually the person who can see my screen did for a while nag me whenever she saw me not working. The problem is that the effect was more like “yeah, I’m wasting time again, I’m so hopeless” than “oops, caught! Better get back to work!”

        • LesHapablap says:

          If it helps, I now think a lot less of you for being this selfish and lazy on a team. What do you do for a living? Do you care about your colleagues or your company?

          • fion says:

            If it helps…

            Thanks for trying. I think if I was working on a team, or for a company I cared about, then it would be easier to get down to it. As it happens I’m a PhD student. My failures only hurt me, and they don’t hurt me quickly or predictably enough for it to really sink into my subconscious.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Fion,

            That makes more sense. For myself, I am terrible with executive function in my own life, but I love the company I work for and the people here and have no problem staying motivated at work. My job is perfect for ADHD as I can change tasks if I want, rarely have to work on the same thing for more than an hour. Actually being organized with work required using new tools to not forget about things.

  6. brad says:

    As part of a discussion a few OTs back, it occurred to me that I have a moral axiom that I thought was universal, but may not be. Viz,

    It is entirely right and proper that, all other things being equal, those who through thoughtlessness or deliberate action make those who they encounter annoyed or upset have more difficult, less pleasant lives than otherwise.

    I can think of some possible objections. For example a burn victim might make people he encounters upset, but I don’t think he ought to be responsible for those harms. I think that is covered by the “thoughtlessness or deliberate action” clause though, in his case it’s neither. Another example might be a gadfly that goes around annoying people, but as part of an effective effort to end some great moral harm (e.g. slavery). That I think would be covered by the “all other things being equal” part.

    Thoughts? Objections?

    • fion says:

      I don’t think it’s a bad axiom, but it’s not mine. Lots of people are thoughtless and wicked, but I don’t blame them for it. An accident of their genes or upbringing has made them the unpleasant person they are. In this way they’re already suffering from bad luck; I don’t want to add insult to injury.

      Now, I accept that in an imperfect world we sometimes find ourselves needing to educate people by punishment, but that’s a lesser of two evils, not “right and proper”.

      • LesHapablap says:

        I don’t blame people for being wicked either, but I still think they should suffer for it and not just to try and stop the behavior.

        It is right and proper to reward someone for being a good, helpful person. It is an action that is in no way evil. It increases the total amount of justice and fairness in an otherwise uncaring universe. Harming people who make the world a worse place for others is the flip side of the coin.

        • Machine Interface says:

          “I don’t blame people for being wicked either, but I still think they should suffer for it and not just to try and stop the behavior.”

          So you
          1) don’t think wicked people are morally responsible
          2) don’t think they should be punished for utilitarian reasons
          3) do think they should be tortured because Universal Order says so

          And you call this self-serving saddistic impulse “righ and proper”?

          • LesHapablap says:

            1. I do think people should be responsible for their actions, I may not be using as precise a definition of “blame” as you are
            2. I didn’t say that, in fact I said the opposite: “not just to try and stop the behavior”
            3. when I call the universe “uncaring” I mean that there is no universal order

            Fairness is a good thing (right and proper), and it doesn’t just mean good people get rewarded. It means bad people get punished. Even if not explicitly punished, rewarding some and not others is a kind of punishment for those left out.

            It is nice to see bad people punished. It is satisfying to see a bully on youtube get beat up. This isn’t sadism, and it isn’t some base human instinct that we should be trying to suppress. It feels right because it’s fair, and shaming people for feeling that way makes the world worse off for a variety of reasons that would take too long to get into.

          • Nick says:

            3) do think they should be tortured because Universal Order says so

            And you call this self-serving saddistic impulse “righ and proper”?

            This is a blatant strawman. Less of this, please.

    • albatross11 says:

      brad:

      I’m not sure your moral axiom is wrong, but I think it’s easy for a society to implement it in ways that cause a lot of problems. On the ground, it’s not going to be obvious to most people whether the annoying gadfly they’re talking to is part of some great positive social movement or is just a crank. (In fact, the main way people distinguish those is to see how successful they are.). And most people are going to perceive people saying things that make them unhappy or upset as being offensive assholes whether they’re making a valid point or not.

      My sense is that a lot of progress in the world is made by offensively weird people who make those around them uncomfortable or angry, and who don’t much care. A society that gets better at suppressing that stuff will have less progress, less innovation, fewer new ideas come up in every area. People will know better than to openly discuss their doubts about the dominant religion or culture, which means that those things won’t face much challenge, and will change a lot more slowly.

      We can get rid of the Darwins and Galtons and Benthams and Teslas and Franklins and Dawkins and Watsons and Edisons and Twains and such, by sufficient social pressure and making the lives of people who make others uncomfortable by their words and actions very hard. Then we won’t get the fruits of their labors.

    • Machine Interface says:

      “I have a moral axiom that I thought was universal”.

      Well there’s no such thing as a universal moral axiom, so here’s your problem.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This just seem like more an “is”.

      We are social creatures. All other things being equal, the person who is deliberately unpleasant will not be rewarded with pleasant social interaction.

      • brad says:

        There are is-es that we want to fight against because they are part of a cruel, unjust universe. If you were born with juvenile diabetes you will have a more difficult, less pleasant life than otherwise. But it is not entirely right and proper that you should so suffer.

        I think the ought question is valid in spite of the underlying is.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If I set out to make the world around me more X, how is it “wrong” that the consequence of that action is for the world to become more X?

          I think your moral sense here is mostly dependent on the antecedent of intentionally or uncaring, and the fact that X is undesirable.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      Drop the moral language and you have a natural law. Those who make others shorter of temper and slower to smile will experience more bad and less good emotions from peers and strangers alike, which in turn makes life more difficult and certainly less pleasant. The implication is that one should make sure she is not unnecessarily annoying or upsetting, lest she lead a pointlessly worse life.
      Better have other values to balance that though, all inoffensive means universal simmering resentment when no one can speak honestly

    • Randy M says:

      Contrary to what you might think, I agree, with an additional caveat that we need some kind of “reasonable person” standard to avoid empowering utility monsters.

      Also, we should train people to be resilient and forgiving just as much as we train people to be sensitive and kind.

  7. theredsheep says:

    Something I’ve long speculated on, and had a hard time putting in words: to what extent do you believe modern political alignment or polarization relates to a strong dislike of embarrassment? I’m thinking of a specific situation. When you offend someone somehow, and they object, and you apologize, you’re effectively placing yourself in a temporarily lowered social position; you have wronged them, and you owe them redress, even if only in the form of words of contrition, and possibly an explanation. This requires you to acknowledge error. On a small scale, once or twice, this doesn’t matter, but if you regularly offend someone, and they regularly ask for apology, no matter how politely, you’re left with two reactions, shame or anger. That is, you can start feeling that there is something wrong with you, that you are a bad person, or you can suspect that the requests for apology are invalid. The person offended doesn’t actually require apology; they’re simply exaggerating their sense of grievance to gain power over you. Between those two alternatives, the latter is by far the more attractive.

    All this strikes me as fairly obvious, and I’m sorry if I’m belaboring 2 + 2 = 4 here. This is how I react, but I’m a highly shame-motivated person who still remembers and feels bad about ancient errors from years ago. It may not apply for everybody. Does it?

    The political implications should be clear. I have old friends from college, etc., of whom I’m still quite fond. They’re good, funny people, and I’d like to stay in touch. But they’re quite liberal. The disagreements themselves aren’t a big deal, I can accept that people have weird opinions. Sometimes really, really weird. The problem is that, yes, contemporary prog culture places a strong emphasis on “don’t harm” models of interpersonal relations. And every faux pas that meets with a “I’m going to have to push back on your use of the term [offensive term],” makes me feel kinda like a total POS, because I offended this nice, caring, friendly person. Now, I’m pretty sure their social lives within their political circle aren’t actually malicious nested hierarchies of degradation, because after a while that would lead to really dysfunctional behavior. Also, I don’t remember them being total bastards, and a lot of them are really active in caring professions like helping the homeless or mentally ill. But I personally have a really hard time dealing with it, and I’ve taken to avoiding interaction with a bunch of old friends, partly subconsciously, because I have enough self-loathing already. And I hate that.

    In person, this would not be a problem; they’d probably see a stricken face when they pushed back on whatever, and they’d soft-pedal it, and after some hemming and hawing we’d come to a new social equilibrium which I think we’d be able to maintain. I was friends with some of these people for some time, after all. But since I mostly interact with them online, where they can’t see stricken-face, and I’m afraid that “geez, now I feel like crap” will come across as me trying to make a counter-claim for emotional dominance, it doesn’t work.

    When this adds up over time, does it lead to extreme hatred for so-called SJWs? I mean, we have people with all kinds of opinion here, and a lot of us have social disorders, but in general it stays really polite. This might be because those social disorders lead to a fetishization of orderliness, sure, but I think it helps that we seldom act hurt, per se. We express offense by getting mildly cranky and sarcastic, which lets the other person know things aren’t right without putting them on the spot. It sounds odd, but it works better for us, because nobody really loses face. The standard progressive mode (in some circles, at least) of expressing offense is to emphasize victimhood and harm, which for me is kind of like pointing at a dead dog in the road and saying “see what you did?”

    So, leftists of the SJ stripe are people who are used to this mode of communication and think nothing of it, for some reason I can’t personally relate to, while their enemies tend to be the sort who really don’t like looking at dead dogs and greatly prefer just being grumpy. Which strikes the leftists as “those people are assholes.” Why can’t we just say we’re being harmed like normal, emotionally healthy people?

    • fion says:

      I mostly agree with you. I’m a left-winger, and probably a bit of an SJW, and I think the way you try to “correct” somebody is very important and many of my fellows don’t seem to get it. I think I tie it into conversation/debate more generally, though. If you want to change somebody’s opinion or actions, you don’t put them on the spot and make them surrender to your demands; you nudge them in the right direction, lead by example, and give them a chance to agree with you without losing face. (The techniques for doing this are complicated and many and I won’t go into them here, but I’m sure you get the picture.)

      But maybe that’s not what’s going on here. Is it possible you’re underestimating the thickness of your friends’ skin? Maybe when they say “I’m going to have to push back on your use of the term [offensive term],” they’re not offended or hurt by you; they’re just trying to correct you. It’s like if somebody on this OT referred to Sydney, the capital of Australia. Somebody else would say “actually the capital of Australia is Canberra” and the first person would say “Oh yeah, thanks for the correction” without worrying that they’d accidentally offended some Canberries (or however you refer to somebody from Canberra). Maybe when you use a non-SJ-approved term and a friend calls you out on it you can just say “oh yeah, my bad” and move on?

      Of course, I appreciate I’m making guesses about your relationships with these people, and I could be way off base here; apologies if that’s the case.

      • Theodoric says:

        I think part of the issue is that the SJW-ish people are not saying “you are incorrect about a fact (Sydney vs Canberra as capital of Australia”), they are saying “you have done something morally wrong (using racist/sexist/homophobic/etc” term.” One is going to get more pushback than the other.

        • fion says:

          You’re right to make the distinction, but I’m not sure the SJW-ish people do make it. I think what’s going on in their heads is “you’re wrong; this other thing is right.” I think “morally wrong” and “factually incorrect” can feel quite similar to people poorly-versed in philosophy and rationality.

          The steelman SJW who I choose to defend will assume good faith when “correcting” a hypothetical Red Sheep’s use of a particular term. He will assume that the Red Sheep was unaware of the term’s connotations, or how it makes some people feel. He will feel like he is correcting the Red Sheep; “the latter made an innocent mistake, which I have pointed out and told him how to avoid it.”

          There is a different type of interaction when my steelman SJW feels that the hypothetical Red Sheep has actually said something with offensive intent. Given the context of theredsheep’s post, I don’t think this is the kind of interaction we’re considering.

          Tangent: On the rare occasions in which I find it necessary to ask somebody to use different language I will try to make my comment as fact-based as possible. For example, if somebody uses the plural noun “coloureds”, I will say that some people of colour will take offense at that term, and that “people of colour” is generally a safer choice. The desired effect of my objection is that the other person will change their behaviour, but the actual content of my objection is entirely factual. (My facts may be wrong, of course, in which case the other person may correct them “actually this polling data suggests that my term is less offensive than your term…”, but the point is I have made a factual claim, not a moral one.)

        • arlie says:

          I think SJW-ish people come in two flavours, at least as far as my reaction to them goes. Some seem to be trying to teach better techniques; some seem to be trying to establish their own superior moral worth.

          When I’m in someone else’s space (conference, blog, etc.) where they express clear rules, I have no problem with either following them or going somewhere else. If the rules are a lot less clear (most of natural life), I’ll resent the effort needed to figure out how to conform. And when the rules are inconsistent (those with status and their friends can do no wrong; those without can do no right…) I regard the people enforcing those rules as contemptible turds, even while recognizing that this behaviour seems to be a part of normal people’s inate “social skills” package.

          Note that in some cases I regard the local rules as absurd, even if clear. And I’ll really want to talk about them, somewhere, even though questioning the rules is almost always more-or-less a violation of those rules.

          And sometimes I have the status that whatever I do is “right”. I appreciate that, but try not to participate in or encourage pile-ons against less favoured members of the community, or random curious strangers.

          Of course I’m on the autistic spectrum, so I don’t do mindreading very well. Thus I appreciate people who tell me they want to be referred to as zie (or he, or she), or want me to avoid using disability tags as generic negative labels, or whatever their issue may be. And ditto for those few on the right wing who are clear on what kind of comments/behaviour they object to. (In my experience, left wing spaces tend to be far more explicit about such rules.)

          Also, as an autistic person, the number of times I give offense is much much higher than the number of times I intend to behave offensively. Most responders assume my behaviour is intentional, and morally deplorable – I very much approve of the people who can treat it as a skills issue, and wish they were more common.

      • theredsheep says:

        Well, I think I came out jumbled because I was thinking as I typed/using typing to think. I believe there’s a fundamental disconnect at work here, and that some people simply do not feel shame as deeply and viscerally as I and some others do, or perceive the function of moral correction differently, or something. For a long time now, I’ve been tacitly assuming that whenever SJ types get together the result is some sort of Machiavellian mindgame hell where everybody’s maneuvering not to commit a verbal transgression lest they be dogpiled and lose status.

        But I’d expect that to result in a much louder and more vocal crowd of defectors if that were true, because you can only be dogpiled so much before you simply hate everyone and leave. At least, I would, in that position. I’ve seen some accounts like that, but not as many as I’d expect if that were everyone’s experience.

        And, like I said, I know too many people who talk about this stuff and don’t appear to be hopelessly messed up human beings. So maybe for them, getting told that they’ve said something harmful to the lived experiences of indigenous peoples or some such doesn’t have much more emotional significance than having someone whisper, “psst, your fly’s open.” It’s just like etiquette, or something. Or those articles that used to circulate about the different psychological nuances of conversation in East Asian cultures.

        Certainly they don’t seem to understand when I tell them, “hey, moral authority is a consumable good, and if you use it too much they won’t want your approval anymore, they’ll just hate you.” Conversely, the much blunter approach I described works fine for me, but seems to directly offend them. Possibly they’re simply wired differently, or it’s a matter of different socialization. Beats me.

        All this is distinct from my more abstract philosophical objections to elevating subjective experience over objective facts, privileging speakers, and the like.

        • Deiseach says:

          I believe there’s a fundamental disconnect at work here, and that some people simply do not feel shame as deeply and viscerally as I and some others do, or perceive the function of moral correction differently, or something.

          You’ve made me think about this. My usual revulsion to the “point at a dead dog and say ‘look what you did'” strategy is because I perceive it as an attempt to emotionally manipulate me, and more than that – to set the terms of how I react, to establish a duty and obligation on my part to react with tears and “oh no!” rather than “well, that’s unfortunate”, to create the norms that the proper way to deal with such things is “point and blame”/”respond with emotional suffering and groveling”.

          But maybe they don’t! Maybe there is no expectation of a genuine emotional subjective effect on the person being told “look what you did”! You’re correct that people can’t go around with this welter of thin-skinned visceral shame or else they couldn’t function and the entire movement collapses.

          This is simply how the conventions of discussion and response have evolved. In the same way that we’d say “Oh well that’s too bad” and mean that we recognise and acknowledge the harmful thing or damage done, but respond with less overt emotion and everyone knows this doesn’t mean ‘you’re a heartless asshole’, it’s the polite and acceptable way to propose/respond “I’m going to have to push back on [offensive term]”/”[emotionally-phrased acknowledgement of same]” but nothing deeper is intended than in the same way as if you step on someone’s foot by accident you are supposed to say “terribly sorry”. Saying “terribly sorry” doesn’t require you to feel a deep and scouring sense of shame and pain, but it’s the expected response rather than “that wasn’t intentional so why are you complaining?” even if it’s true that it was not intentionally done.

          So coming back to the “I’m going to have to pushback” with “That was accidental not on purpose” is perceived as being rude, ungracious, and ignorant of proper social conduct. This is not a debate about intent, it’s a requirement to show off good manners.

        • Plumber says:

          @theredsheep

          “…..or it’s a matter of different socialization…”

          Probably this.

          I remember in elementary school my being being beaten up for being the lone white kid in the school yard (the excuse was slavery) and I also an older black girl defending me from my attackers, and I well remember in my first year of high school my being moved from the mostly black “Intermediate English” track to the mostly white “Advanced English” track and how very unwelcoming the “Advanced” students and teacher were, and I remember even better being quizzed by a classmate on the location of some damn ski shop and upon my revealing that I didn’t know being told “You don’t belong here” – those stung, but by the time I was an adult working construction that I was thought odd for keeping a book to read in a plastic bag in my lunch bucket, and by the time of the fierce political arguments at work in 2004 over the Iraq war how people thought of me ceased to be much of a worry. 

          When I turned out as a Journeyman and the union made me steward by with the Business Agent telling me “Well there’s no one worse” my skin was pretty thick, and being an outsider was second nature. .

          I’m guessing that you’re just young, in time you’ll cease to care much about how others treat your views.

          Speak your mind when invited to, be mostly polite and give others the silent treatment or a gut punch when appropriate.

        • fion says:

          I believe there’s a fundamental disconnect at work here, and that some people simply do not feel shame as deeply and viscerally as I and some others do, or perceive the function of moral correction differently, or something.

          Yeah, you may be right. I think I’m struggling to understand exactly where you’re coming from. I assume you don’t feel shame deeply and viscerally when you make a factual error and somebody corrects you? My experience of navigating SJ spaces is that when somebody picks you up on the way you say something it’s very easy just to go “oh, my mistake” and move on. They’re not expecting you to grovel and beg forgiveness; they’re just saying “you did something you shouldn’t have; try not to do it again.”

    • AG says:

      Most of the gripes stem from a lack of charity, proportionality, and forgiveness, in that order. Apologies are demanded where they may not be appropriate (no disputing the demand is allowed), punishments are demands in excess of the harm caused by the apparent transgression, and punishments are demanded to be inflicted in perpetuity. Apologies do not end the situation, as they should, they exacerbate things. If you worsen your own situation by capitulating, why ever apologize?

    • Plumber says:

      @theredsheep,

      You mean that I’m far more left-leaning on economics is because my wife is more libertarian than I am and I have to listen and thus resent those policies more?

      Nope I don’t think so, my socially conservative leanings (anti-divorce) are from bitterness left over from my childhood, and my left leaning economic views are also from my life experience, had I been born in a different time and under different circumstances my views would be different.

      Maybe it’s different with intellectuals but I think for most political views are “baked in” early.

      If I won the lottery tomorrow my immediate self interest would favor tax-cuts but I’d doubt that would change my perspective that too many grow up ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-taught, and ill-treated, if anything the better circumstances I find myself in now has only increased my bitterness that it didn’t get that way earlier.

      But the only “S.J.’s” I encounter are those who every Friday in front of the Hall of Justice chant the names of people who have been killed by police and I have no college friends whatsoever so your mileage may vary.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I think it’s rather the other way around, actually. So much conversation is about “right” and “wrong” and “victimhood” that we’ve largely lost the ability to talk about pain – or maybe we never had that ability, but we did have common signals for talking about it. Talking about small degrees of personal pain is hard, and also hard to redress online.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I appreciate what you are doing here, and it seems honest and genuine, but I don’t think you have the right of it.

      I can still vividly remember faux-pas I made in HS, some 35 years ago, and when I am in a bad mental place I will flash back to those events repeatedly. It doesn’t prevent me from being liberal.

      And every faux pas that meets with a “I’m going to have to push back on your use of the term [offensive term],” makes me feel kinda like a total POS, because I offended this nice, caring, friendly person.

      This strikes me as more of an “identity” issue than an embarrassment one. You can’t deal with cognitive dissonance created by someone that you think is nice, caring and friendly having a different opinion than you. Rather than examine why you use a term that you yourself are now indicating is offensive, you would rather maintain your sense of identity as someone who uses that term.

      Now, the fact that you feel embarrassed doesn’t help you make the transition from one world view to another, but that’s not unique to right wing thought. That’s sort of how humans work , and why it’s hard to change your mind.

      • theredsheep says:

        No, because I know plenty of people who are not progressive or who do not use that language, who disagree with me, and it does not cause the same anxiety. It is specifically the framing of the rebuke that triggers the gut response I’m talking about.

    • March says:

      For me, it’s the other way around. I consider myself very sensitive to shame, but being called out because what I said ‘hurt’ someone is one of the easiest things for me to deal with. (And I’m a leftist, although blabla different countries, difficult, etc.)

      I’m not sure why, maybe because I never SET OUT to hurt someone so if something I did or said DID end up hurting someone I can apologize and make amends because it was clearly unintended and doesn’t challenge the way I see myself.

      If people were suddenly to act sarcastic or grumpy without even bothering to explain themselves, that’s what’d send me into a huge shame spiral. Because apparently they don’t care about me or our relationship at all, they apparently think I should not just be able to but also to constantly focus on reading their minds (and I’m actually a pretty good mindreader who tends to the hypervigilant, but any implicit demand that I mindread even MORE hits me where it hurts), I’m apparently completely screwing up something SO basic that I’m completely beyond redemption, I thought they were my friend but any random thing can turn them hostile, etc.

      I much prefer it if people just tell me ‘hey, ouch’ or ‘hey, I noticed you said X to Bob and I happen to know he’s sensitive to X’ or even ‘I have to push back on you saying X, that comes from [terrible thing]?’ Much cleaner, in my reckoning.

    • brad says:

      In person, this would not be a problem; they’d probably see a stricken face when they pushed back on whatever, and they’d soft-pedal it, and after some hemming and hawing we’d come to a new social equilibrium which I think we’d be able to maintain. I was friends with some of these people for some time, after all. But since I mostly interact with them online, where they can’t see stricken-face, and I’m afraid that “geez, now I feel like crap” will come across as me trying to make a counter-claim for emotional dominance, it doesn’t work.

      Kind of sideways to your point, because I don’t really like talking about so-called social justice warriors, but I’ve found that online interaction is a bad way of keeping up friendships that were made off line. I’d one weekend spent together in a year is better for a friendship then constant back and forth on random facebook threads. If the communication must be in writing and must be electronic then at very least it should be 1:1.

  8. antilles says:

    I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I’ve struggled with procrastination and executive function for years, and never really found a solution to getting things done consistently. ADHD medication has helped improve my energy and focus, but not really helped with executive function or life skills. What practical techniques have worked for you in overcoming your poor executive function?

    • theredsheep says:

      Okay, I looked up “executive function” on Wiki but still can’t quite parse what this would mean for an individual struggling with ADHD. Could you clarify with an example, please? Do you mean that you have a hard time feeling motivated to get your life in order? In my particular case, I eventually went into remission where medication was concerned; I no longer require Concerta et al. This coincided roughly with my reaching adulthood. But actually feeling motivated to do something with my life had to wait until I met a girl I wanted to marry, and I realized she wouldn’t wait around forever. This was powerful and permanent motivation–our tenth anniversary is this September. I’m sorry that that doesn’t generalize too well.

      • rahien.din says:

        Executive function is deciding what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, who to do it with.

      • antilles says:

        I have goals and things I’d like to accomplish with my life, can identify steps to take to approach those goals, but never act on them. Even mundane normal life tasks like picking up after myself or making/eating decent, healthy food go undone. Instead I mostly do immediately rewarding things like browse the internet or play video games, which are easy to focus on and give significant, immediate cognitive rewards. But doing those things doesn’t make me happy or provide any sense of fulfillment, just distraction. Sometimes getting out of bed and taking my medication feels like too much to take on. (Depression is obviously also involved).

        • theredsheep says:

          Yeah, I used to play video games a lot too, and they’ve only increased their efficiency as Skinner boxes since then. One thing that might help: intermittent fasts. I give up electronic entertainment for the four big annual fasts of my religion. Or try to, anyway; I kinda flubbed it last time. Anyway, by setting a period of fixed duration wherein I tell myself I can’t touch, I “detox” a little. Their hold on me is relaxed, and I lose some of the more obnoxious habits I develop from spending a lot of time arguing with strangers on the internet (which replaced video games, as it’s much, much cheaper and doesn’t tempt my wife at all).

          Now, I’ve no notion if you’re religious, but it might help to start with brief fasts, to observe what it does to your mood and activity level. Probably you’ll be really irritable, which is why you want to start with brief fasts. But you can assess from there. It’s a step.

        • LesHapablap says:

          Sounds like you need to start dating. Nothing else really motivates to keep your apartment clean/get your act together. Find a good one that will keep you on your toes.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      My own diagnosis is autism, not ADHD, but I thought I’d chime in because I’ve also dealt with a fair bit of executive dysfunction.

      Honestly, the thing that helped me the most was an app called Habitica. It’s a habit-tracking app dressed up like an RPG that gives you points for doing daily tasks, completing long-term goals, etc. Ymmv, but having a “reward” for completing tasks–even a stupid reward like watching my virtual avatar level up and defeat monsters–helped both my motivation and my memory. I used Habitica daily for about 2 years. I still use it occasionally if I have a big task that I want to break down into smaller sub-tasks, but the more mundane “life skills” habits are now ingrained into my schedule. If the RPG angle doesn’t appeal to you, there are lots of similar habit-tracking apps with different “hooks”.

      As for the depression… if you have the means, find a therapist. Finding a good one could take a little while, so keep trying until you find one that works for you. Other things that have helped with my depression: prayer, exercise (specifically outside), forcing myself to get out and talk to other human beings, trying out new hobbies, taking vitamins (my doctor did some blood work and it turns out some of my exhaustion was linked to severe vitamin deficiency), and adopting a “fake it til you make it” attitude.

  9. Ivy says:

    As a Canadian who moved to the US a few years ago, two facts about the US that seem causally related but I can’t figure out in which direction the causal arrow points:

    1) Americans seem to trust their government much less than Canadians, both culturally and institutionally: the checks and balances system that makes it very difficult to make changes, government work is generally low-paid and low-prestige, etc.

    2) The US government agencies (both state and federal) I’ve interacted with are much less competent than the Canadian. From getting your drivers license to filling out immigration paperwork to figuring out how much taxes you owe, the Canadian process is generally simpler, faster, and more pleasant.

    My current theory is there’s a vicious cycle here: the US anti-government attitude means competent people don’t work for the government, which makes government look less competent, which entrenches anti-government attitudes even further. I’ve even noticed this with my own political views – in Canada I identified as a democratic socialist, but after three years in the US I’m much closer to libertarian (though reading David Friedman’s essays may be another explanation for that shift).

    If the cycle theory is true, how could the US break out of it? Or, for those who think we should keep the cycle going or even accelerate it by “starving the beast” or repeatedly shutting the government down, where do you think this process ends? Will the government eventually become so incompetent and citizens so disillusioned with it that the libertarian political agenda triumphs?

    • wunderkin says:

      Government, at least at the federal level, is not low paid. There are a few exceptions, government lawyers for example generally make less than the other alternatives, and senior management doesn’t make as much as they should but they are that, exceptions.

      Government employees are basically unfireable, get automatic raises, get amazing benefits, and with cost of living adjustments almost invariably have highly competitive salaries.

      • dick says:

        Government employees are basically unfireable, get automatic raises, get amazing benefits, and with cost of living adjustments almost invariably have highly competitive salaries.

        All of this is true of some government jobs at some times, none of it is true without an asterisk (as you might imagine considering it’s describing millions of different jobs), and in almost all cases the reason is because they’re unionized, not because they’re government.

        • wunderkin says:

          (A) Government unions are prohibited by law from collective bargaining over their salaries, so it’s not that.

          (B) Since government unions (again, at the federal level) are more or less mandated by law, you’re making a distinction without a difference.

          (C) It is always the case that federal civil service jobs come with excellent benefits, are virtual unfireable, and had out automatic pay increases. That’s how a civil service systems work.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      If the cycle theory is true, how could the US break out of it?

      I don’t know that I want the US to break out. Not that I prefer government to be incompetent, but I think that competent workers are a limited resource. The more that work for the government, the fewer that work in business. I think the low esteem most hold for the government result in a higher proportion working in for profit enterprises, which makes business stronger in the US than elsewhere. I think it is better to have strong business than strong government, since government only controls the process. Businesses create the wealth.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Mark V Anderson,

        Government doesn’t really create wealth, but it can and does destroy a whole lot of it. It could be that having competent people doing the regulating reduces the destruction by a larger amount than those same people could create in the private sector.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          The thalidomide decision saved a heck of a lot of wealth in the US.

          The national labs each have many spin-off companies and many licensed discoveries.

    • Plumber says:

      @Ivy,

      Well I am a (municipal) government employee, and I don’t really have an idea of how to improve things but I’m just going to vent:

      One of the earliest lessons is “They do not count how much you do they count the mistakes you make”, in private industry I was told “If you don’t have any leaks that means you’re not working fast enough”, in government the opposite attitude rules, and since they make getting hired so many hoops they make it harder to quickly replace someone, which means they’ll keep someone that in private industry they’d get rid of, rather than go without the hands.
      It still helps to be young to get hired (if you can pass the toughest qualifications) but you find that they just don’t get rid of the old like private industry does.

      They’re terrified of getting sued and of paying medical bills so instead of giving you a 100 page manual and a few seconds to skim before signing it there’s lengthy “anti-harassment” and “safety meetings”, and they have people with diploma’s and clipboards who’s only job is to lecture and monitor.

      Tools and materials are even harder to get thsn some poorly run companies and “repairs” are often wire and tape, perversely overtime to try and fix things without the right equipment is freely given.

      My theory is that higher ups are pressured to cut cost but are paid I verytime when hands are so even though the extra man hours cost more than thd right parts and tools the incentive is to spend hours not parts.

      Between the inmates at the Jail, the cops, and the general public seemingly trying to break things on purpose it’s hard to keep a sense of urgency.

      The benefits?

      The work isn’t in open air high rises or way down in San Jose, plus remembering how to repair the old stuff is an asset and not knowing the new stuff isn’t as much of a liability.

      It’s work for the old.

      • Deiseach says:

        Tools and materials are even harder to get thsn some poorly run companies

        If it’s anything like my experience in local government over here, it’s because of the procurement process and the rules around it (and also probably because they’ve had experience with good, expensive tools ‘walking off’ on their own so Rules Were Made to curb that which means in effect nobody gets anything they need).

        I’ve ranted on here before about the procurement process, which because of the oversight of public finances and the public perception about governmental worker inefficiency and featherbedding (see earlier comments in this very thread) means that the departments have to be both able and prepared to answer at a moment’s notice “How many left-handed wurzel manglers are in stock right now, and at what cost and from whom were replacements sourced?” and to be able to stand over that decision when the opposition politican accuses the managers of waste and overspending Tax Payers’ Money.

        It’s an effort to keep costs under control, to avoid appearances of corruption and nepotism (the minister’s/department head’s/boss’s in-laws, friends, or big campaign donors getting preferential contracts for supplying government departments and jacking up prices because hey, The Government Is Paying For It) but in practice it means huge delays, red tape, and inconvenience when you really need that new wurzel mangler right now because the old one just broke down but you can’t go to the private tool hire firm in town today, you have to source one from the Officially Approved Awarded The Competitive Tender supplier, and to do that you need to fill out the forms and get them approved, and even if that is done (and it’s not automatic that they will be approved, if there’s a public finances freeze on and the directive has come down from the capital that No New Spending At All), you still have to wait days for the order to be filled and the new machine to be sent all the way from the city where the Official Supplier is based.

        Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it, as you’ve found out for yourself! 🙂

        • Plumber says:

          Yoi nailed it @Deiseach!

          Are you sure you weren’t working for the City and County of San Francisco as well?

      • arlie says:

        I’ve worked for a lot of private companies, but the closest I ever came to working for government was a Crown Corporation (in Canada).

        Your decription of mistake-phobia reminds me of at least one of my ex-employers, which used to be a household name (still was at the time), and was huge. Every bureaucratic flaw Americans associate with “government” was present there. (And it was American.)

        And my very first US job – as a contractor emplyed via a body shop, working for a company that had been relatively recently spun off from a household name behemoth – sent me to something called “AA training” (at their expense, not the body shop’s) very early in my time there. I was extremely bemused, as to me AA only meant “alcoholics anonymous”. (AA turned out to mean “affirmative action”.) It was what’s now a pretty standard anti-harassment presentation, with obvious errors of fact/common sense. Fortunately even with my somewhat autistic social skills, I was able to figure out that this training was a kind of sermon, for a religion where universal lip service was required, and didn’t make trouble for mysef by pointing out the dangers of “accepting everybody’s cultural practices” when those involved e.g. raping or assualting unescorted women.

        Now maybe US government jobs are even worse. But I still strongly suspect the problem is size+bureaucracy, more than government vs private.

        • Plumber says:

          @arlie

          “…..I still strongly suspect the problem is size+bureaucracy, more than government vs private”

          That seems likely, some bits of the stories of the old Soviet Union seem to match certain almost comical inefficiencies of the City and County, but some large private shops get close as well.

          The best and the worst places to work for (in my experience) have been small shops, in both cases with hands on owners who founded the business, with small to medium companies owned by the founders grandchildren being runner-ups for worst (never best).

        • Your decription of mistake-phobia reminds me of at least one of my ex-employers, which used to be a household name (still was at the time), and was huge. Every bureaucratic flaw Americans associate with “government” was present there. (And it was American.)

          But I still strongly suspect the problem is size+bureaucracy, more than government vs private.

          One difference is that a large private firm that is sufficiently badly run eventually stops being a large firm, as your “used to be a household name” suggests.

    • Guy in TN says:

      If the cycle theory is true, how could the US break out of it?[…]Will the government eventually become so incompetent and citizens so disillusioned with it that the libertarian political agenda triumphs?

      I think the more appropriate question, given the recent trends in the view of the role of government among young Americans, is not “how do we break out of the libertarian cycle”, but “how did we break out of the libertarian cycle?”

      • Plumber says:

        @Guy in TN

        “….“how did we break out of the libertarian cycle?””

        2008 and the failure of Lehman Brothers. .

        The Silents and the Boomers remember the draft, Watergate, Urban renewal, “Government is the problem, not the solution”, et cetera but for subsequent generation the absence of a regulatory state looks like the problem.

        Maybe with more experience with government I’ll swing more libertarian, but for now my years of experience enduring working for private industry has given me the opposite perspective, and I’m not alone.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The financial industry is one of the most regulated in the US, its just head scratching that people can’t be convinced that the issue wasn’t a lack of oversight.

        • Guy in TN says:

          2008 and the failure of Lehman Brothers. .

          Surely it must be based on larger socio-politcal trends, rather than the events of this single year? If you are 22 years old today, that means you were 12 when the 2008 crash happened. I’m thinking its a response to growing wealth/ power disparities in general.

          • Plumber says:

            @Guy in TN

            “…I’m thinking its a response to growing wealth/ power disparities in general”

            That makes sense, and it explains why those in cities (where extremes of wealth and poverty are close to each other) tend to lean Left more than others.

            In general those who grow up in times and places that are more economically equal tend to lean more Right.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Echoing Plumber’s final sentence I was a permatemp in industry for nearly 7 years.

          I’ve had phenomenally more autonomy, power, salary, benefits, and potential for promotion since moving to a government job.

    • AG says:

      The real cycle is the inevitable march of time. We’re pretty much right on schedule vs. the rise and fall of a Chinese Dynasty, into the late years of decline, due to system entrenchment enabling irreversible (for that dynasty) levels of corruption.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      How competent are Canadian private businesses compared to American private businesses, in your experience? Does anything vary by industry?

      I’ve never had super negative experiences with my local governments, but they are typically well funded and the employees well compensated. I’ve rarely come across someone I thought was a complete idiot.

      In private industry, across the few companies I’ve worked, my impression is that there are only a few key people that are really driving the business forward and fixing issue. Everyone else is more or less a cog in the machine, humming along, able to do a key function but not interested in doing much hard work or much new work. There are probably a limited number of these key people, and my impression is, in the US, these people disproportionately go to work in private industry, and do not go to work in the public sector. Additionally, the few people I know that DO go to the public sector, cannot hold the cogs accountable and cannot teach them anything new. They also do not have the ability to scale anything, because practically everything is turf-protected by a manager who is effectively a neo-feudal lord. This prevents them from doing anything beyond extremely localized benefits, and while these localized benefits might hold as long as they are working hard, they vanish as soon as the hardworker disappears.

  10. Viliam says:

    Even absurd accusations can be quite harmful. Imagine the following situation: Someone reads SSC, gets triggered by something, and posts on tumblr or twitter: “Scott is literally a Nazi. Also, he kicks cute puppies.”

    A naive approach is that this should be completely harmless. Among the people who read the message, most have no idea who Scott is. The few ones who know Scott will mostly conclude that the author is an idiot. The very few people who happened to be triggered by the same website will nod in agreement… but in 3 milliseconds they will get triggered by something else and change the topic.

    The problem is, in current era this could be the first step of a larger process.

    Step 1 — throwing mud

    The first step consists of random people throwing random accusations on their own spaces. The accusations are sometimes mere exaggerations, sometimes completely fabricated and absurd. As long as you are famous enough and somehow triggering to the people of mud-throwing online subculture, many accusations will be generated at many unimportant corners of the internet.

    Step 2 — establishing common knowledge

    At some moment you may trigger a person whose job or hobby is creating common knowledge. An editor of a sufficiently known wiki, or a journalist. Now this person has another option to retaliate. Instead of merely throwing another piece of mud, they can collect the existing pieces, and create a written record, supported by references. It will be like this: “Various bloggers report that Scott is a Nazi[1][2] and a KKK member[3]. There are reports of seeing him kick puppies[4], kittens[5][6], hamsters[7], and other cute animals[8][9].”

    If the author is careful, they can avoid actually saying anything false. If you carefully read the technical meaning of their text, they do not claim that Scott is a Nazi; they merely report that other people call Scott a Nazi. Another option is to avoid saying anything specific, just put the words together to create an association in reader’s mind: “Internet also has its dark side. Nazis, Scott, KKK, many others. People can be shocked by what they find online. There are also videos of cruelty against cute animals on YouTube. Our friend Linda says: ‘This makes me really sad.’ But these days, it is too easy for people like Scott to make their own websites.”

    It still seems like… well, someone is wrong on the internet, news at 11. Except, it sometimes spills out of internet, if you are unlucky and the article e.g. gets published in paper edition of Guardian. And now until the end of eternity, people will point at the article and say: “The proof is here, it must be true. Unless you believe there is a media conspiracy again Scott, ha ha.” And then…

    Step 3 — consequences

    …your Patreon account gets closed, because someone reported you for violating their terms of service in points 13 “hate speech” and 72 “cruelty against animals”; attached were links to RationalWiki and Guardian. Also, your Google accounts is closed (oops, all your messages and contacts gone in an instant), and your Visa card is no longer valid. Not because these corporations have anything against you specifically, not even because the important people believe those accusations to be true, but simply because someone reported you and provided evidence, and the safe (as in: cover your ass) reaction for the employee who handled your case was to close your account.

    The meaning of the Step 1 is to provide material for people to make Steps 2 and 3 with deniability. It is not a lie if someone collects the lies written about you online. And it is not a malice to close your account if reliable sources report you for violating the terms of service. The Step 1 itself is false and malicious… but what are you going to do about it, sue everyone who tweets about you?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      “BuzzFeed reports Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress!”

      Except it’s based on anonymous sources “familiar with the Mueller investigation” and the BuzzFeed authors have never seen the documents and no one has been able to corroborate the story. But I’m sure impeachment is days away.

      The really interesting thing is when the propagandists involved completely fail to understand their level of power and influence. When the Wall Street Journal accused youtuber PewDiePie of being a nazi or having nazi sympathies, Pewds had about 50 million subscribers (that has since increased). These 50 million people, having watched hours and hours and hours of his videos know PewDiePie is not a nazi. Yet the WSJ thought they could take Pewds down by informing their ~2.3 subscribers that Pewds is a nazi. The actual result of this is that 50 million young people now know the WSJ is full of crap.

      The Wall Street Journal authors thought they were influential because they’re the Wall Street Journal. But they ain’t PewDiePie.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Did they attack Pewds to try to get him taken down, or did they try to sell newspapers to the people who weren’t his fans already?

      • dick says:

        I don’t think the WSJ had much to do with Pewdiepie’s antisemitism controversy. I also don’t think a popular youtuber making a controversially-edgy joke is very similar to Buzzfeed running a questionably-sourced article accusing the president of an impeachable offense.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But the WSJ were the people who ran the “PewDiePie is a nazi” story that cost him his Disney deal. They were literally the one and only reason for the “controversy.”

          • dick says:

            They were literally the one and only reason for the “controversy.”

            So, the world’s most popular youtuber ran a “death to all jews” joke, and all of his fans, the blogs, other youtube channels, and clickbait sites just kind of ignored it until the WSJ had weighed in?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Mueller’s office repudiates the story.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Huh. Well obviously we should go with what Mueller says, but Buzzfeed is being weirdly steadfast about their report in face of a direct refutation. Why are they so confident?

          (Mueller still thinks Cohen lied to Congress to benefit Trump, per his brief. The point of contention here is whether Trump directly instructed Cohen to do so)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s the same way they stand by their reporting on the Steele dossier. The dossier itself is farcical stories plucked from 4chan, but BuzzFeed accurately described the dossier’s farcical 4chan stories.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Jason Leopold swore up and down that a story was true, and then it wasn’t? Wow.

          This is not the first time Jason Leopold has been caught making shit up. It should be the last. It probably will not be. It should. He should have no home in journalism any more, but if all his prior transgressions didn’t do it, why will this one?

    • WashedOut says:

      Even absurd accusations can be quite harmful. Imagine the following situation: Someone reads SSC, gets triggered by something, and posts on tumblr or twitter: “Scott is literally a Nazi. Also, he kicks cute puppies.”

      A naive approach is that this should be completely harmless. Among the people who read the message, most have no idea who Scott is. The few ones who know Scott will mostly conclude that the author is an idiot. The very few people who happened to be triggered by the same website will nod in agreement… but in 3 milliseconds they will get triggered by something else and change the topic.

      I agree this is totally naive. The older I get, the more I believe there’s no such thing as a ‘completely harmless’ lie. In the example you’ve given, i.e “literal Nazi” + “kicks puppies”, this is so far from harmless to my mind that it would be ‘naive’ to not condemn it on it’s face as being vile, baseless slander. For one, we’ve already seen the complete dilution of both “literally” and “Nazi” due to overuse/flagrant deliberate misuse rendering them meaningless. This in itself is harmful, for what I hope are obvious reasons.

      What matters in your hypothetical is the initial process of collecting, assessing and critically analyzing evidence. Most of the paths through hell you outline pass through an initial series of gates like ‘as reported by several bloggers’ or ‘sources from within the rationalist community’ or ‘some well-known wiki states that…’. These should simply not meet the grade for standards of evidence required to indict someone as a “literal Nazi.” Unfortunately the saturation of internet-pseudojournalism and the misaligned incentives of clickbait news media combine to create an environment where such assessment of evidence is practically impossible for the average pundit.

      If I were in Scott’s position in the OP hypothetical, would it be sufficient to ask the accusers/boycotters to provide real primary-source evidence to support their allegations, and anything less will be grounds for a tortious slander suit? Or is that being naive?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        would it be sufficient to ask the accusers/boycotters to provide real primary-source evidence to support their allegations, and anything less will be grounds for a tortious slander suit?

        Depends. Is testimony evidence? if it is, lying to avoid the ban is trivial. If it isn’t, that seems Bad.

        • WashedOut says:

          If WordPress blacklisted Scott over an alleged affiliation with the Nazi Party and all WordPress was relying on was testimonial evidence, I would say that’s pretty clearly insufficient and Bad.

    • This is essentially what journalists do except they find a few true anecdotes to support their point and paint those as representative of an entire group of people. They also take true stories and report them in a misleading way to accomplish the same thing. It’s easy to notice when it’s the other side that does it, but not your own.

  11. baconbits9 says:

    We went on vacation for 2 weeks and came back to 8 dozen eggs in our fridge so ‘lay’ your favorite egg based recipes on me my friends!

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      ???????? Did your eggs have baby eggs??

    • jgr314 says:

      years ago, I found a really nice diagram with a taxonomy of egg-based recipes and I’m sad I lost it. For example, there were different branches for whole egg preparations, white only, yolk only, separation required but uses both. With 8 dozen, you’d have enough to get through the whole tree.

    • AG says:

      Lava custard buns
      Steamed egg

      Personally, my main use for eggs is fried rice.

      Egg drop into a creamy soup is good times, too.

    • SamChevre says:

      Tortilla:

      Cube up some potatoes, and cook them in plenty of olive oil on medium heat until soft and browned-a nonstick pan is best. Add paprika (Spanish smoked if you have it), chopped garlic if you like, and stir once, then add enough beaten egg with salt in it to cover. Cook over very low heat with a lid on it, or put it in the oven, until the egg is set.

    • dodrian says:

      This Key Lime Pie uses 4 eggs. It tastes great with a regular graham cracker crust and regular limes too.

    • Well... says:

      Fritata. You can easily use a dozen eggs making one that yields about four servings for a hungry adult male. Here’s how I make mine:

      Preheat your oven to 400˚. Grease a big lasagna dish (preferably with bacon fat, but you could use cooking spray or the like) and line the bottom with hash browns or tater tots, the kind you buy in a bag from the freezer section of the grocery store. Put that in the oven.

      While that’s crisping up, chop a bunch of veggies and sausage, enough to fill the lasagna dish most of the rest of the way up. Good veggies for fritata include stuff like spinach and tomatoes and bell peppers but you could get more creative if you wanted.

      Scramble a dozen eggs in a large mixing bowl. I like to add about a two teaspoons of milk for each egg to make it creamier but you don’t have to. Toss into this a couple fistfuls of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Add crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, and salt to taste. Stir thoroughly.

      Once your hash browns/tots have had an opportunity to crisp up a bit, take them out and spread your chopped veggies and sausage over them. Then give your egg/cheese/seasoning mix one more vigorous stir and pour it slowly over top. Sprinkle more cheddar on that and put it back in the oven until the eggs have cooked through, usually about 30-45 minutes but possibly longer. You can check it and put it back in if it needs more time.

    • littskad says:

      Pound cake and angel food cake both use an awful lot of eggs.

      Also, homemade pickled eggs are amazingly good, and there are all kinds of ways you can go with them. I especially like to pickle eggs with beets, but I’ve also made good curried pickled eggs and spicy pickled eggs, too. They’re really good eaten straight, in salads, and make much better egg salad sandwiches than plain eggs.

    • Plumber says:

      On weekends I often take a small 6″ little cast iron pan,

      put oil in it, or (if I want much better flavor) melt some Irish Butter from Trader Joe’s (other butters will probably be good as well)
      crack an egg in it,

      stir with a fork,

      heat it low and slow until solid,

      put some bread in a toaster,

      put mustard on the toast,

      then put the egg on the toast,

      with the now empty pan brown a slice of onion,

      have the onion sluce with the egg and a slice of tomato as a sandwich.

      Delicious!

      For a bigger meal::

      Sauteed some onions,

      Make some rice,

      Put the rice in the pan with the onions, and some butter or oil and fry the rice a bit,

      Let the rice cool a bit,

      Crack a bunch of eggs into the rice,

      Stir it up with some cilantro and/or pieces of bacon or sausage.

      Cook it low and slow.

      Add pieces of tomatoes when it’s almost solid.

      Finish up heating until solid.

    • Deiseach says:

      Fairy cake/queen cake/butterfly buns recipe and instructional video here; she uses four eggs which personally I think is about right (some recipes say only two but that is if you are using milk as well).

      For the cream filling, she uses buttercream but you can do ordinary whipped cream and strawberry/other jam, and they do look nice when presented properly.

      Very easy to make, recipe scales up nicely (so if you wanted to make more, just double the quantities) and if it’s anything like our house when we made these, they will get gobbled up fast so be sure to make plenty in one go! Same basic mix for Bakewell tart, if you’re making the pastry yourself that will use up more eggs but shop-bought pre-made pastry is perfectly fine.

      You will use up more eggs (yolks only) if making proper custard.

    • SaiNushi says:

      Take a few dozen to the nearest homeless shelter. They always need perishable goods.

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    We have Roman era dog graves with epitaphs. One Latin inscription reads:
    “I am in tears while carrying you to your last resting place as much as I rejoiced when bringing you home in my own hands fifteen years ago.”

    … my heart.

    • theredsheep says:

      It is cool that we can find that bridge of empathy to people who died something like 2K years ago.

    • Nick says:

      This reminds me of a story from some elderly friends who, many years ago, worked under an old nun at a hospital. She was a tall woman with a deep voice. She wasn’t strong—she could barely walk, actually—but always got her way through force of will: “Ann, you will come and visit me,” the nun would command of her friends in her last years, and visit they did.

      Her disability was a leg injury she received as a child in Italy. When she was about three an earthquake struck, reducing her apartment to rubble and killing her whole family. She was rescued and adopted by the neighbor who pulled her from the rubble—for his own family had died too. When they immigrated to America some years later she entered the convent, though her adopted father did not believe. He was a wealthy lawyer who had worked some important position in Mussolini’s government and was doing disreputable work in America, I wasn’t told what.

      But she persisted with him, and just as father rescued daughter, daughter rescued father. He repented, giving his illicit money to the Church. He entered the priesthood, and asked to minister to a poor village in Mexico. And he became beloved of the people. In his final year, suffering from cancer, I think, they paid to send him to Mexico City so he could recover. When he died in hospital there, the villagers came and they carried his body back themselves.

      Enter our nun, for she came for his funeral—lumbering in, herself old and gray. She knelt by his grave, a humble grave in a humble village for this once great man, and picking up a bit of dirt, tossed it in, saying, “Father, once you unburied me; now, I bury you.”

  13. DragonMilk says:

    I made pancakes for the first time yesterday. They turned out surprisingly well.

    Surprising because I didn’t follow a preset recipe and per usual, don’t measure proportions. cracked an egg in a bowl, added a dash of heavy cream, poured in some coconut milk, mixed salt and sugar, and finally mixed in the flour before putting it over a buttered cast iron.

    Questions:
    1. What kind of fruit can be added and does this change any of the other ingredients (other than less sugar)?
    2. If I go for savory pancakes, can I still use coconut milk or should I sub water?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      1 – no. The fruit will make them slightly more soggy but you don’t want any of the batter to be too thick. Berries and bananas work well. If using apples, slice thinly.

      2 – I think this depends on how savory you want them. If you’re serving savory pancakes with bacon and cheese on top, I might go with water, but at that point you may want to swap to buckwheat flour or something.

    • JustToSay says:

      I like dried cranberries and very finely chopped walnuts (excellent combo for scones, but also good with pancakes). Or plain pancakes with sliced banana on top.

      ETA: some people might prefer it if the cranberries are soaked in water for a bit to sort of plump them back up

    • jgr314 says:

      Based on the recipe you described, I think you made English pancakes/crepes and not American-style pancakes. I prefer the former, fwiw, but the latter are also tasty.

      Usually, when I add fruit/fixings to crepes, I wait for the pancake to set (including a flip) and then add the extras. If the extras need a long cooking time to soften (like apples) I would normally cook them separately.

      If you do make American-style, you will need a leavening agent (probably a mix of baking powder and baking soda) and possibly an acidic liquid (i.e., buttermilk) that will react to create bubbles in the batter for a “light” final product. Because you are trying to achieve a particular chemical reaction, I would suggest using a recipe to get the proportions right.

      For American pancakes, you can add the extra ingredients to the batter itself or plop some batter on the pan and thrown things on before the batter sets. I particularly like banana slices, but some people (my kids) can’t stand them. Putting a scoop of applesauce in the middle of the pancake, then some extra batter on top to cover is also excellent.

      For both kinds, aside from leavening, the only danger I see in your no-measure approach is too much/too little salt. The amount doesn’t need to be especially precise, but I’ve certainly made both errors and cooking things that were totally inedible.

      As to the amount of sugar, the range is huge and you’d probably even be ok to leave it out entirely, then put syrup/jam/honey/nutella, whatever on the cooked pancakes.

      Finally, I’ve a lot less experience and only mixed success making Korean and Chinese-style pancakes. I have had great success eating them, though!

      • DragonMilk says:

        Thanks for the tips, I’ve definitely not used soda or yeast before, and may well like the crepe variety.

        How exactly do you cook apples?

        • Deiseach says:

          As in stewed apples? I don’t know anything about American applesauce, but for the traditional stewed apples and custard: tart cooking apples, cut into chunks, put into a saucepan with sugar and water (careful on the water, don’t put too much in or they’ll be soggy watery mess), bring to the boil then turn down heat and cook carefully until the apples are mushy but haven’t completely lost their shape. Add nutmeg* as flavouring during cooking, turn into the serving dishes, pour over custard (personally I like the custard cool and nearly set as it makes a nice textural contrast with the warm mushy apple). You can throw raisins or sultanas in as well with the apples near the end when cooking.

          *or cinnamon, ginger, allspice, any combination you like

          Better recipe (it gives quantities!) here. If using cooking apples, you’ll need sugar (unless you like it tart), if using eating apples probably not – it’s all to taste.

          • DragonMilk says:

            I meant what kind of apples do you use in apple pancakes and how do you cook them before getting them into the pancakes

    • House rules when I made pancakes for the kids were that they had two alternatives:
      butter and syrup and eat the pancakes with knife and fork.

      I add fruit to the pancakes instead and they can eat them with their hands.

      They preferred the latter.

      What I did was to pour batter into the frying pan for a small pancake, put on thin sliced fruit–strawberries or bananas were common–then drip a little more batter on top of the fruit before turning the pancake over. Very tasty. Not long ago my grandchildren spent a weekend with us so I got to do it again.

  14. bean says:

    I was discussing my idea about resolving government shutdowns by locking the President and Congress in the Capitol until they come to a deal with a friend, and he said that while he liked the idea, government was already too much like a reality show.
    Then I realized that government was already a reality show, particularly the Presidency. 2016 was obviously the special Celebrity year. Hillary was primarily famous for marrying Bill, while Trump was famous for being Trump. Hopefully, normal service will resume shortly.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The funny part is that this is normal service, just with the veneer of dignity stripped off.

      Trump’s presidency has really only been remarkable in terms of his personal uncouthness and the intensity of the establishment’s dislike of him. None of the shenanigans we’ve seen are new, it’s all stuff at least as old as I am. The only thing that’s new is that people are finally starting to grasp how farcical modern American politics are.

      I would prefer more dignified politics, but only if that means that politicians actually have dignity. If the political circus keeps going though, we should at least have an entertaining ring-master.

    • Erusian says:

      You inherently privilege anything that you apply pressure to in that way. Implementing this would basically mean that the President and Congress have to fund the government. The Founders explicitly didn’t want that. It had long been a tool for people opposed to the royal administration to starve it of funds.

      As for 2016 being exceptional, I’m not sure that’s true. I’m not sure there was ever a time pre-existing familiarity wasn’t an asset. If you’re concerned with alternative media and saying things for attention, then that really started around 2008. The trend could reverse but it’s not too likely. But I’d actually argue that means it’s not as deleterious as people think. Does anyone disapprove of every election from 2008 to 2018?

      • bean says:

        You inherently privilege anything that you apply pressure to in that way. Implementing this would basically mean that the President and Congress have to fund the government. The Founders explicitly didn’t want that. It had long been a tool for people opposed to the royal administration to starve it of funds.

        Two problems here. First, this shutdown isn’t about people trying to oppose the “royal administration”. It’s about a fight over a symbolic $5 billion for a wall on the border with Mexico. Second, it says nothing about needing to fund everything in the current budget. Maybe the small-government people manage to secure control of the food supply and make everyone agree to defund, say, the Department of Education. (While amusing, I would structure the relevant law so that this doesn’t happen.) This would be totally legitimate under my proposal. They just need to agree to some sort of deal. Because, yes, providing funding is part of their job.

        • Erusian says:

          Because, yes, providing funding is part of their job.

          It is not. Passing a budget (supply, in their terminology) is an obligation in the British system. The Founders were aware of this and explicitly allowed a system where the government could be denied supply without Congress needing to dissolve. You can read about it in The Federalist Papers. Or, if you want a more critical stance, in The British Constitution.

          • EchoChaos says:

            +1

          • tocny says:

            Slight correction: Parliament is necessary to pass appropriations, but there are revenues that are considered to be the King’s revenues, mainly excise. This led Charles I to rule for eleven years without Parliament meeting, often called the Personal Rule. It led to the Civil War, so I am not saying it was necessarily a good idea, just that it happened.

          • bean says:

            That’s not quite the same thing. A failed budget is essentially a vote of no confidence in the British system, and triggers an immediate election. It isn’t in the American system. And this, strictly speaking, doesn’t actually require them to pass a budget. What it does do is give a stronger incentive to stop shutting down the government over whatever the partisan political fight of the day is.

          • Erusian says:

            That’s not quite the same thing. A failed budget is essentially a vote of no confidence in the British system, and triggers an immediate election. It isn’t in the American system. And this, strictly speaking, doesn’t actually require them to pass a budget. What it does do is give a stronger incentive to stop shutting down the government over whatever the partisan political fight of the day is.

            You are right that a failed budget is effectively a vote of no confidence. This is because the role of the Commons in the British system was originally just to provide money and other entities tried to restrict the Commons to that role.

            The Founders were aware of this and explicitly did not include this in the American system. The idea was to strengthen representatives vis a vis the government. If they had wanted, they could have gone the opposite route and required budgets to be passed. They chose not to. It is not ‘strictly speaking’. It was something very purposeful. Elected officials are supposed to have the ability to starve the government of funds like they are doing now.

            I am guessing you like the American administrative state and are upset that people are opposed to it. This is why you aren’t feeling any dissonance over basically arguing the people’s representatives should be locked in a room until they agree to hand over money. You explicitly have objected to them using their appropriations power to extract political concessions. The Founders were in the opposite camp. You can disagree with them but the system is working as designed.

          • bean says:

            I am guessing you like the American administrative state and are upset that people are opposed to it. This is why you aren’t feeling any dissonance over basically arguing the people’s representatives should be locked in a room until they agree to hand over money. You explicitly have objected to them using their appropriations power to extract political concessions. The Founders were in the opposite camp. You can disagree with them but the system is working as designed.

            Working as designed? We’ve had most of the government on holiday for a month because people can’t agree on $5 billion for a border wall. I really don’t think that was supposed to be there. And the government employees who are sitting at home will collect full pay for doing so when they eventually reopen, at a cost to us taxpayers of way more than $5 billion for doing absolutely nothing. Yes, this is a great thing.

            I’m not a huge fan of the American administrative state, and I’m not baffled by your opposition to it. I just think there are better ways to fight back. If you have enough political strength to force a shutdown in the first place, you probably have enough to make some meaningful cuts if you’re willing to reopen things.

            To put it another way, what’s your proposed endgame? Permanent shutdown? That’s simply not going to happen. And if it’s not, then it’s in everyone’s interest to get them over quickly.

          • Erusian says:

            Working as designed? We’ve had most of the government on holiday for a month because people can’t agree on $5 billion for a border wall. I really don’t think that was supposed to be there. And the government employees who are sitting at home will collect full pay for doing so when they eventually reopen, at a cost to us taxpayers of way more than $5 billion for doing absolutely nothing. Yes, this is a great thing.

            It really was supposed to be there. I suggest you read the Federalist Papers and writings of the Founding Fathers. You can read some political histories of the King with Parliament too to see the history of some of there ideas. You can read, if you want to get really granular, Pepys diary where the 17th century Whigs starved the royal administration of funds and he was forced to work without pay. There’s even a scene where several women show up demanding their husband’s pay despite the lack of funds. The men causing that lack of pay were some of the Founding Father’s heroes. John Adams said Americans should make pilgrimages to their graves.

            I’m not a huge fan of the American administrative state, and I’m not baffled by your opposition to it. I just think there are better ways to fight back. If you have enough political strength to force a shutdown in the first place, you probably have enough to make some meaningful cuts if you’re willing to reopen things.

            Does it increase or decrease their leverage to lock them in a room until they agree to reopen? Do you not see how your proposal tilts it towards the state getting funds? Do you disagree the balance should be in the opposite direction?

            To put it another way, what’s your proposed endgame? Permanent shutdown? That’s simply not going to happen. And if it’s not, then it’s in everyone’s interest to get them over quickly.

            The government will reopen when there is political support to fund it. If there isn’t enough political support to fund it, then we should alter it until there is or we should abolish it and replace it with one that can get enough popular support to get funded. We should not start coercing the representatives of the people to pay.

            Fortunately, even if the federal government is shut down we still have the infrastructure to hold elections or constitutional conventions. By design, mind you.

          • brad says:

            Why exactly are we supposed to care so much about the intentions of the Founders? Did they have a directly pipeline to the divine?

          • Erusian says:

            Why exactly are we supposed to care so much about the intentions of the Founders? Did they have a directly pipeline to the divine?

            Because they designed the system. You can think they made a poor design decision. But if you don’t even know why they made the decision (if indeed you think it was an accident and not a purposeful choice despite evidence being otherwise), then your opinion is at best uninformed.

            You might also look up Chesterton’s fence:
            “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We care because we want to be ruled by law, and sometimes we need to go beyond the raw text of a law.

            If there is a city ordinance that says “no vehicles in the park” does that mean that city trucks cannot drive into there to clean it up? Does that mean a child cannot be on rollerskates? Can a band perform there? (A performance can be a vehicle.)

            There is the nerd-response that laws should be written exactly precisely and everything interpreted with a four-corners doctrine. This instinct is understandable but futile. Human language is imperfect and will never fully describe what people mean.

            90% of the time just reading the text answers that, so there is no need to dig further to figure out the meaning of the text. But when you do, you want to discover what things mean.

          • John Schilling says:

            And where there is a disagreement or misunderstanding about what something means, “what did the guy who wrote it think it meant?” is an obvious Schelling point, and perhaps the only Schelling point for cases where basically everybody has a personal opinion or stake in the outcome.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, using original intent as your Schelling point means that the deontological and contractual basis for your legal system has full back-compatibility; these are the rules(*) everybody signed up for when they immigrated to or accepted birthright citizenship in a nation, and nobody gets to say “That’s not what I agreed to!” as a justification for defection.

            * Including changes incorporated by the meta-rules for making changes, provided that process is perceived as legitimate.

          • brad says:

            Original intent has been abandoned by all legal scholars and sitting judges. And for good reason, its fundamentally undemocratic to allow the secret thoughts of legislators to serve as law. Original public meaning is the current most popular flavor of originalism. That doesn’t require quasi-deification of the founders.

          • Erusian says:

            Original intent has been abandoned by all legal scholars and sitting judges. And for good reason, its fundamentally undemocratic to allow the secret thoughts of legislators to serve as law. Original public meaning is the current most popular flavor of originalism. That doesn’t require quasi-deification of the founders.

            I see. So, reading (for example) what the Founders wrote and how they argued for ratification would be relevant because it is what the statutes would have originally meant to the public. Not because I have some intimate knowledge of Hamilton’s inner thoughts.

            That’s a fair point. But it is splitting hairs. I am not deifying the Founders. I am talking about their stated intentions in setting up a system.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The founders were aware of sophistry (though the term may not have been coined in its present meaning yet).

            They knew about legalistic interpretation if only from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

            They were trying to write legal text acceptable to the majority of representatives of all of the states.

            Regardless of their original public arguments (which are just that, arguments, not objective statements of fact), if they wrote ambiguous text we can only assume that they meant it to be ambiguous so as to be acceptable to the majority of representatives of all the states.

            Nothing in the Constitution privileges precedent, or any other kind of tradition (unlike English law, IIRC). And the Constitution is the supreme law of the USA. So where precedent, tradition, or anything else contradicts the text of the Constitution the Constitution is primary. And where the Constitution is ambiguous, then precedent, etc… can be considered, sure, because nothing forbids taking it into account, but it isn’t fixed in stone.

          • Nothing in the Constitution privileges precedent, or any other kind of tradition (unlike English law, IIRC). And the Constitution is the supreme law of the USA.

            Nothing in the Constitution says that the Supreme Court has the power to overrule Congress, either. That power comes from precedent—a Supreme Court case.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I suggest you reread article 3 as it does give them these explicit duties which pretty much require weighing mere congressional laws against the Constitutional proscriptions when such a case appears before them:

            “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States”

            “to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party”

            “In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

            The kind of ‘un-constitutional’ precedent I’m most concerned with are “tradition” and “the founder’s intent” and “liberty interests not “deeply rooted in the nation’s history” do not qualify as being a protected liberty interest.“.

  15. helloo says:

    Saw a video which mentioned that there was pressure from the shareholders that influenced some of the bigger CW issues regarding company policies namely GPG and FN (acronyms as apparently it triggers spam filter) for a number of companies including Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and others.
    And that one of the bigger shareholders that brought this up was… the Norway oil funds?

    Though I can see other new articles that mention this, did this spark any controversy/conversation?
    Though they were unlikely the leaders in the push for these policies, it certainly seems to be the muscle for a number of them.
    On a side topic, what is the cutoff point regarding share ownership between state-owned and private company for both domestic and foreign companies? Or does this influence really operate on a spectrum?

    • jgr314 says:

      Could you give some more hints about the meaning of acronyms GPG and FN? Is the latter a french political party?

      • helloo says:

        Gender 1234 Pay 1234 Gap
        Fake 1234 News

        As mentioned, I think they are spam filtering those terms,

        • b_jonas says:

          You will find hints about what terms are spam filtered if you read the commenting rules by following the confusingly named “Comments” link in the header bar of the blog.

  16. Chlopodo says:

    For a while now I’ve been trying and failing to find the origin of the story about Sir Walter Raleigh which William Propp tells in this video at around the 8:40 mark. Does it sound familiar to anybody?

  17. Uribe says:

    The maladaptive day-dreaming post below spawned this thought, but I’ll put it here since it is a different topic.

    Stand Up Comedy is something that can only be practiced live. You can write a draft of new material off-stage, but practicing by yourself doesn’t work at all because there is no feedback mechanism. The audience is your much-needed editor. (This is true for comics at all levels.) It’s simply impossible to know with much certainty what a room full of strangers is going to find funny. You try your shit out a number of times, notice where the laughs are and aren’t, rewrite, rinse and repeat over and over. Rehearsing in front of your friends doesn’t work because they know you too well. Rehearsing by yourself (other than to memorize your material) doesn’t work because, well, that’s just maladaptive day-dreaming.

    This is something that many people don’t understand about stand up, and why it drives me crazy (as a fan, although I’ve hit my share of open mics) that people are now recording stand up performances in their infancy and reporting on them in the NYT as if they were fully fleshed-out performances. Not many years ago comics would and could say really, really extraordinarily offensive things at clubs like The Comedy Cellar or The Comedy Store or open mics and nobody in the audience would really care because they understood they were seeing material that was being worked. Much of this material would never make it to that comic’s hour-long HBO comedy special, or to the show they took on the road around the country. (Usually the hour-long special would be recorded after taking it and continuing to work it on the road for a year, at which point it would be at its peak.)

    My question is: what other sort of work can’t be done or practiced in private?

    Bonus: Are there implications about what we should consider to be, for pragmatic purposes, private? I’m thinking here about how a show in a private club used to be consider private (because the club is private) but is now considered public (because it is open to the public).

    • Aapje says:

      I actually see similar issues in science & debate. Trying to move beyond the status quo on controversial topics typically involves proposing something new and then getting feedback from others who notice deficiencies, that can then result in improvements to the proposal or abandoning it after recognizing the downsides.

      For this to work there has to be a certain amount of good faith, where people with heterodox ideas are not held to far higher standards than the orthodox, where lots of people don’t start accusing and punishing the person of/for being morally deficient for not noticing certain things, where the person is allowed to actually abandon positions rather than being held to something they once said forever, etc.

    • AG says:

      Well, the thing is that we’re now in a generation where many people consume an equivalent to stand up in the form of Youtubers, which is faux-live. So for those people, the performance is the final form. They wrote, executed, and edited the footage, posted it online, and they don’t get to workshop it, even if the only feedback was how they reacted to their own footage in the editing.

      It’s like the difference between SNL live sketches and digital shorts. And how are SNL live sketches different from stand up?

      But for people who have grown up on the latter, it’s not obvious that the former should be evaluated differently.

  18. ana53294 says:

    In the previous open thread, several people mentioned that if walkouts in the TSA meant fewer checks in airports, instead of delayed flights and longer queues, people would be quite happy and it would probably be a net positive. You could even let the TSA workers keep their jobs, but make them a private force hired by privatized airports, so the security would be the minimum required by aviation law, and as fast as possible.

    If you eliminate the consequences, which agencies or sections’ dissapearance would be a net positive? By this I mean that during the shutdown, you may be unable to obtain document X to do Y, but if you do Y without document X, you’ll get in trouble after the shutdown ends.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Query seems tautological. If you eliminate the consequences, surely there’s no agency or section whose disappearance is a net negative? You don’t need the military if someone isn’t going to try to initiate violence due to a power vacuum, etc.

      • Dan L says:

        It took me a few tries to parse too, but if I may be so presumptuous as to guess ana’s intent it would be something like “[Ignoring consequences directly imposed by other parts of government, especially those that are currently shut down], which agencies or sections’ dissapearance would be a net positive?” Limitations imposed by other nations, economic necessities, objective reality, etc. still apply.

      • quanta413 says:

        Not what OP is saying. He’s talking about legal consequences.

        If you eliminate the consequences, which agencies or sections’ dissapearance would be a net positive? By this I mean that during the shutdown, you may be unable to obtain document X to do Y, but if you do Y without document X, you’ll get in trouble after the shutdown ends.

      • ana53294 says:

        Yes, I was talking legal consequences brought by the federal government. So if a group of consumers sue a brewery over the label, that is not a consequence that can be eliminated in this hypothetical.

    • quanta413 says:

      I imagine privatized security would pretty much do the same thing because the government doesn’t have to do all the rigamarole either, but if security rules relaxed that would be great. I don’t see the connection here though.

      I think the things we could most afford to lose are not federal. Occupational licensing is mostly a crock but also mostly controlled by the states or professional bodies.

      A huge chunk of education after high school is a signalling arms race and it’d be great if some of that slacked off, but same deal. Only partially federally funded and mostly very long term.

      I dunno, maybe some of the newer agencies are a net drag. The CFPB perhaps? I’m spitballing at this point and don’t have a serious opinion.

      It’s harder for me to imagine how going in an uncontrolled manner from X to 0 works out well than going from X to X/N to X/(N^2) etc.

      • ana53294 says:

        But the TSA is a federal agency. They are a lot more powerful* than any private security would be.

        Airports want you to spend your time in restaurants, cafes and shops inside the airport. The more time you spend at security, the less time you have to spend money. In London Heathrow, a profitable private airport, they make a big chunk of money from retail and restaurants.

        The airport has two competing incentives: to eliminate risk and legal liability and to obtain profits. The TSA doesn’t.

        Edit: * to clarify, more powerful means that they can make the life of innocent civilians a lot more unpleasant, not that they are more effective.

        • sharper13 says:

          If you aren’t already aware, you may be interested to learn about the 22 airports in the U.S. which don’t use the TSA for security screening.

          They’re not having any issue during the “shutdown”, of course, and there is apparently no major issues with them, security-wise. For example, SF International had a 20% security failure rate in testing, compared to the 75-95% failure rate typical of TSA secured airports.

          • ana53294 says:

            Does the TSA tax airports to pay for their service?

            I am surprised that SF international used private security, being a public airport. Why do they do that? Seeing the results, it makes sense, but efficient management is usually not a high priority in publicly owned companies.

          • albatross11 says:

            TSA is an interesting example, because IMO its function is mostly providing security theater, not actual security. By contrast, a lot of government is doing stuff that has some benefits (even if on balance it should be scrapped), like the FDA or CDC.

          • CatCube says:

            This used to be the way that security was run everywhere. Private companies under contract to the airlines ran security under rules from the FAA (in the Department of Transportation). Then 9/11 happened, and the security forces were federalized most everywhere and put under the Department of Homeland Security.

          • bean says:

            I would take the numbers about TSA vs SFO with a grain of salt. First, when I googled this, it turned out that in 2006, SFO was outed as having cheated on the tests from 2003-2004, which is just about right for a 2005 report to find low levels. I’d want to know about more recent data. Second, I’d want to be sure that we had comparable methods of testing. Keeping the best people Homeland Security can find for pen testing out the majority of the time is not something we can plausibly expect, period. But is the team at SFO the same as the ones we always hear about on the news?

          • sharper13 says:

            Doing a little more research, apparently the official position of the TSA is that “there is no statistical difference in terms of effectiveness or efficiency between federal and private screeners.”

            The number of staff for TSA and private screening firms is controlled by the contract, so while a private screening firm may be a little more efficient with a similar staffing level, they aren’t allowed to just hire more people in order to screen faster.

            It seems most of TSA screening funding comes from a $5.60 per ticket fee. Presumably, much of that that gets diverted to the private screening company instead.

            From the same article, “Any airport wishing to switch must be pass a security and cost analysis by the TSA to demonstrate that hiring private contractors will not harm the agency’s budget or compromise security.”

        • 10240 says:

          If there was no security check or if it was faster, I would arrive at the airport later (as in, with less time before the flight). What’s more, since the time spent at the security check is variable and unpredictable, I have to leave enough time for an above-average queue. So it’s likely that the average (time spent at the airport – time spent at security check) would be lower if there was no security check.

          • ana53294 says:

            It has never taken me longer than half an hour to go through security, and I always try to be at the airport 2 hours early. Some people are worriers, and they will keep coming early.

            Sometimes you need to check baggage. Sometimes public transportation timing forces you to be early.

            So while *you* may arrive on the nick of the time, I am pretty sure that decreasing security time would lead to more foot traffic in cafes/shops.

          • Fahundo says:

            This is a feature, not a bug though. If they force you to spend random extra amounts of time at the airport you might be persuaded to buy something at a restaurant or shop once inside.

            It’s never taken me more than 15 minutes to get through security for a domestic flight, and yet they still won’t let me in if I’m not an hour early.

          • 10240 says:

            @ana53294 Let’s say that security check always takes 15 min. Say you target an arrival time 1 hour before strictly necessary to allow for traffic delays etc., and that makes for an arrival time 2 hours before the scheduled departure time. If there was no security check, the time by when it’s strictly necessary to arrive would be shifted by 15 min, and thus the time you could target in order to arrive 1 hour before strictly necessary would also shift to 1hour 45 mins before the scheduled departure. (And it would shift even more if you currently allow time for a 30 min security check as part of the “time by which it’s necessary to arrive”.)

            As for public transport, let’s say trains arrive at the airport at integer hours (17:00, 18:00, 19:00 etc.). Assuming you target an arrival time at least 2 hours before departure, you will, on average, arrive ~2 h 30 min before the flight (e.g. 2 h 10 min if departure is at 20:10, and 2 h 50 min if departure is 20 h 50 min, with your train arriving at 18:00 in both cases). If you target an arrival time at least 1 h 45 min before departure, on average you will arrive ~2 h 15 min before the flight (e.g. if departure is 20:10, you still arrive at 18:00, but if departure is 20:50, you arrive a full hour later, at 19:00).

            This is a feature, not a bug though.

            @Fahundo That’s why I’m saying that eliminating the security check wouldn’t be in the interest of the airport (especially if the same security check is also obligatory for other airports).

            It’s never taken me more than 15 minutes to get through security for a domestic flight, and yet they still won’t let me in if I’m not an hour early.

            Really? That’s not how it works in Europe (for intra-Schengen flights at least). Baggage drop usually closes 40 min before departure, and that’s before security check and the gate. So I’m pretty sure they let you through security 40 min before the flight. (They probably let you in as long as the gate for your flight hasn’t closed, but I have no hard data on that.) The gate theoretically closes 30 min before the flight (depending on the airline) so you have to arrive by then, though it usually closes later than that.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            It’s never taken me more than 15 minutes to get through security for a domestic flight, and yet they still won’t let me in if I’m not an hour early.

            Really? What airport is this? I usually try to get to airport about an hour before the flight, so presumably sometimes I’ve had less time than that, but I’ve never been stopped.

          • A1987dM says:

            @10240:
            Yes, I confirm that for intra-Schengen flights with no checked baggage you can even arrive at the airport 45 minutes before the flight without much risk except when the airport is unusually busy. (I still aim to be there at least 1 hour before, or even more if I go by public transportation, just in case there are accidents on the way or something.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I always try to get to the airport at least an hour early for domestic US flights, and two hours is often preferred(*). But, if I’m not checking baggage, I’ve never had anyone who wasn’t actually looking at a closed aircraft door turn me away; even twenty minutes before departure they’re willing to let me try to make it through security and to the gate in time.

            With checked baggage there’s a hard cutoff because now it’s a hassle for them if either I or the baggage doesn’t make it on the plane.

            Security can be anywhere from 10-30 minutes, which combined with traffic/parking delays and inconvenient terminal layouts makes an hour-plus margin a good plan.

            * If I wind up with an extra hour, I can usually time-shift a meal to eat at an airport restaurant; there will usually be something decent but overpriced and it’s usually on my employer’s dime.

      • 10240 says:

        Occupational licensing is mostly a crock but also mostly controlled by the states or professional bodies.

        If it’s controlled by professional bodies, then it should be counted at whatever level of government (if any) makes it obligatory to be a member of the body to practice a given profession.

    • 10240 says:

      DEA is an easy example that wouldn’t cause trouble even if it disappeared without notice. There are others that shouldn’t exist, but which should have equivalents either as private organizations or at the state government or lower level, or whose absence would require some other form of adjustment.

  19. vV_Vv says:

    Maybe it is a random coincidence, but it surely looks emblematic of this era that both the British Parliament and the US Congress are at the same time each locked in an impasse over a hot button populist issue related to immigration, with a real risk of causing substantial damage to their respective countries if the situation is not resolved soon.

    Has politics in the Anglosphere polarized to the point that not only the average people, but even professional politicians can’t find a common ground to cooperate even when the basic functioning of their countries is at stake?

    • The Nybbler says:

      The US situation is that Trump wants a victory and the House wants to deny him one. It’s pretty low-stakes, and not far from politics as usual; everyone knows that eventually someone’s going to yield and appropriations will be made.

      The Brexit situation is much more serious. From my POV it looks like May screwed the pooch; she should have been ostentatiously going full speed ahead with plans for a orderly no-deal Brexit from basically the moment she invoked Article 50. This would have given her a better BATNA and possibly allowed her to get a deal that Parliament would accept. And if it didn’t, she’d be ready. Now they’re stuck and all the choices are bad. Crash out and suffer significant economic hardship at least in the short term; this seems likely to bring down her government. Go back on Article 50 and tell the Leavers that their votes don’t count. Or beg the EU to let them kick the can down the road some more, which will likely result in a _worse_ deal.

      • Deiseach says:

        she should have been ostentatiously going full speed ahead with plans for a orderly no-deal Brexit from basically the moment she invoked Article 50

        Trouble is, the Tories were too busy back-stabbing each other from the get-go to allow any kind of coherent plan to be devised. The whole thing is a mess from the start; the Referendum was agreed to and called by Cameron who, after obtaining a victory in the Scottish Independence referendum, thought it would be as easy and simple to get a “No” vote and thus risk nothing by appeasing his backbenchers and having the referendum.

        Having badly misjudged things and run a godawful campaign, as soon as the Leave vote ws official he skipped out, leaving the Tory party in power holding the bag. And the Leave victors and leadership immediately started back-stabbing in order to grab power, with May eventually coming out as the compromise winner (she was originally a Remainer but adopted the Leave position since that was what she was stuck with). She then managed to repeat Cameron’s error by having a general election in the middle of the recriminations, shock, and uncertainty, and ended up needing the support of the DUP to prop her government up (and having to pay a hefty bribe to get that support).

        Since then, everything’s been at sixes and sevens, with the unhappy losers all wanting to get rid of her and take over themselves (but with no real concrete solutions to offer instead), the government which should have been planning what to do instead sailed on in a mood of “it’ll be easy-peasy to get the bargain we want because we’re too big for the EU to ignore” and then ran headlong into “actually the EU are rather pissed off over this whole thing and are not going to make this easy”, and with the officials charged with working on exiting the EU resigning right, left and centre.

        And then there’s us here in Ireland, with the sticking point over the Border, and the EU backing us to the hilt (because they’re pissed off at the British and are ostenstatiously Having Our Backs to ram this home) while the DUP – who hold May’s government in their hands – are equally adamant that they don’t want anything that will separate them from Great Britain, such as being somehow still in the EU in some manner. (Honestly, the messing-around the British are doing in regards to the hard border is doing more to promote the reunification of Ireland than any of our governments have in the past fifty years. Also, Scotland is beginning to look like it wishes it had voted Yes in the independence referendum before this whole mess started, and that is going to be interesting too). I know this is a silly comedy sketch but it’s the best “five three minute explanation” of the situation.

        So now there is what you see: May trying to cobble various deals together, not getting anywhere, hanging on by a thread, nobody really having any workable solution to offer and the best they can hope for is indeed kicking the can down the road but that can’t go on forever, so a no-deal Brexit is looking likely.

        As you say, if they’d planned for this all along it would be manageable. But instead they just muddled along and now we’ve got the current situation (and whatever affects the UK affects us here in Ireland, too).

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The whole thing is a mess from the start; the Referendum was agreed to and called by Cameron who, after obtaining a victory in the Scottish Independence referendum, thought it would be as easy and simple to get a “No” vote and thus risk nothing by appeasing his backbenchers and having the referendum.

          I don’t think Cameron expected to have to call a referendum at all. He planned to ‘sacrifice’ it to the demands of his pro-European Lib Dem coalition partners. Then the Tories did better than expected in the 2015 election, were no longer in a coalition, and had no excuse not to implement that part of their manifesto.

          (The 2015 Lib Dem manifesto does mention an In/Out referendum on EU membership, but only after a future “Treaty change involving a material transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU”. It devotes a total of 4 lines to this, compared to multiple pages about the importance of EU membership.)

          • Deiseach says:

            You’re correct about that. The whole notion of a referendum was seen as something not desirable or feasible, but I do feel that the combination of the Tories winning decisively and being able to ditch the Lib-Dems with the victory over Scottish independence combined to “yeah sure, let’s get this nuisance out of the way because everyone is going to vote yes anyway and then we can get on to the important stuff” attitude which sunk them.

            The idea of “a referedum on Europe” was pandering to the Eurosceptics in the party and the outsiders like UKIP which were nibbling at Tory support in some areas. I don’t think Cameron and the mainstream of the party had any burning desire to really question membership in Europe but the EU always made a handy whipping boy for the kind of rousing patriotic speeches nonsense. Then they got into a position where, as you say, there wasn’t any excuse they could give their own members as to “so why don’t we have this referendum?” but the over-confidence meant that he didn’t treat it seriously enough. It was badly prepared and the result really was a shock, and he compounded a bad result to worse by resigning and leaving the Tories to sort three problems out at once – who would replace him, could they keep a government going, and what the hell were they going to do now with the result for Leave? That was dishonourable at the very least, and the internal fighting over “ha ha, now I can be Caesar!” was disastrous as they wasted all that precious initial time not dealing with the immediate problem – the Leave result – but in cabaling and undermining one another for personal immediate short-term profit.

          • ana53294 says:

            As much as I think the Tories screwed the pooch, the clock did not start running until May activated Article 50.

            So the infighting that occurred after Cameron left to determine who would be PM did not affect this timeline.

            They did, however, activate Article 50 too quickly. Sure, the EU pressured to do it fast so Brexit would happen before the EU elections, but not activating Article 50 was a very strong lever they had, and they should have used it.

          • Deiseach says:

            the clock did not start running until May activated Article 50.

            But once the referendum had voted Leave, they knew this was coming. That they would have to activate Article 50 and once they did, the clock would run out in a specific time frame:

            The UK government stated that they would expect a leave vote to be followed by withdrawal, not by a second vote. In a leaflet sent out before the referendum, the UK government stated “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.” Although Cameron stated during the campaign that he would invoke Article 50 straight away in the event of a leave victory, he refused to allow the Civil Service to make any contingency plans, something the Foreign Affairs Select Committee later described as “an act of gross negligence.”

            Now, it’s entirely possible Cameron put that bit in as scare tactics to ensure a Remain vote: “if you vote Leave, no second chances, no changing your mind, it’s for keeps! So be very, very sure!”

            And there is certainly an argument to be made that they should have dragged their feet on when they’d trigger Article 50 for as long as possible. But all the power-grabbing in the immediate moments after Cameron’s resignation, and the resignation itself, didn’t leave any kind of leadership in place to hold the government together, or let any kind of settled structure handle the whole matter of “Oh crap, they voted Leave, what the hell do we do now?” Cameron sloped off as fast as possible leaving a mess for his successor to manage, with no obvious successor to follow (see Gove’s backstabbing of Johnson in his grab for the brass ring), and once May had emerged from the ruins of the leadership contest, their immediate concerns were trying to cobble a government together, agreeing on a unanimous policy was very much in second place.

            Why did they decide to invoke it in 2017? I have no idea, after all the talk on both sides about taking plenty of time to consider positions. It may have been pressure from the EU, or internal pressure within the Tory party, or a combination of elements. But once it was invoked, they knew they had two years to get all their ducks in a row, and that’s not how it has worked out.

            Much as I’d like to, I can’t really blame May in all this. Cameron should have stayed to deal with the mess he set up, and she only became the Prime Minister after a messy and confusing leadership struggle. She’s tried to work something out that would satisfy all the mutually contradictory demands and while it’s less than perfect, at least it’s something. Instead, two years down the line, she’s still facing the prospect of losing the leadership, the compromise plan has not been accepted, it looks like a no-deal Brexit is on the cards, and even if May is dumped, who is going to replace her and what can they do better instead?

        • Lambert says:

          What’s the actual situation regarding the Irish Question?
          I’m assuming it’s ‘completely open border or else the UK gets its arse handed to it in European Court.’
          Is there any way for a hard brexit to not flagrantly violate Good Friday?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Is there any way for a hard brexit to not flagrantly violate Good Friday?

            Sure, just don’t set up border control. If the EU doesn’t like it, they can close the Ireland/Northern Ireland border themselves.

      • Lillian says:

        EU lawyers seem to be in broad agreement that Britain can unilaterally go back on Article 50 whenever it wants, at which point things return to the state they were before it was invoked. Similarly it has already been established that the Britain can unilaterally invoke Article 50 whenever it wants, by virtue of its having done so. Therefore all Prime Minister May needs to do to give herself a two year extension is to rescind Article 50 and then invoke it again.

        • acymetric says:

          I seem to recall a previous conversation on this topic here mentioned that one of the relevant court opinions mentioned something about good faith, which revoking and then re-invoking would seem to preclude, but I may be mis-remembering (or the person I am paraphrasing was incorrect).

        • wk says:

          Britain may be able to do that, but can May do it on her own? I was under the impression Parliament would need to make that decision.

          In any case, how would May sell that politically? “We’re gonna rescind Art. 50 for now, but I give you all my big word of honour as a Remainer and wheat field runner that we’re gonna get outta here, believe me. You just have to wait a couple years or so. But we’re gonna do it, really, I promise.”

          • fion says:

            I’m pretty sure parliament has to agree to invoke it. Not sure if they’re required to revoke it, though.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            The counter to R (Miller) Vs Sec for DExEu would be that parliament needs to vote to revoke A50. In my (non-legal) understanding of the matter.

        • Deiseach says:

          Therefore all Prime Minister May needs to do to give herself a two year extension is to rescind Article 50 and then invoke it again.

          Apart from demonstrating even more unreliability and wavering over not being able to make their minds up or decide what it is they want, what good would a two year extension do? There’s no sign that they would come to any better agreement or stick to one course of action; May can’t get her own party to fully support her plan and all the opposition of various sorts can do is “We’d do better than that” but not state exactly how they would get better concessions or what kind of trade agreements they would make. For example, Taiwan seems to be not as co-operative with what the UK would want as what was given out in the early days that post-Brexit the UK would have no trouble negotiating favourable deals with trading partners on its own.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        David Cameron handed her a pre-screwed pooch.

        Gambling addiction in a prime minister is not a good thing: That was the third Referendum he held that was going to blow up in the Tories faces in a big way if it did not go his way – Election reform (Getting rid of FPTP would likely have been good for the UK. For the tories? NOPE), Scottish independence, and then this.

        The EU was never going to give the UK a deal which is better than being a member – that would be institutionally suicidal. The only options actually on offer were always “EEA, member or third country”. Asking for anything else was always just going to result in a stone-wall, because those are the only things the EU could internally agree on.

        Which, btw, is very much how the EU always negotiates with outsiders.

        Step one: Spend 18 months figuring out what we can agree to offer.

        Step two: Make offer.

        Step three: Can we adjust this?

        Step four: “No.”

        Step five: but…

        Step five: “Not spending another year and a half debating this among ourselves. Now, do you like the deal or not?”

      • Reasoner says:

        Brexit does seem worse, but things in the US also seem quite bad.

        The coming year will be an exceptionally difficult one for the republic, perhaps even uniquely so. Two major streams of events will at their confluence yield extraordinary outcomes: the advent of the 2020 Presidential-campaign cycle, and the nearly inevitable impeachment of the President by the now-incoming Democratic House. (Impeachment by the House will likely succeed, conviction-and-removal by the Senate will likely fail.) The mechanisms of it all will yield imperatives for maximal behavior by all parties. It will become impossible to compromise without communicating fatal weakness to the other side, impossible to retreat without being immolated by your own.

        https://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2019/01/the-long-night-is-coming.html

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Eh, we survived Clinton being impeached for transparently partisan reasons. It’s not good to establish as a trend but isn’t unique.

          And why should we expect the 2020 election season to be substantially worse than 2016? Haven’t people gotten used to Trump being all over the news yet? How much more can they really ramp it up? Sure, we might wind up with a radical prog/lefty in response to 2016, but that’s 2021’s problem.

          By all means, it’s gonna be unpleasant and some bad trends are continuing, but I’m not quite so pessimistic to think the consequences are as severe as across the pond.

        • Deiseach says:

          In the 60s and 70s America had its own home-grown terrorist organisations running around bombing and robbing banks, and cities burning in riots.

          I can’t see 2019/2020 being worse than that. Is this the long night that has been prognosticated by all sides since the results of the 2016 election? Wake me up when the nuclear bombs start falling in the Third World War/torture camps are set up/government stormtroopers are marching through the streets dragging LGBT and minorities off to those camps, okay?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m really hoping that the government shutdown lasts a few months longer, because it will put the lie to the hysteria about “basic functioning of [the] country [being] at stake” with every shutdown.

      The DoD, FAA and the essential parts of the DHS are funded. The IRS will keep working through tax season. Social security, Medicare and Medicaid will all keep paying out. The night watchman state and the majority of the welfare state will all keep chugging along at least through the fall even if Congress never passes another budget.

      We’ll lose the federal courts and a lot of the regulatory state, which is a mixed bag but hardly apocalyptic. The biggest concern I foresee is rioting when EBT cards stop working, and frankly that’s more of an indictment of poor policing than anything else. The country will continue to function perfectly well with 75% as many Washington bureaucrats.

      I don’t know the details of the situation in Britain so I can’t say, but the situation sounds similar. A lot of Sturm und Drang over issues that seem very manageable.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Agreed. Apparently there’s also methods whereby after a 30 day furlough the government can enact Reduction in Force rules and essentially start laying people off? I don’t know how true this is, but if so that’s one way of draining the swamp.

        I wanted the dismantlement of the administrative state. I’d prefer it done in a more orderly manner, but nobody gives up power willingly.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The biggest concern I foresee is rioting when EBT cards stop working, and frankly that’s more of an indictment of poor policing than anything else

        Now that is a hot take.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I mean it’s been five years now since Ferguson and other associated riots. There’s no excuse for police departments, who are flush with cash and army-surplus equipment up to and including armored vehicles, not to be prepared to handle another round of riots. I don’t expect them to handle it but they have no excuse not to.

          Food in the US is extraordinarily cheap and even our poorest citizens have enough that they’ll be fine even if they aren’t given free food. We’re talking about people who are obese at a higher rate than any other demographic in the country. They’re going to be pissed but they’re not in any serious danger.

          • tooths says:

            this is incredibly callous. when was the last time you had to go scrounging around for food? do you have any relevant experience in the fate you’re blithely talking about befalling people?

          • ilikekittycat says:

            EBT isn’t solely used as a bulwark against starvation, its part of people’s budgets they have come to depend on. Many people live in places that don’t have cheap groceries (Hawaii, Alaska, islands, many Indian reservations, etc.) and many people live in places with high rents and very selective access to reasonably priced groceries. Furthermore, eating extremely cheap requires time and skills for preparation many people do not have when they are looking for a way to keep making money.

            Your comment was cavalier and ignorant

          • quanta413 says:

            its part of people’s budgets they have come to depend on. Many people live in places that don’t have cheap groceries (Hawaii, Alaska, islands, many Indian reservations, etc.) and many people live in places with high rents and very selective access to reasonably priced groceries.

            Getting a cut to the food budget sucks and Nabil’s being flippant.

            Furthermore, eating extremely cheap requires time and skills for preparation many people do not have when they are looking for a way to keep making money.

            But this isn’t true. Boiling rice is easy. Microwaving potatoes is quick and easy. Toasting bread is quick and easy. Etc. Etc. I don’t believe lack of time or skill is an issue. EBT’s make up for lack of money not time or skill.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            Eating only rice, potatoes and bread is very bad for your health.

          • theredsheep says:

            If you want cheap ingredients-in-your-facehole, it’s quick and easy. If, on the other hand, you want cheap food–nourishment that makes you feel like a human being, that tastes better than or even as good as a crummy TV dinner–that requires a particular set of skills, and may take time and planning.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Eating only rice, potatoes and bread is very bad for your health.

            Yes, but beans, lentils and frozen vegetables are also quite cheap, and if you don’t want to go full vegan you could add eggs, dairy or chicken a couple times per week.

            The vast majority of Americans would be able to afford this diet, and those who wouldn’t could probably get it for free at food banks or soup kitchens operated by churches or other private charities. And cooking this type of meals doesn’t really require any skill other than putting everything into a pot with boiling water.

            So nobody is at a real risk of starvation or even malnutrition, in fact it would be probably healthier than the Western pattern diet they currently eat.

            Of course, this doesn’t mean that people are going to like it. Some people use food stamps to buy their food then spend their cash to buy booze and cigarettes, some even collude with vendors or other customers to illegally buy booze and cigarettes with food stamps. If the food stamps run out I’ll expect they will want some heads to roll.

          • theredsheep says:

            No, they probably won’t like living off endless rounds of boiled pot slurry. It’s extremely difficult for most people to continue living off such stuff when fast food is an option. This is not because they’re spoiled and petulant children, or they’re all gaming the system to buy booze–though some do–but because boiled pot slurry is profoundly unsatisfying, and when you have a stressful, crappy, hopeless life it’s difficult to pass up living beyond your means so you can avoid eating like a stereotypical third world villager.

            You can have cheap, satisfying food, but it takes planning and practice, and sometimes a bit of free time. I make some damn good spaghetti sauce on the cheap, but prepping and cooking all those veggies takes time. Big Macs aren’t as good, but you can outsource the effort.

          • albatross11 says:

            They can handle another round of riots, but that doesn’t mean they can always keep them from happening. There are a *lot* more civilians than policemen out there, and if enough of them are interested in rioting, there’s only so much the police can do about it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I don’t have a particular policy proposal here, but as a parent, it’s really important to make sure your kids know how to cook a few basic, healthy meals with relatively cheap ingredients. Otherwise, they can end up as I did when I first got an apartment of my own–unable to cook almost anything that didn’t come with explicit and simple instructions.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Consider donating to your local food bank.

          • Anonymous says:

            @vV_Vv

            Yes, but beans, lentils and frozen vegetables are also quite cheap, and if you don’t want to go full vegan be horribly malnourished you could add eggs, dairy or chicken a couple times per week.

            FTFY. 🙂

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, I don’t have a particular policy proposal here, but as a parent, it’s really important to make sure your kids know how to cook a few basic, healthy meals with relatively cheap ingredients

            Indeed. Throwing things into a pot of boiling water isn’t much of a skill, but it is a skill, and if people are trained to go with McD or frozen TV dinner type meals instead of healthy and cheap, they will.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @quanta413

            Microwaving potatoes is quick and easy. Toasting bread is quick and easy.

            The cheapest microwave you’ll find is going to be around $50, and it’ll start falling apart within a year (paint flaking into food, and potential consequent rusting of the cage). I won’t even mention the cost of a toaster versus its utility.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If you want cheap ingredients-in-your-facehole, it’s quick and easy. If, on the other hand, you want cheap food–nourishment that makes you feel like a human being, that tastes better than or even as good as a crummy TV dinner–that requires a particular set of skills, and may take time and planning.

            You can have cheap, satisfying food, but it takes planning and practice, and sometimes a bit of free time. I make some damn good spaghetti sauce on the cheap, but prepping and cooking all those veggies takes time. Big Macs aren’t as good, but you can outsource the effort.

            What can you get off of EBT that doesn’t require prep and is not a TV dinner? Snack foods? I wasn’t aware of McDonald’s accepting food stamps

          • theredsheep says:

            It doesn’t. You can’t even use EBT on a hot rotisserie chicken. That’s my point; it’s one thing to say “oh, it’s easy to cook up some nutritionally sort-of adequate beans and rice,” another to contemplate actually living off such slop when McDonald’s is advertising easy and (comparatively) appetizing food.

            EDIT: I think I see what you mean. No, not McDonald’s. They mostly use it to buy snacks/junk food, in my experience. Or TV dinners or frozen buffalo wings, which are very far from cost-effective even if you get the wretched kind.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            So, I’ve been waiting for anyone to disagree with my assessment before responding but so far everyone has just been angrily restating what I said above.

            People aren’t going to be malnurished, much less starve, but they’ll be inconvenienced by having to cook for themselves and humiliated because they have to eat the kinds of food they can afford instead of the kinds of food they’re accustomed to eating.

            For the record, I have actually lived on rice and beans before due to unexpected problems getting my first paycheck right after an expensive move. Even with Manhattan grocery store prices, I got a month’s worth of complete protein for literal pocket change (I had roughly 75¢ in my bank account, and maybe $20-40 cash plus a MetroCard with a few rides left). It certainly wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t a national emergency either.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Everybody has been saying that if we outlaw cars due to carbon emissions, no one will be able to go to work.

            But this is ridiculous- the average American only lives 16 miles from work. At a brisk walking rate of 1 mile every 15 minutes, this is only a four hour commute. Workers are still going to show up, especially when the alternative is being broke, homeless and starving.

            Yeah, you’ll have to skip stopping at Starbucks along the way, but this is doable. Just get to bed early and don’t be lazy sleeping in.

            The only problem I foresee is the potential for rioting- but frankly that’s more of an indictment of poor policing than anything else.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This will indeed be a terrible hardship. It is a national disgrace that we have lashed the poor and vulnerable to such an unreliable system. Once the shutdown is over, the very first thing we should do is tear down this system and replace it with some more anti-fragile. I’m picturing some sort of decentralized system of charity.

            The poor should never be held hostage to disagreements over border security, and the only way to ensure that this won’t repeat is to make sure their daily bread is provided by an organization which doesn’t also have such things in its mission statement.

          • theredsheep says:

            NaD, I think our objection was more to the tone. Nobody thinks they’ll literally starve–if nothing else, it takes a long time to eat up all your fat reserves–but if you’re on a narrow margin and you lose a big chunk of your support, it’s a bit callous to say “they won’t actually die, so this is only a problem insofar as they might riot.”

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @theredsheep,

            At the risk of spontaneously combusting, I’d like to point out that this is a great example of what SJ people call tone policing.

            Right now, the status quo is that supposedly serious “wonkish” news outlets like Vox can run headlines like this with absolutely no pushback on their hysterical tone.

            As the government’s partial shutdown drags on with no clear end in sight, millions of America’s most vulnerable citizens are in danger of being left to go hungry.

            Is my tone glib? Definitely. But if you dismis me for my glib tone and don’t apply those same standards to the overwrought tone of the national media, you’re stacking the deck in their favor. How can you be confident that they’re right and I’m wrong if your standards are so lopsided?

          • DeWitt says:

            Local man talks glib on blog full of people trying to be thoughtful, encounters people maybe taking issue with that.

          • theredsheep says:

            Well, I “push back” on Vox in the sense that, on the rare occasions I read something there, I am filled with a strong urge to go find a lefty protester and punch him in the face. I have not yet given in to this urge, but it strengthens my resolve to no longer read any Vox articles, no matter how reasonable or intelligent the headline sounds. I don’t waste time yelling at them, though. They’re lost souls.

            I mean, you’re a guy I’m having a conversation with on a cool website, while Vox is a well-known liberal outrage mill. Different standards are going to apply.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Vox is awful and so are the leftists who complain about being tone policed when you take them to task for their comically evil rhetoric. Try to be better than these terrible people rather than sinking to their level please.

      • Reasoner says:

        The country will continue to function perfectly well with 75% as many Washington bureaucrats.

        Wait, are you saying that 75% of government employees are still working during a “shutdown”?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          This partial shutdown only affects 25% of the government. I’m not sure if that translates to 25% of government employees, it may be more or less for all I know, but it’s not like the post office or the army isn’t getting paid.

    • Watchman says:

      Brexit is not particularly about immigration though, at least for most supporters. The opponents of Brexit seem to focus on this, as do the people who go on about immigration (in a ‘non-racist’ way) but the majority of those who voted to leave were concerned about sovereignty and governance. I know one leave voter who chose to vote that way simply because the remain campaign never made a positive case to stay: indeed unless you believe a federal Europe is a good idea, I struggle to identify a positive case still.

      The Brexit vote was a rejection of fear and negativity as much as populism. From a UK perspective this sets it apart from the US situation where fear seems to be deployed on both sides; I do suspect that this might be an effect of media reporting (someone in Washington must surely be capable of optimism) but remember this goes both ways: perceptions of Brexit in the US go through the same media filter.

      • fion says:

        but the majority of those who voted to leave were concerned about sovereignty and governance

        I don’t think this is true, but I’ll be persuaded if you have polling data that supports it. For what it’s worth, this study, which was the first thing Google turned up for me, seems to show immigration being the biggest reason, with lawmaking a close second (and very underestimated by non-leave voters).

        I suspect your point is in the correct direction (non-leavers overestimate the importance of immigration) but overstated (immigration is still the biggest reason for most leavers).

        • albatross11 says:

          Without the images from the flood of refugees invited in by Merkel, I wonder if Brexit would ever have happened.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Murdoc.

      The anglo-speaking parts of the world have a political problem because their fourth estate has an infestation of brain eating fungus – This is particularly true for Brexit, which is more or less entirely down to a decades long campaign of slander and lies from the yellow press.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Any profit-driven fourth estate IS the brain eating fungus.

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s not so clear what the alternatives are. Instead of ad funding, you can go with government funding, funding by ideological organizations, funding by some rich backer wanting to buy influence/respectability, funding from lots of independent donors–each of those *can* lead to high-quality news, but can also have its own failure modes and incentives to lie, omit relevant facts, cut corners and write clickbait, etc.

          • wunderkin says:

            I think the problem lies more in considering the press the fourth estate than it whether or not it’s for profit. I feel like the press gave better service when the whole business was still considered a bit sordid and suspect.

  20. Jesse E says:

    In shocking news, it turns out that one poll about Gen Z being personally more conservative in their finances and some weird UK-only polls don’t actually point to a conservative Gen Z or some right-leaning people being somewhat popular on Youtube doesn’t change the facts about the overall population.

    http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/01/17/generation-z-looks-a-lot-like-millennials-on-key-social-and-political-issues/

    Gen Z is A-OK with transgenderism:

    “While Generation Z’s views resemble those of Millennials in many areas, Gen Zers are distinct from Millennials and older generations in at least two ways, both of which reflect the cultural context in which they are coming of age. Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to say they know someone who prefers that others use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to them: 35% say this is the case, compared with a quarter of Millennials. Among each older generation, the share saying this drops: 16% of Gen Xers, 12% of Boomers and just 7% of Silents say this.

    The youngest generation is also the most likely to say forms or online profiles that ask about a person’s gender should include options other than “man” or “woman.” Roughly six-in-ten Gen Zers (59%) hold this view, compared with half of Millennials and four-in-ten or fewer Gen Xers, Boomers and Silents.”

    Gen Z is woke:

    Younger generations have a different perspective than their older counterparts on the treatment of blacks in the United States. Two-thirds of Gen Z (66%) and 62% of Millennials say blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the U.S. Fewer Gen Xers (53%), Boomers (49%) and Silents (44%) say this. Roughly half of Silents (44%) say both races are treated about equally, compared with just 28% among Gen Z.

    The patterns are similar after controlling for race: Younger generations of white Americans are far more likely than whites in older generations to say blacks are not receiving fair treatment.

    Younger generations also have a different viewpoint on the issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a protest. Majorities among Gen Z (61%) and the Millennial generation (62%) approve of the protests. Smaller shares of Gen Xers (44%) and Baby Boomers (37%) favor these actions. Members of the Silent Generation disapprove of the protests by a more than two-to-one margin (68% disapprove, 29% approve).

    Younger generations see increased diversity as good for society.Gen Zers and Millennials share similar views about racial and ethnic change in the country. Roughly six-in-ten from each generation say increased racial and ethnic diversity is a good thing for our society. Gen Xers are somewhat less likely to agree (52% say this is a good thing), and older generations are even less likely to view this positively.

    Even Republican Gen Zers are more liberal on race and the Charlie Kirk/Ben Shaprio ‘own the libs’ wing among the youth seems to be far more popular with the older generation:

    While they are young and their political views may not be fully formed, there are signs that those in Generation Z who identify as Republican or lean to the Republican Party diverge somewhat from older Republicans – even Millennials – in their views on several key issues. These same generational divides are not as apparent among Democrats.

    Gen Z Republicans more likely than other Republicans to say blacks aren’t treated fairlyOn views about race relations, Gen Z Republicans are more likely than older generations of Republicans to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites. Among Republicans, 43% of Gen Zers say this, compared with 30% of Millennials and roughly 20% of Gen Xers, Boomers and Silents. Gen Z Republicans are also much more likely than their GOP counterparts in older generations to say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is a good thing for society. On each of these measures, Democrats’ views are nearly uniform across generations.

    Among Republicans and those who lean to the Republican Party, the generational divides are even starker. Roughly half (52%) of Gen Z Republicans say they think the government should be doing more to solve problems, compared with 38% of Millennial Republicans and 29% of Gen Xers. About a quarter of Republican Baby Boomers (23%) and fewer GOP Silents (12%) believe the government should be doing more.

    • I wonder whether comparisons like this between generations are comparing the current views of generation Z with the current views of millenials or earlier generations, or the current views of generation Z with the views of earlier generations at the same age. If they do the former, they may interpret changes in individuals with time as changes in the characteristics of generations.

      Doing it right would be hard, because some of the questions they ask now are ones that would not have occurred to them to ask twenty or thirty years ago.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes, that is my take. They are measuring differences in viewpoint by age, not by generation. Back when I was a kid, they were saying how open and liberal us baby boomers were compared to the previous generations. Now we are the conservative ones. It isn’t that each generation is more liberal than the previous, it’s that everyone becomes more conservative as they grow older. And most of those questions on which Gen Z is so liberal are those things that the press keeps hammering on us as being so true. It takes some maturity and experience in the real world to realize that maybe all the woes of Blacks isn’t wholly or even mostly due to racism, that maybe it isn’t a good idea to do politics on the job, that maybe there are actually downsides to diversity. But most especially to realize that the gospel they learn in school and on the news is sometimes as nuts as what they hear on the street, no matter how sincerely these “truths” are declaimed. It happens with every generation.

        • Dan L says:

          It isn’t that each generation is more liberal than the previous, it’s that everyone becomes more conservative as they grow older.

          It happens with every generation.

          I’d like your best data, please.

          • Deiseach says:

            In the 80s, Generation X was presented as being much more conservative than their Boomer parents, with everyone concerned only about earning money and being successful (see the sitcom Family Ties, for example). Or the novels of Douglas Coupland who popularised the term Generation X. Or the invention of the term yuppie.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “In the 80s, Generation X was presented as being much more conservative than their Boomer parent”

            Sort of.

            We in Generation X are less likely to get divorced than Boomers, and we’re more likely to vote for the Democratic Party than Boomers (and most data either lumps us in with either Boomers or Millenials ’cause there just t’ain’t enough of us to matter much).

        • Plumber says:

          @Mark V Anderson

          “….It takes some maturity and experience in the real world to realize that maybe all the woes of Blacks isn’t wholly or even mostly due to racism…”

          I must not be growing more mature as I grow older then.

          I’m married to a (young) Boomer, but I’m a (old) X’er (just a could of years seperate us), and as the years have gone by I’m more and more convinced that most of the woes of blacks in the United States is due to their relative poverty, and that the policies that were increasing their fortunes in the 20th century were repealed in part by a backlash against those policies that was in part racist.

          The metaphor I’ll use is two men are on a ladder, and the one that is higher up notices that he’s gone down one rung while the guy below has climbed up two, so rather than be pushed aside the guy above cuts the ladder and the both fall.

      • Dan L says:

        I wonder whether comparisons like this between generations are comparing the current views of generation Z with the current views of millenials or earlier generations, or the current views of generation Z with the views of earlier generations at the same age. If they do the former, they may interpret changes in individuals with time as changes in the characteristics of generations.

        A casual glance at the study would show the linked is an example of the former. Plenty of the latter also exist, with a mix of results – if you’ll trust my summary, they tend to show either a relatively consistent partisan divide (e.g. abortion) or a massive shift towards the left (e.g. gay rights). But that depends on your metric, because…

        Doing it right would be hard

        …it’s not entirely clear what “doing it right” would even look like, as the conservative v. liberal split assuredly hasn’t been static either. Or is that conservative v. progressive? Case in point, I guess.

        In the US, we can at least aim for a Schelling point of Democratic v. Republican party affiliation / voting record to serve as a first approximation; we might be able to look at similar in other countries (Tories v. Labor) if you want more data, but that compounds the problem in other ways. And was mentioned in the previous thread, that kind of analysis tends not to show a particularly large change that can be attributed to age alone.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          It’s almost like cramming every idea under the sun into one of two categories obscures more than it illuminates

    • Uribe says:

      Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to say they know someone who prefers that others use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to them: 35% say this is the case, compared with a quarter of Millennials.

      Not sure how this makes Gen Zers more OK with transgenderism. All it shows is Gen Zers are more likely to know Gen Zers than are other generations. I could have predicted that.

      • theredsheep says:

        Actually, if 35% of them know somebody who uses an atypical pronoun, that implies skyrocketing rates of transgenderism to me.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Or that the word “know” has expanded beyond any meaning due to social media.

          Basically, do any of us “know” Scott? I would argue no, that even meeting in person at a meetup doesn’t count as knowing someone. But tell that to the people with hundreds of “friends” who they’ve never met and will never meet.

          I know a couple (literally two) people IRL who use singular they as a pronoun, and I’m in a very cosmopolitan bubble. But if I counted everyone I “know” online I could get double digits easily.

          • theredsheep says:

            Yeah, come to think of it, I’ve run into TG or gender-ambiguous people online–there’s at least one such person right here–but exactly two in my thirty-five years of real-world life. One was a gay man who decided to transition to female late in life; he was an acquaintance’s ex. The other was a teenager I ran into when I was substitute teaching, whose name on the roll was a girl’s scratched out and replaced with a boy’s. And that’s out of probably several thousand teenagers I ran into.

            Uribe’s point is also fair; I know (of) these people, but I’m inclined to be somewhat leery of the phenomenon.

            OTOH, I count as a good friend a guy I’ve been talking with online for more than ten years but have met in person precisely once, for a couple of hours, during which time we exchanged maybe twenty or thirty words. And I know a lot more about what Scott thinks about stuff than I do about the opinions of many former coworkers, who I’d say I ‘know.’

          • Randy M says:

            To be fair, transgender people and people who want gender neutral or unique pronouns are not synonymous.

            Someone who prefers “they” as their pronoun could just be wanting to raise awareness and be a visible ally.

          • brad says:

            I know a couple (literally two) people IRL who use singular they as a pronoun, and I’m in a very cosmopolitan bubble.

            I know zero.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Randy M,

            They could do that, but I’ve never seen it either in the wild or even online.

            From my vantage point, the Venn diagram looks like a small Trans circle with an even smaller They circle sitting fully inside of it. I’ve met as many non-binary people who still used the pronoun she as I have who use singular they.

          • albatross11 says:

            My high-school age son has several friends who identify as nonbinary or trans. What fraction will remain so in another ten years, obviously, I can’t say. There’s clearly an element of mimicry/social contagion going on, but I don’t know how much that drives the outcome.

            I have one close trans friend from college, and have known several people who occasionally cross-dressed. I also knew (and dated) a bunch of women in college who identified as bisexual, but who as far as I could tell only ever dated men, and who ended up married to men. (Also one woman who didn’t talk much about identifying one way or another, but who had a decade-plus relationship with a man, followed by her current decade-plus relationship with a woman. I’d put her in another category.)

            The trendy/common thing of women identifying as bisexual but going on to have fairly standard romantic lives seems like a nice demonstration of how culture/society/fashion can affect even self-identified sexuality.

            My best understanding of things (from many discussions) is that most of those women had some low level of attraction for some women, but were much more consistently attracted to men. And this makes me wonder how much of the cultural effect is in changing how people actually feel (or letting them not try to suppress some set of feelings), and how much is in changing how they interpret their feelings or how they describe them.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m just guessing here, since I know zero people who care about pronouns and one person who is some stage of transgender.
            I suppose 35% of people knowing 1 or more people who prefer non-binary pronouns isn’t that huge, especially for an age group in school, which means they have a lot of acquaintances.
            It seemed a lot to me, so I was trying to square it with a low single digit percentage trans population, but it also makes sense if the respondents “know” a hundred people or so.

          • Nick says:

            And this makes me wonder how much of the cultural effect is in changing how people actually feel (or letting them not try to suppress some set of feelings), and how much is in changing how they interpret their feelings or how they describe them.

            This is something I’ve wondered about—the extent to which people are “leaning into,” so to speak, whatever attraction for the same sex they have. And given that a lot of self-identifying bisexual women end up married to men, it could be they “lean out” of it when they settle down. This doesn’t actually sound that different from people experimenting during college—except that now it gets tied into identity politics….

          • Plumber says:

            I’ve encountered many “Trans” folk mostly at “H” tank at County Jail #4 when I’m assigned to do plumbing repairs there, and one encountered me on an elevator in the court area who recognized me from up there who laughed and said to me “Oh you don’t reconfuse us girls when we’re in our wigs”, and I knew a couple by name when I was a srudent at Berkeley High School student in the 1980’s (they were over 3,000 students, and I’ve never known as many different people since then), but I haven’t know n any by name since high school.

          • William James Kirk says:

            @ Albatross11,

            As one of those men who ended up married to a bisexual woman who mostly dated men and discussed the reasons for this at some length, I have a simpler explanation than “weak intrinsic attraction to women” for self-identified bisexual women tending to end up with men — partner availability. Especially if you’re a feminine-presenting (not overtly “butch”) bisexual woman who likes other feminine-presenting woman and also likes men, you’re going to have a much easier time finding partners in the latter category.

            – There are far more men who are interested in women than women who are interested in women, and a woman’s identifying as bisexual is not disqualifying for many men.

            – Most of the feminine-presenting women you might want to approach to are going to rebuff you, because the vast majority are straight.

            – There’s often disapproval of bisexual women from more exclusive lesbians, which further reduces the bisexual woman’s pool of potential partners.

            – It’s easy for everybody who doesn’t know you to assume that you’re straight, so when you’re romantically approached it’s almost always by a man.

            – If you come from a background where bisexuality isn’t even acknowledged as an orientation, it may have taken a while to even formulate the proposition that you’re bisexual, at a point when you’ve already been involved exclusively with men. Once this has gone on for a while, people who know you are disinclined to believe you when you tell them you’re not straight, which again makes it more difficult to find compatible women.

            It takes disproportionately more effort, in scenarios like this, to initiate romantic relationships with women than with men. This can result in even women who are predominantly attracted to women having relationships predominantly with men. My wife encounters far more women she’s attracted to than men she’s attracted to, but has still been involved almost exclusively with men.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            In Portland, I’ve seen at least one obvious transgender in a game store, one in a park, one browbeating Trader Joe’s employees, two on the streets with signs asking for money,band several at restaurants. These are all male, of course.
            I’ve been invited to the home of a female acquaintance who identifies as genderqueer/they.

          • albatross11 says:

            William James Kirk: Fair enough. I think we may have discussed some of this a few threads back, as well.

            To be clear: I’m absolutely not denying that bisexuality exists, or that people who identify as {bi, trans, nonbinary, gay, etc} aren’t reporting actual feelings and desires. But I think it’s very interesting that the self-reported prevalence of those inclinations changes a lot in ways that respond to social pressures, trendiness, etc., even in people who end up with very conventional lives.

            It’s interesting to me to ask whether those social forces affect what people want/are attracted to, or how they interpret those feelings, or just what they’re willing to admit to. Maybe in 1900 the same fraction of young women felt some same-sex attraction as in the 80s when I was in college, but they just weren’t going to mention it because it would be socially unacceptable. Alternatively, maybe they just thought “oh, that’s a totally different thing than how I feel about boys.” Or maybe they didn’t really acknowledge or notice those feelings at all. I have no idea, but it would be interesting to know.

            My favorite weird story along these lines was the couple I knew who had an open relationship all through college, and cut an *amazingly* wide swath during their time in school. Eventually, he graduated, she got pregnant, they got married, and the woman in the relationship very quickly reverted to being the super-traditional Evangelical Christian girl she’d been raised to be. That was a little mind-blowing, as well as ultimately pretty hard on their marriage. (If she’d reverted only to the relatively tame middle-class agnosticism he did, I think it would have worked out okay, but he married a *very* different person than he probably imagined he was marrying.

        • Nick says:

          Actually, if 35% of them know somebody who uses an atypical pronoun, that implies skyrocketing rates of transgenderism to me.

          If you’ve been reading some of the stories Rod Dreher signal boosts, that is entirely plausible.

          • theredsheep says:

            Yeah, I read Dreher, albeit with a pinch of salt since he gets worked up very easily. My feeling is that TG includes a whole bunch of different people with superficially similar symptoms/attributes.

    • aristides says:

      You have only cited two social issues, transgenderism and race, which I think few conservatives would argue are the most important issues. I would be more curious about their view on the free market and the importance of an orthodox family and religion. In my view those are the most important conservative views, not which pronouns you use to talk with people. Though I am a conservative millennial, so that might be a bias.

      • albatross11 says:

        My sense is that the conservative movement as a whole has gotten a *lot* of mileage out of culture-war issues, and that this has broadly been used to keep the base in line while not giving them much. I mean, social conservatives are like 0-100 so far–the best they’ve managed is to slightly slow some of the huge changes in directions they don’t like, or to maybe leave it arguable whether some baker somewhere might be permitted to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, after spending his life’s savings and several years fighting it out in court.

        My model of the world, which I’ll admit isn’t super sophisticated, is that the conservative movement as a whole has a set of priorities about lowering taxes and generally making the laws friendlier to important donors, which the base doesn’t really much care about. And they also have a set of priorities around endless war and cutting entitlements that the base doesn’t like at all. Their technique for keeping the coalition together for the last couple decades has been to talk about culture-warry issues, emphasize them as important things everyone should be talking about, and trust the crazy fringe of the other side to provide them helpful sound bites to support the idea that the liberals want to take your guns, put your 12 year old daughter on birth control pills without your permission, and turn your son gay. Part of this has been co-opting some prominent religious leaders to support the message.

        The strategy seems to be working out less and less well over time.

        • Nick says:

          My model of the world, which I’ll admit isn’t super sophisticated, is that the conservative movement as a whole has a set of priorities about lowering taxes and generally making the laws friendlier to important donors, which the base doesn’t really much care about.

          The funny thing about the Trump administration is that, despite being allegedly populist and far-right and so on, its sole legislative success, in two years, with a unified Congress and White House, is tax cuts.

        • Plumber says:

          @albatross11,

          Until the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare I could easily make the case that the Democratic Party has been doing a similar con job, that is economic issues promises that have broad national support, but actually delivering on social issues that have narrower support – basically that for more than 40 years the two parties have tag team both promising populism while both delivering libertarianism (this is when the commentariat tell s me “NUH-UH NOT SO”, to which I respond “Compared to the ’60’s? YES VERY MUCH SO!”).

          The AFA, though far from ideal (“No insurance company left behind”), is the game changer, when Democrats cast off their post Johnson slumber and expanded the weakend safety net.

          While the increased racial separation scares me, I mostly cheer the base’s rebellion on the Republican side, and what I’d like to see is both Parties cast off donor-class rule and this country becomes more majoritarian and less plutocratic, but even though to me the interests of the both the black, white, rural and urban working classes look largely aligned to me to me, with the contuing “culture war” I just don’t expect longed for progress, just more:

          They’ll do anything to keep you on their line. They pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the black against the white—everybody—to keep us in our place”

        • aristides says:

          How do you define the conservative base. My Hispanic mother makes around $50,000 that has voted Republican in the last 5 elections mainly because of economic issues that she thinks help her but liberals would argue hurt her. It’s possible she is an outlier, but I know a lot of conservatives that believe both the economic and cultural issues of the conservatives movement. My prediction is when race and LGBT issues are off the table there will still be young conservatives that support free markets, family, and religion.

          • Plumber says:

            @aristides

            “How do you define the conservative base…”

            The conservative base is exactly how you described, but that’s not all Republican voters.

            Neither Conservatives nor Liberals are a majority in this country, as the 2016 electorate may be divided into four broad groups:
            “Liberal”: (44.6 percent): liberal on both economic and identity issues

            “Populist” (28.9 percent): liberal on economic issues, conservative on identity issues

            “Conservative” (22.7 percent): conservative on both economic and identity issues

            “Libertarian” (3.8 percent): conservative on economics, liberal on identity issues

            (source)

            Libertarian and Populist voters are the “swing voters’ needed to be convinced to vote for either Democrats or Republicans in order for either Party to get a majority.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          liberals want to take your guns, put your 12 year old daughter on birth control pills without your permission, and turn your son gay.

          Are you saying this isn’t true?

        • wunderkin says:

          My model of the world, which I’ll admit isn’t super sophisticated, is that the conservative movement as a whole has a set of priorities about lowering taxes and generally making the laws friendlier to important donors, which the base doesn’t really much care about.

          As opposed to the democrats, who definitely don’t want to make laws friendlier for labor unions, government employees, or other left wing donors?

          And they also have a set of priorities around endless war and cutting entitlements that the base doesn’t like at all.

          Republicans have basically never cut entitlements, and have expanded them several times, so it doesn’t seem like that’s much of a priority.

          Their technique for keeping the coalition together for the last couple decades has been to talk about culture-warry issues, emphasize them as important things everyone should be talking about, and trust the crazy fringe of the other side to provide them helpful sound bites to support the idea that the liberals want to take your guns, put your 12 year old daughter on birth control pills without your permission, and turn your son gay.

          As opposed to democrats, who say calm measured things, like republicans want to put black people back in chains?

          The republican positions on culture war issues have stayed pretty well put for the last two or three decades, while democrats have galloped to the left, and succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. Why is it the republicans that you seem to think are pushing these issues, when it’s democrats that keep moving the goal posts?

          • DeWitt says:

            The republican positions on culture war issues have stayed pretty well put for the last two or three decades, while democrats have galloped to the left, and succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

            The Republicans have moved right just fine on their most important issue in the past two or three decades. Both incarnations of the Bush presidency could not give a whit about immigration and not have anyone kick up a fuss; immigration was the central issue on which the previous election was decided.

          • wunderkin says:

            @DeWitt says:

            the republican party has been at the same place on immigration for 30 years, a majority of the party, particularly the elite, is basically on board with the status quo while a loud minority scares them into making noise about restricting immigration, but not enough to actually do anything meaningful on that front.

            On gays, they’ve moved left. Feminism, left. Abortion, they’ve stayed the same. And I wouldn’t call immigration the central issue of the campaign any more than free trade was the central issue of 1992, it was an issue that Trump used to gain attention (like Perot did with trade) but clearly not something with enough popular appeal to carry him all the way to victory.

            The only issue on which republicans have moved meaningfully right in recent decades is guns.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            the Bush presidency could not give a whit about immigration and not have anyone kick up a fuss

            No, W got funding for a fence that he didn’t spend. The neocons mouthed the words that the base wanted to hear, but had no intention of following through on. Which is why they elected Trump.

            It’s like saying “your girlfriend said she was faithful, but she was banging other dudes so clearly you’re fine with your girlfriend banging other dudes.” No, that was all bad, and eventually corrected.

          • Plumber says:

            @wunderkin

            “….As opposed to the democrats, who definitely don’t want to make laws friendlier for labor unions, government employees, or other left wing donors?.”

            Even in my lifetime union members still were the base of the Democratic Party instead of only the donors, but there’s much fewer of us left, and the collegiate class has moved in. 

            “…Republicans have basically never cut entitlements…”

            Yes they have, with the help of a turncoat Democratic President.

          • wunderkin says:

            @plumber

            they cut one entitlement once, the least popular one and one that actually wasn’t a very large share of actual spending. All of the others have been expanded, repeatedly, by both democrats and republicans. If I chose A over B 9 times out of ten, you can’t point to the 10th and call be a B chooser.

      • Plumber says:

        @aristides

        “…I would be more curious about their view on the free market and the importance of an orthodox family and religion. In my view those are the most important conservative views…”

        What’s the link between “the free market” and “orthodox family and religious”?

        • aristides says:

          There is Basically no link, but I would argue that what conservatives historically want to conserve are those two unrelated things as opposed to populists or libertarians. That’s my definition for conservative at least, though other ones have merit.

  21. theredsheep says:

    I understand at least some SSCers have experience with atypical and online publishing models. I’m trying out that approach–specifically, serializing a novel, then releasing a dead-tree version once it’s all finished. I’m not linking because I still have housework to do on the site; its URL will probably change once I’ve hammered down a title. Anyway, are there any tips or pitfalls I should be aware of? I’ve got the copyright notice up, I have a TOC on the sidebar, and I’ve divided the text up into ten- or eleven-minute chunks (as wordpress estimates read times). This is a budget project for now, since I’m an unknown author working in his free time. What should I do?

    • C_B says:

      (Not personal experience, as I haven’t done this, but stuff I’ve picked up from following a few web serial projects…)

      1. Apparently you have to be a hardass about allowing distribution of ebooks of your work, even if you’re putting it up for free online as you publish it. Publishers are scared of publishing anything that might already be floating around the web. It’s easy to screw yourself on this early on, and then hard to fix it later. Your copyright notice might be enough?

      2. Did you want to vanity-publish the dead tree version, or sell it to a publisher?

      3. It sounds like you already have a fair amount of this thing written? That sounds good. These things live or die by posting consistency.

      4. Wildbow (the Worm author) posts a fair amount of writing thoughts and advice, including a bunch of very candid stuff about the trials and tribulations of web publishing. You might try stalking his post history: https://www.reddit.com/user/wildbow/

      • theredsheep says:

        I intend to KDP it–vanity-publishing without the ridiculous expense. I doubt I’ll ever make real money off this, but I can have somebody actually read these stories I come up with.

        I got this idea because my old, old blog, where I did nothing but post theological musings, steadily attracted followers who didn’t appear to be bots in spite of extremely irregular updates and no efforts whatever to promote it. Now, all I got from them was an occasional like or three, but for a minimal-effort scratchpad it did quite well. Meanwhile, my first book was critically flawed, but I got minimal feedback, and had no way to promote it. I see serializing as an attempt to address both problems. Also, it will motivate me to keep writing.

        I’m going over the Wildbow archive, and mostly seeing comments on unrelated matters, like how terrible Caillou is. Which is true and valid, to be fair.

      • I don’t think “vanity publishing” is an accurate description any more. That was a model where you paid the publisher so as to be able to claim you were a published author. The current model costs the author nothing, makes the book widely available via Amazon, so has the possibility of bringing in significant income and readership.

        I self-published the third edition of The Machinery of Freedom because the publisher of the second edition wasn’t willing to agree to the terms my agent wanted. That had the advantage of letting me set a reasonably low price for the paperback and a very low price for the kindle.

        • C_B says:

          Yeah, fair, I used that term out of habit, but it’s unnecessarily loaded for what I meant. “Self publish” is a better neutral term.

        • theredsheep says:

          I think vanity presses still exist, it’s just that the few who remain are scammier than ever. I’m in a spec-fic authors’ group on FB, and a guy just came on there talking about how he just got a contract with a small publisher in Chicago. Turned out there were several red flags he’d missed.

    • theredsheep says:

      Replying since I’m past the edit threshold: it’s pyrebound.wordpress.com now. I’m going to try not to be one of those insufferable people who endlessly self-promotes HIS BOOK though.

  22. Well... says:

    I have trouble understanding how people ever “get ahead.”

    My mortgage (small house, nice neighborhood), healthcare premiums (family of four, no employer matching), and healthcare bills are each around $1K/month. My wife and I pay about $1600/month total in daycare & school expenses for our kids. Between the two of us we’re paying about $500/month in student loans. It stings but I don’t think those are outrageous expenses, right? Lots of people have it worse.

    We’re thrifty. We don’t go on vacations except once or twice a year to stay with family over a long weekend (and we always drive), we don’t eat out a lot, we get our groceries at Aldi, all our furniture is used or bought at auction. We drive cheap Toyotas that are both more than a dozen years old. All our clothes are from Walmart or thrift stores. Except for stuff like the new driveway I do all the work on the house. We use the absolute cheapest internet provider and our family cell phone bill is $50/month — nothing extravagant. My 401K contributions are as modest as they can safely be and my wife’s are non-existent.

    So despite how much we gross annually (almost $150K between the two of us), we’re lucky to see our checking account grow by a hundred bucks at the end of the month, and there isn’t more than a month or two worth of expenses in it to start with.

    I can’t figure it out. It seems like most other people at or even below our income level take more vacations, drive newer cars, eat out more, give more money & stuff away as gifts and charity, etc. than we do. What’s up with that?? Is everyone else just walking around with a surprising amount of credit card debt or something?

    (Not worried or complaining, by the way. Just puzzled.)

    • Randy M says:

      Get rid of that student loan, and you can start saving $500 a month. Of course, to do so quickly you have to come up with >$500 a month in the meantime to put towards it. I don’t know where exactly you can find that since your expenses as described seem reasonable, but when I decided to do so, I made an excel sheet of every expense over a couple of months. It helped to see that, for instance, a trip to Target for “essentials” could easily run $80 that wouldn’t even get missed, or that shipping out things for trade was running a non-negligible amount.

      I’m assuming both of you individually make >$20,000 per year. If not, that person could quit to eliminate the daycare expenses. Maybe there’s a way to tele-commute part time to cover that, but I know it’s overly optimistic to assume your employer is cool with that.

      Your mortgage is 2/3 of my rent, I’m jealous there. But you have $1,000 in medical expenses per month on top of healthcare premiums? That sounds non-routine. That’s going to be a challenge.

      There should be some room somewhere, though. I make about half of you and manage to put away a few hundred per month and more from the tax return (I know…).

      • Well... says:

        I believe the interest on the student loans is close to or less than inflation, so if I was going to pay a debt off early I’d look at something else instead.

        Yeah, my wife and I gross a bit less than $150K/year and she makes a little more than half of what I do. You do the math. It’s a net benefit for her to work (not to mention the stress of being at home all day with kids…I know not all women get it, but, uh, some do). And I already have crazy awesome flexibility so I can work from home when a kid is sick without losing a day’s pay. Still though…

        The medical expenses are typical for families, I think. Kids get sick and have to go to the doctor a lot, and sometimes urgent care. They need little surgeries like ear tubes. Also my wife and I are in our mid-30s, so even though we’re reasonably healthy, by now one or both of us have had to see specialists, get scoped, take prescription meds for some chronic thing or another, etc. That crap adds up!

        • Randy M says:

          I believe the interest on the student loans is close to or less than inflation, so if I was going to pay a debt off early I’d look at something else instead.

          By all means, prioritize your debt by interest, just so long as you prioritize your debt.

          The medical expenses are typical for families, I think.

          We just went out for my wife’s 38th birthday, I’m the same. We had a bad few years when she had cancer, and every few months since there’s a check up with the oncologist that runs several hundred on our end, iirc.

          But most months there’s literally nothing in medical expenses that isn’t the kind of consumables Evan lists, let alone a thousand dollars worth.

          Wait… do you have boys? That might explain it. We just have girls. lol. My Dad was on first name basis with the doctor.

          But seriously, I’m not going to tell you to avoid the doctor if you think you need to go… but most ailments we encounter clear up with time. I don’t think our six year old has seen a doctor since the midwife at birth.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I’m in my early 40’s, my wife is in her mid 30’s, we have two kids, and we spend a hell of a lot less than $1,000 per month (!!) on medical care. Something seems off there.

        • Chalid says:

          Chiming in to support everyone else here. I have two young children (4 yo and 1yo) and I think we’ve had one, total, non-routine doctor visit in the past year. (which turned out to be an ear infection, with medicine almost fully covered by insurance.) So it’s possible that this is the big difference between you and most families.

          It’s possible that your kids need more medical care than average, in which case there’s nothing you can do. But you might also think about whether all the expenses are actually necessary – e.g. do you take them to the doctor the instant something seems wrong, or do you wait to see if things get better on their own?

          • Well... says:

            Sometimes I wish there was a convenient way to respond to everyone in a sub-sub-thread at once…hopefully just replying to the last comment will suffice.

            I’m the dad so of course if it was up to me the kids wouldn’t go to the doctor except for mandatory shots and if someone loses a limb. (Exaggerating slightly.) The way it works out in reality is it’s mainly my wife’s call, and while she doesn’t whisk them away to the doctor the minute something’s wrong, she’s probably a tad on the aggressive side, especially relative to me.

            That said, it’s not a totally bad thing. My daughter turned out to have a non-trivial nut allergy. My son needed tubes in his ears as I mentioned. Sometimes one of them would be running a 102 fever for more than a few days, and I think a doctor’s visit isn’t unreasonable in that kind of situation.

            Yeah, my own personal healthcare needs are basically toothpaste and the occasional band-aid or whatever, but my wife did need a scoping and to see one kind of specialist or another for a few months.

            I just got the impression that all this is kind of normal. Do you really think it isn’t?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Well…

            I agree that 102 degree + fever (if non-responsive to acetaminophen and ibuprofen) is grounds for a doctor’s visit. Tubes in ears, for sure. Nut allergy, okay. You wife needs something, okay.

            That adds up to $1,000 per month? How often do your kids get 102 degree fevers? How many ears does your son have? I mean, I could see how clustering could mean that you’d end up saying, “Jesus christ, this year we did six consecutive months of $1,000 monthly medical expenditures.” But I don’t see how you spend $12,000 a year for let’s say three consecutive years at the level of medical needs that you’re gesturing to.

      • Evan Þ says:

        But you have $1,000 in medical expenses per month on top of healthcare premiums? That sounds non-routine. That’s going to be a challenge.

        This was the first thing that stood out to me. My “healthcare expenses” are $10/month average for toothpaste, vitamin pills, etc, and that’s probably rounding way up. I know a lot of people aren’t as fortunate as me… but that’s having an impact on their budget.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      I’ll agree with Randy about making a spreadsheet. My wife and I started tracking our actual expenses (verses estimated) maybe 7(?) years ago, and were quite surprised to find out we spent hundreds of dollars more in the average month than we would have thought. We started planning our meals with a fixed budget in mind, set limits on extra expenses (not just going out to eat, but clothes and stuff) and generally took control of our spending. It took several years of paying down student loans and a vehicle payment until we could start saving on a regular basis.

      Unless you’re doing something really wrong, it sounds like you should have quite a bit left over after the listed expenses. That said, we don’t know what you’re spending on utilities, vehicles (gas, repairs, etc.) food, etc. With a complete breakdown of your expenses, someone could probably identify issues, but you seem like a pretty intelligent guy, so I bet you could do it as well if you had the breakdown already.

      ETA – I agree with others than paying $1,000/month for medical insurance and also paying $1,000/month for medical care seems much too high. At some point you should be hitting the deductible and out-of-pocket max. $1,000/month sounds like it should be a reasonable plan without a super high deductible. This might be a specific area that would benefit from a detailed analysis.

      • Well... says:

        We plan our meals with a fixed budget too. In fact we did the spreadsheet thing for a while as well.

        I don’t think we spend an outrageous amount on utilities. Our house is small, as I mentioned. We try to conserve water. We use natural gas for heat and electric for everything else, and I’m a total fascist about turning off lights and stuff, and I turn the heat/air way down during the day when no one’s home and at night when everyone’s asleep.

        Our cars are Toyotas and basically just need regular maintenance to keep running like tanks. The payments together total about $350/month. Both of us have short commutes so we’re not spending a ton on gas either.

        Last year we met our deductible around mid-November. I kept getting bills but they were for big expenses from earlier in the year that we were paying off gradually.

        I opted for a high deductible because I’m principled and believe insurance should be reserved for emergencies…but maybe I should be more cynical?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          It’s not about cynicism, my dude. Insurance isn’t a bailout; it’s a service. High deductible plans are best suited for people who aren’t prioritizing consistent savings, for whom utilization is low, and for whom medical care wiping out their bank isn’t the end of the world. If that doesn’t describe you, don’t be on one.

          • Statismagician says:

            Just a huge, resounding +1.

            Ideally*, HDHPs exist for healthy single 20-somethings and other people who haven’t got significant expected health care spending. As it appears you do, switch at the first available opportunity to one with (new OOP maximum) + 12*(new premium – old premium) < $12,000.

            *This papers over some questions about excess utilization over the medically-plausible, but that's not relevant to your situation.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Our cars are Toyotas and basically just need regular maintenance to keep running like tanks. The payments together total about $350/month. Both of us have short commutes so we’re not spending a ton on gas either.

          You mentioned that your cars are both over 12 years old in your OP – are you still making payments on them?

          As for medical – if you are spending $1,000 out of pocket each month, I would consider that very reasonable to put on your insurance. You can go the “we barely have insurance and plan to pay for everything out of pocket” route, but then you wouldn’t be spending $1,000/month for the insurance in the first place.

          I’m picking up something not directly said – do you have credit card debt or other loans? If so, paying them down is likely your highest priority. It’s amazing how much clearer your finances can look without credit cards.

        • Randy M says:

          I opted for a high deductible because I’m principled and believe insurance should be reserved for emergencies…but maybe I should be more cynical?

          Ideally, medical care should be reserved for emergencies as well–otherwise it’s a luxury that you can’t afford (if saving is a priority). I’m not saying you aren’t having expenses worth taking, but if they are needed, they are worth using your insurance efficiently.
          Just because different arrangements would make better economic sense and provide better incentives to the population at large doesn’t mean you shouldn’t select the best plan for your family.
          We went with the lower premium, higher deductible option because we don’t use hospitals much. Look seriously at your expenses and figure out which of your options is better. You probably have 3-5 options, if you both your employers offer a couple of plans.

          Both of us have short commutes so we’re not spending a ton on gas either.

          Is there an option to carpool? You could potentially cut down to one car. Might be a big QoL hit, but maybe not!

          The payments together total about $350/month.

          You mean maintenance payments is 350$ a month or lease payments? If that’s maintenance cost, you might be better off going with one newer car. If that’s lease payments, that’s another potential source of savings once you pay it off, hopefully soon.

          What’s everyone’s opinions on borrowing from 401K to pay off debt? I might be missing something in the math or legal aspect, but it seems like a way of paying yourself interest rather than the bank, so long as the interest rates on your debt is higher than expected market returns.

          • acymetric says:

            Depends on the rules of your company/401k. Some are very strict about why you can request a loan (things like avoiding foreclosure/bankruptcy, but not “pay down debt”).

          • The Nybbler says:

            What’s everyone’s opinions on borrowing from 401K to pay off debt?

            The best argument against borrowing from a 401(k) is if you lose your job for any reason, you have to pay it off immediately or get hit by an enormous tax penalty.

          • Randy M says:

            Ah, alright, certainly a good concern to raise!

          • baconbits9 says:

            One other thing to note is that I have heard of 401ks that won’t allow you to make contributions until the loan is paid back. If you have a match you would functionally lose it while you pay it back.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t understand that objection, unless they also forbid early repays (something I’d always avoid in a loan). Every dime of the loan you payback is going into the account the same as a contribution.
            Unless it also turns off employer matching, which would be lame.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Randy M beat me to it, but I agree that $1000 in healthcare bills a month is unusual compared to the general population (and unfortunately not something you have control over).

    • acymetric says:

      Are you paying $1k for insurance and another $1k for healthcare bills or is it $1k all in? If you’re spending $2k per month on healthcare that is probably your biggest issue. The only two obvious places to look based on the above are the least palatable to find ways to cut, health related costs and education/childcare for the kids.

      For health costs, regardless of whether it is $1k or $2k, if both of your employers’ plans offer health insurance have you looked at what it would cost to switch to the other person’s healthcare plan? What about splitting, so that, say, one person is on their company’s plan and the other person is on their own company’s plain with the kids? It would be inconvenient and take a little more management, but depending on the specifics of the plans offered by each it could save you money.

      Your comment about no employer matching has me curious, do those numbers include your contributions to your HSA (or similar savings), or are you saying the employer doesn’t pay toward the actual cost of the plan itself? If the former, can you start saving less and still be building a decent emergency fund? If the latter (which would be surprising), have you looked at options other than the plans offered by your employer?

      Beyond that, if you are spending $2k (with $1k just on bills) for healthcare, is there any likelihood of that amount decreasing? I don’t expect you to get into details of your family’s health, but that would be exceptionally high and I would expect you to eventually hit your out of pocket maximum and cut that number way down.

      The other unpalatable option as far as daycare/education goes, is whether one or both of your kids could be going to (free) public school instead. We don’t need to get into the pros/cons of private/public, and it of course heavily depends on the public schools in your area, but that is something to consider as well.

      Other than that, Randy M pretty much nails it above that you just need to look at small day to day type expenses and see what you can cut out. Turn the thermostat up/down a couple degrees, things like that. I agree that getting out from under the student loans would be a big help (I am right with you there), but of course you need to have money to spare to pay them off quicker.

      • Well... says:

        Just a few things because I’ve addressed a lot of this above…

        – My employer doesn’t match jack. I’m looking to switch employers soon though, so hopefully that will change.

        – Public kindergarten (which our older child is in) still costs $300/month, at least where I live. Public daycares basically never have any openings, and the quality isn’t great anyway. For my wife at least that’s a non-negotiable.

        • MereComments says:

          “My employer doesn’t match jack.”

          That’d do it. Per something I linked below, the average employer match for a family of four is $15,788 a year for premiums. It sounds like you’re paying a lot for a very high deductible plan.

          I also agree that threaded conversations are bad, so I’ll just respond to some of your other responses here:

          – Your actual medical use sounds completely normal (going to the doctor’s after the kids have a fever of 102 for a couple of days, for example). Nothing to change there.

          – As Hoopyfreud said, you’re probably thinking about health insurance wrong. It’s not a commons that is irresponsibly drained, it’s about risk management. You get a high deductible plan if you hardly ever use medical care, with the understanding that if you do end up using care, you’re going to pay a lot more out of pocket. Your case is a little weird because again, you seem to be paying a lot for a high deductible plan.

          You didn’t mention this, but I would go back through your bills and make sure you haven’t been charged for something that the insurance should have covered, or got charged twice for something, or got charged for a service that wasn’t rendered. We’ve gotten some eye-watering bills that we shouldn’t have gotten, and my wife managed to them resolved (she likes arguing on the phone with corporations and bureaucracies, if I were just me alone I’d probably just pay it to save the headache).

          – Bummer about kindergarten. We had a similar issue with preschool, where it was public and free where we previously lived, then when we moved we had to pay a significant fee. We ended up going with a cheaper private preschool (daycare really). For our youngest we’re likely going to skip paid daycare, and just join one of the various crunchy parent groups that are in our area and do things in a group. Not sure what to tell you about kindergarten though, we’d probably do the same and just pay the $300.

          – You’re probably sick of hearing about medical costs, but I did address your last paragraph in a response below. tl;dr I think it’s a combination of people going into debt for consumption, and confirmation bias. With a smattering of people who just make more money. =]

          • acymetric says:

            You didn’t mention this, but I would go back through your bills and make sure you haven’t been charged for something that the insurance should have covered, or got charged twice for something, or got charged for a service that wasn’t rendered.

            Just to add on/reaffirm this, make sure that all your expenses before you meet your deductible (and, obviously, after) are submitted to the insurance company. The way it should work is that the office/hospital submits to the insurance company, then bills you for any amount not covered (which may be the full amount, partial amount, or less).

            This accomplishes a couple things:

            1) This ensures it will be applied to your deductible. If the office doesn’t submit to your insurance, you have to do it yourself. If neither happens, it doesn’t count and you’re just out that money for no reason.
            Offices will frequently push back on this because they want to be paid now, but you would be correct to insist on it. Sometimes your insurance company will have a phone number you can provide when this dispute arises where they will confirm it to the doctor/their billing department (this probably varies by carrier, but is worth checking into). You definitely don’t want any cost you incur not applying to your deductible. Again, DO NOT PAY until the doctor/hospital has submitted the bill to your insurance company and they (the insurance company) have responded, even if you know you have not yet reached your deductible and will end up paying out of pocket.

            2) Your insurance company may have negotiated rates. You will receive these if the bill is run through the insurance company. You may not if you just pay at the time of service. You can also verify this through the insurance company (they can’t bill the insurance company $500 as a negotiated rate, then turn around and bill you $1,000 if the insurance doesn’t pay because you haven’t hit your deductible, but they might try if you don’t check what they submitted to the insurance company and they DEFINITELY might try if you don’t make them submit to the insurance company before billing you).

            One final note: it sounds like you’ve had some uncommon (but not super rare) medial expenses. Things like kids having to get tubes in their ears isn’t rare, per se (I have a cousin who had to have that done with both of their kids) but also isn’t the typical situation. You can probably look forward to some of those expenses decreasing as your kids get older, which may help. Decreasing medical costs as your kids grow up, increasing pay or benefits as you both continue your careers, and the incredible feeling when you get your loans paid off will all feel like free money if you keep living sustainable the way you are now. It seems like maybe this is kind of a financial choke point in your lives, and things should open up for you as things go on as long as you keep making sound financial decisions (which it sounds like you are doing and/or trying to do).

          • Randy M says:

            I would go back through your bills and make sure you haven’t been charged for something that the insurance should have covered, or got charged twice for something

            Thirded. It’s a headache to argue over bills, but errors definitely happen and not paying a few hundred here and there is surely a worthwhile use of a few hours.

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression, based on an unscientific sample of our own bills, is that medical billing is optimized for fraud and tends to have errors heavily biased in favor of you “accidentally” overpaying.

            This is a public policy issue I’d like to see addressed. A first step would be requiring some kind of uniform billing format that specified all the details (instead of the bit where some third-party billing company sends you a handwritten note from a different state, demanding payment for some unspecified medical services). Ideally, there would be some actual prosecutions for systematic fraud, with a few exectives spending some time in jail. Alternatively, I’d like a law stating that when there was an error discovered in medical billing that favored the billing party, the billing party has to pay double the error to the person they “accidentally” tried to rip off.

    • Plumber says:

      @Well…,

      Your situation sounds typical, I’ve said a few times “The Middle-class isn’t” (that is people living on near the median income don’t have a standard of living matching what is often described as a “middle-class lifestyle”).

      The way me and my wife did it was by living for 17 years in a rent-controlled apartment with a leaking roof and mold where gunfire and sirens could still be heard even in the low crime late ’90’s, scrimping and saving, and staying in a used motor home (that also sometimes had a roof leak!) during times that the noise from our neighbors became too much for my wife to stand (still paying rent ti keep the cheap rate), while I worked construction jobs during most of that time, my wife not having a job since ’93.

      In 2011 I got a job with the City and County of San Francisco, and later that year we paid $550,000 cash for a house while prices were still depressed a bit from the Lehman Brothers collapse, paid another $100,000 for roof repairs and to replace rotted wood, rented it out to a new U.C. Berkeley professor (who are paid way above median!) for 18 months until he bought a $900,000 house in Kensington, which is when we moved into our house.

      Since my wife has remained jobless we’ve never paid the childcare costs for our two sons that you have, I drive a ’91 Honda Accord (which replaced my ’98 Ford Crown Victoria that a guy in a Mercedes totaled), and my wife drives a 2004 Toyota Prius (which replaced a ’83 Camry that could no longer reverse), after deferred comp and other deductions we live on about $40,000 a year from my nominally $100,000 annual wages, saving about $5,000 to $10,000 in cash a year.

      We took one vacation in the last ten years when we took our son to the model train museum in San Diego, and I bought our first dryer this year after too many days of rain for us to hang out the laundry.

      Our biggest expense is property taxes, but since we live in California under prop 13 they can’t get much higher than the 2011 rate.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Your situation sounds typical, I’ve said a few times “The Middle-class isn’t” (that is people living on near the median income don’t have a standard of living matching what is often described as a “middle-class lifestyle”).

        My family did it by living in the country. Dad worked as a third grade math teacher (I remember helping him grade quizzes as a kid) and school bus driver; Mom saved money probably close to Dad’s salary. (Homemaker-as-income-booster is something I see relatively little attention for these days.) We lived in an effectively two-room house – bathroom and everything else, less than 1000 sq.ft., on a farm we owned (and still do). I slept on a couch after I moved out of the crib. When I was seven, we were able to afford to roughly triple the size of the house for about $90k circa 1980.

        We had a piano, a full set of encyclopedias, plus books of sheet music. We had two Beetles when I was young, eventually replaced by two Golfs when I was around 14. My dad was the first member of our immediate family to attend college. AFAIK he had no student loan to pay off, and kept all his textbooks for us to read. I and my sister were #2 and #3. We paid our way. My first car was a used Rabbit my dad helped me buy when I was 17. I bought a 280Z a few years later. Credit cards were habitually paid off every month.

        We thought of ourselves as middle class (albeit rural) for that entire time. Today’s middle class lifestyle continues to strike me as upper class as far as amenities.

    • hls2003 says:

      Couple of things (others have given good advice above).

      First, your single largest expense is undoubtedly taxes. At your estimated income, assuming you and your wife are both W-2 wage employees, you’re probably paying 25-30% / yr (ca. $3,600/mo) of your gross to FICA, fed, and state (more or less depending on where you live) [Note:
      Edited – accidentally used 15.3% instead of 7.65%, as former self-employed person]. There’s not much you can do about that, other than move to avoid local taxes, but it’s good to keep in mind as you’re figuring out where it all goes. You probably have about $8,500 in net monthly income. That’s it. So don’t think about having almost $150K; think about having $8,X00 per month.

      Second, I just want to chime in that $2K/mo for medical expenses + insurance are not crazy to me for a family of four. Again depending on where you live, somewhat, as insurance varies by state. My family and I pay about $1,200/mo for insurance, with an out-of-pocket-max around $8K. I always assume that, due to at least one family member, I will usually hit my OOPM. That adds up to about $1,850/mo. $2K is not out of line.

      Your property taxes – are they already added into the $1K/mo number? If not, you could aim for a lower-tax jurisdiction. Almost all of your property taxes go to paying teacher salaries at your local school district. If you’re paying $1,600/mo for school and daycare, then I surmise you’re unlikely to be going strictly public school. That means you’re not getting value for your property-tax dollars. In my high-tax area, I could save several hundred dollars per month. But again the ability to move will be job-dependent.

      Your spending on your kids’ education is anomalous. Not bad, I’ll eventually be doing the same, but most people are using public schools, so you’re at a disadvantage there – you’re paying for their schools and your own. If you have any ability to, e.g., cut out a couple days a week of daycare by using a relative or your own flexibility, you might be able to save some that way. Free child care is one of the ways family networks help people get ahead.

      Echo what everyone else has said about spreadsheeting. Don’t change your spending habits at all for the first couple months – just track. Get a baseline. It won’t feel as painful simply to track without changing your expenditures (at first). Then you’ll see whether there are areas to cut or not. Then you can try the cuts for a month or two, see if they’re reasonable, and tweak.

      And to answer your puzzlement, yes, a lot of people carry a lot of debt.

      • Randy M says:

        Echo what everyone else has said about spreadsheeting. Don’t change your spending habits at all for the first couple months – just track.

        If you do on-line banking or primarily use credit cards you can look back at your expenses accurately. And also know exactly what your income is if it is direct deposit.

      • Well... says:

        Just to clarify one thing, our 2 year-old is in private daycare because there’s no alternative, and our kindergartner is in public school but there’s still a $300/month fee.

        • baconbits9 says:

          A suggestion that won’t be for everyone.

          Find local homeschool groups, I know a few home school moms who take on a child or two and do so at roughly half the price of private day care (and are more flexible). You will probably have to meet a few of them to find one you are comfortable with but its surprising to a lot of people how cheap in home (uninsured, unlicensed) day care can be and some of these women are extremely good at it.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that some of the cost disease falls out of decreasing social ties. When most people have a pretty robust network of nearby family and friends, child care is likely to be arranged informally, among friends or family. As we have atomized, more and more of it has to be arranged formally–instead of having personal connections guarantee the acceptability of the arrangements, we end up wanting some kind of regulatory system to do it. For both good and bad reasons, you get a large increase in costs there.

            All kinds of stuff becomes many times as expensive, as it moves from informal to formal regulated arrangements.

    • SamChevre says:

      Household income is similar to ours, as is the housing cost.
      Big differences: healthcare–ours is about $750/month out of pocket for a high-deductible plan and an HSA; the HSA has been enough to cover out of pocket costs even the year we had a baby.
      No school loans, no debt of any kind except the mortgage
      My wife is a stay-at-home mom, so no childcare.
      However, our grocery bill is probably higher (five children), and we try to give 10% of take-home pay to charity.
      Two paid-for cars

      Similarly, we seem to spend everything we earn over the course of the year. Savings grow by tax refund and annual bonus pay, but that’s about all until this year (got a pay raise last spring, and spending didn’t go up to match.)

      One budgeting tip that has worked well for us: set a fixed budget for out-of-pocket spending (groceries, meals out, household stuff, etc, etc, etc). Draw it in cash weekly, and spend it. That really helps with making household expenses controllable without reqquiring record-keeing.

      • Well... says:

        The fixed cash OOP budget thing is something we know about (thanks Dave Ramsey) and have tried. We don’t literally do it with cash anymore but we set and stick to our budget for those things pretty well.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I’d echo a lot of the above comments re: health care costs and budgeting. One thing I would add is that as you get older, you will likely – and hopefully – have a LOT more money. Daycare costs will go away, your student loans will be paid off, and raises and promotions at work will raise your income levels.

      When our kids were little I used to drive a rusted-out Chrysler Concorde with a busted A/C and make 72K/year. Now to a first approximation, we’re rich. Nothing really changed; we’re just older and make more money and we were pretty smart about paying things off ASAP.

      And yes, people around you will seem magically wealthier than you. Some are, most are not.

    • MereComments says:

      Interesting, you and I have similar budget and life situations. Some differences before I go on: We rent, (no mortgage) but we pay ~50% more a month. We have about 2/3 of your income, but my wife stays at home with the kids and our public schools are good, so we have zero childcare costs (unless we want to go out for fun). Neither of us went to college, so we have zero college loans.

      As people have pointed out, your health care costs don’t seem right. $1000 for premiums and another $1000 for medical costs? My wife has two pretty serious health problems that require her to go to multiple doctors multiple times a month, and we only pay around $650 in medical costs total monthly: ~$500 a month in premiums for a low deductible family plan that covers most things. We also put the maximum amount ($2000) into our FSA each year that we use for deductibles, medications, co-pays, etc. By the end of the year we usually haven’t used the full $2000 and spend the last hundred or so on general health stuff for our medicine cabinet. The only year we went over was the last year we had a baby. If those are your true medical expenses, are you deducting them as part of your tax returns? Any medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your income are deductible. (Reading some of the other responses now, it surprises me that some people are paying more than $1000 a month just on premiums).

      As to the general question, it’s an interesting one and my wife and I talk about it a lot. We actually like being frugal and min/maxing our budget, but yeah, we’d like to take more vacations. We’d like more than one car (but not if we have to take out a loan to pay for it!). We go out maybe twice a month but it feels like other people with kids have at least a weekly date night (or even take kids-free vacations with a nanny watching the kids for the weekend). Oh yeah, lots of people in our neighborhood have nannies. Must be nice. 😊

      My conclusion is that there’s a few things going on: 1) We live in a nice neighborhood, some people here probably just have double or maybe even triple our income (especially if both parents have good jobs). 2) The people who have similar incomes to us but have new SUVs, their own homes, etc are way more in debt than us (we have zero debt and are trying to save for a down payment). 3) Some amount of confirmation bias: we notice the people that go out more often than us each week, don’t notice the people who can’t afford to go out at all. We notice the nice SUVs, we don’t notice the people in the nearby apartment complexes who don’t have a car at all (our neighborhood is walkable).

      As an aside (and this could probably be a separate conversation), it also depends on what you mean by “get ahead”. After spending the last few years budgeting and min/maxing, and also approaching the peak income for my particular career path, I’ve come to realize that we’re getting to the ceiling. At this point, “getting ahead” looks like buying a rental property, taking a big risk on starting our own business, or using any savings towards reasonable investments like index funds (which, in the immediate term, would lead to less of a middle-class lifestyle). The most reasonable option for being more comfortable is probably my wife going back to work once our oldest is old enough to babysit. As Gossage smartly points out, if you have a family and debt, as you get older your costs go down, which certainly feels like having more money. Paying off our car loan and previous credit card debt felt like finding free money.

      Edit to add: We use You Need a Budget as our budgeting software. It has a yearly subscription cost, and is very counter-intuitive to use at first, but it’s changed the way we think about money and is what helped get our expenses under control.

      • Randy M says:

        Reading some of the other responses now, it surprises me that some people are paying more than $1000 a month just on premiums

        Very cursory searching on-line puts this in line with the average, so I’m mentally bumping up my compensation as I pay a fair bit less.
        Part of that is intentional; for example, we did not add vision insurance, since it looks like out amount it cost is more than we’d pay out of pocket in an average year. Just in case, no Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifles for Christmas.

        • MereComments says:

          Interesting. The numbers I’m finding online are all over the place, by state, whether you are on an exchange or employer plan, etc.

          This seems to jive with what you’re saying (fig. 8). Our employee contribution is similar, though lower, and our low deductible means our out-of-pocket isn’t that high. Unfortunately this chart doesn’t break it down by state. The charts that have state-by-state breakdowns show that some places like California and Alaska are double other states. I wonder how much the outliers are bringing up the national average in charts like the one linked.

          • John Schilling says:

            That shows $640/month in premiums and $390/month out of pocket for a “typical” family for four, or just over $1K/month total. The OP is reporting $2K/month, $1K on premiums alone, which is quite high and matches your source only if the employers are contributing nothing.

            So either OP has a couple of cheapskate employers, or the OP has an unusually unhealthy family, or they are stuck in a very high-cost corner of the market.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          My employer pays about $4k/year for an ACA-compliant ‘catastrophic’ plan for my wife and I (I pay nothing) in the SF Bay Area. If Well… isn’t actually hitting the OOP with his plan, is there a cheaper plan available?

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            There is something going on with either Well…’s plan or his utilization of it. From another sub-thread, it sounds like his deductible isn’t extremely high, but that they choose not to use their insurance for “normal” medical expenses.

            If his employer is providing literally zero support, I’m sure the exchange in his area could beat out a $1,000/month premium and still not leave him with $12,000 in OOP expenses.

    • baconbits9 says:

      @ Well

      My experience, married, 3 kids, 2/3rds of your gross income, 1,700 ft house in a decent school system.

      The way savings works for us is to put money aside and then spend. If you spend and save the rest, well it typically means that savings end up low. Necessity will tighten your budget more effectively than cold calculation for almost everyone, and in the US 80% of your consumption is to some extent luxury and there is more flexibility than you might at first think.

      My suggestion, and what works for us, is to have automatic savings. We put 4% into a 401k (the max that we get a match for), currently max our HSA savings (three kids under 6 and we have been going through it all in recent years), own a mortgage for our house and a rental property and have modest whole life insurance plans for the both of us. This gets us a savings rate in the 15-20% of gross income range, while also allowing us flexibility as we can borrow against either the 401k or the property in a time of real need.

      As far as increasing savings we have never made headway in the “spreadsheet your costs” way, and only in a “forced increase in savings” way, my suspicion is that this is nearly universal.

      As for your specific situation I would look at a few things.

      First it sounds like your wife is making $50-55,000 a year, and your tax bracket is going to put the rate on that earnings at at least 33%. Take home there is going to be mid to high 30s. Childcare costing $20,000 a year means your wife’s income is minimum wage at best before considering all the other costs (commuting costs, more expensive meals, work cloths). There are lots of flexibility costs to consider as well, are you at the best job you can get, or are you at the best job you can get given that you need a lot of flex time to run a double income household?

      I say this not to imply that your wife should stay home, but to say that you probably have a lot more flexibility with where, when and how she works if you want it and that could be used to boost your lifestyle.

      2nd Check your taxes. A fair number of people get caught up in an “affordable” house while paying another mortgage worth in property taxes and insurance every year (and that doesn’t even go away when you pay off the mortgage). Others take a 2-3% of their income hit for city payroll taxes. To many people look at the headline numbers and miss several things that are eating away at their income.

      On a hopefully not to personal note, your family spending on health care is to high. We have run through a pair of bad years, including two miscarriages and a healthy pregnancy, and those years are probably not averaging $12,000 a month (and we paid out of pocket for almost everything). Kids at home get sick a lot less than kids in daycare in my experience, and get a lot less severely sick (or stay at home parents are less prone to taking the kids to urgent care). There might be something there that can be addressed (diet, sleep, etc) which could ease a stress for you.

      • caryatis says:

        A married couple making $150k is in the 22% bracket for federal income taxes. And of course, that does not mean that 22% of income goes to taxes. No clue where you’re getting 33%.

        You’re also making the classic mistake of assuming that the cost of childcare should be subtracted from only the woman’s salary–assuming the women’s work is optional and men’s is not. You also neglect the financial benefits of staying in a job consistently. OP said the younger kid is two, so in around 3 years childcare expenses will be gone and his wife will be glad she didn’t drop out of the workforce and ruin her earning potential for life.

        • acymetric says:

          You’re also making the classic mistake of assuming that the cost of childcare should be subtracted from only the woman’s salary

          I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, or even that it isn’t happening here, but it is at least possible that it was compared against the wife’s salary because her salary is much lower. There is no reason to check the math against Well…’s salary because we know it is probably just a little shy of 6 figures and clearly his dropping out of the workforce to save on childcare wouldn’t be a net positive.

          You also seemed to ignore this part of baconbit9’s post for the sake of making your point.

          I say this not to imply that your wife should stay home

          Finally with regard to

          A married couple making $150k is in the 22% bracket for federal income taxes. And of course, that does not mean that 22% of income goes to taxes. No clue where you’re getting 33%.

          I think baconbits9 is factoring in approximations of other taxes (state, local, SS, medicare, etc) which probably does bring it to ~33% even with deductions.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Acymetric already said it, but factoring all tax rates the total taxes from 100-150k in earnings is probably north of 30% (which would be the difference between his wife working and not working) unless there are significant deductions in there. If Well lived in California (I don’t think he does) the state + federal income taxes alone would be >30% on that income.

        • baconbits9 says:

          You’re also making the classic mistake of assuming that the cost of childcare should be subtracted from only the woman’s salary–assuming the women’s work is optional and men’s is not. You also neglect the financial benefits of staying in a job consistently. OP said the younger kid is two, so in around 3 years childcare expenses will be gone and his wife will be glad she didn’t drop out of the workforce and ruin her earning potential for life.

          I skipped responding to this the first time, but I a pretty annoyed by it. I didn’t make a classic mistake, the OP specifically mentioned his wife’s salary being enough to make her working worthwhile vs staying at home Well’s salary is roughly 2X more than his wife’s. There is literally no reason to discuss childcare costs vs his salary in this context, its just lazy insinuation that I was being sexist.

    • rahien.din says:

      Your healthcare expenditures are sixteen percent of your gross income, or (tax rates) around 20% of your take-home.

      That’s equivalent to a second mortgage.

    • methylethyl says:

      I’m late to the party, and the above commenters have covered all the major bases well.

      For reference: Family of four, one working adult, living on ~$25k/year. EITC brings that up to around $32k, but we live close to our actual income, and are generally able to bank the EITC for emergencies/savings. I will not remotely claim that “anyone can do this”. We benefit hugely from never having been in debt, and having some unique resources to draw on. We own two paid-for old Hondas. We cook 99% of meals at home. Except for husband’s work clothes, all clothing (except socks and underwear) is purchased secondhand– thrift, consignment, yard sale. We have a dryer, but we don’t use it. Clotheslines are the future! Our furniture is so out of date it should be coming back into fashion as “retro” any day now.

      I recommend reading, and trying out the accounting system from (though not the investment strategy which is outdated), the book *Your Money or Your Life*. It was extremely helpful to me in younger years for getting very, very, intimate with every cent I was spending, and why. I revisit it whenever I start feeling like… I feel like we should be saving more money, but I don’t know where it’s all *going*.

      It walks you through interesting calculations like how much you actually make from your job (once you subtract all the things you buy *because* of your job: stuff like meals out, commuting costs, wardrobe, cel service, lightning-fast internet for telecommuting, childcare, alcohol, entertainment to wind down, etc.), and exactly how much you spend on everything, divided up by category, from household utilities all the way down to the odd Snickers bar.

      Those medical bills: yikes! Those are not typical for families, as far as I know. We have two young kids, we pay $255/mo for high-deductible coverage for the whole family through a religious healthshare (when we were shopping around for this, we noted there are one or two comparable organizations that you can join without an explicit religious commitment– one of them is run by mennonites). We’ve never had to invoke that coverage. It doesn’t cover regular office visits and medications (so if you’re dealing with chronic conditions, it’s not for you), but it’s there if we get appendicitis or something. Our out-of-pocket medical expenses don’t come anywhere close to $1k/month. Could this be a factor of where you live?

      That mortgage: $1k/mo seems quite high, but then, we live in a fairly cheap real estate area. Have you ever considered taking a slightly-less-well-paying job in an area where housing is more affordable? It could be a net gain. Particularly if such a move could get you closer to a family support network. I live near my Mom and sister, and as a result have never once paid a babysitter: I cook them dinner, they watch my kids, I get an evening off.

      How much of your current expenses are “lifestyle” rather than necessity? Like, how much do you spend on haircuts for the family? Shearing the kids at home is easy and an electric trimmer pays for itself rapidly. Are you paying for cable? Are you buying more/better internet than you actually need (you work from home, so this may be something to subtract from your “income” column)? Netflix? Amazon Prime? Are you paying for (mortgage, heating, cooling, maintaining) more house than you need? Could you downsize?

      You may end up doing all the calculations, and still decide that your current lifestyle is worth not being able to save money. But it’s better to do that consciously, and by choice, than to just do it and live with a vague frustration that you can’t save, and you don’t really understand why.

      Anyway, best of luck.

      • fion says:

        I’m glad you posted this. I was reading all the other comments open-mouthed at how much money everybody had and was spending. I live on about $18,000, give 10% to charity and still save a few hundred dollars a month. Admittedly there’s just one of me, and I’m aware that children are Expensive, but reading all the other comments scared me! 😛

    • Well... says:

      OK, I’ve gotten a lot more data points, and a lot of 2nd opinions and good advice. (Thanks everyone!)

      I hope future commenters will focus on the general questions in my last paragraph.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        To your last point, it depends. But yes, a lot of people think about consumption in terms of spending, not in terms of money (relative vs absolute). If you’re trying to save while paying for childcare you’re ahead of the game.

      • methylethyl says:

        To your last question: Yes, I think most people really *are* walking around trailing a crazy amount of debt. I recently walked a friend through the process of paying off multiple credit cards and starting an emergency fund. Didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.

        We have no debt, and we’re way below your income level, but we also don’t drive newer cars than you (We purchased our late-90s CRV for $4k cash, have driven it for nearly ten years, and it now has almost 300k miles on it. We’re very proud of this achievement. The Accord is even older). We don’t take vacations, except once every couple of years to drive and visit family. We eat out maybe twice a month, and by “eat out” I mean we pick up soup and salad at the grocery store, because we have a ton of errands in town, and it’s not worth going home and coming back just to eat. We allocate 10% of our income to church/charity, and since we have always done so, we don’t miss it. We *could* do those things: drive newer cars, take vacations etc… but we choose not to because we prefer having a lot of savings and not having to take out loans when, say, we need to replace a vehicle, or pay a large medical expense. We still don’t have the ability to save for retirement. Someday, maybe…

        • Randy M says:

          We’ve had good luck getting recent–as in, a couple years old–cars from rental sales. Got a 2015 Odyssey for about $12,000, mileage okay. I hope it’s the last car we’ll buy for a good long while, and it’s nice to have something reliable to go on road trips in.
          Anyway, as I understand it, Enterprise doesn’t keep cars around more than a year old regardless of condition.

          • methylethyl says:

            My mother does this, and has had pretty good luck with it as well. $12k is pretty far outside our own car budget, though. Also, there are certain advantages to well-kept older cars: the newer it is, and the more tech-y “stuff” it has under the hood, the more expensive it is to repair.

      • baconbits9 says:

        One thing I have noticed is that lots of people get a ton of in kind gifts from their families. Around the corner from us (a semi extreme example) is a family who moved into the grandmother’s house and she provided moved into the basement and provides full time child care for the 3 kids. It took us a long time (almost 5 years) to figure out that we were an exception in trying to raise kids without frequent help from relatives*. Virtually everyone we know has a regular “drop kids off a grandmom and grandpop’s for a sleepover” at a minimum, and lots of them were getting a few days a week of childcare (even if just pickup and then a few hours after daycare to help their work schedule).

        Now that we know this we start to see it everywhere, the stay at home mom with twins and an 8 month old? Mother in law comes over once a week and twice a week she has friends who visit for 2-3 hours at a time. That is pretty helpful for keeping your sanity + your house clean and allows you to do a lot of other small things that save money.

        *Not that we haven’t received a lot of help from relatives, it has just come in different forms.

        • Randy M says:

          I’m definitely in favor of extended family pitching in and helping new families or families with new babies.

          But I was confused for awhile too when we’d go to friends for birthday parties of their young children and they had nice houses in nice neighborhoods. Made me feel rather inadequate for awhile, until I mentioned it to my wife and she of course said “Yeah, they live with her parents.”

          I almost don’t know anyone who hasn’t at one time or another lived with family, let alone gotten childcare from family, including myself–for the first three years or so of marriage we lived with my wife’s grandmother, both to help us and to help her.

          It can backfire, though. I know a case where the in-laws the parents lived with would give their grandchild candy whenever he wanted it to keep him happy. He’s had more teeth replaced than fallen out naturally, I think.

    • Move to Southwest Missouri. You could probably make a third of what you make now (and accordingly pay less on taxes) while living with the same standard of living (minus the nice cultural milieux).

      Mortgage on decent 3-bed 1-bath home (including interest, mortgage insurance, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, etc.): $550/month.
      Internet: $60/month.
      Utilities: $150/month.
      Trash: $10/month.
      Phones for 2: $70/month.
      Food for 2: $250/month.
      Gas: $40/month.
      Wear and tear on automobile: $50/month.
      Netflix: $10/month.
      Health insurance: none.
      Kids: none.
      Other expenses (restaurants, household things, dog food and vet visits for 2 dogs, etc.): $200/month.
      Total monthly expenses: $1,400/month, or about $17,000/year. Or, $25,000/year while my wife gets her master’s degree at a state school for about $8,000/year.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Four kids, decent neighborhood, single income, so slightly less salary than you and except for the mortgage, most of those expenses sound high to me. The mortgage sounds low (mine is slightly over half again that), but healthcare is brutal.

      Daycare/school is where I would say you can and should cut back the most.

      I am the opposite of you. I make less than you, but we have tremendous savings and are easily building wealth. The heaviest hitters that you have that we don’t have are student loans, daycare and school. We homeschool, so we have expenses that round down to close to zero. However, it means my wife can’t work.

      Given that American taxes are heavily progressive, cutting out your wife’s (or your) income and having her do the daycare work instead will probably improve your net income overall.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think a lot of people aren’t actually getting ahead and are not saving anything for retirement. Neither my parents nor my in-laws have anywhere near saved enough, my grandmother “retired” but basically lives in near poverty.

      A lot of my friends seem to have little saved. Most of them got their cars paid off, and then immediately started taking frequent vacations with the money. Most don’t have kids.

      I’d say I don’t get it either, but I sorta do, because my wife and I have a ton of money on hand for emergency expenses. The highest I’ve ever heard any of my other friends have on hand is $5k. Most keep a few hundred dollars available at most.

      • Randy M says:

        I think a lot of people aren’t actually getting ahead and are not saving anything for retirement.

        Ain’t it the truth. My mom’s supported by her kids, and my dad is supported by his dad. :/

    • Statismagician says:

      It appears that yes, it’s the credit-card thing, in combination with what I suspect are substantial in-kind contributions from friends/family (especially in terms of childcare) which may not be obvious unless you know the other people intimately.

  23. Well... says:

    What are the best arguments in favor of the kind of “coddling” of children (esp. by the public school system) that Jonathan Haidt argues against?

    The local public elementary school doesn’t let the kids play tag at recess, or play in the snow basically ever (they’re afraid someone could get snow thrown in his/her face). They have other similar policies related to less-physical play. If I go to them and say “Here’s a bunch of research that shows these policies are harmful in the long term” what should I be prepared for them to tell me in response?

    Is it just legal/CYA stuff, or do they have actual reasons for those policies related to childhood development/psychology/etc.?

    • Another Throw says:

      “I have a BA and MA in education and a PhD in child psychology, and do 40 hours of continuing education every year, and every one of my professors is in absolute lock step that this is the best policy, so go fuck yourself.”

      If you can’t tell, my experience with schools listening to anything, anyone else has to say is very poor.

      • Well... says:

        As I asked The Nybbler:

        OK, so follow-up question would be: how can parents work with schools to undo or avoid these types of coddling policies?

        • Deiseach says:

          OK, so follow-up question would be: how can parents work with schools to undo or avoid these types of coddling policies?

          “Dear parents, supposing it does happen that Johnny has a bad fall in the playground and knocks out a tooth and needs thousands of money worth of dental treatment, do you promise not to sue the school to recoup this, given that if Johnny had the same fall at home with the same consequences you wouldn’t sue yourselves?”

          See how well that one works out for you.

        • methylethyl says:

          Might be worth poking around Lenore Skenazy’s website to see if there are useful resources/connections you could pick up there– they have had some limited success reintroducing playtime to a school or two:

          http://www.freerangekids.com/laws/

        • aristides says:

          My suggestion is to find other parents and have an after school get together with no coddling. Recess is already way too short for children these days, so you might as well make a coddle free supplement. The school can’t and shouldn’t do everything.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      People do not volunteer more work for themselves.

    • theredsheep says:

      I think the really big-picture argument is that we’re an increasingly low-trust society so we have to have lawyers mediate the hell out of everything that might go wrong. Kind of like how Jared Diamond’s New Guinea tribespeople go to extreme lengths to avoid or suppress anything that might possibly spark a blood feud.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Don’t know the words, but the sentiment will be that your opinion doesn’t matter unless you’re the superintendent or on the school board.

      • theredsheep says:

        And nobody ever got sued for playing it too safe.

      • Well... says:

        OK, so follow-up question would be: how can parents work with schools to undo or avoid these types of coddling policies?

        • Jake says:

          From a top level, meet the members of the school board and the superintendent and talk with them. Consider running yourself, if you are really passionate about that policy change. Then, once you have the ear of someone responsible for the policies, bring up the research you have for discussion.

          From the lower level, meet with your child’s teacher and see what they think about the policies and if there is anything you can do to change classroom culture in the way you intend.

          Or, go outside the system and find a school that does what you want and move. A big trend now in my area at least is magnet-type outdoor schooling, where kids spend a majority of their time outside. My kids go to one of those, and they love it. The teachers actively encourage risk-taking activities (to the point where it is even a line on their report card), helping the kids to build forts, dig holes, make fires, catch fish, and all sorts of stuff not in the traditional elementary school curriculum.

        • Randy M says:

          What is one policy specifically that you are having trouble with?

        • The Nybbler says:

          You have to be or have the ear of a policymaker. And often enough even that doesn’t work; the people with the nominal power to make those decisions will cite some force majeure — some law or regulation, insurance requirements, fear of a lawsuit — and you won’t be able to budge them. Voice is incredibly difficult to obtain, it usually just comes down to suck it up or exit.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          You can’t. Go somewhere else with your children.

    • Deiseach says:

      what should I be prepared for them to tell me in response?

      “We’d love to, but since schools get sued to heck and back if Johnny scrapes his knee, and we want to keep our insurance premiums down to merely eye-watering instead of extortionate, we have to implement a metric fuckton (to use a technical term) of rules, regulations, suggestions, advice, and general ‘nearest thing to wrapping each child individually in cotton wool’ carry-on, so it’s not going to happen this decade.”

      I work in a early years service and you would not believe the amount of new regulations on top of the existing regulations that are coming in literally every day, and that have to be implemented because if anything can’t be ticked off the form when the surprise inspection hits, we will lose our funding. (Surprise inspections are a good thing because they mean real neglect or carelessness can’t be covered up in advance, but goodness gracious me they make a lot of work).

      Really it’s the fear of legal liability that puts a lot of constraints on schools and other places dealing with children (or the public at large). Most parents are reasonable and understand that kids run around and will fall over and bang their knees or noses, but you will always get the one parent or set of parents that will have a screeching fit and threaten the law on everyone to the third generation, and then if it does go to court it’s likely that a judge will say “yes indeed the centre/school should have had someone constantly supervising every movement the child made every second, they’re liable” and awards damages, then the cost of the mandatory insurance premium ascends like a rocket, and that cuts steeply into funding, so in general the “caution at all costs” approach is adopted.

      • Well... says:

        Were public schools really that much different 30 years ago? Were we really that less litigious as a society that we could play tag, tackle football, and call each other “retards” etc. at recess?

        • Plumber says:

          I don’t know about 30 years ago, but 40 to 45 years when I was in school it was not as you describe current schools, the biggest “sports” were ‘smear the queer’ and fistfights, as supervision was scant, I barely remember seeing adults.
          Often I’d just leave school and walk to the library to escape, I don’t recall my absence being noticed.

    • honoredb says:

      I don’t have an opinion on whether coddling is definitely harmful in the long term (I guess because this blog hasn’t posted a meta-analysis yet). I do consider the burden of proof to be squarely on team Let Kids Get Injured, because of their team name. A priori I’d expect kids to be happier on net when protected from injury, even if it means they have to come up with a different game from their default plan, and a priori I’d expect the long-term impact on psychological development to be neutral. I realize there’s an institutional bias toward safety, but there are irrational tendencies the other way too: status quo and survivorship biases by parents who had more dangerous childhoods, and there’s a weird tendency to forget that kids’ short-term well-being matters too that I don’t know if there’s a formal name for.

      • acymetric says:

        Possible theory (I don’t necessarily believe this to be true, but it might be a place to look if you want to find harms of this kind of coddling):

        Could being brought up in an overly risk-averse environment cause the children to be more likely to develop irrational anxiety over unlikely possibilities of their own? Or might it go the other way, with children who are too protected from possible bad things happening inherently underestimate the possibility of bad things happening? Just spitballing here. It does seem unlikely to me that this would have no impact on the concept of risk/risk avoidance for the children, but it isn’t clear to me if that impact would be positive or negative, not is it clear if the benefits outweigh the costs.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        The question each parent has to ask themselves (and answer variably depending on their own circumstances) is whether their kids are going to be living in a safe environment when they are older.

        If I could reliably say that my kids would always be in a safe comfortable environment as adults, then “coddling” makes sense. If they are going to have some hardships, physical, mental, or otherwise, then they should be prepared for how to handle those things. That includes both their own internal states, as well as how to handle the external stimuli.

        Since very few adults are without some difficulties, it makes sense to allow my children to experience some level of personal hardship to acclimate them to the process and help them grow. I’m not dropping them in the wilderness at five years old to see if they survive, but I am encouraging them to go outside and play without adult supervision. When they get overwhelmed, I help them. When they try to hide from the world and experience less, I take them hiking. Sometimes kids skin their knees while hiking. If that puts me on team “Lets Get Kids Injured” than I guess I’m on that team.

      • Watchman says:

        I am guessing you don’t have living experiments (aka kids). Once you have them you tend to develop observational evidence on this, albeit not about life outcomes for a few decades.

        The most obvious thing I’d note is that the whiney kids are generally those with the most codling. Happy kids tend to be those who are allowed to explore and play as kids. This makes sense: kids play as they do because that’s a common trait of human (and great ape) development. If you’re ‘protecting’ them from that then you’re also going against what in most cases (kids are pretty variable) they want to do naturally, which will make them unhappy. Long term I would expect, all else being equal, this to affect things like self-confidence and initiative, although you have to allow lots of other factors here.

      • LesHapablap says:

        The burden of proof should be on the people eliminating normal childhood behaviors like playing tag. The claim here is basically that physical activity and any sport at all is bad for kids. The same claim would be preposterous when talking about adults: would you tell a healthy 20-year old she should stop playing in a rec soccer league because it is bad for her?

    • SamChevre says:

      It’s not legal/CYA, and it’s not childhood development: it’s tail risk. What they are (rationally) protecting themselves against is the one kid in the US who trips playing tag, lands just wrong, and ends up quadriplegic. Or the one kid who goes on a field trip, gets bitten by a tick, develops encephalitis, and ends up with brain damage.

      It’s not really changeable at the school level–every big organization does something similar. It’s a legal system problem, and very hard remedy.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        I think few schools are worried that your kid will fall and break an arm. They or their insurance can handle that. What they’re worried about is that your kid will fall and break his neck. That’s tail risk, it’s very hard to eliminate, and the cost could be incredibly high because of the variability of lawsuit payouts and the huge cost of medical care in the US.

        OTOH, boy scouts allows kids to do some activities that could conceivably get their necks broken, and I’m sure there are a few tragic cases of this kind every year. But it sure seems good for the boys to spend some time being allowed to do fun outdoor activities in a not-perfectly-controlled environment. I’m not sure how they get around the “sue you into oblivion” problem–probably by some combination of social capital (credit with juries) and the subset of parents whose kids stick with scouts being disinclined to sue. Though the parents definitely sign waivers for everything.

        • acymetric says:

          Surely we don’t behave that way with all tail risks? A kid is much more likely to be catastrophically injured in a bus accident on the way to school, in a car accident with their parents, or in any number of other ways than the activities no longer allowed that we’re talking about here right? I understand the rationale (bad things happening to kids is extra bad), I disagree with the conclusion that kids just shouldn’t do things.

      • baconbits9 says:

        If its tail risk then they are not doing it rationally. Individually they wouldn’t be held liable for such an action and the odds of such an event leading to the bankruptcy of their district is very small. The opposite is actually more likely to be true, that by banning certain benign activities they are opening themselves up to more liability. If you ban tag and bobby takes a paintbrush to the eye in art you are going to have a hard time arguing that tag is inherently riskier than art, so why didn’t you ban art?

      • Well... says:

        But then why wasn’t it like this even a couple decades ago?

        • Plumber says:

          Because the adults of back then were negligent, rresponsible, lazy, selfish and far too busy with multiple lovers and smoking dope to pay much attention to their children’s welfare.

          That’s my child eyed view of the ’70″s anyway, but I reject your basic premise, from my son’s description it’s still too “Lord of the Flies” at school (which is one of the reasons we’re homeschooling him now).

          Better ‘coddled’ than bloody!

          • albatross11 says:

            So what changed? The dope got more potent?

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11,

            If things have changed I’m guessing it’s a backlash to the hateful “freedom” of the ’70’s.

            Legalized abortion may play a role, as less kids are ‘accidents’, also that so many women delay childbirth, making it harder to have children at all, as well as most families being smaller, means parents feel more protective of their children.

            But probably the biggest factor if schools are paying attention to their students safety is the higher costs of medical treatment, and fears of litigation, but at my son’s former school when I fellow student tried to stab my son with scissors (thankfully only tearing his sweatshirt and a small cut on his arm) the school administered “restorative justice” (they asked the would-be-stabbed to apologize, nothing more).

            To Hell with that!

          • acymetric says:

            I generally find myself either in agreement with you or at least empathetic to your points, but I have to note here that swinging dope smokers make up a minority of 70s and 80s adults, despite what your personal experience may tell you (and modern day film may tell younger people). I’m not sure you can really draw broad conclusions from that about society as a whole.

          • Plumber says:

            @acymetric

            “….I’m not sure you can really draw broad conclusions from that about society as a whole”

            The statistics  also indicate that, while divorce and single-parenthood climbed sharply in those years, the majority of children still lived in two parent homes.

            Not where I lived!

            The statistics also tell me that far more Americans own homes than is the case in my area in California

            I must therefore regard much of the U.S.A. as a foreign land where people have very different lives.

        • Deiseach says:

          I do think part of it has to do with the rise in standards of living and concurrent rise in expectations. For instance, when I worked in social housing, clients have the expectation that their kids will have a room of their own (and so they do expect two- and three-bedroom houses even for “single parent with baby” or “two children under the ages of nine”, where the regulations say “siblings even of opposite sex under nine years old can share room, siblings of same sex can share room whatever age”). For me and other older colleagues, we grew up where you shared a room with siblings and only got your own room in your late teens or when you moved out to live on your own.

          When there was less of a safety net and people were used to living hard, then they accepted that accidents will happen and life is risky. I’m glad there’s a safety net! I’m glad people have better standards of living! But that also means that people expect better conditions and less risk for their kids, and are more prepared to go to court over negligent behaviour (or what is perceived as such) than as in the old days to accept things like “Johnny fell in the playground and broke his nose” as a typical incident of childhood and not challenge respectable institutions like schools.

  24. AG says:

    I feel like we’ve had a “fast food ranking” thread before, but also that we’ve had a good number of new regulars since then. So, let’s have another! (I understand that this is more complicated outside the US, where there aren’t necessarily big chains.)

    In-n-Out has the best burgers. McDonald’s and Jack-in-the-Box are about same tier, and haven’t had BK or Wendy’s recently enough to evaluate them.
    McDonald’s chicken is surprisingly good, probably the best out of the burger places offering chicken. BK’s are an abomination. KFC quality varies per restaurant, but aren’t as good as Popeye’s, who is still below regional chicken places like Bush’s or Gold’s or whatever.
    Seasoned curly fries > battered seasoned fries > plain. Five Guys (which is technically a tier up from fast food, per se) has the best seasoned fries. Then animal style In-n-Out fries, while their plain fries are better than Wendy’s but lower than the other chains. Otherwise, fries quality varies by location and timing, I have no sense of a franchise ranking.
    Fish sandwiches: Jack-in-the-Box > McDonald’s > BK

    All of the national pizza chains are greatly inferior to regional chains, which are usually inferior to one-offs but not always.

    • psmith says:

      I like In-n-Out, but prices and wait times are verging on fast casual rather than fast food proper. Having checked the thread number for culture war permitted, I would also put Chick-Fil-A in this category–it has the aesthetic trappings of fast food, it’s better-tasting than most fast food, but it’s also a touch slower and more expensive.

      Taco Bell is probably my favorite unambiguous fast food.

      • dodrian says:

        Chick-Fil-A is slow? McDonald’s is the fastest and most-efficient fast-food, but Chick-Fil-A is a close second. There are frequent long lines for the drive-thru at the Chick-Fil-A restaurants I occasionally visit, but they move at lightning speed.

        Incidentally, the C-F-A tech blog is a fascinating read.

    • Randy M says:

      In-N-Out had never made me regret eating their burgers, so that’s a point above Jack in the Box, Burger King, and Taco Bell.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Smash Burger is vastly superior to Five Guys. The Colorado Burger is god-tier. Every time I fly into Denver I make a bee line for Smash Burger.

      • Well... says:

        Smash Burger is vastly superior to Five Guys.

        Hah, you’re insane.

        • gbdub says:

          Five Guys is great if you want a thick, greasy burger that all sort of melds together with its toppings, and you have someone to share a bag of the Cajun fries with. This is not a backhanded compliment – Five Guys is great for curing a particular sort of craving.

          When I don’t have that particular sort of craving, Smashburger is better. Sweet potato smash fries are the shiznit.

          Both are vastly superior to In’N’Out, which is just McD’s with less variety, fresher tasting burgers, and worse fries.

          I’m not sure either are “fast food” though.

          • Well... says:

            I’m not sure either are “fast food” though.

            That’s a good point.

            Still, I’m consistently unimpressed by Smashburger. It’s not that their burgers aren’t tasty, it’s just that they’re underwhelming. Also for whatever reason they fall apart really easily, and I don’t remember ever leaving Smashburger feeling full, and I always feel like I’ve overpaid.

            Their fries are lousy, BTW — too thin. Does anyone actually like shoelace fries?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t honestly pay any attention to their fries. But have you had the Colorado Burger?

            Grilled green chilies, melted aged cheddar, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato & mayo on a spicy chipotle bun

            Heaven in a bun my dude, heaven in a bun.

          • Nick says:

            Their fries are lousy, BTW — too thin. Does anyone actually like shoelace fries?

            I do. I’ve never had Smashburger before, but shoestring fries or the slightly thicker regular fries are the best.

          • AG says:

            Yeah, I don’t count Five Guys as fast food. It’s about the price points. Five Guys is a tier up.
            (Although, some of the fast food places are offering premium orders a tier up now, as well. But I’m judging by what’s the thing most commonly ordered.)

            Thicker fries are the devil. Wedges are an abomination, unless you go the full Fuddruckers and have a truckload of cheese sauce besides.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think Five Guys / Smashburger still count as fast food. The restaurant is in a strip mall, I walk in, order at a counter, pay less than $10, bus my own table and my food is ready in less than 10 minutes. That’s fast food.

          • acymetric says:

            There is actually a separate classification for that type of restaurant: fast casual.

            Places like Chipotle, Moes, Five Guys, most sandwich places and similar are included in that category.

          • theredsheep says:

            Five Guys, in my experience, is substantially more expensive than standard fast food.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Where do you live that Five Guys comes down to <10 dollars? The burger alone is 9$ here, I pay as much at Five Guys as I do at sit-down restaurants. Are you splitting fries and just getting water?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Hmmmm good point ManyCookies. I don’t drink sodas (so yes I’m just getting water) and I split fries with Mrs. Honcho (she’s the one who actually likes Five Guys. I’d prefer a burger from Chili’s since there’s barely any Smashburgers in the south). I just looked up the price of a cheeseburger at my local Five Guys and it’s $9. To be honest I’ve never paid that much attention to the cost since as a gainfully employed person the amount of money spent on a burger all sorts into the “say what you want and hand over the credit card without thinking” category.

            I would still call it “fast food” though. It’s a few dollars more than McDonald’s, but every other part of the experience is the same.

          • brad says:

            I know “fast casual” is supposed to be a big deal right now, but from the perspective of someone without a car there’s not a huge difference between Five Guys, McDonalds, Chipotle, or a bacondeggandcheese from a bodega. If I go up to some sort of counter, order my food, wait until it’s ready, bring it to a table, eat it, and the bus my tray–to me that’s fast food.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Great going brad. You and I just agreed on something. Apocalypse in 10…9…8…

            I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done.

          • Nick says:

            I’m with Brad and Conrad here too. For me there’s really not a difference between fast and fast casual.

    • dodrian says:

      Whataburger has the best burgers. McDonald’s has the fastest, most consistent experience, and best breakfast. Chick-Fil-A has the best service. Raising Cane’s is the best chicken.

      • AG says:

        Sadly, Whataburger isn’t available in my region, but I can believe it.
        Carl’s Jr. offers more meat mass, I’d put them in the same tier as Habit Burger, but I’m not sure if it actually beats out modern McDonald’s in flavor.

        I can definitely believe McDonald’s has the best breakfast.

    • SamChevre says:

      Hardee’s burgers need to rank somewhere. Also, their sausage biscuits are the best, and if you ask they’ll give you strawberry jam to put on them.

    • dick says:

      I eat fast food of any kind maybe once a year, and every time is a huge disappointment. Either my childhood memories are distorted or McD fries are a lot worse than they used to be. Even the shakes are kind of gross. Would prefer a plain ham+cheese+mayo sandwich from my fridge every time.

      • AG says:

        Childhood memories may indeed play a role! Fast food was a big rarity in my childhood, so there was a forbidden fruit allure. I caught up and lost the sheen to burgers in generally thanks to college meal plans, but once I started cooking for myself fast food became a rarity again. But my snack preferences also tend towards the salty.

        So I may get more enjoyment from fast food than some people.
        (Counterpoint: sometimes the food is indeed a disappointment, like BK chicken, or Wienerschnitzel.)

        Also, do you have higher quality burgers from restaurants and the like? That may play a role. Since I rarely order burgers from restaurants, I don’t have as much a baseline to be disappointed in fast food for.
        (The few times I do end up with $10+ burgers, they never seem that much better.)

      • littskad says:

        McDonald’s used to fry their fries in primarily beef tallow. They aren’t as tasty since they went vegetable oil. Their shakes were also much better before they went low-fat. And their apple pies were better when they were fried. Oh, well.

        • Nick says:

          I’m sensing a theme of “this food was so much better when it was worse for you.” 😛

          • ilikekittycat says:

            The irony is that beef tallow wasn’t worse for you, because we now know the sugar industry was paying for motivated research about saturated fats

          • littskad says:

            Heh, yeah. I remember exactly when they switched from tallow. It was my senior year in high school, and at the time I had been going to McDonald’s once a month with my grandfather for years; it was kind of one of our rituals. The change really did make an enormous difference.

    • sunnydestroy says:

      I like In-N-Out because their burgers have great vegetables and they aren’t overly meaty, though you can get a triple patty if you want it more meaty. Chick-Fil-A is pretty overhyped for me–I thought their chicken sandwiches are pretty plain and fast-foody quality, though they beat out everyone in their sauce selection.

      One really great thing you can do if you have an In-N-Out close enough to a Chick-Fil-A (I had them across the street from each other) is order a burger from In-N-Out, order a chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A, then put them together into an ultimate combo. Also, get the assortment of sauces to dip with and the waffle fries.

    • brad says:

      All of the national pizza chains are greatly inferior to regional chains, which are usually inferior to one-offs but not always.

      You can’t meet the fast criteria in fast food if you only sell pies.

      • Jake says:

        You can if you have them pre-made and ready to go. Little Caesars Hot-n-Ready pizzas are barely worthy of the name pizza, but they are available near instantaneously and dirt cheap. It’s still my go-to pizza place when I want something quick. Though when I want something good, I live right down the road from a local place that recently won Best Pizza from the USA in a big pizza-making contest, and it’s amazing, so I agree with the original comment.

        • acymetric says:

          Little Caesars is definitely not some high quality establishment, but I actually prefer their pepperoni pizza over Papa Johns and Dominos.

        • AG says:

          Sell by the slice places would qualify for fast, but, ironically, most chains don’t do by-the-slice.

          • acymetric says:

            Only moderately so, a lot of by-the-slice places pop the slices back in the oven for a few minutes when you order, which puts it somewhere slower than fast food but slightly faster than Five Guys or similar.

        • brad says:

          You can if you have them pre-made and ready to go. Little Caesars Hot-n-Ready pizzas are barely worthy of the name pizza, but they are available near instantaneously and dirt cheap.

          They keep them under a heating lamp?

          • AG says:

            Actually, that does seem quite interesting. Most fast food places manage by having their product pre-assmbled and frozen/refrigerated, and do a quick heat on order, along with pre-prepping in bulk during meal rushes. Why is it that pizza can’t do the same?

          • brad says:

            In a NY pizza place that sells by the slice, the pies are cooked and then left on the counter for customers to pick out. If you are lucky the slice you want is still hot and you get it right from there. If not they throw it back in the pizza oven for a few minutes to warm it up. Unfortunately these cooked pizzas have a really short shelf life. After fifteen or twenty minutes or so the cheese cools down and it starts getting this plastic-y look. Once that happens it doesn’t taste as good when it gets re-heated.

            There’s no reason in principle that you couldn’t cook whole pies and sell them the same way as slices, but you’d have to be really confident in the number and type of pies that people were going to order.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a nice pizza chain in the DC area (&pizza) that manages about 5 minutes to get your pizza when there’s no line. They’re small pizzas and go through an oven on a conveyor belt, and they’re quite good.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Actually, that does seem quite interesting. Most fast food places manage by having their product pre-assmbled and frozen/refrigerated, and do a quick heat on order, along with pre-prepping in bulk during meal rushes. Why is it that pizza can’t do the same?

            You won’t get a consistent crust if you have a yeast dough sitting out indefinitely. You can pre-bake all the crusts but I would guess you would lose something on the 2nd bake.

            Then you have a volume/heating issue. Your typical pizza is thicker than the portion of a hamburger that gets cooked in a fast food joint, and the hamburger is cooked on a steal plate and only needs to be cooked halfway because it can be flipped. A pizza is thicker, you have to cook through several layers, is air cooked on top and is unable to be flipped. All told you probably can’t cook a pizza in less than 6-7 mins with just the cooking, and more for larger pizza’s, or if others are going in and out of the oven constantly.

            You also have most of the toppings cooked with the pizza, most of the parts of a hamburger are put on after cooking, so you can pre start a hamburger on the grill and then add the bacon/cheese/lettuce/etc to make what ever particular specialty burger was ordered. This isn’t true for a pizza.

            So the long and the short of your answer is that pizza places already do this, sauce is pre prepped, cheese is grated, toppings sliced and balls of dough are kept the right size at the right temperature and its a mechanical process to build it up. You just can’t pre start the process, and you can’t really get prep time under 10 mins.

    • arlie says:

      The only chain burgers I’ll eat are Wendy’s, given any halfway reasonable alternative, but the absolute bottom of the line are, in my opinion, McDonald’s. Maybe they are highly variable, and/or a horrific experience 2 decades ago soured me on them forever – I admit I haven’t even tried them once since – though perhaps only that specific McDonald’s reached this particular special standard.

      Arby’s is OK.

      KFC is sometimes OK – wish we had Swiss Chalet around here though. Much better chicken, at least back when I lived near one.

      If any of the chains make decent french fries, I haven’t tried them 🙁

      Tim Horton’s (only in Canada, AFAIK) has the best donuts, and some of the best coffee. Pete’s coffee is even better; Starbucks is meh.

      • AG says:

        Arby’s needs post-delivery customizing. Their in-house sauce distribution is bad, so I always end up adding my own toppings and sauce. We used to use coupons to order like 20 melts at a time, chuck them in the freezer, and then have one for lunch each day, adding lettuce and sauce on the other side from the cheese.

    • Nick says:

      This thread is opportune, because I’m going to Five Guys for lunch today, and this is my first time. Just one question: should I be ordering the Five Guys style or cajun style fries?

    • Fahundo says:

      burgers: Five Guys > Smashburger > the rest. Shout out to Crystal Burger for being without a doubt the worst burger I’ve ever tasted.

      chicken strips: Raising Cane’s is my favorite. Popeye’s is good sometimes but inconsistent.

      chicken nuggets: anything other than Chick Fil A might as well not exist

      Fries: Five Guys again

      In N Out is probably the best place to go after midnight.

      • acymetric says:

        In N Out is probably the best place to go after midnight.

        You’ve obviously never been to Cook Out at 3 a.m.

        • Fahundo says:

          I didn’t know they were open that late, and it’s too late to edit my comment. In N Out and Cook Out tend not to be available in the same towns though, so maybe they can share.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Man did my California friends hype up In N Out. And their burgers are pretty good for the price point, but god their fries are literally cardboard. Kind of brought down the experience.

      —-

      So onto the most important question, which fast food/casual place has the best french fries? My votes for McDonalds.

      • AG says:

        I said above that, for me, fries quality varies depending on location rather than chain. Since they’re not pre-prepped by the franchise like the burgers, then it’s a lot more at the mercy of the employees who fry/salt than usual. I’ve had varying quality of fries from the same In-n-Out restaurant. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re, ick, mealy.

        That said, I do think their “fresh” approach makes them reliably worse than other chains, who have the time to soak potatoes to remove a level of starch. And then places like Popeye’s can cheat by using battered fries to create a consistent flavor profile.
        But seasoned curly fries also seem to make things more consistent, so Arby’s and Jack-In-The-Box win there.

      • but god their fries are literally cardboard.

        Literally?

        I don’t believe it.

  25. Edward Scizorhands says:

    You wake up in the body of a 1980s middle-school or high-school student, Quantum Leap style, and need to come up with a project for the science fair in the next several weeks.

    Is there anything you can use from your knowledge of the future, and its associated technology, to make your project amazing?

    • AG says:

      Revealing that the secret to roman concrete is to use sea water.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think I’m going to do my science fair project on the differential cryptanalysis of DES. Not only will it be fun to do, with a little work, I’ll actually be able to get men in black suits to show up and shut down the science fair and try to tell me my whole presentation is classified.

      • John Schilling says:

        I was going to suggest building a crappy Zippe centrifuge and producing a few milligrams of enriched uranium to the same effect, but that would stretch the resources of a high-school science fair project. Your version works much better, if you can remember enough of the details.

        Unfortunately, the hypothetical is set a year too late for me to just present a design study for a Teller-Ulam device; Moreland published in 1979.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I thought the S-Boxes of DES resist differential cryptanalysis.

    • baconbits9 says:

      If you were an archaeology buff and knew of a local find that happened you could go pre-empt it pretty easily.

    • Plumber says:

      I was a high school student in the 1980’s, and with my current knowledge I’d forget the science fair, test out of high school even earlier than I did, take VAC or welding training as a teenager, join the military with an enlistment ending before the Gulf War, save money, go to college as a veteran, and make investmentments in companies destined to prosper.

      It be nice if I could somehow warn people of the Twin Towers collapse in 2001, but I’ve no idea how to explain how I got the warning myself.

      • S_J says:

        Is it possible to restate the question to an arbitrary earlier decade?

        I can’t tell whether the intended category is high school at some specific point in the past, or high school at a time comfortably before your own involvement in any level of formal education. For me, the first half of the 1980s fall into the second category.

        One possibility: I might try to demonstrate a prototype form of data-storage on a hard plastic platter, using reflective material that can encode data about sound-waves as binary numbers…if that were enough to make Sony’s Compact Disc a non-patentable item in ’82.

        If I were interested in performing pranks… I would acquire a Geiger counter and a banana, and see how many parents/teachers I can scare with the trace level of radioactivity typically found in a banana.

        For predictions of the future…is there way for a high school science-fair project to predict the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986? Or at least, show the potential for that loss to happen under those circumstances?

        That prediction has much less impact than predicting the attacks on September 11, 2001. But it might set me up to make such a prediction.

        • bullseye says:

          One possibility: I might try to demonstrate a prototype form of data-storage on a hard plastic platter, using reflective material that can encode data about sound-waves as binary numbers…if that were enough to make Sony’s Compact Disc a non-patentable item in ’82.

          Could you actually do that? I’ll assume you know how the thing works (which I don’t), but there’s a gap between knowing how something works and being able to build it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Alas, making a blue LED is probably beyond my ability, even with prep time in the future. This would be my favorite if I could pull it off. Demonstrating giant magnetoresistance also too difficult and not as cool. Demonstrating superconductivity (with high-temp superconductors, discovered 1986) might be possible, but by the late 80s that was old hat anyway (the move from lab to physics classroom was _really fast_ for that one).

      So, I’ll go a little lower tech and “refute” Earnshaw’s theorem by reproducing Geim’s Ig Nobel-winning experiments on diamagnetic levitation.

    • metacelsus says:

      If it’s early 1980s (1980-1983), I’d invent the polymerase chain reaction. If it’s late 1980s, I’d synthesize an antiretroviral drug (probably nevirapine since I actually can remember the structure for that one).

      If I can’t get the resources for one of those projects (being a high school student would make things tough), then I would make some graphene with a pencil and Scotch tape.

    • Chalid says:

      You can make graphene from graphite with regular scotch tape, and that would get you the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics a few decades early. (It would be pretty ambitious for someone with high-school-student resources to actually characterize it properly in a way that would convince everyone else of what they’d found, but a Nobel should be a pretty big incentive.)

      • AG says:

        Yeah, if the hypothetical high school student jumps the gun on undergrad research, they could probably do some novelty thin film tricks early.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Scoop some of Stephen Wolfram’s work on Rule 110 and other elementary cellular automata. Access to a computer could help, but a lot of the work could be done with pen and paper too, so it’s within the resources of a student.

    • AG says:

      Introduce some music technology innovations sooner? Could PC hardware in the 80s handle something like Audacity, or a stripped down midi-processing program? Though, some of this is limited by available sound card technology, but one should be able to use existing synth tech to recreate future genres early.

  26. vV_Vv says:

    Brexit predictions:

    – No-deal Brexit: 50%

    – Deal negotiated with the EU and approved by the Parliament before 29 March: 5%

    – Unilateral Article 50 suspension (Brexit aborted for the foreseeable future): 5%

    – Negotiation term extended without a new referendum being announced: 15%

    – Negotiation term extended with a new referendum being announced: 25%
    Conditioned on the above:
    – Leave wins again: 60%
    – Remain wins: 40%

    • fion says:

      My predictions

      – No deal: ~20%
      – Deal negotiated/approved before 23/3/19: ~3%
      – Unilateral Article 50 suspension: ~8%
      – Extension (no new referendum announced): ~50%
      – Extension (referendum announced): ~20%

      If referendum happens:
      – Leave: ~40%
      – Remain: ~60%

      I’ll note that an extension with no second referendum being announced might still lead to a referendum.

    • dodrian says:

      I think the chance of a deal passing is higher that 5% – while no one like what May has tabled, no one wants the responsibility of stepping into her shoes.

      I think May rightly sees that having a second referendum would be even worse than the other outcomes. There is extreme political distaste in the commons for a no-deal Brexit. May’s game seems to be to stall and then force her deal through under that pressure, and after this week’s votes I think she has a better chance of doing that than I originally suspected (given that when their bluff was called the DUP supported her – they might not for the final deal, but I bet some of the opposition will cave against the prospect of no-deal).

      My prediction would be:
      No deal: 40%, May’s deal or something very similar: 30%, longer negotiations: 15%, New referendum 10%, No Brexit: 5%.

      • vV_Vv says:

        There is extreme political distaste in the commons for a no-deal Brexit.

        But they seem to be locked in an impasse where makes no-deal Brexit the default outcome. Shall we call it Tragedy of the Commons?

        • dodrian says:

          I think the impasse at the moment is because each side think they can get their preferred outcome – the ERG think they can get a better deal, May thinks she can hold out and have hers accepted, and much of the opposition think they can get a second referedum or stop Brexit.

          The question is who will crack first. As you say, no-deal is the default outcome, but I think most of the commons would prefer May’s deal to no-deal. I suspect that May will take it down to the wire, and that those opposing Brexit are more likely to crack than she or her supporters are.

    • ana53294 says:

      I think the UK government will make some small change to the deal with the EU, and it will give it a week before the 29th of March so Remainers will have to choose between that deal (which is the best compromise that could be achieved given the Good Friday agreement and the lack of leverage by the UK) and no deal.

      Because the choice now seems to be no deal, this deal or no Brexit, Remainers can continue with the delusion that there will be no Brexit. But once the due date is really close, they will have to choose the deal.

      Any extension given will not last past the 22nd of May (the EU Parliament elections). The UK seats have already been reapportioned.

      Deal passes with minor changes: 70%.

      There is a one month extension: 10%

      No deal: 15%

      No Brexit:1%

      • vV_Vv says:

        Because the choice now seems to be no deal, this deal or no Brexit, Remainers can continue with the delusion that there will be no Brexit. But once the due date is really close, they will have to choose the deal.

        This assumes that they will be acting rationally, but in this whole Brexit affair, from the conception of the initial referendum, British politicians have been anything but rational.

  27. moonfirestorm says:

    Book Review: David Friedman’s Salamander.

    I had heard this mentioned a few times in the Open Threads, so I figured I would pick it up. I didn’t know anything about the details of the plot before buying it. I’ll rot13 major plot spoilers, but it’s difficult to discuss a book at all without spoiling some of it, so there may be stuff that sneaks in un-rot13’d.

    The good:
    – The magic system was really interesting. While I’m a big fan of “here’s how a world with magic would actually use that magic in interesting ways”, most authors don’t really address the issues of having immensely powerful wizards at all. In Salamander, the author goes the other way: he creates a relatively normal swords-and-sorcery world, but uses a magic system that won’t distort the world too much, because it’s very limited in what it can do.

    – As a supplementary point to the last, the focus on “how can we creatively use small amounts of magic” is awesome. I’m a big fan of stories like Worm where fairly limited abilities are used creatively, and they came up with some cool solutions to problems throughout the story.

    – The characters were very well-written, and I liked how they evolved over time. It wasn’t really possible to label characters as “good guys” or “bad guys”, because they just had clear goals and worked towards them. Sometimes they were in opposition to our main characters, sometimes they weren’t.

    – The reaction to the main Maguffin (the Pnfpnqr) of the story was very good. I feel like it realistically captured a lot of the benefits and problems of it.

    The bad:
    – While I liked how the characters evolved, it often felt very abrupt. Gur cevapr va cnegvphyne jrag sebz “nal zrnaf arprffnel” gb “lrnu, V thrff jr’er tbbq sevraqf” va nobhg guerr cntrf.

    – The climax of the book seemed very antithetical to the main themes of the book. Gur jubyr obbx jnf sbphfvat ba ubj lbh unq gb hfr fznyy nzbhagf bs cbjre perngviryl, naq vafgrnq bs Ryyra be gur grnpure pbzvat hc jvgu n perngvir fbyhgvba, jr whfg unq gur Cevapr Pnfpnqr uvf jnl gb na rnfl fbyhgvba, naq gura Qhevyvy guerj VASVAVGR CBJREEEE ng gur Sbefgvat zntrf.

    • Thanks for your comments. My response to your first rot13 point:

      Gur Cevapr qbrfa’g jnag gb hfr sbepr ntnvafg Ryyra naq Pbryhf—ur yvxrf naq erfcrpgf gurz, naq jung ur vf qbvat vf ntnvafg uvf trareny cevapvcyrf. Ohg ur guvaxf n terng qrny vf ng fgnxr—naq ur unf jnearq Ryyra rneyvre gung jvgu rabhtu ng fgnxr ur vf jvyyvat gb qb guvatf ur jbhyq abeznyyl qvfnccebir bs. Pbafvqre:

      [Znev nobhg gur Cevapr nsgrejneqf]
      “Ur jnf va na bqq zbbq, nf vs ur jnfa’g fher vs ur fubhyq or qvfnccbvagrq be tynq.”
      Ryyra pbafvqrerq gur iveghrf bs fvyrapr, vgf pbfg, qrpvqrq ntnvafg. “Uvf Uvtuarff gevrq gb sbepr zr naq Zntvfgre Pbryhf gb qb fbzrguvat jr gubhtug bhtug abg gb or qbar. Ur guerngrarq zr gb crefhnqr Pbryhf. Jr qrcnegrq jvgubhg uvf yrnir.”
      Znev ybbxrq pbaprearq. “V frr. Gung rkcynvaf obgu uvf qvfnccbvagzrag naq uvf eryvrs.”
      Ryyra abqqrq. “Lrf. V qb abg guvax Xvreba vf n onq zna, ohg ur vf gbb hfrq gb univat uvf jnl.”

      Va beqre gb sbepr Ryyra naq Pbryhf gb qb jung ur gubhtug unq gb or qbar ur svefg urnivyl jrvtugrq gur bqqf va uvf snibe ol gnxvat nqinagntr bs gurve vavgvny gehfg, fbzrguvat ur vf abg tbvat gb or noyr gb qb ntnva. Qrfcvgr gung nqinagntr, ur snvyrq.

      Ryyra vf n cbjreshy sver zntr naq “V xabj jung na natel sver zntr pna qb.” Jvgubhg gur nqinagntr ur tbg ol uvf gevpx, fur pna xvyy uvz, be nalbar ryfr arneol, va n srj frpbaqf, naq ur xabjf vg. Gur Cevapr qbrfa’g xabj ubj Pbryhf rfpncrq, ohg ur xabjf gung Pbryhf xabjf zhpu zber nobhg zntrel guna ur qbrf—jvgarff gur pnfpnqr—juvpu znxrf uvz n jvyq pneq.

      Gur bayl frafvoyr bcgvba ng guvf cbvag vf gb gel gb jbex jvgu gurz, abg ntnvafg gurz. Naq gung unf gur shegure nqinagntr gung vg trgf uvz serr bs gur boyvtngvba gb qb guvatf gung ur qbrfa’g jnag gb qb.

      My response to the second:

      Jr nyernql xabj gung gur Fnynznaqre yrgf Qhevyvy qb guvatf gung ner fhccbfrq gb or vzcbffvoyr—znavchyngr uvf ntr. Gur obbx vf pnyyrq “Fnynznaqre,” naq cneg bs gur pber bs vg vf gur grafvba orgjrra gur rabezbhf cbjre gur Fnynznaqre tvirf Qhevyvy naq gur pbafgenvagf va hfvat vg qhr gb uvf arrq gb xrrc obgu uvzfrys naq Fnynznaqre frperg. Sver Zbhagnva unf abg rehcgrq sbe gur cnfg svsgl lrnef—fvapr Qhevyvy erzbirq gur Fnynznaqre sebz vg. Chggvat gur Fnynznaqre onpx punatrf gung, naq vg nibvqf gur pbafgenvag bs univat gb shaary cbjre guebhtu Qhevyvy, jub vf na rkgenbeqvanevyl fgebat sver zntr ohg fgvyy vasvavgryl jrnxre guna gur Fnynznaqre vgfrys.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to me!

        I think your first point makes sense, and I had sort of forgotten about Xvreba’f shegure punenpgre qrirybczrag jvgu Znev. I just recall finding it exceedingly jarring, so thought I should mention that.

        On the second, I’m not arguing that it doesn’t make sense within the context of the story. You clearly established that this exact sort of thing was possible when you introduced Qhevyvy naq gur Fnynznaqre. I just found myself disappointed that that’s what the climax ended up being, since it feels like a rejection of the earlier themes of the book.

  28. Achim says:

    Did anyone already mention the Flynn effect developments here?

    conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-flynn-effect-rising-iq-scores-over.html

  29. brad says:

    The no culture war rule in the last integer open thread seems to have been flagrantly violated in many different subthreads. Any thoughts as to why it broke in that one in particular and whether it will continue to be widely ignored? Is there some connection to the new sort order?

    • onyomi says:

      I get the sense a lot of people haven’t really gotten the memo about public OTs being generally CW-free now.

    • johan_larson says:

      I doubt it had anything to do with the thread. This community wants to talk about a lot of CW and CW-adjacent things, so discussions naturally tend to cross the boundary unless moderators put a stop to it. And Scott has never been a particularly active moderator.

      • fion says:

        I dunno. In the past I’ve seen a lot of “This is CW but I’d be happy to discuss it with you in a later thread.” I think the community is normally very good at self-enforcing the rule.

    • Nick says:

      What onyomi said. It was right there in the post text, second sentence; I wish folks would read that stuff, but it seems many don’t. It could be made harder to ignore, maybe, like putting “NO CW” or “CW OK” right in the thread title.

    • albatross11 says:

      Part of that was my fault, and I apologize. I asked a question that I hoped wouldn’t become CW, but I should have just avoided the topic entirely on the CW-free OT.

    • gbdub says:

      I think the confusion is somewhat understandable for a number of reasons:

      1) The system just changed, and while I never had trouble understanding the old system, apparently a lot of people did because there was always somebody asking whether any given thread was supposed to be CW free or not.
      2) Scott recently front-paged a normally hidden, not CW free open thread to announce the backwards comment order and survey
      3) Scott’s post text, which clearly people don’t read reliably anyway (see #1) didn’t say “culture war free” it said “avoid hot button political and social topics” which is clearer but doesn’t have the magic word people are used to
      4) Front page open threads are always going to be harder to keep CW free for the same reason Scott wants to keep them that way: they are more visible, especially to newer posters who might not know the rules
      5) The “open threads link takes you right to the newest OT” is a convenient feature but one that makes it much less likely for people to be cognizant of exactly which thread they are commenting on (exacerbated by the newest first comment order – an old thread you visit for the second time now looks new because you don’t recognize the top post)

    • Plumber says:

      I didn’t see anything saying “No culture war” and I’ve never seen a description of what is actually meant by “culture war” (I tried once to read the SSC Reddit “Culture War Round Up”, but I find reading Reddit hard on my eyes and quickly gave up).

      I did see:

      “…Post about anything you want, but please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics..”

      As far as I know the “hot button topics” ususlly described as such are: Abortion, Gay Marriage, and Gun Control, and I don’t remember if anyone discussed those in the last open thread.

      • fion says:

        As far as I know the “hot button topics” ususlly described as such are: Abortion, Gay Marriage, and Gun Control

        My impression is it’s a bit wider than that around here. I think discussion of racism, misogyny, transgender identities, social justice and immigration are all at risk of being CW. Also, anything that is polarised along political party lines (especially the US parties). The more emotional people get when discussing it, the more likely it is to be CW.

      • Deiseach says:

        I tried once to read the SSC Reddit “Culture War Round Up”

        Oh, God bless you! I comment over there betimes but yeah, it turns into a real slanging match (and that’s at the best of times, it can be a dumpster fire at its worst, not helped by trolls of various species dropping by to stir the pot). By contrast, on here at its worst and hottest is a haven of Austenian civility where even the barbs are couched in relatively moderate language.

        Probably best to keep clear of it unless you are extremely calm and even of temperament or prone to getting into fights with strangers on the Internet (guess which camp I fall into?) 🙂

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach

          “…Probably best to keep clear of it unless you are extremely calm and even of temperament…”

          Thank you very much for your kind advice Deisearch, I plan on following it!

        • brad says:

          It’s a little surprising that thread continues to exist.

          • Deiseach says:

            I wonder how much longer it will? The mods have made and continue to make noises about booting it off altogether, and depending how bad things get it might not continue to exist in its current form, or any form at all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deisach

            There’s a backup culture war group if the culture war thread goes away.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I’m one of the responsible people. In my case, I wasn’t sure what the rule was and whether it existed anymore or it had silently fallen in disuse.

    • JPNunez says:

      I feel the rule is a little silly; maybe on hidden, non CW threads, if a top level post says “CW allowed”, then all replies to that post should allow CW.

  30. LadyJane says:

    A critique of the populist right, the socialist left, and the establishment center: https://medium.com/@farrah_jane/three-roads-to-dystopia-814c7cdb5090

    • Erusian