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Open Thread 123.75

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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775 Responses to Open Thread 123.75

  1. ManyCookies says:

    Has any site tried a hidden upvote system, where you can upvote a comment but only the poster can see it? If so, did it create the same karma-whoring problems Reddit/Twitter have, or was public perception a big part of those effects?

    There’s a lot of great comments here that I want to acknowledge as such, but I don’t have anything to add to the conversation and I don’t want to spam the thread with some variant of “+1” (especially when the reply depth is reached).

    • helloo says:

      helloo and 23 other people liked this comment.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Hacker News has mostly-hidden votes. They can affect the ordering of the comments, and a low enough negative total will gray out or kill a comment, but in general only the owner of a comment can see the precise vote count of the comment.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      This seems related to the thing Gab is doing. They’re rolling out a browser extension that essentially gives every URL a comments page. On the one hand, that is a really clever and original idea the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time. On the other hand, it’s probably just going to wind up being non-stop racial slurs and ASCII goatse.

      • albatross11 says:

        So what would a good version of this look like? You’d need some minimal moderation to keep it from being taken over by spammers, scammers, malware vendors, and the like, and then some much harder moderation to keep it from being run into the ground by obsessive crazies (like the one or two who’ve basically turned Marginal Revolution’s comments into a cesspit) or some such thing. What I wish you could do is have some small N of comments you could make on these comment pages per month across the whole internet, along with an easy feature to mute users and see all comments by the same user. But that only works if you either bind users to human identities somehow, or charge enough money per user to discourage setting up 100 sockpuppet nyms to own the libs/deplatform the fash.

        • ManyCookies says:

          (like the one or two who’ve basically turned Marginal Revolution’s comments into a cesspit)

          Just from two people? Do tell.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s an idiot (maybe more than one) who posts profane rants using other peoples’ names, often basically killing off real conversations and driving some commenters away. There are also a few obsessives who basically always post some variation of the same message. It really doesn’t take that many people trying to disrupt a conversation before the conversation becomes more trouble than it’s worth–at some point, it’s like trying to have a serious conversation in a room where there’s a dog incessantly barking.

            It’s amazing how almost anything nice or worthwhile you create, if left undefended, sooner or later gets smashed by some jackass with a brick and nothing better to do.

          • Nornagest says:

            Eugene Nier was arguably responsible for finishing off the first iteration of Less Wrong, although it was well into its decline by then (thanks to some boneheaded administrative moves and most of the interesting people having left to post on their own blogs, Facebook, or Tumblr).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Other People: Ruining Everything Since 50,000B.C.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            Before that, it was other hominids.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            It took a population of four people before it was too many and one of them murdered another.

            Not much has changed since then.

          • Aapje says:

            Everything went wrong when multicellular life came along. One cell should be enough for everyone.

          • helloo says:

            Ha! Don’t think we’ve just forgotten your enslavement of mitochondria and other plasmids.

            Everything should have just stopped at self-replicating proteins.

          • Lambert says:

            In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

  2. ManyCookies says:

    As the 100%-approval chief adviser of the United States, you feel many of the state’s boundaries are historical artifacts that don’t capture modern interests. California and Texas are huge kludges of competing locales that marginalizes groups, there’s just no reason to separate the Dakotas, why the heck does Oklahoma have that gaudy panhandle, it goes on and on. With the full enthusiastic cooperation of the state and federal governments, how would you change and refactor the state boundaries for these modern times?

    (Let’s assume you modify the Electoral College and Senate rules so this doesn’t become “Divide my favored area into 500 micro-states so my interests always win the presidency/senate”.)

    The non-Americans can play along with their own country’s provinces/districts if they want.

    • mendax says:

      Well, xkcd has some suggestions, for anyone who hasn’t seen them yet.

      • benwave says:

        Reminds me of the series of maps of Europe, dividing into butter/olive oil Europe, beer/wine Europe etc…

      • Matt says:

        From the xkcd: “Why should Florida get Alabama’s coastline? It has plenty”

        I live in Alabama now and what I’ve been told is that when Alabama was formed, it decided it didn’t want that coastline (nothing but worthless swamp!) so ‘we’ just took the port in Mobile.

        Now all that land is incredibly valuable beach-front property, of course.

        • acymetric says:

          That is a fun folksy explanation and I’m sure it is common, but it is not exactly correct…Alabama doesn’t have that coastline because the United States did not own that part of Florida when Alabama was formed.

      • Nornagest says:

        If you calculated something like this using travel times rather than geographical distance, that would do a better job of capturing natural boundaries. I’d also use biggest city rather than capital, since the capitals of a lot of states are small to medium-sized cities that’re relatively insignificant to their culture and economy.

        • Well... says:

          Travel times change. New roads, population changes, transportation methods, speed limit adjustments, etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure. But given a choice between a metric that’s reasonably accurate now but will get slowly less so over time, and one that we know has big problems today, I know which I’d pick.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah right, like Ohio’s going to give Toledo to Michigan without a fight.

        • Well... says:

          You mean with Michigan instigating because they don’t want Toledo dumped on them?

          • AlphaGamma says:

            I have a theory that many of the arguments in England about the exact boundary between North and South* (which usually take the form of Northerners insisting that the North is smaller) are because neither side wants Grimsby.

            *In practice there isn’t really a boundary because the Midlands exist- although some Northerners use this to insist that obviously Northern places like Manchester are in fact in the Midlands. I have heard the boundary claimed as everywhere from Hadrian’s Wall to the Solent.

        • Maybe the next incident will involve two stabbings!

          Toledo War

      • Lambert says:

        Actually, I want to watch the world burn.

        Every point in america is now part of the state whose capital is the *second* closest.
        Sucks to be Hawaii.

      • johan_larson says:

        Interesting. That’s actually a pretty good fit in some cases. Florida, New Mexico, and Michigan don’t change much.

        • CatCube says:

          A lot of the western states had their capitals chosen to be relatively close to the center of the state, because that was the best way for them to exercise effective control when dudes on horseback were the primary method of moving people around the state. That’s why you have a lot of “backwater” towns as state capitals, rather than the biggest city in the state (Lansing vs. Detroit, Jefferson City vs. St. Louis, Salem vs. Portland, though that last one was chosen as centered on the economically- and demographically-important Willamette Valley, rather than the whole state of Oregon.)

          This ability to control is also why some of the states are odd shapes. For example, Idaho was supposed to have more of what is now Montana and not have a weird panhandle, but the border got moved before statehood so the Continental Divide didn’t run through the state, cutting off the eastern portion from Boise. There had been some serious law-enforcement issues in New England by state borders on the other side of divides leading to some really lawless little towns shoved in an out-of-the way corner of their state. (I want to say that Vermont and New Hampshire had this problem?)

          Of course, you have a lot of the middle states in the Great Plains divided up by latitude and longitude lines where there was no dividing geography. “How the States got their Shapes” was a pretty good read on the topic, though I felt it ran out of gas about 2/3 of the way through. I might pull it up on my Kindle on the train to see which New England states had this issue.

        • Nornagest says:

          The triple state boundary in the middle of the Los Angeles metro area is going to be a problem, though.

    • rlms says:

      E V E N L Y – S P A C E D R E C T A N G U L A R G R I D

      • Douglas Knight says:

        EVENLY-SPACED RECTANGULAR GRID

        FTFY

        • helloo says:

          EVENLY
          SPACED
          RECTAN
          GULAR
          GRIDED
          STATES

    • cassander says:

      I don’t have a particular map in mind, but I think I’d consolidate into 10ish regional blocks in the hopes that making the states larger and fewer in number would increase their power vis a vis the feds by making it easier for them to strike deals among themselves, make them less dependent on the feds, and to create raise the salience of state identity.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Interesting. Most border-adjusting discussions I’ve seen have been around dividing the super-states (see Plumber below), not consolidating smaller ones. Obviously you can have much more sensibly drawn super-states than California, but even for like-minded areas you don’t think the state government might get a little distant from some local interests?

        • cassander says:

          making the states larger makes them more self sufficient, but also harder for any one faction to dominate. California would have more sensible politics if it also had voters from oregon, washington, nevada, and arizona. And their leaders would have more power relative to the federal government.

          At least, that’s the theory. Not 100% sure I buy into it.

      • herbert herberson says:

        I’d take it one further and have five states. To answer ManyCookie’s response to you, I think the geographical distance from a capital is pretty unimportant in the information age, and would rather have genuine, cohesive identities within these states. And as proof for this, I offer the fact that apart from some edge cases (the Dakotas, AZ/NM, Missouri, West Virginia) you already know pretty exactly what my five states would look like.

        • Plumber says:

          @herbert herberson

          “…apart from some edge cases (the Dakotas, AZ/NM, Missouri, West Virginia) you already know pretty exactly what my five states would look like…”

          Thd four “folkways” in Albion’s Seed, and one more for Cajun’s or Spanish speakers?

        • quanta413 says:

          I think I have a rough idea how to make those cuts but I originally wanted to make 6 instead of 5.

          Personally, I’d merge CA from LA on south, Southern NV, AZ, NM, and Texas into a big southwestern state. I’ll call it New New Mexico.

          California North of LA merges with Oregon and Washington to become the Northwest coast.

          Northern Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado become the Mountain State.

          North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio become the greater Midwest.

          Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, and the Virginias become the South.

          The rest become the greater Northeast.

          Merging the Northwest coast into New New Mexico and the Mountain State probablly makes sense so that gets us down to 5.

          • herbert herberson says:

            The only difference I’d make is put Texas in the South and leave Cali whole. Pacifica, Mountain, Midwest, South, and Northeast. If I were going with 6, I’d probably do pretty much exactly what you did.

            Kind of fun to think about how a ten member Senate would work–Vice President would become a much more powerful/important office. The EC would be a shitshow if you didn’t do Maine/Nebraska-style proportional representation, though

          • quanta413 says:

            Whether to put Texas in the South or New New Mexico or split it was a pretty arbitrary call on my part. Mostly I was too lazy to figure out if Texas maybe needed a split. I got out a topographic map to help me figure out the cutoff between Mountain and Midwest, but I didn’t look at a map of population and only used history as I could remember it.

            The swinginess of nonproportional representation would be briefly hilarious, but I agree. It’d be really unwise to do winner takes all with only 5 or 6 states.

    • Plumber says:

      @ManyCookies,
      Well, I really want California sub divided ’cause I like my government up close, so a state that contains San Francisco (where I work) and Alameda County (where I reside) with as few other counties that I can get away with.
      I suppose add as many new “Red states” as new “Blue States” so neither side bellyaches more than if one or the other was favored, and how one divides the state may easily accomplish either.

      Otherwise use Colin Woodard’s different cultural “American Nations” map (which borrowed a lot from Albion’s Seed) as a starting point.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Use river watersheds as my starting point. That would probably make for more economically-coherent units than using rivers themselves as the dividing lines.

      • CatCube says:

        That’s how US Army Engineer Districts are divided up to manage civil works. The yellow diamonds indicate the cities where the districts are headquartered (and after which they are named); the colors on the map show how the 43 individual districts are grouped into Divisions. (Some districts are non-US, like Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, etc.)

    • johan_larson says:

      I would base the new state borders on the currently existing cities, and their actual hinterlands based on travel for business, pleasure, and work. So there would be a New York State (based on metropolitan New York), a Los Angeles State, and so on down to a Portland State and maybe a San Jose State.

      I can only imagine the sort of upheaval and political chaos actually doing something like this would cause. It’s terrible. And wonderful. Pass the popcorn.

      • The Nybbler says:

        San Jose State already exists; it is a feeder for Apple. Portland State exists too, I think it mostly produces culture war, giving a mild scare to Penn State alumni until they realize it’s the other PSU.

        Jokes aside, there’s the issue of nearby cities. Do you cut twin cities in half, or make them one metropolitan area? What about merely nearby cities, like Baltimore and Washington? Is there a rump New Jersey based around Atlantic City, or does it just get divided between Philly and NYC?

        And of course you’ve set up for a perfect Red Tribe/Blue Tribe battleground in every state.

      • johan_larson says:

        And here’s an indication of how the country would be divided by following this scheme: https://www.wired.com/2016/12/mesmerizing-commute-maps-reveal-live-mega-regions-not-cities/

        California would be divided into San Francisco, LA, San Diego, and possibly Fresno and Eureka, if we’re willing to chop things up that small.

        • Plumber says:

          @johan_larson,
          It looks like in that scheme a few less states on the east coast and many more on the west coast, but on balance not many more states.

          Make it so!

    • bugsbycarlin says:

      (My apologies if this triple posts)

      I start from the idea that land partitioning is a special case of “ontologies are dumb”, and accept that I cannot get it right. There will be marginalized groups.

      Many states are outdated as you say, but it’s of equal importance to me that the United States is too big to govern. I would partition some new *countries*, and suggest potential sub-states to those countries.

      First, the three west coast states are divided unnaturally, in a way that increases tension. I would divide everything west of the peaks of the mountain ranges (Cascades in the north, California Coast, Transverse, and Peninsular ranges in the south) into a new West Coast country, and since this is an urban region, I would suggest five states centered around the five major urban centers (Seattle, Portland, Bay Area, LA Area, San Diego) as well as two more states in the largest interstitial spaces. I would advise these states to give up trying to balance urban and rural concerns and just lean heavily into the preferences of the urban centers.

      In the Great Basin, I get the sense that political and social concerns are dominated by land shape and resources, with the exceptions of Las Vegas and Utah.

      So I would make Las Vegas into a free city state. I would let Utah be a landlocked country, and let it expand to everything that’s culturally Mormon, taking over parts of western Colorado, Southern Idaho, and Wyoming.

      I would partition everything else west of the Laramide Belt (Rockies, as well as Sacramento and Guadalupe ranges in New Mexico) into one country, and I would suggest partitioning into sub-states based on water sources. Note this region would include El Paso, all the populous parts of New Mexico, and Arizona.

      Colorado just east of the Rockies (along I-25) is a special place and I’d offer it the choice to be a country or a state in whichever neighboring region it chose. I suspect it would choose to be a country.

      The great plains from western Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas, as far south as the Red River, and west to include the Texas Panhandle and territory as far south as Midland and Abilene, eastern New Mexico, far eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming, eastern Montana, North and South Dakota, I would form into another landlocked country, and suggest partitioning into states along very regular lines, with divisions about half the size of current states or less. There is no real reason to respect natural geography in dividing these states (eg the Missouri river). One of the few purely political issues I will address here: I would completely strike all deals which
      guaranteed Iowa (or Iowa’s successor states) any political early mover status. No more early Iowa, as it is a source of constant tension to all other states.

      The upper Midwest in a V from Minneapolis to Indianapolis to Detroid and possibly Cleveland I would make into another country. Where there are major cities that straddle traditional state borders (like Cincinatti and Chicago) I would recommend new lines be drawn so that new states fully encompassed the metropolitan areas of those cities.

      I’m not sure what I would do with southern Illinois, eastern Missouri, and north-eastern Arkansas. I don’t understand these places. I suppose I would give them the option to petition to join neighboring countries.

      Without the western third of the state, Texas would actually make great sense to me as a single country, from Laredo and Dallas down to the coast. I would shave off the far northeast corner (Tyler, Carthage and surrounding areas) and give these to Louisiana. I would not recommend the resulting country of Texas partition into sub-states. It functions much better in a state of mild economic and political tension.

      I would partition The South (Mississipi river and east, as far north as Kentucky and Virginia) into *two* countries, the Gulf Coast South and the Upper South, with a dividing line essentially through the middle of MI, AL, and GA, putting Birmingham and Atlanta in the Upper and all of Louisiana in the Gulf Goast. I think these two regions should have separate identities in tension with each other rather than a united identity in tension with the rest of the country, and they’re economically distinct. As for the sub-states, I would recommend a truly large number of micro-states, centered around towns and townships. Macon, Columbus, and Augusta should be separate states from Atlanta, for example.

      I would slice Florida south of Jacksonville and make it a new country.

      I would mark the Appalachians from Virginia to southern Pennsylvania as a wild stateless territory and let it self organize. I’m genuinely not kidding. Cities on the border of West Virginia such as Huntington and Morgantown are essentially too urban for this, and I would attach each of them to the geographically closest new country (eg the upper midwest for Huntington).

      I would make the DC to Boston corridor into a single country, suggesting states based on metro areas. I would make Pittsburg to Buffalo to Albany into a second country, possibly including Cleveland, and I’m not sure how it would best be partitioned.

      I would make New England *outside of Boston and Connecticut* into one country, probably along existing state lines, as while they’re historical artifacts, the local residents seem to love them in a healthy we-love-our-history way rather than an unhealthy cling-to-the-past way.

      Hawaii would be a country again, and Alaska would go to Canada, who could elect to accept or expel the Alaskan Americans.

      Where the borders aren’t already clear, my decision criteria are these:

      (1) Cultural homogeneity. No monoculture should straddle a country or state line. Utah gets expanded, Upper Appalachia gets expanded.

      (2) Economic continuity, eg the DC/Boston corridor isn’t culturally homogenous but it is economically interdependent, so it stays as a unit.

      (3) Geography only where it really matters (ie in the west, or on very strong features in the east, which have already typically determined cultural homogeneity, such as the Gulf Coast or Appalachia).

      Thanks, this was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!

      • ManyCookies says:

        Glad you had some fun. 🙂

        Your reorganizations look reasonable, but making some outright separate countries and dissolving the union seems super iffy. As dysfunctional as the federal government can be there’s a lot of utility in being a unified world power, and for all the friction our differences make there’s a lot of cultural similarities that’d be a shame to let go of (for morale and avoiding that costly inner conflict, for instance).

    • Eric Rall says:

      As a first principle, I’d try to roughly equalize the populations of the new states so they cluster around 5 million people. This is both the current median state population, and it strikes me as decent balance between having a manageable number of usefully-sided states (avoiding an HRE-style crazy-quilt of microjuristictions) and having states be small enough to for the government to be relatively legible to its citizens and to give us latitude to carve out separate states for communities with disparate interests.

      5 million also may be a sweet spot in terms of representative democracy operating efficiently. If you have 5 million citizens, that lets you have a legislature smaller than Dunbar’s Number with about 35k citizens per district, or about 14k household per district. Dunbar’s Number is significant since exceeding it tends to exacerbate factionalism (since with a factional mindset you only need to keep track of relationships within your faction, making the number of relationships more manageable.) and make it difficult for individual members to have a meaningful influence on the debate. And small districts make it viable to run a winning campaign by talking to voters in small group settings, rather than relying on a combination of party establishment backing, partisanship as a voting heuristic, and advertising campaigns.

      If you hadn’t specified that the Electoral College and Senate have already been reformed, that’d be another benefit of targeting roughly equal state populations: the Senate and Electoral College are much less malapportioned to population if the states are all about the same size.

      First, clean up the low-population states by merging them with their neighbors. We’ll be splitting some of them back off later, but this raises the floor and gives us bigger states to split up (allowing more nuanced divisions). This step is optional if we’re assuming the EC and Senate have already been reformed, since the cost of having a few super-small states is much less without that.

      Second, carve out new states for each major metropolitan area. Start with the core urban county/counties, and then add the most urban adjoining counties until you run out of relatively urban adjoining counties or you get a state size you’re happy with. New York City would make a state just from the Five Boroughs (about 8.5 million people). Likewise, Los Angeles County (~10M) and Cook County (~5M) would be states all by themselves.

      For metro areas around smaller cities, you’ll get a cluster of counties. For example, starting with San Jose, CA (Santa Clara County), you might add Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and San Francisco for a total population of 6.2M. Effectively, pretty close to Plumber’s proposed state of SF, Alameda, and a couple other counties to tie them together.

      The reason for this is a combination of keeping core metro areas together (so one government has jurisdiction over a relatively coherent area with shared interests) and splitting states along urban/rural lines (there being a current pattern and a frequent historical pattern of politics splitting along urban/rural lines with suburban counties potentially breaking either way).

      For remaining states that are big enough to be worth splitting, look for convenient geographic and cultural fault lines. For example, Virginia might get split between the Tidewater region and the inland portions of the state (possibly including current West Virginia, if we decided to merge that back into VA as part of the small-state-cleanup effort), and the Rump California remaining after splitting off the urban states (San Jose+SF+Oakland, Los Angeles, Sacramento+neighboring counties, and Orange+San Diego+Riverside) might still be big enough to make 4-5 relatively-rural states (probably split on some combination of inland vs coastal and North vs Central vs South).

  3. Nick says:

    Tangent to something I just mentioned on 123.5: university core curricula.

    Good? Bad? Did your university have one? How big was it?

    My university’s core was ~64 credits, which is half the credits students are likely to take. It had requirements like two theology classes (one of them 101), three philosophy classes (one of them 101), at least one lab science, at least one marked “diversity,” and at least one marked “non-Western civilizations.” (That’s not all of the reqs, but it’s pretty representative.) Sometimes there’s overlap with your major, like for theology or philosophy majors obviously, which was fine. Sometimes people tested out of them due to AP credit or something. Most folks fulfilled most requirements in their first two years; English composition and speech were really common among freshman. There was also a First Year Seminar whose content was largely up to the professor; mine was mostly about education.

    I like the idea of a core, but the results for me were mixed. I mentioned last thread that when your 101 class is oriented to non-majors, it’s common for it to be made really easy, which makes them a bore and a waste of time. And yes, I heard a lot of talk from students freshman year about which professors were easiest for theology 101. My theology 101 class was terrible—the teacher was some poor adjunct who didn’t know what she was doing, and I’d had 12 years of Catholic schooling including world religions, so I got nothing whatsoever out of it. But my worst was philosophy 101. I wanted to replace it with an upper level class that didn’t bore me to tears, but the department head insisted that allowing that would be “too complicated.” So I got stuck with this New Agey “science lover” who went off on tangents every other class about psychic Indians and the bottom of the ocean being so dark because the particles disappear.

    I’m not convinced those are necessarily problems with core curricula, of course. The university could just be more lax with exceptions, though I’ve heard this can have unintended consequences—students who insist they’re prepared to take an upper level class doing poorly and then surviving off of office hours for the next four months. It also raises questions about your curriculum if lots of people are trying to circumvent it. Making classes impossible to fail isn’t something caused by core curricula either, though it does mean 101 classes are pointless even for prospective majors. And for every student who gets really interested in or a much needed lesson from a subject the core required, there are ten trying anything to avoid being contaminated by knowledge. Is the tradeoff worth it? I don’t know.

    • Clutzy says:

      I love the idea of “the core” but it is consistently done in a way that systematically fails to actually give “liberal arts” majors rigorous and diverse learning, whereas it compels the math-heavy majors to spend a significant amount of time in those liberal arts classes. I’m fine with a core like yours being the beginning.

      two theology classes (one of them 101), three philosophy classes (one of them 101), at least one lab science, at least one marked “diversity,” and at least one marked “non-Western civilizations.”

      But it should also require at least 2 mathematics courses (you don’t start getting credit until calc 1 and 2), and at least 2 hard science classes. None of which should be special, “physics for english majors” or “statistics for XXX majors” classes which are notoriously easy. They should have to sit in the same classrooms, with the same curves as the Engineers and Physics students, just like they sit in the classroom with freshman Psych and English majors.

      • C_B says:

        Have you been in math-heavy classes that were forced to include both actual math people and distribution requirement people? I took a biomedical engineering course like this where half the students were engineers and the other half were cogpsych/neuro people (not even humanities people, just less math-focused science people!), and it was a terrible experience for everyone. The engineers had their time wasted by the professor constantly having to explain stuff they already knew, and the brain science people spent the whole class playing catch-up.

        Do others have better experiences with this?

        • albatross11 says:

          I had an intro programming class that was an utter joke to me (it was my third or fourth programming language) and an intro sociology class that could not have been more phoned-in without the professor literally putting a phone in the auditorium and calling from home to deliver his lectures. Later I had a Fortran class that was for some reason full of upperclassmen in engineering who I guess hadn’t learned to program before, and I p-ssed the professor off by basically never showing up for class except to turn in assignments or take tests and still getting a good grade. (At that point, it was probably my 6th or 7th programming language). And I had an accounting class where I was the time-serving DGAF student.

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems like the right solution there would be to teach the class in two parts: the monday/wednesday/friday class that teaches the actual material, and the tuesday/thursday class that teaches the mathematical background. Let people opt out of the math background class if they have enough math credits or whatever.

        • Clutzy says:

          Isn’t that kind of the point of a core curricula? To force people to actually prove they are a person with broad knowledge worthy of a degree. If these kids are constantly sputtering and failing in Calc 1, they don’t deserve a degree. Just like an engineering student who can’t pass US History 101 or Psych 101.

          • Randy M says:

            If you really want to restrict degrees, in everything from critical studies to history, to liberal arts (aka, teacher training) to art history, to those who can pass calculus 101… well, that’s going to be one way to cut down the power of the education-industrial complex, so I’ll support you on that.

            For practicality, I’d say maybe statistics would be a better criteria.

          • Clutzy says:

            Stats is fine, but that is one class. We dont let engineers take only English lit 101.

          • albatross11 says:

            The question I always have about that is: where do you want to put the restriction point? Why is calculus more reasonable as a cutoff for “smart enough for a college degree” than differential equations or basic algebra?

          • Clutzy says:

            Because math programs don’t start giving their core students credit for courses before that. Why dont we let math students take remedial courses for their “diverse” classes.

            And personally I’m fine with Diff EQ as an option. But good luck with that if you cant pass calc 1.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If you did that, you’d find that the liberal arts majors couldn’t pass the math and hard science classes. The whole STEMLord narrative would collapse.

        I don’t think this would be a bad thing, but it should be clear why universities wouldn’t do it.

        • woah77 says:

          This, to be honest. I find a lot of people who like to scoff at STEM also can’t parse a single math/science thing I say. (This was especially true while I was in college). If you make people have to gain basic science competency you have to be prepared for larger percentages of them to fail out.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, I agree that it’s frustrating when people seem to take pride in their ignorance of math/science, and even more frustrating when verbally adept decisionmakers make huge errors because they don’t get math/science very well. But that seems like it suggests the need for better general-ed classes w.r.t. science/math/stats, so that people who are going to end up working mainly with words and ideas routinely learn enough to at least think clearly in those areas, know what makes sense and what doesn’t, etc.

            Maybe this isn’t possible. It’s pretty clear that requiring a kid with an IQ of 90 to pass algebra 2 is unreasonable, and maybe there’s something like that w.r.t. math and science. But I doubt it. I suspect that most people bright enough to belong at college (maybe half or a quarter of the kids who go) can learn enough of this stuff to be able to think clearly about it, even if they aren’t going to become scientists or engineers or statisticians or mathematicians themselves.

          • woah77 says:

            One would think. It strikes me as both silly and rather detrimental to be training, for example, teachers who can’t follow the kinds of math needed to actually parse the world around them. Many only have to take calculus I which is, in my opinion, barely useful. Are humanity subjects useful, absolutely. Do they trump science in terms of usefulness for daily life? I’m far less certain. Usefulness of humanities is being able to draw parallels between historical things (literature, history, architecture, etc) and current things (similar list of things). The current paradigm seems to encourage a focus on ignoring empirical and repeatable evidence, which in my mind only contributes to further anti-science based movements.

            It seems to me that colleges used to be a place to enhance your understanding of the world, but have now become either a job or ideological training ground. Which strikes me as inefficient compared to their design and potentially harmful to the society they’re supposed to be assisting.

          • albatross11 says:

            For actual usefulness in daily life, I’d say actually going back and making sure everyone gets algebra well enough to use it, plus maybe a basic logic course and a couple classes on statistics centered on being a user rather than producer of statistics would probably be pretty useful. Calculus mostly isn’t–I think the argument here roughly parallels what Ben Franklin argued about studying practical vs classical languages in school. Or rather, what’s useful from calculus is getting the idea of integration and derivatives and limits, rather than most of what you actually study in calc. (But that’s probably true of many subjects–you master the specific stuff so you can get the more general ideas and retain them later. But calculus class involved a whole lot of memorization of rules/formulas, which is never going to be anything but a grind.).

          • Nick says:

            Tangential, but I think learning classical languages actually is helpful in a way that learning modern languages often isn’t. When I had a question about participles in Spanish, I couldn’t even find a speaker who knew what a participle is. And translating something well requires you to know English grammar, like knowing the difference between perfect and simple past, which makes you a better speaker and writer.

          • woah77 says:

            Calculus is one of the classes that I think is taught completely wrong and loses a great amount of value by being taught the way it is. (or at least it was at my college and in several textbooks I’ve seen). They start by teaching you tons of methods and formula for doing derivations and integrations (which are neat and all, but in the end useless) and breeze past the analysis and connections that calculus allows. In general, calculus isn’t directly used by anyone except physicists and mathematicians (or at least as far as I’ve seen), but it underlies a lot of the technology and science that everyone uses. So using the disc method to find the volume of something? Completely and utterly useless to just about everyone. Understanding that volumes can be calculated using an integral? really valuable.

            It’s like a digital signal processing class I took my senior year. We had to do Discrete Time Fourier Transforms by hand. Never in a million years should I be doing a DTFT by hand. That part of the class is utterly useless, because anytime I’m going to use a DTFT I’ll be doing it for a computer, and therefore I’ll have a computer. But being able to read the equations and understand what they are telling me? That’s useful for all kinds of situations.

          • Matt says:

            So using the disc method to find the volume of something? Completely and utterly useless to just about everyone. Understanding that volumes can be calculated using an integral? really valuable.

            I use calculus regularly, but I’m not tracking you here. How is it valuable to understand that volumes can be calculated using an integral? To a non-STEM person, or maybe to me in a non-STEM context? Something else?

          • DinoNerd says:

            @albatross11

            single anecdatum – I know a person with a humanities doctorate, who insists she’s never have graduated from college in the American system, as calculus would have been beyond her. As it happens, she’s competent at arithmetic, but sees herself as more or less incompetent there too. But she’d probably count as a disability case, not as ‘too stupid” or ‘too lazy” to learn – but maybe “far too panicky”.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think most colleges require calculus to graduate. Maybe that’s changed since I was in college, but back then most people just had to pass algebra.

          • albatross11 says:

            My sense of what an educated person is (in the US anyway) in terms of humanities and culture turns heavily on having read a lot of books, and having a passing familiarity with the high points of Western culture and history. But my guess is that reading a lot of books, including some fairly high quality ones, is more important to being educated as I’d think of it than having had 101 level classes in a dozen subjects.

          • Clutzy says:

            @woah 77

            Calculus is one of the classes that I think is taught completely wrong and loses a great amount of value by being taught the way it is. (or at least it was at my college and in several textbooks I’ve seen). They start by teaching you tons of methods and formula for doing derivations and integrations (which are neat and all, but in the end useless) and breeze past the analysis and connections that calculus allows.

            If we were to create a mini-stem core curriculum for humanities students it probably should go Calc1>Physics> Elective of higher math/physics/chemistry. Calc without physics causes people to not really understand it. The best real world example of calc is acceleration > velocity > position, and once you comprehend that and see it on a graph you should be able to understand the real world application of most of it. Good calc understanding makes understanding much of the world much easier as you can often apply it to any graph you see to see if the graph maker is a liar.

            And I generally disagree with the need for more real world applications in math, because word problems are not proven to be effective in the least, and rote memorization of things like d/dx sin (x) = cos (x) actually really helps you understand what the concepts are if you pair it with graphs. Everything in calc is paired with graphs when introduced. So its incredibly real already.

        • dndnrsn says:

          In the defence of the liberal arts types – I remember in the “science for humanities/humanities for science” course, an engineering student sounding shocked and intimidated at writing a 2-page response paper. Then after the first essay (6-8 pages or so) a whole bunch of the class dropped the course.

          I was mildly horrified, because my belief was always that the engineering types were smarter than us humanities majors. After all, they build bridges, I can’t build a bridge, so they must be smarter than me. QED. But they can’t even write an essay? How then can they be trusted to build bridges?

          • Nornagest says:

            What, seriously? The class I took for my English composition requirement was a tech writing course, and I couldn’t get out of that one without writing a thirty-page doc. Six to eight pages was standard for my other humanities requirements, the ones I wasn’t getting composition credit for.

            I might be more interested in writing than your average CS major (honestly I kind of miss having to come up with something thought-provoking every week or so), but I don’t know who these engineers are that’re getting scared off by two pages.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, I was baffled.

            For me, the hardest part of the course was memorizing science facts. For a brief, beautiful moment, I had some idea of how magnets worked.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When and where I went to school there were “science for non-science” and “math for non-math” classes, but no “humanities for non-humanities” classes. So yes, we had to write essays just like the rest.

          • Nornagest says:

            My favorite breadth class was a planetary geology course. I don’t even remember what requirement I was trying to fill with it — can’t have been “physical science”, I took a physics series — but it was the most “I Fucking Love Science” class I’ve ever taken, in a good way. Six hours a week talking about Galileo and Cassini images.

          • John Schilling says:

            But they can’t even write an essay? How then can they be trusted to build bridges?

            Those engineers can’t, at least not anything more than a footbridge over a koi pond. Serious bridges are a collaborative effort, and that requires serious communication skills at every level but the very bottom. Granted, writing an eight-page technical report isn’t exactly the same as an eight-page humanities essay, but anyone who can do one can do the other if they understand the underlying content.

            And while I’d like to believe that every college which issues accredited engineering degrees will teach (and flunk out those who fail to learn) decent writing skills, I also and per corporate policy require a writing sample of anyone who wants to work for me.

          • woah77 says:

            I wish my company did documentation. I might have a better understanding of how things were supposed to work if engineers that came before me had actually written down all of the intricacies of how our machines work.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            This is indeed a useful skill. “Communication” is a requirement for so many positions because almost every position requires collaboration in one form or another. I spend a large chunk of my day just creating reports (and I can listen to March Madness while I do it), but those reports are useless without:
            1. Spending maybe 20-30 minutes a day talking about said reports.
            2. Putting the upfront time in to determine WHAT the reports needed to include.

            Without that, I’m just manipulating numbers.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Communication is a vital skill. I don’t think it’s one I’ve learned from any high-school english or college gen-ed classes. How does writing a 5-page paper on Shakespeare or The Iliad teach me to communicate technical engineering decisions? If I can’t stretch some bs regurgitation of what the professor said about gender roles in ancient Greece and Rome sprinkled with inane quotes about the number of concubines promised to Achilles to reach 5 pages, does that really indicate a failure in my bridge-building skills?

          • Clutzy says:

            That is an incredibly weird anecdote, and it cannot possibly be generally true. If it were my engineering department (and at least a half dozen others that my HS friends/brother) would not have excluded those classes for your “real GPA” when calculating if you get to keep your scholarship, unless it was lower, then they get to count.

            Plus, 8 pages is a laughable requirement. Those people were dropping out of all classes more likely than not.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It was a weird anecdote – which is why I remember it. This was at a school with, as I understand it, a good engineering program. Possibly relevant is that the engineers there make a big joke about how illiterate they are – but this might be the case everywhere. Probably it was just a coincidence that the engineers afraid of a shortish essay were overrepresented in that tutorial of that course. It was still weird.

          • quanta413 says:

            That is weird. I had to take my humanities courses with the humanities majors at my college.

            My father once said the ranking in humanities classes typically goes: the best humanities students (say 10-20%) > the science and engineering students > the rest of the humanities students. That was my experience in college as well.

            One thing I think didn’t work well in retrospect is that I learned to write history papers, literature essays, etc. in school but that didn’t transfer as well to other types of writing as I would hope. I had very few courses where I had to write technical reports or documentation. I feel doing most of my writing for humanities classes left me somewhat unprepared. I had a few ~5 page lab reports I had to write and one class in scientific and technical writing. It might’ve been a better use of time in the long run if I had a few more classes involving technical and scientific writing and a few less on abstruse theoretical topics in math and physics.

          • toastengineer says:

            I am the “can’t even write eight pages” guy. I don’t understand how anyone completed those assignments (judging by the peer review parts of the class, I doubt anyone did.)

            How the fuck am I supposed to waste eight, or even two, pages about this historical figure who, yeah, was a pretty cool dude, but didn’t actually do anything, or believe in much of anything? He was born, he sent letters to some other famous people, he got on a boat for a while, he tried to invent the public library but the government told him he was dumb and to fuck off, his house burned down, then he died. There’s my essay.

            Or, how the fuck am I supposed to write eight pages about this book that is so badly written (translated?) that I can’t even tell where scenes begin and end? Some guy is jerking off on the wreck of a WWI minelayer with his buddies, then he receives the Iron Cross. I’m sure the author had all sorts of intended layers of meaning or whatever, but I sure as hell can’t find any, and I don’t see how this has anything to do with my ability to write technical documentation.

    • Randy M says:

      I had a core curriculum that was about half of my courses during Fresh & Soph years, and maybe about a quarter the final two years. It included sociology, philosophy, writing, literature, 2 Bible classes, a foreign language or other language elective, speech/rhetoric, world history, and phys ed/fitness. There’s no hard science or math on that list because I majored in bio/chem so I never had to care about the general ed requirements for such. The upside of them was that I got to have classes with friends from outside my major. They tended to be quite easy for me, but I was good at school and they were intro classes.

      There were also some elective requirements, which I fulfilled with a course on Kurt Vonnegut and a couple extra years of Tae Kwon Do. I don’t regret any courses I had, although if I’d had a freer hand and more foresight I done some things differently, such as finishing the Chem major with the two courses I didn’t have, and finding some room for Neuroscience and the Sci-fi & culture class that my “communications” major friend was in. (I’m still not sure what a communications major is. Scuttlebutt was they had the easiest courses except for film crit which involved the dreaded fifty page critique paper.) But over 18 credits cost extra and I wasn’t familiar with auditing courses.

      I’m torn about the matter. On the one hand, part of why you go to college is because you don’t know what you don’t know, and you are asking them to take the responsibility of educating you based on their credentials.
      On the other hand, it’s now (and even in 2000 when I was attending) stupidly expensive and they should be doing whatever they can to allow you to get out with as little time wasted as possible. But the sainted colleges have incentives in the wrong direction from students in that regard.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think the good justification for required classes is the idea that educated people ought to have some background knowledge of the world–probably that means a history class or two, a literature class or two, something in the fine arts, maybe a philosophy class, etc.

        But in practice, it seems like a lot of these classes are taught by adjuncts/grad students or at best by whichever professor drew the short straw this year, and often the professors just don’t care very much. And often the students don’t care much, either, since they’re stuck taking some class they don’t want to take just to get their piece of paper. It’s not crazy to me that someone who’s going to college to become an elementary school teacher or nurse doesn’t want to be stuck taking a philosophy class or a fine-arts class that maybe has nothing to do with their interests or plans for the future.

        • Randy M says:

          I agree that having people well educated in a variety of fields is an advantage, but not of value commensurate with the price. I believe that plenty of students would opt out of these classes if they realized the cost upfront and had the option to reduce the time served to 3 or 2 years, while still retaining a degree respected by employers, etc.

          And I think that the educators would say that society benefits when professionals have a background of diverse (drink!) skills. But I don’t think it is fair to have young people pay for this benefit up front as a requisite for employment, especially since the only reason they didn’t learn the information in High School was because of the idiots wasting everyone’s time that were stuck into their classes with them.

    • rlms says:

      Seems like another weird American idea to me.

    • tempman says:

      Harvey Mudd’s is 1/3 of all credits and includes 1 semester each of systems engineering and computer science, 1.5 semesters each of [humanities and the arts] and biology, 2 semesters of chemistry, 3 semesters of math, and 3 semesters of physics, counting a lab as a “half-semester” (despite occurring at the same time as other classes). Chemistry and the half-semester of humanities were awful, the first because the professors were old grouches who gave no fucks and the second because the curriculum was very much “writing techniques” and very much not “writing” and I hated it.

      Overall they did a good job of making core about niche but important parts of each discipline, which meant that most people actually learned in those classes. Tracking students also helped, and the differences between upper and lower tracks ended up being only a couple weeks’ worth of instruction by the end (where it was probably an entire high school AP semester’s worth at the beginning).

      Humanities courses were otherwise required but elective, and I managed to take only interesting ones.

      Engineering also had a common core of 3 semesters of systems engineering and 1 semester each of thermo, mechanical (meaning structural plus a little static fluids), digital electronics, analog electronics, and materials, plus 1 design class, 1 experimental techniques class, and half an engineering math class. Thermo was awful, but anyone who enjoys thermo is weird. Experimental techniques was awful because I eventually became depressed and stressed enough to stop crying myself to sleep at night. All of those classes have been useful.

    • 10240 says:

      Hungary: We had a basic economy course, a course about the EU, and some course about quality control (or something similar), for 1 credit each. They were easy. Nobody cared about them more than necessary.

      IMO primary and secondary education should be (more than) enough generic education. (There are things I would add to or remove from that generic curriculum, but it should fit into primary and secondary education.) The European model where tertiary education is (almost) completely about the profession you choose is right. There is nothing that every university-educated person should learn that non-university-educated people shouldn’t also learn. There is nothing in common between the requirements of being an engineer and a theologian that they don’t also have in common with a plumber.

      • Plumber says:

        @10240

        “…There is nothing that every university-educated person should learn that non-university-educated people shouldn’t also learn. There is nothing in common between the requirements of being an engineer and a theologian that they don’t also have in common with a plumber”

        Thank you, I appreciate it!

        I’ve posted before that with less time wasting and more individual teaching folks who never get the privilege of a college diploma (which is the majority) could get a bigger share of education, and that I despise the two track system of “prep” or warehouse ( no I don’t want one track, I want hundreds, even thousands of “tracks” depending on how many students there are).

        I was taught trigonometry by an old steamfitter in my union along with 25 other plumbers, all of us past the age when it’s easiest to learn, but taught we were, because the goal was to teach, not just to sort.

        I’d feel less bitter about this if those deemed not “college bound” were taught something useful or interesting beyond clock watching.

        • albatross11 says:

          My first college calculus class was used as a weed-out course for engineering majors. The purpose of the class seemed about half to teach and half to get rid of people. I remember walking out of the first test convinced I was going to fail the class, and then getting it back with a score somewhere around 50%, curved to a B. (I don’t think *anyone* in the test managed to finish it.)

          I get the reasonable purpose there–if you can’t handle a somewhat hard, fast-moving calc class, you’re probably going to wash out of engineering sooner or later, so why not make it sooner and save everyone some time and money? But it also means that instead of concentrating on making sure everyone learns what they need to learn, there’s also a component of deciding whether or not you’re smart enough to stick around. And it means that people who might have learned calculus just fine given a little slower pace and more help end up never learning it.

          IMO, this is one advantage of being pretty selective in admissions–if you have good reasons to suspect that everyone is capable of doing the work, then you can teach from the perspective of “you all are capable of learning this, so let’s help you learn it” rather than “let’s see if you’re capable of learning this, or if you need to be sent packing.”

          • 10240 says:

            And it means that people who might have learned calculus just fine given a little slower pace and more help end up never learning it.

            If those who can’t learn calculus at a fast pace are going to wash out of engineering sooner or later anyway, and you would instead weed those people out at the admissions, then the only people you admit would be those who can learn calculus at a fast pace. Then why not do it at a fast pace?

          • albatross11 says:

            10240:

            That’s why I see the point of doing it this way. But it didn’t really distinguish between:

            a. People who just weren’t bright/mathy enough to get through engineering and were being filtered out of engineering sooner rather than later.

            b. People who had shitty math backgrounds in high school, and would have done fine in engineering/hard science majors if they’d had a somewhat slower-moving class.

            c. People who took the class for some other reason (I went through all three semesters of calc and did fine, despite not being an engineering major, FWIW), most of whom would have been fine in their majors even without being super strong in math.

            More generally, I think teaching you things and trying to filter you out are very different tasks, and it seems kinda shitty to try to do both in the same place, and call it a class. Your school’s calculus class should have the primary goal of ending up with the students learning calculus.

        • Matt C says:

          > I was taught trigonometry by an old steamfitter in my union along with 25 other plumbers, all of us past the age when it’s easiest to learn,

          Sometimes being older makes learning easier. I’ve watched a number of people who struggled with their studies when they were young return to school later and do much better as fully grown adults. If your classmates were mostly not book learners when they were young, it might have been a good thing that they had had a few years to mellow.

          > but taught we were, because the goal was to teach, not just to sort.

          This doesn’t hurt either, of course.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      UWaterloo has no university-wide core requirements. Each faculty sets requirements they feel are appropriate for each degree they offer. There might be a near-universal requirement for one English/Communications course (which was completely trivial if you were a native speaker).

      The BCs degree requirements ends up being 15 courses in CS, 7 Math, 10 in neither, and 8 completely unconstrained.

      This works ok most of the time. The biggest issue is that climbing the prerequisite chain for CS courses takes 3 years in most cases (unless you’re really lucky with scheduling things), and so if you put off taking non-CS electives until the second half of your degree they crowd out most of the interesting upper-year CS courses (which often are only available 1 out of 3 terms).

      The other issue with this is that you could reasonably claim 25%-45% of a CS degree can be completely unrelated fluff, there to pad requirements to 4 years (we’d jokingly refer to the non-CS requirements in dollars of tuition instead of credits, as in “I’m $5k away from graduation”).

      • johan_larson says:

        Non-math units that satisfy elective breadth and depth requirements:
        All of (breadth):
        1.0 units from the humanities3
        1.0 units from the social sciences
        0.5 units from the pure sciences
        0.5 units from the pure and applied sciences
        One of (depth):
        1.5 units in the same subject area with at least 0.5 units at the 3rd year level or higher
        1.5 units with the same subject forming a prerequisite chain of length three

        Those are some ridiculously complex non-major requirements, right there. Maybe it’s deliberate. They are testing for the ability and willingness to navigate the requirements of a bureaucracy, a vital skill in in today’s workforce.

        • Clutzy says:

          Fairly standard from what I see on my college transcript in the US.

        • Christophe Biocca says:

          SMBC agrees with you.

          In practice it’s easy to tackle piecemeal over 4 years. Most course codes trivially fit into one of the buckets (Any PHYS XYZ is pure sciences, for example), and picking a third year course in any non-math subject and completing it and it’s prerequisites will deal with the depth requirement.

    • SystematizedLoser says:

      I was a STEM major at a fairly high-quality liberal arts school. All students were required to take about a year of humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, and fine arts classes, with a few weird exceptions and edge cases. Most people completed these requirements in their first two years.

      I generally found the non-major classes to be worthwhile, both as a way to expand my social circle and as a way to encounter ideas I would not otherwise. These were not “philosophy for physicists” classes or anything like that; they were challenging and time-consuming. Years later, I still appreciate the exposure I got to philosophy and political science from them. It minimized the time I had to focus on my major classes, which probably hurt me a bit in grad school, but this is a tradeoff I am still content with.

      My school did offer a variety of “STEM for non-STEM people” classes, of which I ended up TAing a few. My suspicion is that very few of the students in those classes got anything out of them, and they would have enjoyed their college careers more had these classes not been required. The classes did their best to be about specific interesting topics, but the need to review what was frequently high school math meant that it was difficult for the professors to cover much material. This seems like a failed system, but I’m agnostic about whether the better solution would be to not require STEM classes or to force everyone to struggle more.

      • Deiseach says:

        This seems like a failed system, but I’m agnostic about whether the better solution would be to not require STEM classes or to force everyone to struggle more.

        Well, you can blame C.P. Snow and his Two Cultures lecture for these kinds of requirements 🙂

        A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?

        I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question – such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? – not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.

        In general, I think it’s a good idea – the purpose of a university education is not (or was not) merely to churn out finished products ready to slot into specific job areas, it was to give a rounded education. Exposing tech types to the humanities and humanities types to tech should help both know a bit more about what they’re talking about; how many media articles on a scientific study would benefit from the journalists having at least an introductory idea of what the topic is, rather than “Latest study proves eating 100g of white chocolate an hour will kill you in 2.5 days/let you live to be two hundred!” stories?

    • This thread mixes two different questions—what should someone learn and what should a degree signify. I see no reason why some schools shouldn’t choose to offer a degree that signifies “this is a broadly educated person,” but I doubt such an education is worth its cost in time and money to most students.

      Part of the problem, as others have suggested, is that if the math course that English majors have to take is at the same level as math courses that math majors take, some intelligent and hard working students will be unable to pass it because they can’t think that way. If it is a “math for poets” course, they don’t end up understanding math.

      My own view is that students should have the opportunity to take courses outside their major if they want to, not be required to do so. I majored in chemistry and physics. Aside from whatever the distribution requirements were, I took one course in music, because I wanted to see if I could learn to like and understand it (answer, “no”), one in far eastern literature because it sounded interesting. As a graduate student in physics I audited classes, I think graduate classes, in 18th c. poetry and in modern poetry, both of which were fun.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Mine worked for me. But it was pretty simple.

      Normal course load is 4 classes per semester. I’ll call each one a “unit”.

      Everyone must take one semester of freshman comp (called “expository writing”)

      All other classes are classed as either Humanity, Social Science, or Natural Science. Classes either have names like “Physics 55” or “Natural Science 47”. The former are generally for majors; the latter are generally survey courses, but sometimes required for majors.

      For this purpose, each unit of a survey (“nat sci”) course is worth 2 units of more specific course (“physics”, “chemistry” etc.).

      Everyone is require to take 2 survey units in each of the 3 areas, or its equivalent in any combo of specific and survey units. So a person majoring in physics, with perhaps 16 units of physics and math required for their major, meets their “nat sci” requirement from their major, and usually takes survey courses in other areas.

      I was a bit weird. I preferred the non-survey courses, and got a kick out of listing the hardest specialist courses I could find to satisfy my “general education” requirement, e.g. the notorious “so you think you’re smart” advanced calculus course. (I got a decent grade, but that course also convinced me not to major in math.)

      OTOH, I missed some very basic “liberal arts” material. I got out of university with zero knowledge of visual arts, and not much more knowledge of music. But arguably those should have been covered before uiversity, in a really good school system.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      My university had everyone take a humanities course, a science course, and a social sciences course. In practice, I think most people did what I did: I took a “sociology of religion” course to fulfill my sociology requirement (I did religious studies), full-on “rocks for jocks” Geology 101 type course, and a “history of science” course that was simultaneously meant as a science course for humanities majors and a humanities course for science majors. So, kind of a silly formality, but not a huge burden on anyone. I gather they’ve switched to a more complicated (and possibly more burdensome) system since then.

      I could see it being implemented well, and I actually learned some interesting stuff outside of my area of study. I think the best way of doing it might just be to have a course introducing people from outside the field to the methods of that area: explain the scientific method to humanities kids, etc.

      • albatross11 says:

        The best version of this was that, in order to get my social sciences requirement, I took a class in social psychology. Unlike the crappy 101 level classes, this one was intended for undergrads in psychology, and it was really fascinating. Oddly, a whole bunch of the stuff we studied has been swept away in the replication crisis, but the class had a big impact on my thinking and left me with a continued interest in results from experimental psychology and economics.

        • Nick says:

          I had the same situation with my sociology class. And for a survey history course I took, which I think was “Western civilization before 1600” or something like that.

    • johan_larson says:

      Generally speaking I admire the liberal-arts tradition of requiring a certain amount of breadth, with critical inquiry across a range of disciplines. But I would place that in high school, not college. I’m fine with the notion of college being essentially specialized job training. By all means allow students to take some courses outside their focus, but don’t require it. I expect doing things this way would improve things somewhat by clarifying the purpose of each institution: high school is for general education, and college is for specialization.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I studied in the UK, so it definitely didn’t. In fact, many of the people on my course at university had studied nothing but mathematics and physical sciences since the age of 16.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      My uni did not have a core curricula, but there were required GenEds by each sub college. Let’s see if I remember what I took….
      -RCG Soc 101. Mandatory wokeness before wokeness was mandatory. Only useful because I got to talk to one guy who was pretty cool.
      -2 “English” classes. One was fun because I would write Ayn Rand quotes on the board, and the guy teaching it was pretty cool. Everyone else in the class was an idiot, a lot of “you should cut prices because it will increase your sales!” with no marginal thinking at all.
      -Logic 101, an extremely useful class.
      -Latin American History. Fell asleep more often than not.
      -Generic History. I don’t even remember what it was about. I think European history post-Westphalia. I remember that, in lieu of a final, 3 people could volunteer to speak in front of the class to argue which ally did the most to win WWII. I took Great Britain and “won” the debate.
      -Psyc 101, only useful because it introduced to me a girl I really liked.
      -Human Evolution, which if anything made me skeptical of any dating they have in the relevant range of human evolution.
      -Poli Sci, which made me sit through 2 local village meetings. The trustees were kind of dumb. They wanted to have a “grand plan” to design a new downtown around an intersection. 10 years later and it is a glorified strip mall.

      TBH most of these classes were kind of useless. Maybe it’s useful to have “well-rounded” students, but university degrees are basically requirements for white-collar jobs now, so you are talking about an opportunity cost in excess of $60,000 per year between tuition and foregone salary. Well-rounded students are great, but do we want to make everyone pay $60,000+ to roll the dice and only have a well-rounded student on a hard six? I’d say that’s a stupid waste of scarce resources.

      Of course, I think most of even the core classes were useless. Everyone in business was required to take economics, I’d say about half the students (maybe less) were able to articulate arguments for and against rent control by their senior year. Why make students sit through this crap, even if it were free? They obviously are retaining very little and obviously don’t care.

    • bean says:

      I did an engineering degree at a state engineering school, and I think all of our non-major courses were ABET required as part of accreditation. This included one literature course (SF lit was at least interesting, and there were several good books) an ethics class (I had a great professor, but still am confused why this was required) one upper-level humanities or social sciences class (US military history, which was fun and easy) and the usual array of lower-level stuff in economics, history, and English, most of which I had AP credit for. In practice, I liked most of these classes, but that was not necessarily a given (what if another school doesn’t have a professor who’s a leading scholar of the US infantry?), and I’m still confused as to why they were required.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Generally speaking most liberal arts courses do not involve any information or learning that cannot be transmitted through digital means, unlike, say, engineering, medicine, science, etc. If you believe the liberal arts should be about making this information widely known, then it would make sense to simply make the information as publically available as possible.

      The BA was supposed to be the mark of an intelligent, well educated, well rounded individual. At some point it became part of the keys you needed to own to get through the door to a middle class lifestyle. There are people with a vested interest in keeping that economic dynamic in place whilst simultaneously resisting any effort to streamline the process down to the absolute necessities.

      My own preference would be to detach nearly all Bachelors and Masters degrees from the labor market, by legal decree if necessary but preferably by business culture, and then allow colleges to require whatever they want from students since the students would not feel obliged to continue the work for fear of becoming downwardly mobile. Obvious exceptions for teachers and academic researchers.

      In a perfect world a reasonably bright person would be able to get an entry level, non dead-end job [or apprenticeship] at the age of 17 and if at any point in their lives thereafter they wanted to become learned in the humanities they could do online modules, or read pdfs of public domain texts listed on a popular syllabus , or if they really wanted to attend a brick and mortar part time they could do so.

      But the status quo is an intolerable mix of medieval education practices with modern business culture and post-modern attitudes about behavior, intelligence, and the route of economic success.

    • myers2357 says:

      My University had 41 “GenEd” hours, with students allowed to “pick one from this list of 5” to satisfy a high-level “requirement”. For example, I could take a specific 200-level Macroeconomics course, a specific Global Politics course, a specific 100-level Sociology course, or a 100-level Global Anthropology course – any one of these would satisfy a “Worldwide perspective” requirement. For the “Critical Thinking” requirement, I could take a Introductory Troubleshooting Techniques course from Technology, a Conflict Mediation course from Communication, or an Applied Logic course from the Philosophy dept.

      The course mix was 50/50 between major-specific students and those just checking a box.

      There also appeared to be a deliberate avoidance of mandatory group projects in the GenEd classes (save for the usual suspects: Psychology, Sociology, Communication, etc.), which i greatly appreciated due to the mixed nature of the students knowledge in the classes.

      In terms of the middle ground (other than the general “Exposure to other majors” classes) My vote for mandatory courses would be: Troubleshooting Techniques, Critical Thinking, Applied Statistics (How to Lie with Statistics), Technical Writing, and some kind of Exposure-Therapy course(/lab?) for public speaking.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      I went to one of them elite Northeastern Liberal Arts schools – not top tier but within spitting distance, or at least we liked to think that. I think my required courses were generally useful and at least moderately rigorous. They also exposed me to some things that I wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise that I still find useful, and that I – yes – feel made me a more balanced person in the Liberal Arts sort of way. If I could do it again, I’d take most of them again.
      We had nine required courses or two semesters plus one course. You would have at least one course qualify for a course in your major, maybe two, probably not three, so practically there was a year (of four years) of requirements.
      The requirements could be filled with a pretty broad selection of courses. Working from memory, it was:
      1) A literature or writing course – there was a “writing for Freshman 101” course that was pretty gentle and rather good at teaching people how to writing decently, but you could take any 101 English course.
      2) Math. I took Calculus, but I’m pretty sure you could take something less intense. I don’t think the average person, coming from an average high school, could pass Calculus, nor do I think they should – I have used Calculus approximately never times since I took the final exam, but I’ve used algebra and geometry all the time.
      3) Science. You could take a hard science or a social science. There were a few courses that were non-lab versions of 101 courses that catered to non-majors. They were reasonably rigorous. A lot of people took 101 lab sciences, got Cs, and decided to change their majors (which is good! You want to fail early if you’re going to fail).
      4) Foreign language. As far as I can tell, this was a sort of welfare program for the foreign language departments. I’ve never seen a room full of people who less wanted to be in that room since high school. This was by far the least rigorous course I took in all of college – seriously, I could barely manage a complete sentence, I should not have passed. This is were nine courses instead of eight comes from – this, rather than something more useful like a lab science, required 2 semesters to get credit. If you were smart, you took Sign Language and got it done in one semester, plus you could have secret conversations with other people in the class. I was not smart.
      You can probably tell from the above that I’m an American. I suspect a foreign language is more useful in other countries.
      5) Government/ Economics. There were about three whole departments worth of courses to take here. This is probably the best requirement. The difference between learning social studies in high school, even in an AP class, and learning history in college is like the difference between turning on a flashlight and staring directly into stadium lights. I took a great course about the economic and political history of several developing nations that sparked a (so far) lifelong interest in economics. YMMV.
      6) Arts. This can be hands on or appreciation, and again there’s two departments worth of 101 courses for it. I don’t know how much value this has for the average person – you can just go out and take an art class whenever you want (at least if you live in a city, which more than half of Americans do) and I’m not sure how much theory you can really get, nor how much that really helps you be a more well-rounded person. Or maybe I’m just bitter I got a C in Film Theory.
      7) History. I took AP in high school and didn’t have to do this. I imagine learning history in College is a lot better than learning it in high school, particularly if your high school wasn’t very good.
      8) Philosophy. Depends on your feelings about philosophy. I enjoyed it but maybe didn’t find it useful.

      • woah77 says:

        2) Math. I took Calculus, but I’m pretty sure you could take something less intense. I don’t think the average person, coming from an average high school, could pass Calculus, nor do I think they should – I have used Calculus approximately never times since I took the final exam, but I’ve used algebra and geometry all the time.

        There are some mistakes when taking calculus that people make about what its use actually is. The biggest one being that you’re likely to do calculus in the wild. Almost everything that anyone (including engineers) is likely to encounter has already had the calculus worked through so firmly you don’t actually do any calculus. But the reason you want calculus is so that you can see the relationships between things. I tend to liken calculus to a transmission, having awareness of it is great, but you don’t usually see it unless something breaks. What familiarity with calculus does allow is the application of more advanced methods to approaching problems that can be done with lower math (algebra) to reduce the amount of work. I think that in practice, statistics would be more useful to more people, but we teach calculus because the powers that be decided that everyone entering a university was going to end up doing a bunch of physics (or something).

        • Clutzy says:

          I’m not sure about that stats example. Like you said, if you get good at calculus, you have a truth-weapon for wielding in the real world. In stats, they generally teach a bunch of techniques for evaluating data, but they are more like memorizing obscure words in the dictionary. Calc is more like learning latin roots so you can spell things better.

          Humans are already really good at live-action stats, its called stereotypes and prejudices.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Hmm, stats seemed like useful techniques to me, and I probably use them more in day to day life than I use calculus. OTOH, I insisted on learning more than just “stats for soc sci majors”

          • Clutzy says:

            Which techniques did you retain? I dont really remember any of the various tests we did, despite acing the class.

      • Nick says:

        4) Foreign language. As far as I can tell, this was a sort of welfare program for the foreign language departments.

        Heh, this is an aspect of it I forgot. Yes, core requirements can act as life support to majors that attract fewer students. This was the case for the philosophy and theology departments at my school. The theology department even had a big advertising campaign (“Core + 4!”) trying to get people not to major in theology, which was futile, but to minor in it, which I heard sorta worked.

    • Matt says:

      I’ll repeat here what I just posted over there a few minutes ago:

      My first year of undergrad I looked at the 101 level history class syllabi and came to the conclusion that it was just a repeat of what I had learned in high school. I went to a couple of professors to try to get permission to fulfill this requirement with a higher level history class where the material would be new and interesting to me. Permission denied. I sleepwalked through the 101 level class, got my A, and focused my effort on my engineering classes.

      I felt like I learned nothing in that class, which was not true of some of my other general basic classes, like psych or philosophy, which were mostly new and interesting. English lit at least had new literature. English comp was probably only useful as ‘more practice’

    • BBA says:

      I attended an elite university that was very proud of having no core curriculum. I was in a math/computer science combined major. The computer science department had a “writing requirement” that could be fulfilled with any course in any liberal arts/humanities department. Having broad interests, I easily met that standard with non-major courses I was going to take anyway.

      There were no non-math courses required by the mathematics department, and I don’t think many of the liberal arts departments had any kind of sciences requirement.

      It seems to work all right, but at top schools like that most of the challenge is getting in to begin with, so who knows.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Currently dealing with the general education requirements at my university. I’m a bioengineering major. All students must complete:

      Three levels of non-primary language: Thank god for my high-school French classes.

      Composition I: Thank god for my SAT scores.

      1 course Advanced Composition: I’m hoping to get into software engineering I and II, the latter of which will satisfy ACP. Otherwise, it’ll be “technical writing” (potentially useful) or “plants, pathogens, and people” (online and easy).

      6 hours Humanities and Arts: Greek and Roman Mythology, plus whatever I use for my nonwestern/minority requirement probably (see below)

      6 hours Social and Behavioral Sciences: Microeconomics (terrible professor, an hour of wikipedia got me an A on the final), either macroecon or psychology probably

      6 hours Natural Sciences and Technology: I’m an engineering major. My non-STEM friends take astronomy and forensics.

      6 additional hours of “Liberal Arts Electives” for a total of 18: String orchestra for as many semesters as it fits, plus a disappointing Digital Recording and Composition course.

      Quantitative Reasoning I and II: I’m a STEM major.

      1 course Western Cultures (can overlap with H/A): Greek and Roman mythology.

      1 course Non-Western or US Minority (can overlap with H/A): Probably world music.

      Total of 18 hours / 6 courses if you overlap requirements as efficiently as possible. A bit more if you don’t pack efficiently or if you don’t have the AP credit I did.

      Summary: All this crap is just to satisfy either an accreditation board or a conference of the university’s “thought leaders” or whatever they’re called who think that taking random courses unrelated to anything I’ll ever have to do in my career makes me a “well-rounded” student, and that somehow reading the sparknotes of the Iliad (sue me, I had real work to do) and writing essays about foreign music are going to miraculously expand my cultural sensitivity. Some of these courses I’m actually interested in and a couple I signed up for before I even knew they could count as gen-ed requirements. However, I don’t think I should be forced to waste my time in them when I could be taking more technical courses, or even other liberal-arts electives that more closely correspond to what I want to learn about.

      And I don’t think my english or music major friends should have to waste hours of time and $20 writing and answering bs questions on Packback about the most basic concepts of astronomy.

      • At a slight tangent … From time to time, googling for something else, I come across a page for a service that writes essays and term papers and such for you. Somewhat earlier, I found someone arranging to buy a paper for my seminar from such a service.

        So writing courses only require an engineer to learn to write if he can’t afford to pay someone else to write the paper for him. Which I suppose is teaching a lesson, but perhaps not the lesson intended.

        • albatross11 says:

          David:

          That’s one great thing about iTunes U and Open Courseware and Khan Academy and such–there’s no incentive to cheat, so people who are watching those lectures are doing so because they actually want to learn something.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Ha! I’ll whine, procrastinate, SparkNotes, bs, and min-max my way through the courses I hate, but even if I was willing to fork over the cash, there’s a part of me that’s just so fundamentally opposed to the concept of cheating that I could never let myself do it. Plus, I’ve had to write enough essays in-class that phoning in the long-term ones would be severely hamstringing myself for the written exams.

          Whether or not engineers can pay someone to write their papers for them, technical writing is a skill I wish I’d been formally taught. The lab reports for my current lab class are edging beyond the “fill in the blank”-style of high school or Chem 101 labs into “actually explain the experiment and conclusions” territory. They’re still short with decently detailed prompts, but I know they won’t be this way forever and should probably start putting a bit more effort into the reports for this class to prepare myself for future labs.

          I think this is a bit of a shortfall of my high-school education. Procedure for science labs was almost always explicit step-by-step and the reports to turn in were more-often-than-not just worksheets with tables for data and about 5 questions throughout and 5 after with lines for short answers. (If there was ever an “experimental design”-focused lab, the correct experiment to set up was immediately obvious from the materials given.) The university intro chem lab I took last year was similar, but made us redraw the data tables and answer the numbered questions on fancy-looking paper. Meanwhile the primary skill I learned in high school English class was “how to write words that look enough like you’re analyzing literature to get a B+ on your paper”. (And I actually read the books in high school.) There was one “research paper” we had to write freshman year, and a “persuasive essay” sprinkled here and there throughout, but never any focus on the kinds of writing I’ll actually have to do in my future career.

          Now I don’t know whether Mr. “Never took a course for credit in either field” will let that slide as an excuse for my deficiencies, but at least I know where I have to improve.

          • The right way to learn to write is to have something you actually want to write about. In my case, it was a monthly column as the token libertarian columnist in a conservative student magazine. For my daughter, it was reports on WoW raids she was in.

            The right way to learn to program is to have a program you want to write.

            Part of my daughter’s complaint about college was that it was fake. She was writing essays that would only be read by one person, and he only because it was his job to grade them.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            My thoughts exactly! On the “learning to program” side, I’ve found both the structured “Solve this problem” and the unstructured e.g. “I wonder if I could code a Hashi solver” quite helpful. (The former principally for learning syntax and core techniques, the latter for applying them.) However, one of the most fulfilling courses I’ve taken had semi-structured “This is the assignment, but it has an open-ended creative component”-style machine problems. For my favorite one, I spent hours figuring out how to fill a moon shape with pseudorandom craters that actually looked good. Could have done something much simpler and got the A in half the time, but the complex problem I made for myself almost certainly did a lot more to hone my skills.

            As for writing English, I oughta keep an eye out for things I want to write about. The comments/threads here might be a good place to start; I often read through but just recently started posting once in a while. Perhaps I’ll find other places or topics if I’m actually looking.

          • LesHapablap says:

            The most valuable gen-ed class I took in college was an honors technical writing course. It focused on writing to clearly communicate ideas instead of high school English classes which were really just about learning to BS literary criticism with long flowery sentences.

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            Yeah, arguing politics on the internet basically taught me to write. I knew how to write complete sentences and how to put a paper together thanks to some classes in high school and college, but really learning how to communicate mainly came from participating in online discussions.

        • Deiseach says:

          Somewhat earlier, I found someone arranging to buy a paper for my seminar from such a service.

          Are you going to permit them to go through with it and then see what the final product will be when they submit it before you come down on them like the hammer of Thor, or are you going to gently warn them that you’ve twigged what they’re trying to do? In your position I’d be evil enough to let them have enough rope to hang themselves, but then I am a mean and awful person 🙂

    • Lord Nelson says:

      I have an engineering degree from an Ivy League school, and I don’t remember the general requirements being particularly annoying, aside from the one freshman writing course that I’m pretty sure every university makes you take. For courses outside of my degree, I had to take a handful of math courses (Calc I was boring because it was all review, but Calc II and the grad-level Stat course were fun), a few science courses (tested out of 2, took Physics and a Brain & Behavior course that was heavy on biology for the others), a few humanities courses (tested out of 1, took Econ courses for the others, plus a “science & technology” history course that was extremely interesting), two electives of absolutely anything (I chose Japanese), and the aforementioned writing course.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Thinking on this further: I think, as a humanities student (religious studies and history), the most important general-purpose skill I learned was how to handle sources. There’s some very smart people, smarter than me probably, who nevertheless do not understand that sources can lie, that primary sources are not unvarnished truth, that you must be careful of that, and that you must also be careful of the reasons you might want to believe a lie.

      On the other hand, this isn’t universal in the humanities – a catchall term – just as statistical literacy and so forth aren’t universal in the social sciences. I would hope the scientific method is universal in the hard sciences.

      Perhaps the best solution would be courses for everyone, including people in that field, on source handling, statistical literacy, and how to apply standards of evidence?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I think core curricula is a terrible idea, and one of the biggest causes of waste in the higher education system. IT seems that to be considered an educated person, one has to have a four year degree, so colleges just create all kinds of extra classes to fill out those four years.

      90% of students go to college so they can get a job after they are done. The other 10% who want to spend 4 years of their life getting “educated” by some institution that has decided what you need to know about life, and also have the cash to spend 4 years on this hobby should specifically apply for such a degree. The rest of us should just be taught what they need to know to do their jobs. I got a four year accounting degree, but I could have learned what I needed to know in one year. But if was a one year program, I would appear to be less educated than other college educated folks, so the accounting profession demands I go to college for four years and learn whatever crap they make me learn.

      I have learned much much more in the 40 years since college than I did in college, and it cost a whole lot less. If I truly wanted to be an educated person, it would make more sense to just read smart books for four years.

  4. helloo says:

    Observer and participant.

    Story driven media often feature a main character in which the action of the story is focus and who often are a newcomer, have amnesia, or otherwise given some reason for other people to explain stuff to them.
    They also tend to be the hero, who’s actions or journey makes the main plot of the story.
    They serve as sort of as a vehicle for the audience to experience the story.
    Games often increase this affect by having the player directly control the character, customize the character, and select the decisions made by them.

    Others do not follow this, and instead the focus is on a group or environment and the audience is more akin to an invisible observer.
    Games who use this approach generally has the player be the “will of the group” and who often can only control which path the story takes place if any.

    This is sometimes mentioned as one of the main differences between JRPGs and Western RPGs in terms of story.

    Feel free to discuss the above or possibly some other options I missed.
    However, what prompted this post was when I noticed some media switching between the two.

    That is when a story introduces a main character, makes it clear that this is the audience surrogate and then… slowly rescinds that role, giving them less focus until they become little more than background characters.
    The game I was playing was typically first person, and had the other characters directly converse with you in an silent protagonist way, but who’s plot was generally about those characters and not “you”. In fact, during the overworld view, you can find what is implied to be your avatar… And it’s just an extra. Not even a unique extra as you can find someone with the exact same clothes and appearance in another location.

    How more unfocused can you get?

    • Randy M says:

      That is when a story introduces a main character, makes it clear that this is the audience surrogate and then… slowly rescinds that role, giving them less focus until they become little more than background characters.

      Vaan from FFXII says hi.

      The trouble is that a blank canvas, audience surrogate character is just not as interesting as the people he is observing.

      It’s interesting to consider Cloud from FFVII in light of this trope. He starts out pretty generic, although not without personality–a solider reject with a bit of attitude hired by the eco-terrorists to help take down the big bad corporation. Then it’s revealed he has connections to the real villain. Then it’s not quite revealed but hinted that, in fact, he really was a nobody all along; I forget the details, because it’s not explained well in game. But at least he isn’t a bland audience insert character, even as he serves the fish-out-of water role in the intro missions.

      • Skivverus says:

        Then it’s not quite revealed but hinted that, in fact, he really was a nobody all along; I forget the details, because it’s not explained well in game.

        I dunno, the reveal there had me more impressed with him after it rather than less. A failure by his own standards at the time, and definitely outclassed by his points of comparison, but despite being outclassed and knowing it he still took a shot on the main villain and made it count.

      • liquidpotato says:

        It’s interesting that you brought up Vaan. I remember reading somewhere that the original main character was supposed to be the other guy, the pirate captain (can’t remember his name).

        They inserted Vaan because middle-aged protagonists poll badly in Japan usually. Square had an amazing game called Vagrant Story (set in Ivalice as well), but because the protaganist was a middle aged guy with a family, it didn’t do very well in the domestic market.

        There definitely is a difference between the way JRPGs do an everyman protaganist and the way American RPGs do an everyman protaganist though.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Balthier. He is awesome.

        • Randy M says:

          I wonder if this is related to marriage trends in Japan, which from what I recall are lower than in the West, even including relatively low interest in sex and relationships.

          Or could just be the target market of games, but again my outsider perspective is that it isn’t just Japanese adolescents playing games.

          And yes, Balthier is awesome; so awesome he snuck into the remake of the best Squaresoft game ever.

        • Nornagest says:

          There definitely is a difference between the way JRPGs do an everyman protaganist and the way American RPGs do an everyman protaganist though.

          I think it might be a thing that goes by company more than by culture. Square/Enix everyman protagonists are chirpy spiky-haired adolescent boys with a tendency to lose their shirts and who I want to punch in the mouth every time they open it. But Atlus everyman protagonists, while still adolescent boys, tend to be subdued types.

          On the American side of the lake, Bethesda and Bioware both do physically customizable protagonists, but Bioware protagonists have an in-universe biography and personality (the latter being modulated along the Paragon/Renegade axis or equivalent), and Bethesda protagonists come out of nowhere and act almost totally flat.

          • helloo says:

            Why not look at Nier in which the company specifically changed the appearance and personality of the main character in its Western and Eastern releases? And generally got favorable responses for doing that.

            In the East, he was a young man who’s the brother of the damsel in distress who tended to act somewhat aloof.
            In the West, he was an unsightly (by media standards) middle aged man who’s the father of the girl and acted more jaded.

          • Nornagest says:

            Nier is an interesting case study, but it’s also the only example of that I can think of. One decision doesn’t make a pattern, especially when it’s put out by a director with a history of doing weird experimental stuff.

        • rtypeinhell says:

          Describing Ashley Riot as “a middle aged guy with a family” doesn’t give a very accurate picture of Vagrant Story. His family isn’t a part of the story in any capacity, and to a potential buyer he looks every bit as youthful and androgynous as [select JRPG protagonist]. I’m highly skeptical of the legend that this is why the game was unsuccessful and why Vaan was added to FFXII, though it’s often stated as fact. When you hire Yasumi Matsuno as the creative director of your RPG, you know you are going to get a Shakespearian political intrigue dealing in grey morality and unsympathetic heroes – Ogre Battle wasn’t a major success, but FFT and LUCT were, the latter two both developed with Square.

          Vagrant Story’s failure probably came down to its release date, on the eve of PS2, and to the fact that it is a really weird game. The structure is of one prolonged dungeon (more Metroid than Final Fantasy), the leveling is heavily dependent on enemy properties and full of negative reinforcement (i.e. the player can de-level weapons by using them poorly) (this is familiar from Ogre Battle’s alignment system), and the combat is a real-time tactics system not unlike VATS, plus timed hits (Paper Mario), yet awkwardly dependent on how well the player can chain opening the menu after an animation is completed (Secret of Mana). To point at the protagonist’s backstory as what made the game unappealing is to miss the entire game. I had a tough time comparing it to anything until Matsuno’s later Crimson Shroud clarified that what he was really going for was a DnD campaign, hence the setting, the weird enemy properties, the tactics, etc.

          (to be clear, I’m not knocking the game. All of Matsuno’s works are masterpieces, or nearly so. It’s just that what makes them so masterful is that they come from an unfamiliar perspective.)

    • dick says:

      By cooincidence I am working on a game where you control multiple characters now (though it’s more of a roguelike than a rpg) so this is relevant to my interests. Can you tell me more about the difference between the jrpg and western style, like things you like/dislike about controlling the characters independently or hand-of-god style?

      Also, somewhat relatedly: if you were making a game, and wanted to avoid humans/elves/dwarves upgrading their chainmail/sword/shield and leveling up in warrior/mage/cleric to kill goblins/orcs/dragons, can you think of any alternative milieus that could be used for a game with similar mechanics, but a novel theme? That stuff seems so ubiquitous that I’d love to avoid it, but it’s popular for a reason – it’s like having most of the plot already finished for you. Plus, it’s familiar and relatable to players – you don’t have to tell people that dwarves will have high strength and wizards will have low HP and so forth, they already know. The silver medal for overused gaming tropes would be far-future stuff (mercs/ninjas/hackers upgrading their laser rifle/electrosword/cyberdeck to kill aliens/mutants/etc), which I’m also trying to avoid.

      Only idea I have so far is kids; the races could be “jock”, “nerd”, etc, classes would be… well, classes, like Gym (warrior), Chemistry (wizard), etc. But I haven’t thought it out very far and I’m not married to it.

      • AG says:

        Restaurant management premise. Your chefs/waiters/managers have to level up in cooking/serving/business skills to increase the restaurant revenue.

        The clicker/idle game genre would be a good source of gimmick premises, since they get to the fundamental appeal of the mechanic, which is to make the interactions maximize how the numbers go up. A lot of them unfold into RPG-like sections for that reason.

        • dick says:

          Hrm. What are the monsters in the restaurant premise? Customers? This is, or aspires to be at any rate, a complete roguelike with combat, levels, etc, about as complex as FTL. The only clicker/idle games I’m familiar with are Cookie Clicker and A Dark Room and they are neat in their own way but don’t have nearly as many mechanics.

          • AG says:

            Chefs are combating the difficulty of the dish. Dishes take a number of steps to complete, which are the HP for that class, but types of steps can only have their HP decreased by certain skills (chopping/seasoning/frying/etc.), since each skill only deals a certain kind of damage (analogous to physical/water/fire/etc.).

            Waiters could incorporate closer to platforming mechanics, trying to deliver the dish at speed without losing the dish to obstacles.

            Business/management is fighting against other restaurants or events that damage the capital of the restaurant, enemies that change the environment with their attacks.

          • mdet says:

            If you’re going to stick with combat mechanics I think having the adversaries be customers instead of dishes is better. The mechanic of decreasing HP doesn’t make as much sense when putting together a meal, since the meal starts out incomplete and builds to completeness. Some kind of increasing meter would be better, whether that meter is Dish Flavor or Customer Satisfaction.

            Now I’m thinking of how to add Roguelike elements to Overcooked…

          • Nick says:

            Does that make the restaurant critic the boss battle?

          • mdet says:

            Depends: If the goal is to make one incredible dish, then the professional food critic is the ultimate challenge. If it’s like Overcooked and the goal is just to churn out enough complete dishes to meet demand, then the final challenge might be something like “It’s a Saturday evening during Prom Season, but also the Food Allergies Convention is in town — get ready.”

      • Plumber says:

        Instead of Dwarves, Elves, et cetera go with Franks, Irish, Picts, Romans, Saxons, and Welsh.

        Why yes I did pick up yet another edition of King Arthur Pendragon last night, why do you ask?

        • dick says:

          I was going to say “Terrible idea, I’d be lambasted for making a game in which one human ethnic group has lower base stats for intelligence than another”, but it occurs to me that it’d probably be okay as long as it was the Welsh…

          • Mark Atwood says:

            One of the smartest and most productive and hardest working SDEs I know is Welsh. Genealogy research shows his family has been from where he lives for as far back as records go.

            OTOH one of the crosses he has to bear is that his extended family and his in-law extended family constantly ridicule him for working hard instead of going on the dole like them.

            When I ask him why he doesn’t move, he shrugs, half smiles, and says “but I’m from around here”.

          • dick says:

            I should have clarified that I meant that I would be okay because making fun of the Welsh seems common and uncontroversial on British TV, not because I actually hold a low opinion of them.

          • Watchman says:

            Do long as you stuck the Scots in, you could do what you like with the Picts. Historians have been aware of this useful narrative trick for years.

            You could also use the third of Bede’s triumvirate of English ancestral group and have the little-evidenced Jutes (seriously, there’s less than twenty historical uses of the name) as a group with poor characteristics.

          • johan_larson says:

            OTOH one of the crosses he has to bear is that his extended family and his in-law extended family constantly ridicule him for working hard instead of going on the dole like them.

            You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to impress the layabouts with all the good stuff hard well-paid work gets you: a big house, a fancy car, holidays abroad, fancy home electronics, and the list goes on.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I own an old board game called Britannia, which runs from the Roman invasion to I think 1087. Each of the 20 or so peoples in the game has a card detailing the things they get victory points for. Many of them say things like, “Each army destroyed while raiding – 1 point.”

            The one for the Irish says, “Each (non-Irish) army destroyed while raiding – 1 point.”

          • Deiseach says:

            Try the English instead of the Welsh. If the current Brexit carry-on is not enough for you, there is this person who claims to have graduated from Oxford with a double first in Modern History, is an MEP, and can’t figure out that another party forming the government six times means the point he is trying to make is not the same as what he’s claiming; yes, between those dates Fianna Fáil was the party with the largest share of the vote, but they were unable to form governments because they did not have a majority of seats (hence the six Fine Gael/Fine Gael and Coalition governments).

            Explaining “Yes, they did not manage to form a government on those occasions but my point is that they still were the single party with the largest share of the vote” surely is better than “Well, common person, I am Very Smart and as a Qualified Historian I have different interpretations of what you call ‘facts’ and ‘reality’, so there!”

      • Chalid says:

        Animals – dog (warrior), cat (rogue), crow (wizard), rat, snake, etc

        • dick says:

          I had a thought along the same lines, but struggled with how to disambiguate “race” (in the sense of base stats and in-born advantages) from “class” (guild, profession, etc). And there’s the thing about roguelikes relying heavily on equipment as a core mechanic, I’m not sure how snake weapons or crow armor would work exactly… But it certainly seems like something like this could be made workable.

          • Chalid says:

            If you must you can do animal subtypes. For example:

            “Race”: rodent. Warrior is porcupine (+physical attack), rogue is field mouse (+stealth), wizard is rat (+int), if you need a +cha class it could be hamster.

            Itemization and gear is tougher certainly. Maybe you could do it with buff foods?

          • dick says:

            Hehe… this is a really fun idea and would be great, if it weren’t for multiclassing, which will be a big part of this game. It seems weird to imagine a level 10 rat deciding to take some levels in porcupine.

            It might work to just have all the characters be rodents, use porcupine/rat/etc as races, and then just use traditional classes like fighter and wizard and let the rodents wear armor though…

          • Randy M says:

            Eulaliaaaa!
            Ahem, I mean, that would probably find a niche audience.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The armor could be like little tin cans and such. A sardine lid for a tower shield. Needle swords.

          • dick says:

            Is related to Redwall, or some other book series about rodents? I haven’t read it. Should I be leery of this because it would be ripoffy (in the same way that I’m leery of using whimsical stat names, like “moxie”, for fear of being ripoffy re: Kingdom of Loathing)?

          • Randy M says:

            Redwall book series is about an order of British expy medival meadow creatures who mostly get along until the rats and weasels show up.
            There are no humans in that series; if you used discarded human items as equipment as Conrad suggests, they would be more similar to the Disney animated movies The Rescuers, about mice that help human children.

            The battle cry I quoted above is from an order of fighting hares & Badgers in the Redwall book series.

            I don’t think you should be wary of doing your own take on the concept, however. It’s a concept that’s larger than the books, and not having read them you aren’t likely to be simply ripping them off. In fiction, there’s only so many original ideas to go around; the real originality comes in the presentation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I had never heard of Redwall until just now. The thing I was leery of including was the needle swords. Hornet in Hollow Knight uses a needle and thread for her attacks, and the Knight and other bugs use a nail. That said, the “nails” really just look like swords that they call nails. They don’t look anything like human nails, and given that the bugs had their own civilization and technology, there’s no need for them to use discarded human items (nor is there any other indication humans exist in their world).

            But as Randy said, smart animals/rodents repurposing discarded human products is not an entirely original idea, but it is a fun one.

            ETA: Silksong trailer for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Damn that looks good.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            The humans are never mentioned in Redwall, but they seem quite likely to exist. One of the roving bands of [various “bad” rodents] was riding on a horse-drawn cart when they went to attack Redwall. The entire band was riding on one cart, and it seems unlikely they built the thing themselves.

            I seem to recall a female warrior character using a piece of rope as a weapon as well, which seems to have been a discarded human-made rope. It’s been a long time since I read the books, so maybe my memory is off.

          • Nornagest says:

            The humans are never mentioned in Redwall, but they seem quite likely to exist. One of the roving bands of [various “bad” rodents] was riding on a horse-drawn cart when they went to attack Redwall. The entire band was riding on one cart, and it seems unlikely they built the thing themselves.

            It’s been upwards of twenty years since I read those books, but I recall that being one of the things that changed over the course of the series. The first book had rodents running around in a world full of human-scale artifacts, but by book two or three the set dressing had shrunk to their scale (and the relative scale of the animal characters seemed to shrink, too).

          • Randy M says:

            Nornagest is right. The first eponymous book also contains mention of actual earth places, I think Portugal or something, which is not repeated once the author has more firmly nailed down the setting as he went along.
            The scale in the books is intentionally ambiguous; for instance, there is a church down the road that seems human scale in the first book, but in later written novels comes across as creature built.
            My middle daughter is a big fan and we will return to one tonight.

            For another example of such a setting see the board game Root.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            That sounds right to my memory as well. I think the one with the cart was actually Redwall, the original book. By the later books, the world definitely felt completely rodent-sized.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Race”: rodent. Warrior is porcupine (+physical attack)

            This is blatant Reepicheep erasure and I will not stand for it! 😀

          • Randy M says:

            That is a good point–there’s no reason large talking beasts can’t be present alongside humans!

      • eyeballfrog says:

        The kids idea reminds me of the Mother series. While it didn’t have explicitly defined classes, Ninten, Anna, Lloyd, and Teddy (and to a lesser extent their successors Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo) have pretty clear archetypes.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Do you have a preferred setting in mind? You said roguelike, but is it a dungeon crawler? I think if you picked a setting first it would be easier to come up with races/classes.

        Also are you using Unity? I’ve been messing around with that, designing a game with my kids. I let them pick all the stuff about the game (it’s about babies fighting aliens), my wife is drawing the sprites and I’m just doing the coding.

        • dick says:

          I don’t have a setting, that will go hand-in-hand with the stuff I’m asking about here. It is a dungeon crawler in a certain sense, but so is FTL. So I’m agnostic about the dungeon being an actual dungeon, a spooky abandoned school, an anthill, a galaxy, etc.

          I’m not using Unity, this is a webapp. In fact I’m not using any frameworks or libraries or packages at all. I know that’s weird and all I can say is that this is my for-fun project, and learning frameworks and reading other peoples’ code is not what I want to do in my spare time.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Gotcha. But just sayin’ you might want to glance through the Unity manual. It is really, really easy, and a crap ton of work is done for you. If you already know C#…it’s basically sit down and go. There’s a reason Unity has an (undeserved) reputation as powering lots of awful games: it’s so easy people who have no idea wtf they’re doing can still produce something with it.

            ETA: I say “undeserved” because everyone’s favorite Le Hidden Gem indie Hollow Knight is also made in Unity. It’s not the framework that makes the games good or bad.

          • dick says:

            Oh I’ve heard really good things about it, nothing against entity, but I enjoy writing in JS a lot more and I’m pretty committed to this being a webapp. For example, I think (though this is a long way off) that it will be intended/encouraged for the player to add buttons that do strings of commands, akin to macros in muds.

      • helloo says:

        One suggestion is to look into anthropomorphic stuff.
        It’s getting cliche/saturated actually, but still mostly for the Eastern niche games market.

        So there’s games where your characters are humanized ships/guns/castles/tools/food/animals and that’s only considering combat driven games.

      • Jake says:

        If you don’t need too much of a human-type plot, you could do something microscopic, like bacteria/phages/virii/etc. Levelling up could be evolving, and if it’s party based, it could be symbiotic. I could see that concept making an interesting rogue-like.

        • dick says:

          Man this is a really intriguing idea. Probably would be difficult/impossible to make it realistic (meaning, it’s probably not going to end up with analogues for warrior/wizard/etc that a biologist would be impressed by) but it does open up a lot of fun possibilities… Like, yippee, I found a +2 flagellum!

          • helloo says:

            I think he’s thinking more like Plague in terms of character progression rather than FF with microbes.

      • Nornagest says:

        can you think of any alternative milieus that could be used for a game with similar mechanics, but a novel theme?

        I’m surprised I haven’t seen this more (it exists, but it’s very rare), but I’d like to see a relatively grounded martial arts RPG that doesn’t skimp on the training sequences. You play as a live-in student at a famous martial arts school. It’d probably end up being organized something like the Persona games: by day you hang out with your fellow students and do low-stakes practice and minigame drills to improve your stats, and by night you go out and fight for the honor of your school. If you set it during a period of civil strife/low-intensity warfare, you could raise the stakes pretty naturally as politics starts to get entangled with dojo life.

    • BBA says:

      Was it the GBA Fire Emblem? (Not the “original”, but the first one released outside Japan, and with no subtitle in English, I don’t know what to call it… the one with Lyn.) I thought it was an interesting idea, that “you” are a tactician, not a combatant, and it’s the lord you’re advising who actually drives the plot. And it’s a handy way to explain the perspective shift partway through – you leave Lyn after her quest ends, and join Eliwood and Hector on a new quest. But it was clear that the designers didn’t know what to do with the conceit and it was dropped in subsequent games.

      • helloo says:

        Nope. Though I was reminded of it when I started to think of other games that did similar things.

        It’s actually not a RPG at all and a rhythm game.

    • JPNunez says:

      Fire Emblem on the GBA gave you the role of the group’s strategist. You have no plot whatsoever -you are found amnesiac and only remember that you are good at strategizing in battles- but sometimes the characters will talk to you and mention you. You also have no portrait and when talked to, you don’t answer, the game acts like you did and “repeats” what you “said”.

      It’s a little weird.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I split RPGs into “named protagonist” and “unnamed protagonist” genres. I much, much prefer the named protagonist genre, and tolerate the unnamed protagonist genre.

      For instance, in The Witcher, you are The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, who has a distinct personality and history. Geralt has friends with interesting personalities like Zoltan and Dandelion, and a complicated romantic history with Triss and Yenefer (GO TEAM YEN!) and many others, and a large cast of acquaintances and foes. This makes it really easy for me to get into the role of Geralt, and for the writers to create stories that seem like the sorts of things that would matter to Geralt and therefore me, where I would become invested in the outcomes of quest lines.

      Then you’ve got Skyrim, where you are the generic Dragonborn, who could be a lizardman wizard or a dwarven thief or whatever, with no real history with the other people you encounter, and the stories you experience are theirs and not yours. I struggle to care. I play a lot of videogames, and I can count on one hand the games I’ve started and didn’t finish. Skyrim is one of those. Could not care. But I’ve played through the Witcher games multiple times each (except for 1…no one should play that more than once).

      It’s a little better when you do have something like a character but you just pick the class. Like I liked Dark Souls. Oh, and Salt and Sanctuary finally went on sale on the Switch yesterday so I picked that up and am loving it so far. But I’m halfway through Octopath Traveler and need to finish that before I start something else.

      • Civilis says:

        How do you classify the protagonist of Octopath Traveller? Do you consider every character to be the protagonist of their own story arc, or do you consider your first character to be the protagonist of the story since they’re stuck in the party until their story finishes?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I’ll let you know when I finish it. I guess I shouldn’t have said “half way” as I’m only just about to finish collecting all 8 characters and I don’t know what happens after that. But Octopath is…weird. For something made by Square and marketed as a spiritual successor to FF6 it’s bizarre that there is no overarching story (so far) and the characters have no relationship and don’t talk to each other. It’s a weird choice. But, I’m loving the individual characters (who definitely fall into the ‘named protagonist’ genre), the art, the music, and the combat system.

          • Randy M says:

            For something made by Square and marketed as a spiritual successor to FF6

            How much is a switch again?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Octopath Traveler trailer.

            A switch is $299. Single best video game console I’ve ever owned.

          • Civilis says:

            If you take your party into the inns/taverns in towns during a story step for the second and later chapters of a character’s personal story, there will sometimes be some interaction between a couple of the party members related to the story step at hand. It’s not much, but I found some of the little interactions to be very well written.

            While none of the character’s stories overlap directly, close attention to the stories will reveal some elements that overlap between them. Traveling around the map after completing the eight stories and completing a few hidden side-quests will reveal a true final boss route. A few of the late-game bosses were significantly harder than anything else I had run into, and I hit a wall and stopped playing at that point.

    • Dack says:

      This is sometimes mentioned as one of the main differences between JRPGs and Western RPGs in terms of story.

      JRPG=railroad
      WRPG=sandbox

  5. J Mann says:

    Is there a good open source (ish) and free alternative to ancestry dot com and its ilk? It seems like sharing your family tree and historical record findings is something that the internet would somehow make free, or paid for by data access or something.

    • Randy M says:

      Are you asking for genetic analysis or just some place to post your family tree? For the latter, try Family Search, perhaps. For the former, I doubt it, and would be rather suspicious if there was.

      • J Mann says:

        The latter. I like that Ancestry lets you construct and share your family tree, so you basically have a crowdsourced view into history, but it seems like the kind of thing that should be available in a free and hopefully open sourced version in 2019.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know if this is the site that Randy M mentioned, but there was a free family tree site my brother tried to pull me into. I deleted my account after like 2 days after realizing it was just a social media site, and they kept sending me emails to try and shake me down for leads.

    • FLWAB says:

      I think WikiTree is what you are looking for. It lets you make family trees, and searches the information you put in against the entire wiki to see if it’s the same person, so theoretically you could connect to other peoples trees and benefit from all of their research. At minimum it’s a useful tool for compiling genealogical info, and it’s all free, no ads, etc.

  6. Black Ice says:

    I’d be interesting in hearing any rationalist’s opinion on the alleged cheating of this man, who was found guilty of fraud in the Crown Court.

    Relevant video footage is on Youtube. This was a high-profile news story in England, but there are not many sources on the internet that argue in favour of Ingram’s innocence.

    My probability estimate for his guilt is about 1%. The Celador documentary on Ingram’s alleged cheating features some atrocious reasoning–which is why the case might be interesting to people here–and it appears that similar arguments were used by the prosecution in court.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Reversed stupidity is not intelligence, remember. It’s all too easy to marshal atrocious reasoning in the cause of the truth. The sufficiency of the arguments used by the prosecution in court bears on whether the court’s conclusion was correct under the law, which is a different question to whether or not he’s innocent in the sense of “actually committed the crime”.

      I think there’s a decent chance he’s guilty just on the basis of the fact that the producers of the show don’t want the bad press from fighting a battle not to give out their prizes, so they’re not likely to do it for no reason. The reasons for suspecting him of cheating might not all be the sort of things you can present in court.

    • Watchman says:

      Have you seen the footage of the relevant shows? The coughs seem more than coincidental, since there is not a cough on every answer but on the second show there is on every correct answer. People do involuntarily cough, but the odds are against anyone doing it with this pattern I’d have thought. That a witness reported this pattern of coughing on the night to the production team further suggests something notable here. There’s also the matter of the later insurance fraud (where part of the case was a failure to disclose repeated earlier claims, dating from before the Who Wants to be a Millionaire episode) which would seriously affect my priors upwards here: if someone is engaging in this it implies a liklihood of other ‘victimless’ frauds being undertaken.

      And this was a court case. If the prosecution argument was as weak as you suggest, then the defence could have easily dismantled it. If the evidence presented had only a 1% chance of being correct then any reasonable judge would have thrown the case out, so your prior looks unreasonably low. Appeals were also unsuccessful, so unless there’s reason to believe evidence was manipulated, I’m struggling to see where your analysis of the liklihood of a miscarriage of justice comes from.

      • Black Ice says:

        I watched the documentary when it came out.

        The coughs seem more than coincidental but as far as I can see, the enhanced recording was created by Celador alone and can’t be verified. Legal aspects aside, I have three reasons to doubt them:
        *People in a position to do so sometimes like to throw their weight around. There’s a lot of cases on r/legaladvice where that seems to be a contributing factor.
        *The case brought publicity to the show, via the documentary and Celador’s version of events that the press and most people believed. As it turned out, not much of this publicity was negative.
        *Celador may have thought that Ingram cheated, but unfairly manipulated this evidence–or put staff under pressure to do so–to support their argument. The opportunity is certainly there, compared to other types of evidence brought before a court such as DNA or forensic evidence supplied by professionals.

        That the coughs coincide with correct answers, if the track is a legitimate record of Whittock’s coughs, isn’t necessarily strong evidence that he was attempting to provide answers for Ingram. Perhaps some people are more likely to clear their throat when they hear what they think is a correct answer.

        Quote: “The prosecution first accused the Ingrams of using pagers hidden on his body on the first day of filming which would vibrate at the correct answer”. –The defense should have pointed out that this accusation, which is unsupported by any particular item of evidence, is a burdensome detail, and this kind of reasoning is evidence that other things the prosecution allege are not to be believed. I don’t know whether they did so. Apparently the judge also had to advise the jury to discount the idea that Diana Ingram’s coughs were significant; I’m not sure whether the prosecution argued so but the documentary did. If that was an argument used by the prosecution, again the defense should have pointed out that they were trying to spin a convincing-sounding story rather than sticking to (relatively) firm ground.

        The idea that Whittock’s cough immediately followed by “No!” was a negative signal intended for and heard by Ingram, is another detail that detracts from the prosecution’s case rather than adding to it in my view.

        My prior is also low based on the likelihood of someone conspiring to cheat in an original way with a stranger based purely on that stranger’s having better general knowledge, even risking over £100,000 more than once based on hearing a cough, and my expectation that the auditorium would have been designed so that it wasn’t easy to hear noises made by the other contestants from the hot seat. Chris Tarrant is on record at the time stating that he doesn’t hear much from his seat, and didn’t suspect anything during Ingram’s performance. In the documentary, Whittock is even overheard engaging another contestant in conversation, without being told to remain silent by the production staff, and I take that as an indication of the general audibility conditions.

        • J Mann says:

          Did the defense have access to unenhanced recordings?

          IMHO, the two biggest questions are:

          1) Opportunity. My understanding is that the contestant and the other guy had almost no established contact prior to the game, which leaves the possibilities: (a) there was no collusion, (b) it just engaged organically, with other guy coughing on correct answers and contestant taking advantage of it when he realized it (not sure that’s a crime); (c) they had more contact than can be proven.

          2) Coughing. Is it agreed that other guy only coughed on correct answers? If there was some evidence of him coughing on incorrect answers on the original recordings, or some evidence that he coughs on correct answers all the time (for example in try out rounds or whatever), that would be helpful. I have to say that I don’t immediately find the argument that “he has a severe cough, but when watching game shows, it only triggers when he hears a correct answer” to be super convincing.

          • Black Ice says:

            Did the defense have access to unenhanced recordings?

            I don’t know. There is an unedited version of Ingram’s appearance on Youtube, but I’m not sure where it came from because apparently his performance was never broadcast as a normal episode.

            All Wikipedia says is,

            A video recording, with coughing amplified relative to other sounds including Ingram’s and Tarrant’s voices, was prepared by Celador’s editors (Editworks) for the prosecution and for the “benefit of the jury” during the trial (and later for viewers in television broadcasts).

            I don’t know what normal procedure would be, but it’s a little surprising to me that Celador were allowed to edit the recording without the close involvement of specialists working for the CPS. Plus, without a dedicated and reliable microphone(s) that records exactly what people in the hot seat can hear, using any sound mix at all still leaves me relying a lot of prior probability.

            My understanding is that the contestant and the other guy had almost no established contact prior to the game

            Yeah, if they had been close friends then my probability of guilt would be much higher.

            Is it agreed that other guy only coughed on correct answers?

            From what I recall of the documentary, there was a part where Whittock coughs twice in succession, and the narrator or a talking head alleges that this was an “all stop” signal for Ingram to start talking through the possible answers again (which is what he subsequently did). This is one of the parts that I thought was atrocious, because they seemed to be elaborating their description of Ingram and Whittock’s methodology just to fit what they were watching and hearing.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Even if the coughs are completely edited in, he seemingly has no idea what the correct answer is, and goes from not even knowing the words to being very confident in the answers.

          He gets the first five questions, which are designed to be easy.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XpDMxyFakY

          (around the 2 minute mark) He is already struggling at question number 6, which 89% of the audience knows because he uses a lifeline.

          (around the 3 minute mark) At question 7 he uses another lifeline to phone a friend.

          (around the 6 minute mark) Now it’s the second show, and he declares he was secretly super-confident and doubting himself and won’t doubt himself.

          (7:35) Question 8. He seems to think he is in Onassiss. But he backs out of his old strategy of being confident and now has a “substrategy” of doubting himself.

          Oh, the rest of it is missing from YouTube. Darn. Here is the normal broadcast posted elsewhere https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siXq83o_qhM new timestamps and I cannot hear the coughs.

          (16:50) question 9. Where is this cheese from? He likes Switzerland, but insists on reading them all aloud. Now he knows he ate it 100 times. He eventually goes with Switzerland and it’s obvious htat he must have seen “made in Switzerland” on it.

          (19:00) question 10. “Born To Do It”. He has no idea, only vaguely heard the title. He thinks it’s A1. “I’ve never heard of Craig David. Coldplay I’ve never heard of. Top Loader is part of a rifle.” He goes 50:50. That leaves A1, which he thought before, and Craig David, that he’s never heard of. He still thinks it’s A1. (20:50) His wife coughs here, which could legitimately be nerves. At 22:00 he thinks he’s going to go for A1. He keeps on saying them both out loud. His wife coughs some more, and I no longer thinks it’s nerves. Then he says “my guesses are usually wrong” and says Craig David. He dithers for less than 5 seconds and says final answer.

          (25:10) The host notices that his wife doesn’t believe he got this far.

          He is locked in to his 32K pounds, so he goes to the next one.

          (26:05) Question 11. “Gentleman v players” is in what sport? He says he thinks it’s cricket, and I hear someone coughing even in the normal broadcast. The host reminds him that he has nothing to lose so he might as well guess. But he insists on reading all the answers out loud. At 28:30 he says cricket and I can hear someone coughing repeatedly. He says final answer and is right.

          I have more than 80% confidence he’s guilty. I am very skeptical of the British media, and their totally random accusations of pagers and other things. That doesn’t mean he’s not guilty.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Question 12 (I made a longer comment about it for my previous comment but my edit window closed). Who painted the Ambassadors? He thinks Holbein, insists on going through the other. Then he says Holbein again, and I can hear someone coughing even in the unedited broadcast and he confirms the answer right after that.

            (34:10) Question 13: What is an Anthony Eden? He thinks it’s a hat (which it is.) Each time he says hat I hear someone coughing. He doesn’t even bother going through the other ones. He’s up to 250,000, but will fall back to 32K on a wrong question.

            (36:45) Question 14: Baron Hausmann planned with city. He says Berlin off the bat. Then dithers. So he insists on reading through all the answers. He sits and stares and I hear coughing. His wife looks around anxously. He says out loud “I don’t think it’s Paris” and I hear the coughing immediately, and he hesitates when he hears the coughing. He lists the other two cities. “I thought it’s Berlin, but there’s a chance it’s Paris.” Oh, know he thinks he read this. “I think it’s Berlin. … Could be Paris” and there is the cough. “I think it is Paris” and there is the cough. “I’m taking to myself” he sa}ys to the host. He dithers, and then “it’s either Berlin or Paris. … I think it’s Paris” and I hear the cough. He says final answer.

            So he has 500K that he can walk away with. If he’s wrong he drops to 32K. If he wins he goes to 1MM.

            (42:50) Question 15. What is 10^100? He stares blankly. (44:30) “I think it’s a nanomol. But it could be a gigabit. ” Long pause. “I don’t think it’s a megatron. I don’t think I’ve heard of a googol. *cough* *cough* By process of elimination I think it’s googol but I don’t know what a googol is.” So he was thinking it was nanomol or gigabit, and by process of elimination decided it wasn’t them. The host is pointing out that he is risking going from 500K to 32K on a thing he never heard of.

            (47:20) “I don’t think it’s a nanomol, I don’t think it’s a gigabit, I don’t think it’s a megatron, mega mega mega, megatron. I’m sure it’s googol.” And there is the coughing.

          • J Mann says:

            Nice analysis – thanks.

            One interesting question is what is his legal status if there was no pre-existing plan? (I.e., if he just noticed the other guy coughing and went with it, then lied after the contest).

            Presumably, game shows like this have something to prevent unplanned signalling. I mean, if you just noticed that there was a particular audience member who couldn’t help nodding or shaking her head and ran through the possibilities to read her reactions, would that be cheating?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Interesting hypothetical. (He would have to know that this fellow contestant is always right, and more right than he is, while the show is running live, so I don’t buy it here.)

            I know game shows have procedures for dealing with audience members calling out answers in a rush of excitement. They are nearly always edited out.

            There was the guy who figured out the pattern on “Press Your Luck.” He didn’t break any rules and just used public information that anyone could have gotten.

          • J Mann says:

            It seems like a good strategy generally is to go over all the possible answers and watch for audience reaction – it’s like a free, less reliable lifeline. (The simplest counter to this would be to face the contestant away from the audience, in which case she would be reduced to listening for the reaction, or even separate the contestant and the audience).

          • John Schilling says:

            The simplest counter to this…

            The nastiest counter to this is to seed the audience with bit actors who get paid for every wrong answer and paid extra for every entertainingly stupid-wrong answer the contestant makes. And I believe a majority of the studio audience on most game shows is being paid to fill seats, so this should be doable.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Scott linked to Cracked, which claims that in the Russian version the audience sabotages the audience lifeline. Do they sabotage normal play, too?

        • suntzuanime says:

          That’s not how burdensome details work. Adding detail makes it less likely that the whole picture including the details is true, but it doesn’t make it any less likely that the core assertion “he cheated” is true. Again I have to point out that “did he get unjustly railroaded in court” is a different question from “is he innocent”. I can believe the first, I doubt the second.

          • Black Ice says:

            That’s not how burdensome details work.

            You’re right, I misused that phrase.

            “did he get unjustly railroaded in court” is a different question from “is he innocent”.

            Indeed. However, there is some relationship between those questions. Since both the TV production company and the prosecution in the court case made certain allegations that I consider particularly implausible, and in the case of the documentary at least these were made with an overconfident air that rang alarm bells for me, I adjusted downwards my weighting of their core allegation that the enhanced audio of coughs in the auditorium is representative of what Charles Ingram heard. Bad reasoning in one or more pertinent instances can be suggestive of further errors or a lack of integrity, where there is room for doubt.

            I have adjusted my probability of Ingram’s guilt upwards in light of the responses to my original comment.

  7. DragonMilk says:

    Anyone here play Paradox games, and Stellaris in particular?

    They’ve totally revamped the game (again) by adding secondary resources (consumer goods and alloys) and tertiary that are required for advanced buildings…

    What hasn’t changed is what I find unique to Paradox games – what I’ll just call un-PC things when taken out of context that embody game mechanics:
    “Is there any way to kill my current ruler/heir?”
    “You should move all the aliens to one planet to get the most forced labor out of them while purging them”
    “Xenophobia is much better unless you’re playing a corporation, though Xenophilia may be viable now”
    “I still prefer to use slaves over robots”
    “Actually, a peaceful, egalitarian, xenophobe empire is the optimal setup if you plan on kidnapping”

    Not that it holds a candle to CK2…

    • Unsaintly says:

      I play a lot of Paradox games, especially in a large MP group. Stellaris is my least favorite, as I find it pretty boring past the early game. And the phenomenon you’re referring to is often called “ck2.txt”, since ck2 has the best examples of it.
      And besides, Xenophobe is only really good if you’re planning to go for a conquest run. The trade boost from xenophile makes it more attractive overall, and you don’t get the opinion malus. But neither are really top tier ethics in my opinion.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I agree mid-game is a chore…but did you play the latest patch and as an aggressive empire?

        Population growth is king now and fanatic xenophobes get +20% growth and reduction in influence of outposts

        • Unsaintly says:

          I really really hate Stellaris warfare, so any time I try to play an aggressive empire I give up after the first war or so because screw going through that again. So yeah, I’m probably underselling Xenophobe a lot

    • John Schilling says:

      I didn’t start Stellaris because I hadn’t finished with CK2 yet, and now I’ve drifted away from my last (almost certainly ever) CK2 campaign precisely because they revamped the game underneath me. Even though I specifically did not buy the associated DLC, it now seems that roughly half the population of my empire (including my current Emperor) is secretly practicing a different religion than they openly profess and the focus of gameplay if I don’t want to face regular religious civil wars has to be my membership in a heirarchical secret society where I have to do lots of secret missions to secretly spread my secret religion to stay ahead of the other people doing the same and triggering major religious realignments every decade or so. And maybe I get to sometimes remember that I’m supposed to be a dynastic political leader trying to prevent the Mongol conquest of Europe, but I half expect that to resolve itself when the Great Khan turns out to secretly have been a Sephardic Jew all along.

      This is not a realistic simulation of dynastic politics of the high middle ages, nor even an improvement on the prior simulation, it is not even remotely what I signed up for, and it is profoundly annoying to have it forced upon me in the middle of an ironman campaign that I had been enjoying under the rules and terms I had set for myself at the start.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Enabling major gameplay-changing patch features midgame (especially in Ironman) is bullshit, I agree.

        But if you reconsider and start a new game, you can disable secret religious cults via the optional game rules settings. There are a bunch of other optional rules to disable other patch features that many players find mechanically annoying (e.g. Defensive Pacts, Shattered Retreat) or unrealisticly immersion breaking (e.g. Supernatural events, Aztec invasions).

        • John Schilling says:

          On the one hand, it looks like with the proper selection of options the game would be better than ever. On the other hand, I promised myself that this would be my last, best CK2 campaign before moving on to some other time sink (or, you know, productive use of time), and quitting midgame to restart because of their rules changes is extremely unsatisfactory in so many ways. So, no.

          Also, this isn’t the first time they did this to me. Like, they literally reshaped the map of Europe, leaving my armies scattered across the previously-unknown Great Syrian Desert, just days before they were supposed to converge for a decisive battle against the Mongol Hordes. That said Hordes were similarly displaced and basically ran out the clock and went home rather than marching across my inadequately-defended realm, was also unsatisfactory.

          Stellaris needs a way to not pull that crap.

          • Lillian says:

            You know, i was about to ask why didn’t you just disable automatic patching, but after looking into it i discovered that Steam actually does not allow that any more, and haven’t for years. Of course i didn’t notice because i hate the game clients as a concept and refuse to use them, even if that means pirating games i’ve paid for. Consequently i’ve never had Crusader Kings 2 change itself under me, which is frankly a far better use experience. Shout out to the boys at Skidrow for doing the Lord’s work.

            That said, there does seem to still way to disable automatic patching by messing with the Steam’s files. If you go to the Steamapps folder and open appmanifest.acf in Notepad++, each game you have installed should be listed there with a series of properties. The one you want is “Autoupdatebehavior”, change its value from 0 to 1 and the game should stop auto-updating.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            You can play specific versions of stellaris via the “beta” settings in steam reverting back five or six patches at will. This is mainly there for exactly this reason – so that you can be sure of finishing one campaign under one rule set. CKII unfortunately does not let you do this, presumably because it is a feature that is hard to have unless you think of it from the start?

          • metacelsus says:

            You can keep playing an old version of the game (both for CK2 and Stellaris) using the “Beta” feature in the Steam launcher. I have done this when I didn’t want my saves to break from new updates. Look on the Paradox website for more info.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Lilian Yes, I recommend Good/Grand old games (www.gog.com) – and when a game is only available on steam, not gog, I simply won’t buy it.

            Poisition taken after a game I loved was updated right before a holiday weekend when I planned to play it. By some time the next week, they’d gotten it working again, for at least the 90% of players with the more recent computers, and figured the rest of us should simply buy new computers.

            So now I figure that anything on Steam won’t be available to me long enough for me to tire of playing it.

            I suppose hacking steam’s config would be a way around this misfeature – but why not simply buy from the vendor that doesn’t do this, and makes a point of not doing it?

          • John Schilling says:

            You can keep playing an old version of the game (both for CK2 and Stellaris) using the “Beta” feature in the Steam launcher.

            As it turns out, trying this with an ironman game and/or one that’s undergone a map “upgrade” (not sure which), corrupts the saved game. It was worth a try, because the game was already corrupt as far as my playability was concerned, but that’s the end of it.

            Guess I won’t be playing any more Paradox or Steam games, then.

          • Lillian says:

            @DinoNerd: GOG is great, i made an account after i noticed a trend wherein a lot of pirated games are just literally a copy of the GOG installer with no crack or anything. Realizing that this online seller actually let me download and install games without having to run a client or anything made me think that i should give them some money, so every time i decide to buy a game they’re my first stop.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I’ve played EU3, HOI3, and CK2. No Stellaris, though, nor have I picked up EU4 or HOI4 yet.

      What hasn’t changed is what I find unique to Paradox games – what I’ll just call un-PC things when taken out of context that embody game mechanics:

      I see your point and raise you the ShitCrusaderKingsSay subreddit.

      • Protagoras says:

        I really wish they’d kept working on HOI3 instead of making HOI4. HOI4 takes out a lot of stuff which, to be sure, didn’t work very well in HOI3, and replaces it with other stuff that doesn’t work very well; I don’t understand how fixing the stuff so it works better completely eluded them as an alternative strategy.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I’ve heard that, and that’s part of why I haven’t picked up HOI4 yet. The other parts are that 1) I already own HOI3 with all the DLCs, while buying fully-tricked-out HOI4 (which still wouldn’t be nearly as mature a product as HOI3 was when they stopped further development) would run me another $75, and 2) HOI3 has a very steep learning curve which I’ve already climbed. I’m quite good at HOI3, but I’d have to learn HOI4 nearly from scratch.

          I don’t understand how fixing the stuff so it works better completely eluded them as an alternative strategy.

          Paradox seems to be well aware of that in general, as evidenced by CK2’s long life (first released 2012) and eleventy-bazillion-and-counting DLCs (most recent released late last year, with at least one more in the pipeline). For some reason, they decided to make a clean break and start over rather than following that strategy with HOI3.

          I’m guessing the reasons are a combination of market reasons (they didn’t expect additional HOI3 DLCs to sell well enough compared to how they expected HOI4 to sell), technical reasons (HOI3 uses the very old version 1.5 of the Clausewitz game engine, while CK2 uses 2.0, and EU4 and HOI4 use 2.5; I wouldn’t be surprised if there are enough breaking changes between 1.5 and 2.5 to make it easier to just start over), and design reasons (HOI4 sounds like they’ve decided to restructure things both to replace gamey aspects of HOI3 mechanics with things that feel more realistic, and to reduce the pain of the early learning curve: doing both at the same time is a tall order without a major redesign).

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I play Stellaris. Not that much in the last six months. Coincidentally, my second child is six months old!

      But I’ve played it in Le Guin.

      So, like…. whaddya want to talk about?

      Megacorps are fun but feel thin to me. The new pop/job system is interesting, but it feels like it adds a ton of micro right now for limited results. Previously fairly rich subsystems like gene/robo-modding are now much less rewarding due to the pop/job system.

      My most developed game in Le Guin was with a robo-empire, which everybody was complaining were horribly nerfed, but I actually think was pretty fun, assuming you played with an understanding of current constraints. Habitability = ALL is really powerful in Le Guin, and resettlement got me around slow initial growth rates for robo-colonies (I think growth has since been rebalanced). No consumer goods is powerful — I appreciated the lower mental overhead of cutting out a purely intermediary currency.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Try the peaceful until you’re not devouring swarm!

        + 78% growth rate thereabouts early game (20 + 10 + 33 + 10) with cheaper ships. Also don’t use consumer goods.

        I only have Utopia.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Yeah, the broad belief on the subreddit at least was that normal Hive Minds and/or Devouring Swarms were super good in Le Guin (at least last time I was playing). But I like machine empires better, and the point was, they aren’t bad.

          • DragonMilk says:

            I don’t have that DLC – is it worth it?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The Machine Empire DLC? I guess it depends. The main thing it adds is Machine Empires. They’re in a lot of ways just reskinned Hives — the fundamental mechanic of their government is the same as Hives (so no factions, no consumer goods, no happiness, diplomacy malus, etc.)

            I think it’s broadly agreed that their three “special civics” are more flavorful and interesting than Hives are. They have three: Determined Exterminators (which are like Skynet, and are broadly the same as Devouring Swarms), but then also Driven Assimilators (which are like the Borg, and get lower military bonuses but can convert conquered pops into cyborg drones. Grossly good with high levels of primitive tech worlds, because you can just invade them immediately, trivially win, and now you have a world with a bunch of pops), and Rogue Servitors (which are like Wall-E, and keep “bio trophy” biological pops as pets that generate Unity).

            So probably it depends on how much having a variant Hive Mind and/or playing as the Borg or Wall-E robots appeals to you.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I wonder about robo/genemodding. The problem with them in Le Guin is that it’s an enormous pain in the ass to try to align workers with jobs, right?

        I wonder if you could change it to kind of job modding. Like, you could say, “I want to make my Technician job more powerful, I’ll use my genemodding to make it give (whatever)” and then when a pop takes that job, the pop gets the genetic template that you’ve added to the job.

        After all, pops are lots of people each, and there’s no sense of pop age. After a few years in a gene-modding-capable empire, you would imagine that the pop doing a particular job would have traded individuals with a pop doing another job until workers and jobs were aligned.

        You could make it take a year after a pop took a job before they got the template if you wanted.

        • DragonMilk says:

          I’ve noticed that it’s actually quite smart – I built a farmer robot and mining robot template, and the game built farmer robots on my agriculture worlds and mining robots on my mining worlds.

          Organic pops differ, though, and are a mystery. To be fair, it’s kind of like real life. Plenty of Asian families try to breed their kids to become doctors and such…organics and their darn free will!

    • EchoChaos says:

      I play mostly EU4, although I’ve played tons of CK2 and Stellaris.

      Favorite game is restoring the Roman Empire as Byzantium, although conquering the world as Ryukyu is technically the hardest achievement I’ve gotten.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Not that it holds a candle to CK2…

      Yeah, I’m confident that CK2 is Paradox’s best game. Especially now that I’ve discovered there are supernatural events like your daughter becoming a bear. A fully-clothed polar bear. Who steals honey.
      Any of you guys have any good Crusader Kings bear stories?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        No bear stories, and I don’t play CK2, but you know about the horse thing, right?

        https://www.reddit.com/r/CrusaderKings/comments/4mo3rd/from_norse_to_horse_20_how_a_horse_exterminated/

      • DragonMilk says:

        My world conquest run (before they introduced ahistorical annoyances like coalitions) started in York, and my most accomplished Viking leader was an attractive gay Varangian who swept from Africa into India (the limits of the known world at the time).

        Oh, and I never switched from gavelkind or built buildings…I could just appease my king relatives by giving them new holdings. Border gore galore. Also wasn’t helpful that all eligible spouses in the world remaining were of my own bloodline….thankfully Germanic pagans permit concubinage

    • bean says:

      I’ve played a fair bit of EU4 and Stellaris. Both are good games, and I like the recent changes to Stellaris overall. I have a copy of CK2, but haven’t played.

      I also have HOI3, but gave up in disgust early on. I was playing as the US in a 1939 start, to get a feel for the economic system before I started in on combat. France fell in February 1940, which was really baffling. France’s fall was kind of low-percentage anyway, and I’m pretty sure that winter would have made a general offensive in early 1940 impossible. And then I found the real problem. I was trying to upgrade my ships (obviously), and specifically their light AA guns. And it was charging me the same amount for the same generation of light AA on each type of ship. So if I bought 40mm quad Bofors for my battleships at bignum research points, I then had to pay the same to get them on my destroyers.
      I know this is a weird pet peeve to have, and I’m sure that some of you will ask the same thing others have, namely “Maybe the different ships have different mounts or something?” The answer to that is no, they don’t. The 40 mm quad mount on a destroyer is very nearly identical to that on a battleship, and for some reason it really bugs me that they set the tech tree up so that they’re totally unrelated, instead of using a better structure.

      • Protagoras says:

        Tech tree on HOI4 mostly isn’t much better, and I expect the ship designer in the new Man the Guns update would enrage you if you tried it (it enrages me; customized ship design is such a great and obvious idea and they’ve screwed it up so badly).

      • Eric Rall says:

        I’ve seen France hold out in HOI3, and not just when I’m playing Britain or France (or playing Germany badly). It’s an unrealistically low-probability effect, but that looks like part of a deliberate design decision by Paradox to make the early war run on rails until after the fall of France unless derailed by player intervention (with few exceptions, such as the 10% chance that AI Britain will reject the Munich Agreement and start the war a year early). This seems to be one of the decisions they’ve reconsidered in HOI4: it sounds like they’ve made HOI4 much more of a sandbox than HOI3. Edit: on second thought, not a true sandbox, but at least there are multiple diverging rail lines and you can choose which one you get railroaded onto.

        I have no defense for the tech tree issue, and I understand how you could find that infuriatingly immersion-breaking.

        There are other infuriatingly unrealistic issues with HOI3’s naval warfare. The first one that leaps to my mind is that engagement/disengagement speeds for fleets in combat are based on the average speed of the ships in the fleet, not minimum speed or even average speed of the main battle line. So battleships can close with and sink fleeing fleet carriers if you stack them with enough fast destroyers.

        • bean says:

          I can sort of understand why they unrealistically weakened France, because most players want to play a version of what actually happened, and France not getting knocked out is a huge change. So I’ll accept that. My bigger problem was that it happened in February, and I had to wonder if Paradox was based somewhere they didn’t have winters. Which appears to be very much not the case, because they’re Swedish.

          So battleships can close with and sink fleeing fleet carriers if you stack them with enough fast destroyers.

          Ah. That would explain what was going on with Le Fantasque.

          • Eric Rall says:

            That’s probably a combination of allowed randomness (Germany AI varies when it clicks on the “Danzig or War” decision to kick off the war and the invasion of Poland, and then waits a seemly-random period after defeating Poland before kicking off the invasion of France and the Low Countries in earnest) and the devs for some reason deciding to make weather effects much more subtle and symmetrical than historical, especially in high-infrastructure provinces: supply throughput realistically goes to pot in Russia during the winter, and there are significant maluses to both unit movement rates and unit attack ratings, but the attack rating malus is too symmetrical to have a large overall effect (you can still run an offensive if you have superiority, with battles playing out slower to the same outcome), and the supply and movement penalties are too small to derail an offensive in the high-infrastructure provinces of France and Belgium.

            Ah. That would explain what was going on with Le Fantasque.

            Haha, nice one!

    • woah77 says:

      If you want a real trip, check out https://www.reddit.com/r/paradoxpolitics/ for some paradox takes on modern politics.

    • Incurian says:

      Machine empires with cyborgs are easy mode.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      I’ve been playing Stellaris but I haven’t gotten to the endgame. I tend to get to the middle game, and then I have too many planets, and some of my planets are overpopulated and some of them are underpopulated, so I have to resettle unemployed pops to planets with jobs. And I keep having to do that over and over, and the user interface is terrible, so that’s around the spot where I quit and restart.

      • cassander says:

        This is the factor that really limits paradox games for me. Their ambitions always seem to exceed their UI design.

      • Incurian says:

        I don’t know if they changed it recently, but I’ve found the resttlement UI pretty easy to use. It shows which planets have excess population in the drop down menu, and I just go through those to fill up the new worlds. Also, can you turn some of your economy micro over to your sector governors? I’m not sure if they do population control but they do a [not great] job of doing everything else.

  8. Vermillion says:

    I don’t know if there’s any recourse here but it looks like the raikoth.net domain isn’t just empty, it seems now to be host of those weird internet parasites who get $.0003 every time you add a new search bar to your browser. Anyway, I assume I could still find the essays and such on the wayback machine, but I guess it just struck me how weird that is. Like how does that even happen?

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s basically a scam. There are a bunch of fly-by-night vulture outfits preying on site administrators who’re too lazy or apathetic to keep their domain registration up to date: the game plan is to snipe domain names as they expire, ask for an extortionate amount of money to sell the domain back, and infect any hapless browsers looking for the old site with malware as a secondary revenue stream.

  9. Joseph Greenwood says:

    There is a meme in certain leftist circles that the pro-life right collectively are hypocrites because they don’t care about all the children who are currently in the foster system. My intuition is that this is unfair, but I am interested in tracking down empirical data on the issue. Specifically, does anyone know where I could find numbers on what proportion of households that are self-identified right-wing “conservatives” compared to left-wing “liberals” have adopted at least one child? More precise data–controlling for income, say, or focused specifically on the pro-life-pro-choice question–would also be welcome.

    • Randy M says:

      Good on you for finding data, I guess, but to me this has always just seemed like a massively asinine non-sequitor ad hominem, equivalent to saying “You don’t want me to beat my wife? Well I don’t see you offering to cook my dinner!” such that it isn’t worth refuting.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        “If you don’t turn your own home into a shelter for battered wives, you’re not really pro-wife, just anti-husband!”

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I can’t find any data. =( Only data on adoption by gender and race, which are pretty poor proxies for political affiliation.

        I agree that this is something of a distraction from the main issue, which is whether a fetus is a “person” in the sense that they deserve the same rights and liberties that a baby or a child or an adult does.

        Even so, it would be easier on my peace of mind to have an answer, one way or the other.

        • Randy M says:

          It’s rather terribly confounded either way; are you more likely to adopt or foster if you already have children? If you have a certain income? If you have a support network of likeminded parents? Try separating religious status/politics from all that.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          I agree that these things are very confounded, but I would accept simple “a higher proportion of pro-choice people than pro-life people adopt” as sufficient evidence to reverse my priors.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            This is very much full of confounders.

            I adopted my kids. It had absolutely nothing to do with politics, and 100% to do with not being able to create kids the normal way and wanting a family. People that adopt kids because they want to help the kids are a much smaller group than those that adopt because they are infertile.

            Furthermore, there are zero healthy babies in the US that are not being adopted because of a shortage of adopting parents. The reason for all the foreign adoptions is because the shortage runs in the opposite direction. Kids in foster care are there because they were pulled from their dysfunctional families at an older age. Those kids ARE much less adoptable. Plus I presume there are some highly disabled kids that can’t be adopted even when babies. It is parents who adopt older kids or disabled kids that I find admirable. It might be worth knowing the politics of people who do that, although I assume that data is even less available than what you were looking for.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I found one survey indicating that “Practicing Christians” are much more likely to adopt than the general population (5% of PCs have adopted a child vs 2% of the general adult population), and somewhat more likely to be foster parents (3% vs 2%). However, that looks like a private survey done by an Evangelical Christian think tank (hardly a neutral source on this topic), and the survey details appear to be behind a paywall (including the critical details of how they define “Practicing Christian”).

      Also, that’s religious practice and affiliation, not political identification, but what an Evangelical group is likely to consider a “Practicing Christian” probably correlates decently with “pro-life right”.

      I looked for other data, and found studies from the CDC, the Census Bureau, and the Dave Thomas Foundation. Sadly, none of these studies reported data on adoption rates by political views, partisan affiliation, abortion politics, religious self-identification, or church attendance.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I will see if I can get behind that paywall, but I don’t find Evangelical think-tanks to be very trustworthy sources in general. Unfortunately, it seems as though the only people looking into this are vested CW fighters.

      • myers2357 says:

        A little digging on the definition of “Practicing Christian” as used by Barna brought up this list of defined terms from Another Article. Assuming they are consistent with their usage of terminology, it might be helpful.

        Self-identified Christians select “Christian” from a list of religious affiliations.
        Non-Christians do not self-identify as Christian.
        Practicing Christians identify as Christian, have attended church within the past month and strongly agree that their faith is very important in their life today.
        Non-practicing Christians identify as Christian, but do not qualify as practicing under the definition above.

        Anecdotally, though I’ve never heard of Barna, I’ve heard & read the term “Practicing Christian” defined the same way: i.e. it’s not a term used to describe an individual who is necessarily a member of a church, or an individual who was polled at a church, but rather someone who voluntarily responded, on an anonymous survey, both: “I am a Christian who strongly agrees that my faith is very important in my life today” and “I have attended a Church service in the last month”

        Also note that the window in which this question is asked is very important: in the article I linked which had the definition, June 22–July 13 is more than a month past the major church attendance spikes around Easter & Christmas: I would be suspect of any studies done which defined a Practicing Christian as someone who “attended church in the last month” if that study was done immediately after Christmas.

        • Plumber says:

          @myers2357,
          Probably from a link in a Ross Douthat column, but I remember reading that in terms of health and prosperity church attendees do better than atheists, but atheists do better than those who call themselves Christians but don’t attend church.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Barna has a good reputation. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t consistent with secular sources.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Practicing Christians identify as Christian, have attended church within the past month and strongly agree that their faith is very important in their life today.

          That strikes me as a very fair way of classifying people as Practicing Christians in a survey like this, being relatively objective and sectarianly-neutral as well as aligning well with what the words imply to me. Thank you for digging that up.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think I’ve seen something like this definition used in Pew studies, too.

      • b_jonas says:

        How much is that is not due to the fact that Christian people are more likely to be married than the general population, and that the government generally doesn’t allow adoption except by married couples?

        • Eric Rall says:

          According to Pew’s religious landscape survey, 57% of weekly church attendees are currently married. The number for all US adults is 50% (also from Pew, but based on a Census Bureau dataset). I’m comparing to the “all adults” figure rather than Pew’s figures for “Seldom” or “Never” to line up with Barna’s numbers for adoption rate: Barna’s 2% number is for all adults, and they don’t report (at least in the summary article I linked) the numbers for non-practicing Christians and non-Christians.

          That’s only 1.14x the overall marriage rate, and for a more stringent cutoff than Barna’s criteria for identifying practicing vs non-practicing. If 2% of adults adopt, then differences in marriage rates would only fully explain a rate of 2.28% among regular church attendees. That still leaves a large gap (although not necessarily a significant gap, since Barna’s survey had a MOE of +/- 3.1%).

          Pew’s numbers aren’t split by which religion the frequent attendees are participating in, the way Barna’s numbers are. But that shouldn’t indicate a large gap: their same survey shows that ~93% of weekly-or-more religious service attendees are denominations that I’d expect to self-identify as Christian (the remainder being 3% “unaffiliated/none”, 1% Jewish, 1% Muslim, 1% “Other faiths”, and <1% each for Buddhist, Hindu, and "Other world religions").

      • Jaskologist says:

        Someone tell me if my math is off on here, because I’m pretty sure the above numbers say that 3/4 of adoptive parents are “Practicing Christians.”

        Barna’s 2016 numbers give 31% of the US population as “Practicing Christians” under their definition. So 0.05 adopters/PCs * 0.31 PCs/person = 1.55% of the US population are PCs who have adopted. If 2% of the population in total have adopted, including PCS, that only leaves 0.45% of adopters who are not Practicing Christians.

        Did I get that right?

        • Eric Rall says:

          Looks correct to me, with the caveats that the 2% and 5% appear to be rounded to whole percentage points (i.e. 2% is anywhere between 1.50% and 2.49%, not precisely 2.00%), and there’s a sampling error around both figures. The numbers are so small that the rounding error by itself is huge: assuming the actual numbers are 4.51% and 2.49% respectively, that more than doubles our calculated adoption rate among non-(practicing Christians) to 1.09%.

          The MOE on the survey’s sampling error is +/-3.1%, but that’s for percentages around 50% and the actual 95% confidence interval for sampling error is considerably smaller for very small or very large percentages. I don’t remember how much smaller, and a quick googling fails to find the formula.

      • MilfordTrunion says:

        Which is actually interesting because my wife and I looked into adopting, and the state’s adoption program information session had a steady drumbeat of “not for religious reasons…don’t adopt for religions reasons…if you think that adoption is a religious calling then you should reconsider…”because of religion” is considered a problem when placing children with families…”

        They didn’t quite come out and say “if you’re not stone atheist you won’t get a kid” but it was quite clear where they stood on the idea.

    • Erusian says:

      My experience (which is extensive) is that the religious care pretty deeply about orphans and that the highly religious tend to be conservatives.

      In contrast, I found secular liberals tended to use them as a football. During the whole crisis at the border, there was a lot of chest thumping about children and separation. I tried to get several of liberal friends/acquaintances involved in assisting orphans and reform of certain bad policies. They all, to a person, turned me down or didn’t respond. One actually publicly asked if anyone knew there was anything they could do right now and, when I pointed out they could take immediate actions (which would have cost time/money), they took me aside and chastised me for embarrassing them.

      The distinction really was stronger on the religious/irreligious axis though. Secular conservatives were more likely to help than secular liberals, but religious liberals were significantly more likely to help than secular conservatives. And I’d say with about the same enthusiasm as religious conservatives.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Thanks for that anecdote!

      • Well... says:

        This is my experience as well. The families I know that adopted were almost all practicing Christians (going to Church at least once a week, going on mission trips to 3rd world countries, etc.) and tended to be at least right of center politically.

        Notable exception is a lesbian couple who as far as I know are secular atheists, and who I know to be very left-wing politically.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        My daughter was adopted from China. As a result, we traveled with a few other adopting couples, later met another dozen or more families through a China-adoptee-specific play group, then did a Heritage Group still later with roughly 25 families. I’d say while only a few were evangelical, most were religious and I would guess there was a rightward tilt to their voting habits.

    • Here are data on adoption of children with public welfare agency involvement by state. You can convert it to per capita by dividing by state population, then compare the pattern with polling data on support for abortion by state or, absent that, voting data from past elections.

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s interesting to me that resolving this meme down to a testable prediction is itself nontrivial. I think political memes/attacks on outgroups tend to work better when they’re fuzzy, the opposite of a testable prediction.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          It is okay with me if the answer is “true in one sense, false in another”. Some of this isn’t a problem with Outgroup attacks so much as general paradigms. How would you falsify a statement like “Markets generally yield outcomes that are close to maximally efficient”?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think you’d have to define your terms carefully to have any way of approaching the problem, in both cases.

            If the claim is that pro-lifers don’t care about babies once their born (a common attack meme), I suppose you could look at evidence that pro-lifers do / don’t care about babies after they’re born. If the claim is that pro-lifers don’t care about unborn babies but just want to oppress women, you could look at evidence for pro-lifers wanting to oppress women. But neither of those lines seems like it’s a serious argument or claim of fact in like 99.9% of cases. It’s almost never meant to open an examination of the consistency of views of pro-lifers, instead it’s meant to get a zing in on the outgroup.

            There are related lines of discussion that might be interesting. For example, you can make an argument that pro-lifers should be more enthusiastic about providing free birth control to teens as a harm-reduction measure. But if you actually wanted to convince pro-lifers of this idea, you wouldn’t do it as an attack on their sincerity. That rarely convinces anyone. Similarly, you might be able to make an argument that pro-lifers should support more generous welfare programs for single mothers to encourage less abortion, but phrasing it as an attack is a pretty terrible way to get any agreement. (“Here’s why you people I’ve always hated are really worthy of nothing but derision and hate–hey, why aren’t you convinced by my argument?”)

            Political memes get selected (in the evolutionary sense) for being pithy and funny and nasty to the outgroup, not for accuracy or precision or having meaningful critiques embedded in them. There’s not much reason to expect one to have a lot of thought behind it.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            albatross–of course I don’t think the sources of the meme were acting from a position of good faith. I just wanted to know if the accusation they levied was in any way close to being correct.

            As an aside–as a practicing Christian (under the definition upthread), I was persuaded a couple years back that it would be good for the government to subsidize birth control access and sex education for teenagers, precisely to reduce the number of abortions sought by women. This is in spite of me viewing extramarital sex as being a seriously bad thing, and also holding that decreasing the costs (in terms of pregnancy risk) of extramarital sex will increase demand for it. Of course, if sex is all good fun between consenting adults, my whole line of concerns look rather silly, and can be pretty easy to ridicule from the outside.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        This data doesn’t copy and paste into an excel sheet very well, and when I started looking for other data that could be moved over more easily, I realized that since I also need to normalize for “number of children available for adoption” and in the end I would only be getting a coarse proxy for what I am interested in, I decided to let this line of inquiry go.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          If it helps, you can copy paste the table (excluding headers) into excel, and to a text-to-columns with spaces as delimiters. You’ll have a bit of a problem with compound state names (New Jersey, Rhode Island), but it’d be relatively easy to clean up. You can probably just delete DC.

    • Watchman says:

      I’m not sure the data you are seeking is addressing the issue in the meme. If this is a left-wing meme it is likely that the focus is the lack of support for the system rather than individual children within it. A rule of thumb is that left-wing political views tend to focus on collective systems and outcomes rather than individuals (yes, this is a generalisation). This is consistent with the anecdotal evidence above about who is more likely to adopt/foster, which is not the point if you view those fostered or adopted as only part of the system, and see true virtue (for want of a better word) in ensuring an adequate system exists for all children. The meme is likely a criticism that pro-lifers don’t properly support government schemes, not that they don’t adopt of foster children. Admittedly there are no doubt some spreading the meme who honestly believe all right-wingers are too selfish to care for anyone other than their own children, but to characterise the meme as this sought of thinking is to engage in the same over-simplification that you would be criticising.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        This is a good point. Facebook memes by their nature are lacking in inferential details, so I may have inadvertently rebuilt their position into an implicit accusation that was intuitive to me. On the other hand, ad hominems are fun across the political spectrum. So now I guess I have two questions I want to answer (David Friedman may have found the information I needed, I have not checked yet).

        In your view, are we both making the same mistake because we are both typical-minding and attributing to each other fragments of our own views that might render theirs incoherent? More generally, are we guessing wrong about what the other believes?

        My thought process about this was “I don’t think [implicit accusation] is true. But I don’t actually know. I better check before I say something.” And then finding data was harder than I expected it to be, so I asked for your collective help.

        I know that big C Conservatives are in favor of reducing (gutting?) government spending on social programs in general. Do you know if they have passed laws or endorsed policies to the effect that “we should reduce funding and/or support for the foster care system”?

      • The meme is likely a criticism that pro-lifers don’t properly support government schemes, not that they don’t adopt of foster children.

        The obvious response is that supporting government schemes is costless, since your vote has almost no effect on whether they get passed and you have to pay for them, so whether you do it is a signal of whether you think those schemes are good ones, not of how much you care about the objective they claim to achieve. Actually adopting a kid, on the other hand, is costly, so evidence that you actually care about a kid.

        • Aapje says:

          The counter to that could be that helping one kid helps only one kid, while a change to the system could provide a structural solution.

          • albatross11 says:

            Right. And that highlights the fact that we’re largely talking about:

            a. Differences in models of the world leading to differences in how we imagine different policies will work out.

            b. Differences in high-level values.

            If you propose universal pre-K, and I oppose it, it’s easy and common for you to accuse me of not caring about preschoolers. But it’s quite possible that I just don’t agree with you about the claimed benefits of universal pre-K, and think it will just be an expensive benefit program that’s impossible to get rid of and will share most of the same pathologies as public schools.

            It’s also possible that I see universal pre-K as primarily a program to encourage women to work outside the home rather than staying home raising their kids, and that I think that will make the world a worse place–enough to offset any benefits from free preschool.

          • Randy M says:

            You are making the wrong comparison, Aapje, unless referring to the Monarch fostering a peasant.
            You need to compare the actions of a single person. The expected value of adopting on child is one child cared for for the remainder of their childhood (minus whatever probability that they later get rid of the child themselves, probably low but higher than in bio cases, idk).
            Versus the other action that an individual can take, voting for or agitating for or even just holding an opinion in favor of an ill-defined hypothetical alternative that helps everyone. What’s the expected value of one additional person doing that? Pretty much nil.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            There do exist issues which require collective action to solve or for which collective action is the optimal solution. Barn raising were an actual thing, you know.

          • Randy M says:

            I agree. Heck, raising a kid is a collective action for two people, if you want to do it right. (with more help appreciated but accounting for that removes the pithiness).
            Doesn’t change the fact that helping one kid helps one kid, while holding certain views about what collective actions the state should initiate doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

            Think globally, act locally, as the hippies say.

          • @HBC:

            Barn raisings were a thing. Firms and football teams are a thing. There are lots of activities that require the cooperation of multiple people.

            What’s special about government action is that the cooperation is not voluntary–you have to contribute whether or not you approve.

            That was not, so far as I know, true of barn raisings. So they do not provide an example of a case where the government approach is superior to the voluntary approach, although there may be other things that do.

          • Aapje says:

            What is best done privately or collectively is a very political issue, see libertarians and such vs those who see things differently.

            Part of it is a difference in concerns. For example, if you care about the adopting parents and children that are in decent shape, you might think that a privatized solution is great. However, if you worry that adopting parents will refuse to take the hard cases, a collective (or mixed) solution may seem better.

    • ana53294 says:

      I was involved in the Russian adoption community in Spain, and the thing that stood out to me was families’ willingness to adopt kids with disabilities, diseases, or various syndromes (the most frequent one being the alcohol abstention one). But I am not sure it is just an issue of religion, though. This kids are not getting adopted by religious Russian Orthodox.

      There is a type of fostering in Spain that is political, and most of those involved were left-wing secular. Sahrawi kids and kids from the Chernobil area are taken for the summer by Spanish families, to let them enjoy a summer that is safer than the area they live in.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Isn’t the elephant in the room that some people are in fact in favour of what they would call “Christian values” which tend to include opposing abortion, opposing contraception, and opposing sex education. Less common, but still probably correlated, would be values of females obeying males (“man is the head of the wife in marriage” etc.). Also, in some cases, charity and caring for others – generally personally and/or via one’s church, not government. And the idea that large families are good.

      This is a package set – whatever variant someone believes in. If the proportion of pro-lifers who are better called pro-Christian-values is high, then many of these correlations make sense.

      But they don’t make sense to anyone coming from a humanist perspective, at least not as long as the conversation is simply about abortion, or about the welfare of children, or human welfare. It’s obvious from that perspective that prenatal and postnatal care is important, and if goverment is an OK means to reduce abortion, it’s an equally OK means to providing food, shelter, medicine, etc.. It makes no sense to combat voluntary abortions while doing nothing to help pregnant women avoid unwanted miscarriages, prenatal damage, or problems after the baby is born.

      It doesn’t even make much sense to someone coming from an alternate set of “Christian values”, that stress an all forgiving God of Love, rather than a more Old Testament God (of Righteousness etc.).

      • EchoChaos says:

        I will politely point out that you can have the government prosecute people for murder while still not being required to support the potential murder victim for the rest of his life.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Isn’t the elephant in the room that some people are in fact in favour of what they would call “Christian values” which tend to include opposing abortion, opposing contraception, and opposing sex education.

        2/3 of these are not actually beliefs held by the majority of American Christians.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Indeed. My sister uses terms like “heresy” when referring to parts of related packages of beliefs.

      • Randy M says:

        It’s obvious from that perspective that prenatal and postnatal care is important, and if goverment is an OK means to reduce abortion, it’s an equally OK means to providing food, shelter, medicine, etc.

        It’s not obvious; some philosophies of government hold that it has a proper role in preventing violence between people but not in running people’s lives for them by providing basic necessities. This is decidedly non-utilitarian in that is sees a distinction between action and inaction, but most people do.

        Also what EC & Jask said.

        • albatross11 says:

          Right, there are ideas about the right way for government to work, the likely practical consequences of a given program, the morality of a proposed law/policy/message sent by the government, etc. all rolled together.

          It’s like if you argue that liberals don’t *really* care about blacks because they don’t support voucher programs to replace public schools, or don’t support broken-windows policing to keep crime down given that bad public schools and crime land harder on poor blacks than on anyone else. You might actually be able to make a good case for supporting vouchers for public schools in places where the public schools are really bad, including to liberals. But you will never succeed in that (and aren’t really trying to do that) when you use liberals’ overwhelming opposition to vouchers as some kind of club with which to beat them for not caring about blacks.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            It’s a form of implicit belief fallacy:

            You believe X
            I believe that X implies Y
            Therefor you must believe Y

            All that can correctly be concluded is that either you believe Y, or that you wrongly believe that X does not imply Y, or that your beliefs are not internally consistent, or that I am wrong about X implying Y.

            Recognising this as a fallacy is incredibly important, especially if, like me, you believe that “we should take the Bible, the Koran or the Torah as the ultimate source of moral guidance” logically implies “homosexuality etc are immoral”, and you want to be friends with the large number of people who believe the former but not the latter, because they disagree with you about the syllogism.

      • aristides says:

        I think the difference is Christians wanting the government to do what it can’t do itself. The church is very capable of providing food, shelter, medicine, etc. The church is not capable of prosecuting criminals, at least they have not been capable of doing so in a while. If the church still had it’s prosecuting authority, they probably would want the government to stay out of abortion as well.

    • Clutzy says:

      The foster system is not so simple. Lots of pro-life people act as foster parents, but the issue with foster kids is they are often not adoptable in a practical sense. Often one or more of the parents maintains a claim on the kids the government and CPS just have a continuing injunction against them having custody, or they are in prison, etc.

      Also, looking at foster care is a red herring. Of kids in foster care, almost none were given up as newborns. There is a surplus of demand for newborns in adoption (such that many look overseas and pay thousands of dollars). If you are a person who is 3 months pregnant and click the adoption checkbox, your kid is going to have 2 parents the day it is borne.

    • Dack says:

      My intuition is that this is unfair

      Your intuition is correct, because it is a false/fabricated problem in the first place. The supply of adoptee children does not even come close to the demand of (would-be) adopter parents. Why else would so many people go all the way to China to adopt?

      And yes, I have data:
      HHS
      ~100k children eligible for adoption (and trending downwards)

      CDC
      ~900k women currently seeking to adopt

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        https://www.thedailybeast.com/can-gay-marriage-solve-our-adoption-problem?ref=home

        There are, to a first approximation, zero healthy adoptable babies in the US foster care system. Of the 400,000 kids in the system, as Ezra points out, 300,000 can’t be adopted because there’s a relative still in the picture who hopes to get that kid back. Of the 100,000 who can be adopted, very few of them fit the criteria that most couples (including gay ones) have for adoption:

        She also gives the first 15 results from AdoptUSKids, and nearly every single one of them is an “only extremely open hearts need apply.” I honestly could not make it all the way through the list because it’s so heartbreaking to read.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I honestly could not make it all the way through the list because it’s so heartbreaking to read.

          “It can’t be that bad… oh, it’s so much worse than I thought”.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            My wife and I are looking into adoption and…man, adopting some of these kids would require one (or both) of us to quit or jobs. Really, really heartbreaking.

          • ana53294 says:

            Only number 15 seems to be something that a family could maybe deal with without having a SAHP. But having a conflictive kid is still hard.

            And it seems like even lowering “healthy” and “no disabilities” to a child who can talk, is not agressive or self-harming, can eat and breathe on their own, would turn very few kids.

          • johan_larson says:

            I wonder how euphemistic “small stature” is. Are we talking about a kid who’s going to grow up to be 5′ 2″ or 4′ 2″?

          • Deiseach says:

            I wonder how euphemistic “small stature” is.

            That’s a euphemism for “was so neglected as a baby, toddler and maybe even during pregnancy that their growth has been permanently stunted and they’re underdeveloped to what they should be”.

            Social services only move in to remove kids from families when things get really bad, and as you’re all discovering from reading that, “really bad” means “no honestly really fucking bad like you thought had gone out with the 19th century”.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s a euphemism for “was so neglected as a baby, toddler and maybe even during pregnancy that their growth has been permanently stunted and they’re underdeveloped to what they should be”.

            In which case height is probably the least of the problems.

          • Social services only move in to remove kids from families when things get really bad

            Possibly true in Ireland. In Texas, a while back, social services moved in to remove three hundred children from their families because they disapproved of their religion (Fundamentalist LDS).

            For a less extreme example, we had a presentation some time back by a possible hire who had been a law school student at Cornell and had participated in a program where law students were offering legal help to poor people. I asked him whether, judged by his experience, the ability of the government to take children away from their parents produced a net benefit or loss. His reply was that he couldn’t speak for the country as a whole, but in Ithaca it produced a net loss.

          • toastengineer says:

            This is one of those “if it was a one dimensional problem, it’d be fixed already” issues. In my limited-but-direct experience, CYS/CPS are simultaneously too likely to move a child in to a worse situation and insufficiently likely to move a child out of a genuinely abusive situation.

            Furthermore, it varies by county; CYS agencies in wealthy, high-class counties tend to be overly aggressive, because the base rate of abuse in their jurisdiction is low and they’re probably overfunded on top of that. If they learn your name, they will ruin your life and then use the fact that they ruined your life as cause to take your kids. They’ve got nothing else to do all day, and I’d bet they’re told the state or national rates of child abuse convictions and are wondering where all the abused kids they’re supposed to be seeing are.

            Agencies in fucked-up counties are completely overwhelmed and underfunded and will not mess with you unless you actually kill your kid or they’re 100% sure that you’re going to, soon.

            In my experience they’re also extremely sexist; single mothers can get away with having a house full of pet waste and kids who have massive fungal infections because they’re never washed; single fathers get the “ruin your life, take your kids” treatment.

            They’re often used as pawns in local-scale political skullduggery. If you piss off a pencil-pusher at the school, well, CYS has to investigate every accusation a school employee makes. After a while they just take your kids because otherwise they can’t do their jobs, because they’ll just keep getting sent to your house.

            I can dump all my child protective services-related anecdata if anyone really wants me to.

          • Lillian says:

            One huge bias i’ve noted with respect to Child Protective Services is with respect to whether or not the child they’re supposed to be protecting is in the system already. So if you hear a story about a child being abused and CPS doing nothing about it, odds pretty good that the one doing the abusing was a foster parent or caretaker in a group home. The child was in the system and under CPS’s control, and therefore “safe”, making their abuse invisible to the authorities. Meanwhile if you hear a story about CPS losing its absolutely shit about a total non-issue, taking the kids away, and making everyone miserable for no good reason, it’s almost certainly the kids original parents/guardians who stand accused. This bias is how you get a system that is simultaneously too slow to notice abuse and too quick to take kids away.

            Ultimately i think it’s a kind of principal/agent problem. Their funding and prestige is linked to how many children they have in the system, so they are incentivized to bring as many as possible, and to keep them in once there. The result is exactly what i said, they don’t care very much about abuse within the system, because there is little benefit in addressing it, but they will seize on the merest hint or rumour of anything untoward happening outside of it.

    • Matt says:

      Here’s an anecdote:

      One of my best friends from high school got married, had a child, and then started fostering. He and his wife eventually adopted 4 of these children: a developmentally disabled boy, a set of African-american brothers, and a girl their son’s age with psychological damage – In the many times I went to their house to visit, she never spoke to me, nor spent more than 5 seconds in any room I was in.

      My friend and his wife are two of the most deeply religious people I know. Furthermore, without support from their church, (and the government) it really wouldn’t have been possible for them to foster or adopt so many children.

      Another anecdote: A woman I know was adopted at birth by a religious couple who raised her. Counterpoint: She was born in a hospital for unwed mothers in the 70s and would not likely have been there BUT FOR the fact that her birth mother’s family was very religious so her mother was sent out of state to give birth privately. Her birth mother and birth father eventually married anyway and had two more children. If not for that family’s religiosity, instead of being an adoptee baby who grew up wondering who her birth parents were, she would more likely have been raised from birth as the oldest child in a family of five. Or possibly she would have been aborted, I suppose.

      • albatross11 says:

        A couple I know adopted a girl they fostered for awhile with developmental disabilities and some really awful abuse in her past. As best I could tell as a neighbor, they never treated her as anything but their daughter whom they loved, including working very hard to find whatever special programs she needed to be as successful as possible. The parents are a Jewish woman and a (I think nonreligious) black guy, raising their kids Jewish. I’m awed by their willingness to take on the set of challenges they had to accept to adopt that little girl. (They moved away awhile back, but from what I can see on Facebook, it looks like their kids are doing ok so far.)

    • Deiseach says:

      This is a “have you stopped beating your wife?” type of accusation, and I don’t bother even considering it since the same people weeping over the horrible right-wing conservative religious zealots using the products of conception as an excuse to harrass, degrade, repress and punish women for having sex get their knickers in a twist over pro-life people saying “okay, so adoption is an alternative to abortion if you don’t want a baby!”

      So if they’re going to say “Pro-lifers aren’t, they just really wanna punish women for having sex otherwise they’d do this thing“, I’m going to say “Pro-choicers aren’t, they just really wanna kill babies otherwise they’d do this thing“.

      • Cariyaga says:

        Uh… what? No, what? The conception (no pun intended), as far as I understand it, that most folks on the left have is that babies aren’t people until their brains develop to a certain point in the womb. Why… would they want to have that not-a-person-baby and adopt it out?

        The alternative response is, of course, “Yep, you’re right, they just love killing babies and nothing you can do will stop it, so probably should make it so they don’t kill themselves in the process so they can go on being otherwise-productive, if abhorrent, members of society.”

        • Deiseach says:

          Why… would they want to have that not-a-person-baby and adopt it out?

          Congratulations for simultaneously not understanding and proving my point.

          I’m not seriously going to say “pro-choice people only want to kill babies”, I realise that most of them have very good intentions. And yes, they don’t consider the unborn to be persons, that’s why they can salve their consciences with “it’s only a clump of cells, not a baby”.

          However, there seems to be no restraint on the pro-choice side for blackening the name of the pro-life side (as witness the links I provided). The insistence on painting the opposition as vile horrible misogynists who damn all involuntarily pregnant women to hell and brand them as sluts and don’t care about babies once born, because all they really care about is punishing women for being liberated and engaging in sex for pleasure and not being under the thumb of repressive fundamentalist religion is a little bit extreme. The resistance to the (and I admit, it’s well-intentioned but naive) proposal on adoption instead of abortion, that can be seen as a counter-proposal to the “okay, if you want to decrease the number of abortions, then you should support contraception and sex education” by the pro-choice side, is very striking to me. The outrage seems out of proportion, it’s not simply “pregnancy is a big committment and the foster care system is failing”, it does seem to be “how dare you stop me killing this thing if I want to kill it when that’s my legal right to kill it?” in effect if not in so many words.

          If you paint me as an evil extremist, I’m going to do the same by you.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s really important in a discussion like this to remember that when we talk about what the other side says about our side (for all values of “us” and “them”), what we usually mean is what the loudest people on the other side who get the most media attention say about our side. I don’t know of any polling data, but I assume that the great majority of pro-choice people recognize that the pro-life people are sincere in their beliefs, and vice versa. But accusing the other side of murdering babies for convenience or of wanting to turn _The Handmaid’s Tale_ into real life is a lot better way to grab attention. The media even turn out to be most of the internal communications of most movements (now augmented by Twitter et al, but that’s mostly not an improvement), so over time, most of the arguments I hear for my side of the issue are also the terrible cheap ones that call the other side baby-killing monsters/knuckle-dragging woman-haters[1]. This is one of the things that’s broken about most political dialogue, IMO.

            [1] Damnit, why must we put up with these narrow partisan choices? Why can’t I vote for the knuckle-dragging woman haters who also like to murder babies?

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11

            “…..polling data….”

            From Damon Linker in The Week:

            "...A solid majority favors abortion rights, though the extent of that support varies greatly depending on how advanced the pregnancy is and the motives of the woman seeking the abortion. At one end of the spectrum, only 15 percent of the country wants to outlaw abortion during the first trimester even when the mother's life is on the line. At the other end, only 20 percent believes a late-term abortion should be allowed when the choice is based simply on the mother's desire not to have a child.

            That's 15 percent of the public holding an absolute pro-life position and 20 percent expressing an absolute pro-choice view. The rest of the country — 63 percent — comes down somewhere in the middle..."  

            But as the link in the quote above shows how the question in worded changes “pro” and “anti” among Americans (I haven’t seen any overseas polls) if I can suss out a median position I’d say it was something like “Sometimes the abortion should be allowed sometimes not”, how far along the pregnancy is and how potentially viable the baby would be if a premature birth makes a big difference, as does the circumstances leading to pregnancy (most say rape victims shouldn’t have to give birth).

            What most Americans don’t want to see is someone getting abortions repeatedly.

            To call opinions “conflicted” is an understatement.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What we usually mean is what the loudest people on the other side

            I mean, we just had a coordinated effort by Republicans to paint Democrats as in favor of killing children who are already born. This isn’t “just a few loud voices” type stuff.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I mean, we just had a coordinated effort by Republicans to paint Democrats as in favor of killing children who are already born. This isn’t “just a few loud voices” type stuff.

            Maybe there’s some fine distinction you can see between “Children born alive after botched abortion attempts” and “Children who are already born”, or between “Deliberately leaving to die” and “Killing”, but personally I have difficulty discerning any meaningful difference.

            Nor, for that matter, is it particularly surprising that Democrats should be in favour of “post-birth abortions”, as the term is. After all, if a baby in a womb is too underdeveloped to count as a person, that’s hardly going to change just because said baby moves a few inches down the birth canal. So why exactly shouldn’t somebody who’s in favour of abortion at a given point in pregnancy also be fine with killing an infant born at the same point?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, I guess I can just say thank you for proving my point…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Genuine question here: why *doesn’t* “this 25-week-old-foetus doesn’t have enough brain function to count as a person, therefore it’s OK to abort it” also entail “this born-after-25-weeks premature baby doesn’t have enough brain function to count as a person, therefore it’s OK to kill it”? Or do you think both instances of killing are OK?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It is my belief that your question is not a genuine question, but rather a question you think is a “gotcha” question.

            In case you are actually confused about the kinds of things which are really at stake: here, here or here.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If you’re going to accuse people of bad faith, don’t promote an article that opens with the claim “Scott Walker, at CPAC, says that people are taking already-born babies home from the hospital and aborting them there.”

            It conspicuously does not include his actual quote. I had to track that down the actual quote on my own:

            “By the way, it’s not live birth abortion, it’s not infanticide, it is murder if you take the baby home and kill the baby at home, it’s murder,” Walker said. “The same thing is true at the hospital.”

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearCub:

            In what sense do you think a coordinated PR effort by one of the two major parties isn’t “the loudest voices?”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It is my belief that your question is not a genuine question, but rather a question you think is a “gotcha” question.

            No, it’s genuine alright, and I look forward to hearing your answer.

            In case you are actually confused about the kinds of things which are really at stake: here, here or here.

            All of those articles, it seems, are focused on cases where the foetus can’t survive outside the womb. So, perhaps there’s room for compromise here: I’ll support abortion rights in cases where the foetus couldn’t survive, if you support criminalising abortion in all other cases. Deal?

          • quanta413 says:

            Personally, I have no deep investment on whether or not a botched abortion/baby has to be attempted to be kept alive if it would otherwise be viable. I think it’s probably best to let it die or finish the job, and I definitely don’t see why the answer shouldn’t match whatever was true inside the uterus. The worst possible answer is the one being reached by having the rule depend on physical location, but that’s because the obvious goal of the law is to act as a wedge against abortion in general.

            HeelBearCub, you should just answer “Yes, it’s ok to abort the fetus/baby at X weeks so obviously it’s ok to euthanize the now premature baby/fetus on the table at X weeks.” It’s a completely sane position, and the only answer someone can give is to argue in full generality why abortion is always wrong or always wrong past a certain date or whatever. Which would be a more interesting argument to have even if it’s been hashed over a million times.

          • dick says:

            No, it’s genuine alright, and I look forward to hearing your answer.

            I share HBCs view that this is semantic legerdemain in the guise of a good faith question, but here’s my answer: the pro-choice position is not “there are certain types of babies it’s okay to kill”, it is “women should have the right to decide whether to have their baby or abort it.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            Note that I said it’s not just a few loud voices. I was criticizing the implied point, that the loud voices are the fringe outliers, rather than representative of, at the very least, the rump.

            @qanta:
            My immediate response and that while it may be that simple, it’s not that simple. While we may end up at bright line rules the underlying process is complex and nuanced. It is important not ignore the distinctions.

            @Jaskologist:
            Do you really want to play that game? The one where you make me go pull lots and lots of quotes?

          • dick says:

            Can someone explain where this “babies born alive during abortions” meme came from? I did some casual googling, and the central example of it appears to be situations in which the mother wants to keep the baby, but (due to one of the bewildering variety of birth defects and other conditions that afflict pregnancy) the baby is not viable, and the mother is faced with the horrific choice of either aborting a baby she wanted, or having it and watching it die in her arms.

            That seems like a pretty obvious example of a private personal medical tragedy that neither the government nor the pro-choice/pro-life movements ought to have any interest in. Am I missing something here?

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m 95% sure those laws are just a wedge to crack away at what’s allowed.

            But I still don’t see why the answer is complex for however few cases it has happened in or might hypothetically happen in. If it’s ok to abort, it’s ok to euthanize. If it’s not ok to abort, it’s not ok to euthanize. Like what sort of complex logic does it take to reach the conclusion that it depends on the physical location of the fetus/baby?

            I could generate post hoc reasons that break the symmetry, but I have trouble believing many people actually holds that set of beliefs. I’m pretty sure almost all people will think it’s wrong or it’s right but their answer isn’t going to depend on the physical location of the fetus. It very reasonably may depend on viability or age of the fetus or intelligence or ability to feel pain. But physical location should be dispensed with by answering that it doesn’t matter in this case.

            I agree that there are complexities HeelBearCub, but I don’t believe they lie along this fault line.

          • albatross11 says:

            dick:

            Yeah, like I said, the actual situations in which late-term abortions happen are, as best I can tell, almost 100% tragic horrible situations where there’s no good answer available and no happy ending to be had, no matter what anyone does.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta @albatross:

            Suppose you go into pre-term labor and give birth to the child, and the child spends a week in the ICU … can you then decide to “abort” the baby?

            I’m not saying that’s even that much of a reasonable scenario, I’m just saying it’s the ground you start to walk on when you just try and give the “simple” answer. And then you start having people force you into a debate even further afield from where the real issues lie.

          • quanta413 says:

            Suppose you go into pre-term labor and give birth to the child, and the child spends a week in the ICU … can you then decide to “abort” the baby?

            There are situations where you can unplug grandma or your critically injured spouse from critical care keeping them alive. It’s very tragic, but legally people can make those choices. This is actually less bad than what is already allowed if you accept that full human legal and moral rights are more of a gradient with biological development. If you don’t it’s still only tied with what is legal.

            Or you can just say “you get one chance to say yes to completing the abortion and that’s that for *complicated reasons I don’t feel like coming up with*”.

            I’m not saying that’s even that much of a reasonable scenario, I’m just saying it’s the ground you start to walk on when you just try and give the “simple” answer. And then you start having people force you into a debate even further afield from where the real issues lie.

            You’re free to force them back with counter questions. If they don’t answer, they’re revealed as being rather cowardly about the whole argument. Or maybe they’ll bite some bullets too. If they’re really, really, really pro-life they might bite bullets like “yes, you’re not allowed to unplug a 25 week baby with a permanently debilitating condition from critical care and euthanize it or pump it full of morphine while it dies even though MRI scans show it’s in horrifying pain all the time, and if it lives it will be nonmotile, nonresponsive, and in terrible agony from its debilitating condition before dying as an underdeveloped toddler”. Or maybe they won’t bite that bullet and it’ll turn out they are only against aborting healthy babies from healthy mothers.

            But I’m not as good at guessing what someone very pro-life might say because I don’t believe what they believe.

          • @HBC:

            I can’t tell if you really don’t follow the argument or are using the accusation of bad faith to evade an argument to which you have no adequate response. So let me try. I won’t limit the argument to a child born as the result of a botched abortion, since it’s much more general than that.

            As best I can see, there are basically two arguments for the strong pro-abortion position–that women should be able to abort for any reason at any stage of pregnancy.

            One argument is that the fetus isn’t yet human. That applies just as strongly to a newborn as to a fetus shortly before birth.

            The other argument is that the mother should not be forced to bear the burden of carrying the fetus to term. But, as any parents can tell you, the fetus is a good deal more work after it comes out than before, and for a longer time. So if the mother has no obligation to keep the fetus alive while it is in her body, why does she get such an obligation once it is out?

            One possible and internally consistent response could be that she doesn’t, that if someone else is willing to support the newborn she is not entitled to kill it, but that if nobody is she is entitled to expose it, let it die of hunger and thirst. I don’t believe I have seen pro-choice people make that argument, although perhaps HBC will.

            Another response might be that we face the problem of using binary categories (person/not person) for a continuous variable, hence need some convenient place to draw the line, a Schelling point. I don’t think that is consistent with the rhetoric over the issue, but it is a possible argument. One obvious reply is that there are other options available. The traditional one was quickening. A more modern one might be brain activity. Or perhaps the stage of development at which premature infants had a good chance of survival.

            Or, of course, pro-choice people could bite the bullet and come out in favor of legalized infanticide. It’s an uncomfortable position, but not an indefensible one—and one accepted by the Romans and Greeks, civilizations we tend to have a pretty positive opinion of.

          • Clutzy says:

            There are situations where you can unplug grandma or your critically injured spouse from critical care keeping them alive. It’s very tragic, but legally people can make those choices. This is actually less bad than what is already allowed if you accept that full human legal and moral rights are more of a gradient with biological development. If you don’t it’s still only tied with what is legal.

            Isn’t this kind of the same as the bad faith rhetoric that was called out by the OP. Just because we don’t want people putting a bullet in Grandma, doesn’t mean we think the state should dedicate limitless resources to keeping her alive when she has lung cancer.

          • quanta413 says:

            Isn’t this kind of the same as the bad faith rhetoric that was called out by the OP. Just because we don’t want people putting a bullet in Grandma, doesn’t mean we think the state should dedicate limitless resources to keeping her alive when she has lung cancer.

            I’m not sure what you mean. A lot of accusations of bad faith rhetoric are being flung around without much arguing about the object level points. Everything is going to sound horrible when debating abortion because of the nature of the questions at stake.

            Do you have an objection to my object level point that there is an analogy between letting a premature child in poor condition die and letting an older relative in poor condition die? Keeping in mind that essentially all premature children before a certain point are in poor condition. And some will remain so throughout their life at notably higher levels than the base rate. Although of course that depends on how premature.

            @DavidFriedman

            Another response might be that we face the problem of using binary categories (person/not person) for a continuous variable, hence need some convenient place to draw the line, a Schelling point. I don’t think that is consistent with the rhetoric over the issue, but it is a possible argument. One obvious reply is that there are other options available. The traditional one was quickening. A more modern one might be brain activity. Or perhaps the stage of development at which premature infants had a good chance of survival.

            The rhetoric on this issue on both sides is almost uniformly stupid though. Using a continuous variable reflects the nature of the issue at hand better. Personally I think it comes down to picking a few legal Schelling points. But the hardcore prolife and hardcore prochoice people seem unlikely to accept anything but total victory over the opponent for the foreseeable future so I don’t expect progress anytime soon.

          • Clutzy says:

            Do you have an objection to my object level point that there is an analogy between letting a premature child in poor condition die and letting an older relative in poor condition die? Keeping in mind that essentially all premature children before a certain point are in poor condition. And some will remain so throughout their life at notably higher levels than the base rate. Although of course that depends

            No I think your analogy totally holds. But that is kinda the point in the OP which I reproduce here:

            There is a meme in certain leftist circles that the pro-life right collectively are hypocrites because they don’t care about all the children who are currently in the foster system.

            In fact, the meme reproduced here is kind of a steelman, the actual position is not just that they don’t care about the foster children (which is in doubt from a factual perspective), but also that to be “truly pro life” they should be in favor of an expanded welfare state to give all kids and people a nice life.

            And I think you give a close analogy as to why this is such a bad argument. Pulling the plug is sometimes a prudent strategy. Shooting Grandma as she rocks in a chair reading a book isn’t really ever prudent.

          • dick says:

            As best I can see, there are basically two arguments for the strong pro-abortion position… One argument is that the fetus isn’t yet human… The other argument is that the mother should not be forced to bear the burden of carrying the fetus to term.

            That’s approximately my position, and neither of those are things I would cite as reasons. (The first one doesn’t even make sense. What do you think we think a fetus is, if not human? Zebra?) I don’t know how to put this without seeming snarky, but this is one side of an emotionally fraught and politically contentious issue that mankind has been wrestling with for millennia. Does it not seem presumptuous to declare that you’ve isolated the only two arguments for it?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            I can’t tell if you really don’t follow the argument or are using the accusation of bad faith to evade an argument to which you have no adequate response.

            Oh, touché. Truly you have cut me, sir.

            Did you bother to read what it was that I responded to? Let me quote from it:

            Maybe there’s some fine distinction you can see between “Children born alive after botched abortion attempts” and “Children who are already born”

            Nor, for that matter, is it particularly surprising that Democrats should be in favour of “post-birth abortions”, as the term is.

            This is not a nuanced examination of the issues. Note the particular framing language of “botched abortions” and “post birth abortions”.

            Note, that we are also quite far afield from my actual point, which was a reply to albatross about whether the current public debate is driven by a few, strident, unrepresentative voices.

            As to the meat of your argument, I would simply repeat that one, simple rule that merely attempts to elucidate a right is simply inadequate to the conversation. The law of course must operate this way, but it does not capture the complexities of the matter.

            You are correct in saying that the development of a fertilized egg goes through many relatively indistinct stages, and thus the law depends on a Schelling point to make an otherwise unmakeable distinction. However, we also recognize more than one of these based on specific circumstances. The life or health of the mother being endangered changes the allowable actions.

            There is also an implied distinction based upon intention. If a mother with pre-eclampsia goes in to pre-term labor intending to save the pregnancy, this is treated quite differently than if the same mother is in the process of having an abortion.

            At 26 weeks from conception, a child born prematurely at 25 weeks, and that same fetus still in womb are in different contexts. If we simply measure some time from conception and pay no attention to resulting context we will be missing crucial information.

            @quanta:
            As to whether one can only offer palliative care to a terminal child, I would say there are a few separate issues here. One is whether you can choose to terminate the pregnancy. That is not strictly analogous to palliative care. The second is whether you are allowed to offer only palliative care in the process of an induced abortion, or must attempt life saving measures. I’m happy to bite both of those bullets, but they are separate.

            There is, of course, a third question about euthanasia in general, and whether parents can decide on this for their child. Contemplating arbitrary euthenasia for a healthy one year old is an argument that the pro-life movement would like to have, as roughly no one would accept it as permissible.

          • ana53294 says:

            Usually, very late-term abortions (or induced labor) are not done on a whim. There are different, respectable reasons to do, and they are usually due to a risk to the mother or the non-viability of the baby.

            Having a child die in utero is a terrible thing, that will lead to a high risk of the mother dying, horrible sepsis and necrosis. There are babies that doctors know with 99% certainty that they will die in utero, or shortly after they are born.

            Or there are cases when the mother is sick with cancer, needs immediate treatment, and chemo cannot be used on a pregnant woman, so labor is induced, and the non-viable baby is allowed to die humanely, instead of dying in utero due to chemo. Not everybody wants to be a martyr saint.

            So in order to avoid all sorts of complications, birth is induced, and the non-viable baby is humanely let die. The same way a person who cannot breathe on their own may be disconnected from machines.

            It’s not as if these babies were perfectly healthy, breathing babies which are denied food and made die of hunger. My understanding is that these are really really sick babies. What is the big deal with letting them die as quickly and painlessly as possible, by denying them care? Actually euthanising them is illegal, although that would probably be the most humane option. Denying care is the only legal way of euthanising such a terminal case.

            Or is it that in the US you have late-term abortions of viable, healthy babies with no risk to the mother? That would make the whole thing more understandable. In Europe, late term abortions are only practiced in cases where somebody is going to die, so I don’t get what the big deal is about. These are tragedies where somebody has to choose who dies; the decision should be left to the mother, because she would be the one who dies.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ana53294:
            The short answer is that late term abortions are rare in the US, and are for medical reasons. In the US, the Supreme Court currently establishes a right to abortion up until 24 weeks, with a health exception afterwards. 99% of abortions, I believe, happen at or before 21 weeks.

            I think your confusion is because in the US we are arguing about rights, whereas the system you are describing is rooted more in medical ethics.

            The concept of whether any abortion is allowable is a source of interminable debate in the US. The place where those debates become legislation are frequently at the edges. Everyone would like to force the conversation into their preferred edge case.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            If the law only allows abortions in case of severe medical complications, then by definition all legal abortions will involve severe medical complications.

            However, there are people who are fighting to allow the mother to decide when to have a late abortion, with no limit on the reasons. These people include Hillary Clinton during her run for President, so this is hardly a fringe opinion.

            If there is no legal limit on the reasons, then other reasons than medical complications may lead to the decision. As I noted in another comment, all the evidence we have about the actual decisions, show that other reasons than medical complications dominate when women are free to make the decision. However, I also noted that we don’t have any good data for the really late abortions. This makes it easy to replace fact with sentiment/bias and argue that women surely won’t get very late abortions for financial reasons or such, but this seems far from evident to me.

            Usually, very late-term abortions (or induced labor) are not done on a whim.

            I think that the frame of a ‘whim’ as opposed to a sensible decision is a very bad way to argue, because plenty of people exist who have horrible beliefs, that they really want to put into action (and sometimes do even against the law), but that we make laws against to prevent.

            Laws are not just to stop people who have ‘whims,’ but to set limits on what society considers acceptable in general. It’s not like we ban manslaughter, but allow a carefully planned murder, because if you planned it carefully, you must have had a good reason.

            Your frame implicitly puts women on a pedestal as people who can’t have abhorrent beliefs.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            As to whether one can only offer palliative care to a terminal child, I would say there are a few separate issues here. One is whether you can choose to terminate the pregnancy. That is not strictly analogous to palliative care. The second is whether you are allowed to offer only palliative care in the process of an induced abortion, or must attempt life saving measures. I’m happy to bite both of those bullets, but they are separate.

            There is, of course, a third question about euthanasia in general, and whether parents can decide on this for their child. Contemplating arbitrary euthenasia for a healthy one year old is an argument that the pro-life movement would like to have, as roughly no one would accept it as permissible.

            Sure I agree there are multiple issues. I think whether to save/not save or engage in palliative care should depend on the intentions of the mother (or possibly both parents in certain situations; for example, if the father is married to the mother and the mother is in the grips of severe depression such that her current will isn’t what it was beforehand or something) and the health and age of the fetus/baby. I’m claiming it shouldn’t depend on the location of the fetus/baby.

            If people want to go into hysterics claiming that I’m advocating euthanizing 1 year olds instead of that or pain treatment that amounts to the same to sick, unwanted 20-something week olds, that will make them look worse to most observers.

            I’m not sure even societies that engaged in exposure of sick infants did it much after birth so it seems like a nonexistent opinion (except maybe Peter Singer).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            This is not a nuanced examination of the issues. Note the particular framing language of “botched abortions” and “post birth abortions”.

            As for the first phrase, if you intend to carry out an abortion, and instead end up with a live baby on the table before you, why isn’t “botched” an appropriate way of describing the procedure?

            As for the second phrase, I will admit that I slightly misremembered it; the actual phrase used is “after-birth abortion”, not that it makes any real difference. And it is an actual phrase used by actual pro-choicers who are actually trying to defend the practice; e.g., here. If you don’t like the phrase, then I suggest you take it up with the people advocating for the practice, because it’s not my job to police your side’s language for you.

            However, we also recognize more than one of these based on specific circumstances. The life or health of the mother being endangered changes the allowable actions.

            There are no cases where an abortion is necessary for the life or health of the mother. If for whatever reason the mother can’t carry the baby to term, a C-section or an induced labour will get it out just as well as an abortion will, and are generally quicker and simpler to perform.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            I am not putting women on the pedestal; I am assuming that late term abortions can only legally happen for medical reasons. If anything, I am putting doctors on a pedestal.

            And I wasn’t asking a question about why people are against late-term abortions. I was asking a question about why, if there is a real medical reason for inducing labor before the foetus is viable, and the foetus would suffer a horrible death, would it be wrong to let it die as quickly and painlessly as possible.

            @Mr X

            There are no cases where an abortion is necessary for the life or health of the mother. If for whatever reason the mother can’t carry the baby to term, a C-section or an induced labour will get it out just as well as an abortion will, and are generally quicker and simpler to perform.

            But those are techniques that are used in late-term abortions. There is also the dilation and evacuation, which is the most gruesome one. I guess I would be OK with banning that one, unless there is a specific reason why it’s needed.

          • I’m not sure even societies that engaged in exposure of sick infants did it much after birth

            I think you are correct that exposure was just after birth.

            But it wasn’t limited to sick infants. In Greece and Rome, as I understand it, it was acceptable to expose any infant the parents didn’t want, such as a girl when they wanted a boy.

          • albatross11 says:

            quanta:

            It seems to me that this is exactly the slippery slope that many pro-life people argue we’re on when we start accepting abortion–well, maybe a week after the baby is born, you can decide to kill him because you don’t think his life worth living.

          • Deiseach says:

            Can someone explain where this “babies born alive during abortions” meme came from? I did some casual googling

            You fortunate person, you mean you missed the whole “Obama and the Born Alive Infants Act” storm in a teacup?

            Short answer: in some cases where surgical abortion is carried out, if the abortion happens late in the pregnancy, the baby is delivered still alive. The most noted person to be born and survive in such a case is Gianna Jessen, who was born alive after a failed saline abortion because it was carried out during the 30th week of pregnancy.

            For the pro-life side, what really kicked it off was the testimony of Jill Stanek, a nurse who was present during abortions in a Chicago hospital and who claimed that babies who survived abortion attempts and were delivered alive were being left to die, contrary to the legal and medical codes of the time.

            That one is complicated; there’s a difference between “baby delivered alive but not viable and will die soon so no point in trying to resusicate or incubate them, just make them comfortable and wait for nature to take its course” and “baby delivered alive, could be viable, but since this was an abortion we all know the mother/parents don’t want to be parents, so set it aside and wait for it to die”. Arguments about the born alive were weighted to the latter, hence the proposed Act.

            Obama got into the middle of it because he was a Chicago state senator, voted four times against the Act, and there was a hoop-la about him saying he’d only support it if such-and-such language was present which wasn’t, then it was pointed out that the language of the act was the same as the language for some other legislation that he had voted in favour of. The conclusion to be drawn there, it was intimated, was that he had one eye on the national stage and calculated that as a Democrat, being on the right side of Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice side would be all to the good when he ran for higher office:

            Illinois lawmakers voted down identical versions of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act in 2001 and 2002 before a new iteration of the bill came before the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, headed by Obama. This new legislation removed the controversial line about recognizing live-born children as humans and giving them immediate protection under the law. It also addressed Obama’s concern about previable fetuses, adding a “neutrality clause” that said the measure would not affect the legal status of fetuses prior to delivery.

            Nonetheless, Obama voted against the new bill, which happened to be an almost exact replica — almost to the word — of a federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act that passed in 2002 without opposition in either politial party. (Updated: The vote in the House was by voice vote and the vote in the Senate was by unanimous consent.)

            Obama swore during the 2008 election that he would have supported the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, prompting the National Right to Life Committee to issue a scathing white paper that pointed out how he had contradicted himself by voting against the Illinois measure while backing the older federal version in retrospect during his presidential campaign.

            As I said, if you missed all this, you were very, very lucky. I’m not even American and I learned a lot more about it than I ever wanted to know.

          • Deiseach says:

            In Greece and Rome, as I understand it, it was acceptable to expose any infant the parents didn’t want, such as a girl when they wanted a boy.

            As I think I read somewhere, this was one way Roman brothels recruited; they sent guys around to popular spots for exposing infants, they picked up girl babies, and those were brought up in brothels to be prostitutes when old enough.

            Then Those Darn Christians started spoiling things by going round and taking in exposed infants themselves! Not to blacken the names of ancient Romans, St Vincent de Paul also provided such a service in France; in 1638 he built the first foundling home in Paris and introduced the use of foundling wheels because so many babies and infants were being abandoned and exposed.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            Canada and some American states like Alaska actually seem to allow abortions up to birth with no medical restriction.

            Even when there is a medical restriction, the exact wording matters a lot. A generic allowance for any (mental) health reason can be used to do an abortion when there is no serious physical or mental health issue. For example, the mental anguish over not getting an abortion when one really wants one, can be seen as a threat to mental health.

            In general, I see a lot of cases where the law is interpreted in a rather extreme way by abortion doctors. For example, Dutch law allows an abortion up to viability when there is an emergency situation that makes abortion necessary.

            In practice, any reason that the pregnant woman has seems to be considered “an emergency situation that makes abortion necessary.” To me, this doesn’t seem the most straightforward interpretation of the law, but rather one that seeks to stretch the law as much as possible.

            While I can understand the problematic nature of the state or a doctor deciding for people what is an emergency and would support removing this restriction altogether, an interpretation that effectively nullifies part of the law seems to subvert the intent of the writers of the law. I prefer that people (try to) get the law changed if they disagree with the intent of the law, rather than subvert it.

            I can also see why other may feel lied to when they are told that abortions are done for (medical) emergencies, when the actual reasons seem to be things that we don’t treat as (huge) emergencies in other contexts. And sometimes people even get lied to consciously.

            Ultimately, laws and policies should stand or fall on the truth, not be passed and/or upheld with deception.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            I wasn’t aware of this, thanks.

            In Spain, the edge cases for abortion debate seems more centered on getting teenage minor girls to get abortion without the consent of their parents, and sometimes without even informing them.

            There isn’t much of a debate about late-term abortions. My understanding is that they usually happen because of genuine medical needs, and not just mental health issues.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Ana:

            But those are techniques that are used in late-term abortions. There is also the dilation and evacuation, which is the most gruesome one. I guess I would be OK with banning that one, unless there is a specific reason why it’s needed.

            If we’re talking about abortion in the commonly-understood sense of killing a foetus, I don’t see how either C-sections or induced labour would count as abortions. Maybe if you killed the foetus first and then used a C-section or IL to get the body out, but in that case why not just skip the killing stage and get the foetus out alive?

          • quanta413 says:

            @albatross11

            It seems to me that this is exactly the slippery slope that many pro-life people argue we’re on when we start accepting abortion–well, maybe a week after the baby is born, you can decide to kill him because you don’t think his life worth living.

            Depends how old and how healthy. We don’t expose infants, and I find aborting a healthy 9 month fetus too far if we think exposing infants is not ok.

            But a permanently severely crippled 22 week old the parents don’t want? There’s no moral difference whether or not the fetus was delivered first.

            If we had biobags that could take a human zygote and grow it into a baby, I wouldn’t think various form of birth control were now morally out just because it was technically possible to keep every fertlized zygote and turn it into a baby. Someone very prolife might, but the heavy use of contraception by Americans doesn’t bode well for their chances of winning that political struggle.

            The slippery slope argument doesn’t convince me of much because why allow hormonal contraception if there’s such a slippery slope? I’m not Catholic; most people aren’t, and I don’t find their position against all forms of effective birth control to be of interest.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Mr X

            When you induce birth at 22 weeks, and you get a completely inviable baby, whom you let die humanely by not prolonging their life unnecessarily by making them breathe artificially, because the likelihood they’ll survive without incredibly severe deficiencies is 0, I believe this is called a late term abortion.

            For practical purposes, the only difference between induced labor and an abortion would be on whether you bury the baby or dispose of medical waste.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            When you induce birth at 22 weeks, and you get a completely inviable baby, whom you let die humanely by not prolonging their life unnecessarily by making them breathe artificially, because the likelihood they’ll survive without incredibly severe deficiencies is 0, I believe this is called a late term abortion.

            Do you have any examples you can quote? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a C-section or induced labour called an abortion unless the infant is deliberately killed either before or during the procedure.

          • ana53294 says:

            I can only quote cases in Spanish, but here is for example the case of a Salvadorean woman who was not allowed to have an abortion but was allowed to induce labor of an inviable baby.

            An Argentinian newspaper discussing how similar those two things are.

            But then, in Spanish, “abortion” and “miscarriage”, are the same word, so I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes.

            I have read though that in the US some of these late-term abortions involve poisoning the baby in utero, which does seem gruesome.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In English, the medical name for miscarriages is “spontaneous abortions”, but in day-to-day speech “abortion” is reserved for procedures which intend to result in foetal death; so miscarriages, induced labour, etc., wouldn’t count.

        • babies aren’t people until their brains develop to a certain point in the womb.

          If that is the argument, one would think pro-choice people would be happy to accept limits on how late in term abortions were legal. That, I think, is the usual rule in Europe, and was in practice the rule in the U.S. in the past, although not put in terms of brain development.

          And if the real object is to protect women who get pregnant out of wedlock, legal abortions up to three months, which is a pretty conservative version of legal abortion, should mostly do it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as a practical aside, while late-term abortion is a controversial point because it makes an interesting place to frame the argument, my (limited) understanding is that nearly all late-term abortions are done in terrible situations in which there were no good outcomes possible. It may be that some of those cases are basically doing euthenasia in a legally-acceptable way for a child who otherwise would have had a very bad life, but I do not believe that this is something that gets done on a whim, or that anyway gets a third-trimester abortion as a form of birth control.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            The question is what you call a late-term abortion. Studies typically use 20+ weeks, so if you want information about a subset of abortions after 20 weeks, like in and beyond the third trimester, there seems to be practically no data.

            For the 20+ weeks abortions, of which most are relatively close to that date, these mostly seem to be women who desired an abortion anyway or didn’t consider it in time, but were late for often practical reasons (like not recognizing they were pregnant, not being able to arrange an abortion, etc). All of these seem heavily correlated with youth and bad circumstances.

            This study had only 2% of women state that the reason for the delay in getting an abortion was that a fetal problem was diagnosed late in the pregnancy.

            This study shows that late abortions are heavily correlated with age, depression, drug use, having a violent partner, indecisiveness and access problems. The study also notes that “data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

            Note that both these studies are published by the Guttmacher Instititute, which is either independent or pro-abortion, depending on who you want to believe.

            There is also this Congressional report, which comes to similar conclusions.

            So my conclusion is that the claim that late-term abortions are mostly or often basically euthanasia is false for 20+ weeks and unknowable (and thus should not be stated as the truth) for abortions (much) later than that.

            basically doing euthenasia in a legally-acceptable way for a child who otherwise would have had a very bad life, but I do not believe that this is something that gets done on a whim, or that anyway gets a third-trimester abortion as a form of birth control.

            The studies suggest that the primary reasons for first and second trimester abortions are a lack of finances, impact on work/education and similar reasons, where one can disagree on how bad the life of the child would actually be, given the level of welfare available.

            Another objection by an anti-abortion or abortion-critical person might be that the child could be put up for adoption. As noted elsewhere, healthy, young babies are hot commodities on the adoption market.

            Finally, if the only concern over late abortions would be a serious health complication on the part of the child or the mother, this doesn’t require a right to a late abortion for any reason. The law can explicitly require that a doctor determines that such a reason exists.

          • quanta413 says:

            Another objection by a anti-abortion or abortion-critical person might be that the child could be put up for adoption. As noted elsewhere, healthy, young babies are hot commodities on the adoption market.

            To think like a stereotypically coldblooded economist, this would suggest we need well functioning baby markets. Enough money changing hands should align people’s interests better. Prolife people get to stop abortions. More people get healthy adopted children. People accidentally having babies get a big cash payout. It’s win-win-win.

            What I really want to know is where the supply and demand curves would intersect for baby markets. Hypothetically speaking.

          • Aapje says:

            Poor (and (thus) black) people disproportionately get abortions now, so if the compensation is enough to make it an attractive deal, it might work as a wealth redistribution scheme from rich white people to poor black people too!

            Everyone happy!

            (just in case it is not obvious, this was sarcastic/jokey)

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje:

            Okay, fair enough. I have heard a lot of political rhetoric about late-term abortion, but it’s interesting to see that the statistics don’t quite capture what I understood as the meaning of the term, and also are quite different from my previous understanding.

          • To think like a stereotypically coldblooded economist, this would suggest we need well functioning baby markets.

            I think it is pretty widely believed among legal academics that a major reason why Richard Posner, one of the leading legal scholars of the past fifty years, was never seriously considered for the Supreme Court was that he had come out in favor of legalizing the adoption market.

            There is a market in adoptions now, although it is in some sense a black market. Adoptive parents are not allowed to simply pay for a child but the lawyers involved in the process can charge them, and I believe they can pay medical expenses to the birth mother.

            It sounds as though you are making the suggestion with the assumption that it is a bad idea. If so, why?

            Off hand, the only argument I can see against it is that a legal adoption market would produce an adequate supply of newborn infants with nothing obviously wrong with them, and that would reduce the number of couples willing to adopt either an older child or a newborn who had something wrong with him.

          • quanta413 says:

            It sounds as though you are making the suggestion with the assumption that it is a bad idea. If so, why?

            I’m only half joking. I assume there are downsides I probably don’t see. I can think of some downsides, but they aren’t enough that I would rule out the idea in and of itself.

            The bigger problem is it doesn’t solve the issue because probably some people would prefer to not have a genetic child wandering around somewhere who might try to find them later.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross @aapje:
            What you are talking about are those who wait until the last opportunity, the difference between before and after 20 weeks, which is not the current limit, but is close to it, will have some expected characteristics.

            But that would still be true if we move the limit.

            ETA: As a counterpoint from, this Wikipedia article, that the UK version of these stats, where access to healthcare is not an issue, show health of the mother as the most likely reason for abortion past 20 weeks, with foetal abnormality comprising the rest.

          • Lambert says:

            Those two reasons are the only legal reasons to get an abortion in the UK past twentysomething (forget the exact number) weeks.

            Before that, the bar is much lower. (You plausibly can’t cope with a(nother) kid right now, more or less)

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            We seem to have somewhat of an adoption market when it comes to international adoptions, where large sums are paid by the adopting parents to the various parties who facilitate the adoptions.

            This has led to quite a bit of actual human trafficking* where such things happen as the child being taken from living parents with the implicit or explicit promise of a free/cheap education at a boarding school or temporary care, only to then be presented as an orphan to people seeking to adopt & sold for a very lucrative sum of money.

            * In contrast to what is usually referred to with that term.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            UK law is that abortions at or after 24 weeks can only be done for severe medical reasons. I know that in my country, doctors typically use a stricter limit because determining the age is difficult, so if they guess wrong and later the actual date of inception is discovered, they may be prosecuted. So the statistics you point at may be what they are due to the law, with very few abortions being done after 20 weeks, but not under the 24+ week law’s restrictions.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            UK law only permits abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities or the mother’s health, so those are always going to be the official reasons for an abortion. In practice, however, those restrictions are so easy to circumvent (just find a sympathetic doctor, say “I’m really stressed at the thought of having a baby, it’s a risk to my mental health”, and get him to sign the form for you) that the country might as well have abortion on demand.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Indeed, I misread the law (bias & laziness 😛 ).

            Here is the relevant bit:

            Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith –
            (a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
            (b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
            (c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
            (d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

            Relatively early abortions are quite safe compared the normal risks of a pregnancy, so this law could be used to abort any fetus (until 24 weeks). This was noted in R v British Broadcasting Corporation, ex parte ProLife Alliance, where Lord Justice Laws said:

            There is some evidence that many doctors maintain that the continuance of a pregnancy is always more dangerous to the physical welfare of a woman than having an abortion, a state of affairs which is said to allow a situation of de facto abortion on demand to prevail.

            Then the official reason marked by the doctor can be merely to satisfy the law, but have little relationship with the actual motivation(s) to seek an abortion, on the part of the pregnant woman.

          • Lambert says:

            *England and Wales Law. It’s a devolved issue.
            Lots of Northern Irish women getting abortions in Liverpool.

            ‘continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family’

            Seems to imply that the intention is that ‘injury to the physical or mental health’ be interpreted pretty broadly, given the ‘existing children’ part.

        • John Schilling says:

          Or do you think both instances of killing are OK?

          It has not been established that anyone of any significance thinks killing the born-25-weeks-premature baby is OK, and I think we ought to pin that down before we accuse people of favoring infanticide. A cursory investigation suggests that such a thing has always been illegal in the United States and that no one has proposed changing that. Some people have proposed a law making it extra-super-duper-illegal, other people have opposed this on the grounds that it is a pointless unnecessary stunt, and the first group of people have thus accused the second group of being babykillers, but if there’s anything more than that, I haven’t seen it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s not about making infanticide of some infants extra illegal, it’s about clarifying that infants born as a result of botched abortion procedures have to receive the same level of care as infants born in any other circumstances. Currently the law says that infants born through abortion are persons like any other infants, but it doesn’t say anything about the level of care they have to receive, so the proposed law is just tidying up a minor legal ambiguity.

          • sharper13 says:

            @John Schilling,

            I believe you’re referring to the recent Congressional law proposed by the GOP and voted against by the Democrats with he phrase “making it extra-super-duper-illegal”.

            In terms of “anything more than that”, the law was purportedly written in response to a trend showing up in Virginia and NY to loosen up third trimester requirements around abortion.

            To be clear, I’m not stating those two State attempts amount to infanticide, but some people have had concerns about them.

            In Virginia that appears to have started when a bill removing requirements for more than one Doctor to approve a late term abortion was commented on by Governor Northam. The charitable reading of his comments is that his phrasing was just a bit awkward and he didn’t mean to imply a Doctor would just leave a live baby to die in comfort under the proposed law.

            In NY, a bill passed in late January does not remove the standard of care which requires medical professionals to treat a viable birth. It does, however, repeal existing law which states that in abortions after 20 weeks, a second doctor must be present to “take control of and provide immediate medical care for any live birth that is the result of the abortion.” The repealed part also states: “Such child should be afforded immediate legal protection under the laws of the state of New York, including but not limited to applicable provisions of the social services law, article five of the civil rights law and the penal law.”

            The pro-life crowd suggested that because New York’s law allows licensed medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions, it’s possible that a person qualified to care for a baby would not be present if a baby was born alive. The counter argument is that late term abortions are complicated and thus usually done in a hospital.

            There is already a “Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002”, so perhaps the newly proposed law was unnecessary, but the recent law was proposed in response to perceived attempts to remove State law obstacles to late term abortions/babies dying which definitely hit the national news cycle, so it’s not as if it came completely out of the blue for no reason one day.

    • ana53294 says:

      This comes from anecdotal experience, but I think that a lot of the kids that are in the system may not want to be adopted by a practicing Christian, pro-life family.

      My neighbours are rich. Not extremely rich, but >10 million euros in assets rich (they own a factory that produces some kind of car part). They don’t have kids of their own, and they are practicing Catholics. Not the Opus Dei type of Catholic, but they observe Lent, go to church, and are quite strict. For three years, they were bringing home for the summer a couple of Russian sisters, 12 and 14. Kids that age have a choice whether they want to get adopted, and they get to meet the adoptive family first. And they said no. Last time we heard of them, the eldest one was a single mother at age 18. This would have been their lucky ticket out of poverty, if they could live in a strict, controlling family that forced them to go to church every Sunday, but they said no.

      I happen to think that most of the practicing Christian families will be quite strict, and they will also make their kids go to church. And there will be a lot of teens and tweens in the system who are old enough to decide, and who don’t want that.

      • albatross11 says:

        My impression is that the overwhelming majority of adoptions are of much younger kids, for whom this likely wouldn’t be an issue. I know a fair number of people who have adopted children, and all of them adopted babies or very young children.

        • ana53294 says:

          Yes, but as it has been pointed above, most of the kids in the system are either extremely ill or disabled, or are quite old. I am just pointing out that even the older, not ill kids may not be easily available, because they may not want to be adopted by a very religious family.

      • Randy M says:

        You don’t think it had anything to do with the fact that they were moving to a new country, culture, language, etc?

        • ana53294 says:

          Partly, but I think the strict family was a big part of it. They frequently came to our house to talk about some thing that they were banned from doing.

          They managed to learn Spanish fine, and it’s not like life in a Murmansk orphanage is any good (although they are not the Soviet hellholes they were before).

          When I imagine myself, as a teenager, becoming an orphan, I don’t think I would deal with that kind of family well. I imagine myself also saying no. Freedom is important for kids also, and having a religion imposed on you as a condition of having a family is a very big deal.

    • Aftagley says:

      Leftist here who has heard and somewhat believes this meme, you’re not quite describing it accurately. When we’re referencing this supposed contradiction. We basically posit that the right’s focus on getting the maximum number of babies born (through abortion restrictions, opposition to sex ed, opposition to contraception, ect) ends at the time of birth.

      You don’t see a similar level of enthusiasm on the right for policies like increasing welfare for destitute parents, paid maternity and paternity leave, better funding for public education, increased funding for afterschool programs, funding for pre-K programs, etc. Thus, the meme goes, there is an interest in getting the kids born, but no interest in taking care of them once they’re here. This perceived enthusiasm gap is what the meme is poking fun at.

      In this viewpoint, the fact that the conservative right is involved in adoption is a rounding error; we on the left aren’t focused on the minority of kids whose parents who, lacking access to abortion, put their kids of for adoption, we’re more interested in the parents who, lacking access to abortion, end up raising the kid in a shitty manner that could permanently reduce the kid’s chances for a successful life.

      • Randy M says:

        You don’t see a similar level of enthusiasm on the right for policies like increasing welfare for destitute parents, paid maternity and paternity leave, better funding for public education, increased funding for afterschool programs, funding for pre-K programs, etc. Thus, the meme goes, there is an interest in getting the kids born, but no interest in taking care of them once they’re here.

        The better conclusion would be that the right in this case is motivated by justice, rather than compassion, or perhaps more accurately, justice as well as compassion.

        Or even more accurately, wants the tool for enforcing justice, the state, to focus on the instance of injustice and allow the citizenry to enact their compassion out of their own virtue. We cannot take justice into our own hands, but we can compassion.

        There are many analogies that could be made, to theft, fraud, etc.

        Perhaps there are some who tie abortion opposition in with opposition to birth control in order to support the terminal value of cranking up the maximum number of miserable souls on earth, but this is not the main animating force and assuming it is makes you look uncharitable or silly.

        • mdet says:

          The Catholic Church is the central example of the pro-life side to me, and they DO combine opposing abortion with opposing contraception (as well as euthanasia, and maybe the death penalty although they’re not really sure about it?) in order to support the terminal value of “cranking up the maximum number of miserable souls on earth”, although they probably wouldn’t put it that way. “Pro-Life”, as Catholic Me understands it, does mean “Being alive is the greatest good there is, and we want it available to as many people as possible (without literally compelling people to procreate)”.

          On the other hand, the Catholic Church does enough charity work that I think it’s hard to accuse them of not caring about poor people after they’re born. They don’t just vaguely support education and after school programs, they build, fund, and administer countless schools around the world.

          • Randy M says:

            You are right that Christian morality holds life to be good, and making more people to generally be a good thing. That’s kind of in the name, pro-life.

            The error lies in reading a push for state proscription of abortion as only caring about birth, as belied by the private actions you relate.

          • Nick says:

            and maybe the death penalty although they’re not really sure about it?

            Death penalty is in principle legitimate for serious crimes like rape and murder. In practice it’s often opposed anyway for a variety of reasons, including in the US by our Conference of Catholic Bishops.

          • Plumber says:

            @mdet,
            From my reading of the bishops advice on what issues should be used to decide on which candidates to support, the Catholic church’s positions looked very consistent to me…

            …and also almost impossible to actually find such candidates given our two party system.

            Maybe that explains why American Catholics are slightly more inclined to vote for Republican Party candidates than Democratic Party candidates, but people of other faiths are much more likely to favor one party or the other.

          • mdet says:

            @Randy M, I was replying to your “cranking up the maximum number of miserable souls on earth… is not the main animating force” by pointing out that it pretty much is the animating force for Catholics, if not others.

            But agreed that the pro-life lack of enthusiasm for welfare and public schools has more to do with views on the role of the state than not caring about children’s wellbeing at all.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, and while I thought I was objecting to a hyperbole, you make a persuasive case that it was more of a mere uncharitable phrasing. I retract the paragraph that line appeared in as needing further consideration, although I’d like to have one of the actual Catholics chime in on the matter.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Catholicism — like most religions in general — has traditionally tended to see large families as a good thing. But, whilst married couples are expected to be open to life — that is, to accept any children God sends their way — simply creating as many children as possible isn’t a terminal goal. Hence the Church is also opposed to things like surrogacy or IVF, although these obviously increase the number of children around.

          • ana53294 says:

            Catholicism does not require you to have many children. You should avoid using contraception, but the rhythm method is OK. Pope Francis has said some controversial things to the matter.

          • I can see two problems with the claim that the Catholic church’s objective is to maximize the number of people.

            The first is that the Catholic Church does not object to the rhythm method for contraception. Arguably the difference between that and the pill is that rhythm is adequate to hold down the number of children close to what a couple wants, but not adequate to let unmarried people safely engage in intercourse, which suggests a different objective.

            The other is that the Catholic church has a long tradition of praising and supporting voluntary celibacy–nunneries, monasteries, celibate priests.

          • mdet says:

            I didn’t mean to suggest that the Catholic Church literally tries to maximize the number of people in the same way that a Paperclip Maximizer tries to maximize the number of paperclips, by trading off on every other value. But I’d say that pro-life Catholics place a notably higher value on life itself than many other people. Whether they’re opposing abortion & euthanasia or expressing concern about declining fertility rates, there’s a strong current that creating life is an intrinsic good, and less willingness to trade “quantity for quality”, so to speak. Compare to the sentiment expressed by many pro-choice people, as well as by AOC regarding climate change, that it might not even be worth having a child if that child is going to end up living a shitty life.

            So I saw “the right’s focus on getting the maximum number of babies born” as more of an uncharitable exaggeration than a complete strawman.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        We basically posit that the right’s focus on getting the maximum number of babies born (through abortion restrictions, opposition to sex ed, opposition to contraception, ect) ends at the time of birth.

        You may want to try resitting that ideological Turing test. Restrictions on abortion aren’t motivated by a desire to get a maximum number of babies born, they’re motivated by a desire to stop babies being murdered in the womb. Opposition to sex ed is usually based on the idea that it’s the parents’ job to teach their children about that sort of thing and/or that sex ed as it’s currently taught just ends up normalising promiscuity. Opposition to contraception isn’t universal (or probably even a majority position) on the right; opposition to forcing employers to pay for their employees’ contraception is pretty common, but that’s mostly because of notions of personal responsibility (“You’re a grown woman, you can buy your own bloody condoms!”); and those who do oppose contraception don’t generally do so because they want to see the maximum possible number of infants being born.

        You don’t see a similar level of enthusiasm on the right for policies like increasing welfare for destitute parents, paid maternity and paternity leave, better funding for public education, increased funding for afterschool programs, funding for pre-K programs, etc. Thus, the meme goes, there is an interest in getting the kids born, but no interest in taking care of them once they’re here. This perceived enthusiasm gap is what the meme is poking fun at.

        “This person disagrees with my plan to obtain X, therefore he doesn’t want to obtain X” is a common fallacy, but a fallacy nonetheless.

        Also, the exact same logic could be used to prove that leftists are all a bunch of hypocrites. After all, the left is generally in favour of more government regulation, which reduces the scope for individuals to make their own choices. Would it therefore be correct to conclude that “Leftists aren’t really pro-choice, they’re just pro-abortion”?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        we’re more interested in the parents who, lacking access to abortion, end up raising the kid in a shitty manner that could permanently reduce the kid’s chances for a successful life.

        This isn’t even correct, as it still misrepresents the basic impulse of the critique.

        It’s about the kids who are born, period. There isn’t encouragement of abortion (although there is encouragement for family planning and sexual education in general).

        The question is about all of the kids who are born, most of them wanted, who still have a shitty situation and who generally have a poverty of general experience.

        The liberal left thinks it’s a societal obligation to work towards better opportunities and outcomes for all children and condemns society for not meeting the challenge. They feel obligated to the child, regardless of the actions of the parent. The conservative right thinks it’s the responsibility of the parents and condemns them for not succeeding, but they feel no particular obligation to the child.

        To the extent that we are talking about children not existing, both sides feel (many of) the aborted children should not exist. The conservative right feels that sexual acts should not have taken place, as the parents are sinful/unworthy of having engaged in them. The left feels that, if a pregnant woman decides they do not wish to carry to term, they have the right to control whether or not they do so.

        • The liberal left thinks it’s a societal obligation to work towards better opportunities and outcomes for all children and condemns society for not meeting the challenge.

          And their opponents think the things the left wants to do result in fewer opportunities and worse outcomes for children. And other people.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Some of the opponents of the idea genuinely think this.

            I would argue that a majority do not. The thinking is far more in terms of “our/their” children, and “other” children. You might have noticed that the current right wing of not just the U.S. but many countries is motivated by a certain nativist fervor that identifies certain people as enemies who need to be purged. This wing is ascendant and is married most closely with the evangelical conservatives in the US.

            This is not to say it describes all evangelicals or all conservatives or all in the coalition, but rather that it is a dominant strain.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearCub:

            Just to clarify, are you claiming that pro-lifers in the US mostly just care about too many whites getting abortions, and don’t mind so much about nonwhites? Because I’ve got to tell you, that looks absolutely nothing like the actual pro-life sentiment I’ve seen or heard expressed.

      • We basically posit that the right’s focus on getting the maximum number of babies born (through abortion restrictions, opposition to sex ed, opposition to contraception, ect) ends at the time of birth.

        Your “focus on getting the maximum number of babies born” looks to me like a wild misreading of the objectives of other people. The opposition to sex education and contraception, as best I can tell, is based on the belief that those encourage pre-marital sex. The pre-marital sex is seen as a bad thing whether or not it produces children—but my guess is that the opponents of those things think they result in more children to unmarried mothers, via more sex and imperfect use of contraception by teens, not less.

        To put it more strongly, your statement is roughly equivalent to my explaining that the reason people on the left want a higher minimum wage is because they think poor people are better off on welfare than employed. There are probably a few people on the left who believe that but not, I think, very many.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          There are certainly conservative religious movements, large ones, who have explicit goals of high reproductivity.

          This exists alongside the more common objection to “sinful” behavior.

          • Are there religious movements that have an explicit goal of maximum reproductivity? That doesn’t fit the Catholic church, for two reasons I just mentioned in another comment.

            Part of the problem with regard to systems such as traditional Judaism is that their rules developed in a world where simply maintaining population required a lot of breeding.

          • dick says:

            The only one I’ve heard of (“Quiverfull”) was estimated by a piece in The Nation to have a few tens of thousands of adherents.

  10. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a poem. This should be traditional structured poetry with meter, rhyme, alliteration, trochees, feet, and all that other fun stuff Sister Mary taught in remedial poetry class.

    Your prompt:

    Because if my time on the internet taught me one thing,
    it’s that culture war, culture war never changes.

    • Nornagest says:

      Excuse me for piggybacking off this, but: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to rewrite a classic poem in limerick form. Here’s two:

      “The Conqueror Worm” (Poe):

      A heavenly actor’s game
      Ain’t as good as it sounds from the name:
      You run from your fears
      To the tunes of the spheres
      Then get et by a metaphor. Lame!

      “The Skeleton in Armor” (Longfellow):

      I wooed a princess of the Rhine,
      But her father told me “get in line”.
      Old Hildebrand’s pissed
      He’ll probably be missed
      So now I’ve got Vinland in mind.

      • beleester says:

        There was an old king who would swear,
        his works would make the mighty despair,
        but nothing ’bout him is spoken,
        there’s just a statue that’s broken
        And all around it the desert is bare

        –Ozymandias, by Percy Shelley.

        • beleester says:

          Perhaps I could say you’re like summer,
          But that season is honestly a bummer,
          It’s windy in May,
          It’s boiling all day,
          Unlike nature, you’ll always be a stunner.

          –Shakespeare, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Sonnet 18)

      • sfoil says:

        “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (Keats)

        Though his kiss stays unlaid
        And the calf never slayed
        What’s kept on this vase
        Time won’t efface:
        Truth’s beauty can’t ever fade

        “Dulce et Decorum Est” (Wilfred Owen)

        Sweet says an old story
        Is pro patria mori
        But watch him wheeze his last
        After breathing the gas
        And you’ll no more think it a glory

        “Leda and the Swan” (Yeats)

        How could she be coy?
        He was no little boy
        But a big white swan
        Who sure got it on
        And fathered the fall of Troy

      • Nornagest says:

        “In the Neolithic Age” (Kipling):

        As a singer in the savage Dawn of Men,
        I proved the arrow stronger than the pen.
        Now reborn, I surmise
        I’ve grown weaker, yet wise;
        But critics act like cavemen, now as then.

      • J says:

        Hiawatha the hunter was mighty,
        From his bow the arrows were flighty.
        When the pale faces came,
        He welcomed the same,
        With a few asides anti-semite-y

    • dick says:

      At Least One Thread Per OT, Usually More
      by dick

      I’ve done lots of painstaking, careful research
      and admit, I’ve reluctantly come
      to a painful and somewhat surprising result:
      the folks in my outgroup are dumb.

      I respect your opinion and value your thoughts!
      Though our interests are somewhat congruent,
      My thorough, impartial analysis shows
      that it’s my outgroup who are stupid.

    • Nornagest says:

      Apologies to TS Eliot.

      Shall I retweet or like this? Do I dare mention free speech?
      I shall refresh my Twitter feed, and tag mine with #impeach;
      I have seen the bluechecks squabble, each to each:

      I do not think that they will come for me.

    • SamChevre says:

      If you want two worked examples of “awesome, multiple times”, try the comment thread here and the OP here. Both Making Light, both delightful every time I revisit them.

      My attempt:
      It’s the first week of Lent and I’m already tired,
      Of sobriety, beans, and black coffee.
      But every year–it’s the way I am wired,
      I decide that it’s time to see
      Whether this time it will work,
      And on Easter I’ll see
      That left up to me
      I’d fail, but it’s not up to me.

    • rahien.din says:

      Shall I to thee a tuber discompare?
      The beet, though humble, always leaves a stain.
      The regal turnip’s ever bitter fare.
      The parsnip’s churlish texture proves her vain.

      The carrot’s woody and – admit – too sweet,
      Surpassed in cloyness only by the swede.
      The radish in its scarlet vest’s effete,
      And arrowroot a slimy waterweed.

      Cassava, while exotic, is mere goop.
      The yam though noble always comes up short
      To grimy salsify I’ll never stoop
      And jicama a food of last resort

      Yet one comparison I can abide :
      The fine potato, roasted whipped or fried

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I trawl through Facebook, burning time away,
      and pause upon a headline most severe.
      “My outgroup WHAT?” I furiously say,
      then stand and move where someone else can hear.

      “My outgroup DID!” This echoes down the hall.
      So one by one, my colleagues each emerge.
      The wrath I witness overcomes us all.
      And to our keyboards we as one converge.

      A new campaign! a slogan! and a meme!
      a status! Sour comments fall like rain.
      The hours pass us in a fervid dream:
      if Moloch wills, then all will share our pain.

    • sharper13 says:

      The open threat is not a bore
      But,
      This is not the culture war you’re looking for

    • Jaskologist says:

      My name’s Anon
      and when it’s night
      I see a blog
      that isn’t right.
      Though I may have to tell some fibs,
      I stay up late.
      I own the libs.

    • Skivverus says:

      Actually had this written already, in use elsewhere on the net. Let’s see how well I remember it…

      I have wandered through insanity;
      I have walked the spiral out.
      Heard its baffling inanity
      From the whisper to the shout.
      In the babbling cacophony
      The refrains are all the same:
      “[Permutation of humanity]
      Is unworthy of the name!”

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      The fingers on keyboards type, clickety-clack
      To send off a message that one can’t take back.
      (Can’t take back in full, for e’en if deleted,
      The quotes of our writings will oft be repeated.)

      Then counter to our facts:
      Our rival fires back!
      Discussion turns to heated,
      Their lies must be defeated!

      With no time to strategize, just to engage,
      We scour the internet just for a page
      That says we are right and our enemy wrong
      To send at them quickly with our fighting song:

      You fool, get off the stage.
      You’ve made us all outraged!
      Read this, it won’t take long
      To prove how you are wrong!

      But why now would anyone honest or true
      Make such of a blatant mistake here as you?
      It must be you’re more than just simply mistaken;
      You clearly are evil, corrupt, God-forsaken!

      And all their fearsome crew
      Will say the same of you.
      So soldier, don’t stand quakin’,
      Sit down, and fight their fakin’!

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      All these extremists need to die.
      Don’t you dare think to ask me why.

    • cassander says:

      There once was an old bastard named Lenin
      who did two or three million men in.
      That’s a lot of men to have done
      but wherever he got himself one,
      that son-of-a-bitch Stalin did ten in.

      • Skivverus says:

        A suggested revision for meter:

        There once was a bastard named Lenin
        who did sev’ral million men in.
        That’s a lot to have done,
        but with each man as one,
        that S.O.B. Stalin did ten in.

        • cassander says:

          I might go with “a few” instead of “sev’ral”.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Second line seemed fine to me:
          who did two or three million men in

          Not sure how your revision’s supposed to go

          • Skivverus says:

            “who did a few million men in” (taking in cassander’s re-revision).
            Depends on how you pronounce “million”, I suppose; it’s doable as either two or three syllables.

          • Nick says:

            I figured it had to be pronounced MILL-ee-in here.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Huh, I guess you can pronounce it “mill-ee-un”; I pronounce it “mill-yun” without even thinking. Though of course y is kind of a vowel making it kind of a dipthong, so depending on your diction it could be 2 or 3 syllables.

  11. Tatterdemalion says:

    One of the forms of speech held not to be protected by the 1st amendment to the US constitution is “Incitement to imminent lawless action”.

    What is the meaning and purpose of the “imminent” restriction there? If I argue that on June 17th 2037 we should all go round to Bob’s house and throw rocks at him, I assume that’s not legal just because it’s not imminent in the colloquial sense of the word? And why should incitement to non-imminent lawless action be legal?

    • Mark Atwood says:

      The difference here is that Bob now has 19 years to have a restraining order filed against you and (hopefully) cops bothering to be present to enforce it. Then when you show up that day and throw rocks, you get arrested for the rock throwing and for violating the RO, but you don’t get arrested for that statement. You *might* get some sort of RICO or conspiracy charge as well, for coordinating an illegal action with your statement. It’s a fine line between that and “criminalized speech”, but the courts think they can split it.

    • Eric Rall says:

      That particular example would probably be illegal, but it’d come under a “conspiracy” legal theory, not an “incitement” theory.

      A conspiracy in most US jurisdictions becomes illegal when the agreement to commit a crime begins to be put into action, so it’s no longer mere words but rather a plan of action which is in progress and intended to result in a concrete criminal act. For example, you and I could be charged with Conspiracy to Commit Assault when we start collecting rocks to throw at Bob, even though collecting rocks is normally legal.

      The reason for an “imminence” requirement on “incitement” is probably twofold: 1) if the lawless action isn’t imminent, then law enforcement presumably has time to take a wait-and-see approach (only acting when lawlessness starts to become imminent) rather than just cracking down on speech which has a good chance of being idle, and 2) there’s a long and sordid history of non-imminent incitement theories being used as a pretext to crack down on legitimate political speech that the legislature and executive find odious, so attaching a requirement of “imminence” (or an “overt act” for a conspiracy charge rather than incitement charge) is an attempt to draw a line to limit over-prosecution of speech that could be interpreted as incitement.

    • 10240 says:

      (IANAL) I guess what really matters is incitement to specific lawless action. The issue of the constitutionality of laws against incitement to a specific but not necessarily imminent lawless action perhaps never came up in the courts. (I think there are such laws, such as laws against conspiracy to commit an offense.) The criterium of “Incitement to imminent lawless action” is not in the constitution itself, but it’s an interpretation by the courts, so if the issue does come up, courts can rule that laws against incitement to a specific but not necessarily imminent lawless action are also constitutional.
      As a practical matter, in the case of incitement to lawless action in the far future, it’s easier to prevent the lawless action itself (at least if the incitement is done in public) than if it’s imminent, so there is less need to criminalize incitement.

    • brad says:

      It might be helpful to look at other imminence requirements. For example, when Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated the fatwa, written by David Barron then of OLC, held than an imminence requirement could be met by asserting that a threat was continuous, i.e. he probably planning to do something, sometime.

      • albatross11 says:

        It sounds so much more elegant to call it a fatwa rather than a death warrant.

        • EchoChaos says:

          A Fatwa is more than just a call to killing. It’s an ecclesiastical decision, which can be on any number of things, not just “this person is a heretic and needs to die”.

          • A fatwa is basically an advisory legal opinion in a system where law covers a good deal that we would classify as morality.

            Suppose you are a believing Muslim and considering whether you should do something that might be in violation of Islamic rules. You go to a mufti, an expert on Islamic law, and ask him for an opinion on whether it is wrong to do what you want to do. That’s a fatwa.

            Alternatively, you are involved in a legal dispute. You go to a mufti and ask him for an opinion on the relevant law. You take that fatwa to the qadi, the judge actually ruling on the case, as evidence that your legal position is correct. The mufti hasn’t looked at the facts of the case—that’s the qadi‘s job.

            It’s rather like our system inverted. In ours, the court of first impression gives an opinion based on both law and fact. If the decision is appealed, the appeals court accepts the findings of fact from the court of first impression but rules on the legal questions. In the Islamic system, the mufti gives a legal opinion, then the court uses that as one input to deciding the case.

            In the traditional system, the qadi was appointed by the ruler, the mufti was simply someone with the reputation of being an expert, but that changed under the Ottomans, where there was an official chief mufti.

            The fatwas that get attention now in the non-Muslim world are legal opinions such as “it would be morally correct to kill Salman Rushdie,” but that only a very special subset of fatwas.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Thank you for saying what I was trying to say much more clearly.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            What David Friedman said.
            While sharia can be nasty for both infidels and believers (particularly women), “death warrant by the Ayatollah” is a very non-central example of a fatwa. ~90% of them come from Sunni muftis (whose authority is bottom-up from the believers, unless there are a bunch of post-Ottoman exceptions), not the ruling clerics of a Shi’a theocracy, and serve as data in sharia court cases rather than being legally binding in themselves, and >90% will never have an effect on an infidel’s life.

          • brad says:

            “death warrant by the Ayatollah” is a very non-central example of a fatwa.

            Death warrants are also not OLC’s bread and butter. Only a few, particularly despicable, government lawyers get involved in providing advanced immunity for murder in exchange for judgeships.

          • albatross11 says:

            Weren’t there some previous OLC lawyers who did the same thing for torturing prisoners?

          • brad says:

            Bybee. Also, awarded a judgeship. Yoo meanwhile is a Berkeley professor. Hostis humani generis is apparently no bar to that.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          Wiki says that a fatwa is

          a nonbinding legal opinion on a point of Islamic law (sharia) given by a qualified jurist in response to a question posed by a private individual, judge or government.

          Aside from the Islamic thing, that’s a pretty accurate description of the memo Barron wrote to Obama.

  12. BBA says:

    From the New Yorker (semi-paywalled), here’s a review/expose of Shen Yun, the Falun Gong dance troupe known mainly for its ubiquitous advertising posters. It’s anticommunist propaganda in dance form, and it comes off sounding just as unnerving as a communist dance troupe would be.

    I know very little about Falun Gong, other than that they’re a religious movement of some kind and the Chinese government sees them as a threat to be actively repressed. The article mentions that there’s little reliable information on the movement out there, as the main sources are Chinese government propaganda denouncing it and Falun Gong’s own counter-propaganda outlet, The Epoch Times. As an outsider I just find the whole thing bewildering.

    • Protagoras says:

      Unfortunately, it seems like the Germany vs. scientology thing; sure, a government really shouldn’t be supressing religions, but it is an awfully dodgy religion. Of course the Chinese government suppresses a lot of less dodgy religions as well.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Also, if a government is going to suppress a religion, I have a lot more faith in the German government’s capacity to do so without treating people abominably than the Chinese.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Is this based on history? Because the German government’s history repressing a religion is… not great.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well technically that was a different German government 😛

          • Tarpitz says:

            I suppose I walked into that.

            The point stands, though.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, but the Germans have spent the last sixty years being de-Nazified, being held accountable for their actions, and engaging in a lot of soul-searching and bending over backwards to be careful about things like this.

            The Chinese government, not so much.

          • Jaskologist says:

            … and the result of all the soul-searching is that they send SWAT teams to the houses of people who do dangerous things like homeschool.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I was surprised and saddened when I found out that homeschooling is illegal in Germany. Having that as an option seems like the only sane thing about then American education system.

          • Nick says:

            @Joseph Greenwood:

            Same here.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Suppressing their religion is treating people abominably.

          • Walter says:

            Thank you for pointing this out.

          • Tarpitz says:

            As abominably, then. I don’t approve of the German position, but there is a very substantial difference between their behaviour and China’s.

          • Aftagley says:

            Right, but even if you accept that premise, there are still clearly levels of abominability. Falun Gong claims that their practitioners within China are being arrested and having their organs harvested. Accepting their claims, which I get are skeptical, would lead you to being more concerned with their plight than the family in germany who can’t homeschool their kid (for example).

            Edit: what Tarpitz said

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, “Can’t homeschool their kids” is certainly one way to put “Had their kids stolen from them, by armed men who were explicitly authorized to use force against the children as well.” It’s not on par with what is alleged about the treatment of Falun Gong, but it’s pretty on par with the treatment of the Uyghur. Except for some reason we condemn the one crime and minimize the other.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Unfortunately, it seems like the Germany vs. scientology thing; sure, a government really shouldn’t be supressing religions, but it is an awfully dodgy religion.

        I don’t see how it’s dodgier than any other NRM.
        Scientology deserves to be banned because its whole purpose is a money-making scheme and there is well-documented abuse of members. Even Chinese propaganda against Falun Gong only accuses it of “superstition” and lying about what happens to arrested practitioners.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t know. I’ve met Scientologists. Worked for one. I’ve seen what it does to people, and if that was all there is to it I’d pull the trigger without thinking twice.

          But suppressing it sets a really nasty precedent. Even though First World governments have persecuted new religious movements before without falling down that particular slippery slope, we can’t bust up Scientology without making it easier to do something similar the next time… and for all the shady shit they’ve been involved in, they’re not quite shady enough for me to be comfortable taking that risk.

          • brmic says:

            @Nornagest
            Well yes and amen to all that, but the thing is that we don’t have one world government, not even a Nato one. If Germany fucks up, freedom of religion advocates elsewhere get a strong example arguing for their side. There will even be some people, some even in Germany, who change their stance from ‘this exception is ok’ to ‘this is not ok, no exception or only far more strictly confined ones’. Conversely, if US religious liberty were regularly abused to enslave and rape minors, expect a bunch of people switiching to the camp that supports tighter restrictions on religious organizations.
            Plus yeah, what Chat said, the measure is discussed, there’s evidence etc.
            I can respect your principled stance, but when you say

            we can’t bust up Scientology without making it easier to do something similar the next time

            you fail to show your work and cast the proponents of a particular restriction as sheeple unable to change their minds based on either circumstances or results.

          • Nornagest says:

            you fail to show your work and cast the proponents of a particular restriction as sheeple unable to change their minds based on either circumstances or results.

            When I say “easier” there, I’m not talking about making it easier for any particular proponent. I’m talking about making it easier in aggregate for the set of proponents, which is not an agent and doesn’t have a mind to change. It does have an attitude, sort of, but all you need to change that is to sway its most marginal members.

            As to the first half of your comment, I don’t see how anything I said wouldn’t apply to a local government, whether that of Germany or that of West Bumfuck, Arkansas.

      • quanta413 says:

        I haven’t seen any evidence that Falun Gong is more dodgy than fundamentalist Protestants. Some of their beliefs seem loopy to me, but lots of people have loopy beliefs.

        On the other hand, I’ve met people persecuted for being Falun Gong. My not terribly informed guess is that most of the persecution is probably of the “lose your job and go to reeducation camp variety”. Execution and torture are probably reserved for the tough cases that don’t break. But that’s not a defense of the morality of Communist party actions.

        • Plumber says:

          @quanta413

          “I haven’t seen any evidence that Falun Gong is more dodgy than fundamentalist Protestants. Some of their beliefs seem loopy to me, but lots of people have loopy beliefs…”

          The beliefs behind say Mormonism seems more “loopy” to me than Marxism, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather live in Utah.
          There’s “seems to make sense” and then there’s the practical results (which makes me think I’ll ask about it in a top level post).

          • Randy M says:

            The beliefs behind say Mormonism seems more “loopy” to me than Marxism, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather live in Utah.

            What’s harder to believe–something completely lacking in verifiable evidence, or something overflowing with counter evidence?

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            I’m going to go with a plumbing analogy:

            When copper and steel pipe touch each other electrolysis causes galvanic corrosion, and the pipes fail much faster. The approved way to prevent this is with dielectric unions, which break the electrical continuity between steel and copper pipe with a layer of rubber or plastic.

            Good story that makes sense.

            But dielectric unions just don’t work for long, they almost seem to speed up corrosion.

            What does work?

            Brass pipe 6″ long or more in between the copper and steel pipe.

            That works!

            Most plumbers know this bit of folklore, the brass works but the dielectric unions made specifically to cure the problem don’t.

            I’ve yet to meet anyone who explains why but there it is.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s going to take me awhile to process that you are using an analogy where unions make the problem worse.

            The reviews on that page for dielectrical unions back you up (so much so that I assumed the top one was you, but you aren’t in Phoenix).

            Anyways, my comment above isn’t really fair, since ‘seeming loopy’ is a perfectly fair first impression of a theory/worldview/whatever, without denying that the first impression may not hold in practice.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Plumber

            That is a very good point. I’m not aware of a really large Falun Gong community like Mormons in Utah so I’m not sure how to make that call.

            But there’d have to be some big payoff to me to live under the CPC, so Falun Gong win that by default.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        There are legitimate pretexts by which one might go after an organized religion; if members are imposing false arrest or other forms of abuse upon each other, or financial crimes, etc.

        The problem is that the main concern of a German or Chinese government is ideological rivals rather than harmful actions. As a result the Amish might be seen as being as much a threat as a scientologist. The german government in particular is less about embracing small ‘l’ liberalism as it is embracing an inversion of certain other infamous belief systems. And that approach doesn’t’ necessarily minimize harm, promote peace/freedom, etc.

        • Possibly relevent. The Amish originated in Europe, but at this point all of the surviving Amish communities are in the U.S. or Canada—where they are thriving. I don’t know of any explicit persecution in modern times, but Europe seems to have been a less satisfactory environment for them.

          • Aapje says:

            Keep in mind that the Pilgrims migrated from The Netherlands to America because they:
            – had trouble finding jobs
            – wanted to do missionary work to convert heathens, few of which could be found in The Netherlands
            – feared integrating into (more liberal) Dutch culture and losing their uniqueness. This included having their children leave their community (for jobs & the drugs, sex and rock and roll*)

            Just like today, all through history people have migrated for reasons other than prosecution. It’s part of the American narrative that people migrated to escape prosecution, so I’m wary to trust such stories (although such a bias also doesn’t prove them wrong).

            * Or whatever the Pilgrims found objectionable, which probably was a lot more anodyne.

  13. realitychemist says:

    So I’ve been looking into the field of neuromorphic hardware a bit more recently, at things like e.g. An Evolvable Organic Electrochemical Transistor for Neuromorphic Applications (Gerasimov, et. al.). It’s all very interesting stuff, but does anyone know of any recent attempts to instantiate any “neuromorphic applications?” My understanding is that (almost?) all current work in AI/ML is being done in software, has anyone tried to build a useful (or even a toy) AI/ML device using any of this cool new hardware?

  14. ManyCookies says:

    No-Deal Brexit delayed two weeks:

    The European Council agreed to delay the Brexit date of 29 March until 22 May – if Mrs May’s divorce deal is approved by MPs in the next week. This delay is technical, to allow enough time for the deal to be ratified.

    However, if MPs reject Mrs May’s Brexit deal for a third time, the UK has a shorter delay of 12 April. By this date, the UK must tell the EU what its next steps are – for example, whether that is a request for a longer extension, or a no-deal Brexit.

    So uh, are there any new changes in the deal or parliament that’d make a pass more likely, or are we gonna be back here in two weeks in the exact same position?

    • albatross11 says:

      Every time I despair about US politics, I just look at UK politics and feel a little better….

      • ManyCookies says:

        Politics are a lot more fun when you don’t have a personal stake in it. I was thoroughly entertained by Brexit until No-Deal suddenly looked like the most likely option and the stakes rose a bit too high.

        (Non-Americans please bitch about your country’s politics more, I love reading about it!)

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      I Am Not A Brit.
      The entire concept of Brexit strikes me as a no-win situation from the get-go. The initial vote was split down the middle; Brexiting at all seems like “tyranny of the [ever-so-slim] majority” if anything fits that description. However, NOT brexiting would ALSO be against the stated wishes of half the UK. Real damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation with regards to not doing something against the vehement wishes of half the population. The cop-out for UK-lovers is to claim that all the people who voted for Brexit “didn’t really understand what it would entail” or “weren’t actually expecting it to pass,” but that sounds a lot like “the outgroup is stupid and doesn’t understand what’s best for them.” It ignores positions that, while I disagree with some and don’t think others outweigh the benefit of strong international ties, are consistent, genuinely held political beliefs (i.e. stricter immigration controls to protect British workers from competition, not having your tax money go across the Channel, self-government free from the EU’s bureaucracy).

      When you have two groups of equal size in the same country who want opposite things, how do you satisfy them both? Oh and by the way Ireland exists, have fun.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        The cop-out for UK-lovers is to claim that all the people who voted for Brexit “didn’t really understand what it would entail” or “weren’t actually expecting it to pass,”

        It is very fashionable to say the outgroup is stupid, but to be fair, this the the issue was not “how to vote” but to show up for the vote in the first place. It was nominally a brexit vote, but in practice is was supposed to be a confidence vote for the government. Once it was confirmed that the brexit is a real thing, and especially 2 years after – with a lot more information on what it entails, and a more-or-less negotiated deal on the table – it would really be fair to have a repeat.

        It’s very easy to say “well, they should have informed themselves and shown up for the vote in the first place”, but peel a few layers and it’s (yet again) isolated demand for rigor.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I think the isolated demand for rigor is the guy saying “this vote doesn’t count because not enough people who agree with me cast their votes”. This is how democracy works, you can have a say if you want one. Yes, the outgroup is stupid and uninformed and can’t be trusted with important decisions, but this applies to democratic systems of government in general. Either restore the House of Bourbon to the throne of France or admit that this is just motivated continuation on your part.

          • rlms says:

            It seems obvious that lower turnout corresponds to lower validity (if only three people had taken part it would definitely have been OK to discard the referendum result), and while people are probably somewhat hypocritical in applying this principle it doesn’t seem egregious to me. And you can’t say with a straight face that the other side wouldn’t have done exactly the same thing if the results were reversed.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @suntzuanime

            I’m not saying the first referendum wasn’t valid. It was, it had consequences, it did its job. I’m saying the situation right now is different enough to be worth the trouble of a second referendum. In practical, not legal terms. People are a lot more aware now of the importance of the issue, of what each alternative means, of what’s at stake etc.

            And this is valid no matter what side you’re on (personally, I think Brexit will be bad for UK but good for me). It’s just a matter of being a choice that actually represents the will of the people. I honestly don’t think the vote 2 years ago, including the decision for a great part of the electorate whether to bother to show up or not, sufficiently covers what’s about to happen in the next couple of months.

            The problem with my point is actually that the Parliament is also “the will of the people”, aka representative democracy. So if the MPs think they know better and are entitled to make this decision for UK, they actually are (no irony here). But this is a messy way, because … well, just take a look at how it’s actually working out. And the option to cancel Brexit is not given the proper weight because the Parliament is still being tied by the original referendum, and would hold a new referendum only if they were convinced the Brexit should be canceled – which is a bit of a Catch 22.

            So in the end, there’s a bit of a snowball effect here, and I’m doubtful that Brexit is really, honestly “the will of the UK majority”. That’s absolutely the only gripe I have with it. (incidentally, I still think the pro-EU revolution in Ukraine was very non-democratic. The incumbents had the popular vote, and what the new government should have done was to immediately hold new elections – not start governing).

          • Murphy says:

            Unfortunately many of the ingroup are idiots too, I’ve come across enough people with a sentiment along the lines of thinking it had no chance of passing and so wanting to “stick it to the tories”

            Unfortunately part of the problem is that the UK has had a worrying trend of trying to vote for P and ¬P at the same time.

            No to deal, No to No-Deal, No to a closed irish border, No to a not closed irish border. It’s like dealing with a toddler who’s just discovered the word “NO” and just shouts it to every query regardless of whether it even make sense.

            the only people who seem thrilled about how the government can’t seem to find it’s arse with both hands are some hardcore irish republicans I know because they consider a hard brexit to be the most likely route to NI splitting from the UK and joining Ireland. Though plenty of irish people aren’t thrilled at that prospect either because that would cause a second shitshow.

            My background is ireland where referendums are much more common because the constitution requires them for more things but running a second referendum happens there sometimes and democracy survives. If the public changes it’s mind that’s no less democratic than if the public doesn’t change it’s mind.

            There’s a nice collage someone put together of what the brexiteers were promising 3 years ago contrasted with now. basically it goes from “We’ll definitely get dozens of awesome trade treaties and everything we want” to “It’s entirely possible that some of us might still have jobs and who needs trade! Trade is for losers!”

            brexit illustrated:

            https://xkcd.com/349/

          • albatross11 says:

            There is not a single “will of the people” to infer from a vote. Different ways of counting the votes, different sets of options offered, etc., commonly lead to different outcomes. That’s why you might get a different vote from (democratically elected) parliament than from a referendum.

            OTOH, it’s hard to see the point of having a referendum if the practical way it works is that you keep rerunning the vote till you get the right answer. In the state where I grew up, we did this w.r.t. allowing casinos in some places–after the third or fourth referendum, we finally voted to allow them by a narrow margin, after which the people had spoken and the matter had been decided.

            This is all independent of the object-level question of Brexit. I’m not British or European, I have no dog in this fight, and I don’t know enough to be sure what the best course for the UK is (though every single person from the UK that I personally know thinks Brexit is a horrible idea).

          • JPNunez says:

            So if Remain had won, then never again could a Brexit referendum be held?

            This is silly. Of course you can have another referendum on the damn thing. It’s called changing opinion.

            I thought we encouraged people changing their opinions here?

          • albatross11 says:

            JP Nunez:

            That’s sort-of the question, right? If the Brexit referendum had failed by razor-thin margins instead of passing by razor-thin margins, would anyone be willing to hold another one? If not, then the UK has built a pretty biased decisionmaking process, one that uses a referendum to get democratic legitimacy for some decisions, but doesn’t allow other decisions to actually be made by the people. It looks like changing the rules of the game in the middle, to me.

            Note that this is independent of whether Brexit is good, bad, or indifferent policy.

          • Murphy says:

            @albatross11

            would anyone be willing to hold another one?

            Honestly? probably, yes. There would still be lots of people supporting brexit and lots of people who then know there’s political advantage to supporting that position.

            back in the 70’s the UK voted in, now it voted out.

            Scotland recently had an in/out vote but I’d be very surprised if they don’t have another within 10 years if brexit goes through.

            Northern ireland had a vote on whether to join with ireland in the 70’s, it lost hard but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another one in the next few years that might go the other way.

            Also you talk about the casinos as if that’s a failure somehow. The electorate rejected it… so it likely went back, the terms changed in various ways, the deals adjusted, the rules tweaked to deal with the biggest objections and eventually they’re changed enough to make the majority happy.

            In future gambling might be banned again, plenty of states have brought in anti-gambling rules and bans in the past.

            Decisions naturally change over time.

            If the demographics stayed the same with young people voting remain at a similar rate and no change in who voted we’d expect, just from elderly deaths and new voters coming of age we’d expect the vote to flip within the next 2 years anyway.

            From the UK mortality stats, rough ballpark:

            65 YO and over deaths per year:

            476,595

            of which expected to be brexiters:

            285957

            of which expected to be remainers:

            190,638

            People coming of age per year:

            607,000 approx

            of which expected to be brexiters:

            163,890

            of which expected to be remainers:

            443110

            approximate expected remainers change over 3 years,(approx) :

            757416 gain

            approximate expected brexiters change over 3 years:

            -366201

            That’s without anyone changing their mind or different people (other than newly of age voters) turning up to the polls.

            Caveat: it’s all a bit “ish, give or take a fairly big margin” and of course people may actually change their opinions after witnessing 3 years of dumpster-fire.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The referendum was taken. It passed, by narrow but not razor-thin margins. It had to take a minimum of two years, and nothing has fundamentally changed in the interim. The results of that referendum have not yet been implemented. So it’s really hard to see how not exiting or holding another referendum (properly rigged to come up with the right result, e.g. with 2 exit choices and one remain) isn’t just repudiating the results of the first.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I really like JPNunez’s question, because it make me go back and forth several times.

            First: “Yeah, having a periodic revote makes sense.”

            Then: “But, this is a vote to maintain a relationship. That generally requires the constant and renewed consent of both parties. My boss and I decide each day to keep going, and it really only takes one no decision to end it.”

            Then: “So just like employment, or marriage. So this is just like a divorce . . . but a divorce has a trial separation period, and the process makes a point of asking people again as they go through it do you really want to do this?

            I’m still opposed to asking again, because I’ve personally lived through too much of the people in charge doing the “we will keep on asking until we get the answer we want,” and every single time it’s always “just this once we’re asking again, because you idiots didn’t know how important it was.”

          • ManyCookies says:

            @The Nybbler

            and nothing has fundamentally changed in the interim.

            I dunno, the government’s reactions (Leave leader and PM resigning in what should be a moment of triumph) and implementation attempts seem like pretty pertinent info for voters. Now that line of thought could totally get abused, reluctant ministers could faff about eating crisps for two years and then pat themselves on the back for a good try. But at this point the options on the table seem fundamentally different from the original pitch, and not just in the overpromise & underdeliver “We never said we’d save 350million a day ignore that bus” way typical of politics.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Motivated continuation is motivated. The situation will always be different after a vote than before it, if that’s enough to invalidate a vote then give up your pretenses of democracy. Don’t you think some of the people who didn’t turn out to vote against Trump might have been “more aware of the importance of the issue” once he nominated the rapist Kavanaugh to the Court and ushered in an era of female brood-slavery? There will always be excuses to redo votes if you don’t like results. The people didn’t vote to think about it for a few years and then decide whether to leave the EU, they voted to leave the EU. If you don’t think the vote of the people should determine national policy, I agree with you, but that doesn’t mean you should hold another vote. You should stop holding votes! Votes are what got you into this mess.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            I’m assuming that all people in this thread handwringing about the Will of the People being stamped out by conniving politicians were equally horrified by the results of the 2016 US presidential elections: a small, but not razor-thin, margin of people preferred one result over another in an advisory election, but the group of representatives charged with implementing the People’s Will overruled them and instead voted for the candidate they preferred.

            I apologize for being snarky, but the argument that holding another referendum would be some horrible authoritarian thing is so ridiculous, it’s hard not to be. There’s a reason why we have representative democracies and not direct ones.

            Representative democracies often overrule the referenda spiraling into dictatorships. It happened with the 2015 Greek bailout, it’s happening right now in California with high-speed rail, Florida is rewriting their felon-voting-rights law, and Massachusetts did the same thing with Marijuana a few years ago. If something passes by referendum, the government tries to do it for a few years, and then they find out it’s actually really difficult or expensive, I don’t see anything wrong with changing it or going back to the people for another vote–that’s sort of the point of representative democracy.

          • Nornagest says:

            That is why we have representative rather than direct democracy, and I agree that a properly functioning representative government should not be running a lot of referenda, but part of the deal is that when our duly elected representatives do agree to kick a decision down to the people for whatever reason, the people’s decision should be honored. Period. No takebacks. Otherwise a referendum becomes a propaganda tool and not much more.

            I don’t know a lot about Greece or Florida, but the high-speed rail referendum in California was a pipe dream from day one: the deal as presented to voters was a high-speed rail line from SF to LA for ten billion dollars in bonds, and the actual price tag turned out to be an order of magnitude above that. That being the case, it’s not clear that the referendum retains any force, and if Brexit had run into similar problems, I’d be much less concerned about the precedent established by overruling it. But that’s not how it worked: the question was pretty much just “UK in EU? (y/n)”. Pretty hard to argue that that can’t be executed as presented.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m assuming that all people in this thread handwringing about the Will of the People being stamped out by conniving politicians were equally horrified by the results of the 2016 US presidential elections

            It’s not that it is against the will of the people, it’s that it is changing the rules ex post facto, which entirely* negates the point and reveals the election to be a sham, exactly as it would have been if, during the 2016 US election, after the votes were tallied, the government had decided to ignore the electoral college and award the presidency based on popular vote. (*Not entirely, because it would still be an indicator of how far the politicians could push the matter without sparking actual revolt).

            Maybe the electoral college should be abolished. Absolutely if it is abolished, we should play be the new rules. But until and unless it is, every election should be run by the rules as they exist at the time(with decisions made about unspecified edge cases such as maximum number of recounts or whatever being done with great care).

            Likewise, having held a referendum ostensibly about leaving the EU, the UK officials should endevour to actually do so.
            I would find it reasonable if they assembled a final plan and held another vote on it with every step lined up to execute orderly immediately when given the final ok, not that I expect to be consulted. Likewise if it had originally required 60 or 66% to trigger the EU exit–there’s nothing magic about 51%. At some point though, you need to put up or shut up.

          • Jiro says:

            I’ve heard (not actually seen) the related idea that some people who don’t I’m not saying the first referendum wasn’t valid. It was, it had consequences, it did its job. I’m saying the situation right now is different enough to be worth the trouble of a second referendum.

            The delay on leaving was part of the requirements for leaving, so your standard amounts to “we always need to have a second referendum”.

          • ana53294 says:

            When Switzerland voted in a referendum to limit migration, and the EU activated guillotine clauses in their free trade agreement, Switzerland held the referendum again.

            The deals with the EU existed before, so they were an entirely predictable consequence. But whether the EU would or wouldn’t activate guillotine clauses was entirely their choice.

            Some Leavers may have voted based on campaign promises that the EU would give them what they wanted, and that the trade deficit meant that they held the aces. But this has been clearly demonstrated to not be true. I don’t see why repeating the referendum, with this new information in mind, would be undemocratic.

            I don’t think that repeating a referendum until you get the result you want is wise. However, making sure that people would make the same decision now, given what they know, will help to calm Remainers.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m assuming that all people in this thread handwringing about the Will of the People being stamped out by conniving politicians were equally horrified by the results of the 2016 US presidential elections: a small, but not razor-thin, margin of people preferred one result over another in an advisory election, but the group of representatives charged with implementing the People’s Will overruled them and instead voted for the candidate they preferred.

            As a point of fact, the Electors in the US aren’t charged with implementing the “People’s Will”, but with voting for whichever candidate won the most votes in their particular state.

            As a point of principle, it’s a question of following the rules vs. ignoring them when it suits you. With the US, the rules are that each state sends a predetermined number of Electors to cast their ballots, with each elector voting for the candidate who won most votes in his own state. Maybe these are good rules, maybe they aren’t, but the point is that they are the rules, and they were followed for the Trump/Clinton election. With the UK, on the other hand, the rules are that referenda are rarely used, but that when they are used, the government follows whichever result is returned. (The EU referendum was “advisory” in the same way as laws presented for the Queen’s signature are “advisory”, i.e., not really.) Ignoring the result would therefore mean breaking the rules for partisan advantage, and hence be both dishonourable and damaging to the legitimacy of both the governing elite and Britain’s membership of the EU. (Trying to fulfil the letter of the rules while violating the spirit — i.e., having a Brexit in name only which doesn’t actually change anything — would have similar implications.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Changing the rules after the vote to favor your side undermines your legitimacy and the legitimacy of the eventual decision, and it does that even if you accuse people who point it out of being hypocrites.

            Now, maybe in this case the situation is so dire that the cost in legitimacy is worth it. But it’s going to look exactly like the losing side changing the rules to let themselves win if you put it to another vote.

            What would be the right rule for future referenda of this magnitude? Define the rules up front, and there’s a reasonable chance people will feel like at least the process was fair even if they lose. Maybe requiring a 60% vote to settle the matter? Or requiring referenda every year until you get two in a row with the same decision? Or setting up a rule privileging the current situation (so Scottish independence, Brexit, etc. requires a 60% vote, and it doesn’t happen without it)?

          • John Schilling says:

            but the group of representatives charged with implementing the People’s Will overruled them and instead voted for the candidate they preferred.

            I assume you are referring to members of the electoral college, in which case you have described them and their duties incorrectly. No elector is charged with “implementing the Peoples’ Will”. Each elector is charged with implementing, in the narrow context of one Presidential election, the precisely-specified will of the subset of the people who voted for that elector. This, with a few irrelevant exceptions, they faithfully did.

            I apologize for being snarky, but the argument that holding another referendum would be some horrible authoritarian thing is so ridiculous,

            First, a meaningful apology requires an attempt to mitigate the harm caused by whatever you believe yourself to have wrongfully done. That could more easily have been accomplished by deleting your comment than by adding to it. So no, you do not in fact apologize for being snarky, you revel in it.

            Second, your snark managed, I assume inadvertently, to provide a perfect example of the thing you imagine yourself to be arguing against.

            For the British Parliament to cancel Brexit, with or without the pretense of a second referendum, would be an offence against democratic principles almost precisely analogous to faithless US electors choosing to appoint a President who had not fairly won the election. And in this case, without even the fig leaf of “…but the majority“, because the majority actually voted for Brexit.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            As a point of fact, the Electors in the US aren’t charged with implementing the “People’s Will”, but with voting for whichever candidate won the most votes in their particular state.

            Each elector is charged with implementing, in the narrow context of one Presidential election, the precisely-specified will of the subset of the people who voted for that elector.

            My point is that this is also true of MPs in the UK’s parliament. If it’s not anti-democratic to ignore the popular vote and vote in favor of your constituency in one situation, that should be true in another.

            … when our duly elected representatives do agree to kick a decision down to the people for whatever reason, the people’s decision should be honored. Period. No takebacks. Otherwise a referendum becomes a propaganda tool and not much more.

            … the high-speed rail referendum in California was a pipe dream from day one: the deal as presented to voters was a high-speed rail line from SF to LA for ten billion dollars in bonds, and the actual price tag turned out to be an order of magnitude above that. That being the case, it’s not clear that the referendum retains any force, and if Brexit had run into similar problems, I’d be much less concerned about the precedent established by overruling it.

            Abandoning the rail project sounds like a take-back to me. I think the situations are fairly analogous.

            Some effects of the Brexit vote happening right now that Leave didn’t campaign on: the government is deadlocked, both major parties are being split into squabbling factions by rebellious MPs, many of the promises of the Brexit campaign are not coming true (e.g. £350 million for the NHS), and the country is in danger of crashing out of the EU without a plan and re-sparking a crisis at the Irish border.

            Now, maybe in this case the situation is so dire that the cost in legitimacy is worth it. But it’s going to look exactly like the losing side changing the rules to let themselves win if you put it to another vote.

            What would be the right rule for future referenda of this magnitude? Define the rules up front, and there’s a reasonable chance people will feel like at least the process was fair even if they lose.

            I think the main problem with the first referendum is that “leave the EU” isn’t just one thing, there are a million different Brexits and some people had one in mind when they voted, while other people had others in mind. If there were to be a second referendum, it should have two questions. 1: do you wish to leave the EU, 2: if question 1 passes, would you prefer the May deal (or whatever the current proposed deal is) or a no-deal Brexit. That doesn’t leave any ambiguity. Regardless of results the government would have a path forward.

            Also, for the most part, people ignored my points about other countries and their referenda. Greece is still around, it’s still a democracy, it’s been having pretty decent GDP growth these past few years, and that’s partially because the government ignored the 2015 referendum results. Whether or not it would be good for parliament to ignore the Brexit results, the UK would be fine. It wouldn’t be a tyrannical grab by the crooked elites against the honest hard-working people. The country would continue to be a functioning representative democracy.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @fluorocarbon

            many of the promises of the Brexit campaign are not coming true (e.g. £350 million for the NHS)

            Sorry, this isn’t true. NHS finding is increasing by £394m by 2020(?). More than the £350m “pledge”. It’s certainly possible to argue this would have happened in any scenario but the larger amount is almost certainly due to pressure from Brexiteers who wanted to fulfill the “promise”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            My point is that this is also true of MPs in the UK’s parliament. If it’s not anti-democratic to ignore the popular vote and vote in favor of your constituency in one situation, that should be true in another.

            Firstly, a majority of constituencies voted Leave anyway. Secondly, the situations still aren’t analogous, because the rules of US presidential elections *aren’t* “The candidate with the highest vote count across the US wins”, whereas the rules of the Brexit referendum *were* “The side with the highest vote count [not number of constituencies] wins”. So even if a majority of constituencies voted to Remain, cancelling Brexit on those grounds would still represent an ex post facto changing of the rules.

            Some effects of the Brexit vote happening right now that Leave didn’t campaign on: the government is deadlocked, both major parties are being split into squabbling factions by rebellious MPs, many of the promises of the Brexit campaign are not coming true (e.g. £350 million for the NHS), and the country is in danger of crashing out of the EU without a plan and re-sparking a crisis at the Irish border.

            It was always pretty obvious to me that that £350 million for the NHS thing was just a case of “Here’s the sort of thing we could do if we left the EU”, not “Here’s an unbreakable promise, signed in our own blood, that if the nation votes to leave the EU the budged for the NHS will increase by precisely £350 per annum.” Aside from anything else, the Brexit campaign wasn’t a political party and therefore wasn’t going to form a government, and so wouldn’t be in a position to implement any such promises anyway. Maybe I’m a minority here and most other people were deceived, but TBH this just sounds like another of those “Look how stupid and gullible the outgroup is” memes which get thrown around so much nowadays.

            Also, I would point out that the government is deadlocked largely because (a) the PM is totally crap and negotiating (“The sort of person who would walk out of DFS with a full-price sofa”, as I saw one person put it*), and (b) Parliament is full of Remainers doing their level best to hamstring any negotiations on the British side (it should be blindingly obvious that ruling out a no-deal from the start would ruin your negotiating position and enable the EU to essentially impose any conditions they want, but apparently large numbers of MPs don’t quite understand basic negotiating tactics…). So if you set up a precedent whereby “Parliament is deadlocked, so let’s have a second vote,” you encourage people who disagree with future referenda to try and sabotage the implementation as much as possible, in order to have a second shot at getting their favoured position adopted.

            (* For those of you who are not fortunate enough to live in a country with DFS, it’s a chain of furniture stores which is famous for always having sales on.)

        • Deiseach says:

          It was nominally a brexit vote, but in practice is was supposed to be a confidence vote for the government.

          Cameron should have been stood up against a wall and shot. The way he casually set up the referendum for personal party gain, didn’t bother his arse getting any work done to win it (since he assumed everyone was going to fall into line and vote his way) and then, when it dawned on him “Oh crap, I’ve just blown up the country – well, instead of sticking around and cleaning up the mess I’ve made, I’m fucking off to footle around in my shed, have fun guys!”

          The misdirection that the Leave campaign engaged in – the most infamous is the NHS bus which, after the referendum, Johnson and the rest of them denied said what it said but uh yes guys it did – coupled with the in-fighting and back-stabbing (even amongst “allies” like Gove and Johnson) in the immediate wake of Cameron’s resignation showed that the Tories put personal gain first, party gain second, and the good of the country very far by last.

          I’m not blaming people in the North and Midlands for voting Leave, this is the same problem as the US rust belt – formerly industrialised areas now heavily run down, under- and unemployed, lack of sufficient investment and neglect by a government oriented towards the interests of those in the capital and in the regions around it – but the arrogance and stupidity of the Cameron government and the arrogance and stupidity of the Leave campaign has left a steaming mess that no-one is tackling.

          And over here in Ireland, both in the North and in the Republic, we too will be affected by the consequences of their lack of ability. For all the claims of the UNITED KINGDOM, when it comes down to it, it’s England all the way, as shown by this former Brexiteer; they never even considered Northern Ireland and the Border, they didn’t care, and they didn’t want to have to learn about it when asked directly:

          One night, I want to say sometime around the end of May 2016, BBC Newsnight – to be hosted by James O’Brien that evening – rang us at Westminster Tower to ask for a representative to go on that night to debate the effects of Brexit on the Border. Nobody in the office was keen to take up the request, with even our more polished and experienced media performers rejecting the opportunity on the grounds that they simply lacked real knowledge of the issue.

          I remember quite vividly the feeling of unease and discomfort about the prospect of us talking about something we just didn’t feel needed addressing. Of course, I would not have been much use myself, given that the most thought I had afforded the topic was simply to dismiss any suggestion that the North-South peace process would be halted as yet more Project Fear. I now realise this was naivety on my part. I should have considered things more carefully.

          The only good thing coming out of this is that we’re being forced to move away from our reliance on Great Britain as our major trading partner and market. Putting all our eggs into one basket was never a great idea, but for historical reasons that’s what happened. A lot of people, including small businessmen, will be hit very hard but that’s the price of this entire fiasco.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The entire concept of Brexit strikes me as a no-win situation from the get-go. The initial vote was split down the middle; Brexiting at all seems like “tyranny of the [ever-so-slim] majority” if anything fits that description. However, NOT brexiting would ALSO be against the stated wishes of half the UK. Real damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation with regards to not doing something against the vehement wishes of half the population.

        I think the correct way to avoid this would be to have a provision in the Brexit Referendum Act (or whatever it was called) saying that the government would only leave the EU if a certain amount — 60%, say — of the voters voted Leave. That way you’d avoid the problem of having wafer-thin majorities decide things. Unfortunately people only started making this argument after the vote had already happened, raising the suspicion that this was just a last-ditch attempt to stop a policy they didn’t like rather than a principled support for the idea that supermajorities should be necessary to pass important decisions.

        The cop-out for UK-lovers is to claim that all the people who voted for Brexit “didn’t really understand what it would entail” or “weren’t actually expecting it to pass,” but that sounds a lot like “the outgroup is stupid and doesn’t understand what’s best for them.”

        TBH this just seems like an isolated demand for rigour to me. Let us not forget the government propaganda in the run-up to the vote predicting economic Armageddon if the country voted to leave — predictions which have conspicuously failed to come true. Yet somehow nobody seems to be saying “Well, those Remain voters were just taken in by unscrupulous government propagandists, they didn’t really understand what leaving would entail, so clearly their opinions on the matter are worthless.”

        • eyeballfrog says:

          While I agree that referenda with major long-term impacts should probably require supermajorities, it’s a little unfair if the referendum to get them into it wasn’t a supermajority.

          On the other hand, this might fix the second referendum issue in a sense. Require a supermajority to undo the first one. Although then if it gets a majority but not a supermajority the government probably says “we’ll respect the true will of the people” and stop Brexit. So maybe not.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Seems like the EU’s way of saying “Final offer” to me.

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      MV3 is unlikely to pass. Betting markets currently give it about a 30% chance. At which point we revert to the 12th April as our next cut-off date. If we fail to legislate for European Parliamentary elections by this point we should be leaving without a deal.

      So instead of everyone going completely insane over the next week, we have the chance for that to happen over the next three weeks.

      The likely hope is that the Cabinet will give May a revolver and a whiskey and tell her to do the right thing. She can’t be forced out except through a No Confidence vote in the House, which is likely to pass this time. But a No Confidence vote leads to a 14 day look for a PM who can command confidence of the House. Something there is simply no time for.

      A too clever by half solution would be acknowledging that the PM does not have to be a party leader. Telling May she will stay on as leader of the Conservatives for the time being. Getting a new PM who has the confidence of the House (likely a current Cabinet level Leaver – Michael Gove, Geoffrey Cox). That PM then has a mandate from the Labour backbench and Tory front and backbench to change the Brexit process, either by going for an EEA/EFTA solution, No Deal (which is unlikely) or accepting the Kyle/Wilson amendment which has the current deal confirmed by a referendum.

      It is, however, too difficult to arrange. More likely is May attempts to stay on, she is No Confidenced, resigns as party leader, and the Tories fail to find a leader in time, the House votes for European Parliamentary elections, and Brexit becomes far softer, taking away much of the original point of the enterprise.

      • fion says:

        She can’t be forced out except through a No Confidence vote in the House, which is likely to pass this time.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there can’t be another no confidence vote until 12 months after she survived the last one.

        That PM then has a mandate from the Labour backbench and Tory front and backbench to change the Brexit process

        I suspect Labour would refuse to support a “Tory Brexit”. If anything, a Gove/Cox Brexit is likely to be less palatable than a May one.

        I still think we’ll leave without a deal. The only alternatives I can see are long delay + second vote or long delay + general election, neither of which is likely to win the support of Parliament.

        • ana53294 says:

          AFAIK, she can’t be kicked out as leader of the party, but Parliament can have a no confidence vote.

          The issue is that the ERG will not vote against the Prime Minister, even if they don’t support her deal. So even if they don’t want this Tory leader, they prefer her to any viable alternative.

          • fion says:

            AFAIK, she can’t be kicked out as leader of the party, but Parliament can have a no confidence vote.

            Thank you and @kieranpjobrien for the correction.

            I’m inclined to agree with your second point, though.

        • kieranpjobrien says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there can’t be another no confidence vote until 12 months after she survived the last one.

          She can’t be No Confidenced by the Tory party for 12 months. She can be No Confidenced in the House every single day if the official opposition table questions and the Speaker calls them (which he is compelled to do if the official opposition table them).

          I suspect Labour would refuse to support a “Tory Brexit”. If anything, a Gove/Cox Brexit is likely to be less palatable than a May one.

          I think the Labour backbenches would support an EEA/EFTA Brexit. I think Corbyn would never support anything that a single Tory supported. But Cooper is sane, Watson is sane. Together they could bring a chunk of Labour backbench votes over. Corbyn will continue to press for a Brexit that gives us all the benefits of being in the EU whilst being able to nationalise everything and getting to veto EU trade policy. So, a Unicorn.

          I voted to leave, I am now about 20/30/25/25 split between May’s deal, EFTA, No Deal, and Revocation. In terms of likelihood. I would far prefer EFTA to anything else.

          I don’t think a long delay with a referendum can pass. I think a long delay for a GE is possible.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @kieranpjobrien

            I voted to leave

            You probably get this a lot, so do you have a comment already answered somewhere as to why?

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            I rarely discuss it publicly, so I don’t have one ready but:

            The EU is a protectionist block. I am a genuine liberal leaver who wants to abolish all tariffs, encourage migration from everywhere, stop subsidising farming and any other industry and damn the consequences.

            But it was a finely balanced thing, I could have backed Remain, I could still back Remain in a second referendum, though I view it as illegitimate and would rather have Parliament revoke than pretend to care about the result of referendums by holding a second. I could have backed Remain because I recognise the difficulty in getting towards my politics in any scenario.

            I recognise that most people who voted to Leave disagree with my policies. I don’t care that much. Leaving the EU opens the boundaries of the possible to include my politics and so allows for future movements towards my area even if the next five years see a move farther away.

          • Murphy says:

            I have a feeling you’ll be disappointed and that the effect of moving further away will be to move even further.

            The england-for-the-english protect-our-steel bloc appear to be the ones gaining power out of this.

            But I can respect those goals.

            I know I’ll be voting against any replacement farm subsidies (or for candidates who oppose them), emailing my representatives to ask them to vote against any such replacement subsidies etc.

            Farmers voted overwhelmingly for brexit and by extension against the EU farm subsidies and after all the puffery in parliament on the subject… it would be downright undemocratic to fail to respect farmers votes on the issue, they voted clearly against a subsidy and that’s what they should get out of brexit.

            Ditto for EU grants for underdeveloped regions. The people there almost universally voted against development grants.

            Creating post-EU substitutes would just be brexit-in-name-only.

            They voted clearly against receiving development grants, we need to respect that.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @Murphy

            I’m a Tory living in SNP-ruled Edinburgh so I’m used to being disappointed.

            So long as we leave the Customs Union, by no means a sure thing, then I have the scope to achieve my goals in the future. We’ve seen increasing openness to immigration in the UK since the Brexit vote. Annoyingly (so far as I’m concerned) that has been coupled with Xenophobia when it comes to goods (Chlorine washed Chicken and whatnot), and a failure to understand that unilaterally abolishing tariffs is good and you can still get trade deals through recognising standards.

            Annoyingly Gove seems to have been bought by the farming sector, he used to be quite the free trader but now wants to subsidise farms (I say this as someone with a lot of farming background). I entirely agree that farmers deserve to feel the brunt of Brexit. Abolishing farming subsidies combined with freeing up land for development could seriously change how we approach land value in the UK for the better.

            I’m less inclined to punish Cornwall and Wales, for example, as there you have economic anguish reasons for voting to leave which I have little sympathy for but I also don’t think you solve them by cutting off funding. I don’t think malice (except against farmers) is a good way to develop policy. I do, of course, see your point though.

          • ana53294 says:

            There are several good things that could come out of Brexit. Getting rid of the farmer’s subsidy (or the PC name, income support), would be one of the important ones.

            Another would be to remove all tariffs on agricultural goods and value-added agricultural goods for developing countries. Because it’s incredible how protective tariffs are. While raw cocoa and coffee beans have 0 tariffs, this increases a lot in the case of roasted coffee beans or chocolate. This means we are preventing farmers in Ethiopia from forming co-ops that can get a distinct, value added roasted coffee.

            Another one, for me, would be to remove the silly de-facto ban on GMOs and allow farmers to farm GMOs. Make clear legislation on new biotech such as CRISPR, TALEN, and fast-track breeding.

            But seeing how afraid people are of chlorinated chicken (and people are even more scared of GMOs), considering the UK has its own chocolate and coffee industry, and how strong the farm lobby is, I don’t think these things will be done.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Maybe the moral of the story is that we should be paying a lot more attention to EU parliamentary elections.

            Anyways, thank you for the answer. Honestly didn’t expect to agree with you so much. The way EU legislation is going, it’s likely to become more and more stuffy in there. Will still be worth it for a long time but… I guess that’s how entropy is manifesting in this particular empire.

          • Jiro says:

            Farmers voted overwhelmingly for brexit and by extension against the EU farm subsidies and after all the puffery in parliament on the subject… it would be downright undemocratic to fail to respect farmers votes on the issue, they voted clearly against a subsidy and that’s what they should get out of brexit.

            That’s nonsense. Voting for X only means voting for the consequences of X if those consequences are a predictable, inevitable, result of X and X alone. The sketchier the connection between X and the “consequences”, the less the voters can be said to have voted for those consequences.

          • ana53294 says:

            Farming subsidies are paid by the EU. Does not voting for leaving the EU indicate willingness to not receive subsidies?

            In the same manner, American citizens who renounce their citizenship to stop paying taxes also renounce from the help of the American army in case they get in trouble.

            Everything has a price. Saying you want to do X, which has price Y, means you are ready to pay Y. And not getting subsidies from the EU is clearly part of the price of leaving the EU.

          • Protagoras says:

            EFTA does not seem to be full of enthusiasm for allowing Britain to rejoin. Any reason you think the UK government will do any better at bringing EFTA around to a favorable deal than they have been trying to bring the EU around to a favorable deal?

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @Protagoras

            Quite simply, with stories such as thisReuters story I don’t believe that to be the case. There has been a lot of news about Norwegian politicians not wanting it but that’s the government.

            And if the UK committed to EFTA for the long term we would be a valued partner.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Farming subsidies are paid by the EU. Does not voting for leaving the EU indicate willingness to not receive subsidies?

            Since the UK is a net contributor to the EU, the British government could replace all current EU subsidies and then some just from the money saved from EU membership. So since it’s perfectly possible for the government to continue farming subsidies outside the EU, voting to leave doesn’t equate to a vote to cancel the subsidies, vindictive fantasies about sticking it to the outgroup notwithstanding.

    • Deiseach says:

      The impression I’m getting is that everyone is hoping to kick this down the road until May, when the elections for the European Parliament will be held, and then maybe in June there will be a general election in the UK, a new government will be voted in (and the stranglehold of the DUP will be broken) and then finally they can get a vote passed on something.

      I don’t know how workable that is, to be honest. Here we are three years later, the Prime Minister can’t get any kind of agreement passed through parliament no matter what tweaks and changes she makes, and nobody knows if the UK really is leaving never mind when. I really think further delay will just result in the same old thing – why should the hold-outs change their minds when they see that the UK keeps getting extensions? If there were a definite “if you don’t have something in place by Date Y, then we’re kicking you out without a deal” committment, that might force them to make up their minds, but as it is, deadlines keep going by and extensions keep getting given, so they have nothing to risk by sitting there going NO NO NO.

      To quote Jean-Claude Juncker, Don’t go to hell!

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        The impression I’m getting is that everyone is hoping to kick this down the road until May…

        I read this four times before I figured out that “May” was a month, not a person.

    • fion says:

      In the past the EU have indicated that they’d be up for a longer extension if something substantial changed, for example a second referendum or a general election. I think it’s unlikely to happen, but there are many in parliament who would be up for a delay of a year or so to give time for some kind of public vote (and perhaps a different government negotiating Brexit, or canceling Brexit altogether.).

      Even if the EU didn’t agree to this it would be possible (legally, but probably not politically) for the UK to revoke and re-invoke Article 50, giving us a two-year delay. Or revoke, referendum, (re-invoke).

      Having said all that I think the probable answer is yes, we’ll be back here in two weeks and then we’ll leave without a deal.

      • kieranpjobrien says:

        Even if the EU didn’t agree to this it would be possible (legally, but probably not politically) for the UK to revoke and re-invoke Article 50, giving us a two-year delay. Or revoke, referendum, (re-invoke).

        My impression, and I’ve seen conflicting reports, is that revocation has to be in good faith. So a revocation has to be “final” or at least intended at the time to be “final”. That was certainly the advice to the ECJ.

        So we couldn’t revoke/invoke in a day. Or revoke and hold a referendum only to invoke again.

        • fion says:

          I take your first point, but I think holding a referendum and then invoking again if that’s the result of the referendum would be more palatable.

    • Aftagley says:

      The British people may still have a chance to reject that game by going ahead with a no-deal Brexit anyway: show the establishment that hostage-taking doesn’t work.

      Wasn’t the problem of people blindly ignoring their self-interest in order to stick it to the shadowy and only debatably extant “elites” what caused this whole Brexit mess in the first place?

      Your entire argument just seems bonkers – the fact that the ramifications of a terrible decision will be bad shouldn’t be seen as proof that you need to double down on that bad decision.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        The UK government had two years to negotiate new trade deals with the rest of the world. On paper that’s “illegal” but what was the EU going to do, kick them out?

        Instead, they dragged their feet and now are using the crisis they created to try to scare Britain into accepting a revocation of Article 50. May and the rest of her government never wanted Brexit, so they’re trying to kill it by making it as unpalatable as possible.

        Showing them that this strategy won’t work, and that the fallout will get them clobbered in the next general election, will hopefully discourage this sort of shenanigans in the future.

  15. Basil Elton says:

    Does anybody here has a reasonably well informed opinion on blood pressure measuring smart watches? Looks like the only FDA-approved for this purpose are the Apple’s ones (well plus some other watches which are basically just a plain old blood pressure cuff slightly styled as watches). But there’s quite a few watches on the market which [claim to] measure blood pressure but are not approved by FDA. Is it just because only Apple had money and desire to get theirs through the FDA testing, or is it that all the others actually don’t do a good job at measuring?

    • Elementaldex says:

      Having spent quite a bit of time and effort interacting with FDA, it is probably some opaque mixture of the two. It is hard and expensive to get anything through FDA, so even if you have a working product you may not be able to or it may not be worth it to try. But a working product that cannot afford to get through the FDA may be indistinguishable from one that is not good enough to get through FDA.

      • Basil Elton says:

        Thank you, that’s exactly the answer I was afraid of hearing.

        • CatCube says:

          It’s worth noting that in general, certification is expensive, and often a premium feature you’ll have to pay for.

          For example, certification often isn’t just “We’ve proved this design will work,” it usually includes, “This thing, with serial no XXXXXX, was constructed to that design, and here’s all the paperwork that shows when and where it was built, the inspector and outcome of the quality control testing performed, and all of the materials it was built from, including the certifications for that material.” And, of course, the vendor that sold them that material has to maintain their own certification.

          For example, if I specify a steel used in a structural connection, that steel specification includes certification. When I get a submittal from the contractor building it, it will include the material test reports, including the date and time they were conducted, the plant the steel was produced, and the heat number. They have that information because they got it from the steel service center that sold them the material, who got it from the steel mill, and at any stage in the sales process if they subdivide pieces when selling it downstream, they ensure to mark the pieces so they can be tracked. I could very well go to Home Depot and pick up some random 1/4″ plate that came from the exact same heat as that certified structural plate, but Home Depot isn’t maintaining all of that crap, because it’s expensive and if you need it you go to a vendor that specializes in it.

          Also consider that flaperon found on Ascension Island from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: they know it was from that plane, because Boeing has by-serial-number records for all of the 10,000,000(?) parts on the plane. Consider the cost of maintaining something like that for every aircraft they’ve ever produced.

          To cycle back to the blood-pressure monitoring, if you truly have a need for certified equipment, that’s something you can pay for. However, if you don’t need that traceability (like life-critical stuff where a hospital is going to dose blood pressure meds based on the measurement) there’s not a benefit for either the vendor to provide it or you to pay the extra for it.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      I’m not a doctor, but we talked a bit about blood pressure monitoring last semester.

      I don’t think Apple watches measure blood pressure, at least not without a third-party accessory. The way that blood pressure cuffs work, whether automated or operated manually, is that they inflate and gradually increase the pressure around your arm until they cut off circulation, measured traditionally by listening for your pulse with a stethoscope past the cuff. The pressure at which you can no longer hear a pulse is your blood pressure. (I’m oversimplifying a bit, since there’s the measurements of the high pressure during a heartbeat and of the low pressure between them.) Automated cuffs do the same increase-pressure-until-it-cuts-off-circulation thing, but measure your pulse downstream automatically, presumably with similar technology that smartwatches use for heart rate. A nurse with a stethoscope will be more accurate than any automatic device you’re likely to use.

      An Apple Watch will measure your heart rate with a rapidly-blinking green light somehow (haven’t looked into how that works), but clearly has no pneumatics and thus no way to tighten around your wrist for a blood pressure measurement. It looks like there are third-party accessories that will do the cuff part and have the watch function as the stethoscope, but the standard Apple Watch has no way to tighten on its own.

      Any watch that did measure blood pressure, like the one you link, wouldn’t be able to do it continuously (lest your hand shrivel up from lack of circulation) and would be quite a bit bulky due to the inflatable cuff and pneumatics required.

      Apple Watch series 4 can, however, perform a basic single-lead ECG/EKG (interchangeable abbreviations for electrocardiogram) which senses the rhythm of your heartbeat and can detect an atrial fibrillation (and not much else).

      • Basil Elton says:

        Wow I’ve googled and that’s actually correct, they require another device and they just pair with it. What a great marketing and awful misinformation on Apple’s side then. This way you can “measure” blood pressure with a goddamn toaster. Thank you! I kinda hoped they invented some indirect way to do it.

  16. MilfordTrunion says:

    So it looks like Freddie De Boer talked archive.org into deleting his stuff, to make absolutely certain that nobody could ever read anything he’d ever written. Can anyone point to an archive of it?

    • Nick says:

      If Freddie talked archive.org into deleting his stuff, don’t you think maybe we shouldn’t point to an archive of it?

      • EchoChaos says:

        I’m with Nick. Making the Internet forget is hard. If someone thinks it’s worth the effort, I’m happy to forget.

        • MilfordTrunion says:

          He can eat it. “I don’t know what to do, you guys” was extremely well-written and deserves to be remembered.

          Although I can understand that finding out you’re actually a conservative can be kinda scary, so you would want to delete the evidence of that.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            If the deletion was intentional, this shit right here is probably why – too many people reading his stuff in bad faith for their own ideological purposes. The occasional criticism of certain segments of the woke left doesn’t change a communist into a conservative.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Two years ago his website was clobbered by malware and he decided not to resurrect it. He said “If you want any of the old posts I’m sure you can find them on the web archive services,” which is ambivalent, but does not sound like someone trying to block archives. The robots.txt which had that effect seems to date from that time, so I don’t think it was intentional, just a side effect of the site being down. I’m surprised that archive.org hasn’t noticed that it has been reverted.

        (On the other hand, he deleted all his medium.com posts. And then he started blogging at his own website again, most of which remains up. So I dunno.)

        He recently gave Jesse Singal permission to repost anything, but he probably trusts Singal more than Milford.

        Also, he mentioned Winograd’s dilemma as an essay he regrets losing.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It’s very easy to “talk” archive.org into deleting your stuff. Just edit your robots.txt file. They are in the business of helping preserve things the creators of those things want preserved, not in the business of making sure people can’t change their minds. There are different archive sites, like archive.today, that are in the latter business.

    • J says:

      Hey, did you ever get anywhere with your sinusoidal depleneration issues?

      • MilfordTrunion says:

        Turns out prefamulated ammulite hasn’t got the Hardenjian damping constant we’re looking for, but we switched to thrichromic polybearate and it’s runnin’ like a dream!

  17. Plumber says:

    In responding to a post, and in thinking about previous recent threads about Marxism, I had a thought:
    Reading Engels (and a little bit Marx, but he’s a harder read) their arguments seem to make sense to me, but a giant pile skulls shows  a wee bit of a problem with the implementation of those theories.

    So where do things seem to go well?

    Canada and Scandinavia seem nice – so hooray for “Social Democracy”/”Welfare-state Capitalism”, and I’m just about all in…

    ….except Singapore. 

    By the polls people in Singapore are pretty happy, just as Scandinavians are, but Singapore seems to have a very different ideology. 

    Another place that seems pretty happy?

    Utah.

    Whatever it is that places that are majority Mormon do it seems to work, if you’re born poor in Salt Lake City your odds of getting a job that lets you support a family and your kids becoming middle-class or even “UMC” are better than most U.S. cities. 

    Other than maybe what size a polity is having an effect there’s some dots that I’m not connecting.

    What’s the recipe for happy places?

    And if we regard “happy” as too subjective a measure,  maybe life-expectancy-at-birth in which case Japan comes out on or near the top, as does much of Scandinavia, since Hawaii (which has many of Japanese descent) and Minnesota (which has many of Scandinavian descent) are the two U.S. states where people live the longest, that may be genetic, but who knows?).

    What makes a good society? 

    Any links you can think of? 

    • Chalid says:

      Social democracies score high on self-reported happiness, but I’m not sure that Singapore does well by that measure. The measure by which Singapore is successful would be economics, e.g. per capita GDP, but by that measure Utah is below average for a US state.

      The thing that Utah, Scandinavia, and Singapore actually seem to have in common is that they’re very safe, high-trust, low-crime places, from which I infer that that is very important to how you (Plumber) define a good society.

      • Plumber says:

        @Chalid,
        I had remembered Singapore as being listed as “The happiest nation in Asia”, and I just checked again and it is pretty high for the Asia-Pacific region (it’s just behind Australia and New Zealand), but globally it’s not as impressive (Costa Rica for example ranks higher), but it still strikes me that it’s citizens are pretty happy with what seems to me a different ruling ideology.

        As for “safe, high-trust, low-crime places”, that does sound pretty good to me.

        How do you achieve that?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Based on the list you gave above, I’d say the main options are probably either (a) being a culturally homogeneous ethno-state, or (b) having an authoritarian technocratic government to keep everything in line.

          • Chalid says:

            Canada is on his list and it is neither of those.

          • EchoChaos says:

            It’s more “be full of high-trust people” than “entho-state”.

            Poland is an ethno-state, but it’s full of Poles, so it isn’t as nice as Sweden, which has a large minority group, but is full of Swedes.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Hm… I think that Scandinavia, Singapore and Canada have in common that they had long periods (decades) of rule by competent governments implementing gradualist social improvements.

            This does not explain undeniable success of Utah, which is clearly connected with Mormon church, somehow.

          • johan_larson says:

            This does not explain undeniable success of Utah, which is clearly connected with Mormon church, somehow.

            A mix of the factors, maybe? The Mormons managed to convert quite a lot of Scandinavians, as I understand it, and quite a lot of them settled in the Utah area. The area is also quite homogeneous, at least by religion. And the Mormons are a pretty darn active and organized religion. I’m not sure I’d call them authoritarian, but there definitely seems to be an LDS way of doing things, and it’s enforced. There’s an “our way” and if you’re really not ok with it, out you go.

            I have a sneaking suspicion that the US leans a little too hard on freedom and could stand a bit more unity and authority. And that’s what Utah has, at least in a cultural sense.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I have a sneaking suspicion that the US leans a little too hard on freedom and could stand a bit more unity and authority.

            This is a pretty good precis for Patrick Deneen’s claim about the inherent self-destructiveness of the whole Western-Civ Enlightment classical liberal project: philosophically we are all for freedom and self-autonomy, which at first led to limited government, but it turns out that government is the only thing that can save us from the authoritarianism of churches, schools, fraternal orders, families, etc. As we let government eat away at the strength of these other leaders of conformity, eventually the only one left is the government, which to accomplish this worthy goal must perforce become Leviathan.

        • EchoChaos says:

          How do you achieve that?

          Have a demography of mostly high-trust, low-crime people.

          Utah is the most Puritan place left in the United States, and the Puritans have always been higher trust and lower crime than other Americans. Swedes and Norwegians much the same.

        • Guy in TN says:

          As for “safe, high-trust, low-crime places”, that does sound pretty good to me.

          How do you achieve that?

          You achieve it by creating economic institutions that prevent people from becoming too desperate. There’s a number of ways to do this, as you have noticed.

          The Nordics (the winners on these sorts of lists) accomplish this through providing their people with a large economic foundation, funded by a combination of taxation and the profits of state owned enterprises. The little things add up: look at the disparity in child poverty, for instance.

          These aren’t “culturally homogeneous ethnostates”. There’s no mysterious genetic voodoo that makes the Nordic people consistently top the various measures of happiness criteria.

          If we created such a system here, we’d be happy too.

          • Zeno of Citium says:

            States are the laboratory of democracy, and it occurs to me there might be a control group in there. Can we/ has someone checked crime rate, poverty rates, median income, etc. against some decent measure of how a state’s institutions are at “creating economic institutions that prevent people from becoming too desperate”, controlled for usual confounders like wealth? Off hand, we could look at states that took/ didn’t take the ACA Medicare expansion, although that’s pretty recent. Health care seems like a big one, and one that was mostly on the state level until the ACA passed. Public education, maybe, although it’s really hard to measure how good education is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You achieve it by creating economic institutions that prevent people from becoming too desperate. There’s a number of ways to do this, as you have noticed.

            But those institutions themselves require a fairly high level of social trust to bring about. E.g., if everybody’s looking out to maximise their own advantage without regard to the common good, you get rampant tax evasion and consequent difficulty funding nice Nordic-style welfare programmes, and when you do many to set any up people will just try and scam them as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of Nordic-style welfare programmes, I just don’t think they’re enough in themselves to make a country good.

          • Guy in TN says:

            you get rampant tax evasion and consequent difficulty funding nice Nordic-style welfare programmes

            Wikipedia tells me the voluntary compliance rate for taxation in the US is actually the one of the highest in the world. So of course, we will have to factor in the inevitable theft of revenue due to tax evasion, but the Nordic countries have to do this as well.

            Its true that, in terms of political feasibility, people have to actually want to implement these transfer programs, before they will come into existence. The good news is, there is a rising tide of young Americans who are determined to vote for people who will do just that!

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            One of the 13 articles of faith that children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons) learn is

            “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”

            The Articles of Faith go back to the founding prophet of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith. So it isn’t too surprising to me that Utah would have relatively high voluntary tax compliance.

          • Alternatively, you do it by creating institutions, social or political, in which trusting people is a profitable strategy, violating their trust an unprofitable one.

            Edward Banfield wrote a book a long time ago, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, contrasting an Italian town and an American town along those lines.

            For my approach to a related issue, see this chapter from the third edition of my first book.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          How do you achieve that?

          A totalizing unifying culture, that valorizes itself, valorizes people who uphold the culture, and has immediate widespread social punishment for defectors, and widespread social disapproval of even the idea of valorizing defectors.

          Still interested?

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark Atwood,

            The stereotype of Canadians is that they apologize too much to do any of that, and the only Canadian that I knew well seemed very much a “rebel-girl”.

            I’m still interested enough though (especially if clarify what you mean).

          • SamChevre says:

            I ran. I’m still running. But I’m far enough away now to see that there are advantages.

          • Garrett says:

            The stereotype of Canadians is that they apologize too much to do any of that

            I grew up in Canada. I suspect part of it is the cold.
            If you are useful, you can get paid and live somewhere warm.
            If you are useless but can follow rules you can get government assistance or stay in a shelter.
            If you are useless, can’t follow rules but are reasonable pleasant you can find someone who will take you in.
            If you are useless, can’t follow rules and are unpleasant, you freeze to death.
            Repeat for generations.
            I suspect that part of the issue facing coastal California’s urban campers is that there isn’t any weather which forces them to be at least nice.

      • Chalid says:

        Now that I think about it, lots of states are as good or better on crime as Utah is. This list has Utah as ninth-safest on homicides, between Vermont and Massachusetts. New England generally seems to score very well.

        Utah is definitely special in that it has a very high birth rate. (Unlike every other place in Plumber’s list.) I’m not sure by what other measure it would be a special standout state, if you’re not Mormon?

        • Plumber says:

          @Chalid, 
          What got me interested in Utah was an article in The New York Times on how likely people born poor in different cities were to climb out of poverty, and I saw that Salt Lake City did very well on that score despite not having the economic growth of Seattle (which also did well, I’m guessing because of the booming economy), I read further on rates of homeless and the like, and Utah did seem unusual, Megan McArdle did an interesting essay on this.

          Looks hard to export though.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think if you’re looking at murder rates per capita by states, you need to control for race somehow. Blacks have like 8x the murder rate of whites, so it would be very easy for fraction of the state’s population that’s black to swamp any other thing about that state.

          Something similar happens w.r.t. test scores–when you split the international tests of high school kids out by race, the picture of how the US is doing changes radically.

          • Chalid says:

            If you did those controls it would make Utah look even less relatively successful as Utah has very few black people. Massachusetts would definitely be a “better” state than Utah after controlling for race, and probably New York, Hawaii, and New Jersey too. (Just from eyeballing the homicide list.)

    • baconbits9 says:

      The major reasons for each of those countries is likely different, but there are some potential common links.

      Canada, and Australia, for that matter have large but highly selective immigration rates. This is easier for them than for say the US as their populations are much smaller, but also because one country only boarders another very rich country and the other is an island. Singapore also has easily policed borders, as does Iceland (often lumped with the Nordics). As does Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark. And New Zealand. Almost none of the countries that are typically mentioned have large borders with significantly poorer countries, Finland being the major exception (and the USSR policed that for them for many years).

      If this is a significant factor then cause and effect are hard to untangle, Norway does boarder two countries (plus a little with Russia) but they both happen to be rich. Great Britain has easy boarder management and was rich for a very long time but have been falling off.

      Then there are problems with averages. Few of these countries have high immigration from countries outside of their economic sphere, are they effectively outsourcing their poverty and unhappiness?

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I am sceptical of this. I mean, “not having long borders with Russia” would seem like obvious requirement for a political stability, except Finland has one and is doing pretty well.

        What would it take to disprove this?

      • rlms says:

        as does Iceland (often lumped with the Nordics). As does Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark

        Geographically perhaps, but all of those are in the Schengen zone.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Yes, but that is a negotiated treaty which was implemented after these countries were already rich, and the treaty is mostly without other wealthy countries. Its also 20ish years old.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The point is not that these countries have low immigration (Canada and Australia don’t) its that they have long histories of being able to control immigration.

          • rlms says:

            they have long histories of being able to control immigration.

            I don’t think international immigration has existed in it’s current form long enough for that to make sense. For one thing, I believe Norway and Denmark had net-negative immigration until around the mid-20th century.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            All developed countries have technical ability to control immigration. Some of them just have choosen to severely restrict its use (e.g. via Schengen). But as far as having this ability “long time”, Finland stands out in that it had no ability to control Russian immigration into its territory until 1918, since until then it was a part of Russian Empire. But before Napoleonic wars, it was a part of Sweden, and I find it much more likely that Finnish success owes itself to good Swedish institutions taking root in their society, than Fins being somehow genetically superior to Russians. Note that Swedes and Russians are both of Indo-european descent, but Fins are not.

      • Chalid says:

        To state the obvious, there is free movement within the United States, but some parts are more successful than others.

    • ajakaja says:

      From personal experience, I think that what Utah has going for it is not the sort of thing you can easily find inside statistics about, say, crime-rates or welfare policies or live span.

      The weird thing about Utah is that people there (not all, but enough) are unusually, disconcertingly, disarmingly kind. Regardless of what you think about Mormonism, when people are so legitimately kind it’s far easier to feel good compared to when they aren’t. Compare, say, to my current residence of Seattle, where people are more ‘nice’ than truly ‘kind’, if that makes sense, and the result is a feeling of alienation and loneliness that is so prevalent that it has its own Wikipedia article.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I’m from Utah. I live in Seattle.

        And… yeah.

        Plus, there is a certain comfort in knowing that if TSHTF, if I can get there, there is a place for me there.

  18. Well... says:

    In Steinbeck’s East of Eden there is a Chinese-American character who feigns the “pidgin” accent for this or that reason when he can speak plain English just fine. I don’t remember what the reason was, but I remember not finding it compelling; it was something like “You’re so prejudiced to believe I’m incapable of speaking English properly that if I did, you’d experience such intense cognitive dissonance that you’d try to kill me.”

    I’ve seen this trope — “the East Asian immigrant who speaks Engrish when he or she is actually able to speak perfect English” — occasionally repeated, and my wife has even suspected that some of the East Asians we encounter e.g. at Chinese restaurants are faking their thick accents too.

    Does this trope have any basis in reality? If not with East Asians, then with any other immigrant group? If so, what would be the justification for it?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Not with anyone I’ve ever met or heard of.

      Generally speaking, first generation Asian immigrants see speaking unaccented English as a major accomplishment. If anything, they often think that their own accents are much thicker than they really are. Deliberately speaking English poorly is the last thing they’d try to do.

      Second generation Asian immigrants and onwards typically are embarrassed by their parents and more recent immigrants for their thick accents. If they take a lot of pride in their background, they might try to learn to speak that language fluently but the only people I’ve ever met who take pride in accented or poorly spoken English were black Americans.

      • albatross11 says:

        Nabil:

        ISTM that American blacks and Southerners are both native speakers of a dialect of English that’s different from that spoken by most of the rest of the country. And both groups sometimes play up those differences in dialect.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          African American English Vernacular, or whatever they’re calling it this week, reminds me a lot of Ulster Scots in that respect:

          A thick accent and poor grammar isn’t enough to constitute a dialect. It’s an entirely politically motivated distinction.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It’s not poor grammar, it’s a dialect with different grammatical rules. “Habitual be” is the canonical example of a construction that appears to speakers of Standard American English to be poor grammar but is used in an internally-consistent way by speakers of African American Vernacular English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitual_be

            I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe a separate ethnic group would speak a separate dialect. I think there’s some political motive behind trying to deny the existence of the dialect, a white supremacist notion that all black culture is just white culture done wrong and the blacks have nothing of their own.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not just poor grammar if it’s following consistent rules, even if they’re different than the ones you or I use, which I think is broadly true of American black English. I haven’t studied this, but the way I understand it, black English has consistent rules, just different ones than standard English. I think John McWhorter has written about this.

            Now, I’m all for blacks learning standard English, since it’s probably a lot easier to be successful in life if you do so. But (for example) most highly educated blacks can still speak that dialect, and my guess is that most whites probably can’t speak it in a way that would convince any native speakers. And there are definitely poetry and fiction and songs written in black English, presumably following the rules of the dialect and all.

          • mdet says:

            A 22 page paper from Jack Sidnell, professor of Linguistic Anthropology, on AAVE grammar.

            But it’s not just that AAVE has internally consistent rules, it’s that those rules are common grammatical features in other languages. Copula deletion (“Who dis?” instead of “Who is this?”) is also a common feature in Assamese, Bengali, Kannada, Malay/Indonesian, Turkish, Japanese, Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Hebrew, Arabic, Berber, Ganda, Hawaiian, Sinhala, and American Sign Language, according to wikipedia, and Sidnell’s paper notes that multiple negation (“I didn’t do nothin”) is actually normal and proper grammar in French (“Je n’ai fait rien”).

            I don’t see anything specifically to this effect, but I’d guess that AAVE has its roots in applying the grammar of West African languages circa 1800 to the vocabulary of English.

          • bullseye says:

            I’d expect AAVE to have some features that were common in English four centuries ago but aren’t anymore.

            From Scott’s Albion’s Seed review: “Virginian cavalier speech patterns sound a lot like modern African-American dialects. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why, but it’s strange to think of a 17th century British lord speaking what a modern ear would clearly recognize as Ebonics.”

        • SamChevre says:

          The thing I frequently find amusing is people pointing out features of AAVE that are actually just southern, and would not identify black from white among southerners.

          The best example is “it was” where more-typical American English would say “there was”, as in “It was a girl went down to the creek for a pail of water.”

      • Chalid says:

        Ever listen to country music? Lots of pride in the accent there.

      • dick says:

        the only people I’ve ever met who take pride in accented or poorly spoken English were black Americans.

        Ever been to the UK?

        • mdet says:

          In general I think the fading away of regional accents with the rise of travel and mass media is a kinda sad thing, a loss of character, and think more people should take pride in their accents.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m no linguist, but I’ve heard that regional accents have gotten stronger since the early 20th century. Couldn’t say why, though.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve sometimes insisted—to others’ consternation—that I don’t have an accent. There is, I am told, an Inland Northern American dialect, which is even undergoing a Northern Cities Vowel Shift, but I can find little evidence of this shift in my own speech. Anyway, I’m definitely proud of my lack of an accent. 😀

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t hear an accent in my own voice, of course, but I’ve been accused of being everything from cowboy to Australian.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Nick:

            I’ve sometimes insisted—to others’ consternation—that I don’t have an accent.

            Well, they are right to be, um, consterned 🙂
            The only way to not have an accent is to speak a language so homogenous that there are no detectable pronunciation differences among all the people who speak it – something that only really applies to tiny tribes where everyone who speaks the language knows and regularly interacts with every one else. If you speak a langauge that has more than one pattern of pronunciation, then all of those count as accents unless you are using a weird, gerrymandered definition (which people who speak other varieties of the language are likely to be suspicious of, since it is likely to seem to them arrogant).

            What I think you mean is that you mean is that you speak with the accent of the version of English which has been chosen as the standard language in your area, but which version of a language gets chosen is almost entirely a matter of history and politics, rather than a matter of one version of a language actually being the authentic version, from which others deviate.

            For instance, if, say, York rather than London had become the capital of England, then standard British English would have been based more on the local version of English spoken there, rather than the southern version that did in fact get enshrined as the standard*. The same would apply if, say, Montgomery, Alabama had become the capital of the USA. In no case would anyone evaluating the languages without reference to the locus of political power in the countries be able to identify anything intrinsic to the language varieties themselves that would mark one as a degenerate version of the other, as opposed to just equally functional varieties which had been drifting apart from each other.

            *Not that the standard language necessarily ends up being exactly identical to the local version spoken in the capital, but the standard language will be more heavily influenced by the speech varieties used by the people in power, which will be different if the centre of power is located somewhere else.

          • BBA says:

            “Standard” American English isn’t the Washington-area accent (which is slightly Southern). It’s roughly a Great Plains accent, which doesn’t sound Southern or New York or New England, etc., and that’s why a lot of people from that part of the country were hired as news anchors for national broadcasts.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Just a nitpick, but it was the Great Lakes, not the Great Plains. At least, it was when Broadcast was established c1930, but since then there has been a Vowel Shift and the Great Lakes don’t speak Broadcast anymore. Maybe the Great Plains is the closest remaining regional accent, but probably rural Great Lakes is closer.

            (There was another national standard, attempting to be international, called Mid-Atlantic, a synthetic cross between Boston and England. From maybe 1930-1950 both were on the radio, but then General American won out. Mid-Atlantic lived on longer in theater and cinema.)

          • Nick says:

            It is indeed a gerrymandered definition, Winter Shaker. But if my accent is the Official Broadcasting Accent (TM), I think I’m permitted to constern. 🙂

            I’m from rural Great Lakes (north central Ohio to be precise), so I’m in prime territory for lingering pockets of Broadcast.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            To speak Mid-Atlantic on the air these days is to become a figure of fun, as Baba Wawa can attest.

            It was a bit of luck for Hillary Clinton that most of upstate New York speaks Inland North.

          • BBA says:

            I meant Great Plains – Walter Cronkite was from western Missouri, Tom Brokaw is from South Dakota, etc. Though the notion of it being a pre-vowel shift Great Lakes accent makes a lot of sense, since the Plains aren’t exactly a populous region.

            As I understand it, the affected “Mid-Atlantic” accent (not to be confused with the way people from Delaware talk) was partly an artifact of early sound equipment reproducing it better than more natural ways of speaking.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You really don’t think it’s plausible that there have been times and places where acting in a manner “above your station” would get you punished?

      What you are describing seems like a specific case of a rather broad tendency or mode.

      ETA: I don’t think we encounter it currently in western society in general, but we have tended to mostly abandon sharply distinguished stratification of society.

    • quanta413 says:

      It feels reasonable to me although currently that would be very strange. But East of Eden was published over 60 years ago. Humans are pretty big on conformity so if you tell me any story that goes “person fakes behavior in order to appear more like they are expected to be”, it’s going to sound plausible to me.

      It can be bad to be viewed as being “uppity” even if it’s not immediately dangerous.

    • albatross11 says:

      Many years ago in college, I worked doing user support with a very smart (and very pretty) Indian woman. When she was busy with homework and didn’t want to be bugged, she would respond to questioners with a sort of confused lack of understanding, playing up her accent, and nearly all of them then immediately came over to ask me instead.

      She was a graduate student in computer science, and spoke absolutely flawless English (with an Indian accent, but not a difficult-to-understand one at all).

    • ajakaja says:

      That struck me as more of a characterization of the Lee specifically, rather than an example of a stereotype or trope at the time. It’s not so unreasonable of a thing to describe as to be unimmersive — it’s the sort of unusual thing that an unusual character, which Lee was, might do.

      I found Lee’s learning Hebrew to advance the philosophical point, and the entire character of Cathy, far more heavy-handed and unfortunate.

    • Deiseach says:

      Going back to the book text, this is part of the explanation (part of it is that preconception trumps observation except for a rare few people, and that if he doesn’t dress and sound like what a Chinese man is ‘supposed’ to dress and sound like, he literally will not be understood by his hearers. Part of it is falling between two stools, and I’ve seen similar complaints online even today):

      “I’m wondering whether I can explain,” said Lee. “Where there is no likeness of experience it’s very difficult. I understand you were not born in America.”

      “No, in Ireland.”

      “And in a few years you can almost disappear; while I, who was born in Grass Valley, went to school and several years to the University of California, have no chance of mixing.”

      “If you cut off your queue, dressed and talked like other people?”

      “No. I tried it. To the so-called whites I was still a Chinese, but an untrustworthy one; and at the same time my Chinese friends steered clear of me. I had to give it up.”

      “…Now it peeks into my mind that you should go back to China.”

      Lee smiled satirically at him. “In a few minutes I don’t think you’ll find a loose bar I’ve missed in a lifetime of search. I did go back to China. My father was a fairly successful man. It didn’t work. They said I looked like a foreign devil; they said I spoke like a foreign devil. I made mistakes in manners, and I didn’t know delicacies that had grown up since my father left. They wouldn’t have me. You can believe it or not – I’m less foreign here than I was in China.”

      As I said, I’ve seen some of the “I was born here and I still get people asking me where I’m ‘really’ from” complaints online about such experiences for Asian-Americans. I don’t know if it’s so or not, but again I’ve heard that Japanese people in Japan sort of look down on Japanese born abroad, or second- or third-generation Japanese, as not being ‘really’ Japanese in the same way Lee describes native Chinese reacting to him. And as for “my Chinese friends steered clear of me”, isn’t that the whole thing about being perceived as betraying your roots, the same way that people from working-class backgrounds who manage to rise up into the middle-class, often via attending college, are seen as being ashamed of where they came from or ‘think they’re too good for us now’?

  19. Aapje says:

    A bit over a year ago, I wrote an introduction to the new far-right party in The Netherlands, the Forum for Democracy (FvD) headed by Baudet.

    We’ve had provincial elections a few days ago, which are also indirect elections for the Senate. FvD became the largest party, going from 0 to 13 seats in the Senate (from a t