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Open Thread 124.5

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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966 Responses to Open Thread 124.5

  1. rlms says:

    Various pro-Breadstick people have claimed that no deal will be fine in terms of trade, because plenty of countries operate under just WTO rules and do fine. Actually, it turns out that the only such country is Mauritania.

  2. Tarpitz says:

    Today in no parody necessary where Brexit’s involved, the Commons held a vote to decide whether to hold more indicative votes.

    It was a tie.

    • ana53294 says:

      Spain at one point spent almost a year without a government, and I have heard Belgium has sometimes been without a government for a couple of years.

      Although it didn’t happen during something as crucial as Brexit negotiations, lots of countries have dysfunctional governments.

      Theresa May is finally negotiating with Jeremy Corbyn, though (something she should have done even befor activating Article 50).

    • Butlerian says:

      Brexit question:
      A common pro-Brexit argument is a Chestertonian “Homogeneous communities good, alien culture migrants bad”.
      A common anti-Brexit counter to this argument is “Even if we grant that hypothetical, Brexit won’t help facilitate that end because the British governments’ penchant for importing hundreds of thousands of Indians and Africans is a totally home-grown policy and nothing to do with membership of any of the various spheres of EU or EU-adjacent supernational entities”.
      Is that counter-argument true? I actually took the time to read the text of some EU Commission Directives on migration (e.g. 2004/38/EC) and it does indeed seem to apply only to citizens and their family members.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Fully generalized problem – National governments that wish to do something they know will go over badly with the voters will frequently go “The EU is making us do it!” – even if it was their idea, their party members in the European parliament voted 100% in favor, the prime minister fought for it in council, and their fingerprints are in general all over every single detail of the relevant eu legislation.

        The UK did this a whole lot, and, making the tactic even more poisonous the UK press never, ever called them on it, because of Murdoc and general fleet street hostility to the EU.

      • Aapje says:

        @Butlerian

        Is that counter-argument true?

        Not really, because the UK has been restricting migration more and more. For example, the law used to be that all Commonwealth subjects had the right to migrate to the UK, but this was changed in 1962. Later, special rights for Commonwealth migrants were further restricted. These special rights were one reason for the high number of Commonwealth migrants to the UK (especially from India and Pakistan).

        The EU policy of free migration between member nations, coupled with increasing the membership of the EU to more and more countries (which means that more people can freely migrate), directly goes against the political trend in many EU nations to restrict migration more and more. So of course those who favor greater restrictions on immigration are upset at the EU for allowing more immigration and/or for preventing more restrictions on migration.

        Many/some anti-Brexiters seem to weak man the proponents as white supremacists. From that point of view it makes some sense to be flabbergasted at the pro-Brexit stance as ending free migration between member states won’t reduce migration of non-whites that much. However, for those who want to restrict migration from all foreign nations, it makes perfect sense.

        That said, there are also grievances about the desire for the EU to redistribute asylum seekers, especially given the dysfunction of the Dublin Agreement.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        As I said, this is an example of the UK government disavowing responsibility for things it was the primary driver for on the EU level. The UK was overwhelmingly the biggest champion of the largest possible eastern block expansion, and has in fact, never seen an eastern european application it did not like. It also refrained from imposing any kind of transition period on the right of free movement, which was a legal option and entirely a domestic decision.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        It doesn’t appear most of the immigration into the UK was EU driven, but a lot of people seemed to think so when they voted.

        Brexit would only benefit immigration restrictionists if at some future point EU membership has significant immigrant liability. Or if the absence of EU membership makes it harder for local politicians to run on more open borders policies.

        • sfoil says:

          It doesn’t appear most of the immigration into the UK was EU driven, but a lot of people seemed to think so when they voted.

          Did they? It appears to me that criticizing non-EU migration is more or less a criminal offense in the UK. If someone thinks the UK lets in too many migrants period but is only allowed to voice objections to EU migrants, well then they’ll object to EU migration.

  3. proyas says:

    Your task is to dig a large hole in the ground for a 600 sqft below-ground swimming pool. Which method of digging the hole do you choose and why? Which is faster and/or more energy-efficient?

    1) Use one, 6,000 lbs backhoe driven by an average human worker.

    2) Use 300, 20 lbs backhoes that are piloted by human-level AI. These mini-backhoes can coordinate with each other.
    https://youtu.be/IqFS07pfXow
    https://youtu.be/MHaZXSneOGQ

    • Eric Rall says:

      Is this a re-framing of Reddit’s notorious “Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck” question?

    • valleyofthekings says:

      This is a really interesting question because of all the hidden assumptions.
      You’ve assumed that:
      * we have human-level AI (!)
      * we have such widely available human-level AI that we can use it to dig holes for swimming pools
      * AI has not eaten the Internet and destroyed the world (!!)
      * the Singularity is not here yet — or, at least, there are enough non-uploaded people left that we still like swimming pools
      * some company has built a fleet of 300 twenty-pound backhoes that can dig a hole
      * that company doesn’t have any brochures about whether their fleet of 300 twenty-pound backhoes will be any good at digging a hole (!!!)

      My suspicion is that the one large backhoe is the right choice, because the smaller ones won’t be able to get out of the hole once it is dug. Also, I don’t think 300 twenty-pound backhoes can fit in a 600sqft swimming pool.

      But I choose the smaller ones anyway, because it’ll be so cute watching them try to get out of that hole.

      (do they have tiny ladders?)

    • CatCube says:

      I’d be reluctant to even use the 6,000 lb backhoe if I had one that was more appropriately sized. Let’s consider the problem. You didn’t give a depth so assume about an 8′ average. That gives a dirt volume of 4800 ft³=178 Bank Cubic Yards. Dirt expands when you dig it out, so assume 25% swell. This gives 222 Loose CY of dirt to move. The only excavator about that weight that I see in the Caterpillar Performance Handbook (The 302.7D) has a bucket size of about 3.25 ft³, so you’re looking at about 1850 cycles to dig that hole. Also, since the reach is only about 12.75′,you’re going to be repositioning that it a lot (c.f. the dimension of the pool about sqrt(600)=24.5 ft). It also can’t load most dump trucks all that efficiently, so that’s going to cut production further if you’re intending to actually haul the spoil away.

      The teeny little ones are going to be even less efficient. I mean, how far are they going to have to drive to move the dirt far enough away from the hole to have enough space to put all of it? Contra @valleyofthekings, they could leave a ramp to get out, but they’d have to fill their bucket and then drive up that ramp, which will dramatically increase cycle time.

      Generally, hydraulic excavators don’t “haul” and aren’t the right tool for that job. They’re efficient when they sit in one place and dump the dirt in a single pile, or (more commonly) load a dump truck. The little ones given in the problem are working against their strength. A bunch of tiny HYEXs are going to be more fun to watch than to do any work with.

    • Well... says:

      Human-level AI seems like overkill, counterproductive even. At human level, the AI might start questioning whether you really should dig a pool in the first place, and the prescribed task sounds kinda boring, and maybe some of the 20lb backhoes have been feeling depressed lately and would rather do something more self-actualizing, etc.

      Sounds like bee- or wasp-level AI would be more appropriate, although even that might be too much.

  4. Dan L says:

    Replied in wrong location.

  5. Eponymous says:

    [Stimulated by most recent top post about eugenics; posted here since includes discussion of eugenics]:

    I have a historical question related to this that I wonder if anyone here can answer.

    My (somewhat stylized) understanding of history is that support for eugenics and a belief in biological differences between racial groups were both highly popular positions in the early 20th century. Most prominent people, including scientists, politicians, social reformers, and public intellectuals, held both positions.

    Then, after the second world war, things essentially completely reversed. Now nearly every scientist and public intellectual believed in biological racial equality and considered eugenics a horrible idea.

    I’m basically wondering (1) whether this stylized view of the historical facts is actually correct (maybe the change was more gradual than I think it was), and (2) what caused the change? And on (2), were the things that prompted the change mainly new scientific information (e.g. about racial differences or something), or about social forces?

    (Incidentally, my current mostly uninformed guess about (2) is that the change was prompted by WW2 and the example of Nazi Germany. Also, please note that I’m very much not asking for arguments about the truth of these positions.)

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Scientists did, in fact, draft a statement on race in conjunction with UNESCO five years after WW2 ended, to the effect that the pre-war scientific consensus was wrong. Carleton Coon is somewhat famous for being one of the last anthropology professors (tenure at University of Pennsylvania in or after 1948) to continue publishing race-centric papers and books, into the mid-1960s. So it’s not like the universities were purged, but it seems that after 1950 new academics had to follow the 180-degree turn.

      • Eponymous says:

        Thanks. Is this the statement that RA Fisher objected to?

        So it’s not like the universities were purged, but it seems that after 1950 new academics had to follow the 180-degree turn.

        Why do you say *had* to? My understanding is that it’s common for young academics to voluntarily adopt a new paradigm, despite older holdouts (science advancing by funerals, and all that).

        • When my father spent a year at Cambridge, the faculty club took two copies of the London Times–for the (famously difficult) crossword puzzle. It was a contest—R.A. Fisher vs the rest of the faculty.

          I met him–I was about ten at the time. I don’t actually remember it, but by my parents’ account I tried to talk about dinosaurs with him, that being an interest of mine, and rapidly discovered that he knew much more about them than I did. Then I tried something else. Eventually I tried comic books, and when it became clear he knew more about them too, I gave up.

          An extraordinary man.

          • Eponymous says:

            Wow, thanks for describing that. I always love personal anecdotes about great thinkers. His wikipedia page certainly paints a picture of a highly interesting person.

            Incidentally, does anyone know what became of his children? Wikipedia says that he had 8 kids, apparently on eugenic principles. It mentions that one died in the war, but did any of his other descendants become well-known intellectuals?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it sure seems like the world ought to be a better place for having lots of Ronald Fischer’s kids in it.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yep, that’s the statement.

          You’re right that it’s a thing for young academics to all voluntarily adopt a new paradigm (no one chose to follow Lord Kelvin in believing the sun was too young for evolution to have happened). It’s just that in this case it seems like the argument presented to cause a paradigm shift was argumentum ad Hitlerum.

    • dndnrsn says:

      You’re missing something here – which is that eugenics wasn’t just about inequality between races, it was about inequality within races, and the rejection wasn’t just influenced by disgust at Nazi racism and the discovery of what it had wrought, but also by disgust at things like the T4 euthanasia program (driven at least in part by eugenics). (Nazi racial policies weren’t entirely based on eugenics either; disgust at Nazi racism and what it had done sent more things under than eugenics – antisemitism became a lot less acceptable in the Western world, for example).

      Some of the foundational American eugenicist ideas were based on notions of intra-racial, not inter-racial, degeneration. Take the “Kallikaks“, meant to show that a good bloodline would still produce inferior fruit due to mixing with a “feebleminded” bloodline. Or the “Jukes” – a New York family, the case of which was taken to show hereditary criminality.

      The popular image of eugenics has become dominated, as far as I can tell, by the racist elements of early 20th century eugenics, but that isn’t the whole story. The fear that inferior sorts of white people would pollute the bloodlines of superior sorts of white people – Kallikaks – and that inferior people would produce inferior people, overbreeding and causing huge waste of public money – Jukes – was a major part of it.

    • broblawsky says:

      It’s worth noting that a lot of the pre-war consensus on Eugenics was based on either poor or entirely fraudulent science. The famous Kallikak study, for example, may have used doctored photos to make the “bad” branch of the studied family appear more monstrous and definitely ignored questions related to fetal alcohol syndrome and malnutrition. Changes in the post-war scientific consensus were based as much on better science as on exposure of the horrors of eugenics.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Yeah, neither the Kallikak nor Jukes stuff was especially rigorously done. I recall reading something way back when about one of the self-proclaimed experts in feeblemindedness boasting that all he needed to do was go into a residence, look around, look at the people, and he could just eyeball it.

      • albatross11 says:

        Why, it’s almost as though taking a scientific question of fact and turning it into a political/moral campaign for societal improvement is inherently corrupting.

    • albatross11 says:

      Was the reaction to eugenics based on questions of fact? (As best I can tell, the eugenics programs in place in a lot of countries would probably never have had much impact on the actual population gene frequencies, because of the scale.) Or was it based mainly on moral issues? (Coercive eugenics programs where people were forcibly sterilized because some judge or bureaucrat decided they were inferior were pretty horrible.) Or was it mainly based on association with Nazi ideas? (The Nazis were indeed evil, and were indeed big fans of eugenics.)

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      We would like to imagine Scientists are people that follow evidence and evidence alone. But they are still human.

      I would point out though that Nazi Racial theories differed from the kinds of racial distinctions made by pre-WW2 biologists.

      The burden of proof for hereditary positions pre WW2 was probably too low given the state of knowledge. I.E. Twin studies were a relatively new thing and GWAS did not exist. It wouldn’t make sense to institute large scale coercive social programs on the basis of a set of beliefs that were merely probable. I would make a similar comment about physiognomy; a general idea that seems plausible on its face and has contemporary evidence in its favor but had a series of very specific / speculative claims.

      The reaction then set the burden of proof impossibly high for hereditarianism to the point where the evidence in favor of it was overwhelming decades before the ice began to thaw. (I would argue it still hasn’t thawed in the mainstream but the internet has helped push things along)

      Certainly new evidence came out after 1945 to argue against hereditarianism, but much of it was wishful thinking, methodologically flawed, or possibly outright fraudulent. People like Margaret Mead and SJ Gould come to mind, and anyone attempting to refute high profile and central pieces of evidence for the blank slate would have done so at no benefit to themselves, and other researchers could continue pointing to these sorts of things as arguments for why the blankslate wasn’t a dogma. It’s enough for one prominent person to find proof for something other people want to believe and then never have it verified.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        Steve Sailer has made this basic argument–for awhile, the “nature” side of the debate got too much emphasis and the “nurture” side too little. The pendulum swing the other way, and for the last few decades, “nature” got the short end of the stick. And now, the pendulum is swinging the other way again, and we’ll probably end up in another decade or so with most people overstating the impact of nature and understating nurture again.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I don’t believe a pendulum swing analogy is quite right. Even if a nurturist in private is willing to admit defeat they can still point to the second world war and say that what they are doing is ethically sound.

          And the nurture assumption is embedded into western legal codes and public programs much more extensively then nature was in WW2 [At least within those governments that didn’t come crashing down]

          A full pendulum swing would probably match the collapse of the USSR in terms of the magnitude of social/legal/ideological paradigm shifting.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the common understanding of the intellectual/chattering classes will shift from 100% nurture to 100% nature over the next few years. They’ll be wrong, but that won’t make them any less certain. And they will say dumb things, which will make their way into dumb policies.

            One important thing to do to prepare for this (along with trying to get innumerate journalists and politicians and judges to be less innumerate–good luck with that!) is to encourage lots of people to think carefully about what decent and humane policies make sense in light of nature mattering at least as much as nurture. Demonizing anyone who talks about the matter is good strategy for outrage-farming, but bad strategy for making the eventual policies we adopt when that pendulum swing happens more sensible and decent.

  6. Tarpitz says:

    Newly discovered (to me) nominative determinism: Stuart Griffin is a fantasy artist, and illustrated the Magic card Griffin Canyon.

    • Randy M says:

      Wow, I remember when Stewie Griffin was a child. I feel old now.

      • J Mann says:

        Between the time travel, alternate dimensional crossovers, and flash forward cutaways, and the overarching fact that his primary identity has been one year old for the last fifteen years, Stewie is more or less all ages at all times.

        • Tarpitz says:

          The time travel must certainly be in play here: the card in question was released in February 1997.

          • Randy M says:

            Shame it’s reserved, kinda fun for a janky tribal theme.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            What’s wrong with being on the Reserved List? It can drive up prices sometimes, but this card is all of $3, and there are only 3 griffins in Standard so it’s not like a reprint would suddenly enable something.

      • Nick says:

        Family Guy has been on since 1999, which makes Stewie almost as old as I am.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I’m not sure if this is nominative determinism, but look at this card, then look at its multiverse ID in the URL.

      • Butlerian says:

        That is some high quality esotericism right there.
        Insert pro-forma complaint that the proper colour is white

      • moonfirestorm says:

        The artist is apparently an actual neo-Nazi.

        I know the term is overused, but apparently (sourced from social media, so may be inaccurate) he makes posts on his Facebook to the extent of posting about the “mission of the awakened Aryan”, so I feel all right applying the label here.

        It’s probably a deliberate choice by Wizards at that point.

        • Randy M says:

          I really doubt that. The card is predates Facebook.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            To be clear, I meant the choice to give Invoke Prejudice the particular Multiverse ID it has.

            Gatherer has been updated quite a bit since Facebook was released (often with changes big enough to hide a total renumbering of IDs), and I believe Wizards has mentioned in an article that they were aware of his sympathies for quite a while.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Although after some research, it looks like the Multiverse ID is actually determined completely by set release order, then color, then alphabetical: card 1 is Alpha Ankh of Mishra (first set released, first color (colorless), first card alphabetically).

            It’s really unlikely they’d distort that for a joke, and the cards to either side fit the scheme (both from Legends, both blue, and on either side of it alphabetically).

            So either this entire scheme was devised for the sole purpose of making this reference, they have some gaps between sets to make this reference, or (as far as I can tell, the real answer) the universe is just that strange.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s really unlikely they’d distort that for a joke, and the cards to either side fit the scheme (both from Legends, both blue, and on either side of it alphabetically).

            This is WOTC, not Wizards of MAGA country; I’d be surprised if they’d joke about that. I’m half surprised the card is still listed.

  7. S_J says:

    Saw some commentary earlier this week.

    Basically, there is a scandal that Facebook allowed targeted ads for real estate, in a way that appeared to be racial filtering. The actual filter may have been social/economic. It may have been lives-in-postal-code-with-average-income-above-average. Or it may have been a combination of factors…

    Currently, the United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is charging Facebook with allowing discriminatory advertising.

    Is this a result of malice on the part of the advertising team that abused the power of targeted advertising? Is it malice on the part of the advertising platform team at Facebook? Or is it an unintended result of targeted advertising, excluding certain opportunities from people who don’t appear to be able to afford those opportunities?

    • Randy M says:

      Currently, the United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is charging Facebook with allowing discriminatory advertising.

      That’s a crime? At the federal level?

      • S_J says:

        Racial discrimination in providing services, especially discrimination that affects housing, gets Federal attention. The relevant law is called the Fair Housing Act, which was part of the laws passed under the title of Civil Rights Acts in 1968.

        The Fair Housing Act outlaws discrimination in either selling, or advertising, housing for rent or sale.

        The linked article refers to an official complaint from HUD, as well as lawsuits by civil-rights groups.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What do you mean by “malice”?

      This is just the result of making things flexible.

      What do you mean by “the advertising team”? The ad buyers, outside of Facebook? We don’t know that there are any ad buyers. This was discovered by Propublica. I imagine the first thing the lawsuit is going to do is subpoena to find out if people are buying such ads.

      Propublica found in 10/2016 that you could buy race-targeted housing ads. Facebook immediately promised to prevent obviously illegal ads, and to make housing ad buyers certify that less obvious ads were legal. But a year later Propublica says that they did nothing.

      Why did they do nothing? Was this a big revenue stream that Facebook wanted to protect? Maybe, but probably all their public statements are lies and there’s nothing special about this story. (Facebook claims that the problem was that it failed to identify them as housing ads, so failed to apply special rules. They now claim to be sharply segregating housing ads from other ads, so that ad buyers will have to certify that their ads are/not housing ads. At least it should be easy to see in the future if there is such certification, so that Propublica won’t have to buy ads to test the system.)

      • S_J says:

        In my original post, I was a little hazy about what laws applied to this scenario.

        After looking up the Fair Housing Act, to answer @RandyM’s question, I’m now realizing this:

        The Fair Housing Act doesn’t have a clear rule about intent when it defines the crime of discriminatory business practices (with respect to providing housing, or advertising housing).

        It was written with the intent to punish discrimination. It is implemented in such a way that intent-to-discriminate does not have to be proved, on either the part of Facebook or on the part of the ad-buyers.

        Having seen this, I’m surprised that Facebook’s internal legal team didn’t warn everyone about racially-targeted ads and the Fair Housing Law.

        I’m also wondering if the Fair Housing Law is still needed…but I don’t think that any politician wants to die on this particular hill. Even if they are, in principal, in favor of reducing the heavy hand of Government intervening in the market.

        • albatross11 says:

          So if I understand the issue correctly (someone who knows more please correct me!), if I want to advertise to whites only or blacks only on most products, that’s okay. I can set up my Facebook ads to only show ads for my restaurant or new movie to blacks, or only to whites, and that’s not a legal issue. But if I do that for employment ads or real-estate ads, I think I can get in trouble with discrimination law. Is that right?

    • Teeki says:

      I would bet on ignorance over malice (though maybe I’m biased because I have an insider’s view on the subject, and can see myself accidentally making this mistake). People are simply the one job they’re paid to do, and it can easily happen without a racism in play.

      Advertisers wants to maximize the effectiveness of their campaign via targeted advertisements. They are paid to discriminate between people who will likely be affected by ads vs people who won’t.

      Facebook marketing/data scientists that helps them build such a campaign. This is basically the financial lifeblood of Facebook.

      Financial, age and gender are very popular demographics (partially because they’re amongst the easiest to get thanks to your trusty credit agencies). These are tools that marketing/data-scientists uses every time they build a campaign. If there is a correlation between socio-economic data and race, then it’s very easy for data scientists/marketing to forget that they’re not supposed to use their preferred tools.

      I can see this problem growing worse in the next few years as AI is injected into marketing/hiring. It’ll be a long time before we can train an agent that understands the difference between correlation and causation.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I’m going to be collecting insights from population genetics on human history and especially prehistory. First source is about Iberia:
    Iberian hunter-gatherers sequenced showed a mix of two lineages, “Magdalenian” and “Villabruna”. At the beginning of the Holocene, as the glaciers retreated, Villabruna spread everywhere in western and central Europe, replacing other lineages except in Iberia. With the transition to farming, “Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute … researchers found that during the transition to a sedentary farming life-style, hunter-gatherers in Iberia contributed subtly to the genetic make-up of newly arriving farmers from the Near East.” I really wish they’d said what “subtly” means quantitatively.
    Then between 2500-2000 BC, they found replacement of 40% of Iberia’s ancestry and nearly 100% of its Y-chromosomes by people with ancestry from the Pontic Steppe. Think about that spread: nearly 100% of Neolithic men were prevented from reproducing by the invaders, yet the gene pool only changed 40%. Were the invaders warriors arriving without mates on the heels of the invention of the chariot? The earliest evidence for chariots comes from the Sintashta culture circa 2000 BC, way off at the southern end of the Urals. Interesting to note, Basques have this genetic signature in the same proportion, but their modern gene pool is negligibly affected by the influx of immigrants from the rest of Mediterranean during Roman times.

    • bullseye says:

      I don’t think the invaders arrived without mates; I’d assume they were polygamists. Then over the next few generations men from the prestigious invader bloodline hog all the wives until there aren’t any other men left.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems pretty likely to me that the invaders killed off nearly all the males of the existing inhabitants, and probably the surviving women were the prize for the winners. That seems like the most plausible way you’d get ~=100% replacement of the Y chromosome.

        • Watchman says:

          Where do we find the historical analogues for this? Any kill all the men invasions will depend on dehumanising them, which would also rub off on the women who would not be desirable mates…

          I’ve yet to see a replacement of the males theory put forward without it having a polemical purpose (mostly demonising the current inhabitants or ruling class).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not sure the women had much choice in the matter. It’s not called “mannerly courting and pillaging.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Where do we find the historical analogues for this?

            ” And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian. […] And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

            “And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho […] And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
            Numbers 31, 1-18 excerpted, King James Version

            Any kill all the men invasions will depend on dehumanising them, which would also rub off on the women who would not be desirable mates…

            Are you next going to be explaining how no Nazis ever took sexual advantage of Jewish women, because they would have felt that akin to bestiality? I don’t think you understand how people work.

          • quanta413 says:

            Even the “nice” version of male replacement is going to be significantly more brutal than the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and South America. There are still native y-chromosomes left in most of South America but less than there is autosomal DNA. Although the results vary a lot across South America. Some native populations are still there, and some island populations were almost totally replaced. And the conquistadors had the advantage of bringing a new disease (to the natives) after thousands of years of separation, an enormous technological lead, and the Spanish Crown and Catholic church at least trying to restrain them a little.

            The stabby stabby theory of male replacement is put forward because it explains the data. People in the past didn’t have the same sort of moral worries as modern Westerners.

            It can’t meaningfully demonize the current inhabitants because almost everyone at this point is partly descended from whoever crushed their enemies thousands of years ago. For multiple such conquests.

          • Watchman says:

            I’d forgotten the Midianites to be fair. Since ISIS showed similar behaviour to the non-Islamic groups they conquered I’d both agree and point out that the policy doesn’t seem to work in that men of the conquered group continued to exist. Tricky to say if the Midinites were mostly wiped out as the historical record is very poor for them. I’m happy to allow religious fanaticism may allow murder of the men and enslavement of the women, but I would suggest there is no strong evidence for such a pogrom actually eliminating the male line in its entirety although it may displace the population and so appear as a break in the genetic population of a region.

            As to the Nazis abuse of Jewish women, that’s an odd counterexample. My point was that the lower status of the women in the defeated group would not make them suitable wives or concubines. The unstated logic here is that their children would be lower status and least likely to survive and breed (in the same way that plantation slave populations were not self-sustaining). Recognition of the child by the father would normally be required. In this particular case its not as if any offspring would have much chance to continue their mother’s genetics anyway though.

          • quanta413 says:

            in the same way that plantation slave populations were not self-sustaining

            Are you talking about ancient Roman latifunda or something?

            I’m pretty sure the system of North American slavery was self-sustaining in the sense the number of slaves wasn’t decreasing over time. Source. They had largely halted external trade in slaves decades before the civil war.

            Any particular plantation might have been a population sink but added together that wasn’t true. That’s partly what made the American system somewhat distinct from a lot of other forms of slavery.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            American slave owners also had offspring by their slaves. “Dehumanization” doesn’t seem to matter much when it comes to sex. They might not have the same social status as children of their own tribe, but quantity matters.

            Also, the Iberian conquerors are almost certainly more genetically similar to the conquered than American slave owners and slaves, so it’s less obvious that a child is the product of a mixed coupling.

            The relationship between conquerors and conquered people does not seem to be a universal constant. For instance, I’ve heard about “slavery” between American Indian tribes that was nothing like the chattel slavery practiced by the Europeans. A male captured by another tribe essentially became a low-status member of the capturing tribe and could eventually, after many years of loyalty, become a member in full.

          • quanta413 says:

            American slave owners also had offspring by their slaves. “Dehumanization” doesn’t seem to matter much when it comes to sex. They might not have the same social status as children of their own tribe, but quantity matters.

            To elaborate on Conrad’s point, they also sometimes favored these children in comparison to the slaves who weren’t their children. IIRC, in My bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass mentions a slave he knew on one of the plantations who was his master’s son and was given money to buy himself free. My vague memory was this slave was forced to be sold by the master’s wife, which is why he was given money to free himself. If that sounds needlessly complicated, well I imagine the owner didn’t want to seem to acknowledge the slave was his son by just freeing him directly.

            There’s are many varieties of oppression and violence.

          • John Schilling says:

            The unstated logic here is that their children would be lower status and least likely to survive and breed (in the same way that plantation slave populations were not self-sustaining).

            The what were not what now?

            Less than 400,000 negro slaves were ever imported into the United States, and almost all of those before the slave trade was outlawed in 1807. In 1807, there were approximately 1.1 million slaves alive in the United States, roughly three times the total number of slaves that had been imported over the previous century and a half. In 1860, there were 3.9 million slaves in the United States, even though almost all of the slaves who had been alive in 1807 had since died and almost no new slaves have been imported.

            Again, I don’t think you understand how people work. Particularly in agrarian societies, “low status”(*) means “my high status is measured by how many of you losers I have plowing my fields and picking my cotton, so go make babies like you were bunnies, just don’t get uppity and expect any of your kids to be anything more than cotton-pickers. Unless they’re attractive girls, in which case they’ll be warming my bed but they still better not get uppity. Go on, get with the baby-making, it’s about the only fun I’m ever going to allow you and I’ve got plans for all those babies”.

            * In the economic/class/caste sense relevant here, rather than intraclass social status.

          • Randy M says:

            Any kill all the men invasions will depend on dehumanising them

            Or, conversely, a different conception of the duties owed to fellow humans.

          • My impression, mostly from the book Warfare before Civilization, is that it’s a pretty standard practice in primitive warfare. One band make a surprise attack on another, kills the adult males, takes the females as wives or concubines, possibly adopts the young children.

            It seems to have been the standard practice of the Commanche, back when they were sufficiently powerful to be able to attack groups of Americans (probably Mexicans and other Amerinds as well, but the descriptions I’ve seen involved Americans).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When I read The Story of Civilization, the Durants credited the development of agriculture with the end of cannibalism. Before you had fields to work, there was nothing else to do with the defeated males.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Albatross,

          Why does it seem likely to you? Have you really considered any other hypothesis? As Bullseye says, a small advantage over many generations can accomplish a lot. Consider the Conquistadors.

          (Also, consider African-Americans. I don’t think slavery is a good direct analogy, but it shows the power of compounding.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Disclaimer: I haven’t studied any of this in detail, so I certainly could be missing something.

            Suppose we have a population where the invaders have provided all the Y chromosomes but the other genes are a mix of invaders and invaded. What that actually means is that every single male living now, if you draw his family tree and trace up the male side of the tree to the time of the invasion, has an invader sitting up there in that dad^n spot. There is never a member of the invaded tribe up there.

            Now, an obvious way for things to work out that way is if all or nearly all the males of the invaded group get killed off, but the females are largely spared. That’s guaranteed to give you this pattern in the genetic data. A few males surviving somehow still works, because male lines can die off by chance (by having all daughters one generation), so even if a small fraction of the males survived, it wouldn’t be so hard to end up with none of their Y chromosomes surviving to the present day.

            There are other ways this could work, but they seem to require a lot of extra assumptions. For example, if the invaded tribe males were kept around but kept as low-status members of the tribe, they would have had fewer surviving offspring in general, and I imagine that *could* lead to observing no Y chromosomes from invaded-tribe males, but I think that’s not all that likely. Also, while it’s *possible* that the male line of invaded-tribe males would stay low-status for a long time, that’s another pretty strong assumption–you’d kinda think that after a few generations, a lot of those distinctions would be lost, and the surviving men with invaded-tribe Y chromosomes would have about the same fitness as the males with invader-tribe Y chromosomes.

            It would be interesting to simulate some of this and see what it would look like, but that sounds like the sort of thing that has probably been done by like a zillion people in the field who really understand genetics and anthropology a lot better than I do.

            Anyway, that’s why it seems more plausible to me that the invasion killed off most of the males of the invaded tribes and took the women. Such an action is:

            a. Consistent with what we know of human nature.

            b. Consistent with examples we know from history.

            c. Doesn’t require a bunch of other assumptions about how things had to work to lead us to the data we now see.

            That doesn’t mean it’s right, obviously, just that it seems like the most plausible way to reconstruct the data given what we know.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            b. Consistent with examples we know from history.

            Funny that one of us is giving examples from history and the other isn’t. Here’s another example: Genghis Khan didn’t reach 8% of Y chromosomes in a single generation.

      • quanta413 says:

        Hog all the wives with judicious help from stabbing the other men most likely.

        The past looks like it was both super metal and incredibly clannish and xenophobic.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        @albatross
        Agriculture supports larger populations than hunting and gathering, so it could be that the incoming farmers massively dwarfed the natives in terms of population growth, and that only females were allowed to immigrate into that society. Additionally, they could have expedited the difference in their growth rates through military means that fell short of genocide, such as pushing the hunter-gatherers off the most fertile pieces of land, or by implementing a class-based system that gave them certain prerogatives over the natives. If the differences between groups were racial they would have been impossible to bridge except through breeding, but even cultural differences would have likely been difficult to bridge. Think about how different sedentary Slavs were from the Mongols who conquered them. There might not have been a path to peaceful integration, but only a constant, fundamental system of apartheid that would slowly grind down one competitor.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          We’re talking about agriculture replacing agriculture, not agriculture replacing HG.

        • albatross11 says:

          How long does that system of apartheid have to persist to have the effect of wiping out all Y chromosome lineages from the original population?

        • The Red Foliot says:

          The system of apartheid I’m imagining is one where fundamental lifestyle differences between the two groups keep them apart, and where interaction between them isn’t enough to ever assimilate one group into the other. So, like, disunited bands that share the same culture and language inhabit a region, but don’t populate the entirety of it. Another group comes in with traditions better suited to intra-tribal co-ordination, such as a tradition of organizing war parties and electing a war chief, and after entrenching themselves in areas unclaimed by the first group, slowly begins to expand outward, pushing the natives off additional tracts of land by exerting mild pressures in the form of feuds. The natives maybe don’t have strong martial traditions, or maybe they have a history of squabbling among themselves, but in any case their society is structurally weaker than the settlers’, and so victories go to the settlers instead of them. The settlers come to own all the best land, and so their populations swell, while the natives come to possess the worst lands, and so their populations become stagnant or shrink. Until one society develops large urban centers, there isn’t much trade or migration between them, other than occasional raids and offerings of tribute. When the natives finally do get the opportunity to integrate themselves into the settler society, they do so from a position of weakness, as impoverished, low-status migrants who are then replaced by downwardly mobile members of that society’s upper class, the urbanized society having become complex and radically unequal.

          This is different from other hypotheses in that it describes a process of gradual expansion and supplantation rather than conquest. This would be more likely, I think, if the groups in question are operating at a basic level of social organization, lacking institutions and centralized forms of power.

    • Watchman says:

      I’m slightly concerned about population analysis done on the basis of surviving burials. This isn’t an analysis of the whole population but of those whose burials are preserved. An important point here is that farming communities tend to be hierarchical (the farmers can produce a surplus to support professional warriors and religious specialists). One clear mark of hierarchy is conspicuous consumption, especially in disposing of bodies: this reflects the need of the heirs to assert their status at the moment of social dislocation caused by a hierarch’s death. In general status burials, involving the commitment of resources such as land and tomb materials are likely to produce much better-quality DNA than those of the farming population buried in what was quite likely a hole in the ground (even in good preservation environments finding an unmarked grave is a bit harder than finding a chamber grave or dolmen). So the Science paper seems to be showing a major genetic change in the elements of an agricultural society who were buried in such a way to favour DNA preservation. Whilst the almost total replacement of male lineages here is still a striking finding, a similar analysis in twelfth-century England would show exactly the same thing: the replacement of one aristocracy with another. It tells us little about the larger population of farmers unless we can be sure their bodies are included as a part of the sample.

      If you are pursuing genetic history, please apply due scepticism. Whilst not a hard and fast rule, the nature of this field tends to attract scientific-minded historians who feel less easy with the more sociological (and mostly post-postmodern turn, albeit they are not postmodern) insights into how the construction of society directly effects the historical and archaeological record, so actually obscuring historical reality behind a social elite’s projection of themselves. This means they tend towards broad analysis with the caveats less forward and centre than they should be. And the publicity for papers such as you link to here tends to simplify things further.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        This analysis is not remotely like the hypothetical analysis of 12th century England. They would only look similar if you refused to look at modern DNA.

        Please apply due skepticism, not undue skepticism.

        • Watchman says:

          Modern DNA tells us what about prehistoric Iberia or twelfth-century England? The reason I chose this example is that it’s a historically-attested replacement of an aristocracy (Domesday Book illustrates this really nicely). It’s possible to easily find a wider selection of bones from twelfth-century England as church burial was the norm though, so that aspect of my point was flawed. I should have specified high-status tombs. But that aside I fail to see what modern DNA brings to the party; I wanted a comparator for the replacement of the hierarch, and the elite burials following the Norman Conquest would be exactly that. The composition of the modern population adds nothing to this and for England is probably over 150 years too late to be particularly helpful considering the huge levels of mobility the British Isles.have undergone in the modern period.

          • quanta413 says:

            Modern DNA tells us what about prehistoric Iberia or twelfth-century England?

            Modern DNA tells you that the population of England wasn’t replaced in 1200. People now are descended from people in the past. (EDIT: To be utterly clear, via comparison with DNA from people in the past. Although you could also compare with people in modern Normandy or something and infer their most recent common ancestor. But that method would suck a lot more.)

            So it tells you a lot actually. Your comparison only makes sense if you don’t sequence enough people in the modern population. But there is a lot of information on modern sequences. Sometimes even enough to discern population structure on a fine scale.

            And it tells you that those y-chromosomes are now gone from Iberia. So if the y-chromosomes weren’t extinguished at the earlier time (when the population intermixing happened) then they went extinct later. You could come up with some complicated hypothesis for why this happened much later instead of at roughly the same time, but why? What evidence is there of that?

          • Watchman says:

            quanta413,

            The analysis of twelfth-century DNA tells us the population of England was not genetically replaced at that point (presuming early DNA for comparison). The study of DNA from twelfth-century elite burials should tell a story of replacement of a male population at elite level. The story of modern DNA tells me that modern people have ancestors with the same genetic roots as the twelfth-century population, but with much greater diversity as well. It does not allow me to say that the twelfth-century population remained in England for 800 years, as the Scottish, Spanish or African-origin DNA present in the modern sample could indicate a total replacement of population which was then replaced by further populations with a common genetic ancestry with the twelfth-century population (note here that the established population of the modern east coast of England is genetically more similar to the North Sea provinces of the low countries than to Western England…). As it happens we have historical evidence to justify the assumption of continuity here, but DNA on its own does not tell us this.

            And the fact that a y chromosome has gone from Iberia is perhaps no great shock. It is likely that its prevalence was reduced by violence and by different y chromosomes being associated with high-status individuals and therefore being more likely to be replicated (whether by preferential survival, multiple partners, the choice of higher-status sexual partners (‘affairs’). or through an actual rape culture). And direct-line male linkages die out anyway: I’m the only male line descendent in the second generation from six brothers on one side and on my maternal side there is only two male line descendents in my generation, one of whom won’t have children. As anecdotes are not data, let’s examine the best proxy for y chromosomes we can get: surnames in a patriachal society. 80% of English surnames apparently went extinct during the twentieth century in England (many will survive elsewhere). That is 80% of the y chromosomes (assuming common descent and no cuckoldary or adoption, which is perhaps unsafe; see my addendum below) have died out in 100 years. Would the loss of an entire genetic population in four millenia really be that big a shift as to require explaining by a single event rather than being an expected process? Once you realise how unstable male linear descent is it becomes easier to see that a genetic change need not be dramatic to be thorough.

            Addendum. Due to the fact surviving surnames in England tend to be common types, I’d be happy with an extinction rate of 30-40% of y chromosome lines in the twentieth century. This is still impressive churn.

          • quanta413 says:

            The population of England could have left and descendants returned later but why would anyone add epicycles to their theory without evidence?

            And random surname loss is different. We’re talking about total loss of a whole specific set of y chromosomes and much associated autosomal ancestry in 500 years. Surname loss over the last century is more like a drift process considering the narrow spread in human reproduction recently. If 80% of specifically Scottish names had disappeared while English expanded that would be more analagous. If ‘gradual pressure’ means these tribes/clans stabbed those tribes/clans to death in a series of wars and violent feuds than there is no real disagreement.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Then between 2500-2000 BC, they found replacement of 40% of Iberia’s ancestry and nearly 100% of its Y-chromosomes by people with ancestry from the Pontic Steppe. Think about that spread: nearly 100% of Neolithic men were prevented from reproducing by the invaders, yet the gene pool only changed 40%.

      Over a time span of centuries, you can probably explain that based something like the gradual process described by Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, looking primarily at pre-Industrial England.

      Clark found that in the populations he was looking at, lower classes tended to have a sub-replacement-rate of surviving children, while the upper classes (Clark was looking primarily at the gentry and the upper tiers of the yeomanry in England) had a lot more surviving children, and the younger children of the upper classes tended to show downward social mobility. Clark’s conclusion was that over a period of multiple generations, the lower-class families dwindled from the population and were replaced by the downwardly-mobile descendants of the upper-class families.

      For a similar effect to explain the Iberian genetic results, you only need to posit three things:
      1. The same pattern was at work in Bronze Age Iberia as in medieval/renaissance England. Not surprising, since Clark tries to argue that the same dynamics were at work in many other pre-industrial societies (he looks specifically at Japan and China, although not in the same detail he did at England).

      2. The Pontic newcomers took over the upper classes when they arrived. Assuming they arrived as conquerors, it would be surprising if that weren’t true.

      3. There was more upward social mobility (specifically, the ability to marry up) for women than for men. Assuming a patriarchal society (where the husband’s social/economic/political status is more important than his wife’s), this wouldn’t be terribly surprising. Polygamy would help the process along, but I don’t think it would be strictly necessary.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Is the English situation directly comparable, though? Extinction of lower and middle-class Y-chromosomes in favor of upper-class ones via Clark’s mechanism? Very interesting if true.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Clark was working from paper records (primarily wills and parish/coroner death records, and probably also parish birth records to track children of people who didn’t make wills). I don’t know if the genetic studies have been done in England at all, and if so, I don’t think Clark cited them.

          What Clark found specifically was a strong correlation between fertility rates and wealth at time of death. Specifically, the families in the richest bracket analyzed (those with assets > £1000) on average had more than twice as many surviving children (4.0) than the poorest brackets (1.9 for £0-9 and 2.0 for £20-24), with a smooth trend for the intervening brackets. And he also found that the effects persisted across at least a second generation, with richer families also have more grandchildren per child as well as more children per grandchild.

          I think the replacement-over-multiple-generation conclusion by Clark is an extrapolation from his analysis over 1-2 generations of records, not something his studies or others he’s citing observed directly.

  9. JPNunez says:

    Have we talked about the Tesla Autopilot adversarial lane recognition problem?

    https://keenlab.tencent.com/en/whitepapers/Experimental_Security_Research_of_Tesla_Autopilot.pdf

    The investigators do two attacks on the car; one to try and make the car NOT see a lane line that is there, and the other to try to make the car SEE a line that is not there.

    The first one largely fails. The car has a very robust lane detection system, so even if you paint over it so it looks wobbly, it detects the lane correctly. It’s hard to make the car NOT see a lane short of directly erasing it, and painting over it to make it look like not a lane is hard.

    But on the other hand, it seems it is too eager to recognize a lane. The pattern to make the car recognize a lane that is not there (and thus drive on the wrong lane) is just … three white dots. You can see the paper and the pattern. It’s almost invisible on the photo they put on the paper.

    Now imagine the number of things that could look like three white dots on the floor. A can of paint that fell from a truck, some leaves or flowers, a couple of dead birds, paper, etc, etc.

    People could find those in real life, crash, and investigators may never be the wiser if somehow the dots were moved, or cleaned after the fact, or just ignored. The dots may be dozens of meters away from the actual crash.

    I think this is the first practical adversarial example where it’s not just silly pixel level modifications. And we know that adversarial examples affect several artificial vision architectures, so this could extend beyond Tesla.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Tesla is probably particularly susceptible to this because of their (silly) insistence on not using LIDAR. On other mature autonomous systems, you might be able to break lane recognition with dots of paint — those are to my knowledge almost entirely visual — but you probably won’t be able to get a car to go towards an obstacle, because LIDAR is pretty good at detecting obstacles.

      Unless it’s an Uber car, in which case it goes into “Terminator mode.” Not really.

      In general, real, robust sensor synthesis wouldn’t break theoretical attacks, but should strongly mitigate their real-world danger.

      • Aapje says:

        Indeed. It’s not that bad if the car accidentally drives onto an empty hard shoulder and the person in the car has to intervene. It is bad if it drives into a parked car or tree.

    • metacelsus says:

      https://xkcd.com/1958/

      The lane deception attack requires someone to go out on the road and alter the road surface. An attacker capable of altering the road surface would also be able to target non-autonomous cars (for example, with hidden caltrops). While worrying, I don’t think this makes Teslas significantly more dangerous.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        The point is that decoy lane markings can easily be formed accidentally by random objects on the road. No one is worrying about malicious actors on the streets trying to make autonomous cars crash for some reason.

        (As a side note, strips like this are why I stopped reading xkcd. There’s hardly a trace of humor, wit, or invention. It’s just stick figures stating a half-baked opinion that would be boring even if it was well thought out. Far, far too many of the strips have been like this for the last few years.)

        • Aftagley says:

          Interesting, I find these strips enjoyable. Maybe not breaking the threshold for an actual laugh, but one person seriously telling someone else that most people aren’t murderers still makes me giggle for some reason.

        • bean says:

          The point is that decoy lane markings can easily be formed accidentally by random objects on the road.

          How sure are you of that? AIUI, most of those kind of attacks involve very minor but very specific tweaks. Tweaks like that don’t happen by chance very often, any more than you regularly find yourself unable to copy documents because you accidentally formed an EURion with your 0s.

          • Lambert says:

            You mean I can add a bunch of circles to a document and it can’t be photocopied?
            Sounds like the kind of thing somebody ought to have had fun with by now.

          • bean says:

            On the other hand, how often does anyone actually make copies these days? In 3.5 years in Corporate America, I’ve done it maybe half a dozen times. If I need a copy of something, I usually just print one from the original file.

  10. Viliam says:

    We have a new president in Slovakia. There is an article in Guardian, which is a good approximation of truth, so I link it here. As far as I noticed, the information written in the text is correct; but some important context is missing… I believe on purpose… because it allowed to give the story exactly the spin that the readers of Guardian want to see. But it is still a good approximation.

    Čaputová is the first female president of Slovakia. However, her gender was not a topic in the campaign, neither for her supporters nor for her opponents. Slovakia is quite conservative; playing the gender card would be a losing strategy when you need a majority of votes. Because her image was of a professional with integrity (a lawyer fighting against government corruption), her opponents also focused their attacks on her professionalism and integrity. “Čaputová actually practiced law illegally” was the local version of “Obama was actually born in Kenya”.

    The actual topic of this election was whether the president will be a representative of the current corrupt communist government, or its symbolic opponent. Symbolic, because the presidential powers in Slovakia are mostly limited to “can give long speeches on TV”. By the way, the previous president was elected for the same reason.

    The current political divide in Slovakia is: communists and nationalists and outright nazis on one side, with tacit support of the religious right; moderate left and moderate right and libertarians on the other side. This is the part that is strategically omitted from the Guardian article: it shows Čaputová as a liberal candidate (which would make sense to most of English-speaking audience), but actually she was a candidate of the “everyone but commies and nazis” coalition (which probably sounds too weird to believe, but that’s how it actually is in this part of the world). Unlike the analysis provided in the article, the obvious reason to avoid political propaganda in the election was the fact that she was a representative of people with various political opinions, so anything beyond “we need to fight against the obvious evil” would alienate a part of her voters.

    Here is how the coordination of various political parties happened: the candidates of the moderate left (Čaputová) and the moderate right (Mistrík) made a public promise that the one who would get smaller support according to the polls will abstain from the election and express support for the other one; thus maximizing the chance that one of them wins. Then everyone actually followed the plan… I guess this is the most surprising part of the story.

    tl;dr — Čaputová wouldn’t win without support of moderates of all sides of the political spectrum: left and right, conservative and liberal; presenting her as merely a liberal candidate paints a misleading picture; also having a female president is coincidental: in a parallel universe where Mistrík got more votes in the poll, we have a male president now and no one makes a big deal about it

    (A note on the currently ruling party that I call “communist” although this is not their official name: I have two reasons. First, historically, Smer (“Direction”) is a successor of a successor of the actual Communist Party; in both cases, charismatic leaders who couldn’t become chairmen of their party, decided to split off, and succeeded to take over so many voters that the original party stopped being relevant. Second, in their rhetoric they express admiration of the former communist regime.)

    • John Schilling says:

      I guess this is the most surprising part of the story.

      It’s only surprising if Slovakia has full-penetration social media to shame everyone for their moral impurity in accepting the compromises necessary to make the plan work. Old-style political machines and aligned mass media outlets could make that sort of think work reliably when needed.

      • Viliam says:

        Here is what happened in the previous election: The strongest candidates were Fico (leader of the communists), Kiska (a generic opposition candidate), and Procházka (candidate of the religious right, but presenting himself as a common candidate for those who don’t want communists to win). In the first round, Fico and Kiska got most votes and continued to the second round; Procházka got the close third place, i.e. he lost.

        Now most people expected that Procházka, whose campaign was built on opposing the communists, would logically support the only remaining non-communist candidate. Instead… he threw a hissy fit, and in media interviews he declared that he doesn’t care anymore about who wins in the second round.

        Luckily, Kiska won anyway. But seeing a person who just recently tried to become the head of the state — and nearly succeeded — behave like a sulking child… was quite disappointing.

        So it was a pleasant surprise that no one did anything remotely similar in 2019.

    • Evan Þ says:

      It sounds like you have a wild situation in Slovakia. How did the Communists, Nazis, and Religious Right get in a coalition together?

      • AlesZiegler says:

        This is totally normal political coalition in Eastern Europe, believe it or not. Basically, they share what Americans call social conservatism.

        • Plumber says:

          Doesn’t sound anymore implausible than what coalitions make our “two party system” in the U.S.A. to me.

        • Viliam says:

          Yes, this.

          Communists, nazis, and the religious right are psychologically similar — they desire a hierarchical society ruled by a strong hand, clear separation of ingroup and outgroup, clear rules of behavior and strict punishment of transgression, and as little surprise and novelty as possible. They have an idealized version of a glorious past (of course, this refers to a different moment in history for each of these groups), and they dream about bringing it back. They complain about how current life is worse than the glorious past, they dislike and distrust foreigners (the communists making an exception for Russia), free speech, and individual initiative. They believe in strict gender roles, and oppose gay rights.

          The religious right, however, likes to play it both ways. They emphasize how religious people were oppressed during communism, thus trying to paint themselves as the most reliable opposition to communists. And then they do things that completely contradict their stated positions, and they invent excuses about how their “conscience” and “principles” made them do something that “coincidentally” seems like supporting the side they claim to oppose. (For example, currently they are in the ruling coalition together with the communists. Allegedly, they did it to gain better position to oppose them. Yet, no one can give a specific example when they opposed anything. But this already stretches credibility a bit too far, even in the traditionally religious Slovakia, and recently the religious right has less votes than it used to have.)

    • detroitdan says:

      To make sense of the situation, we need to acknowledge 2 axes of politics:

      1. Capitalist – Socialist
      2. Elitist – Populist

      See Political / Economic Quadrants

  11. j1000000 says:

    On EconTalk this week, Russ Roberts interviews philosophy professor Jacob Stegenga about his book “Medical Nihilism,” which basically espouses an extreme skepticism toward medical drugs and the studies intended to prove their effectiveness. The book seems like something that would be relevant to Scott/SSC’s interests, though I have no insight to add to the book or conversation.

  12. Statismagician says:

    Is there such a thing as a rigorous definition of a shitpost?

    • Randy M says:

      If that isn’t a technical term that Plumber is acquainted with, I’d check urban dictionary.

    • Nick says:

      Aristotle wrote the definitive ancient treatment of trolling, but I don’t recall him tackling shitposting.

    • BBA says:

      Shitposting is to trolling as bullshitting is to lying. It’s a question of malice versus willful indifference.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Shitposting is hipsteresque appreciation of camp/the ludicrously tragic/tragically ludicrous. A shitpost would be a particular piece of bad aesthetic shared or performed by an ingroup that has an affinity for that sort of thing, hoping to inspire amusement (as a surface level reaction to the incongruity) and angst/nausea (as a deeper reflection sets in about the audacity.) If there wasn’t an ingroup who think “that’s so bad it’s good” shitposting couldn’t thrive.

      A troll who posts a picture of SS guards at Auschwitz leading Twilight Sparkle and the My Little Ponies into the gas chamber is trying to incite or provoke. Their real intent might be camouflaged and not what it appears to be but it’s still meant to be an act with intent to inspire reaction, chaos, cringing and/or disgust that someone would do such a thing. The troll wants you in the moment, at the object level, never seeing the forest for the trees – part of the troll might be a meta-gambit at challenging, say, hypocritical mod enforcement of a rule through the posting equivalent of civil disobedience and that won’t work if someone recognizes the phenomenon didn’t arise organically on a meta-level and everything is in bad faith. A troll is trying to get you to assume their frame and context are correct and all that need to be considered on the matter.

      A shitposter who posts a picture of SS guards at Auschwitz leading Twilight Sparkle and the My Little Ponies into the gas chamber is trying to inspire laughter at the tonal mismatch that exists in the image, while also leading people to think about what sort of society produces people who have such emotional resonance with empty, corporate mascots that they think using that image is the best way to try to convey to people the events of the Third Reich. The shitposter wants you focused on the meta-level at all times, what is being signified by so many content to criticize Donald Trump with Harry Potter references and wear cholo gangster Tweety Bird sweaters. A real shitposter is not concerned with promoting any particular frame or context around the shitpost; the people who know the joke will get it and its not especially important whether anyone else cares or is moved at all

      • woah77 says:

        This is, by far, the best explanation of the difference between Troll and Shitposter I’ve ever seen. Kudos.

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Corruption in Chicago Cari Towing Program

    Much more of it than a normal person could imagine.

    Hardly the worst, but this is my favorite bit:

    *****
    Chicago’s winter parking ban prevents motorists from parking on nearly 100 miles of city streets from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. between Dec. 1 and April 1 — whether or not there’s actually snow to be plowed.

    The winter parking ban was originally billed as an emergency preparedness measure, but it’s also a program that has little reason to exist. It’s also a baked-in cash cow for United Road Towing.

    Previous WBEZ investigations have shown the city likely loses money on enforcing the ban, and residents are actually more likely to be towed on days when it doesn’t snow.

    ****

    The article isn’t about The Lincoln Park Pirates, who aren’t even mentioned there.

    However, I’ve been trying to find out whether they’re really been shut down, and haven’t found anything definitive. The only thing I’d consider definitive is reports from people who live there than Lincoln Park Twoing has stopped towing cars.

    What would have to change for Chicago to be at least no worse than most other cities about towing cars? Can/should the federal government step in? Is there any conceivable private action that might work? Are there ways to structure societies to make this sort of thing less likely?

    • b_jonas says:

      Does this parking ban apply to the same areas every day? Or is it a prohibition that applise only on alternating days, with road signs showing if parking is forbidden on a road or side of a road on even days or odd days?

    • brad says:

      My favorite “Yes, Chicago really is that corrupt” story is: when you move into a new apartment you can get no-parking fliers to post where you are going to park the moving truck. You don’t get them from the CPD and they don’t say CPD on them, you get them from an alderman. If you are politically connected, you can just get them, otherwise it takes a small bribe.

  14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Very small genes in the human genome, fairly recently discovered, at least some of them are involved with cell repair.

  15. savebandit says:

    Is it weird to anyone else that churches spend their one hour together a week in ritual prayer? Like, could they not run a soup kitchen together for an hour? The only mandatory thing at a lot of churches seems to be service on Sundays, which as an outsider looking in is about the weirdest possible thing a bunch of people who profess concern for the poor could do together. Hopefully that doesn’t come off as too abrasive. I’ve just always found it really weird. What take do religious people have on this?

    • baconbits9 says:

      They also have concern for their own souls, and for those of their neighbors.

      • savebandit says:

        Right, but it feels like the “we only have 1 hour together, better use it on our own souls” is, like, a self-imposed thing. If saving your own soul and helping those in need are both things you need to do, maybe set aside 2 hours on Sunday? I mean why get together at all if your church community is just a ritual prayer community in practice. Surely you could do the ritual prayer part by yourself, too.

        • Randy M says:

          Your complaint is like looking at a corporate workday and saying “Wow, it’s weird how the only time everyone is expected to all get together is during a meeting that doesn’t really get anything done, they just talk about the strategy or financials or whatever. Shouldn’t they do work?” and then not noticing that the other 39 hours of the week the members are expected to be pursing their projects independently or in small groups.

          edit: Which is not to say that there aren’t any churches that are too insular or that neglect the mission. But the hour of meeting together is not the point of being the church. It is the pep rally for the rest of the week where the real mission exists.

          • savebandit says:

            But do they? My comment stemmed from my experiences trying to get back into my church (brought up cultural Catholic, have moved around a lot). Each time, I go in and ask the parish secretary what type of volunteer opportunities they have and I might as well be from Mars. They have nothing, you’re better off Googling “how do I volunteer.” The small groups thing isn’t working out, at least at Catholic parishes in the U.S.

            Maybe it’s different in other denominations and I’m just looking in the wrong places.

          • J Mann says:

            @savebandit That is not my experience at all, and I’m sorry those encounters let you down?

            Have you tried asking “what kind of service ministries do you have?”

          • Nick says:

            If the parish secretary is unhelpful then your best bet is the parish bulletin. (It’s what I would have recommended first, actually.) It commonly advertises everything from retreats to weekly service opportunities to yearly food drives.

          • Michael Handy says:

            @Savebandit

            This has not been my experience of Catholic Churches in Australia, both Conservative and Progressive parishes have had volunteer groups for music, art, sport, and charity.

            Some of these have been organised at the level of the Archbishopric, perhaps looking at that level will help.

          • Randy M says:

            Off the top of my head, my church does have a community meal provided every Tuesday night. Wednesday as well, for families. I think they are well enough staffed for that, though.
            There are announcements in the service about groups that, for example, tutor children after school downtown, or travel to a farm to can soups (which my wife will be taking out girls to), or get together to knit blankets for babies in NICU. We partner with other local churches to host homeless/jobless men and help them get back on their feet.
            There is a Sunday every year where we take donations for Heifer international, which gives animals to indigent people.
            There are various counseling groups and services offered.

            A lot of what the church offers is aimed at members, that’s true. Christianity doesn’t exist solely as a charity organization–it’s also a mutual aid society and self-improvement seminar (to use a very inexact analogy).

            But ultimately, if you see time in prayer as wasted, you aren’t going to find the church particularly sensible.

          • savebandit says:

            @Michael Handy I’ll check that out. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of confidence in my parish though, if I have to go to the archbishop’s level to do something as simple as serving the poor. Admittedly I’m not the best Catholic. From all the other answers here I think it’s probably time to go look at some of the Protestant churches.

          • Dack says:

            Your mistake was asking the parish secretary. They do not organize such things.

            I would look here:
            Offices and ministries

            The diocese of whatever location you are in probably has a similar website.

          • savebandit says:

            I think I’m done with the Catholics. I’m in the Chicago area, and it’s kinda ridiculous that I would need to go to the Archbishop level to find regular volunteer opportunities with other believers in this large of an area. When asking the parish secretary how to help serve others is considered a mistake, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong with your religion. If the parish is only good for prayer, that’s nice, but I’m going to go find some people that can prioritize both prayer and works.

          • johan_larson says:

            savebandit, it sounds like you’re looking for less a church and more a charitable organization that works to help poor people locally. Try Habitat for Humanity; they have an excellent reputation.

          • Dack says:

            There’s really just not that much demand for unskilled volunteer labor.

            In other words, “having enough hands” is not a bottleneck to helping the poor, et al.

            You can put a few hundred extra workers in a soup kitchen and they will have nothing to do. It does the same amount of good. No extra hungry people will be fed.

            I get that you want to make a difference. That’s commendable. But it’s going to take more than saying “give me something to do” to semi-random people to accomplish that.

            You may want to consider taking an EA-like outlook and putting in overtime at your job and donating that money to whatever cause you find most deserving. Funding is almost always a bottleneck.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the problem there is just that there’s a limit to the number of hands needed. It’s not so hard to get to the skill level needed to serve or prepare food in a soup kitchen, but any given soup kitchen has only so many places for people to work and so much capacity. And it’s quite likely that their limiting resources will be money or food instead of volunteer labor.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            My church has a number of missions it is serving, and they are always seeking volunteers. The homeless shelter, the prison ministry, the blood drive, the educational ministry. (They *always* need more people in that last one.) I’m sure some of them are already at capacity despite asking for more help (because asking for more help is how they remind you they exist) but just keep looking around until you find one where they are getting something useful for you to do.

            Also, it’s a sure bet that someone running at least one of those missions wants to stop doing it but there is no one competent to take over. By starting out you can become that person.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Surely you could do the ritual prayer part by yourself, too.

          The Bible specifically says (Hebrews 10:25) to meet together and encourage one another. It also says to pray continually, and every church I’ve been in has encouraged us to do that individually, so…

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Surely you could do the ritual prayer part by yourself, too.

          Nah, I’m not an ordained priest, so I cannot consecrate bread or perform any other sacrament, really.

          • Watchman says:

            If someone who is going to die requests (it has to be voluntary although this seems to allow parents to do it) baptism you can perform it if no priest is available. It appears I can and I’m not even a Christian (or baptised), but obviously the order of preference is a priest > A definite beta guy > Watchman. Obviously this is because clerical hierarchies should not stop souls being saved, but it’s something that should be remembered.

            Due to my historical study and lack of personal faith I can only do this in Latin I realise, but its the thought that counts, literally in this case.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yes, in extreme conditions, baptism can be done by anyone. Two atheists in a foxhole can baptize each other if they like, and the Catholic Church says that’s valid. But the normal process involves a priest or deacon at a church service.

    • Randy M says:

      A lot of churches have more than one hour per week. And rarely is all of that prayer. And it’s really weird to call any portion “mandatory”. But the portions that do seem weird to you might make more sense if you model them as believing the things that they claim to believe.

      • savebandit says:

        That’s a good point – I’m sure there are churches that don’t fit my mental model, and any criticisms I have probably don’t apply to them. Are there any denominations where service to the community is prioritized as highly as Sunday service? If so, I’d love to check them out.

    • Aapje says:

      @savebandit

      Have you considered the possibility that many religious people see praying as an appeal to the almighty, who is very capable of helping others, as he is is very almighty?

    • Basil Elton says:

      I feel like the best answer to this is to recommend you Robin Hanson’s Elephant In The Brain as high as I can.

    • Evan Þ says:

      The Bible specifically says to meet together to encourage each other and help each other focus on God. I know, personally, it really matters.

      And yes, helping other people is vitally important, but meeting together as a large group probably isn’t the best way to go about it. Having 500 people all showing up on Sunday morning would probably overwhelm the capacity of a soup kitchen (or most other places) to absorb volunteers. My church has occasional large-group volunteer days when they can be set up (say, with local elementary schools), and it encourages everyone to get into small groups that volunteer more regularly.

      Looking back at the earliest records of Christian gatherings, we see that they met together to pray, sing hymns, and then have a communal meal. In an era where a whole lot of Christians were poor, that in itself was a significant act of charity.

      • savebandit says:

        That feels like a bit of a cop-out – churches have been around for a while, they’ve had a long long time to adapt to the fact that there will potentially be a lot of people around to help out on Sunday if they prioritized that. Soup kitchens are small and run on few people partially because they don’t get big weekly influxes of volunteers. If that was part of the mandate of churches for them to all come in, I bet the soup kitchens would adapt to handle the influx.

        • JonathanD says:

          The soup kitchen (communal meal, really) that my old church ran had a weekly attendance that fluctuated between 50 and 100. You needed a team to cook something, and a team to serve and clean up. (Often the same people did both, but you could volunteer for only one if you didn’t have four hours and still wanted to help out.) You could make it work with three or four people, but you had to really be on. With ten, it was easy and fun. If we’d had the regular Sunday attendance of sixty to ninety, I have no idea what we’d have done.

          • Randy M says:

            Probably been a lot less efficient!

          • Nick says:

            If we’d had the regular Sunday attendance of sixty to ninety, I have no idea what we’d have done.

            Made horrible broth, I would think.

        • Skivverus says:

          “Big influxes of helpers one day a week” does not strike me as an efficient use of space for a soup kitchen: people still have to eat on the other six days.

        • John Schilling says:

          If that was part of the mandate of churches for them to all come in, I bet the soup kitchens would adapt to handle the influx.

          What would they all be doing?

          Churches are traditionally optimized for A: approximately everybody in the community being part of the (or at least a) church and B: the church(es) being the primary source of charity in the community. If the first part of that is not as true as it used to be, then so is the second.

          So if you’ve got a church with say 200 members, then the number of people looking for meals at the soup kitchen will be approximately 200 x [local poverty rate], or not more than 200. It doesn’t take 200 volunteers to feed 200 hungry people at a soup kitchen. It might take twenty. What is everyone else supposed to do?

          Me, I’d have them volunteer at soup kitchens on other days of the week, help build houses a la habitat for humanity, support afterschool programs for underprivileged children, etc, etc, according to their personal talents and inclinations. None of which require 200 volunteers all at the same place at the same time. The big weekly get-together is for morale-building, organizing, and collecting donations (in kind or in cash). And for, you know, actually practicing the parts of their religion that go beyond material charity.

          If you want the 200 members of the local church to all usefully volunteer at the local soup kitchen on Sunday to prove their collective virtue to your satisfaction, then you’re going to need to be feeding at least 2,000 hungry people, which means you have a population of several to many thousand, all but two hundred of whom are apparently saying “We heard churches are good for charity, so we’re going to go watch football and let you chumps handle this for us”, in which case I’m OK with the churchgoers taking some time off from the charity work to pray for a nice dose of smiting all around.

    • j1000000 says:

      Not religious, but brought up religious. I can only tell you that back then, my Catholic parish organized quite a lot of volunteer activities. They were mostly attended by a smaller, more dedicated, fully religiously believing subgroup of parishioners, but the opportunities were definitely there.

      I have no idea what Catholic parishes are like now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out community activity and do-good zeal has widely declined in the post-Geoghan era.

    • bean says:

      It’s very simple. The Church is not the United Way. Our mission is to be God’s ambassadors in the world. Feeding the poor and tending the sick are definitely a part of it, and they are good things we are commanded to do, but it’s not the core of our mission. That’s to glorify God and make disciples, and community worship services (which include, but are not limited to, corporate prayer) are a vital part of that. Yes, we would be failing to fulfill our mission if we let that be a total substitute for charity, but it would be even weirder if we structured ourselves around soup kitchens at the expense of our Biblical mission.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s about as weird as “Gee, couldn’t those sports teams both professional and amateur that get together for an hour on the weekend to play their sport do something else with that time?”

      Yes, they and we could, but then it wouldn’t be a sport/religious service. Same goes for “Couldn’t this chef opening his own restaurant run a cobblers instead?” or “Why don’t the Republicrat Party not adopt Democran Party policies wholesale?”

      You can run various ministries and good works at other times, there’s actually a rule about attending Mass on Sundays for Catholics – it’s compulsory unless you’ve a very good reason you can’t go.

      Just a heads up – the last guy Scripturally quoted about “Couldn’t we do something for the poor with this instead?” was generally not regarded favourably 🙂

    • edmundgennings says:

      Corporate worship is the Church’s comparative advantage. Both worship of God and love neighbor are important ends. The Church has no special competence natural or supernatural for charitable actions. Also people talents vary. If someones talents tilt towards working at a soup kitchen then they should do their charitable efforts efforts there, even if the person who runs the soup kitchen believes Christ has one will. One should not worship with a monothelite(unless of course on is monothelite) and so one ought not to be in the same Church as him but restricting ones charitable actions to mutually orthodox organizations would be insane. Indeed I am surprised at how much charity is still run through Church organizations.

    • detroitdan says:

      @savebandit

      Church is for the churchgoers, more than it is for the poor outside the church. It’s primarily for transferring cultural values (rules, beliefs, lifestyle guidelines) from one person to the next, and from one generation to the next. “Worship” means things of worth. What is it that we value?

      So a church is not a soup kitchen or equivalent charity — BY DEFINITION.

    • JPNunez says:

      It seems that religions provide some social structure to communities, so that hour of prayer may be an “investment” of time to bond the people to each other.

      As to why they don’t use that invested hour in, say, feeding the poor, I assume that the investment must be something neutral that doesn’t force people to do work. There are communities formed around running kitchen soups and stuff like that, but I suspect they are not as popular as churches.

    • nadbor says:

      If you try to interpret religious practice as an attempt to do the maximum amount of good it will never make sense. If this was what churches were doing, they wouldn’t be churches, they would be effective altruists.

      Religious practices were not designed to create the maximum amount of social good. They were not designed at all but rather they evolved. If Mass can be said to have a function, the function is to help perpetuate the religion itself. It does that by letting people signal loyalty to the church community through attendance.

      Boringness and uselessness of the ritual is not a bug but a feature. If Mass was entertaining or otherwise productive, people would attend who aren’t religious and the value of the signal would be lost.

      I’m parroting Hanson and Simler’s “The Elephant in the Brain”, in case you’re interested in more thorough discussion of this.

      • quanta413 says:

        If you believe that people burn in hell forever if they don’t accept the one true God, your effective altruism will look a lot different. Starving to death is peanuts compared to torture forever. And then it’s rational for your organization to be a lot like a church.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Y’all trying to give rational answers based on dogma. It’s an hour of ritual prayer, aka meditation – which is pretty awesome for you, regardless of exactly which god you’re praying to, or for what. One hour a week probably enough to make a difference.

      • nadbor says:

        Have you been to a Catholic Mass? Sitting in pews, being bored, occasionally standing up and kneeling on cue is meditation? Is everyone else getting something from this experience that I am missing?

        Then again, I’m also bored to tears by the monthly corporate all hands ‘meetings’ that everyone seem to be so enthusiastic about. I always assumed they were feigning enthusiasm to suck up to the bosses but may be they are using those time wasters to meditate?

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Yes, it is possible you’re missing something from the experience. But I definitely wouldn’t go as far as to say everyone else is getting it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Ritual is soothing to lots of people.

          Meditation looks weird to me, but lots of people swear by it. I don’t think they are lying about it, although when I was much younger I did (think they were lying, that is).

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            If you ever want to see what the fuss is about, look for zen soto instructions. It’s almost completely devoid of anything but just sitting, and you can safely ignore the extra. Just use the actual physical position.

            I got into it young and idealistic, but got a few confirmations when I started seeing it pop up in psychology books, and when I did an (obviously unblinded) comparison between 10 minutes sitting and 25mg of provigil – and the meditation won easily.

            Now I’m just using it as a tool. It’s pretty versatile, once you get into it – it can be just plain brain exercise, it can improve focus, or you can use it to dig into your subconscious and find stuff.

  16. dndnrsn says:

    RPG thread: books about the history of RPGs. What are some good ones?

    Recently, I’ve read Empire of Imagination, a biography of Gary Gygax by Michael Witwer, and Of Dice and Men, focusing more on D&D, but with a fair bit of overlap, by David Ewalt. The former was fun, a bit breezy, a little bit hagiographic (though definitely less than it could have been); it “semi-fictionalized” things in a way I found odd. It started life as some sort of dissertation, which seemed a bit off to me – it didn’t really advance a thesis such as I could notice. The latter was a decent coverage of the history of D&D, getting kind of skimpy after the mid-to-late 80s, coupled with some “explaining D&D to normies” stuff. It maybe focused a bit too much on the author and his games. (I disagree fervently with his position that published modules/adventures/campaigns are inevitably inferior – the best are significantly better than what almost anyone can put together at home).

    For more general books, I’ve read the entire series of Designers and Dragons by Shannon Appelcline. It’s quite in-depth and covers things company-by-company, but by book depending on what decade the company started in. So the book for the 70s will cover TSR all the way to its end, etc. It’s interesting, pretty in-depth, and covers a lot of obscure stuff. A downside (in my opinion, at least) is that Appelcline seems fairly allergic to passing judgment on anything.

    I’ve heard Playing at the World by Jon Peterson is good, but I’m not sure if my library has it.

    Anyone got any others? Or websites, I suppose; I’ve imbibed the cranky-ass old-school view of the evolution of D&D mostly from websites.

    • Plumber says:

      From 1980:

      The Best of The Dragon vol. 1 & 2

      The Complete Book of Wargames byJon Freeman and the Editors of Consumers Guide,

      and from 1991: Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games by Lawrence Schick.

      Harder to find, but if you can get the issues of Different Worlds Magazine (published by Chaosium then Sleuth) the “My Life and Role playing” essays were good.

      While they may have been some developments to RPG’s after 1991, they’re not nearly as important and may be well ignored.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Disagree: if you stop in 1991, you miss out on the Delta Green books for Call of Cthulhu which fix a lot of problems with the original CoC model.

        Plus, without the increasing choking fog of metaplot in the 90s (coming out of the 80s – we can all blame Dragonlance, right?) and the quagmire of late 3.x and 4th, there probably isn’t the newly found appreciation for the 70s/80s stuff.

        • Plumber says:

          @dndnrsn

          “Disagree: if you stop in 1991, you miss out on the Delta Green books for Call of Cthulhu which fix a lot of problems with the original CoC model….”

          I’m admittedly ignorant of Delta Green, but problems with Call of Cthulhu?

          What problems?

          Except for maybe the 48 pages of the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons “bluebook” rules CoC is the easiest to “Keeper” (grandmaster) RPG I know of, cultists and monsters in the 1920’s that make the PC’s crazy and/or die – the scenarios almost write themselves!

          “…Plus, without the increasing choking fog of metaplot in the 90s (coming out of the 80s – we can all blame Dragonlance, right?)…”

          Except that we liked it, I’d blame the earlier Ravenloft by the same authors.

          “…and the quagmire of late 3.x and 4th, there probably isn’t the newly found appreciation for the 70s/80s stuff.”

          From my vantage point RPG culture already went lame in the early 1990’s before 3e, the games at tables all seemed to have turned into superpowered bionic, comic-book, or cannibal-supernatural PC’s in too close to modern day settings – instead of everymen exploring fantastic worlds – with the focus turned to PC’s and their back-stories, powers, and inner-deals, all in line with comic-book bend towards indarkification and fantasy-fictions ever increasing “chosen one” protagonists.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The original 90s Delta Green expansion (the new standalone game is also really, really good) solves 3 major problems that pop up in a lot of CoC scenarios:

            1. The PCs are part of a group with a mission; no more flimsy “you get a letter from Uncle Soandso” setups.

            2. As government agents, they have some authority. You don’t get the situation in a lot of CoC materials where the PCs are somehow doing work the police would do without the police showing up and saying “hey this is a crime scene piss off” or where the PCs must go to the police and get clues (I’m pretty sure that cops, in the 1920s or today, won’t just hand out evidence to random vigilantes who show up).

            3. With an organization in the background, you don’t get the silliness that happens in campaign play, where the party losing a few members is replenished by grabbing whoever happens to show up.

            Putting together a decent scenario in an investigative game is, for me at least, much more work than throwing together something for the more sandboxy sort of D&D. While I was running a retroclone, I could put together something that would occupy everyone for a few hours in maybe a half hour, hour. Investigative scenarios are more work.

            With regard to 3rd, etc, it’s more about the rules. There was a period of around a decade where I played actual D&D maybe three times: a game of 3.5 that fizzled, a game of Pathfinder where we spent the entire session in one combat, and a game of 4th that everyone basically rebelled against when we realized how weird and unlike what had come before the rules were. Then, I started running a retroclone sandbox, and it was a revelation how much fun it was.

          • John Schilling says:

            The original 90s Delta Green expansion solves 3 major problems that pop up in a lot of CoC scenarios:

            Those aren’t problems, those are a core part of the concept and setting. Cthulian horrors are either omnipotent, or trivially defeatable with the resources of a major government. Judging by the titular story, Cthulhu himself would have been KO’d by the smallest Navy detachment that might plausibly have been sent to investigate R’lyeh, with little more effort than was required to take out the Innsmouth Deep One colony. Nor is any cult going to long withstand the FBI. In the classic “Masks of Nyarlathotep”, it’s explicitly acknowledged that if you can get the Japanese Naval Intelligence Guy to bring in his bosses, Gray Dragon Island is turning into Gray Dragon Crater and Big N doesn’t get his gate this year.

            Part of the horror is being the Only Sane Man, or one of the very small group of Sane Men, watching the rest of humanity blunder to its doom. See e.g. the framing story of “At the Mountains of Madness”, where Dyer is trying to give a warning that he knows isn’t going to be heard. You can do this with government agents, but you need to be thinking Mulder and Scully, not the Elite Team of Monster Hunters With Badges and Guns smacking down a new monster every week. That’s a different, lesser thing, and the problem with Delta Green is that it encourages people to settle for that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Delta Green is, by its nature, far more Mulder and Scully than “the president needs you to destroy Cthulhu Island; here’s an aircraft carrier and a brigade of Marines.” How familiar are you with its lore? I can see a GM who can’t say no to their players turning it into the latter, but by its nature it’s supposed to provide fairly limited resources.

            I ran MoN years ago, and as I recall, the Japanese navy involvement still requires the PCs to storm the island. MoN is already pretty far beyond anything Lovecraft wrote. People seem to prefer playing, and running, two-fisted battles against the shoggoths, not “single Classics professor reads book, sees thing, runs away.” This seems pretty organic: I remember reading a Trail of Cthulhu campaign writeup that began with the players and GM agreeing that it would be a fairly low-key, “purist” game, and two or three sessions in they’re hucking dynamite around during car chases.

            I don’t see either how the second or third are core parts of the setting: Lovecraft’s stories don’t have bits where the police just say “hey sure I’ll let randoms see the crime scene photos, why not” do they? Nor do they involve a great deal of “well, everyone just got eaten, so let’s hail down a cab and press the driver into service.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dndnrsn: “President Ronnie has been kidnapped by Cthulhu spawn! Are you a bad enough dude to rescue him?”

          • Nick says:

            Delta Green is even more Mulder and Scully than Mulder and Scully are. Those two at least are FBI agents who are regularly assigned to their cases (though not always). My understanding is that the Delta Green organization is underground during the period in which campaigns are set, so players only get the cooperation of the law so far as they have covers as members of above ground agencies.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Spoilers for both the 90s sourcebook for CoC and the more recent Delta Green game, in ROT13 (numbers typed out because ROT13 doesn’t change digits):

            Va gur bevtvany fbheprobbx, gur betnavmngvba jnf fuhg qbja nf na bssvpvny tbireazrag ragvgl sbyybjvat n qvfnfgebhf zvffvba va avargrra-friragl. Ol gur avargvrf, vg’f n pryy-onfrq pbafcvenpl jvguva gur HF tbireazrag. Vg unf ab erny onpxvat, naq vf yvzvgrq gb jung vg pna ort, obeebj, naq fgrny. Vg arrqf gb xrrc frperg, orpnhfr Znwrfgvp-Gjryir unf n ybg zber cbjre, naq vf uhagvat vg. Gur gurzr vf irel 90f oynpx uryvpbcgre K-Svyrf fghss.

            Va gur fgnaqnybar tnzr, gur yber vf gung fvapr gur rneyl gjb gubhfnaqf, Znwrfgvp sryy ncneg naq va gur cebprff, Qrygn Terra onfvpnyyl zretrq jvgu vg, naq vf abj frzv-yrtvg ntnva: vg’f grpuavpnyyl tbg tbireazrag onpxvat. “Gur Cebtenz”, nf vg’f xabja, unf erfbheprf – ohg vg’f eryvnag ba obeebjvat gur erfbheprf bs bguref, vg fgvyy unf gb xrrc rirelguvat frperg, rgp. Vg’f nyfb vapernfvatyl zbenyyl pbzcebzvfrq – gur Znwrfgvp cnegf bs vg ner fgvyy gelvat gb jrncbavmr jung fubhyqa’g or jrncbavmrq.

            Zrnajuvyr, fbzr ntragf ershfrq gb pbzr va sebz gur pbyq, abg gehfgvat gur Znwrfgvp thlf. Gurl’er abj gur “Bhgynjf” naq ner rira jrnxre guna QT jnf va gur avargvrf. Gurl ynpx pburerag vagreany pbzzhavpngvbaf, gurl’er ntvat, rgp.

            Gur gurzr bs gur arj tnzr vf zber, Jne ba Greebe ren vagryyvtrapr bireernpu, “ner jr gur onq thlf” fbeg bs qrny.

          • Nornagest says:

            This seems pretty organic: I remember reading a Trail of Cthulhu campaign writeup that began with the players and GM agreeing that it would be a fairly low-key, “purist” game, and two or three sessions in they’re hucking dynamite around during car chases.

            That’s normal for roleplaying at the best of times; most D&D campaigns end as Monty Python’s Holy Grail, even if they started as Lord of the Rings (which is by no means guaranteed). I think there’s something about the medium that’s just inherently better suited to picaresque fucking around, whatever the nominal theme.

            Especially if you let the players get their hands on explosives.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            I think there’s something about the medium that’s just inherently better suited to picaresque fucking around, whatever the nominal theme.

            Yep; I’ve given in to the fact that my mythic Greek D&D campaigns will never reach the rarified heights of epic or tragedy. The medium as a whole just encourages picaresque silliness.
            (I take refuge in the Classical precedent that this is the correct tone when satyrs are present. Compare what survives of the great tragedian’s satyr plays to their tragedies, or the Dionysiaca to the Iliad. 😛 )

          • dndnrsn says:

            I wonder how the ToC “purist” adventures – all of which are built around “you cannot fight the monster! You cannot win! There is no hope!” turn out in actual play.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve only played a couple of CoC adventures, and only one of them had a big tentacled monster, but the one with a big tentacled monster ended when we brought the building down on it.

            Explosives really are a game-changer. If your GM won’t let you buy dynamite, remember that you can improvise a fuel-air explosive with a sack of flour.

            (ETA: accidentally reported LMC’s comment above. Sorry about that.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: That would totally be a purist adventure if you’d brought a yacht down on it, rather than a building.

          • Nick says:

            Yep; I’ve given in to the fact that my mythic Greek D&D campaigns will never reach the rarified heights of epic or tragedy. The medium as a whole just encourages picaresque silliness.

            I’ve thought about this more than once, especially given our agreement in the original email thread that we’d keep it pretty serious. I guess we couldn’t contain ourselves. 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Regarding “Masks”, There’s an explicit sidebar in my copy at least saying that with sufficient naval gunfire, the volcano lair is destroyed from a distance, but that of the named characters only Japanese Spy Dude could possibly arrange that. It’s hard to see that storming the island would be useful or (given the “what happens when the ebpxrg falls in the ynin” sidebar) possible after that. And the basic idea of “Masks” is to be a no-railroad quest, so railroading the PCs into storming the island would be wrong.

            Regarding the source material, there’s not much issue with the protagonists being hassled by police at crime scenes because the police either don’t care or they care enough to quickly and efficiently eliminate the immediate problem (New Orleans PD in “CoC”, Treasury Department in “Innsmouth”) and then stop caring. More generally, the immediate problem in Lovecraft’s works usually can be dealt with by a vat of sulfuric acid, a police raid, an armed yacht, or maybe just running away and posting a “no trespassing, seriously” sign. But the universe vast and relentless, humanity is puny and stupid, and that rather than the physical invulnerability of the adversaries is why there is no hope.

            Regarding Delta Green, if the intent is to even delay the transition to “And now the PCs insist on obliterating the problem with heavy ordnance and organized military force, then letting the bureaucrats handle cleanup”, then it seems like the least satisfactory way of arranging this is to make the PCs even quasi-employees of the world’s largest owner of heavy ordnance, largest employer of soldiers and bureaucrats, and explicitly quasi-employed in a “investigate weird shit that might need to be blowed up real good” capacity.

            If you want the PCs to not drone-strike the nest of shoggoths, not waste time trying to drone-strike the nest of shoggoths, and not whine about the GM who won’t let them drone-strike the nest of shoggoths, then telling them that of course their boss’s boss has Predators and cruise missiles and even nukes but he’d prefer to keep this on the down-low might lead them to misunderstand the plausible solution space / preferred type of campaign in a way “your boss is a university professor who would rather not know about the handgun you keep in your desk” doesn’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Regarding “Masks”, There’s an explicit sidebar in my copy at least saying that with sufficient naval gunfire, the volcano lair is destroyed from a distance, but that of the named characters only Japanese Spy Dude could possibly arrange that. It’s hard to see that storming the island would be useful or (given the “what happens when the ebpxrg falls in the ynin” sidebar) possible after that. And the basic idea of “Masks” is to be a no-railroad quest, so railroading the PCs into storming the island would be wrong.

            Yeah, p204 in the complete edition has something about that. My memory is fuzzy, but I remember my players wanting to storm the island and I was happy to have the campaign go out on a bang. They didn’t ask whether they could just plaster it from a distance, and “the NPC says you can just sit back and let him deal with it” didn’t seem like good form.

            Regarding the source material, there’s not much issue with the protagonists being hassled by police at crime scenes because the police either don’t care or they care enough to quickly and efficiently eliminate the immediate problem (New Orleans PD in “CoC”, Treasury Department in “Innsmouth”) and then stop caring. More generally, the immediate problem in Lovecraft’s works usually can be dealt with by a vat of sulfuric acid, a police raid, an armed yacht, or maybe just running away and posting a “no trespassing, seriously” sign. But the universe vast and relentless, humanity is puny and stupid, and that rather than the physical invulnerability of the adversaries is why there is no hope.

            Source material aside, the way it goes down in most CoC published adventures, especially from the 80s, is just unbelievable – a lot of adventures have “go to the cop shop and get handed a sheaf of evidence” as one of the first things on the menu.

            Regarding Delta Green, if the intent is to even delay the transition to “And now the PCs insist on obliterating the problem with heavy ordnance and organized military force, then letting the bureaucrats handle cleanup”, then it seems like the least satisfactory way of arranging this is to make the PCs even quasi-employees of the world’s largest owner of heavy ordnance, largest employer of soldiers and bureaucrats, and explicitly quasi-employed in a “investigate weird shit that might need to be blowed up real good” capacity.

            If you want the PCs to not drone-strike the nest of shoggoths, not waste time trying to drone-strike the nest of shoggoths, and not whine about the GM who won’t let them drone-strike the nest of shoggoths, then telling them that of course their boss’s boss has Predators and cruise missiles and even nukes but he’d prefer to keep this on the down-low might lead them to misunderstand the plausible solution space / preferred type of campaign in a way “your boss is a university professor who would rather not know about the handgun you keep in your desk” doesn’t.

            DG works well as a setting because it justifies both the PCs being sent in with minimal support and handguns, and more significant support – there’s a wide range of possible resources. I find, in practice, that it’s fun to every now and then give them a situation where they get heavy firepower, and get to use it. If they solve one scenario by drone-striking something, good for them. I’ve found that while in most games, my players try to push the envelope to have as heavy firepower/magic/pointy metal bits/whatever as they can get, in DG they mostly stick with what they’re assigned. Thinking about it, I wonder why it is – because they’re the sort that usually try to get their hands on everything they can, and in DG they don’t even ask for stuff that they would get.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the only time your PCs don’t ask for heavy ordnance is when they are actually playing as operatives for a government paramilitary organization, then I can only conclude that this is an elaborate metagaming prank where they are LARPing a bunch of tabletop RPG players who are enthralled to some mind-altering cosmic alien horror. Otherwise, that’s not plausible human behavior.

            the way it goes down in most CoC published adventures, especially from the 80s, is just unbelievable – a lot of adventures have “go to the cop shop and get handed a sheaf of evidence” as one of the first things on the menu.

            Ugh. I did most of my CoCing in the late ’80s to early ’90s, but I seem to have missed that. That’s both sloppy writing and not at all appropriate to the source material. But I can see how if that’s your baseline, something like “Delta Green” would be a step up in that it at least makes it plausible. Ish.

            At least we had “Masks”. Though my group skipped Gray Dragon Island entirely – focused on cleaning out Ho Fong’s operation in Shanghai while giving the Royal Navy photographic proof that Aubrey Penhew(?) was alive and well, probably in league with the Communists, and knew how to make 40-knot oceangoing vessels, see attached map for details. When word came back that the Royal Navy was missing a light cruiser and the South China Sea was missing an island, gee, the Australian desert looks like a nice place to disappear for a few months…

          • dndnrsn says:

            If the only time your PCs don’t ask for heavy ordnance is when they are actually playing as operatives for a government paramilitary organization, then I can only conclude that this is an elaborate metagaming prank where they are LARPing a bunch of tabletop RPG players who are enthralled to some mind-altering cosmic alien horror. Otherwise, that’s not plausible human behavior.

            Yeah, it’s baffling to me too. In CoC games I’ve run where they were private citizens, they’ve been all about the firepower – arguing that, no, it’s not implausible that someone would wear a trenchcoat at all times so as to conceal a sawed-off. D&D, they put a lot of effort into standardizing their spell loadout, rolling with lots of henchmen, etc. DG, by and large they meekly take the handguns offered to them and go off and do their thing. I’m actually finding myself giving them more firepower, just to remind them that it exists.

            Ugh. I did most of my CoCing in the late ’80s to early ’90s, but I seem to have missed that. That’s both sloppy writing and not at all appropriate to the source material. But I can see how if that’s your baseline, something like “Delta Green” would be a step up in that it at least makes it plausible. Ish.

            DG also provides a good frame for a mission-based campaign. I wouldn’t use it for an overarching campaign like MoN, but a lot of the CoC scenarios I’ve read have as the hook (or one of the hooks) that the PCs are private investigators of the occult – they see some curious thing in the paper and decide to investigate it, they get a letter saying “dear sirs: my uncle was eaten by tentacles; please investigate for insurance purposes!”, whatever. Plus, the new standalone game is the best version of the CoC rules I’ve seen. I’m especially fond of the system for tracking impact on PCs’ personal life.

            At least we had “Masks”. Though my group skipped Gray Dragon Island entirely – focused on cleaning out Ho Fong’s operation in Shanghai while giving the Royal Navy photographic proof that Aubrey Penhew(?) was alive and well, probably in league with the Communists, and knew how to make 40-knot oceangoing vessels, see attached map for details. When word came back that the Royal Navy was missing a light cruiser and the South China Sea was missing an island, gee, the Australian desert looks like a nice place to disappear for a few months…

            My group ended up messing with Ho Fong, getting messed with back, and fleeing Shanghai on a smuggler’s boat. Next destination, Kenya. (I keep much more detailed GM notes now than I did then, however. Looking back at my MoN notes, I was in the habit of jotting things down like “stuff happens”.)

        • valleyofthekings says:

          What is “metaplot”? Is this a reference to the illusionism stuff, eg, https://bankuei.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/the-roots-of-the-big-problems/ ?

          • Nornagest says:

            Sort of. Metaplot here means a style of design, very common in the ’90s, especially for White Wolf titles but hardly unknown outside them. The idea is that a game setting’s supposed to evolve through a more-or-less set overarching storyline in the background, which then interacts with the foreground plot playing out at the table for your group to create new and interesting storytelling possibilities. And which, incidentally, gets you to buy the splatbooks where the next stage of the plot is revealed.

            At least, that’s the theory. The fatal flaw here is that, if the next stage of the plot is going to be revealed in a splatbook that comes out in two months, then either your GM is faced with the unenviable task of adapting that splatbook to your table after one of your players drank the vampire prince of Los Angeles like a milkshake, or your players can’t ever do anything important. In practice the second ended up being the norm, with overpowered GMPCs stepping in on some thin pretext whenever the players threaten to achieve significance.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It probably begins in the 80s – I’d argue that Dragonlance was the big innovator – but Nornagest is right that it gets huge in the 90s – sells lots of books; the market was clearly showing that the people buying the books wanted that sort of thing (and it was already big in the 80s – Dragonlance sold a lot). Even though it is, as noted, generally bad for actually gaming – most RPG books probably get purchased to be read, not used.

          • woah77 says:

            Look, if you guys were lining outside my house every night, the books I buy would get used for play.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Unless you buy very few books, that’s probably not the case – I have a gaming group that usually games 3-6h a week, and I probably GM at least half to three quarters of the time, and I could never use all the books I have in printed form, let alone .pdfs I’ve purchased. I wouldn’t even want to – a lot of the stuff I own isn’t that great, or is inspiration but not really useful for gaming.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I understand that the last paragraph is mild trolling, but it is of note that RPGs are undergoing a Renaissance today driven by streaming and, I don’t know, general celebration of geek culture. The developments of the last decade in RPGs are at least as important, on the level of “the importance of RPGs to the wider culture” as anything other than the creation of the original D&D and maybe the first RPG Rennaisance in the 90’s driven by Vampire: the Masquerade.

        • Plumber says:

          @sandoratthezoo,
          Not only are there more players than at least since the 1980’s, but I’ve seen some old favorite games back in print and on the shelves again (PDF’s are not a substitute AND NEVER WILL BE!!!).

          I’m still however shell shocked by how LAME!!! gaming became in the late 1980’s and especially the early ’90’s compared to how glorious the late 1970’s to the mid ’80’s were.

          Allegedly they were people still playing a version of D&D (AD&D 2e) that was close to the D&D that I knew and loved ’79 to ’85, and maybe they were others who’d play the other games I wanted to (King Arthur Pendragon, RuneQuest, and Stormbringer) instead of the pale substitutes then popular (Champions,
          Cyperpunk,
          and Vampire), well where were they in ’92?

          Then to add insult to injury – three freaking new editions of D&D in less than a decade, 😠 none of which was very compatible with my D&D!

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            There weren’t really three editions of D&D in less than a decade. Only if you count 3.5 as different from 3.0, and honestly it wasn’t an edition change. In AD&D2 and AD&D1, lots of stuff that was on the scale of the 3.0->3.5 change happened without incrementing the version number.

            Then D&D4 happened, and, well, it failed. D&D3.5, in the guise of Pathfinder, outsold it. So they rapidly went to D&D5, which seems to have gutted Pathfinder.

            D&D4’s failure and D&D5’s success is, in my view, the RPG news of the 21st Century. D&D4 was an embrace of a bunch of indie RPG ideas, and its failure on the broad RPG market was a repudiation of the philosophy behind those ideas. Then D&D5 showed conclusively that the failure of 4 was squarely the mechanics of 4 — D&D as a brand was as strong as ever, there was still appetite for tabletop RPGs, and it’s not like the D&D fanbase was now unprepared for any change. They just didn’t like the direction of the change in 4.

          • woah77 says:

            D&D 4, or the edition that wasn’t D&D, Wasn’t merely a change in mechanics. It was a change in themes. A change in lore. A change in style. Yes, the mechanics were a dramatic shift away from what D&D 3/3.5 was, but they also took a dump on all the aggregate lore and creative work that went into D&D for the previous 30 something years. I’ve seen some fraction (no idea how many) who like D&D 4, but they universally started with D&D at 4 and hadn’t the relationship with D&D prior to that. The problem with 4th ed is that not only did it change the mechanics thoroughly, but it also spat in the face of every long time fan of the game. In my opinion, that is why it failed.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think that to the extent that D&D4e had a “lore” change, it was driven by the mechanics change (which is typical: D&D worlds have cataclysms every time the mechanics change that rewrite their metaphysics so that they can continue to be represented by the D&D system).

            I don’t know that D&D has ever really had “themes” per se. But those and “style” are all very heavily interrelated with the core change of D&D4, which was the idea, heavily popularized by the Forge, that people came to roleplaying games for… purity. That games work best when they were laser-focused on doing one thing. The people who bought into that focus idea looked at the history of D&D, said, “Man, people really love meaty, team-based fantasy combat against monsters, with at least a pretty serious tactical component,” and made an edition of D&D that was all-in on providing that.

            Also coming out of the Forge was the idea of a less-empowered GM, and D&D4 did a bit of that as well.

            I think that’s all completely backwards — the core appeal of RPGs has been synthesis. Yes, meaty tactical combats, but meaty tactical combats that integrate into a fictional storyline which itself integrates into a somewhat coherent world. And a GM who can use human discretion to make the experience more diverse and wild than any computer game.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What did 4th change about the fluff?

            I stayed away from 4th after trying it and really disliking it (a more recent attempt to play it led me to conclude, yep, don’t like it). The dissociated mechanics feel weird, it didn’t solve the worst problem (combats that take forever) of 3rd, and its focus on contained tactical encounters threw strategy out the window.

          • Nornagest says:

            I understand that 4th made major changes made to the lore in Forgotten Realms, which has probably been D&D’s most popular setting since at least 2nd Edition, but I can’t stand Forgotten Realms if I’m not playing Baldur’s Gate so I don’t know exactly what they are. The edition’s actual default setting, such as it was, was a never-before-seen world usually called “Points of Light” (after a design concept, not anything in-universe), but it’s generic fantasy and drawn in pretty broad strokes, so I have a hard time calling that much of a change from any previous edition.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            edition’s actual default setting, such as it was, was a never-before-seen world usually called “Points of Light” (after a design concept, not anything in-universe), but it’s generic fantasy and drawn in pretty broad strokes,

            I’d be tempted to fill in the broad strokes of “Points of Light” with “you are brave, independent men and women striking out into the darkness from the city-state of President George H.W. Bush…”

          • Nornagest says:

            “Diana: Warrior Princess” already exists. (But I’m surprised it doesn’t have a TV Tropes page.)

          • Nick says:

            The game is a parody of Xena: Warrior Princess, and its setting tries to portray the present day with the same level of accuracy that Xena portrays Ancient Greece – i.e. not much.

            Wow, is this a Wiki page or a roast?

          • Randy M says:

            4th edition did change some of the assumptions about monsters and planes and things. There’s no longer the great wheel with insta-kill planes, rather there’s the realm of the fairy, the realm of the dead, the astral sea, and the elemental chaos. There’s no longer 3 groups of cosmic evil for each alignment, there’s corrupted elementals (demons) and fallen angels (devils)–with some shuffling to actually establish a pattern (devils more humanoid, basically).

            Basically they looked at every established detail with an eye of whether it was improving play rather than nostalgia or simulation, forgetting that both those are very real things.
            But from an objective newcomers opinion, it had a lot to like about it lorewise.

            Dunno why they chopped off Angel’s legs, though.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Randy I don’t think that those changes explain 4e’s failure, though. Did they get rolled back with 5th? Are we back to demons/devils/daemons?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I gather that at least some of 4th’s failure was entirely outside of either the crunch or the fluff – from what I’ve read, they really screwed up the rollout of the OGL-equivalent for 4th.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think that those changes explain 4e’s failure, though. Did they get rolled back with 5th? Are we back to demons/devils/daemons?

            I wasn’t trying to explain the failure, I was trying to answer dndrsn’s question.

            There was, however, some early ire directed towards the combination of changes such as those and the WOTC marketing approach of “Old editions are crap! Good thing we’ve got a new one for you to buy!”

            For instance, Gnomes were taken out of the PHB in lieu of the hipper, edgier Tieflings & Dragonborn. WOTC made a short animation of a Gnome saying “Rawr! I’m a monster now!”
            The justification of wanting to cater to races that their market research showed were popular rather than rarely played was sound, but the accumulation of such warranted and minor changes convinced some that the game was fundamentally different.

            @dndrsn

            I gather that at least some of 4th’s failure was entirely outside of either the crunch or the fluff – from what I’ve read, they really screwed up the rollout of the OGL-equivalent for 4th.

            They did do that. They also took back the rights to Dungeon and Dragon magazine from Paizo and used them to bloat the system online. I think they had the idea that people couldn’t very well go back to an older edition–after all, they weren’t publishing it–and now they could capture all the gaming dollars since the bulk of the market was just going to play whatever said D&D on the cover.
            Can’t blame Paizo for using the 3rd ed OGL to prove them wrong after they got screwed out of their business model (not that kind of screwed, GOB), though I don’t know which was the bigger mistake, reneging on the license for 4th or putting it out in the first place for 3rd.

          • Nornagest says:

            For instance, Gnomes were taken out of the PHB in lieu of the hipper, edgier Tieflings & Dragonborn.

            I don’t like a lot of the changes 4th made, but I thought that one was pretty defensible. Since 3rd got rid of racial class restrictions, there’s no unique design space for gnomes to occupy, and no archetypal space that couldn’t be filled by dwarves (as technologists), halflings (as wacky little people), or goblins (as dangerously wacky little people). And they’re always an afterthought in worldbuilding, so it’s not like any of the published settings are going to lose anything important.

            (Dragonborn are stupid, though. I understand the problem they’re trying to solve, but they’re still stupid.)

          • LHN says:

            Asking as someone who played AD&D, 3.0, and now 13th Age, and so hasn’t had much direct interaction with dragonborn: what is the problem they’re trying to solve?

          • Nornagest says:

            Giving someone who wants to play a monstrous character in general, or a dragon in particular, an out-of-the-box option that’s more glamorous than a half-orc but doesn’t involve screwing around with level adjustments.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            I don’t like a lot of the changes 4th made, but I thought that one was pretty defensible. Since 3rd got rid of racial class restrictions, there’s no unique design space for gnomes to occupy,

            This. The existence of gnomes just makes dwarves occupy a narrower stereotype than they otherwise would. Cut & paste fantasy settings almost always make dwarves capable of engineering unless they include gnomes, in which case they become identical to Tolkien dwarves except for the copyrighted origin story.

            Also? If you want to play a dragon, that should be its own class.

          • Nornagest says:

            The public-domain origin story where dwarves grew from maggots gnawing at Ymir’s bones is a hundred times more metal, anyway.

          • Randy M says:

            no unique design space for gnomes to occupy, and no archetypal space that couldn’t be filled by dwarves (as technologists)

            One design decision I like about FfH2 was having the golem building technologist be another faction of Dwarves rather than gnomes.
            There’s an argument that fantasy is easier to step into when each race has one clear and obvious hook, but I think it makes more sense for each race to have different civilizations or cultures that riff off of the archetypes.
            Similarly, my only beef with Dragonborn is that they step on the toes of Lizardmen, which, apart from being painful for all involved, is a shame cause those guys are cool.

          • Randy M says:

            Asking as someone who played AD&D, 3.0, and now 13th Age, and so hasn’t had much direct interaction with dragonborn: what is the problem they’re trying to solve?

            There’s an optional dragonborn knock-off race in the 13th age core rules, isn’t there? Along with Tieflings, Aasimar, & Warforged.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The public-domain origin story where dwarves grew from maggots gnawing at Ymir’s bones is a hundred times more metal, anyway.

            Dwarven drill sergeant lifts battle ax and hammer above his head like a Manowar cover “Listen up, maggots!”

          • LHN says:

            @Randy M Probably, but we’re playing 13th Age Glorantha, where the dragon stuff is at least different (albeit more pervasive in the metaphysics).

            As it happens, one of the party members is an occultist bonded to a dream dragon spirit and drawing on draconic power to underpin his abilities, but he’s not using dragonborn as a species.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think of the GSL (which is the 4e equivalent of the OGL) as being different from other 4e changes. I don’t think that the people who masterminded the game changes were the decision-makers for closing the system back down.

            Rather, I think that when Ryan Dancey left, there was nobody left who could strongly advocate for following the footsteps of the open source model of software, and that doing open-source stuff tends to be generally unpopular with business people.

  17. johan_larson says:

    It’s a frabjous day today. Greg Egan’s new novel, Perihelion Summer, will be released on the 16th.

    Short novel? Novella? 216 pages.

  18. meh says:

    Anyone else feel online April Fools jokes have jumped the shark a bit?

    • Aftagley says:

      I feel like every year I see the same number of good April fools jokes that manage to fool me/make me laugh when I realize what’s going on. That number is somewhere between 3-5.

      What’s increasing is the overwhelming tide of low-effort “pranks” carried out by seemingly humorless organizations that seem to feel a subtle pressure to do something zany. Is there any way to preserve the actually funny but cut down on the chaff?

      • Murphy says:

        Ya, go back a few years and you’d see a lot of small outfits doing something genuinely funny with big companies doing basically nothing.

        Now it’s like the big companies have the “april fools joke committee” with every iota of material going through a bunch of focus groups to weed out anything that might upset anyone, anywhere, anywhen.

        Which leads to most of the “pranks” being soulless incarnations of the same kind of “humor” that fills Christmas crackers surrounded by dozens of big signs reading “WARNING THIS IS A PRANK! APPROACHING PRANK! NOT REAL NOT REAL NOT REAL!”.

        Because some bot on the committee was worried that that same soulless, humorless angry husk would call again this year when the companies masterful “prank” of changing the color of the front page went online.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Definitely.

      It makes me feel like the Grinch because while I know that other people really enjoy things like websites changing their look for April fools it just irritates me. It’s just not a very fun holiday once you graduate high school and aren’t surrounded by people you hate but don’t have a socially-sanctioned way of getting back at anymore.

      I was very pleased that SSC either didn’t do an April fool’s day joke or I didn’t notice it.

      • Nick says:

        I think an open thread full of HPMOR discussion was our April Fool’s joke on our critics.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Was it? I’ve never read HPMOR. I thought that was something you nerds genuinely liked.

          • johan_larson says:

            You nerds?

            Wait, are you one of those arrogant shits who has sex? Like, with other people?

            What are you doing here?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I will add “coolest guy on SSC” to my c.v., right under “most fashionable Applebee’s patron.”

          • Randy M says:

            That cel’ better be voluntary, johan, or I think have to report you.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          How did that happened, btw? Did something HPMOR-related happened elsewhere?

          • Nick says:

            The third thread, I believe, was prompted by the earlier two, but I think the earlier two were just serendipity. Or zemblanity, depending on whom you ask.

    • Lillian says:

      Counter-Point: April Fools has turned into National Shitposting Day, and i loves me a good shitpost. Also a prank doesn’t have to fool anyone to be funny. Like that time PornHub turned itself into CornHub, with a front page full of salacious corn videos. Suddenly my Boyfriend was like, “Go to PornHub right now!” and when i saw it laughed, so i told all my friends, and they all laughed. Nobody was actually fooled, we all knew exactly what was going on, but it was still hilarious. This year the best one was r/HistoryMemes and r/AnimeMemes switched places, which caused both of them to basically turn into r/AnimeHistoryMemes, which already existed. Got a couple of hours of entertainment out of that one.

  19. albatross11 says:

    Article arguing that GWAS studies are massively confounded with environmental differences. I do not have the right technical background to know whether or not this is true, and I’m looking forward to seeing some debate on this from people who do have that background.

    In the meantime, they note an error that’s really common in the big wide world: You know some trait is individually heritable (height, IQ, big 5 personality scores, alcoholism, etc.). You observe that it differs between groups. From this, you can’t really tell how much of the observed difference is genetic in origin. Untangling that is possible, but it’s also complicated and easy to get wrong.

    IMO, this is the opposite end of the error that’s commonly made in US media, where observing different group outcomes is seen as evidence of discrimination. Really, untangling the causes of complex social phenomena is hard, and there are a whole lot of opportunities to mess up and get it wrong.

    • matthewravery says:

      I haven’t had a chance to look at the paper you linked, but I wanted to second your point that understanding group differences is hard, and it’s something folks get wrong all the time. Depending on how rigorously you controlled your sampling and how well you understand the populations you’re sampling from, attributing observed differences to fixed effects vs. between-group variation can be anything from trivial to impossible.

  20. helloo says:

    April Fools.

    What were your favorites? Any stories? Did anything cause you to think “Oh yeah, today 4/1” (possibly after a pause)? Any recommendations or future predictions?

    • Rana Dexsin says:

      LessWrong picked up a “GPT2” commenter for the day.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Elon Musk drops rap single about Harambe (turned out to be true).

    • Well... says:

      This was a few years ago, maybe 2014. First some backstory: my brother has a kind of verbose, overly ornamented writing style, even when he was writing Facebook posts, emails, etc. He’s gotten better but back then you’d think he was some kind of Victorian or Edwardian if you only knew him from what he wrote. He was unaware of this.

      I sent him a pseudonymous letter in very flowery prose, almost a caricature of his style, in which I pretended to be a kind of recruiter for a local swim team. I claimed to want to recruit him based on the way I watched him walk on a rainy day (as if that was an indicator of how he could move in water) and made up some ridiculous story about how I got his name and address by digging through his garbage or something. I included enough details (about the team and the natatorium and what time we met for practice etc.) to make the letter just slightly plausible, but enough over-the-top claims and an ending in which I asked for money, to make the letter seem maybe like a scam.

      I sent the letter in a sealed envelope, with a plausible but fictitious return address, inside another envelope to a friend who lived in the same city as my brother and could drop it in a local mailbox, timing it so my brother would receive it on April 1st.

      I thought for sure my brother would see right through it, know it was me, and call me to say “ha ha, very funny.” Instead what happened was he called the state FBI and sent them a long email (in his own flowery prose) about how he got the letter, and his suspicions that it might be a scam, and what those suspicions were based on, and how he wanted to help warn others in case lots of people were getting these letters, and so on. He posted my letter and his own email to the FBI to Facebook, side by side, adding a kind of meta element to the prank.

      For days afterward I waited for him to call me, but finally I broke down and called him. I thought he’d immediately connect the dots but again, I had to do some prodding, along the lines of “So…did you get anything weird in the mail lately?” He actually said No the first time. Eventually I got him to make the connection, which resulted in him getting me back the next two years in a row, and he did a pretty good job both times although none of his pranks were as good as this one.

      • Randy M says:

        I claimed to want to recruit him based on the way I watched him walk on a rainy day (as if that was an indicator of how he could move in water)

        That’s gold.

    • BBA says:

      I like trollish true stories. Aside from the one I posted below, the LA Times sent one of their writers to review the emerging restaurant scene in far-off New York.

    • dodrian says:

      My favorite was this NPR segment about an up-and-coming hip-hop artist inspired by the musical Hamilton deciding to write his own musical about his childhood hero – Alan Greenspan.

      The report was just so NPR (and in my defense I was concentrating on driving) that it wasn’t until near the end that I realized it had to be an April Fool’s joke.

  21. johan_larson says:

    Here’s a nifty article giving advice on whether you should go to art school if your intention is to become an artist. There is even a flow chart.

    http://www.muddycolors.com/2019/03/should-you-go-to-art-school-a-flow-chart/

    I suspect one could write something quite similar for people who want to become software developers and are wondering whether to go to college for it. To summarize the summary of the summary, the conventional path through college is the right choice for most people, but those who are very driven and both technically and socially savvy might do better studying on their own, networking, and just plain starting work early.

    Obviously this doesn’t work for more regulated professions, where formal credentials are absolutely required.

    • helloo says:

      I do not suggest this for Computer Science unless they are going for much higher stakes than the typical job (and in that case it generally starts with Startups or LLCs rather than a typical job)

      Resume filters/scanners are a real thing and they very much are used for common requirements of which having a CS degree is definitely one. In fact, I’d suggest to put Computer Science for your major even if it was some specialized program or called differently at your college for this reason.

      Additionally, unless you are looking at panels at DefCon or such, the job prospects will mostly be finding friends at some event and having them ask you if you need a job (a lot of recruiters do ask if you know someone who’s looking for a job so it’s not that implausible but still hardly reliable).

      However, one thing to note is that for even typical job pursers, it still might be a good idea to show some individual “enthusiasm” such as self-publishing some basic open-sourced programs or attending some programming competitions.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yes, if you go the unconventional route, you shouldn’t plan on applying for a first job through the resume mills most employers put up. You want to be in a position to get a job from someone you impressed while you weren’t jumping through professors’ hoops.

        That might be someone on an open source project you contributed to. Or maybe you managed to get some paying clients working freelance. It’s unlikely, but the whole plan requires you to be kind of a special person anyway.

        • helloo says:

          But even then, going to college still might be “worth it” for them.
          This part is simply not true for the software development field as a whole – “However, Art as a career has one major advantage: you can succeed in many many fields of Art without an Art degree. In Art, your portfolio is king.”

          It might be the case for exceptional people, but I don’t think that chart is meant for those exceptional people.
          They really aren’t trying to make those who should go to college very but not exceptionally talented with terms like “play fortnite all day”

    • The Nybbler says:

      The problem with art is the path to success after art school is murky to say the least. The low-end art market is glutted (and certainly doesn’t require art school), the high-end is a rigged lottery, and the middle doesn’t exist.

      For software developers, maybe something like this: Four endpoints — aim for one of the top schools (MIT, Stanford, etc), aim for a good state school, try to join without a degree, or eat chicken pick another field. If you don’t have the aptitude and are only interested in the field because it makes good money… pick another field. Very few should try to join without a degree — you need business/people skills as well as technical skills, plus a group of like-minded people with a startup idea or an early-stage startup. After that… for someone with the aptitude it’s probably _always_ worth it to aim for the top schools. The exception would be if one’s family falls in that unlucky gap between qualifying for significant tuition assistance and being able to afford it outright. Of course aiming doesn’t mean getting, any more than just anyone can get into SVA.

      • johan_larson says:

        The picture for the self-taught is probably a bit more positive than you seem to think. Triplebyte surveyed their client companies to find out what sort of programmers they were interested in, and there was significant interest in the Child Prodigy archetype.

        https://triplebyte.com/blog/who-y-combinator-companies-want#.4ixoc689a

        But a) these are startup companies, not traditional companies, and b) the Child Prodigy programmer is supposed to be very strong. Here’s a description:

        Candidate is very young (e.g. 19 years old) and decided to go straight into work, skipping college. They’ve been programming since a very young age and are very impressive in their ability to solve hard technical problems. They’ve also been prolific with side projects and are mature for their age. It’s likely they’ll found a company in the future when they’re older.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not saying you can’t do it, but I would still advise against going directly to work other than in circumstances like I outlined. It’s going to limit future prospects or require a late entrance into college, so there needs to be (a possibility for) a large payoff to make up for it. Going to work for an early-stage startup is reasonable, but again I think the person needs some business/people skills in that case both for the work and to avoid getting ripped off Zynga-style. Someone who is likely to found a company in the future probably has those skills, or at least the aptitude to develop them, so I don’t think I’m disagreeing with YC. In general, I think those people know who they are.

      • ana53294 says:

        The low-end art market is glutted (and certainly doesn’t require art school), the high-end is a rigged lottery, and the middle doesn’t exist.

        The low-end, which includes stocks for callygraphy and drawings is certainly saturated.

        The middle does exist, though. Someboody needs to draw all the illustrations for all the endless internet advertising, game art needs to be designed, silly T-shirts need to be illustrated.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Or people could go back to not wearing clothes with advertising or jokes printed on them, which is my preference.

          • Nick says:

            As someone in a dress shirt and slacks, I approve.

            ETA: Seriously tho, I can’t tell you the last time I wore a shirt with advertising on it, nor do I own any joke shirts, and I don’t think I’m the worse for it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            95% of my shirt wardrobe is shirts that are puns. I don’t care if you don’t like that, I will happily buy more of them.

        • Where in the art market would you put people who do covers for self-published books?

          • woah77 says:

            Depends on how big the author/publisher for the book is.

          • Winja says:

            If you’re just looking for someone to do the layout, that would probably be a freelance job worth a few hundred dollars.

            Could be more or less depending on the number of rounds of proofing/changes, and if you need more specific things done to go with it, e.g. actual photography, complex illustration work, custom logo, or if you need the book cover to also match other things like a brochure, convention materials, or a website.

          • At the moment I’m thinking in terms of an artist who actually does art for the cover. Designing a pretty cover using clip art I would expect to require less skill and be less expensive.

            Cover artists who work for publishers are, I think, pretty expensive, but a lot authors now self-publish, many don’t expect to make much for their book, and I’m curious about the market for creating their covers. It’s part of the general issue of replacing publishers with markets for the multiple inputs, the same thing my daughter is part of as a free lance online editor.

            Also, I have a novel that needs a cover, and have been working on getting it done.

        • Winja says:

          That middle exists, but it sucks. The pay isn’t great, maybe around $20ish per hour after several years experience, and rhe work is unfullfilling for someone who got into doing graphic design because they enjoy creating art.

          Most of those sorts of jobs involve working for clients who are indifferent, the art has to be turned around quickly, you’re often given bad materials to work with as well as contradictory or vague direction, and your portfolio suffers because it’s really difficult to build a collection of stellar work under those circumstances.

          Most designers, then, will seek avenues to do their own design, either as fine art, viafreelance clients, or by doing work at reduced costs or free if they’re able to have creative control and the client is really cool.

    • Lambert says:

      They should make a back-up flowchart for people who don’t manage to get in.
      People in that situation keep making elementary mistakes, e.g. invading the USSR.

      • johan_larson says:

        You mean what to do if you want to be a software developer and no university will accept you at a price you can afford? Sounds like a decent topic for an article.

    • raj says:

      That flowchart seems awful. Most of the middle options flowing into “go to art school” should actually be “no don’t go to art-school because you aren’t going to succeed and will only burden you or your parents with debt”.

      For computer science the vast majority of people, however ambitious are better off getting a degree – you can always finish it more quickly. Those few who break the mold don’t need to consult a flowchart.

  22. johan_larson says:

    The first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones is now less than two weeks away. This is a good time to register our predictions of the final result of the series.

    At the end of the series, who will sit on the Iron Throne as ruler of Westeros?

    My prediction: Daenerys

    • Aapje says:

      It’s pretty heavily foreshadowed, I would say. Daenerys.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, Daenerys is clearly the default choice. If she doesn’t make it, they’ll have spent an awful lot of time building her up, only to pull the rug out from under her at the last moment. But shenanigans are always possible.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Once upon a time, I would have predicted the rug being pulled out. But the show (and, honestly, the most recent book) both seem to have embraced plot armour and the like.

    • Walter says:

      John Snow. The only person who never wanted to.

    • albatross11 says:

      The Night King

    • John Schilling says:

      If you believe there’s any chance that it won’t be Daenerys Targaryen, then you might as well believe that Marvel et al for-real killed off Spider Man, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of Infinity War and won’t be resurrecting them in Endgame. This is a purely commercial decision based on what will make people most enthusiastic about tuning in to HBO’s Next Big Genre Thing, and there is no outcome other than Daenerys on the Iron Throne that won’t be remembered as profoundly dissatisfying by a large fraction of the fanbase.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s probably for the best. The series delighted early on in thwarting expectations and showing that anyone could die–but if it then goes on to spend significant time building up a protagonist only to have that be for nothing, it turns into a big shaggy dog story. Daenerys needs to do something important to justify the focus on her. Either unite the factions in opposition to her, which would be strange after portraying her sympathetically, die finally ending the walker threat, to unite the land through conquest.

        • John Schilling says:

          Heroic death would be a dramatically and commercially acceptable ending for Daenerys, but the only remaining opponents worthy of such are the Night King and Cersei Lannister. If Somebody has to die ending the Walker Menace so that Somebody Else can take the Iron Throne, then the candidates are so obviously Jon on line 1, Dany on 2, that the reverse would be seen as broadly unsatisfying to fandom. And possibly as outright betrayal to at least a vocal minority.

          Daenerys and Cersei taking each other out of the running so that some other guy can sit in the Iron Throne, betrays the part where the show has built those two Strong Women archetypes up as being incredibly more badass than any of the flimsy males that surround them.

          And really, that last is a problem for any ending that leaves an Iron Throne to be sat upon. Destroying a strong candidate to bring in a weak one is unsatisfying, and a betrayal of the strong candidate’s fan base. None of the men are strong candidates in their own right any more. And the stong women are now basically down to the Good One, the Evil One, the Actual Witch, and a few specialists who don’t really fit.

          OK, a bloodbath so thorough it leaves only Lyanna Mormont to take the throne isn’t entirely out of the question.

          • Nornagest says:

            Cersei? Come on, Cersei’s an insecure drunk, and even if she wasn’t she’d still be an incompetent schemer who murders anyone around her showing signs of a brain. She absolutely wants to be seen as the Strong Woman archetype — hence all the ballgowns with pieces of armor glued to them — but the reality just isn’t there.

            Dany, meanwhile, isn’t a good ruler, but she’s a hell of a conqueror, and her taste in allies is getting better.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Daenerys needs to do something important to justify the focus on her. Either unite the factions in opposition to her, which would be strange after portraying her sympathetically, die finally ending the walker threat, to unite the land through conquest.

          There is lots of foreshadowing that Daenerys may not be a good ruler, and in fact might end up as crazy as her father: she is obsessed with power and her birthright, she refuses to discuss succession, and she likes to burn people too much. But she also has a heroic side: she rides into battles with little concern over her safety, hence a heroic death while fighting the Night King would be an appropriate ending for her arch.

          But for PC reasons I expect a grrl power ending with Daenerys on the Iron Throne, Jon Snow either dead or reduced to her toy boy, Sansa ruling the North, the Greyjoy butch chick ruling the Iron Islands and the Martell mistress ruling Dorne.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is lots of foreshadowing that Daenerys may not be a good ruler, and in fact might end up as crazy as her father: she is obsessed with power and her birthright, she refuses to discuss succession, and she likes to burn people too much.

            That would be the basis for a very good story in the season following the one where Daenerys wins it all, but it is reasonably clear that there isn’t going to be one. Also, s/Daenerys/Sheridan and that should have been the fifth season of “Babylon 5” when they did get one, so never trust the writers to do that properly.

            As a resolution to this one final short season, with just enough time to properly settle the questions immediately at hand, “We’ve just realized that Daenerys is too borderline-murdery to be trusted and so we’re giving the Iron Throne to someone else” would be perceived as a betrayal of a beloved character for any of the possible definitions of “we” that could make the decision. Therefore not commercially viable.

            The all-girl ending would be commercially viable as far as it goes except that you’d have to leave Cersei in charge of Lannister and ignore Tyrell, or conjure previously-unknown female heirs to those houses out of someone’s nether regions. Also, unless we’re dropping Sam Tarley’s plotline entirely, the Maesters will presumably still be an important and male-led force. The Night’s Watch will presumably be irrelevant if not disbanded by the time the curtain falls.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I mean, it’s not really foreshadowing. Dany was a ruler. She was horrible at it. But, in the show, the conclusion I think you are supposed to draw is that she is learning from her failures and has advisers to prevent her from going crazy. For instance, Tyrion trying to convince her to NOT burn entire cities to ash, or not killing the Tarly family.

            So the arc is that Dany will learn to be a good ruler, particularly since she still has the eunuch and the imp. The actual unrealized ending(IMO) is going be that Dany will only rule in Westeros. She should naturally be invading Essos as well, but that’s narratively at odds with fighting the White Walkers, there’s no time to fit it in this mini-series, and it’s entirely unsatisfiying to just leave that as an epilogue.

            Unless the series ends with Dany at the head of a flotilla preparing to invade Essos, sort of like the Season 5 finale when she was preparing to invade Westeros.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I mean, the entire story is trading in fables and fate, and is ultimately extremely conservative (as in traditional).

            Dany is an embodiment of divine right carrying out the will of prophecy in order to ensure the future of humanity. Present day Westeros is an exercise to show what happens when all but a few forget there assigned duties, roles and obligations. Dragons and The Wall exist as fundamental bulwarks against the Winter that is coming. Fire will save us from the terror of winter.

            Dany, as the mother of Dragons, will save humanity. And then her heirs will forget, but the greenseers will not, and the cycle will continue.

          • Lillian says:

            For instance, Tyrion trying to convince her to NOT burn entire cities to ash, or not killing the Tarly family.

            God, Tyrion convincing Danaerys not to just go straight to King’s Landing with their all their dragons and armies for the ultimate “King me!” moment would have been one of the worst moments in the entire series. Were it not for the fact that Tyrion’s own plan proceeded to comprehensively and thoroughly blow up in all their faces, as it damn well should because it was stupid. Seriously, Tyrion’s advice is straight up bad, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find that the show writers know this.

            That applies to the Tarleys too. The entire point of adopting a strategy of generosity towards those who kneel is that you counter-point it by burning to death everyone who doesn’t. That’s what Aegon did, it is what Danaerys is doing, it’s absolutely the correct move. Tyrion’s apparent delusion that you can conquer a continent without covering the land in blood and ash is very annoying to watch, though i suppose necessary to prevent Danaerys from just winning on the opening move.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Sparing the Tarleys(or at least the younger) was the correct thing to do. Both Varys and Tyrion thought Dany was Donald Trump-level stupid for burning BOTH of them alive. Conceivably they do not know about Samwell, who might be able to step into the void, but now there is no one left to rule the Reach.

            The story isn’t really concerned with “King Me.” The entire plot of the story is that one drunk idiot won a war and turned the entire Kingdom to crap, which promptly exploded. What are you going to do if Jon and Dany have kids that turn into Joffrey? What are you going to do if they don’t even have kids and an assassin kills Dany in the middle of the night? What are you going to do if Dany and Jon have a Joffrey WITH DRAGONS?

            What if people resist and Dany just burns everything to the ground? How is that any better than just letting Cersei rule, or letting the Night King take everything?

          • John Schilling says:

            What are you going to do if Dany and Jon have a Joffrey WITH DRAGONS?

            They’ll be keeping Arya around to handle such contingencies, I imagine. And hopefully a lawyer maester who can at need conjure a precedent for Gendry having been the rightful heir all along. But it won’t matter because the story will end before Dany either goes mad or bears a mad heir. All together now:

            AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER, SHUT UP.

          • Lillian says:

            Sparing the Tarleys(or at least the younger) was the correct thing to do. Both Varys and Tyrion thought Dany was Donald Trump-level stupid for burning BOTH of them alive. Conceivably they do not know about Samwell, who might be able to step into the void, but now there is no one left to rule the Reach.

            The Tarleys betrayed House Tyrell to wage war against Danaerys, which means that she would be entirely justified in simply executing them and confiscating their lands right then and there. Instead Danaerys offered them mercy in exchange for their allegiance, under threat of death by dragonfire. They could have kept their lives, their lands, and their titles, but they refused to kneel, and then called her an illegimate foreign usurper to her face. Your take is that the correct thing for Danaerys to do at that point was to reveal that she was bluffing about the death by dragonfire thing, and also to hand over the entire Reach to them because by golly she likes the cut of their jib?

            Are you seriously for real? Because this would completely undermine Danaery’s authority. She’d be signalling that her threats are not serious, that treason is not a crime, and that open defiance will be rewarded. That is no way to conquer a country, and no way to run a feudal monarchy. It’s plain foolishness, and the only reason Tyrion doesn’t see it is that he’s suddenly squeamish. Varys has no such excuse, so i blame bad writing in his case.

            As for the Reach, it has plenty of noble families. It’s ludicrous to suggest that with the execution of the Tarleys there is nobody else left who can take charge. Just have someone look over the genealogical charts to figure out which distant relative of the Tyrells is the legitimate heir, or better yet, appoint someone loyal and competent to replace them, such as the Hightowers. Hell even in the bizarre scenario that the Tarleys were literally the last noble family left in the Reach, Danaerys could have simply use her authority as Queen to appoint more nobles.

            The only sense in which burning the Tarleys is wrong is that it makes Danaerys a bad person. Newsflash: Danaerys is absolutely a bad person and has been so for a long time. She became one when she chose to walk the path of conquest. There is no such thing as a conqueror whose hands are not caked in ash and soaked in blood.

          • CatCube says:

            @Lillian

            OTOH, if Robb Stark hadn’t executed Karstark he’d have had much greater support in the North which may have been enough to keep the Freys grudgingly in line (to say nothing of his blowing off the arranged marriage) and he’d probably still be a going concern as the King in the North.

            Sometimes realpolitik requires that you let people get away with something because you need their support more than you need to make an example of them. Both the Starks and Daenarys have had rigid senses of honor that prevent them from making compromises. Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Dany shouldn’t have even made the threat. There are several characters on the show that are obviously good at “The Game” and none of them would have done something like that, except maybe Cersei, and Cersei is crazy.

            Dany’s obsession with making people kneel and her obsession with being seen as a great leader isn’t a strength, it’s a weakness, and her entire relationship with Jon Stark in the 6th season is the show telling you that.

            If you think that you need to respond with lethal force to every perceived insult, then your preferred king is Joffrey, who tried to butcher an entire crowd because they threw crap at him. This turned out poorly. The show has already shown you what will happen to Dany if she tries to go down this route, she will burn entire cities to ash, just like she wanted to turn Yunkai and Astapor into ash. She will go down in history as the worst, most capricious ruler ever, a thousand times worse than the Mad King, and her kingdom won’t outlive her.

            That doesn’t mean you can’t threaten people. Jaime Lannister won Riverrun without much effort just by threating a Tully baby. But he only went that route after his other efforts failed.

            The internal logic to the show is that you need to form stable political alliances. Just showing up and declaring yourself King is bad news, and doing it WITH DRAGONS and expecting something good to come of it because it worked out for someone else is Cargo Cult.

          • Lillian says:

            @CatCube: The situation with the Karstarks was entirely different. They did not betray the Starks, all they did was commit some war crimes in a fit of anger. If the Karstarks had indeed switched sides, warred against him, and then stood unrepentantly refusing his forgiveness, then Robb would not have not just been justified in executing them, but foolish not to do so.

            @A Definite Beta Guy: Committing treason against Danaerys’ allies and waging war against her is not a perceived insult. It is a very clear and unambiguous wrong that every successful sovereign in the history of the world has been inclined to punish harshly. Offering them mercy was certainly wise, but mercy was in fact offered and it was in fact refused. What else are you do with unrepentant traitors who have made it abundantly clear they will spare no effort to continuing to war against you?

            Moreover it is an established fact of the setting that offering mercy to all who kneel, and dragonfire to all who do not, is a tried and proven strategy for conquering Westeros. That is precisely what Aegon the Conqeror is famous for doing. Tyrion wanted Aegon the Conqueror 2: Queen Edition, well that’s exactly what he got. Aegon too would have burned the Tarleys. In real life, it’s doubtful that William the Conqueror would have done any differently, while Ghenghis Khan wouldn’t even have offered any of them mercy, but simply burned the lot of them right then and there.

            It is true that you need to make political alliances to succeed. Danaerys has done this and formed alliances with the the Dothraki, the Unsullied, the Dorne, and the Reach. Her win condition at the point where she has formed this vast coalition and is sitting in Dragonstone with her dragons and a huge army is “Depose the enemy Queen”.

            The reason that is the victory condition, is that Cersei is the centre of gravity of organized resistance against Danaerys. As Clausewitz tells us, that is the point that must be struck and destroyed to win. Thus the reason why they should have gone all in on invading King’s Landing as advocated by Danaerys’ allies. Tyrion argued against it because he was scared of the collateral damage, and a direct consequence of heeding his advice is they lost their fleet and much of the Reach, including its capital of Highgarden.

            This was entirely predictable. When you enact a plan that does not advance you towards your win condition, and indeed that actively avoids having to do so, you are setting yourself up for failure. There was an opportunity to win the war by coup de main, and it was lost because Tyrion had not the stomach for it.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Tyrion lived through two civil wars, the first one caused by Daenerys’ mad father and philandering brother, the second one caused by his own idiot nephew who thought that beheading Ned Stark (who had publicly confessed treason, mind you) was a good idea.

            And the second civil war was not decided on the battlefield, but by the assassination of the major players: Renly Baratheon, Rob Stark (who had himself fucked up by beheading Lord Karstark) and eventually even King Joffrey. Hence Tyrion understands that while Daenerys could probably easily torch her way to the Iron Throne with their dragons, Dothraki and Unsullied, she wouldn’t last long on it without the support of the major noble houses, and summarily executing their lords is not the way of winning such support.

            The Tarleys betrayed House Tyrell to wage war against Danaerys, which means that she would be entirely justified in simply executing them and confiscating their lands right then and there. Instead Danaerys offered them mercy in exchange for their allegiance,

            The Tyrell (after having switched side multiple times) were in open rebellion against the monarch of Westeros Queen Cersei, who the Tarleys were still loyal to, while they had no formal obligation towards Danaerys. She could have imprisoned them as enemy hostages or ordered the old man to join the Nightwatch, as Tyrion suggested, summarily executing them by fire instead reinforced the view that many nobles had of her as a bloodthirsty tyrant.

            This was entirely predictable. When you enact a plan that does not advance you towards your win condition, and indeed that actively avoids having to do so, you are setting yourself up for failure. There was an opportunity to win the war by coup de main, and it was lost because Tyrion had not the stomach for it.

            There is no victory condition, the Game never ends, and Tyrion understand this. Even if Daenerys manages to sit her butt on the Iron Throne, there is no guarantee that nobody puts some strangler in her wine at the next wedding. Joffrey was killed by his allies because, even though he had pretty much won the war of the five kings, he was seen as tyrannical and insane. The same could happen to Daenerys.

          • John Schilling says:

            Committing treason against Danaerys’ allies and waging war against her is not a perceived insult. It is a very clear and unambiguous wrong that every successful sovereign in the history of the world has been inclined to punish harshly.

            So, I guess Roosevelt and Churchill were supposed to genocidally exterminate the RSI in 1943. If they’d had the stones to follow through with that, they wouldn’t be regarded as the losers they obviously are. Also, the allies might have won WWII and we wouldn’t be stuck living in one of those dismal Hitler-wins timelines.

            Or maybe you don’t find those dismal, and more to the point, why are you lamenting Daenerys’s failures? Aren’t you supposed to be on Team Cersei? Your proposals, at least, are well-suited to her combination of ruthless evil, short-term pragmatism, and long-term doomed stupidity. Successful sovereigns, mostly find ways for their enemies to lose battles without losing face in the process.

          • Lillian says:

            @vV_Vv: Joffrey was a vicious little shit to people who were loyal to him. He mistreated them, abused them, murdered them. This is not even approximately what i’m advocating Danaerys do. What i’m saying she should do is accept the allegiance of everyone who gives it, and kill those who refuse. Obviously anyone who has given their allegiance should be treated with courtesy and respect, only an idiot abuses his own allies. You punish your enemies, reward your allies, and encourage your enemies to become your allies by treating well those who do so.

            Also when i say “win condition” i mean for the war currently being fought, not for everything forever. Nothing ever wins you everything forever. Even when if you die at an advanced age, wealthy, beloved, and secure in your power, you will still be judged in how well you provided for your legacy.

            @John Schilling:

            So, I guess Roosevelt and Churchill were supposed to genocidally exterminate the RSI in 1943. If they’d had the stones to follow through with that, they wouldn’t be regarded as the losers they obviously are. Also, the allies might have won WWII and we wouldn’t be stuck living in one of those dismal Hitler-wins timelines.

            No, you should be supposing that i’d argue the allies should have executed Benito Mussolini if they had captured him and found him as unapologetic as Himmler. You know what, though? I take my statement back, it should have been stated as a tendency among Medieval feudal sovereigns specifically, not every sovereign everywhere ever. The political calculus always changes with the situation, social structures, and material circumstances. Thus the difference between what Roosevelt and Churchill did in Italy, and what Ghenghis Khan did in Western Xia.

            Or maybe you don’t find those dismal, and more to the point, why are you lamenting Daenerys’s failures? Aren’t you supposed to be on Team Cersei? Your proposals, at least, are well-suited to her combination of ruthless evil, short-term pragmatism, and long-term doomed stupidity. Successful sovereigns, mostly find ways for their enemies to lose battles without losing face in the process.

            Cersei gets so focused on destroying her enemies she never gives them a way out, which is obviously stupid and self-defeating, and i have repeatedly commended Danaerys for not making that mistake.

            The rubric i’m using for what Danearys should do as conquering queen is what i understand successful conquerors did do in real life under sufficiently similar circumstances. Looking at William the Conqueror in specific, there doesn’t appear to be any lord who stood defiantly and refused to kneel when captured by William. Those who had rebellion in their hearts either knelt and rebelled once the king was safely away, or else fled before they were captured.

            When William faced a rebellion where he couldn’t capture its leaders, he resorted to brutally laying waste to their lands and people, resulting in the Harrying of the North. The chronicler Orderic Vitalis wrote: “The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty. This made a real change. To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of starvation. I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.”

            Though brutal, it did work to put an end to rebellion in Northumbria. Edgar Ætheling, the leader of the rebellion, fled to the Scotland, where the king married his sister. However after an agreement between the kings of Scotland and England, Edgar was expelled from his brother-in-law’s court and forced to submit to William.

            Again there just doesn’t seem to be any cases where a lord stood defiantly before William and told him to go fuck himself. They all knelt, even if many did so falsely, presumably because none of them wanted to face the consequences of not doing doing so. This i always assumed was execution, given William’s resort to considerable brutality in the Harrying of the North. Though i will acknowledge that merely stripping them of their lands and titles is a plausible intermediate option, it seems nobody ever tried to find out, so we’re left with speculation.

      • vV_Vv says:

        If you believe there’s any chance that it won’t be Daenerys Targaryen, then you might as well believe that Marvel et al for-real killed off Spider Man, Black Panther, and the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of Infinity War and won’t be resurrecting them in Endgame.

        The nice thing about Game of Thrones was that it defied expectations, unlike all those bland Disney Hollywood shows. But after they overtook the books and they got stuck with Hollywood hacks writing the plot, I guess that the ending would be trivial.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          The thing is, there’s two kinds of expectations the audience can have from a work of fiction.

          Expectations of the first kind are expectations that the story will follow reassuring tropes. There’s a final climactic confrontation, and it’s bigger than any of the ones that came before. The hero gets the girl. The collateral property damage’s lingering consequences don’t come back to haunt the protagonist in the epilogue. These are things we crave on an emotional level, and precisely because we crave them, stories that distort the plot to pander to them tend to be weak stories.

          Expectations of the second kind are expectations that the story will be artistically good. Good art features a setting with reasonably consistent internal logic. Good art has characters the audience can relate to. Good art (usually) has a clearly recognizable plot with recurring themes, identifiable character arcs, and foreshadowing. Good art gives its characters fates that are thematically appropriate to the character development previously given them. The precise manner in which the story gives us these things is negotiable, but we reasonably expect the story to have them.

          A very good work of art usually violates some of our expectations of the first kind (e.g. the fate of Ned Stark)… but it can’t violate expectations of the second kind without becoming bad art. Craft an ending that doesn’t form the logical endpoint of your characters’ story arcs, and it [i]shows[/i], it’s conspicuously ill-designed.

          • J Mann says:

            The ending doesn’t have to be the logical endpoint of Danerys’ story arc, any more than the ending of The Lord of the Rings was the logical endpoint of Boromir’s story arc. Boromir’s ended earlier, and was echoed in Faramir’s and Aragorn’s arc. (And in Smeagol’s, Frodo’s and Sam’s, I guess.)

            My guess is the dragons die, and Dany does, heroically, and that if anyone sits the Iron Throne, it’s Jon.

      • brad says:

        HBO ruined ASoIaF.

        • Nick says:

          Most criticism of the show I hear is directed at the writers. Is that what you mean, or do you really mean the network?

          • brad says:

            I don’t mean HBO’s executives are directly or solely responsible. What I mean is the existence of the show as a phenomenon ruined the possibility of any kind of happy ending for we readers impossible. The only end of the story we’ll ever get is the show and everything after the showrunners ran out of books sucks. I don’t expect that to change this season.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think the problem is with GRRM. He let the story drag on and on. Some of the volumes, such as Crows, have a lot of material that could have been edited out. I wish his editor had insisted on sticking to the original three-volume structure. Even five might have worked. But it’s headed for seven volumes, and may not stop there.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s hard to stop when every new book results in a dump truck full of cash being dropped off at your mansion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That holds no water, as he isn’t actually producing any books.

            He’ll produce a book when he is damn good and ready, if ever. He will end the series on those same terms. The cash he has already earned allows him to do this, rather than the other way around.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s the difference between the third dump truck and the sixth.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @johan: And Wheel of Time had… 13? When it hit the difficult writer’s block problem of Robert Jordan dying.
            These things happen in genre fantasy.

          • J Mann says:

            I love the bloat, but it seems to have trapped him in a situation where he can’t write quickly, if at all.

          • Nick says:

            I’m sure if Martin just needed to crank out $BIGNUM page novels he could do it. (He’s written a couple in the meanwhile, after all.) I think the usual explanation is right, namely that he’s written himself into knots and needs to untangle them. That article lists Meereen, apparently all but solved, Winterfell, which has surely got to be solved by now*, and Dragonstone, which I bet is the one he’s most stuck on.

            *Kill Stannis and his army. Done. Solved. You won’t have Brienne there, but she’s got better things to do anyway.

          • dick says:

            From occasionally reading GRRM’s blog, it seems like he enjoys going to cons, hanging out with SFF types, and enjoying good food and drink quite a lot, and his sudden celebrity and wealth is affording an awful lot of opportunity to not write very much.

          • cassander says:

            I actually sympathize with GRRM. I think he’s written himself into a corner (he’s admitted as much) and doesn’t know how to get out of it. I think he’s also probably depressed about how he’s screwed up his magnum opus and doesn’t know how to fix it, which of course makes writing it even harder, and since he’s under no actual pressure because of his finances, the end keeps receding. And as much as I want those last two books, I can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Just as she is about to ascend the throne, Daenerys has a change of heart, and calls for all assembled to remember the true heroes: the common people who have suffered so much in all of these wars between nobles. She has her dragon slag the Iron Throne, and institutes Democracy throughout the realm.

      • cassander says:

        that’s just stupid enough to be plausible.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        This is what I’m expecting, essentially. For the books anyway. Its themes are all about how everyone’s oppressed by unfair hierarchies and social mores. Fate and prophecy, too, can be oppressive. I expect Martin will end the series with characters rejecting their subservience to arbitrary impositions and creating a new society that allows them to flourish as individuals.

        • albatross11 says:

          This would have been more plausible if posted yesterday.

        • bullseye says:

          Democracy is almost totally alien to Westeros, and it’s hard to imagine the majority of the population having informed opinions about King’s Landing politics.

          In the books, Tyrion visits a city (I forget which one) that has three rulers sharing power; any two can veto the acts of the third. He thinks that would have been a good idea for the Targaryens to deal with their madness.

          What I expect is for Tyrion to talk Daenerys into actually doing this, with the three being Daenerys, Jon, and Tyrion himself (I’m pretty sure he’s a Targaryen bastard).

        • The Red Foliot says:

          @bullseye
          Here is a random speculation of what I think might happen (keep in mind that I am talking about the books only):
          The white walkers and old night in conjunction with the civil war all but destroy Westerosi society. Most of the power holders are forced to put aside their differences in order to combat the threat. Some of them die. Others undergo a character change whereby their political ambitions, overshadowed by the threat of extinction, are seen as being petty, and are dismissed or forgotten. In a new spirit of fellowship, the survivors agree to abolish the iron throne and to institute some kind of noble republic, with provisions even for the commoners to have a say. And because many of its founders are dwarfs and women, they serve as role models for future generations of their kind, and also act to discourage negative stereotypes.

    • The Nybbler says:

      No one. The throne itself is destroyed in the final battle.

    • J Mann says:

      Daenerys dies, the Seven Kingdoms are not reunited, and the Throne is either melted down (again) or merely a curiousity. Sansa is King in the North.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Not only do I want Sansa to be a Queen with a god bit of power (probably an evil Queen), but I want her knowledge of heraldry to somehow contribute to her rise).

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, it would be a very GOT-y ending if we ended up with all the major royal characters (Dani, Jon, Cersei) dying off, and Sansa becoming a younger, non-incestuous version of Cersei, sitting on the Iron Throne. The smile on her face when she saw Ramsay Bolton fed to his own dogs implied she’d do okay in the evil queen role.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Plot-wise it should be Jon Snow or Tyrion, but I’d say Daenerys because it’s $CURRENT_YEAR muh strong independent womyn.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        It’s a little late in the game to introduce Tyrion’s possible secret Targaryen lineage. The books might still go in that direction, but the show is probably locked out of that.

        • vV_Vv says:

          He doesn’t need a Targaryen lineage, the Targaryen are a disgraced dynasty, and the only surviving members are Daenerys and, secretly, Jon.

          Tyrion, on the other hand, as the youngest sibling of Queen Cersei and uncle of the last two kings, is second in line of succession to the Iron Throne, and I don’t see Jamie becoming king (he’ll probably get a heroic sacrifice to atone for his sins).

          Sure, Tyrion is also disgraced because he has been convicted of Joffrey’s murder (though by a Kangaroo court) and is suspected of Tywin’s murder (which he did, though there are no witnesses and I don’t think there was ever a trial), and he pleaded alliance to Daenerys, but if Daenerys dies I don’t see any reason why Westeros nobles should pick Jon or somebody else over Tyrion. Jon doesn’t seem to have any desire to sit on the Iron Throne, and Varys and Sansa would probably advise him to support Tyrion.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          Hmm. I’ve always expected that Daenerys and Jon will go off to make googly-eyes at one another, and perhaps go back to Essos to kick ass, while Tyrion rules.

          All these years of Tywin saying “You’re a Lannister,” alternating with “You’re no son of mine,” and they aren’t going to make clear what everyone knows?

          • John Schilling says:

            Hmm. I’ve always expected that Daenerys and Jon will go off to make googly-eyes at one another, and perhaps go back to Essos to kick ass

            Which ass, exactly? The show has spent the past seven seasons conspicuously failing to develop any faction or culture on Essos that hasn’t already given its enthusiastic and undying allegiance to Daenerys, had its ass thoroughly kicked by Daenerys, or been dismissed as Mostly Harmless. It’s a bit late now to expect the audience to believe that there’s anything there worth conquering or any prize greater than the Iron Throne. “P.S. Essos was always the really big important part of the world, we just didn’t bother showing you any of that” isn’t going to be dramatically satisfying.

            And Tyrion has been effectively neutered into the “enthusiastic and undying allegiance to Daenerys” camp himself, so either he gets to die heroically or he gets a subordinate position under Daenerys.

          • Michael Handy says:

            I say they both die. Their child is born out of dragonfire as they sacrifice themselves, and takes the throne with Tyrion and The Spider as regents.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            Well, gee John, it was kind of a jokey comment meant to imply that they’d get out of the way for whom they decided would be the best ruler. It also seems, though, like there’s going to need to be some work done in actually getting the good folk of Essos to live right and just lives, and not slip into bad old ways. As wartime turns to peacetime, actually bringing about some new world order might be a button Dany can help push out Essos way. But mostly I’m thinking what might happen is that Dany and Jon, if they don’t die, will step aside for the very good and noble reason that Tyrion would be the best and wisest ruler. Tyrion’s allegiance to Dany makes sense when a war needs to be won, but once the rallying and killing and dying is done, I can see Dany thinking she’s learned a lot and grown as a person and maybe Tyrion ruling would be better.

            I don’t care which of the three winds up with the throne, and since they are all 1) good people who probably want mostly the same things, and 2) not Cersei, it doesn’t matter much except for some slightly more or less satisfying feelings among the audience. Actually, I’d pick Samwell Tarly.

          • John Schilling says:

            But mostly I’m thinking what might happen is that Dany and Jon, if they don’t die, will step aside for the very good and noble reason that Tyrion would be the best and wisest ruler.

            None of these people will be any kind of ruler, because they don’t exist and the consensus fantasy where we all pretend they exist (and agree on what we pretend they are doing) will come to an end before they’ve had time to do any serious ruling in Westeros. There will be a few million private fantasies about what happens after that but, A: Dany’s fans are confident that she is the best and wisest ruler and will be quite irate with HBO if they think HBO’s writers “cheated” to deny her that, and B: Tyrion’s fans have either drifted away from the show or are OK with him being Dany’s subordinate and C: fans of realistic long-term extrapolation of sociopolitical trends in quasi-medieval dynastic realms are too small a demographic to matter to HBO’s decisionmakers.

            They might still matter to George R. R. Martin, if he gets around to finishing the books in this lifetime.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      As far as I can tell, it’ll be whomever that Mormont kid picks.

    • Clutzy says:

      Daenerys and Jon Snow have to be the favorites. I prefer Bran as my favorite.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Underdog option:
      Sansa and Tyrion Lannister

      Jon and Dany kill the Night King, Dany dies, Jon rides off into the Far North.

    • dick says:

      Jon and Dany and the Night King die in the final battle, Arya dies killing Cersei, Euron tries to take the throne by kidnapping Sansa but gets killed by Theon, Tyrion and Varus hash out a last-minute compromise between the surviving members of the major houses to to install (with a council of advisors made up of all the decent characters who haven’t died yet) the only person left with royal blood who’s untainted by politics: Gendry.

    • proyas says:

      At the end of the series, who will sit on the Iron Throne as ruler of Westeros?
      It won’t be Daenerys.

  23. themandrake says:

    Some evidence that Scott Adams is a superforecaster : https://bit.ly/2HPw0Wa

    • Aapje says:

      Please don’t make low effort comments like this and explain what you are referring to.

      • dick says:

        Also Scott Adams seems to make a ton of random predictions, so it’s not good enough to find a coupe of hits. I recall something about Trump taking 60+% of the vote…

  24. BBA says:

    Matt Yglesias has a piece out today on the “Great Awokening,” the sharp leftward shift on social issues among white liberals in the past five or so years. He draws the comparison to the Great Awakening of the 1840s, which means if the 2020s are like the 1850s we’ll see increasing levels of political violence, and then if the 2030s are like the 1860s…well, you know.

    I read it and I can’t help but think of Yglesias’s dire predictions of the fall of democracy from 2015.

    • Clutzy says:

      Not really sure that is the main thrust of the story. It seems like he noticed a thing and put a lot of graphs. Its actually a pretty good, non-hysterical Yglesias article. A rarity for sure, but he doesn’t make many conclusions. And the comparison to the Great Awakening may be apt (I don’t know much about how it developed). Demographic changes which have solidified and will continue to solidify the Democrats as the “party of minorities” will continue to drive the remaining white Democrats to become ever more defensive of their political allies. I think this is what has largely driven the changes in Democratic white’s opinions a sort of defensiveness.

      You see this similarly on the right with the way successful Republicans talk about unsuccessful white people in Ohio and West Virginia (as examples). Its an international conspiracy in free trade that has made these people unsuccessful, not that they are stupid or lazy or both. People don’t like to think their political allies are stupid and lazy, and since white liberals’ allies increasingly are minorities that generally perform poorly, they will invent theories to avoid the more likely reasons for the failing parts of the coalition.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        You see this similarly on the right with the way successful Republicans talk about unsuccessful white people in Ohio and West Virginia (as examples). Its an international conspiracy in free trade that has made these people unsuccessful, not that they are stupid or lazy or both.

        If we’re talking about factory workers and coal miners here, these are not stupid people. And definitely not lazy. They’re average people. Are we going to start calling average people with 100 IQs “stupid” now?

        And they were doing just fine. And then the free trade rules and the WTO and the outsourcing and all that and the factories closed, and the heavy environmental regulations and the coal mines closed.

        Maybe it’s not 100% the fault of a 50-year-old out-of-work coal miner that he didn’t #LearnToCode?

        • Clutzy says:

          I’m not saying that coal miners and factory workers are stupid (although I would contend with your notion that the majority are 100 IQ people, IMO a virtue of the old US industrial economy was that it created high paying jobs for those in the 90-100 range so long as they were hard working), I am saying that people create excuses for those in their coalition that are doing poorly.

          The fact that they create excuses doesn’t mean they have to be wrong. Many conspiracy theories are correct. It is important to note, however, that most Republicans were all aboard the free trade wagon before those people switched to their coalition. White Democrats were more moderate on whiteness when their coalition was majority white (and included poorly performing whites who disprove their current narrative).

        • vV_Vv says:

          Maybe it’s not 100% the fault of a 50-year-old out-of-work coal miner that he didn’t #LearnToCode?

          One argument is that the typical IQ 100, 50-year-old coal miner did in fact #LearnToCode(or some other upper-middle class job), or at least his children did, and they moved to the coasts when the coal mines, car factories, etc. closed.

          Those who remained in the Rust Belt are disproportionately the stupid, lazy, insane or addicted ones who really don’t have any other options, and probably weren’t even doing so great when the coal mines and factories were there, but used to be a minority benefiting from various kinds of local-level redistribution (not just financial, but also of social capital), while now they are the majority and therefore their local communities are dysfunctional.

          EDIT:

          I got this argument from this discussion on the subreddit.

          • woah77 says:

            I feel like this argument is, while possibly accurate, one of the ones that wouldn’t be acceptable to make about any other group. If, for example, someone made a similar argument that Blacks who join gangs were part of the stupid, lazy, insane, and or addicted population because the blacks who were hard working and had talent moved out of such areas, it would be met with immediate resistance as a racist explanation. I don’t see a functional difference between the rust belt and the black projects from the perspective of work availability or opportunities, only from a racial narrative perspective.

            I guess I’m saying that even if that argument is correct, that doesn’t matter, because we should still be trying to fix things.

          • vV_Vv says:

            If, for example, someone made a similar argument that Blacks who join gangs were part of the stupid, lazy, insane, and or addicted population because the blacks who were hard working and had talent moved out of such areas, it would be met with immediate resistance as a racist explanation.

            Oh I know that, but it doesn’t imply that the argument is not correct.

            I guess I’m saying that even if that argument is correct, that doesn’t matter, because we should still be trying to fix things.

            But in order to fix things we must first recognize the underlying causes of the problem.

          • Clutzy says:

            @woah77

            A major component of modern discourse is saying things about white people that would be unacceptable to say about anyone else (except sometimes Jews and Asians you are sometimes allowed to talk about them that way, depending).

          • woah77 says:

            I think that’s a reasonable position if we’re willing to acknowledge the problem across multiple populations. If not, focusing on the “root cause” just seems like an excuse to be inflammatory to your favorite out group.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I mean, we can play the Oppression Olympics all the way and argue who is more unprivileged between a Redneck opioid addict, a black gangster or a Mexican drug mule, but this doesn’t solve any problem.

            I think it’s best to recognize that in the developed world there are less and less opportunities for people who have low intelligence, low conscientiousness and low conformity, and if these traits are highly heritable and correlate with race, geography, culture, etc., so be it.

          • woah77 says:

            I mean, that’s my preference for a starting place. “These things are hard to escape. They are heritable. So how can we improve life for these people given that we can’t just educate them into success.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            These things are hard to escape. They are heritable. So how can we improve life for these people given that we can’t just educate them into success.

            Yes, and my solution to that is “simple jobs for simple folk,” like factory work. And “but the free market!” is not an adequate rebuttal when the market is not free. We cared or pretended to care enough about these people to enact labor and environmental regulations to protect their health and safety. This increases the cost of their labor. When we simultaneously drop trade barriers against countries that do not care about labor and environmental regulations, e.g. China, and the factories flee to those places, this is not a case of the poor stupid factory workers failing to keep up with the market. This is something the government did to them by interfering in the market, and can correct.

            I also reject the narrative that:

            most Republicans were all aboard the free trade wagon before those people switched to their coalition.

            The Republicans you see on TV were, absolutely. The people voting Republican, not so much. This was a disconnect between the leadership and the base. The base was not enamored of free trade and mass immigration. Trump did not persuade the voters that tariffs are good and mass immigration is bad. He said loudly and forcefully the things the base was already saying. This is why during the primaries his numbers kept going up while Jeb “Illegal Immigration is an Act of Love” Bush tanked.

          • Clutzy says:

            The Republicans you see on TV were, absolutely. The people voting Republican, not so much. This was a disconnect between the leadership and the base. The base was not enamored of free trade and mass immigration. Trump did not persuade the voters that tariffs are good and mass immigration is bad. He said loudly and forcefully the things the base was already saying. This is why during the primaries his numbers kept going up while Jeb “Illegal Immigration is an Act of Love” Bush tanked.

            That is certainly true. But white democrats are basically the “leadership” of the Democrat party just like Jeb and his folk were the face of the Republican party pre-Trump.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            "Yes, and my solution to that is “simple jobs for simple folk,” like factory work. And “but the free market!” is not an adequate rebuttal...."
            Looks like a worthy proposal to me that should have either bi-partisan support, or result in a new party alignment.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think there is always a “boiling off” phenomenon going on for anyplace where it looks like there’s not much future. The people who can leave mostly do; those who are left behind are disproportionately old, unable to do new kinds of work, sick, tied to local family concerns, etc. As with most discussions of group differences, that doesn’t mean everyone who leaves is smarter than everyone who stays, just that overall, the mean level of {intelligence, ambition, youth, health, freedom to move around} is noticably lower in the ones who stay than in the ones who leave.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          “…Maybe it’s not 100% the fault of a 50-year-old out-of-work coal miner that he didn’t #LearnToCode?”

          And maybe William Julius Wilson (who argued that the social ills of the black inner-city poor weren’t caused by a “culture of poverty” or “IQ” but by economics — specifically, the disappearance of good blue-collar jobs) was right, and in an AMAZING COINCIDENCE!!! when rural whites face similar losses of jobs, they experience similar social ills.

          • Lillian says:

            This reminds me of you describing how you watched good upper working and lower middle class jobs disappear for the urban black community around the time the crack epidemic hit, and it struck me that it sounded exactly like the rural and small town white communities and the opioid epidemic. From the outside it looks like drugs destroyed these communities, but no they were actually destroyed by the loss of decent jobs, the drugs are just ravaging the ruins because the survivors have nothing better.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I am also in favor of meaningful jobs for blacks, yes.

          • Enkidum says:

            There is a nice saying to the effect of black people don’t have jobs because they do drugs and have a terrible social fabric, whereas white people do drugs and have a terrible social fabric because they don’t have jobs.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “I am also in favor of meaningful jobs for blacks, yes”

            I never thought that ypu thought otherwise, I’d wager that many efforts – infrastructure projects and jobs programs, more universal financial aid to see physicians, that would help black and white Americans would be popular with most citizens, and the media focus on those few areas where interests don’t align (admissions preferences to some elite schools) effect so very few that it’s harmful.
            The way forward seems obvious to me: Eliminate means testing, make “welfare” universal (yes that means many are effectively writing checks to themselves), and re-start the WPA.
            Free trade and immigration are more contentious, but I’d still wager that more limits than are in effect currently on both (as advocated by Sanders before 2015 and Trump in 2015 and ’16) still probably have majority support.
            Just yesterday I heard Dave Ross on CBS radio plead “How about the Republicans move left on healthcare, and the Democrats move right on immigration, deal?”, and while I don’t expect our legislators to accept that, I think most citizens would take that deal.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            When you have socialized health care, moving Right on immigration is a very rational idea, because taxes only have to pay for citizens’s health care, not foreigners coming in to use your social safety net.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’d wager that many efforts – infrastructure projects and jobs programs, more universal financial aid to see physicians, that would help black and white Americans would be popular with most citizens

            These things are popular right up until you start talking about costs. Programs that target even 3-4% of the population immediately run into the tens of billions of dollars.

    • hiblick says:

      The latest copy of Reason Magazine had a similar comparison to the 1840s, called “The Telegraph Was America’s First Singularity”. The thesis was that better and more widespread distribution of differing views forced the slavery question, and radicalized politics, just like now. (Mostly it’s a quaint and idiosyncratic look at the Locofocos as a sort of proto-libertarians).

    • eyeballfrog says:

      A key point to understanding this is that “racial resentment,” as used by political scientists, is a term of art that largely measures political views rather than any kind of interpersonal animosity.

      Have they considered not using “terms of art” that are extremely loaded?

      One traditional factor that goes into the racial resentment mix, for example, is the General Social Survey question that asks whether you agree or disagree with the statement “Irish, Italians, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up; blacks should do the same without special favors.”
      This is, in fact, a very revealing query in terms of your understanding of the history of race and ethnicity in the United States. About a third of African Americans disagree with it, which is more than the share of the overall white public but substantially less than the 45 percent of white liberals who say they disagree.

      Alternatively, have they considered not starting from the assumption that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Have they considered not using “terms of art” that are extremely loaded?

        Considered and rejected, I’m afraid.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        As someone who might vote ‘disagree’ on that question, it’s because in light of present social rhetoric and the nature of the battlelines drawn over the past few decades…

        That survey question is itself a loaded question

        Because a large fraction of the people who say “blacks should pull themselves up” are the same people who would be saying “blacks shouldn’t rise at all; they should stay down on the bottom where I’m convinced they belong” if it were socially acceptable to say that and it was an available answer choice. That chunk of respondents might not be here, but they are very real.

        The same people who opposed desegregation and the removal of legal barriers actively prohibiting blacks from advancing in society back in the 1960s became a core constituency for the same major party that decided to adapt a form of libertarianism as its economic philosophy in the 1980s.

        Thus, while libertarianism isn’t inherently racist and racists aren’t inherently libertarian, the fact that both groups live under the same political tent in America changes the landscape. Ever since the late 1970s, there has been a thriving market for rhetoric that mixes libertarian sentiments and racist sentiments. This rhetoric has to keep flowing, or one group might lose its willingness to support the other’s policies and abandons the coalition.

        Mindful of the way this has colored conservative political language in the US for the past 40-50 years, when I see the above statement I tend to look at it as a euphemism for “now that my own ancestors have safely climbed the ladder to join the ingroup, it’s time to kick it down behind us and start expelling the new outgroup, but I don’t want to say that in so many words.”

        Because it’s exactly the kind of political rhetoric that is used to mobilize that sentiment in real-world elections. If you want the Ku Klux Klan to endorse your political campaign, one good way to do it is to say in real life “blacks should work their way to the top like the Irish and Italians and Jews…”

        Because you will be signalling to them that you’re quietly on the same side of the debate as they are, and THEY are usually savvy enough to notice that.

        • Aapje says:

          Because a large fraction of the people who say “blacks should pull themselves up” are the same people who would be saying “blacks shouldn’t rise at all; they should stay down on the bottom where I’m convinced they belong” if it were socially acceptable to say that and it was an available answer choice.

          And the fairly substantial percentage of blacks who agree with this want to keep themselves down???

          This outgroup homogeneity fallacy that you apply is extremely noxious, because it is heavily dependent on a subjective point of view where it is assumed, without strong evidence, that certain interventions will help black people rise out of poverty and that this is obvious.

          Meanwhile, on the conservative side you have people who have a different view: that it is excessive welfare and coddling that is keeping people down. They could do equally biased studies and write equally biased articles, where they accuse progressives are falsely claiming that they want black to do better, but that they actually want to keep the black (wo)man down.

          If you want conservatives to not see you as evil and treat you with good faith, you might want to do the same to them.

          If you want the Ku Klux Klan to endorse your political campaign, one good way to do it is to say in real life “blacks should work their way to the top like the Irish and Italians and Jews…”

          This makes no sense because the KKK was not happy at all with Catholics doing well. They were strongly opposed to Catholicism. They would not be telling Catholics to work their way to the top, but to convert to Protestantism or GTFO.

          So from my point of view you are 0 out of 2 with your comment: misunderstanding both of the outgroups that you discuss.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They could do equally biased studies and write equally biased articles, where they accuse progressives are falsely claiming that they want black to do better, but that they actually want to keep the black (wo)man down.

            Indeed, there’s even a name for this viewpoint, the “liberal plantation”.

        • albatross11 says:

          Simon Jester:

          Can you point to some kind of evidence about what fraction of people who answer “yes” to that loaded survey question actually believe that “blacks shouldn’t rise at all; they should stay down on the bottom where I’m convinced they belong”?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Why would anyone waste time signalling to the 12 KKK members who aren’t Feds in order to win elections?

    • Aftagley says:

      I’m calling it now: don’t trust any graph that’s even remotely affiliated with politics in the Trump era, especially concerning those of us on the left. We hate Trump, we hate everything he stands for, and if we’re asked any question that can be remotely tied to Trump, we will answer affirmatively in the anti-trump side.

      I don’t actually think that the left as a whole cares as much about race/immigration/whatever as these polls claim; it’s all just an artifact of disliking Trump.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I doubt this, although I don’t know the ‘We’ here is theoretical or actual.

        Immigration/Race and the human/civil rights issues surrounding it became more and more prominent after 2012, not 2016. Attitudes about Trump are a reflection of those values versus the fact that he made immigration enforcement the centerpiece of his campaign [albeit not his administration]

        • Aftagley says:

          The we is actual, I’m not trying to strawman anyone.

          I’m also not trying to dispute that perhaps attitudes have changed on these topics, but any polling data of democratic positions since trump became a dominant force in US politics (i’d put it at 2015) is going to be tainted. His very presence is activating democrats and hardening them into positions that I’d argue they wouldn’t have thought about were he not in the picture. I’m also not confident how strongly these positions continue to be defended in a post-trump era.

          TLDR, there’s likely an actual leftward shift, but I think it’s magnitude is being distorted but the magnitude of negative feelings around trump. The we is actual, I’m not trying to strawman anyone.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            I think part of it is that Trump is a very good advertisement for why to do the opposite of many of the things Trump wants to do.

            If you find Trump bragging about grabbing women by the pussy to be revolting, it’s a natural time to pause, reflect, and go “Shit, Bill Clinton sleeping with his interns was not okay. Nor is [Democratic Politician] getting caught groping women in the present. In fact, the whole culture of jocks of any political alignment whatsoever treating women like this is appalling. It’s 201X already, time to start getting seriously mad about this.”

            If you find yourself on the fence about illegal immigration, the spectre of detention camps for children, many of whom will realistically never be reunited with their parents, is the kind of thing that may make you reconsider your own stance on the issue.

            And by the same token, we’re seeing Republicans who reaffirm their willingness to support things that years ago they might have waffled about, because to oppose those things now is to abandon Trump, and to abandon Trump would fracture the Republican coalition.

          • Aapje says:

            @Simon_Jester

            It’s 201X already, time to start getting seriously mad about this.

            Are you aware that the “grab them by the pussy” recording is from 2005?

            I would like to see a survey done to see how many Americans think that it was a much more statement. My guess is that a majority will falsely answer that it’s from 201X.

          • albatross11 says:

            The fact that Trump is so polarizing is one reason he’s been so successful. Half the audience tunes in to cheer him, half tunes in to boo him, but they’re all watching. And whatever political views/biases the media has, they respond to their incentives–when putting Trump on TV gets you 3x the ratings as not putting Trump on TV, they’re all going to have Trump on their station as often as possible.

            He’s the Toxoplasma of Rage made flesh.

      • BBA says:

        So why didn’t it happen 10 years earlier then? The left hated Bush just as much as we hate Trump. I guess part of it is the “left” was much just smaller then, and party polarization wasn’t as thorough as it is now.

        • Nornagest says:

          The hard left hates anyone with an (R) by their name (unless they’re currently famous for annoying other Republicans), but the mainstream press isn’t hard left — it’s center-left and establishment, and Bush was a center-right establishment type of dude. He got some flak towards the end of his term, when his approval levels really started slipping, but that wasn’t true for most of it — the New York Times carried water for the Iraq invasion, for chrissakes.

          There’s a fairly large hard left contingent in the non-mainstream press, but that’s a lot bigger and more important now than it was in 2008, let alone 2000.

        • Aftagley says:

          The left hated Bush just as much as we hate Trump.

          Strongly disagree. I’m not speaking on behalf of all leftys, but he magnitude of hatred is way, way stronger against Trump than it was against Bush. Yes, we thought Bush was kind of a dummy and likely in the pocket of his advisors/special interests, but it’s nowhere near the level of distaste we have for Trump.

          guess part of it is the “left” was much just smaller then, and party polarization wasn’t as thorough as it is now.

          Maybe this is correct. Possibly there was a core of leftists who felt this strongly about Bush back in the aughts, but they were much rarer than their anti-trump equivelents.

          • cassander says:

            You guys said Bush was an idiot (when he wasn’t a machiavellian fascist schemer bent on destroying american democracy) who stole the election (twice), and was leading a cabal of extremists and warmongers who were nothing like previous conservatives, who deliberately stoked racial resentment for partisan advantage, and who destroyed america’s relationships abroad while looting the government for their own personal gain.

            In other words, exactly the same thing that are being said about trump. The difference I see is in tone, not substance. The complaints are shriller now.

          • I’m a non-leftist and agree with Aftagley on this. The left disliked various Republican presidents and generally exaggerated their faults, but Trump is a special case and much easier to hate.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think I agree with the last three posters simultaneously. The contemporary left really does hate and/or fear Donald J. Trump much more than it ever did George W. Bush, but since it doesn’t lead to any significant change in their behavior, meh, who cares?

          • Chalid says:

            Trump is less popular than Bush was (at least until Bush tanked at the end of his presidency, at which point everyone’s focus was on the next election) so “the left hates Trump more than it hated Bush” is just a special case of “everyone dislikes Trump more than they disliked Bush.”

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think it’s telling that he cites, twice, Ferguson as the tipping/flash point for the Awokening. The Ferguson protests were predicated on lies: “hands up; don’t shoot” never happened, and the officer was vindicated in the lawful and just shooting of Michael Brown.

      Multiple times Yglesias also credits elites with causing this change:

      Obama’s 2012 observation that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” is just one small example of how elite actors have helped push a shift in whites’ perception of race.

      Democrats themselves have moved the goalposts in terms of what kind of racial views one is expected to affirm as a good liberal.

      This does not do much to shift my priors: liberal/leftist moral fervor is largely the product of media campaigns rather than an outgrowth of moral reasoning or an accurate assessment of the world. How does one get to a state where they don’t have their own sense of right, wrong, truth or fiction and need to be told how to believe by “elite actors?” This is not healthy.

      • cassander says:

        This does not do much to shift my priors: liberal/leftist moral fervor is largely the product of media campaigns rather than an outgrowth of moral reasoning or an accurate assessment of the world.

        Isn’t that true of pretty much all moral fervor?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t think so. I think you can start with a set of principles, and then figure out what to get mad about yourself without needing to be told by someone else to get mad about it.

          You can also get mad about things that actually happen, instead of misrepresentations and lies.

          • cassander says:

            You can, but since when have people ever done that in substantial numbers? To quote the Sage of Baltimore, “The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”

      • mdet says:

        Did we forget that “Ferguson” as an incident, also included the same people who vindicated the officer finding multiple emails by other officers referring to black people as dogs and monkeys, as well as coordination between the police department and the city council to bring in more revenue by ramping up the amount of tickets and fines that were issued (apparently Ferguson PD issued an absurd number of tickets for jaywalking), and that many people did figure out to be mad at this from their own principles?

        And is it really fair to characterize someone feeling swayed by a personal anecdote from a black man about how he relates to incidents like Trayvon Martin’s shooting as someone who “doesn’t have their own sense of right, wrong, truth or fiction”?

        • Lillian says:

          Toxoplasma of Rage: It’s both true that Michael Brown is a criminal who died while assaulting a police officer, and that the Ferguson Police Department was racist and corrupt. Hell it’s even true that the police all over the United States regularly shoot people who shouldn’t have been shot and get away with it, because the entire system is rigged in their favour, and gives them special rights that nobody else gets. For a specific example there’s the murder of Daniel Shaver, who was crying and crawling on the floor when he was shot, and yet horrible video of his death was not allowed to be shown to the jury because it might prejudice them. As if there was something wrong with a jury ability to recognize murder with their own eyes. The fact is “hands up, don’t shoot” was plausible and believable, even if in that specific instance it was false.

          • John Schilling says:

            The corruption of the Ferguson police department was well-documented, largely ignored, and like so many other police departments consists of being moderately careful not to go around shooting innocent black men because that would make it harder to get away with the large-scale shaking down of poor mostly-black men, women, and children for private and municipal profit and non-lethally beating the crap out of them for entertainment and catharsis. And even after their getting caught shooting an innocent guilty but not murderously so black man, all that is still mostly ignored.

            The narrowly-focused rage against Police Shooting Innocent(ish) Black Men, while understandable, is not helpful and will probably make things worse for almost everyone involved regardless of race.

          • mdet says:

            Was it largely ignored? Maybe it’s just me but I recall seeing a huge amount of reporting-on and article-sharing of stories about police departments shaking down poor, usually-but-not-necessarily-black people. Obviously fatal confrontations and videos of graphic violence seize headlines, but I feel like the “police departments shake down poor people” angle played at least as big of a role in the public consciousness as “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” did.

            Edit: I think a Vox recap of a John Oliver episode about for-profit policing should qualify as decent evidence that the revenue-raising aspect of police harassment was fairly prominent in liberals takeaway from Ferguson.

          • albatross11 says:

            IMO, the headline-level reporting about Michael Brown was pretty lousy, but the in-depth reporting about the fee-farming/policing for a profit operations common in the area, as well as the general racism and nastiness of the local cops, was pretty good.

            IMO, any form of policing that brings in revenue is so horribly corrupting that we should ban it. It’s as awful an idea as having various clerks in the government effectively getting their pay from what bribes they can extract. I’m not sure why getting rid of it has never caught on as a major political push–perhaps because it’s a bipartisan form of corruption, perhaps because its boring compared to big protests and riots and all.

          • mdet says:

            Re: the original topic, I think “white liberals started changing their position on race in the mid-2010s because they uncritically accepted elite actors telling them lies like ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’” (part of which is Yglasias’ take, part of which is Conrad’s) is less accurate than “white liberals started changing their position on race in the mid-2010s because social media allowed young minorities who previously didn’t have much of a voice to set the topic of national conversation. And white liberals ended up to the left of the black community as a whole on racial issues because that’s what happens when all the black people you know are social-justice millennials on twitter instead of 50yo church ladies”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, in an earlier version of doing an end-run around traditional media to get your message across, cellphone video + Youtube led to a whole lot of videos of police brutality. When it was criminals[1] claiming the cops beat them up, and cops claiming the criminals were just trying to get out of the consequences of their actions, it was easy to believe the cops. When there was *video* of the cops beating some guy senseless and then claiming he did something to deserve it later, the cops’ credibility dropped through the floor. That set the tone for a lot of the BLM stuff.

            [1] Hey, they got arrested, didn’t they?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          First, I completely agree that policing that drives revenue is guaranteed to wind up corrupt because perverse incentives. I would very much like to see Congress do something about asset forfeiture, for instance.

          Second, the movement was called “Black Lives Matter” and not “Black Jaywalking Fines Matter.” Nobody was rioting over that stuff. It was about the shootings, and the idea that innocent black people are getting shot left and right by racist cops is a false narrative.

          Third, if you think “elite opinion” with one example being Obama’s remarks about Trayvon, is a red herring, take that up with Yglesias. He is the sort of white liberal he’s talking about in his article about the way white liberals think. Apparently it matters to people like him.

          I don’t think we have to go full NPC meme to say “propaganda works.” Apparently half the country believed Donald Trump was a Russian agent. This was always a ludicrous proposition for many obvious reasons that I’ve laid out on this blog several times before (but will do so again if anyone cares), but when the pretty man on TV says it…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I would very much like to see Congress do something about asset forfeiture, for instance.

            In a rare instance of “good things can actually happen” SCOTUS has already taken a big step in this direction.

            Second, the movement was called “Black Lives Matter” and not “Black Jaywalking Fines Matter.” Nobody was rioting over that stuff.

            This is nonsense. The far end of the pattern is always the point at which some (seemingly arbitrary) line has been crossed. That doesn’t mean the complaint isn’t about the pattern. This is true whether the mass social movement is justified or in service to demagoguery.

            Donald Trump was a Russian agent

            Again, this stuff isn’t binary. There is a continuum, and Trump is well towards one end of it. Every one will seize on the simplistic statements to try and seal their case, but the reality is almost always more complex.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Are you suggesting that the left and the media have not spent the last two years trying to convince the American people that Trump is working with or for the Russians?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            There is ample evidence that Trump and the Trump Org have done plenty of work with Russians. There is also ample evidence that Trump sees national politics as an extension of personal relationships. If you scratch Trump’s personal back, he’ll happily scratch your itch.

            You want to tilt against the strawman of Trump as an agent in a Le Carré novel. That’s not how it works.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There is ample evidence that Trump and the Trump org have done plenty of work with the Israelis, too. But we didn’t have a Special Counsel investigation to see whether or not Trump is a puppet of the Jews.

            I’m not exactly tilting at windmills here when the mainstream media and Democratic Senators and congresspeople have spent two years using the words “collusion,” “conspiracy,” “compromised,” “puppet,” and “treason.”

            I understand the Mueller report is not what you were hoping for, but you’re backpedaling so hard to you could win the Tour de France in reverse.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad:

            There is ample evidence that Trump and the Trump org have done plenty of work with the Israelis, too. But we didn’t have a Special Counsel investigation to see whether or not Trump is a puppet of the Jews.

            Yyyeah… working with Russians is being held to a double standard, because apparently they’re America’s enemy in a war of ideas (i.e. they’re conservative).

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad:

            Are you suggesting that the left and the media have not spent the last two years trying to convince the American people that Trump is working with or for the Russians?

            If you have a rigorous definition of what exactly “the media” consists of, I’d be interested in hearing it. If you have an efficient way of determining what it is covering, I’d be very interested. If you can go a step beyond even that and quantify the underlying narratives and messaging, I’d suggest you publish immediately. Until then, your anecdotal experiences just convince me you maintain a deliberately shitty media diet.

            For what it’s worth, a more narrow focus of NBC + CNN + FOX’s coverage of the Mueller investigation in particular suggests that coverage is best predicted by raw public interest minus partisan opinion of reliable viewers. My guess is that pair of factors will prove reasonably general.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Le Maistre Chat:

            Having different standards is a good thing when dealing with different situations.

            US – Russia tensions are more than 30 years old.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            1) Trump’s various positions toward Israel are easily predictable in the context of running and being elected by the current iteration of the Republican party. Netanyahu already worked directly with Republicans to attempt to change US policy and that was a scandal, just not as big of a, nor the same kind of, scandal.

            2) There is not, to my knowledge, any detection of attempts to manipulate US electoral politics by Israel besides relatively minor, but unprecedented, moves done out in the open. An FBI counter-intelligence investigation was started long ago on Russia vis-a-vis the 2016 election. If Netanyahu’s current Israeli scandals lead to revelations about a relationship with Republicans or Trump, then I would expect that to become an issue.

            3) Trump has behaved in a manner contrary to the recent Republican stance on Russia. Mitt Romney as 2012 Republican standard bearer was hammering Russia as a threatening enemy.

            4) There are plenty of other countries who seem to have extracted policy preferences from Trump that seem to have coincided with Trump org receiving some sort of remuneration. These have also been reported on.

            5) There are actual guilty pleas and convictions. We have evidence of people in Trump’s orbit specifically asking for ways to turn Trump’s presidential run into personal gain with Russians connected the Russian power infrastructure. Only one example is Manafort in debt to the Russians and asking how he could use his position to get straight with them. Unlikely policy language toward Russia and Crimea was placed into the GOP platform.

            6) Trump was trying to do a very large deal in Russia during the campaign while consistently lying about doing any business in Russia.

            7) None of these things are exclusive, nor are they dependent. The idea that one scandal being over played somehow invalidates the pattern is specious. The idea that under or unreported scandals invalidates others is also specious.

          • Controls Freak says:

            4) There are plenty of other countries who seem to have extracted policy preferences from Trump that seem to have coincided with Trump org receiving some sort of remuneration.

            There has been a long history of rightists complaining about foundations of leftists on similar grounds. Basically no one knows the real extent of the problem (because much of it is legal, if incredibly skeevy), and almost no one has any clue how to write a new law that would successfully remove the skeevy bit while preserving the “ability to do charity stuff” bit.

            5) There are actual guilty pleas and convictions. We have evidence of people in Trump’s orbit specifically asking for ways to turn Trump’s presidential run into personal gain with Russians connected the Russian power infrastructure. Only one example is Manafort in debt to the Russians and asking how he could use his position to get straight with them.

            I think everyone agrees that Donald Trump was a victim of a foreign adversary’s operation to leverage a weakness of another individual.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            5) There are actual guilty pleas and convictions. We have evidence of people in Trump’s orbit specifically asking for ways to turn Trump’s presidential run into personal gain with Russians connected the Russian power infrastructure. Only one example is Manafort in debt to the Russians and asking how he could use his position to get straight with them. Unlikely policy language toward Russia and Crimea was placed into the GOP platform.

            This is like saying that Bill Clinton is obviously guilty of having Vince Foster killed because a bunch of people he did business with were jailed over whitewater.

            None of the people jailed in Russia-gate were jailed for any sort of collusion in with the russians, they are all in jail for tax evasion or process crimes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            I see you simply ignored the rest of that paragraph. When there is evidence pointing to Vince Foster being killed by someone other than Vince Foster come back to me. Sammi Gravano plead guilty to racketeering, not murder.

            @Controls Freak:
            We have lots of evidence, much of it completely out in the open.

            The change to the GOP platform and the public asking of Russia to do theft for him (while he was being privately briefed that the Russians were attempting to actually interfere) would be a huge scandal in any other campaign. There are a litany of people trying to set up back channel communications with Russia. That doesn’t look like Trump being a “victim”. That looks like Trump trying to use it.

          • There is not, to my knowledge, any detection of attempts to manipulate US electoral politics by Israel besides relatively minor, but unprecedented, moves done out in the open.

            At a slight tangent … . Despite lots of talk about the evil of other countries trying to manipulate U.S. electoral politics, nobody seems to be bothered by Obama’s attempt to manipulate U.K. electoral politics, also out in the open. Before the Brexit vote, he went to the U.K. and gave a speech in which he said that if the U.K. left the E.U. and wanted a trade agreement with the U.S., the U.K. would be at the back of the line.

            I’m not sure which side of the Brexit vote that helped, but it was obviously intended to help the “stay” side.

            Similarly and more recently, Trump announced U.S. support for Israeli claims to the Golan Heights at a point when it would be useful to Netanyahu and the Likud party.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Give that the vast majority of the parliament, in both sides, were remainers, I don’t think this is analogous. But hey, as long as we change the subject to the evils of Democrats, amiright?

          • albatross11 says:

            I do not think we have anything like a consistent position about the acceptability of foreign governments trying to affect US policy via lobbying, media campaigns, etc. It’s pretty obvious that lots of governments to this in the US–notably, both Israel and Saudi Arabia both spend a lot of resources trying to influence US voters and legislators. It’s also obvious that we try to influence foreign elections *all the time* (and surely we’re using social media campaign tricks, too), and that we have done so for many years. I strongly suspect that many countries other than Russia were running influence campaigns including social media during the 2016 election, and far more will be running such campaigns in 2020. Russia may have been uniquely loud and may have hit on a clever tactic of trying to stir up trouble to make the US harder to govern rather than trying to push inquiries or discussions in a particular direction, but they can’t possibly be the only ones doing this sort of operation–especially when we know of private PR firms doing them, and of elections in Latin America where these tactics were used.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            I think the underlying issue was something more like police impunity + blacks feeling like they get the brunt of a lot of police abuse[1]. But the flashpoints that work to get people out on the streets protesting involve some innocent-looking black kid[2] getting shot by the cops. As an example of the thinking here, Campaign Zero is a set of proposals associated with BLM that tried to address the broader concern of police impunity and bad policing.

            [1] As best I can tell, this is true.

            [2] Sometimes, he looks a lot less innocent once people start looking closely into the case, as with Michael Brown, but by then, the protests and media narrative have a life of their own.

          • dick says:

            If you have evidence of the US government trying to influence a foreign election with surreptitious media buys or hacking email like Russia did, I’m curious to hear about it. Foreign citizens are perfectly welcome to try to change US policy and law, as long as they do it as described in the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. I believe the Obama speech David Friedman mentioned is not so much “trying to influence a foreign election” as “announcing US policy” which is probably something presidents are legally entitled to do.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @HeelBearCub

            The public statement was pretty clear trolling in the midst of a campaign from the guy who would become the Troll in Chief. And communicating with foreign governments outside of the view of the public is common for high-level officials. We don’t always get an accidental hot mic in front of them, communicating how they’re going to work together after the election.

            In any event, you didn’t cite these before. You cited the things that looked a whole lot like Donald Trump being the victim of a foreign adversary’s operation to leverage a weakness of another individual. Honestly, I think this framing is about the only way we can possibly get through this issue. The Russians victimized everybody. They victimized Hillary; they victimized Donald; they victimized the American public. At some point, we’re going to have to stop blaming our internal political enemies for the bad acts of a foreign adversary.

          • Nornagest says:

            At some point, we’re going to have to stop blaming our internal political enemies for the bad acts of a foreign adversary.

            I expect that point to come about the time we hate our foreign adversaries more than our internal political enemies. Which historically has only happened when one of those adversaries has actually turned a big patch of American soil into a crater, or was vocally anti-American and aggressively expansionist and highly successful at it. Even Actual Actual Hitler didn’t qualify until 1941.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Controls Freak:
            If I had to list every single thing, or even every single category of thing, that Trump, his campaign and his administration has done which I find objectionable, you would accuse me of filibustering.

            As I have stated frequently, and in multiple ways, the reality of the situation is complex. There are many multiples of examples that the objective person finds disturbing about Trump’s conduct. Many of those things are aligned with the idea of corrupt influence on his official capacity.

            If I bring up an example of one of them which illustrates a certain facet of this corruption, and you object that it doesn’t illustrate a second facet, and I then illustrate it with a second example, it is, to use the vernacular, “weak sauce” to object that I didn’t bring it up before you asked about it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Huh. I think we’re back to how leftists view rightists talking about the Clintons. But honestly, unless some significantly new information comes out of the more exhaustive Mueller report (which is possible; in fact, I’m sure something embarrassing/damaging to some extent to Trump will be in it, just not sure how bad), I’m willing to bet, “Knee jerk reaction against an opposition party which is incessantly saying that an adversarial foreign government won him an illegitimate election,” is probably more corrupting to his official duties than any actual foreign influence on him directly. And again, all of the really bad stuff has been a foreign adversary victimizing him, targeting his people for intelligence purposes. I guess it’s possible that he doesn’t see that, because he’s so attentive to the domestic news telling him that Russia loves him… but it sure would be better if people started pointing out how they actually did him wrong.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @HBC

            You’re also misleading everyone about the “change to the GOP platform” bit. Here is the real story.

            When the platform committee met before the GOP convention in Cleveland, one delegate out of the 100 on the committee — a Texas political activist named Diana Denman — proposed an amendment. Denman, who came to the convention as a Ted Cruz delegate but later switched her support to Trump, was interested because she had traveled to Ukraine as an international election observer in 1998 and has ever since “kept an eye on the emerging democracies,” she told me in a conversation last March.

            Denman’s amendment praised the Ukrainian people and said they deserved the greatest U.S. assistance.

            “We therefore support maintaining (and, if warranted, increasing) sanctions against Russia until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored,” Denman’s proposed amendment read. “We also support providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning. Simultaneously, we call for increased financial aid for Ukraine, as well as greater assistance in the economic and humanitarian spheres, including government reform and anti-corruption.”

            Denman’s amendment also included an introductory paragraph filled with a lot of generic rhetoric. When she proposed the amendment, a Trump national security aide named J.D. Gordon, who was in the room with the platform committee, wanted to edit it. According to Denman, Gordon got on the phone, saying he was calling “New York” to discuss possible changes.

            At the behest of the Trump campaign, the platform committee took out the throat-clearing introduction and changed Denman’s reference from “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine to a pledge to provide “appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine.” They left intact Denman’s language on NATO, and on continued and possibly tougher sanctions on Russia.

            They didn’t change the platform from something bad for Russia to something good for Russia. They prevented a change that escalated the confrontation with Russia to include providing lethal weapons to the Ukrainians.

            You might as well say “if you don’t want to nuke Russia right now you must be Putin’s puppet!” No, it’s entirely possible to want to do things to counter Russia that stop short of killing or providing the means to kill Russians.

            Others have already pointed out how misleading your other statement was about the joking call on Russia to release the emails Hillary deleted from her server while under subpoena.

            As for: “An FBI counter-intelligence investigation was started long ago on Russia vis-a-vis the 2016 election,” yes, I would very much like a thorough investigation into how that investigation got started. It appears to have been manufactured to allow Hillary and Obama allies to spy on their political opponents. Given the dodgy origins of the Steele dossier, the misrepresentations made about it to the FISA court, and the apparent material falsehoods also submitted to the court (no one has yet explained how Carter Page went from being an FBI star witness to a knowing agent of a foreign power in six months, or why he’s still walking around free if that were the case) to obtain warrants, to the mass unmasking of Trump associates in “incidental” collections but apparently without the expected paper trail and justifications, this abuse of power makes Watergate look like shoplifting bubblegum. Lisa Page said in her texts that “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” What did Obama know, and when did he know it? I assume the Trump DOJ has your full support in getting to the bottom of this gross abuse of power, for the sake of our democracy.

      • j1000000 says:

        In looking up the culture war battles of the late-Obama era, I was surprised to find the the thing that rhymes with Shmamershmate began in August 2014, too, the same month as Ferguson. What a month that must’ve been on Twitter, my God.

    • S_J says:

      You know, we could get something like the other big social/political outcome of the Great Awakening of the 1840s.

      That was the Temperance movement, which over the space of about three or four decades, morphed into the Prohibition movement.

      (Amusing sidenote: after seeing the move The Greatest Showman, in which P.T. Barnum regularly imbibes lots of alcohol, I looked up Barnum’s history. His career was long and varied; one of his more serious public events was a series of speeches in favor of the Temperance movement. This strongly contradicts the image shown in the movie, in which Barnum more than once drinks with his employees after-hours, and never changes his mind about the use of alcohol.)

      • Jaskologist says:

        Also, that sidekick guy played by Zac Efron didn’t even exist, meaning the entire subplot with him was made up, as well as the part where he saves the day at the end.

        I’m sure P.T. Barnum would be shocked, shocked to learn that the story of his life was embellished for sake of a more entertaining narrative.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          I’ll never understand why, given that they’d already said to hell with timelines or any sort of historical accuracy, they didn’t call Zac Efron’s character “Mr. Bailey.” Barnum and Bailey, everyone’s heard of that!

      • Nick says:

        There’s something weird about the fact that the temperance movement died out while all the other causes of the day won—and advanced by the very same folks, no less. Helen Andrews points it out in her essay “AA Envy,” but she doesn’t seem to know why it happened.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          the temperance movement died out

          Are you sure that it did in fact die out, rather than just move on to different drugs after discovering that the USA’s most popular recreational drug was too popular to keep banned?

          • Nornagest says:

            Timing doesn’t work out. The 21st amendment was in 1933, and while there were a couple of drug scares shortly after (the first laws on marijuana came into effect in 1937), there weren’t many changes in drug policy after that until the early Sixties. Opiates were already regulated and had been for years, under 1914’s Harrison Act.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I’m not saying that it was a perfect swing in 1933, just that I strongly suspect there to have been a large overlap between the supporters of alcohol prohibition and supporters of the prohibition of most of the other drugs.

  25. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Tomorrow is a consolidated election day in Cook County (IE, Chicago and surrounding suburbs). I guess the big news is the run-off election between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle. Lightfoot has no experience in elected office, but has a reputation for being a hard-hitting anti-corruption lawyer. You may know her for leading the investigation into the shooting of Laquan McDonald(a shooting flagrantly wrong enough to even give heartless ol’ me a pause, and enough to warrant a murder conviction for the relevant officer.
    Preckwinkle has been an elected official for quite some time, most recently as a member of the Cook County Board. She’s basically the machine incarnate at this point: she currently serves as the chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. Personally, I don’t like her soda tax idea (which was repealed very shortly after introduction), but there’s a lot of other corruption charges floating in her near vicinity, including an alderman who has been jailed after pressuring a fast food chain to make a $100k donation to her campaign.

    Lightfoot has endorsments from the Sun Times and the Tribune, but Preckwinkle has endorsements from major Congressman Bobby Rush and Carol Mosley Braun, plus other notables like Chance the Rapper and Jesse White. Plus, you know, the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

    I expect Preckwinkle by a…7 point margin, and maybe 35% turnout.

    In MY local elections…well, I don’t have much to decide. I am voting against one of my trustees because she continuously vetoes a multi-story apartment building in my neighborhood. My neighbors aren’t fans, but I’m pro-density and don’t care what they think. I am voting AGAINST one of the candidates who is running for local school board, because we used to be coworkers and fuck that company.

    The endorsements around here have been pretty crappy. Local newspapers continuously tell us it is our duty because diversity. I’m not kidding. They endorsed one village trustee because she’s biracial. That’s literally the entire argument. In the last election, they endorsed someone that ended up getting disqualified, with the line “in a nod to diversity.” They do at least point out experience, which is important to me, because otherwise you end up with someone who has no idea what the hell they are doing running the city park district or all the libraries.

    I keep on telling myself I will actually start going to these village meetings, but thus far I’ve only motivated myself to argue against the morons who wanted to ban Round-Up. Unfortunately, that means one less person to argue the NIMBY, ban everything crowd at most of these meetings.

    • Clutzy says:

      Preckwinkle is losing quite handily in the polls. I think if she wins it will clearly be a stolen election.

      • BBA says:

        It’s Chicago. I expect Bill Daley to win the runoff even though he was eliminated in the first round.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Is there a lot of polling? I did some quick searching and only found 1 poll sponsored by WTTW, which doesn’t really pass my smell test because Preckwinkle is polling worse than her 1st-round results.

        • Clutzy says:

          From being in the city, it seems to me that Preckwinkle is basically no one’s 2nd choice. She is gonna keep the people that voted for her in the primary, plus a few more (again, unless shenanigans). Particularly because she is running against another black woman. Her entire campaign was centered around consolidating the nonwhite vote (which in Chicago is mostly an anti-white vote), but Lightfoot is not as easy to attack on those grounds. So she’s mostly resorted to a sneaky homophobic campaign, which has turned off almost 100% of the white vote and hasn’t appealed much outside her core voters (despite most Chicago blacks/Hispanics being crazy homophobic).

    • Aapje says:

      Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle

      Preckwinkle has endorsements from […] other notables like Chance the Rapper

      Wait, this is real?

      I thought this was an April Fool’s joke for sure, but these people seem to actually exist and have those names.

      • woah77 says:

        Chicago is a place like that. You’ll read something about Chicago and be like “That can’t be real…” and google it to find not only is it real, but in the local vicinity it isn’t even strange. Like Mayors and Governors going to prison.

      • Deiseach says:

        Re: “you mean to tell me this is a real name?”, there was a letter sent by playwrights to the National Theatre in Britain protesting about all-male playwrights being on a recently announced programme, and amongst the two hundred signatories were the following:

        The original letter, whose signatories include Timberlake Wertenbaker, Zinnie Harris and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, highlighted other theatres as institutions that “trust” female writers, citing the West End transfer of Emilia from Shakespeare’s Globe and a dominance of women playwrights in the Royal Court’s season.

        I have no idea what Timberlake Wertenbaker’s gender may be, or even if they’re human and not a Sitka spruce 🙂

      • Don P. says:

        Alliteration in this case aside, note the existence of hugely famous Canadian Gordon Lightfoot.

      • Aapje says:

        “The page cannot be displayed because an internal server error has occurred.”

        Seems quite apropos for a Chicago election page.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Yup, not even a close race for this one. Way off on my part!

        On the plus side, at least one of the local elections went my way. On the down side, it was the less important the two competitive elections….the anti-density woman is still on the village council.

    • broblawsky says:

      Lightfoot won and it doesn’t even look close.

  26. WashedOut says:

    I asked this question here a few years ago, but given the influx of new users I want to ask it again:

    I write down a number between 1 and 100. You guess what number I’ve written down. If you guess correctly, you win the dollar amount of the number chosen. If incorrect, nothing happens and the game resets.

    Assume I write down a number with the goal of minimizing my expected outlay – what number should I choose?
    Assume you guess a number with the goal of maximizing expected payoff – what number should you choose?

    Will post thought process later.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      The strategy I found gives an expected payout of $0.19277563597396005. ROT13:

      Gur jevgre fubhyq cvpx ahzoref jrvtugrq ol gurve erpvcebpny (fb bar trgf n jrvtug bs bar, gjb trgf bar-unys, naq bar-uhaqerq trgf bar-bar-uhaqerqgu).

      Gur thrffre’f orfg fgengrtl ng gung cbvag vf gb cvpx nal ahzore ng enaqbz (nffhzvat ab evfx nirefvba jungfbrire).

      • dick says:

        I’m sure this is intended to be the right answer, but it feels unsatisfying, for the way the question was phrased. It’s a reasonable strategy for the chooser because it can’t be “beaten”, but it doesn’t minimize the chooser’s losses – correctly guessing the guesser’s strategy does.

        I wish it had been phrased as something like, “The game will be iterated many times, and the guesser can change strategies but the chooser must commit to one for all iterations. What strategy can the chooser select to minimize his losses?”

        • Password says:

          I think the answer is the same under your rephrasing. Subsequent rounds will give increasingly large amounts of information to the guesser while the chooser is stuck with whatever assumptions they made before the game, so unless the chooser is much better than the guesser later rounds will give an advantage to the guesser. The best way to mitigate that is to make the information gained by the guesser irrelevant, which is achieved by the randomization strategy above.

          • dick says:

            Yes, that’s what I’m saying: that Cristophe’s solution would be unambiguously correct if the question was phrased the way I suggested, but is not with the question as phrased by WashedOut.

    • uau says:

      The same randomized strategy is optimal (in the sense of doing best against the worst strategy the opponent can pick) for both players: pick each number N with a probability proportional to 1/N (c/N for a constant c picked so that they sum up to 1).

      This gives the same expected win/loss for each number. If someone deviates from this strategy, then at least one number must have higher probability, and another lower. If the person writing the number deviates, opponent can improve by choosing the number with higher probability. If the guesser deviates, opponent can improve by choosing the number with lower probability.

    • Aapje says:

      @WashedOut

      The answer to both questions depends on the psychology of the other person/people involved.

      A strategy that is optimal for more normal people, is not going to be optimal when you are dealing with mathematicians or other people with issues.

      When dealing with more normal people, I would expect that avoiding/picking numbers that are commonly seen as lucky would decrease/increase the odds a lot.

      In my view, there is no reasonable solution where psychological considerations don’t take center stage, unless you make it into an iterative game where one or both parties can optimize their strategy over time.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I want to register my amusement with the line”mathematicians or other people with issues”. If this is meant with full sincerity, then I guess I am slightly offended instead?

        • Aapje says:

          It was meant as a joke with a slice of truth (in that mathematicians and other people who see themselves as very smart and capable of solving problems, can lose themselves in ‘optimal’ solutions that utterly fail in the real world).

      • uau says:

        In my view, there is no reasonable solution where psychological considerations don’t take center stage, unless you make it into an iterative game where one or both parties can optimize their strategy over time.

        I disagree with that. Even if you intend to play against people ignorant enough that they won’t know the theoretical solution, it’s still useful to understand what the theoretical solution is and how much you’re risking by not using it yourself (how much your opponent could gain by outthinking your strategy).

        And if such games were played for higher stakes or would be more common, they would attract smarter people or the solutions would be common knowledge. Your view seems to be that if you ever end up playing a similar game, it’ll be against a completely randomly selected person from off the street.

        I think some competence from the opponent should typically be assumed by default for such questions. If someone asks about how to play in a particular chess position, you probably shouldn’t answer “just make some random legal moves, the opponent will probably not know the rules of chess and will be declared lost due to making an illegal move” even if that was true of an average person off the street.

        • dick says:

          There is no realism here; the “chooser” cannot win any money and has no reason to play. It’s a riddle, and whether it is a good or bad one comes down to whether the answer is interesting, which in this case could be much improved by tighter phrasing.

          Same thing happens every time someone reposts the Boy Born on Tuesday paradox. “This can’t be right…” -> “This is amazing!” -> “Wait, this is definitely wrong.” -> “No fair, the setup was ambiguously worded!”.

          • uau says:

            I listed reasons why you shouldn’t concentrate too much on the potential psychology of an inept opponent even if you keep some consideration for realism. If you treat it strictly as a riddle, there’s even less reason to consider psychology and suboptimal play.

        • Aapje says:

          @uau

          Your view seems to be that if you ever end up playing a similar game, it’ll be against a completely randomly selected person from off the street.

          No, my view is that before deciding on an ‘optimal’ strategy, I would want to gather as much information as possible on the opponent(s) or make an educated guess as to their traits. Then this would inform my (counter-)strategy.

          And if such games were played for higher stakes or would be more common, they would attract smarter people or the solutions would be common knowledge.

          Exactly, so in a low stakes, ad hoc game the optimal strategy is probably very different from a high stakes game where people are expected to be prepared. You’d also expect people with certain traits to refuse to play under high stakes, while people with other traits would be attracted.

          That was my point.

          If someone asks about how to play in a particular chess position, you probably shouldn’t answer “just make some random legal moves, the opponent will probably not know the rules of chess and will be declared lost due to making an illegal move” even if that was true of an average person off the street.

          Chess is itself an iterative game. In most cases, the next move you make isn’t in itself going to win or lose the game. So the goal is to enable a winning (or stalemate) move in the future.

          Writing down a number that you don’t want guessed or guessing a number, is different. It immediately wins or loses and thus isn’t iterative, unless you play the game multiple times.

          • uau says:

            Chess is itself an iterative game.

            Why would that matter? In my view, if someone asks a question about chess, you should assume that it’s a question about strategy against a skilled/knowledgeable opponent. And similarly for this game.

            Why would you think that one should assume a skilled opponent for iterative games, but a totally ignorant novice for non-iterative games?

          • Aapje says:

            Why would that matter?

            It matters because you can recognize and react to the strategy.

            A single, 1-move game against an opponent is different from repeating the game against the same opponent and is different from a game that has multiple moves. This matters for the strategy.

            In my view, if someone asks a question about chess, you should assume that it’s a question about strategy against a skilled/knowledgeable opponent.

            The assumption of great competence/knowledge is very often false in real life.

            Why would you think that one should assume a skilled opponent for iterative games, but a totally ignorant novice for non-iterative games?

            That’s not what I said.

          • uau says:

            Why would you think that one should assume a skilled opponent for iterative games, but a totally ignorant novice for non-iterative games?

            That’s not what I said.

            I have trouble seeing what else you’d be saying. Are you saying that people consistently answer chess questions wrong, and should instead be assuming a total novice opponent in that case too? What alternative interpretation is there?

            People answer chess questions with the assumption of a strong opponent (and this generally seems to be the right interpretation of what the people asking question intended). You seem to be saying that at least this question should be answered assuming a totally ignorant opponent at the level of using “lucky numbers”. So are you saying everyone talks about chess wrong? Are you not saying we should consider weak opponents for this game? Or what exactly should distinguish when to assume a weak opponent and when a strong one, if not the above?

          • Aapje says:

            I never said you should assume a total novice opponent for the ‘guess a number’ game and never said you should assume a total novice opponent for chess.

            I said to adapt the strategy to the expected strategy/level of the opponent.

            It is true that a novice player is much more likely to win in a one-off ‘guess a number’ game than in chess. In chess you need to get many steps right to win. In a one-off ‘guess a number’ game you only have to outsmart your opponent once.

            This matters.

    • I assume the second player can work out the logic of the first player’s choice, so if the first player chooses a single number with certainty, the second can figure it out, and the best the first can do is to always choose 1.

      But he can do better with a mixed strategy, p(i) of choosing number i, where the p(i)’s sum to one. Again assume the second player can work out what the first player is doing. The payoff to choosing a number i is ip(i), so the second player chooses the i for which that is highest. The best the first player can do is to make the payoff equal for all numbers, so p(i)=K/i, where K is the inverse of the sum of 1/i from 1 to 100.

      The expected payoff to the second player is then K, whatever number he chooses.

      Using Excel to calculate K, I get the same answer as Christophe. I see that Uau describes the same solution, but I think my explanation may be clearer than his.

      • nkurz says:

        > The best the first player can do is to make the payoff equal for all numbers

        Well, that depends on whether they know the strategy of the second player. If they know in advance that the second player will be choosing randomly (because player two is assuming that player one is “optimally” choosing randomly with inversely payoff weighted probabilities) then player one can do better by pretending to choose randomly but actually always choosing 1. If they can conceal their true strategy (why can’t they?), then the average payoff will be only .01 * $1.

        But is there actually any reason to assume that player two should optimally choose a random number, rather than following a hunch? Perhaps a better strategy for would be for them to also choose “1”. If player one is choosing “optimally”, this is equal to any other choice. If player one is being sly in the manner I suggest, then it’s better than random. Which means that player one should actually choose two, just to be on the safe side. Right? If player two is guessing randomly, they only win 2¢ (still almost a factor of 10 less than “optimal”), and if they guess 1 they lose. Obviously player two needs to to take this modified strategy into account…

        Like Aapje says, I don’t think a purely mathematical analysis is actually useful here, other than to provide a benchmark for other more psychological strategies. I’d go further, and say that this is the case even in an iterative game. If we can trust the setup as literally stated, “If incorrect, nothing happens and the game resets.” I would take “nothing” to mean that after an incorrect guess, the correct number is _not_ revealed to player two, and thus even in an iterative game the guesser is likely none the wiser as to the strategy player one is using.

        • Christophe Biocca says:

          If they know in advance that the second player will be choosing randomly (because player two is assuming that player one is “optimally” choosing randomly with inversely payoff weighted probabilities)

          So that’s the part I got wrong, and uau got right: The second player’s strategy, when faced with the first player’s optimal strategy, is not to pick evenly randomly, but rather to pick with weighted probabilities, so that player one would not benefit from changing their strategy.

          At that point player one cannot improve their expected outcome by any change to their own strategy (and any change is itself exploitable by player 2), and we have reached equilibrium.

          • dick says:

            The inverse-weighted strategy for player 1 is not an equilibrium. It’s neutral, in that it produces the same result no matter what his opponent does. Every other strategy for player 1 is either better or worse, depending on what player 2 does. Per the wording of the problem, that’s not a solution – it doesn’t minimize player 1’s loss or maximize player 2’s gain. That’s why I suspect the riddle was just phrased poorly by OP.

          • uau says:

            @dick:

            The inverse-weighted strategy for player 1 is not an equilibrium.

            You misread that. It’s both players using that strategy which is an equilibrium. In that state, neither has an incentive to change.

            If both players are smart enough to realize the existence of that strategy, either can choose to use it to force the ~19 cents/game payoff. The only way you’ll get anything different is if both are confident that they are smarter than their opponent and can trick them, and choose a different strategy to do that – one of them obviously being wrong…

          • dick says:

            It’s both players using that strategy which is an equilibrium. In that state, neither has an incentive to change.

            I don’t think that’s correct. If either player chooses the inverse-weighted strategy, then the other player’s strategy doesn’t matter. However, neither player can know that the other player will use it on the next iteration. Each of them reasons, “Well, he might be using the inverse-weighted strategy; but if he’s not, I can improve by trying to outguess whatever strategy he picks instead.” That’s an incentive to change. They’re trying to minimize/maximize their loss/gain, not achieve a happy medium.

  27. johan_larson says:

    Back in OT124, Epistemic_Ian asked for advice on what to do after high school. He got a bunch of it, mostly contradictory.

    Epistemic_Ian, what have you decided to do?

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    One of the risks of film-making is that you’ll do something illegal. Depending on the exact crime, it can become illegal to distribute, buy or rent even after you’ve safely made it… like when a man was arrested for renting The Tin Drum from Blockbuster!
    Strangely, the most horrific example in that article was completely legal: when John Wayne played Genghis Khan, it literally gave him and almost 90 other people cancer.

    • CatCube says:

      This past weekend I was reading something about a fatal fire in Harlem in a brownstone that had been modified to serve as a movie set, and eventually Internet-random-walked to the events of Midnight Rider, a cancelled George Allman biopic starring William Hurt. Production was halted after the crew was denied permission to film on railroad tracks, filmed on railroad tracks anyway, and people got runned the fuck over by a freight train.

      Are these kinds of Goddamn clown shows typical of Hollywood productions?

      • rtypeinhell says:

        Midnight Rider doesn’t appear to have been a Hollywood production. Independent films operate with far less oversight than studio films (that’s rather the point). Perhaps this is a case where soul-crushing corporate bureaucracy could’ve saved lives.

        • John Schilling says:

          If soul-crushing bureaucracy had saved any lives, the only story you’d ever have heard was about how a soul-crushing bureaucracy had crushed the soul of a bunch of quirky underdog indie filmmakers for no reason, denying the world an inspirational biopic of one of America’s great R&B singers.

          But here in reality, the owners of the freight train wound up losing an $11.2 million lawsuit. So, bring on the soul-crushing bureaucrats and the cease-and-desist letters, the no-trespassing signs backed by razor wire.

        • CatCube says:

          Fair enough; I was using “Hollywood” as metonymy for motion-picture production in general, not necessarily intending to mean the big companies (and I know little enough to recognize a company and know if it’s big or fly-by-night). Either way, that’s really not quite fair of me, considering that pretty much any industry is going to have little shops that do the wrong thing because the right way is “too hard,” and sometimes even big companies do this too.

          @John Schilling

          But here in reality, the owners of the freight train wound up losing an $11.2 million lawsuit.

          That’s actually one of the more appalling parts of this to me, though I think they got it knocked down quite a bit to like $4 million. I mean, a bunch of randos are standing near the train tracks so they’re supposed to slow down all their trains? Really?!

    • John Schilling says:

      Strangely, the most horrific example in that article was completely legal: when John Wayne played Genghis Khan, it literally gave him and almost 90 other people cancer.

      Twenty-yard penalty and forfeit of goal for egregiously bad statistics.

      John Wayne spent thirteen weeks filming a movie at a former nuclear test site. John Wayne spent about forty years smoking like a chimney. John Wayne died of lung cancer. Playing Ghengis Khan, even at a nuclear test site, was probably good for his health in that Khan was not a smoker and thus for a few hours a day at least Wayne had to abstain as well.

      But let’s do the math. Lifetime incidence of cancer in the US population for most of the 20th century was about 41%, and lifetime mortality about 21%. Out of 220 cast and crew, with no particular risk factor, we would expect 90 to contract cancer and 46 to die from it. Actual numbers, 88 and 46.

      Taking it from the other direction, a radiation dose of ~0.5 Sieverts over a short period of time will cause niticable acute radiation sickness in most of the exposed population. I think it would have been noted in the press at the time if Wayne, Hayward, et al had returned from the shoot looking like Yul Brynner, so that puts the maximum plausible dose somewhere below ~0.5 Sv. And “somewhere” does not in this context mean “just barely”. According to the Linear No-Threshold Model, which is almost certainly excessively conservative, the premature death rate from radiation-induced cancer is ~0.05 per Sievert. So we would expect a population of 220 people exposed to <0.5 Sv of radiation to have suffered <<5.5 excess cancer deaths.

      There was nothing horrific about filming "The Conqueror" at St. George, Utah, and it almost certainly didn't give John Wayne or anyone else cancer. Most of them did that all by themselves.

      • Nornagest says:

        That, plus “100 miles from nuclear test grounds” isn’t all that remarkable. Nuclear testing grounds tend to be pretty remote, but they’re not so remote that there aren’t some substantial populations within 100 miles of them, including for example all of Las Vegas. You used to be able to see mushroom clouds from the roof of the Sands Hotel and Casino.

        I think we would have noticed if the citizens of Las Vegas were dropping dead from cancer at unusually high rates.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @John:

          Twenty-yard penalty and forfeit of goal for egregiously bad statistics.

          John Wayne spent thirteen weeks filming a movie at a former nuclear test site. John Wayne spent about forty years smoking like a chimney. John Wayne died of lung cancer. Playing Ghengis Khan, even at a nuclear test site, was probably good for his health in that Khan was not a smoker and thus for a few hours a day at least Wayne had to abstain as well.

          But let’s do the math. Lifetime incidence of cancer in the US population for most of the 20th century was about 41%, and lifetime mortality about 21%. Out of 220 cast and crew, with no particular risk factor, we would expect 90 to contract cancer and 46 to die from it. Actual numbers, 88 and 46.

          You’re right; people who take this story seriously are committing the Base Rate Fallacy (not a real logical fallacy, but rather invalid due to innumeracy). I was repeating the story because “Did you know John Wayne starred as Genghis Khan in a movie? It was such a bad idea it caused cancer.” is funny.

          @Nornagest: Whoa, I did not know that. So yeah, visual distance of Las Vegas was not a cancer risk.
          I wonder if an Orion spaceport 100 miles from Las Vegas would have been benign, considering that the explosions would be staggered from ground level to the stratosphere.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’d be messy. There were something like 900 tests on the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992, but a large majority were underground (parts of the desert look like they went through a bad patch of acne if you poke around on Google Maps). And a lot of the atmospheric Nevada Test Site shots were air drops, which produce little fallout, but an Orion drive has the problem that you need to set it off at ground level for it to work.

            I expect you could launch a few Orion ships without causing an unacceptable amount of environmental damage, but a spaceport might be a bit much.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And a lot of the atmospheric Nevada Test Site shots were air drops, which produce little fallout, but an Orion drive has the problem that you need to set it off at ground level for it to work.

            So you either need to launch it from the ground to an altitude of X meters by non-nuclear means, or launch as few as one Orion with very efficient mass allocation to bootstrap orbital infrastructure. Maybe use it as a tug for moving Near-Earth Objects into orbit for processing carbon, nickel-iron, nitrogen & H2O into orbital habitats?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      On a more serious note, imagine you’re a director handed a script for a historical drama set in a time and place where people of at least some classes went naked. Your script includes scenes of at least one character of relevant background as a child. How do you film it without facing child pornography charges?

      • Kindly says:

        Just throwing this crazy suggestion out there, but you could have those people not go naked?

        Unless the nakedness of the characters is important, this seems like a distracting trivial detail. To those historical people, walking around naked would be normal; to us, it’s very unusual; the general impression of “this is a dirt-poor person like millions of others” is better conveyed by inaccuracy in the specifics of that person wearing clothes.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Your suggestion seems to be the choice filmmakers always make when depicting characters who would have been naked for ancient Egypt movies (which as far as I can tell included children in general, Old Kingdom peasants, and female entertainers).

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, in nearly all cases, I expect the filmmakers are going to give the kids loincloths or something to avoid trouble with the law. This is pretty silly, but also probably not all that big a problem in the grand scheme of things.

      • rtypeinhell says:

        If the nudity is THAT fundamental to the story that it can’t be dropped… you cut the scenes with the kid, and you ask the producer why the hell you were hired for a job tantamount to child pornography. And if the producer says “film it the way it’s written, and that means naked children!”, you quit and run as far from that production as you can. Probably report it too, so you aren’t later incriminated.

        Alternately just shoot the kid from the waist up. But you really ought to be asking why this is necessary; scripts aren’t spewed out of a random idea generator and mandated by God’s law. Many people have to have signed off on an idea before it reaches a director, unless the writer owns the production (incredibly rare, unless the writer is the director is the producer).

      • Auric Ulvin says:

        Well we can stop imagining and have a look at Netflix’s ‘Desire’ director and his explanation for his work:

        https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/2018/08/15/netflix-film-desire-accused-showing-child-porn/995953002/

        “When we see a shark eating a woman on film, no one thinks the woman really died or that the shark was real. We work in a world of fiction; and, for me, before being a director comes being a father.

        “Of course this scene was filmed using a trick, which was that the girls were copying a cowboy scene from a film by John Ford. The girls never understood what they were doing, they were just copying what they were seeing on the screen. No adult interacted with the girls, other than the child acting coach. Everything was done under the careful surveillance of the girls’ mothers. Because I knew this scene might cause some controversy at some point, there is ‘Making Of’ footage of the filming of the entire scene.

        “Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.”

        On the other hand, there is an ongoing child pornography investigation, so it doesn’t fully answer your question.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, it doesn’t. It seems like filmmakers can get away with borderline child pornography… besides the case you’re citing, there was the movie Kids (though there the article I linked mentions being legally required to spend a bunch of money on digital nipple removal) and Brooke Shields made two erotic Hollywood films when she was 12 and 14… but maybe it’s a felony to even film non-sexual nudity.

        • sfoil says:

          “Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity.”

          “If you think my kiddie erotica is immoral, it’s only because of your own depraved imagination!”

          Nice. I assume he’d feel the same way about my hanging a Nazi flag out in front of my house: “Hey, it’s just a few of lines on some dyed fabric. The association with a certain despotic European government is all in your own head!”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, except MY tribal shibboleths, which are objective!”

          • “When correctly viewed
            Everything is lewd
            I could tell you things about Peter Pan
            Or the Wizard of Oz—there’s a dirty old man.”

          • quanta413 says:

            A swastika could be a sign of a devout Hindu.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @quanta413: Or a devout Hindu flying a swastika could be taken as evidence that their religion was created by Bronze Age white supremacists. :/

      • Machine Interface says:

        I have seen a few historical-ish films that do in fact feature yound children appearing naked. They tend to be old or non-western films though, and the nudity is usally fairly in the background and non-central to the shot.

        The most mainstream example I can think of is Excalibur. I haven’t heard that it was controversial at the time (though this is really a blink it and you miss it moment).

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The most mainstream example I can think of is Excalibur. I haven’t heard that it was controversial at the time (though this is really a blink it and you miss it moment).

          It is, because I own that movie and must have blinked during whatever you’re talking about.
          The most mainstream example I would have thought of is Shaka Zulu, which was of course made under 1980s South African law rather than US law.

          • Machine Interface says:

            It’s around the 1 hour 3 minutes and +/- 28 seconds mark, the scene where Lancelot and Percival arrive in Camelot (which Percival is seeing for the first time), they pass various groups of people in the lively vicinity of the castle — this includes a group of children doing a simple circle dance; these children are in fact naked, though as I said it’s very easy to miss it.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I make it an animated feature instead of a live-action movie. I know for a fact that Dragon Ball has scenes of 12-year-old Goku naked, including full-frontal shots depicting his genitals, and as far as I know nobody has gone to jail for it (though it did get censored in America).

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I wouldn’t bother with that aspect to begin with.

        Filmmaking routinely subordinates historical accuracy to audience expectations or anachronistic tropes. So the typical historian could tear to shreds a large part of most historical dramas, and this particular aspect would likely get seen as a kind of special pleading.

        A documentary on some indigenous tribe where footage was unedited might get a pass though I’m unsure.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        In an older film, they might have simply have done it. It’s not too unusual to find naked children in older films that were obviously meant to be uncontroversial – e.g. Disney’s Pollyanna. The most recent mainstream American example that comes to mind is The Mission (1986), which has what’s been called “ethnographic nudity,” including children.

        Today, to avoid risk and controversy, you would either shoot from the waist up (most shower scenes do this) or add a loincloth or something, even if it’s historically inaccurate or illogical (an example of the latter is The Jungle Book – illustrations for the book often show Mowgli naked, but it’s not surprising that no filmmakers have bitten that bullet).

        A few people here seem confused about the difference between nudity and pornography. Neither in reality nor in law does one imply the other.

        • LHN says:

          In the 1942 Jungle Book film (on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO1gLAoEZRA ), Mowgli is naked from when he first enters the village (around the 20 minute mark) until he’s captured and covered around minute 22. But he’s shot so that he’s in shadow or with strategic camera angles and obstacles, with just enough glimpses from behind him to give the idea without violating the production code.

          (The actor, Sabu, was born in 1924 and the film was released in 1942, so presumably he was 17 or 18 at the time of filming.)

      • Randy M says:

        I saw the Ender’s Game movie but I don’t recall how they handled the shower scene.

        • The Pachyderminator says:

          Both boys wearing towels. I think the fight was considerably shortened and simplified from the book, leaving out Ender’s use of hot water, etc.

      • Lillian says:

        Ideally we would go back to the days when non-sexual nudity was not seen as pornographic. Indeed that laws with respect to child pornography are generally written in such a way as to except non-sexual nudity. It’s just that everyone has gotten so paranoid and hysteric about child pornography, that enforcement has increasingly been applied to any depiction of child nudity, without regard whether or not it’s sexual. There was one instance i seem to recall in which some parents got in trouble for taking pictures of their children bathing, something which i would consider harmless, boring, and mundane. While i believe the charges were eventually dropped, it says something about the zeitgeist that they were even brought up to begin with.

        • brmic says:

          @Lillian
          It’s not that easy. I once interviewed for a job as essentially a censor and they showed my some examples: Hundreds of pictures, well shot and professional, of children posing in ways resembling classical nude paintings, with the genital areas clearly presented and the poses suggestive. Absolutely no way this wasn’t intended as fap material for pedophiles. And the sad reality is that sometimes parents sell out their kids for this, especially if they themselves are … you know.
          So while it absolutely sucks that sometimes innocent families have to go through such an investigation, the only way you can make sure that never happens is to abandon all investigations based on ‘nude posing’, with a high probability that this sort of material becomes more common among pedophiles.
          I think ‘no nudes of children on the internet’ is a fine Schelling point in that it isn’t too onerous on parents and that they themselves have an interest in their children’s pics not ending up in a ‘collection’.

          • ana53294 says:

            Would parents get investigated if they share nude photos in private groups, such as a Facebook group for family and friends with videos of kids saying funny/adorable stuff?

            I do think that parents should stop sharing photos of their kids, especially potentially embarrassing ones, that may make it difficult to get a job. Because having a photo of yourself caught in flagrante delicto stealing from the cookie jar is not something you may want hanging around the internet.

            I am so glad that my childhood happened before the Internet.

            Don’t ever share potentially embarrassing stuff about your kids, other than in a private setting to close people, ever, seems like a good Schelling fence to me. Parents already get in trouble for sharing too much.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Would parents get investigated if they share nude photos in private groups, such as a Facebook group for family and friends with videos of kids saying funny/adorable stuff?

            This makes me wonder, did nudist families go extinct by the time we entered the social media era?

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            I do think that parents should stop sharing photos of their kids, especially potentially embarrassing ones, that may make it difficult to get a job. Because having a photo of yourself caught in flagrante delicto stealing from the cookie jar is not something you may want hanging around the internet.

            Jesus Christ. Really? Is this really where we’ve ended up? God help us all.

          • ana53294 says:

            This makes me wonder, did nudist families go extinct by the time we entered the social media era?

            Nudism is usually confined to the family sphere, to nudist beaches, or to private nudist communities. As such, nudity there is fleeting, and you are there with plenty of other nudist people. It would be very rude if you go with a camera to a nudist beach, and you’ll be asked to leave.

            Jesus Christ. Really? Is this really where we’ve ended up? God help us all.

            Yes, really. This is the age of social media; many embarrassing things stay on the internet forever.

            The potential for bullying having embarrasing stuff about you that should be private, not public, gives, is huge. Do you want your co-workers to know that you were late in potty-training and that you would suck your thumb until a late age? Do you want your spouse to publically share your sexual preferences?

            When we are children, we do many things that are embarrassing as adults. These things should be confined to the private family sphere and should not be shared online.

            Although a baby/toddler will not be embarrassed, a teenager will be when their classmates are able to learn all kinds of stuff about their childhood. Anything posted publically is very difficult to delete. Private information about kids that is potentially embarrassing should never be shared from somewhere you can’t later delete it forever from.

          • albatross11 says:

            Because this is moral-panic fuel, I think it’s hard to think clearly or gather good data on this subject, but off the top of my head, I’m pretty skeptical that arresting parents for taking not-obviously-sexual nude pictures of their kids is in any way making the world a better place. There are indeed pedophiles who will use any pictures of children for wank material, and maybe there’s some reason why the existence of even innocent nude pictures of kids in bathtubs is somehow going to cause great harms, but it’s hard for me to see how.

            I’d like policy to be made on the basis of actual data (does such a policy actually decrease sexual exploitation of children?), but I’m not sure how you’d collect meaningful data to get much of a handle on the problem. But also, since this is moral-panic fuel, I expect that it would be very hard to have data-driven policy decisions even if we had good data.

          • brmic says:

            @albatross11
            Did you not read or not process what I/we wrote? ‘Posing’ material is being found on child sex abusers PCs, is being shared among them etc. It’s illegal not because making it so is efficient, but because it violates the rights of the depicted victims.
            Before the ‘arresting parents for taking not-obviously-sexual nude pictures of their kids’ step, someone has to notice/report this and several people have to decide this warrants an arrest. As with all things human, this sometimes goes wrong, but I have yet to see any evidence that it is a widespread problem. If your position is that the law should be so it can’t happen ever, own the tradeoff. E.g. imagine pedophiles freely posting and sharing giabytes of posing pics of their kids which being legal can absolutely not trigger a police of CPS investigation because of fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine. And then explaining that to those kids if/once they escape.
            Lillian had it right legally (as far as I know), nudes of children, even publishing same is not generally illegal unless it’s sexual. Determing the later is what the police investigation is about. For those wanting to cover even the minuscle risk of a fruitless investigation, not publishing nudes is a simple solution that’s not onerous, and the extremely paranoid can even avoid sharing such pics in private.

  29. Gossage Vardebedian says:

    I’m not sure I have a question. I’m posting because I just finished Shadow Country by Peter Matthiesen, and it’s one of the four or five best books I’ve ever read, and I just felt the need to say that to someone. It’s amazingly successful, as a story about taming a frontier, about race, about progress and the environment, about capital and labor, and above all about one man’s character and ruin. Freaking fantastic. I’ve never read Matthiesen before, but I’ll be reading him again, and he goes right to the top of the “How the hell did he not win a Nobel?” list.

    So.

    Ok, here’s a question. What do you remember reading, and then having thought something akin to that? Not so much, “Wow, that was especially fun and entertaining and cool,” but “How could anyone write a better book than that?”

    • J Mann says:

      The Annotated Lolita, but it frankly took the annotations for me to appreciate it.

    • Spinning Silver by Novik came close.

    • rtypeinhell says:

      If we’re also including the “why isn’t this better recognized” component, Titus Groan, then Gormenghast. The next few books I read after those felt so hollow and perfunctory that I had to repeatedly remind myself that not everyone can be as painstakingly illustrative as Peake.

    • j1000000 says:

      Just as an aside, Matthiessen didn’t win a Nobel, but he did win the National Book Award for Shadow Country, and he had won it previously for The Snow Leopard. So he was certainly very widely respected.

  30. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Help me understand the Cold War:

    In what ways and to what extent did the fight to establish capitalist/communist regimes in Third World countries actually influence the outcome of US/USSR conflict?

    • cassander says:

      The net effect was limited, but you can’t just look at the net effect because a great deal of the effort on both sides was spent trying to prevent/counter/undermine/undo things the other side was doing. Had either side unilaterally stopped fighting those conflicts, the other would have been able to win more of them, much more cheaply and quickly, and that eventually would have seriously altered the strategic balance.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Arguably, though, at least some of the major efforts on the US side (and probably the USSR side as well) were own goals, e.g.

        — siding with colonial powers against independence movements that could have been persuaded to be at least nonaligned rather than Soviet-aligned (AIUI at least some historians think Vietnam is an example here)
        — overthrowing regimes that were inimical to short-term US corporate interests but were not actually likely to go Communist if not overthrown (Arbenz and Mossadegh come to mind)

        There certainly were cases where US strategic interests were actually and urgently at stake, notably Cuba, but how clear is it whether those were the rule or the exception?

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Since you bring up Cuba: How much did that actually matter?

          I realize it sounds kind of stupid to ask “Did nuclear missiles next door matter?” but in my mental model of MAD it actually isn’t that clear.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            The big issue with having Soviet missiles based in Cuba in the early 1960s is that they could be hitting US targets on a couple of minutes’ notice, in a time when the US’s command and control setup was more vulnerable to a decapitation strike than later in the Cold War.

            So if you were worried about the Soviets planning a nuclear first strike and took for granted that they’d do it if they could get away with it (a common opinion among American leaders at the time), missiles in Cuba would greatly increase the chances that they could get away with it, and thus present a major existential risk.

        • cassander says:

          Own goals are something of a specialty of the US foreign policy community.

          — siding with colonial powers against independence movements that could have been persuaded to be at least nonaligned rather than Soviet-aligned (AIUI at least some historians think Vietnam is an example here)

          Vietnam was definitely not, but more generally one also has to consider the choice the US was faced with. Weakening the relationship with France for to secure the non-alignment of weak undeveloped countries is probably not a good trade.

          — overthrowing regimes that were inimical to short-term US corporate interests but were not actually likely to go Communist if not overthrown (Arbenz and Mossadegh come to mind)

          Arbenz was definitely a fuckup, but it had more to do with the administration overreacting than united fruit’s lobbying.

          As for iran, that bought a very valuable alliance that lasted for more than two and a half decades. That a different administration fucked up policy later doesn’t mean the original policy was flawed.

          There certainly were cases where US strategic interests were actually and urgently at stake, notably Cuba, but how clear is it whether those were the rule or the exception?

          I’d actually argue that cuba wasn’t really all that urgent and the US massively overreacted.

          That said, on the broader question, it’s very rare that you have urgent interests at stake because the whole point of the day to day work of foreign policy is trying to make sure that they never are. “We’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” is a cliche that can be used to justify all manner of foolishness, but there is much truth to the idea.

          • salvorhardin says:

            Re: colonial powers vs developing countries, it seems to me you can’t have it both ways. If the firmness of our alliances with the colonial powers really mattered that much more than having developing countries be friendly to the US long-term, then the long list of developing country coups and proxy wars can’t have been all that important to US security– which makes it that much harder for any other upsides to outweigh their considerable ethical downsides.

          • cassander says:

            @salvorhardin

            A BMW costs less than a Ferrari but that doesn’t make the BMW not valuable. You try keep as many balls in the air as you can, but when forced to choose, you choose. Sometimes we sided with the colonialists, sometimes we didn’t.

          • Lillian says:

            Vietnam was definitely not, but more generally one also has to consider the choice the US was faced with. Weakening the relationship with France for to secure the non-alignment of weak undeveloped countries is probably not a good trade.

            President Roosevelt’s actual stated policy was that under no circumstances was Indochina to be returned to the French. There is no particular reason why Truman could not have implemented that policy, as the French were certainly in no position to object. He just chose not to.

            Ho Chi Minh actually had a very positive opinion of the United States, to the point of modelling Vietnam’s Proclamation of Independence after America’s. It’s possible that he could have been persuaded to turn away from communism in exchange for the US’s support, but unfortunately it’s unlikely to have been tried. Most probably America would have sided with the Vietnamese Nationalist Party, who were previously being backed by the Chinese Nationalists. It’s hard to predict what would have happened after that, but it’s doubtful that it would have been any worse than what did happen.

          • cassander says:

            @lillian

            President Roosevelt’s actual stated policy was that under no circumstances was Indochina to be returned to the French. There is no particular reason why Truman could not have implemented that policy, as the French were certainly in no position to object. He just chose not to.

            Roosevelt also thought that he could charm stalin into not being stalin. He had a poor understanding of communism even before he got sick.

            Ho Chi Minh actually had a very positive opinion of the United States, to the point of modelling Vietnam’s Proclamation of Independence after America’s. It’s possible that he could have been persuaded to turn away from communism in exchange for the US’s support, but unfortunately it’s unlikely to have been tried.

            He was also a lifelong communist who literally taught communism in for Stalin at the Lenin institute. Even if it were possible to get him to renounce communism, he was the head of a violent communist revolutionary party that had absolutely no interest in doing so.

          • bean says:

            President Roosevelt’s actual stated policy was that under no circumstances was Indochina to be returned to the French. There is no particular reason why Truman could not have implemented that policy, as the French were certainly in no position to object. He just chose not to.

            First, FDR was a serious anticolonialist. He basically made the British dismantle Imperial Preference as a condition for Lend-Lease, which caused a lot of resentment, not all of which was paid off by our aid to them later. Truman wasn’t. He was mostly there to keep Wallace out of the White House.
            Second, you’re assuming that the policy would have been a good idea, and that we could have managed to make Vietnam non-aligned. Cassander has already covered that.
            Third, think of the context at the time. The French today are seen, rather unfairly, as a militarily comical nation, but that wasn’t the case back then. They got an occupation zone in Germany, a seat on the security council, and lots of favorable propaganda during the war. (More or less “they helped us during the Revolution, we need to help them now”.) Abandoning such an ally would be unthinkable, particularly to suck up to a communist guerilla when we were squaring off with Stalin in Eastern Europe, and Stalin both had and was seen to have tight control over world communism.
            I’m not sure what shape the postwar world would have had had Roosevelt lived, but I’m pretty sure that “Things would have been fine if not for Truman messing it up” is a bad assumption.

          • Lillian says:

            The assumption i’m going with if the US decides to back decolonization of Indochina, is that America will support the Nationalists against the Communists, and that there’s a few ways this could go. The thing about Ho Chi Minh is speculation, but also kind of irrelevant since even if it was possible, i said it wouldn’t have been tried. Not even if divine intervention had healed FDR and allowed him to waltz off his wheelchair.

            Now, one scenario of early decolonization is that that it goes exactly like the Chinese Civil War, where the Nationalists simply collapse in the face of the of Communist advance. This seems unlikely to me, since while South Vietnam was not particularly functional, it did hold out long enough for me to believe that there was a stronger basis for its continued survival than there was for the Kuomintang. The Nationalists would also enjoy more local support than the French did during the First Indo-China War.

            On the flip side, it’s unlikely the Nationalists would have been able to easily defeat the Communists, since the Commies were in fact pretty popular with the peasantry and controlled considerable territory out the gate. A potential outcome is the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists goes pretty much identically to the war with the French, and in the end the country is partitioned North and South same as in our time line.

            Nonetheless, unlike the French i think with Western support, the Nationalists would have a real shot at victory here. The fact that the northern half of Vietnam had to be completely ceded to the communists was a necessary concession in the face of French defeat. One that put the anti-communists at a significant disadvantage, since it meant that while the North Vietnamese could contest the South, the South Vietnamese could not do the same for the North. If we are looking at a Nationalist versus Communist civil war, the Nationalists are able to contest the whole of the country against the Communists, and deny them access to the population and industry of the major cities. This is a much more favourable strategic picture.

            In short, i think if we want to win the Vietnam War, we would have a better shot of it by insisting on decolonization early on instead of letting the French return just so that they can screw the whole thing up even worse.

          • bean says:

            Even granting that, you’re still missing the most important point. Vietnam did not exist in isolation. I’ve already pointed out that telling the French they had to hand over Indochina wasn’t going to go over well at all, and we had no particular reason to believe they wouldn’t be able to win there, with a little help from us. And this would keep them on-side in Western Europe, which really mattered.
            For that matter, what do we do elsewhere? Do we also encourage the British to strike a deal in Malaya? What about Lebanon? Vietnam is only important in retrospect because it’s the one place the policy we had didn’t work. In a counterfactual where we go back and convince everyone to throw the French out, we get the French joining the Warsaw Pact instead or something.
            (Of course, all of this neglects the fact that our policy could have worked in Vietnam if not for idiots in the White House and someone who gives idiots a bad name in the Pentagon.)

          • Atlas says:

            @cassander

            He was also a lifelong communist who literally taught communism in for Stalin at the Lenin institute. Even if it were possible to get him to renounce communism, he was the head of a violent communist revolutionary party that had absolutely no interest in doing so.

            Why then do you think that, merely 10 or so years after the triumph of Vietnamese communism, the Vietnamese government began moving away from central planning?

            The most important issue for the Vietnamese communists was Vietnam’s independence from foreign rule—an eminently fair desire that the United States, of all countries, can hardly condemn. Secondary to that—and at least initially popular with much of Vietnam’s landless rural peasantry— was implementation of a Marxist economic program of land collectivization/central planning. When that program inevitably proved unsuccessful, the Vietnamese leadership fairly quickly abandoned it, because international proletarian revolution wasn’t in fact an important concern to them. (As the 1978 invasion of Cambodia and 1979 war with China ought to further demonstrate.)

            In Hanoi’s War, Professor Nguyen claims that the post-Geneva 1950s peacetime land reform/collectivization efforts in North Vietnam were not very successful, and that discontent with them was rising, until armed struggle in the south began, which naturally became the focus of national attention. Nationalism was a winning issue for the Vietnamese communists, and so was land reform in the abstract. Continued implementation of a communist economic program, doomed to failure, was not.

            Thus, on the basis of the available evidence, I think that, had the Vietnamese communists come into power in 1945, they would have implemented land collectivization/central planning, seen dismal results from it, and, over the course of 5-10 years or so, switched to a more sensible economic system.

          • cassander says:

            @Atlas says:

            Why then do you think that, merely 10 or so years after the triumph of Vietnamese communism, the Vietnamese government began moving away from central planning?

            The people that reformed vietnam in the late 80s weren’t the people that came to power in the 50s. They weren’t even the same people who conquered the south in the 70s. It was a new generation of leaders in a world where every other communist state was at least attempting major reforms. it was not the world of stalinism and the socialist dream of the 50s.

            The most important issue for the Vietnamese communists was Vietnam’s independence from foreign rule—an eminently fair desire that the United States, of all countries, can hardly condemn.

            Easy to say, hard to prove.

            Secondary to that—and at least initially popular with much of Vietnam’s landless rural peasantry— was implementation of a Marxist economic program of land collectivization/central planning.

            Yes, rolling into town with some machine guns and telling the local peasantry that you’ll kill their landlords if they follow you is a very successful strategy for fomenting rebellion.

            Nationalism was a winning issue for the Vietnamese communists, and so was land reform in the abstract.

            Nationalism was a winning issue for communists everywhere. It never stopped them from being communists.

            Thus, on the basis of the available evidence, I think that, had the Vietnamese communists come into power in 1945, they would have implemented land collectivization/central planning, seen dismal results from it, and, over the course of 5-10 years or so, switched to a more sensible economic system.

            Why would you think that when several dozen other communist states that emerged in that time also had dismal results from land reform and didn’t switch to more sensible economics until the late 80s/early 90s?

          • Atlas says:

            @bean

            Second, you’re assuming that the policy would have been a good idea, and that we could have managed to make Vietnam non-aligned. Cassander has already covered that.

            Perhaps this is splitting hairs, but I think cassander’s comment—about Ho Chi Minh/the Vietnamese leadership’s commitment to communism philosophically—is actually a significantly different matter than Vietnam’s geopolitical alignment.

            The almost immediate post-1975 souring of relations between Vietnam and Cambodia and China, all the way to the point of war, after the common enemy of the US and its proxies/puppets had been removed, is quite strong evidence that Vietnam would not have become part of a communist monolith.

            From every point of view—moral or strategic—President Roosevelt’s preferred policy would have indeed been a good idea.

            Third, think of the context at the time. The French today are seen, rather unfairly, as a militarily comical nation, but that wasn’t the case back then. They got an occupation zone in Germany, a seat on the security council, and lots of favorable propaganda during the war. (More or less “they helped us during the Revolution, we need to help them now”.) Abandoning such an ally would be unthinkable, particularly to suck up to a communist guerilla when we were squaring off with Stalin in Eastern Europe, and Stalin both had and was seen to have tight control over world communism.

            Firstly, as Steve Sailer has often wryly noted on this exact matter, as Benjamin Franklin said, if you want someone to like you, get them to do you a favor. You doing them a favor just makes them resent that they depend on you.

            You know when America was really popular in France? After the American Revolution, when the French bankrupted themselves to the point of precipitating a fiscal crisis and a revolution, to create a state that quickly reneged on its (debatable) treaty obligations to France.

            Whereas the US has been decidedly unpopular in France since bailing it out in two world wars. How’d de Gaulle repay our “generosity” in bankrolling the post-WW2 French occupation of Vietnam in the 1960s, again?

            As Greg Cochran once mordantly observed, if the French really hated us, they would have encouraged us to invade Iraq. Likewise, if we really liked the French, we would have told them to pack it up in Vietnam.

          • Atlas says:

            The people that reformed vietnam in the late 80s weren’t the people that came to power in the 50s. They weren’t even the same people who conquered the south in the 70s. It was a new generation of leaders in a world where every other communist state was at least attempting major reforms. it was not the world of stalinism and the socialist dream of the 50s.

            Firstly, I’m not as sure about the 1950s vs. 1980s point you’re making: in 1953 in East Germany and 1956 in Hungary major changes in the local communist systems were only averted by Soviet invasions.

            Secondly, I’m not sure what the valence of the different people point is: The central event of modern Vietnamese history for Vietnamese leaders in the 1980s was fighting a war of independence under the banner of communism, with aid from communist countries. It seems possible, at least, that this experience would make one more, rather than less, committed to communism.

            Easy to say, hard to prove.

            I would reiterate that the wars with communist Cambodia and China and the post-war economic reforms, as well as Ho Chi Minh’s initial overtures to the US, are strong suggestions that the Vietnamese communists were quite willing to abandon world revolution as soon as their country, personally, had nothing to gain from it.

            Yes, rolling into town with some machine guns and telling the local peasantry that you’ll kill their landlords if they follow you is a very successful strategy for fomenting rebellion.

            So why commit yourself to defending an extremely unpopular position? It’s a lot easier to be popular than unpopular. If they have popular support, let the communists mess up the economy and become the unpopular ones.

            Nationalism was a winning issue for communists everywhere. It never stopped them from being communists.

            It certainly stopped them from fully co-operating with other communist powers, most notably in the Sino-Soviet split. The idea that there could ever be a global communist monolith has been decisively exposed as a falsehood by the actual course of historical events.

            Why would you think that when several dozen other communist states that emerged in that time also had dismal results from land reform and didn’t switch to more sensible economics until the late 80s/early 90s?

            Which countries, specifically, are you thinking of? I certainly think that Eastern European countries would not have maintained communist systems into the 1980s without the threat of Soviet invasion.

            I’d have to research more into it, but I suspect that the German invasion in 1941 greatly prolonged the life-span of Soviet communism. I also think that a more conciliatory US posture in the Cold War might have accelerated the decline of Soviet communism.

            One thing to consider is that, according to Acemoglu and Robinson in Why Nations Fail, central planning is better at achieving catch-up industrialization growth than it is achieving growth on the technological frontier.

            As a general rule, I think that fear of foreign threats to national sovereignty delays internal reform. For instance, had the United States not gotten involved with Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan, and normalized relations with China after Mao’s victory in the Chinese Civil War, I think that reforms within China might well have begun at a sooner date.

          • cassander says:

            @Atlas says:

            Firstly, I’m not as sure about the 1950s vs. 1980s point you’re making: in 1953 in East Germany and 1956 in Hungary major changes in the local communist systems were only averted by Soviet invasions.

            I don’t know much about east germany, but the Hungarian changes weren’t so much anti-communist as anti-soviet.

            I would reiterate that the wars with communist Cambodia and China and the post-war economic reforms, as well as Ho Chi Minh’s initial overtures to the US, are strong suggestions that the Vietnamese communists were quite willing to abandon world revolution as soon as their country, personally, had nothing to gain from it.

            They also tried to establish hegemony over all of southeast asia, and only stopped when the chinese invaded them.

            So why commit yourself to defending an extremely unpopular position? It’s a lot easier to be popular than unpopular. If they have popular support, let the communists mess up the economy and become the unpopular ones.

            Well, one, it involves the murder of a whole lot of innocent landlords. And two, the landlords were usually also the most efficient farmers, and killing them off usually caused a famine.

            The idea that there could ever be a global communist monolith has been decisively exposed as a falsehood by the actual course of historical events.

            Communism was pretty monolithic before the death of stalin. but more importantly, that the communist states had their own rivalries didn’t mean that communism wasn’t awful and needed to be stopped.

            Which countries, specifically, are you thinking of? I certainly think that Eastern European countries would not have maintained communist systems into the 1980s without the threat of Soviet invasion.

            Also the Chinese, the Cubans, the russians themselves, for that matter.

            I’d have to research more into it, but I suspect that the German invasion in 1941 greatly prolonged the life-span of Soviet communism.

            No question.

            I also think that a more conciliatory US posture in the Cold War might have accelerated the decline of Soviet communism.

            How?

            One thing to consider is that, according to Acemoglu and Robinson in Why Nations Fail, central planning is better at achieving catch-up industrialization growth than it is achieving growth on the technological frontier.

            I would say that it was less bad, not that it was better. Free markets are better at both unless you’re trying to build up a particular industry at the expense of overall higher prosperity, for whatever reason.

            As a general rule, I think that fear of foreign threats to national sovereignty delays internal reform. For instance, had the United States not gotten involved with Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan, and normalized relations with China after Mao’s victory in the Chinese Civil War, I think that reforms within China might well have begun at a sooner date.

            they weren’t possible until Mao was dead.

          • Atlas says:

            @bean

            Even granting that, you’re still missing the most important point. Vietnam did not exist in isolation.

            I think the historical record shows that errors in the direction of overestimating the global significance of Vietnam—both from President Eisenhower’s domino theory and Che Guevara’s “two, three, many Vietnams” theory—were much more common and egregious than errors from underestimation.

            I’ve already pointed out that telling the French they had to hand over Indochina wasn’t going to go over well at all, and we had no particular reason to believe they wouldn’t be able to win there, with a little help from us. And this would keep them on-side in Western Europe, which really mattered.

            Since France pulled out of NATO’s integrated military command structure in the 1960s, refused to support the US war in Vietnam and generally moved towards a more non-aligned position in the Cold War, it seems that this line of thinking, if it was indeed motivating US policymakers, was completely mistaken. US bankrolling of the disastrous French war in Indochina did not fundamentally alter the French geopolitical or domestic calculus.

            For that matter, what do we do elsewhere? Do we also encourage the British to strike a deal in Malaya? What about Lebanon? Vietnam is only important in retrospect because it’s the one place the policy we had didn’t work.

            What do you mean by Lebanon? French rule seems to have been terminated, in the face of international pressure, almost immediately after WW2.

            Where else, aside from Vietnam, did the US support colonial occupations after WW2, and where else was such a policy successful?

            In a counterfactual where we go back and convince everyone to throw the French out, we get the French joining the Warsaw Pact instead or something.

            Why would France have joined the Warsaw Pact in this scenario?

            (Of course, all of this neglects the fact that our policy could have worked in Vietnam if not for idiots in the White House and someone who gives idiots a bad name in the Pentagon.)

            Out of curiosity, do you think that Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird and Creighton Abrams were among these idiots who failed to execute our perfectly sensible, perfectly workable policy of a war of aggression to impose an astro-turf government in (southern) Vietnam?

            The idea that the US failed in achieving its goals in Vietnam over a period of almost 30 years of conflict because of individual foibles rather than structural forces seems extremely pernicious to me. The US had massive advantages, on paper, in the Vietnam War it actually fought that would have been more enough to win decisively, had the war been winnable. The only advantage the Vietnamese had was popular support, and no one AFAIK has proposed a way for the US to win popular support that it didn’t try, unsuccessfully, in the actual war. “Because we live here” motivates a lot of politics.

          • cassander says:

            @atlas

            Out of curiosity, do you think that Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird and Creighton Abrams were among these idiots who failed to execute our perfectly sensible, perfectly workable policy of a war of aggression to impose an astro-turf government in (southern) Vietnam?

            Nixon and those others didn’t start the war in Vietnam. And given the cards they were dealt, I think they did about as good a job as was possible getting out of it. And there was absolutely nothing aggressive about a US war fought to defend the south from an invading north.

            The idea that the US failed in achieving its goals in Vietnam over a period of almost 30 years of conflict because of individual foibles rather than structural forces seems extremely pernicious to me.

            The US didn’t fail over 30 years of conflict. the US dug itself into a massive hole between 1965 and 1968, then spent from 1969 to 1972 trying to get out of it. And more or less did. South Vietnam didn’t fall till 1975, after the US congress, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided that their army could fight the north just fine without ammunition and spare parts.

          • bean says:

            The almost immediate post-1975 souring of relations between Vietnam and Cambodia and China, all the way to the point of war, after the common enemy of the US and its proxies/puppets had been removed, is quite strong evidence that Vietnam would not have become part of a communist monolith.

            The situation in 1975 was massively different from 1945. Most notably, the Soviet Union and China were at loggerheads, and it was possible to turn to the USSR for support against China. When Stalin was in charge, communism was a monolith, except for Tito, and he was in the Balkans, which are always an outlier.

            From every point of view—moral or strategic—President Roosevelt’s preferred policy would have indeed been a good idea.

            Sorry, but I don’t really buy it. Leaving aside the other issues I’ve pointed out, most notably the fact that Vietnam is only notable because it’s where our policy didn’t work, unlike, say, Malaya, where it did, this just reeks of wishful thinking.

            You know when America was really popular in France? After the American Revolution, when the French bankrupted themselves to the point of precipitating a fiscal crisis and a revolution, to create a state that quickly reneged on its (debatable) treaty obligations to France.

            Counterpoint: America was popular because we shared a common enemy in the form of the British, and we together had managed to defeat the British for the first time since the Hundred Years War.

            Whereas the US has been decidedly unpopular in France since bailing it out in two world wars. How’d de Gaulle repay our “generosity” in bankrolling the post-WW2 French occupation of Vietnam in the 1960s, again?

            Right. It was because of that, and had nothing to do with the position that we’d reneged on NATO’s commitment to French territorial integrity when we stood by and let Algeria break away. Legally, that was part of metropolitan France, and there was a debatable interpretation of the North Atlantic Treaty that said we were obliged to help. Or our actions during the Suez Crisis. Or the bit where McNamara was obsessed with neutering their strategic independence with the MLF et al.

          • bean says:

            I’ve already addressed your claims about the French gratitude. Indochina wasn’t the sum total of the Franco-American relationship during this period.

            What do you mean by Lebanon? French rule seems to have been terminated, in the face of international pressure, almost immediately after WW2.

            The US intervention in 1958 which preserved a pro-western government.

            Where else, aside from Vietnam, did the US support colonial occupations after WW2, and where else was such a policy successful?

            I already mentioned Malaya. Also the Confrontation with Indonesia, the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya and Oman all spring to mind. I’m sure there are others, but I’m more familiar with British military history in that era than the non-Anglophone states.

            Why would France have joined the Warsaw Pact in this scenario?

            Because they think they’ll get a better deal from the Soviets than the Americans. And they might be right. Those nasty communist guerillas will clear right up. (That was slightly facetious, but there was plenty of room to be more non-aligned. Like not having occupation troops in Germany and secret protocols to rejoin NATO command in the event of a war.)

            Out of curiosity, do you think that Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird and Creighton Abrams were among these idiots who failed to execute our perfectly sensible, perfectly workable policy of a war of aggression to impose an astro-turf government in (southern) Vietnam?

            No. I was speaking of Kennedy/Johnson and co and particularly Robert McNamara, who managed to mismanage the war so badly that it’s frankly hard to credit. I’m sure that a search of the SSC archives for his name will turn up many colorful stories, including a lot of discussion of this exact issue.

          • Atlas says:

            I don’t know much about east germany, but the Hungarian changes weren’t so much anti-communist as anti-soviet.

            They were definitely more about national sovereignty than economics, but my understanding is that in both cases the protesters were in favor of more democratic politics, which would have been considerably more amenable to economic reform.

            They also tried to establish hegemony over all of southeast asia, and only stopped when the chinese invaded them.

            Granting the accuracy of that description for the sake of argument, I think that’s still congruent with my point, though. The leadership of the Vietnamese state wasn’t all that interested in defending communism qua communism, which is why it was willing to fight non-Vietnamese communist countries. (And, more broadly, diplomatic coalitions, including ones of communist countries, are mainly driven by common enemies and tend to fracture rather than expand when the coalition lacks them.)

            Well, one, it involves the murder of a whole lot of innocent landlords. And two, the landlords were usually also the most efficient farmers, and killing them off usually caused a famine.

            Firstly, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, particularly if the government comes to power through democratic means, as e.g. Arbenz and Allende did. Indeed, in the case of Vietnam, AFAIK there was never a famine from collectivization on the scale of the Holodomor or Great Leap Forward, although apparently it got pretty close in the 1950s before being averted by foreign aid. (There was a major famine in 1945, but this was before collectivization and largely due to wartime disruptions.)

            Secondly, even if true, famines can be at least potentially be alleviated by international food aid. (For instance, I think that towards the end of the Russian Civil War US assistance at least considerably mitigated a serious food shortage.)

            Thirdly, even if true, it has to be weighed against the massive humanitarian costs of war, if war is necessary to prevent a communist government from taking power.

            I will admit that I’m just generally skeptical of the “White Man’s Burden” (a poem that always strikes me as a powerful condemnation of imperialism) thesis that it’s a good idea to be unpopular with the people you’re theoretically helping. Either you’re not actually helping, or they should be left to their own devices to learn for themselves.

            Communism was pretty monolithic before the death of stalin. but more importantly, that the communist states had their own rivalries didn’t mean that communism wasn’t awful and needed to be stopped.

            Insofar as only one country, Russia, and its geographically contiguous imperial possessions were communist at that time, perhaps. (Though even within the USSR I think there were some notable factional divisions.)

            I certainly agree that communism is a malicious system of governance and ought to have been/be eradicated. However, I think that combating communism was most consistently successful, as in Europe, when it was done on the basis of self-defense and respect for popular will and national sovereignty—that is to say, the principles that the US publicly espouses.

            As per “Guided by the Beauty of our Weapons,” a competition over who can have the best and most popular economic/political system is a competition in which the US/small-l liberalism necessarily has an asymmetric advantage over the USSR/communism over the medium-long run. A competition over who has the most vicious and effective thugs is not; maybe sometimes the capitalists have better thugs, maybe sometimes the communists do.

            Also the Chinese, the Cubans, the russians themselves, for that matter.

            Chinese reforms began in the late 1970s, so about 30 years after the CCP’s victory in the civil war. My understanding, and people can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, is that Mao was substantially eased out of power by more pragmatic elements within the Chinese state after the failure of the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, but then in the 1960s Mao tried to reverse this trend with the Cultural Revolution. The salience being, there were moderating forces competing for power within the CCP that were strengthened by manifest failures of communism within a decade or so of the communists coming to power.

            In Cuba, I think that the Bay of Pigs landing, the US embargo and general campaign of harassment/terrorism have significantly delayed reforms by creating a siege mentality. Had the US simply respected Cuba’s sovereignty after Castro took power, I think that the new Cuban government would have still proceeded to implement some unwise central planning/collectivization measures, but would have been a lot more willing to step back from them after the results proved disappointing.

            To some extent, our disagreement might be irreconcilable in that there aren’t enough cases to know for certain. (That is to say, I think that e.g. Vietnam and Angola stepped back from communism within 10 years or so after taking power because the governments realized that it wasn’t working and weren’t as distracted by external threats, whereas you think that it was because communism more globally began collapsing in the 1980s.)

            I definitely find your argument more persuasive now than I initially did, though. I’m willing to concede, if only for the sake of argument, that it might have taken, say, 20-30 years for reforms in Vietnam to occur, because I think that it doesn’t cardinally change my argument.

            How?

            By reducing the amount of internal political dialogue and competition devoted to foreign affairs and increasing the amount devoted to discussion of domestic policies.

            I would say that it was less bad, not that it was better. Free markets are better at both unless you’re trying to build up a particular industry at the expense of overall higher prosperity, for whatever reason.

            I agree with your re-framing, but it’s the same substantive point. (Incidentally, Professor Barry Eichengreen’s history of the European Economy since 1945 does a compelling job of documenting the relative inefficiency of the communist bloc.)

            they weren’t possible until Mao was dead.

            Perhaps, but I think if the Chinese leadership had perceived its geopolitical situation as more secure the factions within it in favor of internal reform would have been in a better position. I definitely am planning and need to learn more about modern Chinese history.

          • Atlas says:

            @cassander

            Nixon and those others didn’t start the war in Vietnam.

            They didn’t start the war, but they failed—as the Johnson administration failed— to win the war by creating a South Vietnamese government capable of standing on its own two feet without getting knocked over by a stiff breeze. To me, this suggests that it was not so much the failings of individual policymakers that led to failure in Vietnam as the fundamental nature of the US mission.

            And given the cards they were dealt, I think they did about as good a job as was possible getting out of it.

            I certainly don’t think so, given that they needlessly inflicted massive devastation on Cambodia, North and South Vietnam, and Laos to prolong a war that they should have, and to a considerable extent did, realized was a lost cause.

            They should have simply allowed/demanded free elections on the governance of South Vietnam, shrugged their shoulders and walked away when the pro-NLF/re-unification party won by a huge margin, taking as many Hmong, Montagnard, Hoa and ARVN/GVN personnel with them as possible.

            When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

            And there was absolutely nothing aggressive about a US war fought to defend the south from an invading north.

            Vietnam was partitioned at the 1954 Geneva Accords as the key condition for the withdrawal of occupying French troops from Vietnam. There was virtually zero indigenous support for the partition and Diem’s rule in Saigon, and the elections scheduled for the 1956 agreement as a condition of the 1954 treaty would almost certainly have led to re-unification under a Ho Chi Minh-led government. Note that when elections were scheduled, the Vietnamese communist leadership deliberately refrained from violent struggle, on the no doubt accurate assumption that it would win any free elections.

            However, Diem, with American blessing, reneged on the promises of the Geneva Accords. A war of reunification was a tragic, but inevitable, result of American/South Vietnamese perfidy.

            The South Vietnamese state was a creation of an occupying colonial power, and its survival was always contingent on actual or potential foreign armed intervention. A war to defend the sovereignty of such a state from the citizens it theoretically represents cannot honestly be thought of as a defensive war.

            The US didn’t fail over 30 years of conflict. the US dug itself into a massive hole between 1965 and 1968, then spent from 1969 to 1972 trying to get out of it. And more or less did. South Vietnam didn’t fall till 1975, after the US congress, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided that their army could fight the north just fine without ammunition and spare parts.

            Max Hastings’ excellent history of the Vietnam War led me to realize that this view, which I had held to some extent previously, is considerably mistaken.

            The French war in Indochina was supported by the US to such an extent—by 1953 the US was paying 80% of the costs— that it is fair to say that French forces effectively became US proxies. Quoting from Hastings:

            During 1950’s Korean winter panic, when outright defeat for UN forces seemed possible, Washington signed off on a massive Indochina aid increase. Thereafter, as France’s will to fight weakened, that of the US stiffened: the colonial army became increasingly an American proxy. Truman and Acheson, far from pressing Paris to negotiate with the Vietminh, urged it to do no such thing. Here was Washington’s first big blunder in Indochina, from which US policy making never recovered. Its military aid contribution ballooned to $150 million, delivered almost without strings—the proud French refused to confide in their paymasters about operational plans. By early 1951, they were receiving more than 7,200 tons of military equipment a month. The imperial power waged its war wearing American helmets, using many American weapons, driving American jeeps and trucks, and flying mostly American planes. Under such circumstances, it is scarcely surprising that when American soldiers a decade later arrived in Vietnam, they seemed to its people children of their earlier oppressors.

            The 1954 Geneva Accords that ended the French war, and the resulting partition, likewise cannot be understood without consideration of the key role played in the negotiations by the US.

            When the promised 1956 elections were cancelled, armed resistance within South Vietnam to the Diem government—which Hanoi’s War says initially happened at a much faster pace than Hanoi wanted—began.

            The US attempted to ensure its client state’s coercive hold on power in the face of popular opposition through a succession of measures: aid, advisers and finally bombardment/ground invasion.

            The takeaway being, from the French re-occupation of Vietnam in 1945 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, the US and its allies/proxies tried to prevent the ascension of an independent, communist government in Vietnam. That they failed to do so, in spite of massive theoretical advantages, suggests to me that the problem was not that one particular individual was mistaken, but rather that the entire enterprise was.

            The idea that ARVN, even by the end of the war, was an extremely effective fighting force capable of defeating the NVA without direct US support is belied by its dismal performance in the 1971 Laos campaign and its response to the 1972 Easter Offensive. (Consider that the NVA didn’t need massive Soviet air support to confidently launch offensive operations.) ARVN’s main deficiency was not material—it consistently received extremely generous support in that regard from the US, until perhaps the very end of the war—but the poor motivation and competence of its personnel. Arming the Montagnards was a pretty successful program, despite not costing all that many resources, because, unlike the South Vietnamese as a whole, they genuinely saw the communists as their enemies.

            The South Vietnamese definitely had enough material left in 1975 to give the NVA one Hell of a fight, given the natural martial advantages of defense, if they’d, you know, wanted to. Hastings again:

            On March 18, Giap in Hanoi informed the politburo that the critical moment had come: they must exploit the Northerners’ stunning local successes by launching a general offensive. It had become plain that the Americans would not commit air power and that many of Thieu’s soldiers had exhausted their will to fight. Despite much written later concerning South Vietnam’s shortage of munitions, there is no reason to believe that the events of early spring would have unfolded differently even if more arms had been available. South Vietnamese exile historian Nguyen Ky Phong suggests that the regime still possessed a year’s worth of war materiel, and this is evidenced by the huge quantities that later fell into the NVA’s hands—eighteen thousand tons in the Central Highlands alone. The fact that much equipment and ammunition was in the wrong places, because the South Vietnamese logistics system was crippled by inefficiency and corruption, cannot justly be blamed on the US.

        • cassander says:

          @ADifferentAnonymous

          In 1962, soviets largely lacked the ability to hit the US with nukes. The had missiles with enough range, but in practice they weren’t very useful because they took longer to fuel than it would have taken US bombers to attack them. So, in that light, it’s a huge change.

          The complication is that the soviets were already testing missiles that could be fueled rapidly, and they’d be rolling off the assembly line by about 1964. This meant that having missiles in cuba wasn’t actually buying them much from a purely military point of view, because they’d be rendered basically unnecessary barely a year before after they were operational.

          The US knew about the new missiles, and they blew up over it anyway. As I’ve read, no one in the deliberations seems to have cared that missiles in cuba weren’t really any more dangerous than the missiles already under construction, just that they felt more dangerous. I consider it a massive overreaction on behalf of the US, though it worked out well for us in the end.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        That much makes sense. By what mechanism would the strategic balance have eventually been altered? How sure are we that a global quasi-empire would have been a source, rather than a sink, of resources?*

        Also, was it in fact the case that e.g. the Latin American socialist movements would have been Soviet victories in the strategically relevant sense if the US had declined to oppose them?

        * The ethics the different approaches is another question. “Let the USSR amass a global empire that will then collapse in a pandemic of revolutions” would let NATO claim clean hands but probably score pretty abysmally on consequentialist grounds.

        • cassander says:

          In purely military terms allies might be costly, but they aren’t useless. A US facing a warsaw pact-esque latin america would be considerably more constrained in its actions than the actual US was. it’s whole perception of the threat environment would change.

          That said, the real long run threat was probably more ideological than anything. If communism keeps spreading, it makes communism look more appealing, which helps it spread more.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            In purely military terms allies might be costly, but they aren’t useless. A US facing a warsaw pact-esque latin america would be considerably more constrained in its actions than the actual US was. it’s whole perception of the threat environment would change.

            So the mechanism is that with enough Communist allies, the USSR would either a) start and win WWIII or b) have enough of a shot at doing a. to play more aggressively at WWIII-brinksmanship and compound their advantages?

            If communism keeps spreading, it makes communism look more appealing, which helps it spread more.

            Is that actually true, though? It kind of seems like US-backed authoritarian repression to prevent communism from spreading is what makes communism look more appealing, while actually trying it has the opposite effect.

            And to consolidate from the other thread

            I’d actually argue that cuba wasn’t really all that urgent

            To approach this from another angle, would a socialist regime in Mexico have been an urgent threat to the US?

          • Eric Rall says:

            So the mechanism is that with enough Communist allies, the USSR would either a) start and win WWIII or b) have enough of a shot at doing a. to play more aggressively at WWIII-brinksmanship and compound their advantages?

            The most plausible mechanism for a “domino theory” of Communist takeovers to be true would be that each Soviet-aligned state would offer more resources for efforts to support Communist revolution in other countries. Part of this is that a Communist country offers logistical channels into nearby countries (e.g. North Vietnam’s proximity to Laos and Cambodia, allowing them to send troops and supplies to support those countries’ respective Communist revolutionaries), and part of it is actual materiel and manpower resources (e.g. Cuba’s expeditionary force in the Angolan civil war).

          • cassander says:

            So the mechanism is that with enough Communist allies, the USSR would either a) start and win WWIII or b) have enough of a shot at doing a. to play more aggressively at WWIII-brinksmanship and compound their advantages?

            More the second. But also a lot more of trying to peel off US european allies to bandwagon with soviets.

            Is that actually true, though? It kind of seems like US-backed authoritarian repression to prevent communism from spreading is what makes communism look more appealing, while actually trying it has the opposite effect.

            Nothing succeeds like success. And it’s not just communism winning hearts and minds by example, it’s that any potential rebel would know that if he calls himself a communist he’s got a good shot at getting serious support from abroad, and anti-communist forces would know they can expect no help. That gives everyone a lot of incentives to call themselves communists.

            To approach this from another angle, would a socialist regime in Mexico have been an urgent threat to the US?

            I think it’s safe to say that the US would have reacted to a soviet Mexico to much the same degree that the russians have reacted to the idea of the Ukraine joining NATO. the Ukraine is not a threat to russia, ukraine adds almost nothing to NATO’s overall military power, but it’s way, way too close to home for comfort for a superpower that is used to its enemies being far away. It would feel like a dagger pointed at the heart, even though it’s, you know, mexico.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Proxy wars (and the space race) were venues in which to show off technology. The demonstration of the value of computers in warfare (I think in guided bombs) showed that the Soviets were decisively behind. The assessment that computer design was incompatible with information control lead directly to glastnost.

    • redtribewarrior says:

      I’m no expert, but I think the biggest impact of that factor, the “aligned nations” and proxy wars, was a disproportionate destruction of capital through military spending. As a percentage of gdp, I think the soviets spent ~ 20% on their military to our 5% during that period. The arms race was using up scarce resources fast. Then Reagan cranked up the US military machine and the Soviets were forced to accept that they couldn’t keep up. Star Wars missile defence may have been the idea that drove it home. That’s how the US prevailed. A similar dynamic may be playing out at present in our China conundrum. I think China is not nearly as strong as they are trying to project.

      • Lillian says:

        Keep in mind that much of the reason the US was able to only spend 5% on the military is that capitalism is simply that much more efficient than communism at exploiting and distributing resources. A lot of Soviet analysts thought we were simply lying about our GDP expenditures, partly because they were lying themselves, and partly because they just couldn’t see how we could possibly have otherwise afforded it all. Once the technological gap started growing the problem became even worse, since our guided bombs and missiles became increasingly able to annihilate Soviet armoured columns from the air, which was a problem when the Soviet Air Forces couldn’t grantee air superiority due to their own technological shortcomings. Capitalist computer science basically invalidated the entire Soviet strategy of “drown them in tanks”. The Soviets already couldn’t keep up, Reagan might have at best simply accelerated the process a little.

        • cassander says:

          I’d agree that the idea that reagan had an explicit plan to spend the USSR into bankruptcy is nonsense. Reagan certainly thought that the cold war was winnable, and he might even have thought that the USSR would eventually collapse under its own contradictions, but as far as I can tell no one was thinking that if they raised defense spending from 5% of GDP to 6%, they’d break the USSR’s back.

          The idea was to reverse a decade’s worth of lower military spending (defense spending was about 8% of GDP in 1970), ending detente, and taking a more confrontational attitude across the board. I don’t think the size of the technological gap was really appreciated on either side until the gulf war.

    • Atlas says:

      In what ways and to what extent did the fight to establish capitalist/communist regimes in Third World countries actually influence the outcome of US/USSR conflict?

      I think it probably had almost no impact on the end result. The US could maintain a system of democracy/private enterprise indefinitely because it was popular and effective, whereas the USSR could not maintain a dictatorship of the proletariat/central planning system indefinitely because it was unpopular and ineffective. Conflicts in the Third World had little, if anything, to do with that.

  31. Tenacious D says:

    Today marks the roll-out of a federal carbon tax in Canada (for provinces that didn’t already have one). It is set at $20 per metric tonne of CO2e, which works out to around 4 cents on a litre of gasoline or cubic metre of natural gas; it will go up in $10/tonne increments for the next 3 years. To make it sort-of revenue neutral, there is a new credit applied on income tax returns (based on average household energy consumption and not means-tested).

    The government predicts that this tax will reduce annual emissions by at least 50 million tonnes by the time it has fully ramped up in 2022. What do people at SSC predict the impact will be?

    Personally, I think it will be a scenario like those discussed in https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/03/13/does-reality-drive-straight-lines-on-graphs-or-do-straight-lines-on-graphs-drive-reality/ –emissions might decrease but it will be hard to identify an inflection point corresponding to this policy change.

    • BBA says:

      What do people at SSC predict the impact will be?

      A Conservative win in the upcoming election, followed by an immediate repeal of the tax.

      • salvorhardin says:

        There are plenty of reasons the Conservatives might win the election, though. Is there any way to tease out the impact of the carbon tax on the Liberals’ polling numbers vs the impact of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, for example?

      • Tenacious D says:

        How likely do you think a Conservative majority win is? Recent provincial elections have seen lots of voters trying out new/small parties so if that translates federally I’m thinking the Greens and PPC may have strong showings, which makes the overall outcome harder to predict.

        • BBA says:

          I know little about Canadian politics and am judging mainly on new taxes being unpopular.

      • redtribewarrior says:

        agreed

    • redtribewarrior says:

      One can safely project: lower revenues collected than projected; less reduction in emissions than projected; substitution of alternative fuel sources, with unintended consequences—maybe muddying the picture vis a vis reduction of emissions; lower total paid out from revenues than promised. High chance implementation is a clusterf* and disruptions occur. Producers are harmed (but they deserve it, right?), and consumers pay more, even after promised “bonus.” Govt – Here to help. Makes it worse.

    • DinoNerd says:

      As a (long term expat) Canadian, my guess is that the tax will stick. Gasoline has traditionally been much more heavily taxed in Canada than in the US, and “sin taxes” also have a long tradition.

      The disillusionment about Trudeau (from current scandals) might cause a Conservative victory, but I think the memory of Harper is too recent for that – Liberal supporters will hold their noses and vote Liberal anyway, and/or vote for a minority party, never the conservatives. Worst case, a conservative plurality – with “partners” that won’t let them repeal the tax.

      OTOH, this will doubtless fuel Alberta’s grievances, which are already plentiful.

      [Note – low confidence – I haven’t paid attention to those news stories, and I’ve been an expat for a while.]

    • Aapje says:

      To make it sort-of revenue neutral, there is a new credit applied on income tax returns (based on average household energy consumption and not means-tested).

      This makes the carbon tax regressive and the likely outcome is that it will drive low income voters to the right.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        If everyone received an equal amount from the tax credit then it would be progressive, as the money would make up a higher percentage of a poor person’s income. I believe that is how it presently works in British Columbia — all taxpayers receive about four hundred dollars from the carbon tax credit regardless of their circumstances. In Alberta (and maybe other places) there might be some regressiveness, as the amount of the tax credit is partially adjusted to the recipient’s household income. I don’t think the carbon tax will be as significant as the French fuel tax, as it seems to be far less significant, and also the Canadian ‘welfare state’ is a lot less extensive than France’s overall, so that there is less resentment from the lower middle class.

        • Aapje says:

          The tax is presumably more regressive than the tax credit is progressive.

          For example, see this calculation where they argue that the tax credit has to be progressive to balance out the regressiveness of a carbon tax.

          PS. There seems to be a new populist party in Canada that is targeting disaffected voters, the People’s Party. However, Canada seems to have a district-based system that makes things hard for parties with non-concentrated voters.

      • Tenacious D says:

        @Aapje:

        I’ve seen at least a few supporters claim it’s a bit progressive as low income households are likely to consume less energy than average (debatable, imo, as cheaper housing often isn’t insulated as well).

        @ The Red Foliot:

        If I understand correctly, the federal version isn’t adjusted for income but it is adjusted for household size.
        Where I live the price of gas jumped from around $1.20 to $1.24/L with the new tax (which is in the range of month-to-month variability) so I think the contrast you draw with France is apt.

        • Aapje says:

          An issue is that richer people are far more likely to fly, which produces a lot of CO2, but which is untaxed or taxed less.

          It seems that the federal carbon tax will apply to flights within provinces right away, to flights between provinces in the future and not to international flights.

          This article suggests that citizens come out ahead by the policy redistributing money from companies to citizens.

          Of course, then the policy is not revenue-neutral.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It seems that the federal carbon tax will apply to flights within provinces right away, to flights between provinces in the future and not to international flights.

            Leading to flights from one side of Canada to the other having a stop in the US.

          • BBA says:

            Is the tax high enough that people will waste a couple of hours going through immigration and customs twice in order to avoid it? I mean, I’m sure a few people will just out of spite, but…

          • Is the tax high enough that people will waste a couple of hours going through immigration and customs twice in order to avoid it?

            If they are not changing planes, is that necessary? Can’t they just sit in the plane until it takes off again?

            My memory of European airports is that if you are flying from A to B to C, all in different countries, you can change planes in B without ever leaving the part of the airport that is before you go through customs. Am I mistaken?

          • BBA says:

            Most European airports are set up to allow transfers without clearing immigration. US and Canadian airports are not.

            I guess if the flight just stopped in the US for a few minutes without letting anyone on or off, it could be treated as a “domestic” flight upon arrival in Canada since nobody boarded in another country. But unless the tax law is very poorly drafted, this flight would be “domestic” for tax purposes as well.

          • Tenacious D says:

            @Aapje:

            It seems that the federal carbon tax will apply to flights within provinces right away

            Unless they’re exempted, this seems like it will hit fly-in native reserves and other remote communities hardest.

            @DavidFriedman:

            I think that’s how it is in many countries, but flights between Canada and the US are set up so that travellers clear customs (in either direction) in the Canadian airport. This allows the flight to arrive/depart in the domestic area of the US airport, enabling Canadian hub airports (the only ones with these pre-clearance zones) to offer a lot more routes to the US.

  32. Douglas Knight says:

    The really audacious part of GND is rolling back executive power.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Maybe. We haven’t seen much in the way of an implementation plan for it. If Congress were to drive that kind of extensive change without doing it by seizing the executive branch, that would certainly be… one audacious part of the Green New Deal.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Sure there’s a plan: a select committee.
        Depends on what you mean by “seizing.”

    • Walter says:

      My impression was that the GND is a plan to make a plan, right? Does it actually state some powers it is taking away from the President and which congresspeople will take those powers?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, it’s pretty vague, but at the very least it requires eliminating EPA, USDA, Labor, and Transport.

        The select committee of congresspeople who have not received fossil fuel money.

    • redtribewarrior says:

      Hahaha! Massive increase in government intervention will somehow lead to “rolling back executive power”?!? That is laughable on its face. Q. Which branch will write, implement, and enforce the despotic level of government regulations for the control required to make the GND happen (singing in falsetto: Impossible!) If we were to do a cost/benefit: Plus side: 1. Lower emissions – net present value zero because the promised impacts will not come. 2. Guaranteed jobs at $15/hr or more: Net present value: (10 years) negative. Loss in jobs (true minimum wage = 0) and reduction of hours worked outweighs modest increase in hourly wages. Many more workers lose than win. PLUS! We get our Big Macs and fries handed to us by robot arms.

      Negative side: Energy becomes much more expensive and less reliable. Corruption runs rampant through the massive beaurocracy created for the gnd. Unsightly, expensive and unreliable windmills put a blight on our landscape and kill millions of birds, including bald eagles and some threatened species.

      Big plus: Dems lose POTUS, House & Senate in a landslide.

      Seriously, you lovable dreamers haven’t done your homework and thought this through.

  33. J Mann says:

    Another HPMOR question: Does Harry’s solution in the final confrontation use rationalist principles, and if so, how?

    It always bugged me that Draco seems to drink the rationalist Kool-Aid, then gets sidelined, and Harry solves the problem by just being fundamentally smarter and better educated than his opponents, but maybe I’m missing something.

    Also, and on a not unrelated subject, how do I mark spoilers?

    • JohnWittle says:

      I thought that was the whole point, no? The very last chapter, 115, Harry spent a bunch of time retrospecting on the fact that all of his rationalist skills were almost worse than worthless, they didn’t even really help him make better decisions, all they did was give him a framework to quantitatively describe the mistakes that he had made in retrospect. That in order to actually grow up into the kind of person who gets the right answer, rather than just being able to subsequently point at and understand what he did wrong, would require even more Herculean efforts, exploration in some new surprising conceptual direction from before. Something that nobody knows how to do. Then he reflects on the fact that, even with all of his rationalist powers at Peak Performance, even after he received such a large blow to his estimation of his own abilities and thought he’d correctly adjusted to be less arrogant etc, he still would have made a mistake that led inevitably to the destruction of the world if not for the Vow.

      I thought the ending was all about rational humility, and the understanding that mostly what 201x rationalism gives you is the ability to explore a bunch of entirely new and weird failure modes different and distinct from the failure modes of non rationalists, but that it’s still nowhere near good enough to get you to the actual correct answer

    • JPNunez says:

      Something funny about HPMOR’s final confrontation, is that yes, HP just beats Voldemort by being better prepared, due to the power the opponent did not know, the partial transfiguration.

      One of the best sections of the book is when HP along with Snape and Dumbledore and Minerva, are trying to figure out if Voldemort is still alive, and Harry verges into the aspect of how come Voldemort didn’t just kill everyone, given he seemed like a rational actor, just evil, and a powerful, intelligent evil wizard was considered an extinction event.

      But in the end, in the conversation between Voldemort and Harry, Harry asks what the hell was going on in the 70s/80s that Voldemort didn’t just kill everyone. And the answer is that Voldemort was just having a great time and didn’t really want to finally conquer everything just yet. Which marks Voldemort as not really that much of a rational actor. Which means that in the end Harry could just beat him with his regular tricks and thinking out of the box. The only rationalist aspect of his victory is that he tries to see things as they are and uses every resource to the utmost, which he had already done with the Troll.

      But the ending suggests that Harry himself is the extinction event, cause even if he is not evil, he lives in the border of setting off events that trigger the end of the world. Have to wonder if by then EY was starting to become more interested on aligning AIs.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Have to wonder if by then EY was starting to become more interested on aligning AIs.

        … this is sarcasm, right?

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, but if you kill everyone, who are you going to rule over? The fun part of being a world conqueror is having your enemies groveling in the dust before you. If you zap everyone out of existence, it’s just you and nothing, so you might as well have stayed in your bedroom and indulged in revenge fantasies.

        • JPNunez says:

          Just using killing everyone as shorthand of “really evil objective”. Harry realizes that if Voldemort was really all that intelligent, everyone on the good side would be dead or enslaved, yet the world didn’t look like that, even ignoring the part where Voldemort got destroyed by the shenanigans going on with her mother protecting him. Harry imagined ways of winning easily, and while maybe they wouldn’t have worked, it was possible that Voldemort could have experimented successfully without too much cost to himself in ways of killing his opposition. Remember that he was working against the order of the phoenix for a decade without a lot of progress.

          But it is a good shorthand because after that Harry realizes that he has the power to kill everyone, regardless of him being good or evil. An intelligent wizard is an extinction event.

      • Walter says:

        “Which marks Voldemort as not really that much of a rational actor. ”

        Minor disagreement here. Voldemort had different priorities than Harry had previously believed that he had, but whether or not someone is a rational actor isn’t determined by their goals, but rather by the actions that they take in pursuit of them.

        That is, neither wanting to launch a coup, wanting to stop a coup, wanting to live as a terrorist mastermind or wanting to defeat death are inherently rationalist. Rationalism is silent on the question of what your goals should be, only nodding or sneering at how you strive for them.

        • JPNunez says:

          His stated objective was world domination tho, and achieving eternal life.

          He conquered the later, with a huge caveat, but never got around to the former.

    • Nick says:

      Also, and on a not unrelated subject, how do I mark spoilers?

      I don’t think there’s a way to mark spoilers on here. Just use rot13 to encode/decode.

    • Basil Elton says:

      How about his rationality skills were part of the reason why he was better prepared in the first place? He was able to learn partial transfiguration only because he knew and believed that quantum timeless physics is the correct interpretation, which is the direct result of his rationality as it’s undistinguishable experimentally from other hypotheses (well, in the book the successful partial transfiguration itself became such an experiment).

      To the less extent, but his knowledge how to transfigure carbon nanotubes was result of the experiments, and those are (among other things) direct application of “verify theory by practice” principle, which is at the core of rationality.

      And during the confrontation itself, the idea to incapacitate Volandemort instead of killing him, as well as to use piece of a wand for transfiguration, are clearly examples of outside the box thinking. If you want the specific rationality techniques I’d pointed at avoiding cached thoughts and “hug the query”. Plus in the first case maybe avoiding “outside the box box”, because arguably the standard non-standard solution to the task of defeating the enemy is to make friends with them.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      This reminds me of an old question of mine: is it really worth it to keep progressing intellectually? I mean, it’s not like it really helps my day job that much, and there’s only so much you can impress the ladies with smart conversation. As for feeling good with oneself… har har. I’m feeling like the village idiot just by posting here.

      I ultimately think it is, but it’s not obvious. Decreasing marginal benefits are a thing, and in addition to that you’re not always going up – it’s quite easy to go mostly sideways for a few years and not even realize it. Not to mention dead ends if you chose to follow the wrong white rabbit (*cough*replicationcrisis*cough*).

      There are two things that give me moderate optimism that it’s worth it. First, there’s something of an universal rule that when you do something new, first you get better at it, then you get worse, and only by persevering you get very good. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but there’s a valley somewhere. Shoot-yourself-in-the foot Valley. New rationalists finding new ways to make fools of themselves, serious motorcycle accidents peaking 1 year after starting etc. So don’t lose hope.

      Second, when you persevere, you tend to win so overwhelmingly that it feels like cheating – just like Harry did. The new magic he’s using comes from being able to visualize how the universe really works, and by doing basic research. It sounds obvious, and it’s a superpower only because there is that much of a difference between being expert at something and the rest of the world.

      More generally, to win with expertise seldom feels like work. You just know something because you read it somewhere. Not your merit, really, I mean *of course* a party will become more extremist after losing an election, that’s just Evaporative Cooling. That fancy house, twice the price and 30 minutes extra commute? Didn’t even go see it, what would be the point. Steelman you in-law’s point out of habit instead of knee-jerking an argument, and now you’re his favorite.

      • J Mann says:

        Presumably, the question is “relative to what?”

        Let’s say you can spend your time: (1) reading and discussing the sequences, (2) auditing and discussing a great books course online, (3) playing videogames, (4) dancing at clubs, (5) taking your kids to the park, and (6) participating in one of your romantic partner’s interests. I’d venture there is an optimal level of each based on your goals.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          The example I love about that is how I spent 6 month each with archery and indoor climbing. Archery was wicked fun, but has zero transferable skills whatsoever. Climbing is a lifelong skill that can come up anytime, and is amazingly transferable (including to dancing, if you can believe it).

          Sure, it’s subjective, but it’s not all relative. Some hobbies are objectively better than others.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      You do spoilers by using ROT13. But everyone else has already posted in plaintext, so I’m not going to bother.

      I once saw a post on RPGnet that I found insightful:

      The thing is, Harry never had a rationality advantage over Quirrell. Quirrell is an evil rationalist, but an incredibly good one. And quite possibly the entire source for Harry being one at all. Harry winning by superior rationalism would basically have required Voldemort grabbing an idiot ball, which would have really devalued things.

      The winning play was actually an absurdly wizardly one. Harry won because he knew potent secrets Voldemort didn’t.

      I think that sums it up. Quirrellmort is a more powerful rationalist than Harry, so he was never going to win that way. Instead, Harry won by exploiting his superior scientific knowledge, including partial Transfiguration, which is the power the Dark Lord knows not (yes, I know Eliezer says it was actually something to protect, but I’m calling death of the author here, because fuck that).

  34. EchoChaos says:

    “A ____ terrorist has engaged in a cowardly attack on innocents. We need to retaliate by destroying his ideology and any related ideologies that he may radicalize due to their similarity down to the roots.”

    1. A red tribe person talking about “Islamic”

    2. A blue tribe person talking about “white supremacist”

    I can completely understand the sentiment, given how tempting it is to yell for 1 as a Red Tribe guy. But given the Blue Tribe dominance of the media, you hear a lot more of 2. And it’s just as radicalizing to people who are close.

    I’m certainly never going to become a terrorist, but there is a reason the NZ shooter’s manifesto was the way it was. Similarly to an Islamic terrorist’s call to arms which is meant to radicalize people who are already devout Muslims but haven’t taken the step to terrorism, the NZ manifesto is aimed at people who are already “pro-white”, but don’t believe terrorism is the right way.

    The message that gets sent by the Blue Tribe media because of this is “we are firmly on the side of Islam and against whites”. That only makes it easier for monsters like the NZ shooter to recruit. I realize it may sound self-serving to say “don’t attack my ideology, which is adjacent to a bad guy”, but more moderate Muslims say the exact same thing and most of the Blue Tribe understands it’s not because they’re at risk of becoming terrorists.

    A small request here on SSC probably won’t change the way Blue Tribe thinks (y’all are mostly from the Gray side of Blue), but I hope it makes an impression.

    • albatross11 says:

      Also, just as a matter of justice, if you see why demonizing all _____ in one case is wrong, you ought to be able to see why it’s also wrong in the other case. However, this pulls massively against human nature, so it’s hard to get people to do it.

      • Kindly says:

        As a matter of justice, it’s reasonable to consider the possibility that both cases are wrong or that both are right, but fairness alone can’t distinguish between these two options.

    • DinoNerd says:

      First of all, this is a bad argument. There are plenty of things I can put in the blank that would be acceptable to all, because the category is in fact defined by its dedication to doing bad things. Others work because the category is defined by dedication to violent enmity to some particular group.

      The real question here is:

      (1) whether Islam is primarily a religion, with the usual mixed history and mixed motives of any religion, and a sideline of people using it as justification for violence, just like Christianity
      (2) exactly what “white supremacist” means.

      [edit: removed large amount of text I wasn’t satisfied with]

      • EchoChaos says:

        First of all, this is a bad argument. There are plenty of things I can put in the blank that would be acceptable to all, because the category is in fact defined by its dedication to doing bad things.

        I suspect that is because you’re motte and bailey-ing, which is the exact temptation I’m talking about.

        If I define ____ as “radical Islam”, but I keep attacking all Muslims, (the Red Tribe version of this), you would rightly point out what I was doing.

        I am not talking about active neo-Nazis, which I hope we all agree are horrible people, I’m talking about the adjascent nationalists of various stripes who get pulled along.

        The Blue Tribe motte and baileys the exact same way “People like the NZ shooter are horrible” (agreed), therefore anyone in the same ZIP code ideologically should be eradicated.

        • Well... says:

          Is “radical Islam” still too vague? Aren’t there no doubt a lot of super-devout Muslims who still would never condone terrorist acts? Aren’t there nearly-secular Muslims who would condone them?

    • episcience says:

      Help me understand who you are talking about here.

      Islamic terrorists are to Muslims as white supremacist terrorists are to [BLANK].

      What is the white-supremacist-adjacent belief system which shouldn’t be attacked?

      • EchoChaos says:

        White nationalists, white identitarians.

        People who say things like “The United States should remain majority white”.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          Specifically, the NZ terrorist called himself an ethno-nationalist.

          It’s the belief that national borders should be drawn along ethnic lines and that people of a given ethnicity should stay in “their own” countries and only ever visit countries of other ethnicities as guests, not to stay. It’s officially neutral on whether ethnicities are superior to each other, and you can imagine categorising adherents further based on that, in which case white supremacy could be considered an extremist subset of white nationalism or ethno-nationalim more generally.

          It’s certainly an idea with a bad rap, but seems much more innocuous than actually saying your race is superior, which the shooter at least did not claim to believe in his manifesto. He said (you don’t have to believe him obviously) that he’s cool with all races/ethnicities (he treats the two as synonyms) so long as they don’t come to the countries ‘belonging to’ his race/ethnicity.

          I feel dirty as if even talking about this is defending the shooter, but the crucial difference is he isn’t above murdering innocent people for his beliefs, which I suppose is the crucial difference that makes it similar to comparing jihadists with those muslims who still believe fairly extreme things but don’t advocate violence.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Does this imply that all non-Maori should leave New Zealand? If not, why not?

            [Oops – you aren’t defending this, so asking *you* here was inappropriate. Maybe EchoChaos would like to take this on, though I think he’s explicitly about whiteness, not about ethno-nationalism.]

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DinoNerd

            I’m not a New Zealander, so I would leave that to them to decide, but generally I’m not in favor of refighting things that are 200 years in the past. Or even 50. I wouldn’t advocate Poland returning the Eastern parts of Germany, for example.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Does this imply that all non-Maori should leave New Zealand? If not, why not?

            No, because it is not an universalist ideology, or at best it is universalist only in the “might makes right” sense.

            The idea is that whites won New Zealand by right of conquest: they were strong while the Maori were weak. Therefore, it is in the interest of whites to remain strong and repel potential invaders, in order not to end up like the Maori, the Aboriginals, the Native Americans or the Palestinians.

            It’s a view of the world as a the theater of fundamentally irreconcilable conflict between groups of humans defined along ethno-national-religious lines. It’s definitely out of the Overton window of modern mainstream Western values but this view used to be quite common in the past, and still is in large parts of the world (e.g. Asia).

          • doubleunplussed says:

            @DinoNerd, correct that I’m not an ethno-nationalist.

            I think ethno-nationalists would say that yes, Maori and European kiwis should have their own countries.

            I was surprised not to see something in the NZ shooter’s manifesto addressing indigenous Australians. I thought he would say something like they should get a part of Australia, or even that ethnically European Australians should all go to Europe in the long run (a kind of European Zionism – he did say that Jews should go to Israel). But he just didn’t mention it at all.

          • Does this imply that all non-Maori should leave New Zealand?

            I think the implication is that it would be better for the Maori if the non-Maori had never entered New Zealand.

            That would make an interesting alternate history, if one could manage a semi-plausible way of doing it.

          • Lambert says:

            The thing about the relationship between the Maori and British is that it was ostensibly codified by a legal document.
            Of course, interpretation was hardy fair, and the Maori translation was deliberately obfuscated in terms of what it said about sovereignty and chieftainship.

            And yes, the Maori did Have a Flag.

      • Murphy says:

        You can probably find plenty of non-violent groups linked to most violent groups.

        IRA as to Sinn Fein

        UDA as to the DUP

        Most of the time trying to burn the peaceful group to the ground ends badly.

      • Clutzy says:

        I’m not echo, but to be honest, the way the media portrays it:

        Islamic terrorists are to Muslims as white supremacist terrorists are to any right of center white person.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I realize it may sound self-serving to say “don’t attack my ideology, which is adjacent to a bad guy”,

      OK, I’ll bite, but not in the same response. What is your ideology, that’s adjacent to a “white supremacist” who chooses to kill random strangers in a place of worship? It presumably uses the same name (“white supremacist”), so what I’m looking for are descriptive terms, beliefs etc.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I’m a white nationalist. I believe that white nations should, as a matter of policy, remain majority white.

        • DinoNerd says:

          How do you propose to accomplish this?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Decreasing non-white immigration, increasing white immigration, increasing native birthrates.

          • DinoNerd says:

            increasing native birthrates

            Not really responding to EC here (see Scott’s post below) just have to share.

            The first time I encountered any kind of white supremacist/ethnic nationalist, it was a group of male losers running a zine associated with the Germanic strain of neo-Paganism.

            They were very upset about white women choosing black men, rather than choosing them. My reaction was basically “what a batch of losers; I imagine any halfway self respecting woman would stay celibate for life, if you were her only potential partners”.

        • JPNunez says:

          So you agree with the terrorist but just disapprove of actually shooting people.

          uh

          • baconbits9 says:

            That isn’t what he said.

          • J Mann says:

            I don’t agree with that terrorist,* but I’m sure there are examples terrorists with whose broad aims I do agree, and I suspect the same goes for you. We could start with John Brown.

          • J Mann says:

            PS – sorry, I had an addendum, but it didn’t add much of value, so I cut it but forgot to cut the *.

          • Randy M says:

            uh

            Explain?
            The thing we dislike about terrorists is primarily the actually shooting people (and materially supporting other people actually shooting people).
            A terrorists views may still be wrong, may still be disgusting–but arguing that requires more than guilt by association. Hitler, vegetarianism, etc.

          • rlms says:

            @J Mann
            I’m actually not so sure that’s true, if you restrict it to terrorists who indiscriminately massacred people outside the context of a (even low-level) war. You might say that this is an unnatural category, but I think it’s pretty reasonable; it includes most Islamist terrorism which is the most salient example of modern terrorism.

          • J Mann says:

            @rmls – it probably depends on how aggressively or generously you define “agree with the terrorist.”

            Certainly there have been mass civilian killings on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, so if you have some pro-Zionist or pro-Palestinian leanings (I have both), you arguably agree with Baruch Goldstein or his Palestinian equivalents about some of their grievances.

          • rlms says:

            I’d say that falls under low-level war.

        • nkurz says:

          Can you explain what you mean by “white”?

          Is it the physical appearance of future Americans that you care about? Does your definition of white literally depend on melanin levels?

          Is it racial? If so, do you feel that there are multiple white races, or only one? Do you subscribe to a “one drop” philosophy?

          Does national origin matter? Are there any nations who are considered white despite not otherwise meeting the requirements? Or who are excluded despite appearing to meet them?

          Or is it something cultural? Is white synonymous with democratic? Or is something religious? Are atheists white? Does modern day Israel fit under your definition of white nationalism?

          I feel like I can understand the impulse for a culturally defined “white nationalism”, but if culture is the focus, the movement seems misnamed.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s possible that people who want countries to stay white or white majority are mostly uncomfortable with change. They have a delusion that if the country stays white, it won’t become much different from what they grew up with.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @nkurz

            Can you explain what you mean by “white”?

            Sure. I mean mainly or entirely descended from mainland European stock. The boundary tends to be somewhere around the Caucasus, but there are others. Turks are not white, Jews and Poles are white.

            Is it the physical appearance of future Americans that you care about? Does your definition of white literally depend on melanin levels?

            Yes and not entirely. An Albino African would not be white, an Italian would be.

            Is it racial? If so, do you feel that there are multiple white races, or only one? Do you subscribe to a “one drop” philosophy?

            Yes. Multiple. No.

            Does national origin matter? Are there any nations who are considered white despite not otherwise meeting the requirements? Or who are excluded despite appearing to meet them?

            Only insofar as it is predictive of ancestry. I don’t parse the two question.

            Or is it something cultural? Is white synonymous with democratic? Or is something religious? Are atheists white? Does modern day Israel fit under your definition of white nationalism?

            Only insofar as culture is a proxy. No. No. Some of them are, certainly. Yes.

          • Well... says:

            Turks are not white, Jews and Poles are white.

            Does modern day Israel fit under your definition of white nationalism?

            […]
            Yes.

            I don’t think a lot of white nationalists consider Jews white. They tend to consider Israel a Jewish ethno-nationalist country that is allowed to be such only because Jews have tricked white people into not noticing (or something).

          • Machine Interface says:

            Turks are not white, Jews and Poles are white.

            That doesn’t seem to make sense. Jews are made of multiple distinct ethnicities. If Beta Israel are white, then “white” doesn’t mean anything. The average middle-eastern Turk is whiter than the average non-Ashkenazim Jew. And some southern Italians look less white than most people in Anatolia and the Levant.

            Are you sure your definition doesn’t have unexamined cultural criteria in addition to the racial ones?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            What does the up-to-date genetics research say about how much Turks are Turkic vs. Roman (i.e. Greek-speaking Christians) whose ancestors converted to Islam?

          • albatross11 says:

            The turks I know cover a range–are unambiguously white by American racial categories, others look like they might be hispanic or Middle-Eastern–but might well be assumed to be white in the same way that Italians are usually thought of as white.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Genetics mainly reflect geography. Languages are much more arbitrary. Turks are between Greeks and Iranians.

            Here are several analyses of the question. The easiest to understand is the last, the admixture plot, which defines 5 synthetic populations, apparently 2 European, 2 East Asian, and the Central Asian. Georgians and Iranians have more Central Asian ancestry than Turks. However Turks have a little bit of East Asian ancestry, while Iranians don’t, so that’s an example where geography doesn’t work perfectly. Turkmen and Tajiks are genetically similar, having lots of Central Asian ancestry (more than Iranians) and a bit of East Asian. But Turkmen is Turkic, while Tajik is close to Persian.
            (I used the easiest plot to understand, but that probably produced overconfidence.)

        • Scott Alexander says:

          EchoChaos is banned indefinitely. I don’t want to claim this is especially fair or rule-based, but he’s been advocating white nationalism on three open threads in a row now. Although I try not to ban people for their opinion, at some point it gets distracting and puts everyone here at risk.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I would think the first step would be to ban him specifically from talking about it for a while rather than an indefinite ban. It’s been done before.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it seems like a warning would have been in order. It’s your site and you have to do what you think is best, but that seemed kinda abrupt to me.

          • WashedOut says:

            As a point of order: After reading the current thread, nothing EC said registered to me as ‘advocacy’. He/she presented a problem, then a few people decided to “bite” and probed into EC’s beliefs. This probing lead EC to clarify the details of his/her position, which seemed to me to be pretty plainly answered.

            When I see something described as ‘advocacy’ I expect to see language along the lines of “this is why you should believe X”, with the intent to convince/persuade, or defend a position.

            Consider that it may be a greater risk to the long-term health of the board to erroneously label statements of unsavory opinion as ‘advocacy’.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yeah, it seems like a warning would have been in order. It’s your site and you have to do what you think is best, but that seemed kinda abrupt to me.

            Yes, please make this into a suspension for 3 months or something, and ask EC never to discuss white nationalism in the future. I understand that his opinions are well outside the usual Overton window and so could give outsiders the wrong impression of this site. But EC was otherwise a model SSCer, discussing his views in a rational manner. The best part of SSC is hearing different than normal views expressed in a rational manner. Please give him a break.

          • quanta413 says:

            I don’t agree with him, and I’m mixed race so obviously his ideology is not great for me. But how far is this slide into viewpoint based rules going to go? Which viewpoints are not fair game? We still have a few honest to god communists here last time I checked, who don’t hold viewpoints any less morally wrong as far as I’m concerned.

            It’d be simpler and fairer if you laid out the rules ahead of time instead of slowly moving the right edge of the window here leftwards. And it’d feel fairer if you sliced away the left wing crazy edge as well.

          • I have now three times tried to post, pointing out that EC did not behave badly, was indeed a valuable contributor, since he civilly expressed a point of view we rarely see.

            JPNunez, on the other hand, did behave badly, although not at a bannable level. When he posted:

            But when there’s a white supremacist terrorist, you not only do not disavow him, you just accept you are a white supremacist

            he made two false, indeed slanderous, statements about EC in a single sentence.

            I am now trying again, using EC instead of the full name.

          • Well... says:

            I understand and respect concerns about distraction and risk: it would suck if SSC OTs became the place where one perpetually finds discussion of white nationalism — and not just because it would get old and annoying really fast. SSC would also become the kind of place one maybe can’t recommend to anyone or publicly admit to visiting. I’ve played that game before and I stopped for a reason.

            But another thing to consider, I think, is that the more people who comment here, of all perspectives, the more granularity we get of their neighborhood on the political sentimental cartography spectrum, and I tend to think more granularity about the ideological world around us is probably better. (At the very least, it’s interesting to learn about.)

            Unfortunately I don’t know if it works this way, where if you move the edges of your Overton window both left and right to widen it, you get increased participation from both now-included extremes. It could be that whichever extreme is more active first, the other one is repelled.

            But, another perhaps more practical argument against banning people for discussing WN is it means the banned people subsequently won’t have the non-WN commenters here to argue with and potentially erode their confidence in WN beliefs. There are very few places on the internet, as far as I can tell, where people seem so often to show up with a calm spirit and an open mind.

          • Atlas says:

            @Scott Alexander

            With all due respect, I also hope that you re-consider your decision. I feel confused/disappointed/frustrated by this on several levels:

            1. Granting for the sake of argument that EC deserves a ban and that the overall policy is good, an indefinite ban seems far too punitive. It seems like it should be a matter of weeks or months at most.

            2. Granting for the sake of argument that you’re not/shouldn’t be allowed to advocate for white nationalism at SSC, how was EC supposed to know that? Unless I’ve missed something, it doesn’t seem like you’ve made a general proclamation about this or warned him specifically. (You stated that he’s been advocating white nationalism for three threads in a row, but not that he was warned it was frowned upon to do so.) So it seems unfair, even if you maintain this overall policy, not to warn people in general/EC in particular about it first.

            3. The comment rules say:

            Slate Star Codex has lower standards than either ancient Sufis or preachy Victorians, and so we only require you to pass at least two of those three gates.

            If you make a comment here, it had better be either true and necessary, true and kind, or kind and necessary.

            I take this to usually be interpreted “negatively,” so to speak—that is, comments shouldn’t be egregiously unkind, untrue and/or unnecessary. (Because I feel like being “actively” True, Necessary and/or Kind is way too high of a bar for any discussion of any issue to take place.)

            Judging by the usual standards of applying these rules, it doesn’t seem like EC’s comments are worthy of a ban. Ethnic nationalism is a very topical issue worthy of discussion, EC doesn’t seem to have made factual/logical errors more egregious than is usually acceptable, and EC, while perhaps not exactly “kind,” does not seem to have engaged in any personal attacks or stated his positions in excessively combative ways.

            Therefore, given that the comments policy is eminently sensible, I don’t think that EC deserves a ban, since he was following it.

            4. I find EC’s comments consistently perceptive, and extra valuable because his ideological perspective/tribal affiliation differs somewhat from that of many SSCers, myself included. If other people have similar views, I think this should be a mitigating factor.

            You might be thinking about the CW Reddit thread thing, and I guess considering your experience with that I couldn’t really blame you if you decided to wash your hands of the CW entirely and just banish everyone who so much as toes the line to the SSC shadow realm. (Sorry, the more tired I am the more horrendously I mix my metaphors.) But do the OTs here get as much attention as Reddit, or even the comments on posts? I wouldn’t have thought so, but obviously you’d probably know better than I would.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I understand and respect concerns about distraction and risk: it would suck if SSC OTs became the place where one perpetually finds discussion of white nationalism — and not just because it would get old and annoying really fast. SSC would also become the kind of place one maybe can’t recommend to anyone or publicly admit to visiting. I’ve played that game before and I stopped for a reason.

            Unlike the recurrent discussions